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?…

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