*Much* Better!

7 11 2012

So, I’m not long back from my assessment lesson at the other riding school. I haven’t even taken my ‘yard’ boots (they’re not really yard boots, just the boots I wear to and from the stables because they conveniently have a zip) or my jodhpurs off yet! I’m going to do that now while I’m thinking about it, actually…

… That’s better! I’d washed my hands and made a cup of tea, so clearly I had my priorities right. Heh. With it being winter, I’m not all sweaty, and this new school is largely indoors so I didn’t get especially mucky, either, so I’m not in a desperate rush to get showered.

Well, I have only good things to say about the new school. It’s wonderful! Entering from the road, you get the impression that you’re walking into a well-maintained establishment with several large barns. You enter through the offices which look as though they’re in their own little building, and then… this really surprised me: Just down the corridor from there is the indoor arena, with a row of horses’ stalls running down alongside it!

The indoor arena is HUGE – probably as big as the main arena at Gakushuin was, but with the dimensions of a dressage arena. My lesson took place at just one end of it, which had been cordoned off from the rest with trot poles and cones. Although I would say we were only using about a quarter of it, I still had plenty of space and a good track to keep to! I rode a beautiful piebald cob mare by the name of Soapy, who I would say, at a guess, was definitely taller than 14hh but not as tall as 15, I don’t think. She had a lovely mild temperament when I introduced myself to her, and was an absolute angel to ride; very responsive to all of my aids (I found that as long as I maintained a good, firm grip on the reins, I was able to direct her pretty much entirely using my legs, with just a light tap from the whip the couple of times she didn’t do as she was told) and felt really smooth and fairly forwards, although not as forwards as Tara. None of this bone-shaking you get with ponies and their poor suspension. Heh.

I had a young, male instructor who was fantastic. His teaching style was very positive in tone, and he only ever offered constructive criticisms. He started the lesson just by letting me ride around in walk and trot independently, then changing reins and doing it the other way, so he could get a feel for my riding style, and, as he put it, to enable me to ‘get a feel for what’s going on underneath [me].’ I could only afford a half-hour lesson, so we didn’t get to go into loads of detail on everything, but he directed me to trot around the school on both reins, first in rising trot and then in sitting trot (he raised a few points about improving my rising trot, but he said my sitting trot was excellent). We finished with a little bit of cantering practice, but I found that while I could start the canter okay, kept my balance and didn’t panic, I then had far too much difficulty keeping it onto the track without mistakenly fooling Soapy into thinking she was being asked to slow to a trot. So, this was highlighted in the post-lesson wrap-up and cool down as What I Need to Work On going forwards.

After I’d dismounted (I’m pleased to report that I don’t have any difficulty with this any more!), Soapy was lead off for another lesson outdoors. The instructor told me that she can be difficult to ride because she kicks out if she gets frustrated at noises or other horses and isn’t very good at keeping a consistent rhythm in trot and canter, but she was fine for me, and he went on to say that in general she is willing and responsive and for advanced riders she’s a brilliant jumper. She had some magnificent fetlocks, so I bet she looks amazing going over fences!

In typical style, I didn’t leave straight away after finishing my lesson. I saw a large, black horse who looked absolutely gorgeous being lead out to be groomed, so I wandered over to say hello. The lady grooming him said I was welcome to stick around for as long as I liked when I joked about finding it difficult to leave, and actively encouraged me to sign up to be a volunteer there and help out with the horses, adding, ‘Then you could come whenever you like!’ Dan was an adorable big softie, who immediately and gently nuzzled my fist with his lips as I put it up for him to inspect, no pushing or frisking. The lady explained that he is her favourite, because he loves cuddles, never bites and enjoys kissing people.

It’s a beautiful place and I can’t wait to go back there again. There is an adult group class starting from a week on Monday, and I have booked myself in to participate in that; this actually works out cheaper than paying for lessons at and travelling to the other place. I will have to ask one of my tutors if I can move into the earlier Japanese speaking class on Monday evening to facilitate getting there on time, but it shouldn’t be a problem if I ask nicely. They have woods with bridle paths for hacking as well, they said, and were happy to provide me with a volunteer application pack when I asked. Even on the way in, an older gentleman who’d just finished his lesson and wanted to go in and pay helped me zip up my riding boots, as the zip had stuck on the right leg!

I got a much better feeling from that place than from the other one. The lady in the office told me that the place had been founded as part of an initiative by Leeds City Council and the Riding for the Disabled Association (they do classes for disabled riders there) and they had built the school up from that, which probably explains why it seems (at first glance, anyway) to have a much more easygoing, non-judgemental atmosphere. I’m still amazed that they can have such shiny, well-maintained facilities, though – they must be making money from being a great school that people want to keep going back to. I know I certainly do!

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One response

9 11 2012
mellchan

Somehow the notification for this new post went to my spam!?

It sounds like you have found a place that matches your needs pretty well! I am glad, there is always someplace that will be just right for YOU.

And volunteer work! Yay, looks good on applications and you get to dilly dally around the barn!!

Congrats Im really happy for you….and soapy is gorgeous. I have to say that I love her name!

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