Back in the Saddle

FlameAndIJan16

I made a foray back into hacking during the 1st weekend in April. It was the first time since January I had been outside on horse back and I only cantered for the first time since January on the Wednesday beforehand. The viral infection I have had since December last year, which wasn’t picked up by me until my body began screaming at me to ‘JUST STOP’ during January has really knocked me out. Unfortunately my balance has been most affected and I have been so tired at the weekends that I cancelled many hacks booked with the thought ‘Oh I will be fine’, at times my lessons have been really tough and my instructor Claire has been brilliant throughout. One lesson I simply walked Wee Gem around the arena as two strides of trot had made me want to vomit, another lesson I cancelled two hours beforehand and all they want to know was if I was okay.

This meant the April hack was a real highlight for me, I cantered twice – both times just myself and the leader but the first time was really good and a decent length of canter. I felt really balanced as I was concentrating more than normal and looking straight ahead. The second canter #FlameTheWonderHorse felt I was off balance before I did and we slowed to trot pretty quickly. The gorgeous chestnut dude looks after me like no other horse can, with Twix gone my fondness for Flame grows each time I ride him. I felt full of joy for my hobby again until it struck me I have been riding again for 9 years! Yes, let me repeat that 9 years! Suddenly I started analyse everything – why wasn’t I better? Why were my nerves still around? Should I continue to do this if I can’t even trot in a group without being a little nervous? Why do I bother? You know the totally normal* things people say to themselves about a hobby.

I floated these ideas to Claire at my last lesson and as she stood rolling her eyes at me, explaining patiently to a 34 year old woman to stop being an idiot she suggested I set some goals for my hacking and my lessons. She also pointed out that I can walk, trot, canter and jump so really I can ride, I just still don’t believe it. To that end I have been thinking about what my new horse riding goals can be and have decided to set three and start to work towards them throughout the year.

  • Hacking wise I want to canter in a group, that’s all, nothing fancy just straightforward cantering in a group.
  • Lesson-wise goal 1: Learn 2 new dressage moves for flatwork, if Claire agrees I would like to perfect leg yield in trot and try it in canter
  • Lesson-wise goal 2: Jump a small course of jumps in canter. I don’t need big jumps I would just like a wee course. I haven’t done this for years! This one will wait until my balance is fully restored

So that’s it! I have written them down and will chat to Claire next week to see where we go from here. On a different note, I am planning on changing the blog slightly and will focus on reviews of riding establishments and quarterly updates of my riding – this applies to the horse-y part of my blog other posts will be written and published but I have realised that it might be helpful for other nervous riders if I write up where I ride and let them know my thoughts! Any comments on my goals or the horse-y plans for the blog I would love to hear them.

 

*sarcasm on the go here πŸ™‚

Riding Update – Lessons and A Wee Bit of Stubble Fields

Flame and I on the beachThis blog is called The Inelegant Horse Rider for a reason and that’s because I do horse ride! By the time you read this I will be on holiday in Ireland practising jumping and hopefully doing a jump or two in a row (my own small goal for the return visit to AnnaHarvey Farm). Over the last few weeks I have had some difficulties in my lessons twice being in tears and feeling incredibly frustrated with myself. Now I can safely say that an element of these episodes has been influenced by my stress levels being through the roof at my work. My lessons are after work during the week and while they definitely help me destress I also think my emotions are sometimes close to breaking when I get there. More on stress and how I am trying to manage it in a later post. Anyway, in one lesson I jumped off the horse in tears and refused to do anymore. It stemmed from the fact that once again I had failed to get the horse to canter when I wanted. It feels as though this has become a trigger for me beating myself as a rider, I have considered quitting the whole hobby after a previous lesson due to this.

In the lesson where I had jumped off my instructor Claire did manage to talk me round and got me back on (incidentally I managed to mount a moving horse from the ground – I was pretty chuffed with that, felt like someone from a cowboy film πŸ™‚ ). I was determined I would only trot, maybe removing the expectation that I would fail to get canter would help. Well of course it did. 5 minutes later I was cantering and then…I did some jumps. Admittedly two times my horse simply trotted over the jump while I sat in jump position determinedly not looking down. Honestly I had strange staring contest going on with the wall at the far end of the school, I was looking very serious. Then on the last go at the jump Gem (the lovely horse I was riding) seemed to back off approaching the jump, without thinking the age-old jumping mentality kicked in and I pushed her on meaning we jumped and landed in canter! Wow – what a horse! I was grinning about that one. I also had my mate Gemma in that lesson and I think watching someone enjoy jumping, laughing as they do it, really does help inspire me. The following
week I jumped again (and again and again) which was great fun although I am still finding it tough and we are keeping in trot just now. I fancy trying in canter as if my memory serves it is much smoother. Actually famous last words there but hopefully in Ireland I can try cantering into jumps.

As for hacking that has been fun and pretty daft. I have been riding with the girls again, now on a more regular basis, and I am loving it. The wonderful idiot that is Bibi has been helping me grow my confidence and I am asking for other horses again.Β This weekend just past I rode Flame again and although I was nervous I cantered in the stubble fields and absolutely loved it. I took it steady as my previous experiences in stubble fields have always been very, very fast and I wanted to build my confidence in a new place. I let my friends canter separately while I opted to go just with the leader – she was brilliant with my nerves. After watching my mates I decided I wanted to go in the fields so we did a lovely canter up to them, Flame seemed to constantly check I was okay but next time I will let the old dude fly. On the second canter stretch I got a little nervous again thinking it looked like a racing strip but I needn’t have worried, myself and the leader walked and trotted down it then I asked if we could have a little canter? The leader agreed so I kicked on then as she shouted I realised she hadn’t been ready to go! I felt a bit bad on that front, she was fine and we laughed about it as my friends cantered up the field to join us. Mates, sunshine, laughter and horses – a perfect Sunday afternoon. We were only missing our 4th musketeer but we are all riding together on the 30th πŸ™‚

horse in stable eating
Flame does pose pretty well doesn’t he?
horse and rider holding his head
Gemma and Ned

I won’t lie I am a little worried about Ireland this time around, my nerves are worse than last time and you all know how much I love beating myself up if I feel I didn’t meet my weird own standards. But I am trying to go with an open head and heart. I have set myself my two wee goals and the other bigger goal is simple to enjoy myself. I bought a GoPro camera so you are going to get some video action hopefully and the weather forecast isn’t looking too shabby. Maybe I will even believe I can ride following this holiday – here’s hoping huh?

horse and rider on the ground
Heather and the lovely Bibi
horse and rider on beach
“Oh I can’t possibly trot yet, my leg is sooo itchy”
horse and rider in yard
Our 4th musketeer πŸ™‚

Cliff Top Canters

image

Can you believe it is the middle of May already? I am slightly reeling in shock! May is shaping up to be quite busy but in a nice way. I can’t wait for my week off from work at the end of May and even more excitingly our trip up North for a couple of nights.

The weather in Scotland has actually gone a bit downhill of late but has that stopped the horse riding? Of course not! Last weekend I rode Bibi down at Seacliff on a slightly shorter route as I got my timings wrong and thought I was 15 minutes early when I was actually 15 minutes late! As it was just myself and Carol it was also a lesson on the hoof. It is useful to be corrected and pulled up on the certain slightly lazy habits I have picked up. I was trying to make Bibi walk on and eventually it worked but there was some go-slows and some jogging, which he isn’t allowed to do. Bibi is a black cob, he is around 14.1h I believe and he is very sweet natured horse who Heather adores. I can definitely see why. Continue reading “Cliff Top Canters”

Ready for Our Close Up

After weeks (months??) of promising photos of our Seacliff adventures here are a bumper crop taken on last Sunday’s hack with my best horse-y buddies. One of our motley crew was unfortunately unable to make it and it started to rain while we were on the beach but it was fantastic anyway.

It took me a while to gain my confidence in the canter again, Flame is not slow all the time! In fact the instructor took me for some one on one canters, explained various techniques to help me with my balance on Flame including pushing him on in the canter and to trust in myself that I am riding him and controlling him not simply being pulled along. She was absolutely lovely to ride with and my confidence grew so much that by the end I was doing group canters πŸ™‚

She also made sure to canter one-on-one with the other girls too and gave them tips and comments too. Here are a few pictures from our morning out and about. Apologies for the fact my fingers are in some of them, that’s what happens when I am riding and taking pictures!

The three of us on the horses in front of the view
The three amigos – L-R Me on Flame, Heather on BiBi and Gemma on Vicky

Continue reading “Ready for Our Close Up”

Saturday = Beachtime

On Saturday I woke up with a splitting headache and feeling sick, it was still dark outside and as I sat with my cup of tea I toyed with the idea of phoning the stables and cancelling. The wind that was whipping the water in the river outside also made me want to reach for the phone BUT how often do you cancel something only to feel better and wish you were outside??

So on with the jodhpurs Β and my old riding boots (the zip held together, it must have been a sign), cosied up in my Finisterre hoodie and off I headed to the train station. The rain tried to start while I was on the train but it was just spitting as the train headed out of the city to the nearby countryside. I had enough time at the wee country station to go grab a coffee and sipping it in my mate’s car on the way to the hacking stables I started to feel a bit better, the wind was blowing harder though. I did wonder whether our hack might be cancelled – after all we head to the beach, we would end up sandblasted!! I suppose there is no need to pay for a facial if you get exfoliated the “natural” way πŸ™‚

Horse-y people are hardy people and once we arrived it was clear that there was no question of the hack being cancelled. I usually ride Flame, a 2003 World Champion driving horse, and I have developed a bit of an attachment to him as he is a steady, older gent. But I was swapped off Flame!! I was a bit worried, even with the lovely stable owner and the helpers saying that Ned was nice and calm I still felt a little nervous. However, Flame is in competition mode and they wanted to put my smaller, lighter mate on him – who is also a lot more confident and competent rider so if he did have a turn of waheyness she would cope.

I stood looking around the stables tying to work out who Ned was, I asked the leader who was taking us out and she laughed. Then pointed over to him and said ‘Oh Ned, he is the one with Ned written on him’. I laughed at that, I have never expected to have my horse labelled!

Ned the horse
Sunshine and Ned

So off we went. We didn’t go into the fields as normal instead we took a more sheltered route. We had a nice long trot around one of the fields, then the leader took us for a trot through the field to meet up with the other leader and the wee kid who were out with us. On a side note it is something that I like about that place that they take very different levels out together and it works. The kid was doing great with her wee pony too, I was impressed.

I was a bit nervous heading for the trot through the field, I kept thinking he would just canter off as we were in a stubble field but he did a nice, fast trot and seemed more than content to listen to me.

We winded our way down to the beach, discussing the purchasing of new boots (our leader handily works at one of the horse shops out that way so she was giving us tips). The view on the road down to the beach is always lovely and yesterday the sun was out and the sea was relatively calm looking. It was really sheltered on the beach and the horses all pricked up their ears slightly as we headed onto the beach, they do enjoy it. I was too nervous to canter Ned to start with so my friends headed off with Bibi and Flame to do a wee canter along the beach.

Jules  Heather heading off to canter

HeatherAndJulesCantering
How’s that for a view!

My envy levels climbed too high so after a brief photo opportunity. I decided to canter Ned, oh my god I was terrible. Honestly, the leader warned me I needed to sit and kick on as he has a tendency to just extend his trot – big fail on my front. I held onto his mouth too much and didn’t really sit and ask. How on earth did I think we would canter?? I got around 3 strides but it did at least make me realise that he wasn’t about to hare off down the beach with me (well he might but I reckon we could stop).

After a bit more uhmming and ahhing I chose to canter again and this time we did it! Proper canter on the beach, just me and the leader – my mates went off and did a longer couple of canters together. I am so chuffed – he was a dream in canter. Next time I will go with my friends and canter in a group, that’s the goal – 2 weeks time πŸ™‚

Ned is a sweet heart, I adore him now. He reminds me a lot of Diablo, the first horse I really felt I had a partnership with, not only looks wise but also a horse that really waits for you to ask properly and push him through into a faster gait. I felt I had to really ride him. Flame is still a favourite though and he always will be, it was nice to feel that the stables have kind of got the measure of me and can pair me with other horses. In fact after the ride, when I was saying how much I enjoyed myself the owner did say I should trust her in the choice of horse.

I also just want to mention how great the leader was yesterday, she was really understanding of my nerves – telling me about her own experiences and encouraging me to canter but without making me feel like I had to. So pleased I braved the weather and how I was feeling, unfortunately the rest of Saturday was spent sleeping and curled up with a terrible headache and feeling sick 😦 But at least I had some sunshine and fun in the morning.

Me & my mates on the horses on the beach
Beach time!
A close up of Ned
Isn’t he cute?