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.
This 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 🙂 ). 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. 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 🙂
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?
For some reason June feels like April outside at the moment, but the light nights are lovely which is kind of making up for the fact that I think I have only been outside in short sleeves once so far this year. I am only sort of joking there although to be fair it has meant I have a longer lead in time to make the tshirt and vest top that are next on the sewing list.
Saturday on the other hand was a lovely warm day and there was even sunshine – in fact both days at the weekend were warm meaning the beach I ride on had more people and dogs than we have seen for a long time. The horses are not scared of dogs but lets be honest if you have a dog and you see horses please keep the dog under control – the horse I am on may not be scared of it but it will have no qualms about kicking it should they deem it necessary. Also it is worth noting there are horses that are scared of dogs and dogs that are running around horses legs have a severe chance of being injured and nobody wants that, Continue reading “Rollercoasting on Horseback – the Nerves Go Through the Wringer”
Apologies for the delay in posting this week. Normally I try to post early in the week, reflecting on the weekend’s adventures but this week has already managed to run away with me. On Monday I did a presentation to a larger group of colleagues than I am used to presenting to, and I am happy to admit I was really nervous beforehand. I’m not sure I am cut out for public speaking, I find it nerve racking and while happy to chat and present to small groups of people – make me stand up and hand me a mic and I start to talk faster and faster, pretty sure I mumble and I forget some of the facts I wanted to say.
There was meant to be a colleague presenting with me on Monday but due to illness I stood up there alone and spoke. Now I have minor presentation amnesia meaning I rarely remember the full presentation I give but it seemed to go okay, I got across all the points I wanted to make and I didn’t sound like an idiot in front of my bosses and colleagues, success I feel. I even got a lovely mention on Twitter where someone said I was a delightful presenter – which is wonderful praise to receive. Continue reading “Confidence Nudges”
Saturday = a new riding school for a private lesson. Nursing a mild hangover courtesy of the party celebrating the end of Innovative Learning Week at the University and a few birthday gins for a friend. I walked from the local train station to the stables. If I had the bike it would have been a six or seven minute journey, as it was it took me around twenty odd minutes but it was a nice walk. The sun was shining and the views were lovely.
The last couple of riding lessons have felt a little stale. Don’t get me wrong, I still love riding and Seamus is a total sweetheart but I have been mainly trotting and haven’t had much of the instructor’s focus – maybe ten minutes in total over two 45 minute lessons. That is just the way of things at time but it does frustrate me sometimes – such as today. I got a bit nervous during the exercise as I felt Seamus running with me and ignoring my aids. I stopped at the end of the ride rather than continuing round past them, after a minute or less of my instructor telling me I needed to relax rather than tense up I had changed my mind and wanted another shot but…well no time and others had to have a go. My chance was gone and I didn’t get to trot again let alone canter. 😦
Sunday was really a day of two halves here in Edinburgh, the morning was sunny and really quite warm in the sun but by the afternoon the clouds threatened rain and the wind started to drive through you. This meant two sets of riding in slightly different circumstances.
I rode Quasar again in the morning. This time we were in the outdoor school and worked on canter transitions and frankly just trying to keep him in canter. I think it really helped with my position as well, I could feel when I tipped forward whilst asking for canter and this meant keeping my inside leg on to keep him moving became trickier. Whilst Quasar is more forward going than a riding school pony he does have a lazy side and won’t just keep going to even the next corner. My mate also rode him briefly and it was a little like watching a masterclass. She was so confident when asking for canter and clearly knew how he would react to different techniques, he also came onto the bit for her the moment she sat on him something that I think I only achieved for around ooh ten seconds. I really enjoyed watching her and when I got back on I did get some good canters but even better I realised what I was doing wrong! A real education that one, plus my confidence increases each ride I have with them. As a wee treat at the end my mate suggested I canter part of the path back to the stables (don’t worry it is on grass and there were no people), I was a little worried but kicked him on and I loved it!! We were flying up the hill until Q spotted a couple of walkers on a path on the other side of the hedge, then we had a wee jump to the side.