I am SO STUPID

27 01 2013

I booked a private lesson for myself for today as I had other things to do tomorrow evening, just to keep up some practice after my last lesson was cancelled.

However, I’ve always been really bad at telling the time. I deal with this using the 24-hour clock as I find this easier to interpret, and by calculating in advance how long it will take me to get to an appointment, and making a mental note not of the time appointment, but of the time I’ll need to set off for it. Sadly, this week I didn’t, and consequently I ended up realising I’d given myself 15 minutes to make a 50 minute journey to the riding school.

I had to call them up and cancel at short notice. They have a 24-hour cancellation policy; I agreed that I would pay the lesson fee when I showed up for that, and apologised.

Honestly, what a waste.

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I’m So Happy!

25 01 2013

… And not just for myself! The one and only first year Japanese student I know well enough to be on speaking terms with at my university has got into Gakushuin… AND SHE’S A HORSEY GIRL!

I’ve already promised to meet up with her and impart my knowledge of horse riding terminology in Japanese, as I understand that talking to me at a tea ceremony meeting about the riding there was one of the reasons she was interested in applying there. She has already said to me that if she was successful in getting in there, she would make full use of the riding!

Which of course means… I’ll have a sort-of – if only loose – connection to Hokon again, and I’ll get to find out how he’s doing!

I welled up a bit at that thought. Heh.

Awww, I want to go back and see them all again! ❤





The Snow and I Are Not Talking! :P

21 01 2013

Don’t get me wrong, I usually love snow. It brings back happy memories of childhood, of snowball fights and snowmen and jumping with both feet into and out of patches of undisturbed virgin snow. Only I love horses more, and it’s led to my not being allowed to see them this evening. I suspect this is down to the unavailability of the instructors rather than the horses, especially since my school has a heated indoor arena and even the outdoor arena is both covered and enclosed. Very disappointing! I thought that here in Yorkshire, people manned up and got on with it when weather happened!

In other news, I am honoured to have been nominated not once, but twice for the Versatile Blog Award by the ever charming Mellchan and Sparrowgrass! I’m duly flattered, of course, although I’m not sure how deserving I am since all I blog about here is horses, which is not exactly versatile! Heh.

Anyway, now apparently I have to do the following:

•Display the Award Certificate on your website
•Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented your award
•Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers
•Drop them a comment to tip them off after you’ve linked them in the post
•Post 7 interesting things about yourself.

Okay. Seven interesting things about myself (well, that I think are interesting, anyway):

  1. I was named by my brother after Carrie Fisher for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy, because my parents were arguing over what to name me.
  2. I have always loved animals, and did my work experience when I was at high school in a zoo. Out of all the animals I came into contact with there, the penguins were my favourite.
  3. My first attempt to go to university was to study video games design, in spite of having taken A-Levels in history, politics and classical civilisations. It was actually really boring and I dropped out after one year.
  4. I used to be intensely arachnophobic, but I gradually overcame my fear of spiders and I now think that they’re awesome creatures.
  5. I also used to be scared of fire. I overcame this by walking over hot coals at an event organised by the dojo where I practised Aikido at that time.
  6. I have a hereditary skin condition – keratosis pilaris – which apparently suggests I may be of Celtic descent. It disappoints me that I didn’t get the associated red hair and milky-white complexion.
  7. I studied the tea ceremony during my time in Japan as one of my formal modules in both semesters, and have therefore been trained to perform a ceremony. Actually, I love green tea and probably drink about two litres of it over the course of a normal day.

The fifteen blogs I would like to nominate are:

http://nokotahorse.wordpress.com

http://oldhorseyounghorse.wordpress.com

http://spottedhorsechick.wordpress.com/

http://anythingforhorseandrider.wordpress.com

http://kuhsfarm.wordpress.com/

And for those not on WordPress:

http://www.behindthebitblog.com/ (I have one of her T-shirts!)

http://gakuuma.exblog.jp/

http://kimjongillookingatthings.tumblr.com/

http://fuckyournoguchicoffeetable.tumblr.com/

http://ponygifs.tumblr.com/

http://anordandhissword.tumblr.com/tagged/skyrim/chrono

http://lessthanthreed.blogspot.co.uk/

… And I’m all out of ideas. Heh.





I Spoke Too Soon!

14 01 2013

Well, I’ve had another lesson this evening, and it was really useful. I really think I spoke too soon about not being challenged enough and thinking the group I was in was too basic for me. It would appear that I’m exactly where I need to be.

Because it had snowed earlier in the day and I had an exam this afternoon I decided to be extravagant and book a taxi to get me there rather than walking. I can’t believe that the distance takes me some 50 minutes to clear on foot, but only ten minutes by car! For having said that, the fare was very reasonable. This also meant I arrived in good time, and as there were only cats in the office when I got there (this is quite normal) I went to check the class timetable to see which horse I had and see if I could find them to say hello to before my lesson.

The timetable said Symphony (which is much more like it where names for mares are concerned, if you ask me), so I turned around and surveyed the stalls behind me, to see one bearing that name with a speckled orange-and-white (I don’t know what the technical term for that is!) pony inside it, who was eyeing me inquisitively. I wandered over to say hello. She seemed a lot like Domino in that she seemed to enjoy my being stood there, but whenever I lifted my fist to greet her as I do with other horses, she would bite at it. It wasn’t a snappy, hostile bite like I was used to from the belligerent Thoroughbreds at Gakushuin, but it didn’t seem like a frisky one, either. I opened my palm in front of her face to show her my hand was empty, but she flinched like she thought I was going to hit her, and gave me a sad look. So I just stood and didn’t try to touch her at all, but she kept her head out, sniffing at my clothes. I caught the eye of the lady who usually takes my payment, said hello, and asked if she was Symphony. She turned out not to be; Symphony was being used in a lesson, and this pony’s name was Rosa.

It transpired, in fairly short order, that I would actually be riding Rosa in the school this evening, so it was nice that I had some time to introduce myself to her and demonstrate that I meant no harm. Symphony was brought out from the lesson, and I stuck my hand up to say I was having her. She is a gorgeous brown mare of 16hh, with the build of a Thoroughbred or a particularly slim Warmblood. I didn’t have a chance to ask which, sadly. I led her into the school, but was then asked if I wouldn’t mind swapping for Rosa with a new girl, who was quite a bit taller than me.

Rosa, I’d guess, wasn’t much taller than 14hh, so I mounted her from the ground, feeling a bit silly using the steps. First issue was fixing the stirrups right. I put them down quite low, but my instructor said she thought I’d find that more difficult when I started trotting, so I took her advice and put them up a bit more. Rosa was very patient while I faffed about with these, and responded instantly when I asked her to walk on a couple of steps to make sure they were even, even stopping when I asked. However, I was forewarned that she could be grumpy, and she certainly snapped at the instructor a couple of times and flattened her ears while she was stood in front of her.

In this lesson, we all had a practice at rising trot, individually and as a ride on both reins, then we did work without stirrups to help with our balance and position. I took second position in the ride this time. Second problem: Acclimatising to posting on a bouncy little pony after riding so many full-sized horses. I was all over the place, I couldn’t keep pace with poor Rosa, and we only managed to trot to the back of the ride after Rosa quite rightly slowed to a walk, feeling that the rhythm of the trot was all wrong. So, to help with this, I put my stirrups down a bit more, tried to rise faster at my instructor’s suggestion, and we were more successful on the second go. Although, I used my whip on her when she didn’t respond to my leg, and she went suddenly into a very fast trot, which ended up being quite uncontrolled. I was advised not to do this again if I could help it, because Rosa can sometimes be slow in her transitions and it doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t listening; using the whip would push her on too fast. I apologised to Rosa.

That instructor is brilliant, though. When struggling to get on with ponies on past occasions, not one single instructor before her has ever made any suggestions about how to deal with the difference in gait; she gave me several suggestions on things I could do differently to help me get used to Rosa’s movements, and by the end of the lesson I felt much more comfortable on her. She’s a brilliant instructor anyway; she doesn’t just tell us to do things and then tell us what we’re doing wrong, she explains why and how we should be doing things the whole time as we ride around, and offers additional tips and criticisms as and when she deems necessary. I feel like I can learn a lot from her!

We moved on to sitting trot without stirrups. I had trouble with this on my first go, because Rosa’s saddle had slipped over to the left, so all the way around the school I was fighting to stay upright, and, sad to say, ended up pretty much clinging on with my thighs. I highlighted this, and turned into the centre to take my stirrups back and try and use my body weight to shift it back into position. The second go around was much more successful!

Then, in a rather rushed move due to my having to adjust my saddle, we all took back our stirrups and trotted around large as a ride, and then that was the end of the lesson. Before we dismounted, our instructor told us that in ‘the coming month’ she was going to do a lot of work without stirrups with us (which is absolutely fine by me, I love riding without stirrups… when I’m not sliding off!), and that she was going to do some work on cantering with us following on from that. From this I was satisfied that I am in the place where I need to be, and that the relatively unchallenging lesson last week had been planned that way on purpose to ease us back in after the break. What a thoughtful teacher!

When I dismounted ‘grumpy’ Rosa, I forgot to put her stirrups up (bad Carrie!), because something she did distracted me: She turned her head around, holding it quite low, and rested it against me. Any more clued up horsey-types know what this might have meant? She wasn’t making any attempts to move or bite me or anything like that, it was just like… a head hug, I suppose. It was lovely, anyway, and I could quite happily have stayed there and cuddled her all night. She held that position when I put my hands up to stroke her face, until I took the reins from under her chin to lead her out.

Although I did lead Rosa back and took her bridle off to help save time, I didn’t hang around this time as I already knew Soapy wasn’t going to be in to say hi to as I’d checked the timetable earlier for that, too. I did give Rosa a last pat and thanked her for being good, though.

On the way out I also said goodbye to the funny chestnut pony I’d presumed to be Abby last week. Her name is actually Tallulah. Tallulah. That’s a fantastic name for a pony!





No Place Like Home

13 01 2013

I was very pleased to have got some riding practice in over the Christmas holidays; more so for it having been with lovely Tara and in the company of a good (human) friend, not only for the fun elements but because I guess I was worried that with my regular riding school being closed I’d be set back in terms of the progress I’ve made with my riding. I’m glad to say that this looks not to have been the case.

I returned to the school for the 6pm walk and trot class. We had full attendance this time, and I managed to get chatting to two of the other riders – a woman and her young daughter who’d decided to have their classes together. When I first arrived, they were being accosted by the long-haired tortoiseshell cat who’s demanded my attentions before now; her name is Fluff, apparently.

This week, I rode a piebald cob gelding by the name of Elvis. He looked like a male double of Soapy, so when I saw my instructor one of the first things I asked her after the initial customary round of pleasantries was whether they were related (apparently not). She asked me if I’d been riding over the break and I told her I’d been on an Own a Pony Day, which she found quite amusing. (That school runs them as well, but I’ve not made enquiries as to whether they’ll permit able-bodied adults to attend.)

We were about ten minutes late starting the class because everyone was having to fill in new rider registration forms before they started. I’d got there early and already done mine, so I sat patiently on Elvis, who despondently shifted his weight around on his hooves and intermittently snorted, like an impatient child sighing. My instructor advised me that he can be lazy, so to be mindful and keep him moving forwards.

The other horses were: Dan, the gentle giant I’d met on my first visit there, who, it seems, likes to do whatever he wants to do in the school, Paddy, another piebald cob almost identical again to Elvis, and Bramble, who the little girl rode (at the rear of the group, and ended up being led for most of the lesson). I was given the lead, initially with Dan and then Paddy behind me, although Dan and Paddy swapped places as the lesson went on.

Walk and trot with transitions was exactly what we did in this lesson – nothing more interesting or challenging than that. In a way I was glad of this, because it was nice to be eased back in gently; on the other hand, while I certainly found it hard work in terms of physical exertion, I’m sorry to say I didn’t quite feel challenged enough. My trot, it appears, has come along nicely; I’m no longer rising to high or too hard, my balance has improved substantially, and I’ve really got the hang of pushing on with my leg on both reins and in both gaits. The only two criticisms I was offered throughout the lesson were at one point that my reins weren’t of equal length (which was easily fixed) and to sit forwards a bit more so my shoulders were over my hips. That in itself amused me, because the problem I always used to have was with leaning forwards too much. Heh.

I managed to get Elvis working for me quite quickly. Initially, he wouldn’t even walk on for me, but by the end he was responding quickly to light squeezes of my legs. I’d at least like to think that the good advice I’d been given in my previous lesson there about being suitably firm with the horse had paid off.

After the lesson, I led Elvis back to his stable, which was an outdoor one next door to Paddy’s. One of the other members of staff led Paddy back, so I followed and offered to untack Elvis, which she thanked me for. As soon as I lead him back into the stable, Elvis made a beeline for the hay net on the far wall, and I had a job getting his bridle off as he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut long enough for me to loose the strap around it. Heh. As I lifted the saddle off his back, the other lady came in and put his rug on him, then I walked back to his face, gave him a fuss and thanked him for being good. The other lady showed me where his tack is kept and I hung everything up for her. I had some trouble because his numnar got stuck on my whip, which was hanging from my wrist!

After that, a small chestnut pony who may or may not have been called Abby (she was in Abby’s stall, at any rate) was looking inquisitively at me with her head out over the stall door, so I went over to say hello. I offered her my fist to investigate, and she very gently licked it clean. I overturned and opened my palm to show her I didn’t have any treats, but she just kept licking it. I asked her if it was the salt on my hands that she was after. At this point I was joined by the young girl who’d been in my lesson, who the pony did frisk for treats (maybe she’s given them some before?…), to which she responded, ‘Don’t eat me, I’m not a blueberry!’ (She was wearing a blue jacket.)

Following this, the young girl asked me if I’d seen ‘the really small one!’, to which I said no. She lead me to another stall at the far end, in which there was a *really tiny* dark brown Shetland pony, who I later learned was called Cocoa. She was no larger than a medium-sized dog, and unlike comparatively-polite ‘Abby’, she was rather forwards and kept biting at me as if I was a treat. I gently pushed her face away every time she tried to bite me, but more so as not to encourage a bad habit than because I minded or she was hurting me. Funny little thing, very sweet.

After that, I said my goodbyes to the girl and her mother and went around the other side of the indoor school to see whether Soapy and Matti were in their stalls to say hi. Matti was out, but Soapy was in her stall, having a munch on the hay in her net on the back wall of her stall. I called out to her and she turned around, saw me, came over to the door and stuck her head out over it. I put my fist up to her muzzle to greet her as I had done with ‘Abby’, and she gently breathed on it, then turned her head so that her nose was level with mine and gently breathed on my face, too. I have her neck a pat and a rub, and then stroked her face as well with my other hand. She was relaxed, and accepted my affections. Then she turned around to scratch what looked like an itch on her nose against her foreleg, and, taking this as a sign that she’d had enough of me, I picked up my hat, whip and boot bag ready to leave her be. When she heard this, she quickly turned back to face me and came to the door again; it was heartbreaking saying goodbye. It would appear that I’ve made a friend. Heh.

No pictures, I’m afraid. It’s just too dark there in the evenings at the moment for anything to show up.

Now we’re all up-to-date for tomorrow’s lesson! Hooray! I’m going to see how I feel after that one, and then if I’m not feeling challenged enough again I might ask my instructor what she thinks about me having some private lessons with her or at least a couple on the side, to demonstrate to her what my concerns about being in the other group were, and to bring me up to speed with the more advanced class and then joining them. It’s just cost that’s the issue; riding lessons are not cheap, but if you’re reading this then I guess I don’t have to tell you that!…

In other news I have adopted a donkey and a horse from Redwings! This was in memory of a dear friend who I’ve mentioned before, who sadly passed away; it was her birthday recently, and she used to support them. This has been far more exciting for me than I actually imagined it would be. You get access to an adoption club website where the charity posts photos and videos and keeps a diary on behalf of your adoptee(s), so there has been much squeeing at adorable horse/donkey pictures! I only intended to adopt one, and it came down to a choice between an lovely donkey by the name of Felicity, or a handsome ex-police horse called Will (short for Will Scarlett). After much internal debate I adopted Felicity… and then went back a few days later and adopted Will as well, because I couldn’t resist! Aren’t they great?…





OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part three)

10 01 2013

This is my second attempt to write up this entry! I did it last night, but WordPress seemed to be having some technical difficulties and ate my entire post. How rude!

Anyway, back to where we left off: On our return from lunch, we put the horses’ bridles back on them and lead them out into the main school again for mounting. Tara was much calmer and quieter this time. I felt all at once proud of myself (for getting something right) and sorry for all the little ponies when the chap who came to tighten my girth for me told me that Damian and I were the only people who had actually done this prior to going on lunch!

We were split up into groups again, but this time our little group was to go out into the woods for a hack. Just a steady hack in walk and trot this time. Tara, it seemed, could hardly wait to get out into the woods, and although she wasn’t as impossible as Barron had been on that previous occasion when I’d had a fight on my hands to keep him in the school and stop him following the others going out on the trail, we still ended up second in line for the entire ride as a result of her keenness to get out there, with Damian on Saxon somewhere near the rear at first. Again, she surprised me with her contrariness; whereas the idea of getting her hooves wet in the school before lunch had seemed like it was unthinkable to her, now she was marching through the puddles like it wasn’t an issue. Unlike Barron, who our leader was riding on this occasion; she cursed him mildly as he mounted a steep (and not entirely safe-looking) camber to avoid getting his hooves wet!

Once we were in the woods, I was impressed once again to see Tara demonstrating her intelligence. A fairly short distance into the woods there is a steep decline. Usually, when negotiating this, I’ve given whichever horse I had a long rein and just relaxed in the saddle while trying to keep my back straight, and let the horse handle the manoeuvring. Every other horse I have been on than Tara has dealt with this by blindly following the horse in front of them, but Tara pauses at the top, looks down and picks out the route she thinks looks the shortest, purposefully taking the inside corners, all the while taking her time and looking where she’s going. When we got to the bottom, I couldn’t help but pat her on the shoulder and tell her what a clever girl she was.

We took a slightly different route through the woods this time, in areas of the country park that were all familiar to me but that I’ve only been through/past once or twice before. We had a nice, long trot along the road, which took some getting used to because of the decrease in palpable shock absorption, and I lost my stirrup at one point but Tara, being forwards and just loving to run, kept a fast, steady pace up while I recovered it and resumed rising with it. We went past the other riding school situated in the country park (which was a bit strange, but nice to see the other horses looking curiously at us as we went past) and the old winding engine house from the days in which the area was a centre for coal and iron mining.

Sadly, it was after we passed this rather attractive piece of history an upset occurred. I’m not entirely clear on what actually happened, but it seems that one of the younger girls’ ponies kicked out at one of the others with both back legs, throwing her off and into the undergrowth at the side of the path. Of course, we all stopped, and our leader dismounted so she could go and check she was all right. I glanced over, not wanting to stare for knowing that it can make you feel uncomfortable if everyone’s looking at you in a situation like that, but I did see that she was sat upright on the ground clutching one of her hips with both hands, and I imagined she’d landed similarly to how I did when I fell from Kit that time in Japan. She agreed that she would continue, but she swapped ponies with a young lady who, if she wasn’t one of the volunteers, at least carried herself with the sort of confidence you’d expect of a regular at the stables and a proficient rider. Damian praised her for being brave.

In this time, I had permitted Tara to graze on the long grass and bramble leaves (which she seems to have a particular taste for) at the side of the path, and dismounted to try and grab a hold of the pony who’d kicked off and was now standing riderless, at Damian’s suggestion, as I hadn’t realised s/he had been left unattended. I was beaten to it by the young lady I mentioned previously, but this led to amusement when I tried to mount Tara again from the ground and she – obviously eager to get moving again – took this as a cue to start walking on, leaving me laughing and hanging onto the saddle with both hands, bent double over her. Heh. We got there in the end. Our leader led Barron to a bench and mounted him from that, which seemed rather like cheating after all of the rest of us did it from the ground!

We continued at a walk for the remainder of the ride, understandably; Damian came to the front behind me and the younger riders on their smaller mounts were allowed to trail behind in a group together. Every time we stopped to let them catch up, Tara forcefully lowered her head to any bramble leaves that were visible, and Damian remarked that she was like a supermodel; slender and beautiful, but completely obsessed with food. We could tell when we came up to a path where the horses would normally trot or canter, because both Saxon and Tara tried to just go for it, irrespective of what Barron was doing in front of them. I found that just sinking my weight into her back gave her the right message. Towards the end, I found the small of my back really hurting; I did a few things to correct my posture, but there was nothing wrong with it. I guess I’m just not used to riding for two hours in one day.

We returned to the school, dismounted and lead the horses back in. Unfortunately for me, Tara was booked for an evening lesson, so while I was able to remove her bridle and give her face a gentle brush, I couldn’t participate in the final activities of the day: Feeding and grooming your given pony, dressing them in their rug and returning them to the paddock. Tara could see the other horses being fed, and was distraught. She kept looking towards the direction the feed buckets usually come from and then giving me accusing looks, as though she thought I was being mean or stupid and neglectful. I felt bad. When her evening rider came for her lesson and took her, I said goodbye, and went over instead to watch as Damian groomed Saxon. The depth of the affection I saw displayed on both sides made my heart melt.

Once Saxon had been given a deep groom and had his rug put on him, I accompanied him, Damian and one of the stable volunteers out to the paddock to return him. The young lady opened the gate for Damian, and as he led Saxon in, called after him to lead Saxon back around so he finished up facing the gate, explaining that this was to ‘teach him some manners.’ Damian did exactly as instructed, and Saxon went obligingly where he was directed. When Damian removed his head collar and gave him a last pat and hug to say goodbye, Saxon just looked at him enquiringly at first, as if to say, What are we doing now, friend? As we walked away, I have no idea whether he wandered off to regroup with his herd or watched after us, because I couldn’t bear to look back. After that, Damian cleaned out Saxon’s stall. I offered to help, more for something to do with myself than anything else, but he insisted he wanted to do it for himself. In retrospect I’m kicking myself for not hanging back until Tara returned from her lesson.

It was a cold, damp, very mucky and tiring day, but I had a really lovely time and thinking about it is still making me feel happy. I had to go and find one of the staff members to thank them personally before I left. They smiled awkwardly and said I was welcome; I guess they must not get that much from 30-year-olds. Heh.

Since we didn’t get any ‘action shots’, obviously, due to having our hands very full, below is just a selection of photos from the day I particularly liked and wanted to share with you 😀

Now I just have my first lesson back in Leeds, which took place on Monday, and some other (potentially) exciting news to update you about! However, since I’ve raked up such a hefty word-count, they can wait for another day…





OWN A PONY DAY, YO (part two)

3 01 2013

Happy new year, readers! I hope yours was a good one. I’ve been quite busy between now and my last post, but here I am to get back on track with this!

Firstly, thanks are due to Damian for allowing me to use his photos from the Own a Pony Day to illustrate my further entries on this. Although all the pictures I originally used in my previous entry were mine, my digital camera started playing up and the phone on my camera is not sophisticated enough to use in dark conditions without a flash, so his pictures came out quite a lot better than mine, and there were more of them. However, I realised that I missed an opportunity to share his pictures of me leading Tara in from the paddock, which were quite amusing, so I’ve now gone back and included those in the correct narrative position.

So, then, once we had our ‘ponies’ fed, groomed and tacked up we led them out into the main school. There were so many of us it wasn’t possible for us all to stand in line along the centre line as we normally would, and so myself, a young girl with a horse named Domino who is similar in build to Tara (but always looks fed up, causing Damian and I to label her ‘Grumpy Horse’ until we knew what her name was) and Damian lined up in single file by the fence. Here, I had some difficulty with Tara when a blue van pulled up in the car park. In spite of her bravery when we encountered the tractor earlier in the day, she was clearly very distressed by the van; she started to make pathetic whimpering noises, and tried to turn on her hooves and make an exit. I held firmly onto her reins, but needed the assistance of one of the stableyard volunteers to restrain her from running away. She was obviously very frightened, however, and didn’t calm down until the vehicle had parked. I thought it was sweet when the young volunteer said, ‘It’s okay, Tara, it’s not going to kill you.’ Heh.

We were divided into three groups; one for a hack, one for a beginner’s lesson and one for a walk, trot and canter lesson. We were in the latter. The lesson was certainly brilliant fun, but it wasn’t really all that useful as a lesson. The sunshine favoured us in that hour, but the rain earlier that morning saw that the damage had already been done to the school; it was like a bog, and it was clear that none of the equines – apart from Saxon, who is so tough he didn’t seem to care even a little bit about getting his hooves wet – wanted to walk in the puddles, which were especially bad close to the gates. Another problem we encountered was that all the riders where of different skill levels, and thus differently able to push on or steer their mounts, which led to a lot of stopping and starting due to there being so many of us. We persevered and had a good time, however.

I managed to get Tara listening to me as we warmed the horses up, but even so found it a real struggle to override her reluctance to walk in the wet patches and get her to stay on the track. We managed to walk and trot okay and got some good impulsion going in the first half of the lesson, but at a few points I found myself wondering if I was inadvertently making dressage asks as we ended up making very graceful (but unintentional) half-passes a couple of times. However I think this was more likely to have been a result of my insistently pushing on with my inside leg when Tara tried to give the puddles a wide berth. Our attempts to do a 20-metre circle in working trot rising were also somewhat mangled.

It was when we moved onto canter that I began to realise just what an intelligent horse Tara is. She knows what’s going on around her, and she clearly understands key words and phrases particularly well. Unfortunately it was in this part of the lesson that I lost control of her almost completely. Basically, the group came to a halt and we each took turns to transition from rising trot to sitting to canter. Tara listened intently to the instructor and watched the horses go before us, and it became clear that she had decided she knew what she was doing. When it came to our turn, she went on the instructor’s word without any input from me, but she cut across the school from the letter before the corner to the one opposite and transitioned to canter as soon as she turned. I had no input into any of this, she did it all for herself. I managed to remain both calm and seated, but I think that was because it all happened much faster than my brain had time to catch up to. Tara had been described to me at the start of the day as ‘lively’, and it’s certainly clear that she loves running, with a passion. However she has a lovely, steady canter that I feel comfortable with.

On the second go I was better prepared for this, and so I tried to assert control over her. Unfortunately, this resulted once again in my wondering if we were unwittingly doing dressage. I pushed on hard with my leg in an attempt to keep her on the track, but the result was that we ended up in a very fast sitting trot going around in tiny circles, with an overall trajectory across the school in a horizontal line (and everyone laughing at us – which I can’t fault, it was funny). Consequently, the instructor came over, gave me a few pointers for controlling Tara – specifically, to have more confidence in myself, that she responds better to seat-bone instructions than to the rein or the legs, that when I want to pull her back to pulse on the reins rather than just pull continuously, explaining that she is stronger than me and so would ultimately win, finally reassuring me that Tara would only canter to the end of the ride and so not to worry – and told me to go around again. This time, she still cut the corners broadly and ignored my ask for canter at the second turn, but the instructor praised me for having more confidence and better control on this go. On our final go we went around in another bout of tiny circles across the school, but I managed to change reins and get it right going in the other direction, and enjoyed a nice, smooth canter down to the back of the ride. After that, the group trotted large together as best we could and we turned onto the centre line to dismount.

On dismounting, we put the stirrups up and loosened the girth straps before returning the horses to their stalls, where we left their saddles on but removed their bridles. Then it was time for us to break for lunch. Damian and I had a lovely picnic sat on the wall outside the front of the stables. I laughed at some children loudly objecting to one of the adults’ having said that one of the horses looked like a llama, and transformed into a ball of fluff when, on my walk back from the bathroom to wash my hands before eating past Saxon and Tara, I was mugged for attention by both horses simultaneously. As testament to that, here is a picture of me between the two equines feeling utterly overwhelmed by having both of them on me at once: