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:

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3 responses

17 09 2012
gsug

This looks like great fun. I really enjoyed seeing all the horses and the people riding them of course. Here’s hoping the next installment will be very soon & from Leeds. x

18 09 2012
mellchan

Heh, the trials of riding a lazy horse….I feel your pain lol. Can’t wait for the next installment! Great pics!

18 09 2012
onahorse

You can even see in the pictures that he isn’t listening to me. He was so awkward in the school – it’s such a shame, because he was lovely and personable once he was back in the stable. I’m pleased you enjoyed the pictures, though – I hope to get you more soon!

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