OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part one)

29 12 2012

So yesterday I got to own Tara for a day, and it was AMAZING! I’m aware of my own tendency to write 1,000 plus-word entries about one hour lessons/hacks, so I’m going to break this up into more than one entry. Here goes…

To be honest, I’m still feeling all a bit overwhelmed about what an awesome time I had. It was cold and dark and overcast all day, and it had rained really heavily early in the morning, so since both schools are outdoors and uncovered the place largely resembled a bog, but I didn’t care in the least. I really, really enjoyed myself.

Damian and I arrived promptly after a brisk walk the long way around the muddy country park, the only adults in a large group of young children. This turned out not to be nearly as weird as either of us expected and if anything it was the one or two parents who hung around for the day rather than going home and letting their kids get on with it who annoyed us. (Really annoyed us, in fact, but less on that.) The children were all perfectly pleasant and polite, and for the most part we had our hands too full with our horses to really interact with them much anyway.

The first tasks of the day were laying out the hay in our given horse’s stall into a bed, then stringing up a hay net for them, filling their bucket of water from the big steel trough, and finally getting a bucket or sinkful of feed ready for them. Standard, really, but it was nice to be doing work for horses again, and I was excited to see Tara again as it was. So excited, in fact, that when a particularly little girl excitedly shouted, ‘Are we going to get the horses now?’ to one of the staff after we’d all been issued with head collars and lead ropes and I laughed, Damian said, ‘You’re laughing because that’s your internal monologue, aren’t you?’ I couldn’t honestly contradict him.

When we approached the paddock, which I’ve never seen before, we were split up into two groups: Those assigned to ‘boy’ horses and those assigned to ‘girl’ horses. They had been segregated by gender into two sections; I understand that the riding school horses are all gelded so I have no idea whether or not this is common practice. I remember feeling giddy when I spied Tara up ahead through the trees (the paddock was wooded and had a steep incline immediately after the gate), wearing a fetching burgundy winter rug. She turned over, looked in my direction (probably just wondering why there was a group of people standing there), and my heart skipped a beat. Then, in typical Tara fashion, she turned her attention back to the cage of hay she’d previously been nibbling at.

I felt disappointed when it was explained to us that because the field was especially muddy, they were going to go into the paddock and fetch the horses for us. (It later came to light that this was not because of the mud at all, and was in fact because the staff didn’t want dozens of excitable children buzzing around the horses while they were outside.) So I watched as they went in and collected and lead the ponies, two at a time, to the gate, thereafter handing over the lead ropes and instructing them to take them back to their stalls.

I turned my attention to the other field with the boy horses. They didn’t need to be collected; from what I saw, Saxon lead the herd down to meet the party of individuals who’d gone in to fetch them (including Damian), and they all seemed quite eager to go out. Saxon was unbothered about having his head collar put on, and the only hitch for them seemed to be that his half-brother Harvey (who wasn’t participating) wanted to go with him and blocked their way out of the gate. Heh.

Finally, when all the little girls had their ponies, my former instructor asked me if I wanted to go in and collect Tara myself, so of course I said yes! It wasn’t too muddy going up the incline to where she was stood, but as I reached her and she turned to look at me, giving me that acknowledging look that horses you’ve met before do, I stepped in a particularly marshy bit of earth and my foot sank in ankle-deep, and I had trouble recovering it. It felt like one of those moments in an American teen movie where a nerdy boy embarrasses himself in front of the girl he likes. Tara didn’t move away or try to make a break for it as I had been worried she might, so I took my position under her chin and went to put her head collar on her. She was fine with this at first, but as I was going to fasten it over her head decided she wasn’t playing and backed out of it, then walking around the other side of the cage that had hay in it. My instructor exclaimed, ‘Oh, Tara,‘ and tried to herd her back to where I was standing, but I decided instead to walk towards her in the other direction around the cage and meet her head-on. This worked well, as by this point she was paying attention to what the instructor was doing and not me. She was no trouble as I led her back to her stall, not even – to my surprise – as we passed a large tractor driving past us through the yard. I had the biggest grin on my face as she walked along beside me. I walked her into her stall and to her feed. I barely had time to remove her head collar before her nose was in it.

We were instructed on how to groom the horses while they ate their feed. It’s interesting to note that although the basic principles are all the same, they do it ever so slightly differently from how I was taught to do it at Gakushuin; here, they do the main grooming to get all the dirt off prior to riding, as opposed to afterwards, and where I was previously taught to always have a hand on the horse when moving around them so they could tell where I was all the time, here I was told to talk to them continuously (which came naturally to me as I’m always chatting to horses anyway. Heh). When I returned to Tara’s stall she’d had her head collar and lead rope put back on and was tethered above the hay net, happily chomping away. I carefully took her rug off, showed her the curry comb and went about it. She was angelically well-behaved, but unlike Saxon (I was later told), didn’t lean bodily into the brushes as she was being groomed. She did, however, adorably stretch her face across my chest as I went to groom it, resting her chin against me. I melted.

One lovingly-groomed horse.

One lovingly-groomed horse.

Next, I cleaned her hooves. This confused me. I’d previously been taught to do all four stood on the horse’s left side, basically lifting the opposite-side’s hooves up and underneath the horse to do it. Tara wouldn’t give me her right hoof from her left side, and I initially mistook this for stubbornness. However, when I did her back-left hoof she gave it to me without any trouble, not trying to kick or anything like that. So I tried going around the other side, and what do you know? She gave me both hooves without any dramas. It felt really weird using the hoof pick with my left hand, though.

The next thing to do was tack her up! I made this much more difficult for myself than was really necessary. A young girl who I recognise as being one of the stable volunteers very kindly brought me her bridle, and I retrieved her saddle, girth strap and numnar with Damian’s assistance. However, the ensemble had already been put together, meaning that all that really needed doing was for the saddle and numnar to be lifted onto her back together and the girth strap secured on one side. I didn’t realise this as I’d been taught to tack up in stages, so instinctively I just took everything apart and placed each item on her back one after the other. I had more difficulty getting her bridle on her, but this was merely because she didn’t want to take the bit in her mouth. Thankfully, one of the instructors saw me struggling with this and came in and taught me a trick for getting the horse’s mouth open by pushing your finger into their mouth behind the teeth.

Then, she was finally ready to be lead out for our lesson…


God Jul!

25 12 2012

Season’s greetings to all!

Werner Nokota Horses

Nokota bilder 2 332

Seasons Greetings To You All!

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Down a level…

24 12 2012

Last Monday, I had what I consider to have been one of the most useful lessons I have had since I restarted riding this April.

You may remember from my write-up of my previous lesson that I said I had chosen to drop down into the beginner’s class rather than stay in the slightly more advanced group. At the beginning of my lesson, my instructor asked me whether I’d been in her 7pm group the week before, and when I said I had, she said that she thought the level of the lesson would be too basic for me, based on what she’d seen of my capabilities the week before. As flattering as I found that, I explained to her my reasons for deciding to change classes. She advised me that I would be alongside people in this group that were all at different levels – the lowest being someone who’d only ever had two lessons prior to starting there – and that I might not find the lessons terribly useful. I said I would see how I felt after the class. Then the next rider came in with her mount. We were in the outdoor arena this time; although it is outside it still has a roof, and it was raining quite hard. It was very pleasant to be riding outdoors with the sound and smell of the rain all around us, but not actually be in it.

There are meant to be five in our group altogether, but three of the others had cancelled and so we were lucky enough to get a semi-private lesson for the price of a group lesson. This week I rode a seal brown mare called Bramble. (I rather think that the name Bramble is to horses what Willow is to cats, and if I’d been responsible for naming her I would have called her Thorn, but that’s by the by.) She seemed nice enough to me as I lead her out, but I was told to keep and eye on her and be firm with her, because she was ‘grumpy’ and could be aggressive towards other horses. The other lady in was told to try and keep her own mount at least two horses’ distance away from her at all times.

Bramble was perfectly pleasant towards me on the ground, but she was a bit of a pain once I was in the saddle. She just didn’t want to do anything I told her. Even getting her to walk on initially was difficult – but this was where the lesson came in useful. Our instructor told us, very clearly, what was wrong with the way in which we were sitting, pushing on with our legs and our conformation generally and just how it impacts on our ability to ask effectively and to control the horse.

We did nothing more advanced in the class than walking, trotting and changing reins, but all the while the instructor was keeping a close eye on our posture and telling us what to correct and how to do it. I learned that I’ve been using my legs incorrectly when I push on; I’ve always understood that you push onto the girth, but never realised that you have to extend the leg downwards so it curves around the horse’s sides and under as far as it can. I knew when I’d got it right, because I felt the stretch all the way down my legs right from my groin into my ankles. It was pretty strenuous, actually.

Although Bramble became noticeably more responsive to my asks as I listened to these pointers and tried as best I could to put them into practice, it was still very clear that she didn’t particularly want to listen to me. So, the instructor gave me a few tips on discipline that were really useful. I’ve been told at least half a dozen different ways to use a crop; she advised me to take the reins in my outside hand and strike firmly across the girth as I push on with my leg, both because the horse is sensitive there, and because by doing it simultaneously with the leg I’m sending a clear message to her that that’s what I want her to be listening to. However, she stressed that I should only use the whip if she was persistently refusing to respond to my asks. She encouraged me to be firm and make the horse work for me, because if I didn’t start off that way with every horse I rode it would be even harder for me to get them to listen to me and stop them trying to take liberties later on. She had me dismount and watch her pushing Bramble on around the school for a few minutes, calmly, confidently and without fear. When I mounted again Bramble was far more responsive to me; I’d like to think that this was at least in part because I had taken on board and put into practice what I’d been instructed, but I suspect it might have had more to do with the fact that having the instructor ride her for a few minutes made her realise that one way or the other she wasn’t going to get away with lazing around.

Following that, we did some work together without stirrups. Regular readers will be aware that I love riding without stirrups; it feels so much more natural. The purpose of this exercise was to help us get a feel for what our seat and leg position should feel like all the time. To begin with, she had us sit stationery on our horses and hook our legs up over the front of the saddle. This was so we could feel how our seat bones should feel against the saddle. After holding that position for a few moments, she had us keep that position while returning our legs to their natural relaxed position. Then she asked us to walk on, and then trot, changing reins in trot.

With ten minutes to go until the end of the lesson she had us return to the centre line and take the stirrups back. She said that after this exercise, we might feel like our stirrups were now too short and want to put them down a hole or two. I certainly did, and adjusted them accordingly. We went into rising trot together large, and it was so much easier and felt more natural. I felt disappointed when she told us to slow to a walk and turn into the centre line for dismount. Heh.

I lead Bramble back to her stall. I wanted to untack her, but I didn’t know if she was going out again, so I didn’t. Once back in her stall she went straight back to her hay net and started chomping away obliviously, completely ignoring my attempts to fuss her. I thought it best to leave her to it.

Before leaving, I wanted to call in and say hi to Soapy, whose stall is around on the other side of the indoor arena, so I walked around to the other side. On my way to her stall, a lady I often see around the stables asked me who I was having, and I explained that my lesson had finished but I’d just wanted to say hello to Soapy if I was in. She thought nothing of this and just said, ‘Yes, she’s there.’ I walked up to the door of Soapy’s stall and called out, ‘Hello, Soapy!’ She was standing at a right angle to the door of her stall, but was busy attending to her own net of hay on the wall opposite. When I called out to her she momentarily turned away from the hay and as our eyes met I saw that spark of recognition and acknowledgement, but she turned back to the hay almost immediately after. I remember saying something else to her – I can’t remember specifically what, but it would just have been something along the lines of, ‘How are you doing, Soapy?’, and she turned to look at me again, this time showing me the whites of her eyes (but without looking angry), and it seemed clear as day to me that what she was saying was, Go away, I’m eating! I think I apologised for disturbing her and left, chuckling. It had been an amusing exchange.

The school is now closed until the 7th January, but I am booked in for another lesson on that day. I have a feeling that restarting in the beginner’s group is actually going to be really good for me and correct a lot of minor things I’ve been doing ever so slightly wrong, and that instructor really is fantastic. I look forward to progressing with her help!

The next riding experience I shall have will be my Own a Pony Day with beautiful Princess Tara! I am so excited about that. I have decided that that is going to be my official Christmas day ❤

An Argument of Sorts

19 12 2012

Obedient, willing, forwards and responsive. All traits I had come to associate with the prettiest princess horse called Tara. This Saturday, she was none of those things… but still great fun to ride.

I had gone down to Nottingham for the weekend as a couple of events were happening, so Damian and I decided to book ourselves on a hack at that nice school down there. On this occasion we failed to persuade any of our other friends to join us, apart from Amy, who rents a horse (a chestnut mare called Nirvana) from the livery stables connected to it, located elsewhere in the country park in which it is situated.

Damian and I had been successful in securing our preferred choices of mounts: Saxon and Tara. I was very excited about seeing Tara again, hoping I’d be a better rider for her after all the additional lessons I’ve had since I last rode her. When we arrived she was out in a teens’ group lesson, and they were jumping! When they’d finished, I waited for the two young girls on smaller ponies either side of her to lead their ponies back into the stables; when they stopped, seemingly unsure as to whether they were to be taken back or not, I decided to just pass them and approach anyway. Before handing her over to me, her previous rider gave her a handful of Polos, saying, ‘Because she’s been a good girl,’ as she did so.

As I mounted her, she was perfectly well-behaved. I took great delight in telling the chap who came to adjust my stirrups and girth that she was going to be my horse for a day at the upcoming Own a Pony Day. In spite of him at first not believing me, this seemed to amuse him. ‘What, with all the other seven-and-eight-year-olds?’ he asked, and laughed at my enthusiasm. Heh.

We were on a hack with others rather than in our own little group this time. As soon as we set off, Tara proved a bit of a handful; no sooner had I been asked by the instructor leading the hack if I was there for a hack (I feel like I’ve typed the word ‘hack’ too many times for this paragraph now), she was off without me doing anything about it. I looked over my shoulder and saw that Damian was still having his stirrups adjusted, and tried to pull her back into the school and stop so we could set off together, but it was obvious that she knew what she was doing and was determined to just get on with it. Eventually I stopped fighting it and let her go (which was a mistake), leaving the others to catch up. We ended up in a row with the instructor on Harvey and a more experienced rider on Barron in the lead, myself behind them, a young girl behind me on a pony I don’t know the name of and then Damian and Amy at the rear.

At first I couldn’t get Tara to listen to me at all. She was too active in her walk to begin with, meaning her nose was right up against Barron’s bum, and then when I finally did get her to slow she wasn’t active enough. The first drama happened when we reached what I can only imagine must ordinarily be a canter path; our instructor called out behind her that we were going to have a trot and then a canter later on, but as soon as we approached the flat ground Tara (and, based on what I heard going on behind me, Saxon) enthusiastically leapt into a canter without my say-so. I pulled her back, and she groaned. We began an active trot, but the younger girl said she didn’t want to trot. She seemed to be an experienced rider – probably well above the level of myself and Damian – so I’m not sure what the reason for her reluctance was, but it may have been that she was nervous at having Saxon just behind her.

So we slowed to a walk. At this point – it was suggested to me fairly recently that horses are telepathic, and the more time I spend around them the more I could believe it – Tara and I seemed to enter into an unspoken dialogue. I started trying to push her on with my leg and trying to dictate which side of the path she should be walking on. She refused at first (and it definitely felt like a refusal to listen as opposed to wilful ignorance), and at a couple of junctions she tried to take a different turn to the rest of the group, really testing my control as I battled to keep her in line with the other horses. Eventually we reached the canter path; the more experienced rider in the group cantered on along this path ahead of us, but before she even set off Tara had started a canter herself. I pulled her back, trying to get her to stop behind the others, but she resisted me strongly; realising I wouldn’t be able to bring her to a stop, I pulled her head out to one side so she had nowhere to go. Upon realising what I’d done (and now standing at 90 degrees to the rest of the group), she growled back at me aggressively, and although she had no space to move into in front over her kept shifting on her hooves until the rest of the party walked on, at which point she fell back in line with them and walked on, obviously disgruntled. It was as though in my mind I was willing her to do as she was told, and she was transmitting the message back to me, Look, I know these woods better than you do. I know what we’re meant to do here and you’re doing this all wrong. Shut up and let me drive.

After this exchange – towards the end of the hack – she started to respond to my asks and I finally remembered to relax in my saddle. Tara became more manageable after this, and I had a sneaky trot without stirrups as we neared the school again. I gave her a long rein at the first opportunity, just because I could tell she was wound up and wanted to show her I wasn’t unsympathetic. We spent some time munching shrubs at the side of the bridlepath before being let back into the school to dismount, whereupon she tried to return herself to the stables before I’d finished putting her stirrups up. I later learned that this was because it was feeding time.

I was not the only person to experience difficulties on this hack, however. Our instructor carried a whip with her (unusually for a hack) and used it several times on Harvey. Amy reported that Saxon had bucked with Damian on his back (although Damian apparently didn’t realise what a big buck this had been, and remained calmly in the saddle). The experienced rider on Barron had difficulty at one junction getting him to go the right way, and at another (where she had ended up in the lead) she was told to go right and called out in response, ‘It doesn’t matter, he’s going that way anyway!’ It was as though the youngest member of the group was the only one who didn’t have any trouble with her mount, in spite of her concerns. I saw none of dramas involving Saxon, but was greatly amused to hear him making adorably grumbly noises. Heh.

After the hack we hung out for a short while with our respective horses. I was honoured to find that Saxon remembered me, in spite of not having seen me for nearly two months, and was affectionate towards both myself and Damian. While I was stood fussing Saxon, however, Tara was back in her stall, craning her neck around the corner and looking forlornly at me, so I returned to her stall to make a last fuss of her before I departed.

Saxon, here looking like a baby horse.

Saxon, here looking like a baby horse.

She’s a funny one. When I got back to her stall she didn’t show the slightest bit of notice to my attempts to fuss her, and was looking past me to where the feed bucket – approaching from the opposite end of the stable – was. It was as though she felt better for me being stood there, but she didn’t want me to do anything. The chap who’d been amused by my glee at telling him I was coming to the Own a Pony Day came and untacked and started grooming her, and I chatted to him about what a funny horse she is. Eventually the food arrived, and after some standing with her front hooves on a ledge just inside her stall and bracing her knees against the stall wall as though to try and climb out to where the food was, she settled with her muzzle in the feed. She started waving her foreleg as she was eating. I asked the man grooming her if she always did that when she was excited; he said that some horses do it when they’re enjoying their food, but that in that instance he couldn’t tell whether she was doing that or threatening to kick him because she wanted to be left alone to eat. The whole time she was stuffing her face, she kept one eye on me, until we left to meet Amy and walk her back to the livery stables where Nirvana is boarded.

Myself laughing on as Tara attempts to climb out of her stall to get to the food before it gets to her.

Myself laughing on as Tara attempts to climb out of her stall to get to the food before it gets to her.

When we reached the stables (it was strange walking on foot back through the woods in the dark), we (well, mostly Damian because he hasn’t had many opportunities to do that sort of thing) assisted Amy in untacking, grooming and dressing Nirvana up in her rug. Nirvana looked very confused when at one point I leaned against her and rested my head on her back to inhale her lovely, horsey scent, but this was a lovely way to round off what had turned out to be quite the eventful outing.

Inhaling Nirvana's lovely horsey smell.

Inhaling Nirvana’s lovely horsey smell.

Many thanks to Damian for the loan of these images, which were all significantly better than the ones I managed to obtain using my own camera. Heh.

Three rides, three mounts (and none of them Soapy)

18 12 2012

I’ve let myself fall behind on this again, which means I now have three whole separate riding excursions to write about! Rather than write one long and tedious entry, I think I shall tackle this by catching up on myself one entry at a time, starting with last week’s group lesson, and spread them out over the next few days for your viewing pleasure.

So, the group lesson. This was my first time in a lesson since childhood with more than one other person, and it was an ‘open order’ lesson for the first half hour with group work in the second half hour. I was given a horse called Matti; if you’ll excuse his daft name (I still think horses should all have affected, badass-sounding names, not cutesy ones!), he was a beautiful chap of around 15hh, black all over and an Irish draught x thoroughbred cross. I was told before I went to fetch him that, ‘He pretends to be grumpy, but he’s not really.’ I found him in his stall, tacked up and ready for me, obliviously munching away at some hay strung up in a net on the far wall.

Matti’s stall is next to Soapy’s, meaning I had an opportunity to say hello to her before my lesson. When I called out her name, she came over and put her head over the door to her stall to say hello, looking genuinely pleased to see me, which I found really sweet and flattering. I chatted to her a bit while giving her neck a bit of a friendly rub when the lady who was riding her that evening came to collect her. She couldn’t get Soapy to back away from the door to go in and fetch her while I was stood there, so I went into Matti’s stall to sort him out and left them to it.

The lesson itself was not terribly useful to me, I’m afraid to say, but it was good fun. I enjoyed the open order half of the hour, because it was nice to be given the time and space to just do whatever I felt like at my own pace, and to get to know Matti and how he moved. Matti proved to be perfectly forwards and willing, but – and these were my instructor’s words, not mine – conformation-wise, he was ‘pretty shocking. There’s a technical term for what happens when a horse is moving in an unsteady rhythm, and so his back hooves bang into his front hooves, resulting in a clacking sound; Matti did this constantly, and no amount of pushing him on or slowing him down with half-halts seemed to fix it for any length of time. He was also really bouncy to trot on – very much like you might expect a pony to be in comparison to a full-sized horse – which meant it took me a few goes to get myself rising comfortably on him. I did get there in the end, though. Once I felt comfortable with Matti, I trotted large on both reins, and then decided to practice riding whilst standing in the stirrups on both reins and in a serpentine across the whole school. I find that being able to do this for a while helps me to keep my weight stretched down my legs and into my heels where it should be immediately afterwards.

In the group practice portion of the lesson, our instructor arranged some cones in two lines running down the length of the school. One set were placed quite far apart from one another, the others close together. The idea was for us to weave our way in and out of them as a test of our ability to turn and transition; trotting through the wide ones, walking through the narrow ones. On bouncy Matti, I found this much easier in sitting trot than in posting trot, but by the time she called the lesson to an end I felt pretty comfortable going around the school on both reins and in both gaits. She said that if we wanted to finish the lesson with a canter we could do, but none of the other riders did (there were four of us in total) and given how all over the place my canter has proved to be in recent lessons I thought better of going charging across the paths of more confident riders who were trying to take things more slowly.

At the end of the lesson, our instructor told me that she thought I’d be okay staying in that group for the time being, but that she thought I had some ‘catching up’ to do to get to the same level with my riding as the others in that group. She largely seemed to be saying that a few things about what I had been doing needed tweaking, but she wouldn’t know for sure whether or not I would need to drop down a level until she saw me cantering, and that she would tell me if she felt that my staying in the group would be holding the others back. After we had this conversation I initially agreed to stay in the group for now on the understanding that I’d transfer into a more basic one later if the need arose, but the more I thought about it the more dropping down into the next group down seemed to make sense; frankly, I didn’t want the humiliation of being told I wasn’t good enough and I didn’t want to run the risk of holding the others back in the first place. So when I left I booked myself into the beginner’s lesson for the following week (today, in fact!).

Matti, although perfectly mild-mannered and friendly with me, clearly didn’t like Murphy, one of the other horses (a screwbald gelding of a similar build to himself). While he behaved during the lesson, at the end as we went to dismount he tried to go for him – with me, feet out of stirrups about to dismount, hanging on and trying to pull his head away from the poor other horse, who seemed confused at this sudden onset of hostility. Following on from that I had to hold onto him while Murphy was lead out to stop him aggressively following. Once Murphy was out of sight he returned to his previous placid self, enabling me to lead him back to his stall – where I was granted the honour of untacking him, all by myself and without any supervision! I have to say that that was probably the highlight of that particular trip to the stables. I was pleased, not only because they had the confidence in me to let me do it, but also because I remembered how to do it all, and I am still strong enough to lift a saddle (which I could barely manage when I first joined the Equestrian Team at Gakushuin back in April). After securing his rug to him – which nearly ended disastrously as I narrowly avoided being urinated on as I ducked underneath him to grab the straps that fasten under his belly, heh – I gave him a last pat on the neck to thank him for his patience with me in the school, and left him studiously munching on his hay before embarking on my 50 minute walk home.

Finding a Balance

2 12 2012

I had my actual lesson today! It was brilliant. I had a different instructor again, who had me work on my lower leg position a lot and encouraged me to use longer stirrups. It feels much better now! I see the merits of keeping your heels down and back now; if you do it this way, it doesn’t just balance you better, but controlling your mount with your legs becomes much easier because in that position you have much better contact with the horse’s sides. Especially on a small and fairly round horse like Soapy (who I had again). Heh. We did a lot of walking and trotting while standing with the addition of a neck strap to hold onto if I needed it to help me find my balance, and she gave me some really helpful pointers on this, for example pushing my knees into the saddle to steady myself and leaning slightly forwards if I needed to steady myself.

Again, I told the instructor at the beginning of the lesson that my canter wasn’t very good and we agreed that we’d work on that. It seems that when I relax I can get a good canter going on the left rein, because my right side seems to be a fair bit stronger than my left, but it all falls apart when we change reins. Another problem is that I still tend to panic a bit when the canter starts, when I need to relax so the horse doesn’t panic, too (which will ultimately only lead them to slow down or bolt). It’s something to work on going forwards, anyway; my instructor advised me to request a half-hour lunge lesson just to get used to the feel of a canter, and then follow that with half an hour cantering on my own. I need to think about this. I do think it would be helpful, it’s just the expense to consider, especially seeing as I now have plans to do additional riding in Nottingham this month.

This time, after the lesson, I was allowed to lead Soapy back to her stall myself as she didn’t have any more lessons after me. One of the volunteers, a pleasant young lady, untacked her and put a rug on her while I stayed in there to say goodbye. I put my fist up for her to investigate, and she gently nuzzled it, but without any nipping, biting or frisking; when I walked out of her stall, she followed me over to the door, even though the young lady hadn’t finished untacking her yet. Once she was untacked and nicely wrapped up in her rug, I stood by the side of the door while she stuck her head out and appeared happy just to share the space with me. I stroked her neck and her lips went all trembly. I briefly stroked her chin, but she seemed not to like it so I stopped. I got my phone out to take a picture, and she posed for me! She’s a really sweet, characterful little horse. It was so cold, though, that she had steam coming off her. Bless her little feathered socks. Heh.

Soapy posing for me!

Soapy posing for me!

She was amusingly naughty in the arena, though. My instructor had apple slices in her pocket and she could smell them. At the beginning of the lesson she told me to walk her around on a long rein, and I had quite a bit of trouble getting Soapy to stay on the track and not just veer off to where the instructor was standing. When she reached her, she just stopped right in front of her and looked at her with her ears pricked forwards. It was so sweet it was barely frustrating. I found it difficult to leave her behind when I left the stables!


1 12 2012

I turned up to my one-hour private lesson today… to be told I was actually booked in for one o’clock tomorrow! Whoops.

On the flipside, I have been able to book myself in on an ‘Own a Pony Day’ at the other school in Nottingham for just after the winter bank holiday. I am looking forward to that immensely, and not least because they didn’t even have to ask which horse I would want!..