‘Chaaarge your hooor-ses across the fiiields…’

20 08 2012

So, yesterday I went on another lovely hack through the woods at the same riding school as before. This week was a little more sedate than last week as we went later in the day in a smaller group of mainly people who usually just walk and trot, and consequently took a slightly different path through the woods. I didn’t have any less of a good time, however.

This week, I rode a gorgeous little Norwegian fjord pony by the name of Urby. He was absolutely beautiful to look at, although when I first arrived at the stables he really didn’t want to be taken out of his stall, and I couldn’t lead him out by myself. A young girl who obviously spends a lot of time around the stables did this for me instead, and I was quite taken with her purple jodhpurs. Heh. Nevertheless, once we had Urby out in the yard he very patiently waited while I fixed my stirrups and mounted, and when we started to walk out into the woods he responded immediately to all of my commands, unlike Billy the previous week. (This week another friend of mine, Lisa, was riding him, and I understand that he is her usual mount.)

Urby was, in the main, very fun to ride. It really makes a difference to how you think you’re doing and your enjoyment when you get good responses out of your mount, I think, and he responded to everything I did beautifully; when I clicked and nudged him with my legs to walk faster, he sped up on his little legs, but never misread me and broke into a run; every time I squeezed and then kicked for a trot, he trotted straight away, every slight squeeze for a turn and he turned, stopped and started every time I asked him to. All the while I was riding him, his ears were pointed backwards as though he was listening to me, occasionally swivelling forwards or to the side when he heard something interesting elsewhere.

He wasn’t perfect, though. Obviously no horse or pony is ever going to be, but while he was in the main very well behaved and I certainly enjoyed riding him, there were downsides as well. I shall begin with what was down to a deficiency on my part as his rider: I found it very difficult to rise with his trot, and at several points couldn’t help dropping my weight on him, which I felt dreadful about given his size. I did get more into it towards the end of the hack, but after several trots I felt compelled to apologise to him for my rubbish trot. I was comforted later when Amy told me she also finds ponies quite hard to ride. Then, to highlight Urby’s, uh, naughty point, I suppose, I had been forewarned kind of second-hand that he’s known to bolt when he thinks his rider’s not paying attention, and I did get to experience this firsthand; during our first trot out on the road, he was overtaken by Amy on Niv, and he put his head down like an undersized bull and really charged. This was actually quite amusing; although it certainly took me by surprise, I found that such a wee thing was trying to do this pretty endearing, and I was able to rein him in very quickly. A similar thing occurred when Saxon suddenly broke into a canter from behind us with Damian on his back; as they overtook us, Urby took this as a cue to break into a canter as well, but I managed to bring him to a stop quite quickly (even though really, part of me would have quite liked to have just gone with him. Heh).

Another thing that struck me about riding Urby was how short I felt on his back, having gotten used to riding full-sized horses. I have to confess that I feel a more comfortable higher off the ground, weird as that might sound. He obviously didn’t like being given instructions via the bit, so I tried to do this as little as possible and use my legs instead whenever I could.

After the hack I lead Urby back to his stall. He was very eager to go back, and I didn’t really have to lead him beyond taking hold of the reins. I’m grateful that he let me dismount and put his stirrups up before he started making his way back, however. Heh. Urby clearly has a fanclub as I was surrounded by young girls cooing his name as we entered the stables. I lead him back to his stall, and there I fished a packet of Polo mints out of my jodhpur pocket to give to him for being, on the whole, so well behaved. He clearly enjoyed these a lot (one of the girls even said to me that he likes his mints), but his behaviour changed dramatically after I fed him the first one, and he became pushy and slightly aggressive. The same thing happened with Saxon when I wandered opposite to his stall to give him one so he didn’t feel left out. Following this, I shall not be hand-feeding the horses again, at least not until I go back to university as a goodbye present, perhaps.

So, another thoroughly pleasant ride. The plan from here is to have a yard lesson once a week until I return to university in mid-September, and hopefully another hack before I go away if I can afford it/squeeze it in. I want to work on my walk, trot and canter, and I want to be given fresh instruction by a new set of teachers to reinforce what I already know and make sure I haven’t been making any mistakes (for having been taught in a foreign language) and hopefully pick up some new tricks as well! Also, to acclimatise myself to only seeing horses once a week. I don’t know what the future holds, after all, and lessons are expensive!





5 responses

20 08 2012

Thanks for the photos, again! Is the barn/stable built into the side of a hill? It has the feeling of being somewhat underground based on the appearance from the photos. I love seeing how horses and horse people live in other countries.

Also, I think it is funny that you looked up what a western saddle is….I just assumed it was used everywhere and not just in the U.S.? I ride western and english, usually I go in a western saddle on trails (or when Skip is being a pill) and english in the arena. Western saddles are also good for barrels, roping, gymkhana, etc…..the horn is equivalent to an “oh shit” handle..hah.

20 08 2012

Heh, no – the stables just have a low ceiling (certainly lower than any I’ve encountered before). The outside area surrounding them is quite hilly, though, and the buildings the stables and offices are housed inside do have something of an underground-y feel to them for being nestled in the midst of them all, I think.

I knew that western saddles were different, I just couldn’t picture one in my mind and so had to look it up. Similarly to you, I’d previously just assumed that everyone everywhere used English saddles! Heh. I understand from my reading that the English saddle is used in the Olympic disciplines, anyway. I found it really interesting that it’s the only saddle that doesn’t incorporate any horns.

That said, as I found while I was riding in Japan, English saddles come in different shapes, too – I once had to do my regular flatwork training in a saddle that was usually used for jumping (as opposed to dressage), and it was really hard to keep my back straight because my balance felt all wrong!

22 08 2012

Thanks for the photos. I enjoyed seeing you out riding. You look very comfortable on your pony!

29 08 2012

I’m so glad to hear that other people find ponies are hard to ride when you’re used to big horses! I usually ride horses that are at least 16 hands in my lessons and recently went trekking on a 13.3 pony. I had real difficulty with rising in trot and, as she was so much narrower than I’m used to, I felt really insecure in my leg as well. Thought it was just me!

30 08 2012

Yes, me too! Amy actually later described the experience of trotting on a pony as being ‘like riding a jackhammer’. I am further reassured to hear you saying that it’s the same for you as well!

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