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 🙂

It’s been a while…

Well I posted at the start of December with good intentions of posting more often again but it came to nothing. The longer I left it the more I felt I should really have something to say before posting, that gave me writer’s block and while I composed posts in my head while cycling or walking home they never made it out of my head. So here it is, the first post of 2016. Firstly, I should explain that I have been slightly overwhelmed by getting a puppy (I know, I know – it isn’t that big a thing but bear with me 🙂 ) and then all my free time was spent attempting to create some wonderful homemade Christmas presents. Some of those I was incredibly pleased with, some were learning experiences! This post is all about riding and horses but I will be back with one about my sewing/knitting and crochet plans for 2016 and hopefully some new reviews for you. Continue reading “It’s been a while…”

Lugs – A Legendary Horse

Lugs the Clydesdale

You may have seen Cumbrian Heavy Horses in the news recently due to a horrible, callous attack on one of their mares, Skye. I have never ridden Skye (yet) but she has been on some of the rides I have been on and she is a lovely, sweet mare. It looks like she will be fine and the team at CHH will look after her so well so she will make a speedy recovery and I hope it doesn’t affect her too much.

I also heard lately that Lugs had passed away. He was an absolute legend. He had retired out a few years ago but not before I had the pleasure of riding him. He was my steed for my first ever beach ride – he knew what his job was and he did it to perfection. I started off that ride trying to smile and joke but a fair bit nervous – by the end I was grinning from ear to ear and as well as Annie and her team credit must be go to Lugs. He gave me confidence in my riding and while I was in a good place with my nerves he helped to cement that fleeting glimpse I sometimes experience of ‘oh, I can ride’.
Continue reading “Lugs – A Legendary Horse”

Cliff Top Canters

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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 🙂

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”

The One Where I Am A Great Big Quitter

Last weekend I did a bit of running! A post to follow on that no doubt but first I thought I would update you all briefly on the riding. Well, I didn’t ride at the weekend. I have made a decision to stop riding at one of the stables I was at – I didn’t take the decision lightly, some might say I thought about it too much. At the end of my last lesson there I was told off for briefly becoming frustrated and giving up, I pulled myself together and got back into the lesson with little to no help from the instructor but when I admitted that I had given up I was told that I shouldn’t give up, in life as well as a lesson and that I shouldn’t be a quitter. I felt really down after that lesson, I kind of beat myself up about it a bit – until my friends pointed out that I am meant to enjoy riding. That particular stables is not for me, it is too business-like (I know all are businesses but you know what I mean 🙂 ) and they do not seem interested in my experiences as a rider, people seem to come to pay their money and ride, there is little interaction with the horses or people and there is no hacking which I have come to realise I adore. So…I quit, just like a great, big quitter would and do you know what when it came to the time I would normally have been heading out to that stables last weekend instead I was pumping up the tyres on my mountain bike ready for a little push out round to South Queensferry with a smile on my face. I haven’t quit, I made a positive decision – took me a while to see that.

Don’t worry though I still have my two other stables and I am now thinking about trying a different one out too – why not? But in the meantime I had two great riding experiences last weekend that really helped cement my decision. On the hack in the morning Flame and I were out through the stubble fields, I panicked a bit as the only gear I usually have in stubble fields in ‘whooaaaaa!’ gear 🙂 With a few tips and focus I got the reluctant Flame to listen to me and we had a lovely hack, interrupted only by the hoardes of flies that descended upon us in the fields making us beat a hasty retreat to the beach. On the beach I did two canters with the owner of the stables, away from the ride and back then…my mate and I went for a canter ourselves – two in fact 🙂 I felt secure and even looked up at the view and across at my mate during these ones, previously I would only stare intently where I was going. High fives all round. Next up I did a canter in a field, bear with me here. I had mentioned to the owner that my nerves seemed to heighten when cantering outside in a group, so she put me to the test just a little by making me do these different canters. It was really reassuring to see I haven’t lost my ability to canter securely in forward seat or indeed to push on when I feel my horse backing off. A successful hack, made all the better by the lunch we had afterwards at a nearby cafe where horses and riders pitched up for a break – both myself and my mate are now keen to work out where we can do that!

A couple of hours later and I was sorting out my stirrups on Td for a lesson. Now I have mentioned before Td and his incredible belief that everything, and he means everything is better if you do it at canter! Well I haven’t experienced that a lot recently, it has been more about getting him going and getting myself convinced we can canter without something going wrong. A week past Sunday and we were flying around, and it didn’t phase me! He kept breaking into canter so I simply checked him and headed into the poles again then asked him to canter on the otherside. We had one hellish canter where he was slightly unbalanced and I should have pulled up but didn’t, that one was on me so he got an extra pat for trying damn hard there – next time I will pull up because I don’t believe that was fair on him. What was nice was that my classmates actually commented on how happy and confident I looked with him, our instructor noticed too – she actually laughed as she realised I had checked Td back to trot before she told me to and that I was relaxed about it. The only thing that made me sad about the whole lesson was that she mentioned giving me a different horse in lessons now that my confidence is improving – I get that but I will miss Td so much. Not that he will miss me, he is world’s most indifferent horse – it is quite funny to watch actually.

My nerves are part of my riding but they aren’t all that my riding is about, I will continue to push myself but those two experiences were lovely ones to have following a lesson where I was told I give up too easily. Sometimes it is good to trust yourself a bit more than others who say they know what is best for you.

How I got my canter back

Apologies for the lack of a post in the last couple of weeks, somehow time has run away with me. Well this is going to be a full-on horse-y post. The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a break through for me so there will be a couple of posts on this aspect. Firstly, I thought that I should provide evidence that the nerves regarding outdoor canters are receding – here are a few pictures of Ellie and I at Cumbrian Heavy Horses charging up the field! I had such a great time there in August. I chose a fell ride with Leanne who I had met while riding with CHH in June, due to my vertigo we had chosen a low fell ride to see how we got on with an idea to maybe doing a full on over the top of the hills ride sometime soon. As usual when I arrived the staff were lovely and the other riders were great fun, chatty and friendly. Toby took us out on this ride and he was helpful and did push me to try things that I would have (and did back in June) shy away from. This time I took the bull by the horns and in the individual exercises I didn’t wait to go last but instead asked to go second so that I didn’t build things up in my head. The first time riding away from the group my nerves rose and I kept feeling Ellie trying to turn and head back, I felt myself tense up and we had an appalling walk away and an okay trot back with me feeling unbalanced and frustrated. Toby pointed out to me that the moment Ellie tried to turn I seemed to shrink, that my shoulders rounded forward and I lost all my position – I also did use the whip at all to re-inforce my aids. With these comments in my ears on the next go I felt myself begin to curl up when Ellie tried to turn, by noticing it I was able to check it and then ask her to move on more firmly. I got a much nicer line, a beautiful turn and halt then a fast but not rushed canter back – much better. After a second practice canter for us all we headed into the next field for a group trot and then another optional canter.

The way CHH run it is that they often halt the horses then get people to head off in one direction then canter back. In this particular field we had the option of doing the whole on one side of the field either by ourselves or together. A bit worried about Ellie racing I decided to go alone and only canter back on half the field, then Leanne asked if I would go with her and Jake (who was forward going) and do you know what, I said yes. Because actually I have raced these horses before and that was fun! Off we went and pretty much did the whole field, my nerves were raised before we turned but the moment I was able to easily halt Ellie I realised she was happily listening so decided to push her. It was great fun! You can unfortunately clearly see that Leanne and Jake re soundly beat us BUT this was a big step for me so I am pretty happy.

Ellie & I plus Leanne & Jake cantering
We were trying to keep up 🙂

Ellie & I plus Leanne & Jake canteringAfter that we wound our way up to the view point with lots of chatting and me giggling at Ellie – honestly she put her head down to drink at the stream so quickly I lost half my reins (she has double reins), the embarrassment especially as I had already dropped my whip earlier on the ride. Nobody wants to have get off and on again with a Clydesdale!

Up A Fell on Clydesdales!
I really like this picture, it shows how happy and relaxed I was for most of this ride.

We had some lovely pictures around halfway up the fell and all marvelled as our leader Toby pointed out the small trails criss-crossing Black Combe which they use when the horses go over the fells properly (for another day I believe). On the way back down there was an opportunity for another canter but I declined, while I do regret it I had had such brilliant fun that I was worried I would ruin it all by being daft. The others all had a go, individually or in pairs and it was a real treat to watch these horses come flying up the hill towards me. It definitely won’t be a year until my next visit. It took a special horse to get me smiling in canter again and Ellie is definitely that!

Ellie the clydesdale and I up a fell
Ellie gets the Instagram treatment

The last couple of weeks riding up here has been interesting, one lesson that has resulted in me knowing what I definitely don’t want but more riding that has reminded me why I do this.