Soapy!

15 04 2013

Today was my first day back at university after a four-week holiday and it turned out to be a pretty good day. To top it all off, I rode Soapy this evening!

I arrived early to see if they’d assigned her to me as per my request, and lo – they had! I had to contain myself from doing cartwheels down the stable, but I was completely unable to suppress a little, out-loud, ‘Yay!’ After paying up, I hurried over to her side to see her, where the nice lady who takes care of the horses on that side of the indoor school informed me that she was all ready for me but it was a bit too early to lead her out to the school. So I hung around like a groupie for a bit before disentangling her reins and leading her, reluctantly at first, away from her hay.

As we were walking to the outdoor school I was reminded of why I’d developed such a soft spot for her. As she walked – not really having to be led, just walking beside me – she was looking around at all the things that were going on, and I had to give her gentle tugs on the reins just to remind her we were going somewhere. She studied the open school gate for some time, but didn’t make any moves towards it. I sensed curiosity about what the outside world is like, but as I think they do run hacks into Middleton Park (there’s an entrance to it adjacent to the school gate) I could be wrong and it could just be that she likes the woods. Someone knows, but it’s not me.

As we arrived at the outdoor arena the previous lesson were just finishing up, so I called Soapy to a halt outside and held onto her as the previous group led their horses out. She stood still for a while, still looking all around her at what was going on, and then – just as she had done on a previous occasion – she tried to walk around in front of me and head back to the stables, with her ears pricked forwards, making a hopeful little chirruping sound as she did. Actually, she was making a bee-line for the other horses’ stables as though she wanted to go and say hello, but I suspect she probably really just wanted to steal their hay. Heh.

Eventually I led her in and waited for my cue to mount up. My instructor didn’t recognize me, because I had both a different colour hair than last time and I wasn’t wearing my glasses. She had been talking to a lady who is new prior to addressing me, and was very apologetic when I told her who I was. Heh. After I’d mounted Soapy and adjusted my stirrups, it was quite clear that she wanted to go as she kept fidgetting – initially stamping her back legs on the spot, and then trying to walk off she was having her girth put up!

Once we got going, though, she was fine. Better than fine, actually. For most of the lesson, she was very forward going – so much so that I had to pull her back continuously to keep her nose out of Maddie’s backside! She never stopped, she never slowed without being asked, and – thankfully – I had no reason to use the whip even once. There was some confusion while we were doing the usual walk and trot exercises (although with no work without stirrups this time) as initially Soapy was charging on ahead in spite of my best efforts to slow her, and so we switched her with Maddie, who then decided she wanted to charge on ahead of Soapy, and we switched again only to find the same was true as had been before. So instead I just rode her right into all of the corners to try and keep her a suitable distance behind. (Apparently Soapy is a bit like Bramble in that she doesn’t really like being too close to other horses.)

In fact, it was all fun and games until we came to the canter. I felt calm and confident, and like I might actually be quite a good rider. I felt all right about trying out the canter, too; I just thought, ‘Yeah, I can do this!’ This may have been over-confidence, however, as when it was my turn for the canter I just couldn’t – for no reason I can put my finger on as I wasn’t doing anything differently than I’d been doing for the whole of the rest of the lesson – keep Soapy on the track in trot. The consequence of this was that when I asked for the canter, she went bombing it down the centre line. Concerned at having limited control without the security of a wall on either side of me, I tried to apply my leg to ride her over to the right side of the arena, all the while pulsing on the reins for her to slow down (she basically felt like she’d got the ‘Yay, running!’ bug and wasn’t listening to me at all any more). As a result she turned suddenly, and, being unprepared for this, I slipped out of the saddle and over her right shoulder.

Soapy stopped pretty much as soon as she felt me come off. I landed on my feet with both arms around her neck. I had to laugh and give her a hug.

Of course, I got straight back on, mounting from the ground. I wasn’t hurt in any way, and my instructor was very good about it. She told me to take a deep breath, said that I would have another go tonight, but to relax and take it easy until it was my turn again. We had a fast but much better controlled canter to the back of the ride on the second go. One of the many things I like about Soapy is that she’s a pony who doesn’t have a bone-shaking gait, but by God, she can go!

After the lesson I led her back to her stall, untacked her and made several passers-by laugh with my doting on her. You’ll be pleased to know I have photos!