A Perfect Evening’s Riding

9 07 2015

I saw Puzzle again, for my last supervised visit to see him, and he was a perfect angel for me. I am fully aware that this may not be the case every time I see him, so I absolutely made the most of it!

I arrived having already had a text from his human to say that she was stuck in traffic and would be there later, but that I could get his feed ready and bring him in myself if I wanted to. I did so, knowing I wouldn’t be able to tack him up until she got there since one of the reasons for her still being present was to give me the keys to the tack room and to her locker, in which all of his tack is kept. I got his chaff and balancer ready and placed his feed bucket inside the tyre in his stall ready for him to launch into, took the headcollar and lead rope, and set off in the direction of the paddock to fetch him. On the way there, I saw the other lady who has two horses stabled there, who had brought her two into the vestibule of grass between the path and the school to graze while she tacked up one of them to ride, and the farm owners, who all greeted me warmly.

When I arrived at the paddock gate, Puzzle heard me, turned around, and came trotting over to the gate to meet me. That felt good – although I realised it was because he was eager to come in after seeing the other horses go out (the patch of grass they were grazing in contained clover, which he isn’t allowed at the minute because he’s too fat), as much as it was because he was pleased to see me. I went into the paddock and put his headcollar on him, and then realised I hadn’t brought him a treat, which he is used to. I stood feeling guilty about that for just as long as it took me to realise I couldn’t have got him a treat if I’d remembered because they were in the tack room and it was locked, and then led him out onto the lane. He immediately went for some grass at the side of the lane while my hands were full with securing the gate behind us – for which I didn’t pull him up as quickly as I might otherwise have done, for feeling guilty about not bringing him a treat.

I led him in and started picking out his feet before his human got there. She chatted to me and showed me how to put his Hi Viz rug on for hacking out in, but otherwise left me to get on with it. I remembered everything, I’m pleased to say, including how to put on his Grakle bridle and martingale, and we were tacked up and ready to go in a short amount of time. I led him out to the mounting block, mounted up and rode him into the school, where the other lady was just finishing up with her two horses; she stayed and watched me warming him up a bit before leading them out, and complimented me on how nicely I was riding him, also throwing me the advice that if he got ‘all looky’ in the spooky end of the school, to quickly ask him to do something – like a three metre circle, or a turn, or a leg yield – to take his mind off whatever might make him spook. This turned out to be a very useful tip indeed, as that then informed our entire warm-up, meaning that by the time I got to asking him to do any real practice with me he was switched on to me and not to what else was going on around us.

She was kind enough to ask me whether I would be okay on my own if she left. I thanked her and said yes, a flash of hesitation momentarily passing through my mind, which I quickly brushed aside, realising I’ll have to go it alone someday one way or the other. From then on, I adjusted my stirrups and checked the girth, and stepped up everything we’d been doing in walk – leg yields, serpentines, circles, changes of rein – in trot for a while. He was working with his nose down in a lovely outline, and I found that all I had to do if he lifted it up was a very gentle squeeze on both reins. He did have a moment of silly head-tossing, but I found that all I had to do was ignore it and keep my forearms relaxed and he stopped. Finally, when I was confident he’d go if I asked, I got him to canter beautifully on both reins. We didn’t get the correct leading leg on the tricksy left rein first time this time, and while I did try to circle him to correct it initially, I didn’t manage to this time (proving it was beginner’s luck on Saturday), but I brought him back to trot and asked again and we got a lovely, balanced, controlled canter on the second attempt. I let him run through that for a couple of circuits of the school before bringing him back to walk, giving him a long rein, and cooling down.

As I really want to practise getting to grips with opening and closing gates from on horseback, I didn’t dismount in the school at first; after a few botched goes, we managed the school gate, but the second one onto the lane was too stiff for me to operate from on horseback, so I hopped off, loosened Puzzle’s girth and put his stirrups up to lead him back in hand. As soon as I let go of the reins his nose was down in the grass. This time I stopped him, and told him off (lightly). I took him back to his stall, gave him a sponge bath and picked his hooves out again, before spraying him with fly spray. His human and the other lady commented on how he must like me, as he was completely relaxed around me, and the other lady said that she’d told someone else they both know that I’m lovely and that I love horses rather than love riding (which I agree with, although I think it would be more accurate to say that my love of the animals takes precedence over my enjoyment of riding them). Being able to acknowledge that they recognise and appreciate this made me feel satisfied that I have landed in the right place, and, well, being told that a pony likes me means more to me than anything anyone could say about how good of a rider I am.

They left me alone to lead him back out into the paddock. Save for one moment when he stole a mouthful of grass from the verge while I was gate-wrangling, he was perfectly good in-hand. I remembered a treat this time, and he made me chuckle by gratefully accepting it once I got his headcollar off, and then lifting his mouth up to level with my eyes after he’d eaten it, holding it open and waving his head around to indicate to me that he would like another one. I told him I didn’t have any more and held my hands up with my open palms facing him so he could see I didn’t have any more. He closed his mouth and put his head down at that point, but didn’t wander off as I expected him to; instead, he just stood facing me, as though waiting for another cue for me. I patted him on the shoulder and said, ‘Go on, off you go, we’re done,’ and watched him turn away and head into the field. I stood by the gate and watched him for a bit until he started grazing, and then headed back.

So, next time I see him I will be doing everything by myself, unsupervised! And I shall have two weekend days to ride, because his human is away. The other nice lady will be there, so I won’t be completely alone, and we’ll get to hack out together. Eeee!

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3 responses

10 07 2015
theInelegantHorseRider

Enjoy the hack! I am loving hear about your adventures with Puzzle – you are currently my inspiration with my riding. I would love to do what you are doing, maybe one day.

10 07 2015
Soapy Photo Girl

Aw thank you! That’s a lovely thing to say.

As for part-loaning Puzzle, it was something I just thought I might like to do maybe one day, too – I certainly didn’t plan or foresee it happening so soon! As it happened, I just went window shopping for loan ponies on Preloved (which seems to the The Place to Go for loans and horse sales these days) one afternoon with no serious intention of finding one, but there he was, and he sounded perfect for me. It was a real surprise when his human messaged me back saying I sounded perfect for him! So you may well find yourself just going for it anyway as I did, if the right opportunity comes your way 🙂

10 07 2015
theInelegantHorseRider

I window shop for ponies too! Well it totally goes to show that the phrase ‘what’s for you won’t go by you’ is spot on doesn’t it? 🙂

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