Good news comes in… SMS text messages, actually

21 09 2012

My first ride with the university riding club looks set to take place on Friday, 5th October. This will be more an assessment so that the instructor can see what level I’m at. Thereafter I’ll probably ride once a week on either Sundays or Friday afternoons depending on what other commitments I have. My height and weight have been taken so I can be matched to an appropriate horse, and I am looking forward to meeting him or her and seeing the new school!

BUT: on Saturday 6th October, I shall be in Nottingham again, and I’m going for a hack on beautiful Tara! This is quite literally the best news I had today. It might sound stupid since I have only ridden her twice, but I really miss her! I’m really looking forward to seeing how she is out in the woods rather than in the school…


New Equestrian Team!

18 09 2012

It has now been over a week since I last had any direct contact with horses. EQUINE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS. *twitch* *judder*

(Although, I did see some horses grazing in a field as I was on my way from one place to another. This is a fairly common sight where I live now, which is lovely!)

Anyway, I have some other news – today I signed up for the university riding club! The club secretary has put me on their mailing list, and since they were down in the sports hall as part of the freshers’ fair I decided to take the opportunity to go down and say hello. They were very friendly and welcoming, and I chatted to them for a while. They group people according to experience, and go out riding on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays according to when people are available, and meet for a social and to collect people’s lesson fees from them in a pub every Tuesday evening.

Sadly they weren’t able to tell me when the first opportunity to go riding with them would be, but the reason for this is that they want to sign up all the freshers who are interested in joining first and then take things from there, which makes sense.

I just want to get back in the saddle!!! Not too much longer now, though, hopefully…

You can lead a horse to water…

15 09 2012

So! It’s only a week overdue, but here I am, finally getting around to writing up my final lesson in Nottingham. I’m up in Leeds now, and the plan from here is to join my university’s horse riding club. And the Aikido club. And somehow someday combine the two, since the brown belt grading for the latter includes a set of techniques designed for use on horseback (although I suspect few Aikidoka have ever attempted them whilst mounted). Heh. I had hoped that I’d be able to work in some sort of volunteer stable work as well, but I’ve worked out a student budget and it looks like I wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of travel to and from any given riding school on top of what I’d be paying to take lessons with the riding club, unfortunately. However, once I’m acquainted with the school they use, there’s no reason I couldn’t ask them if I could help out before or after the lessons since I’ll be travelling there anyway. We’ll see. I just really miss the husbandry element of equitation!

Anyway, we had sunny but mild weather for my final lesson last week. I was mildly disappointed to find on arrival that I hadn’t been given Tara, but instead I had Baron, and I was quite pleased to be getting an opportunity to ride him after meeting him the week before and spotting him looking all tall and elegant out on my first hack/trail ride.

I’m sad to say that while I remain in admiration of him as an otherwise-friendly, beautiful horse, he was not so much of a pleasure to ride in the lesson as Tara had been in the two previous sessions. Our instructor warned me that he was lazy and I would really have to keep kicking him on throughout. This was exactly the case. I’d brought my whip along with me, but thinking I wouldn’t need it on the strength of Tara’s obedience in the previous lessons, I foolishly left it in the office when I went out to fetch him, and had to be given another in the school. Now, usually, while I have no problem with carrying and using a whip, I much prefer to do so sparingly and gently, but Baron had me so frustrated that I was using it liberally and firmly. It worked, though, and by the end of the lesson he was mostly doing as he was told. Mostly.

The first problem I encountered with Baron was that he was determined to follow the ponies out into the woods, and no amount of repositioning and pulling on the reins would hold him back – two of the stable-girls had to grab onto the reins to stop him. Next, once the ponies were gone and the  lesson was under way, a trick the instructors are apparently clued up on: He is known to feign toilet breaks so he can stop and have a break, and in doing so hold up the whole lesson. He attempted this three times in total. Third was his unwillingness to make the transition from walk to trot, which I found a struggle throughout the lesson until about the last ten minutes, when all he seemed to want to do was trot.

Nevertheless, I did manage to get him to do what I wanted eventually, although it wasn’t as smooth as it had been with Tara. This lesson saw us practising the rising trot further, and practising turning and changing reins in-trot – not only in the 20-metre circle on both reins, but also in a figure of eight around the whole school. I enjoyed that. We also did something to help ‘perfect’ our trot that I’d never done before, and which I found very exciting – trotting over poles!

Our instructor lay out four poles on the ground. While he was doing this, I later discovered, both myself and Damian were apprehensive, as we both saw this and thought he was setting up a jump, and neither of us think we’re quite ready for that yet – especially not after the other instructor’s feedback the week before that she didn’t think we were up to cantering yet! We were able to relax when he explained to us what to do. On both of our first attempts, our horses veered off to one side to avoid going over the poles. On my second attempt, I managed to go over all of the poles without knocking any of them. I had no such luck on my second and third attempts, but I managed to stay in trot and keep rising without falling! That was exciting.

Finally, we finished the lesson with a bit of attempted cantering practice. I say ‘attempted’ because I didn’t actually manage a canter at all, although Damian did – on his second go. On his first, Harvey seemed to sense that something wasn’t right with his transition from sitting trot, and stopped abruptly, causing Damian to fall head-first over his shoulder, landing on his back on the ground. I saw the whole thing, and didn’t have time to be concerned before Damian was laughing and picking himself up. He got straight back on and carried on, and I felt oddly proud to have been there to witness his first ever fall! Sadly, my own inability to start a canter resulted initially from my own reluctance to kick for the canter going down the side of the school where the poles were on the first attempt, and on the second from Baron’s apparently-known tendency to try and get away with going into a faster-than-normal trot rather than a canter. The lesson ended there.

Afterwards, we hung out with the horses for a bit. I found it endearing that Damian was very proud to show off his mud to anyone who asked whether he’d fallen. I did get to see Tara briefly between her being brought back from her lesson and then taken out again for another, and although I didn’t get to interact with her directly, she noticed me on her way out and turned to look me in the eye, and I saw a spark of recognition in her eyes as she passed me that made me go a bit gooey inside. I had some Polos on me I’d wanted to give to her as a goodbye gift; I thought about giving them to the staff and asking them to pass them on to her on my behalf, but as nice an idea as it is, horses don’t understand, ‘This is a present from Carrie.’ So I divided them equally between Saxon, who is still an adorable character, and Baron.

Our friend Amy came down with her brother to watch the first part of our lesson, and was kind enough to take some pictures. She has given me permission to post some of them here! What follows is a combination of her pictures and mine:


12 09 2012

We’re overdue an update! With pictures! However, not today as I have just moved house and I am very tired.
Soon, I promise!…


7 09 2012

I haven’t been riding again yet – that will happen tomorrow. It’s going to be my last session in Nottingham and I’m looking forward to it immensely, although also kind of sad. Whilst when I started having lessons at that lovely riding school I was hoping they’d give me a different horse each time, this week I’m actually really hoping I’ll get Tara again because she’s so lovely and I’d like to be able to say goodbye to her properly.

No, the purpose of today’s post is that a friend from the Equestrian Team at Gakushuin in Tokyo emailed me some photos she had taken, including ones of me actually riding!

So, there you have it – proof that I actually rode horses in Japan, and didn’t just hassle them. Heh.

Picture Post!

4 09 2012

As threatened! Here is a selection of pictures that were taken by my friend Damian at the stables after our riding lesson on Saturday.

Now that I’ve worked out how to insert a gallery into a post, I’ve updated my posts about the hack with Urby and our first lesson with photos, should you wish to take a look!

If Nothing Hurts, You’re Not Doing it Right

2 09 2012

I had such a useful riding lesson today!

Once again, I had Tara and Damian had Harvey. Tara is a really lovely horse to ride, and she’s absolutely stunning – I may have suppressed the urge to do a little happy dance when they told me I had her again. Heh.

This week, we had a different instructor, who was fantastic; she listened, she gave us helpful pointers, she explained everything really well and encouraged us to stop and ask questions whenever we didn’t understand anything, and had a playful manner about her. She began the lesson by asking us what we wanted out of it, which impressed me from the beginning, and she seemed to have as much fun as we did, which was nice. After the lesson she said it had been ‘nice to teach adults for a change’.

In this lesson, we really just worked on the rising and sitting trot. I was given a lot of helpful pointers; thus far, it would seem, I’ve been rising and sitting too hard, and leaning too far forwards, but our instructor gave me some really helpful pointers on which muscle groups to use and how that really helped me, and said I did a lot better after taking her advice. She was far more complimentary about my sitting trot, which to be fair I’ve had a lot more practice at, however.

Speaking of sitting trot, something really amazing happened in the lesson today that is still making me smile every time I think about it. Before we started practising it, our instructor explained to us in great detail how to sit. I semi-consciously tilted my pelvis as she was describing to prepare myself for doing it for real, and as I did so Tara just automatically went into a trot, and I had to pull her back. That probably doesn’t sound all that exciting to all you experienced riders who already know about that sort of thing, but to a novice like me who is still at the stage of starting a trot with a squeeze and a bit of an awkward kick it felt magical, and after I pulled her back I had to do it again to check it hadn’t just been a fluke. Then, when we actually went into the trot for real, I tried doing it that way again and it worked!

Things I had trouble with this week were persuading Tara not to cut corners when she seemed determined to do so (the flipside of which was that I was given the clearest instruction to date on which leg and which rein to use and how when turning into a corner), and managing to keep her so close to the fence (something I’ve struggled with in the past) that my foot scraped by it and got knocked out of the stirrup. Rising with the trot in the manner I was instructed to do it today felt a lot more secure, but really gave my stomach and thigh muscles a good workout! The instructor said that it should hurt if I was doing it properly. I liked that!

At the end of the lesson, she asked me what I felt I’d learned. I told her I felt everything she had taught me had been extremely useful, because I would remember it better for having the context of my experiences in Japan to place it within, in terms of correcting what I’d misunderstood and reinforcing what I’d been getting right. I feel like I am learning so much more in these lessons than I did previously for that very reason.

She did however say that she feels I’m a way off cantering yet, which was a little disappointing for me, but I fully appreciate that she’s in a much better position to judge this and I am willing to continue practising the basics for as long as necessary to get up to a standard at which I’m deemed competent enough to tackle the more difficult stuff. She advised us to alternate lessons and hacks to keep it interesting for ourselves and to help us consolidate what we were learning in the lessons, but I don’t know how feasible that would be with me returning up North after next weekend and having to find a new riding school again.

After the lesson we lead the horses back to their stalls. There was some feed going around at this point, so they were a bit distracted, but we managed to get a fuss off some of the horses. Saxon had his head out again, seeking attention from all and sundry, and I got to have some lovely hugs with him (even if he was just trying to eat my helmet straps). Harvey and Tara did go out shortly after we took them back, but I at least got to try and fuss Tara for a while afterwards. Sadly, however, she was distracted by the feed bucket!

There are a handful of pictures of me fussing the horses in the stables afterwards out there, but they’re not on my phone/camera, so once they have been passed on to me I shall upload them into a separate entry.



This is Tara (^-^)