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! ❤


Sitting on a chair is boring after you’ve been sitting on a horse

25 11 2012

I had my second ride at that lovely new riding school today! Why so long? Well, for the last couple of weekends I’ve been working (a job that wasn’t much fun that I have now thankfully escaped from!), I couldn’t get my class time for Monday evenings changed as I’d hoped and fitting in a riding lesson during the week around my university commitments proved tricky, especially since I started another new job during the week.

However, I got there in the end! This one was only another half-hour private lesson, as this was the only time they could fit me in this weekend since I only booked it on the Friday as a last-minute thing. I thought I was having my lesson at three o’clock, but I arrived to find I was half an hour early, which gave me an opportunity to have a wander around and say hello to all of the horses. Heh.

I rode Soapy again, and this time she was a bit of a handful because apparently it was feeding time while I was having my lesson. She was generally well behaved, but it was noticeable that at any time she thought she could get away with it she would make a move towards the exit! The instructor I had today was a lovely, warm and friendly woman who was even better than the young man who’d conducted my lesson last time. Her main criticisms of me where that I sit with my legs too far forwards, but she helped me to do some work on that so I was much better aligned by the end of the lesson, part of which was having a good, long trot around the (outdoor) school without stirrups, which I love doing! She also forced me to work on controlling Soapy with delicate motions from my legs rather than great kicks and yanking on the reins (which I had been actively encouraged to do at the previous school), which was amazing as it really felt like magic when I got it to work, and Soapy was much more responsive to gentle aids. I also learned what a half halt is, and how useful it is!

I told my instructor at the start of the lesson about my terrible canter, which she acknowledged and said we’d work on it today. In the end, I got a 45 minute lesson because the instructor was determined I was going to have a proper canter large around the school before we gave up. Heh. The problem seems to be that once I get the canter started I lean forwards, and my poor mount is confused into dropping back into a fast sitting trot. We did get there in the end, following what my instructor said was ‘a really nice transition’, but Soapy didn’t want to keep it up because she wanted to have her dinner, so I let her cool off and we finished there. She thinks it would be a good idea for me to do some cantering practice on a lunge; I remember this being useful before when I was in Japan, so I’d certainly be more than happy to give it another go.

I felt really happy afterwards. This is what it’s supposed to be like! I’ve booked myself in for another private lesson this coming Saturday, and from the following week I shall join the adult beginner’s class every week.


Disgruntled and demotivated

2 11 2012

I really wanted to keep the overall tone of this blog positive, but I don’t think I can at the moment. The sad fact is that I’m really just not enjoying my riding, at least not here in Leeds. I’m going to be completely honest about it all.

The problem, chiefly, is the school. Although I found the first lesson I went to there to be excellent in terms of learning new things and improving existing skills – the instructor who took that lesson was fantastic, even if I found her teaching style of highlighting mistakes and asking you to explain why you were doing whatever it was you were doing wrong in front of everyone else a bit difficult to deal with at the time – it was very dry. The horses are brought out to us and taken off us immediately again after the lessons; the feeling is very much that we’re there for a riding lesson, and the horses themselves are, while necessary, otherwise inconsequential. I haven’t gotten that feeling from any of the other places where I’ve had lessons to date.

For my other lessons I’ve had a different instructor, who is impatient, condescending, loses her temper/shouts and spends a significant proportion of her lessons sitting in the corner of the school playing with her phone, giving the distinct impression that she is not only disinterested in teaching the lessons, but that she actively doesn’t want to be there. This is really not helpful, and she sets me on edge so I’m more nervous about making mistakes and what she’s going to pull me up on next, resulting in my making more stupid mistakes – and appearing as though I’m not listening to her because I was trying to concentrate on getting so many things right I forgot to do whatever it was I was supposed to. None of my other teachers to date have given me this impression.

Then, the horses. The ones we novices get are all lazy and uncooperative from what I can tell, and the instructor let on during my last lesson that they use those horses with the novices for pretty much that reason. Now, don’t get me wrong, I can see the merit of teaching someone to ride a difficult horse first so that once their skills improve they’ll be proficient on easier horses, but I think that only works to a point – if something’s frustratingly difficult from the outset, how are you supposed to maintain the motivation to stick at it?

Based on all of the above, I’m now more inclined to think that it wasn’t a mistake that I was given a pony to ride for my first lesson in spite of my having said I’d rather ride a horse when asked if I had a preference. And I’m not sure that I’m comfortable learning from people who do that sort of thing on purpose. Incidentally, I was given the pony again today.

By contrast, last time I went there I arrived early, and I saw the end of the advanced classes’ lesson, which the first instructor was taking. She wasn’t giving the girls much direction, just letting them merrily canter around the outdoor school and take jumps in turn, occasionally calling one over to the fence where she was stood to give them pointers, but she was watching everything they were doing intently and showed clear affection for them when she spoke to them both individually and as a group. Now, I know some of that will have been a rapport she’d had time to build up with those riders and I can appreciate that as an old hand at something it’s probably both boring and frustrating having to teach the basics over and over again… but again, I guess it would be nice to see a bit of acknowledgement of the fact that everyone has to start somewhere and learns at different paces?…

Finally, the logistics of attending lessons there. I hate talking about money, especially in specific amounts, but I’m going to do it here for clarity’s sake. Taking lessons through the university riding club costs £16 per person, irrespective of how many people there are. That’s very reasonable for a riding school in the UK. However, the school itself is actually located closer to the next city along than it is to Leeds itself. Consequently, the prescribed method for getting out there requires you to be grouped with someone who can drive and is willing to, but there don’t seem to be any driver-novices, so it’s a train journey to the nearest town with a railway station and then about 15 minutes by taxi. A return train ticket costs £4.10, and the taxi costs £7.50 in either direction. So, even in the best-case scenario – travelling up in a group of five – I’d still effectively be paying £23 per lesson. As a full-time student I am certainly not rich, and that’s quite a lot of money, really. Furthermore, the closest riding school to me – which Google Maps tells me I could walk to in just over 50 minutes (meaning I could probably clear it in less than that) – offers 30-minute private adult lessons for £2 less than that.

I’ve booked myself a place on two more lessons. I’m toying with the idea of having a private lesson at my nearest riding school to see if it’s any better, but even if that turns out to be fantastic I’m not sure I can afford to do that every single week.

I feel very disheartened over all of this. I will openly admit that I wasn’t feeling especially enthused about going to my lesson beforehand and it’s possible that my having started out with a shitty attitude set the tone for the lesson I ended up having and how I felt about it afterwards, but at the same time I think it’s notable that the other girls I went with – while they were talking in the back of the taxi on the way home – seemed to have picked up on a lot of the same things as I did, and weren’t very happy about it either.

But… horses!… 😦

Joining you live and direct!

21 10 2012

So, I’m updating from the school! I’ve just had my lesson, the girl taking her intermediate class is just having it now. I figured that since I have the technology and nothing else to do, why not update?

My lesson was okay. I had a different instructor this time who I found a bit harder to follow, but I got used to her teaching style and her broad accent more and more as the lesson went on. I rode a *gorgeous*, tall, black warmblood gelding called Ryan; I was warned that he’s grumpy and hard to keep moving, but that he’s good for getting novices practised at kicking a horse on for that reason.

I struggled with him a bit. We practised rising trot and posting on the correct diagonal, and that was it, really. Oh, and a lot of walking around the school whilst stood up in the stirrups – which I found really helpful in getting me to sink my weight into my heels properly.

That’s it, really. No photos, I’m afraid – the other girl did agree to take some, but my lesson took place in the indoor school while she was out in the yard filling in a form, and didn’t realise what was happening. Never mind, though! I’m sure there will be other opportunities.

The Prettiest Princess

20 10 2012

It’s been such a long time, I’m sorry for not updating sooner! I’m half convinced university is trying to kill me with the amount of work they’re setting me. Heh.

I did manage to get this picture of the school itself.

Anyway, I’ve been riding twice since I last wrote; once in Nottingham, once in Leeds. The ride in Leeds was okay; the teacher is really good, and the school seems nice enough. It was a bit rushed and impersonal, though; after catching the train and then sharing a cab to the stables we arrived and were told to make our way straight to the school, which was an indoor one. I used to ride indoors as a child, but not so far this year! The horses were brought out to us, and taken away again after we dismounted, so we didn’t really have any opportunities to fuss them or get to know them a bit. The lesson was useful in that I received instruction on how to ensure I was on the correct diagonal for the first time, but there was a misunderstanding at the beginning; when asked about our preferences for horses, I said I would much rather ride a horse than a pony. So they gave me a pony. He was a very sweet little thing, if a little lazy – broad and fluffy, name of Jasper – but I found him a bit tricky to trot on and keep moving. Ah well, we shall see how it goes.

The very next day was the hack in Nottingham. From riding two days in a row after becoming unused to it, I felt like I had steel pistons in my legs in place of muscles by the following Monday. Heh. The best thing about this – apart from being reunited with beautiful Tara again – was getting to go in a group of good friends rather than people who, no disrespect to them at all, I have very little in common with besides enjoyment of riding. Tara was just as lovely to ride in the woods as she had been in the school previously, and it was wonderful to see Urby and Saxon again. Billie and Baron joined us, too, and I was surprised to hear that the latter was easier to keep going in the woods. Heh. We even saw a falconer, which lent a magical, almost medieval feel to our sedate little adventure.

There was a small drama involving Tara and Saxon; at the end of the hack, as we waited for a group lesson to finish so we could re-enter the school to dismount, Damian (whose capable hands I’d left my camera in once more) brought Saxon up alongside me to take a picture of me mounted on Tara. I’d slackened the reins to let her graze on the foliage to the side of the path, so I gently pulled on the rein to bring her head up, when Saxon suddenly snapped at her! I nearly swooned, however, when rather than make any sudden moves, Tara simply showed her displeasure by flattening her ears and ducking just enough out of the way to avoid being bitten, and then glared back at him authoritatively. As Damian put it, ‘She’s probably used to Saxon’s shit by now.’  I am enamoured of her for refusing to take it!

Anyway, here are some pictures!

My next ride is tomorrow at the school near Leeds. Because of the way things have played out, I am effectively getting a private lesson for the cost of a group lesson, and the girl who is taking her lesson immediately after mine is travelling up with me so we can share the cost of travel as she is in the same situation. I shall take my camera and ask her if she doesn’t mind taking some photos of my lesson, but I make no promises!

And I really hope I get a full-sized horse this time. Heh.

Good news comes in… SMS text messages, actually

21 09 2012

My first ride with the university riding club looks set to take place on Friday, 5th October. This will be more an assessment so that the instructor can see what level I’m at. Thereafter I’ll probably ride once a week on either Sundays or Friday afternoons depending on what other commitments I have. My height and weight have been taken so I can be matched to an appropriate horse, and I am looking forward to meeting him or her and seeing the new school!

BUT: on Saturday 6th October, I shall be in Nottingham again, and I’m going for a hack on beautiful Tara! This is quite literally the best news I had today. It might sound stupid since I have only ridden her twice, but I really miss her! I’m really looking forward to seeing how she is out in the woods rather than in the school…

New Equestrian Team!

18 09 2012

It has now been over a week since I last had any direct contact with horses. EQUINE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS. *twitch* *judder*

(Although, I did see some horses grazing in a field as I was on my way from one place to another. This is a fairly common sight where I live now, which is lovely!)

Anyway, I have some other news – today I signed up for the university riding club! The club secretary has put me on their mailing list, and since they were down in the sports hall as part of the freshers’ fair I decided to take the opportunity to go down and say hello. They were very friendly and welcoming, and I chatted to them for a while. They group people according to experience, and go out riding on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays according to when people are available, and meet for a social and to collect people’s lesson fees from them in a pub every Tuesday evening.

Sadly they weren’t able to tell me when the first opportunity to go riding with them would be, but the reason for this is that they want to sign up all the freshers who are interested in joining first and then take things from there, which makes sense.

I just want to get back in the saddle!!! Not too much longer now, though, hopefully…