So, I’m definitely my mother’s daughter.
Or should it be that she is definitely her daughter’s mother? Either way, it makes sense. Mum’s riding lesson today went really well, as far as I’m concerned.
The first thing was watching him move, getting an idea of how the saddle goes with the motion of the horse and therefore how your body will be moved. I think Mum was watching his trot and thinking “no thanks!”, but then I don’t blame her. Victor does have a very bouncy trot. And I mean VERY bouncy. Anyone who’s ridden him will say the same.
After that it was a lesson in getting on. It reminded me of all the little things you have to learn when you start. All the things I now take for granted, I didn’t know how to do a year ago. It’s a very strange thought actually, as so much of it comes so naturally now. I don’t even think about it when I get on or tighten the girth or pick up the reins. And yet watching Angie showing Mum how to put her foot in the stirrup to swing herself round and how to hold the reins reminded me of how much I had taken on in the first few sessions of getting on a horse.
Once she was safely on board, girth tightened and all that, Victor was told to move off in walk. She looked great up there and relaxed into it much quicker than I expected. I was pleased to see that Mum allowed herself to just move with him in a natural way, not forcing herself to stay rigid or over-exaggerating any movement. That told me she was relaxing already, because you can’t “go” with the horse if you’re not relaxed and loose enough through your back, hips and legs.
The best bit was the complete surprise on Mum’s face when she successfully halted Victor on her own for the first time. Angie said “Right we’ll try a halt, I just want you to stop him anyway that feels natural, don’t think it through, just ask him to halt.” So, two seconds later, Victor was halted almost perfectly square. At which point Mum looked at me with a proud/bemused expression and Angie blurted out “How did you do that then?” I was also interested to hear what Mum would say, as no-one had given her any instruction in the correct way to stop a horse, but her natural instincts on it had obviously worked. She said that she responded in the same way she does as a passenger in a car when she feels the driver is going too fast; pushing her weight backwards through her body, and stretching her legs down as if she was reaching for a brake pedal. She also gave a tiny little feel on the reins.
What I found quite remarkable is that, due to the fact they were on the lunge and it being her first lesson, she was working on a very long rein. She said, however, that she could feel his mouth the entire time. He was more responsive to my Mum with those miniscule aids than I’ve seen him with other people kicking away or pulling sharply to a halt. He’s a sensitive and responsive horse, if you get him in the right place. Which Mum obviously was.
Her face soon changed, however, when Victor broke into trot. The first time was an accident and tried very hard not to laugh as Mum circled towards me with the unmistakeable expression of “aaaaaah” on her face. After that, however, Angie didn’t give her much choice. “Right, we’ll try another trot then” Ah, my poor Mum. She had to do a lot of sitting trot, but I was impressed with how well she stayed in the saddle.
Eventually she was allowed to do some rising trot even if the lead up was somewhat confusing:
Angie: “Right, let’s try some rising trot then. You can count it either 1, 2, 1, 2 or baked beans, baked beans, to keep the rhythm”
Mum: “Okay, 1, 2 or baked beans”
Angie: “So are you finding that easier or harder?”
Mum: “Finding what easier or harder?”
Angie: “The rising trot, sorry”
Mum: “Oh, am I meant to be doing that now?”
Mum was cracking out the rising trot like a pro. I was very impressed. I ran off to the loo at one point and on my way back told Kelly, Poppy and Vicky that I wasn’t going to allow my Mum to come back because she’d picked up rising trot in her first lesson when it had taken me a few weeks to master it. I figured she’d be cantering by the end of the month and jumping five footers before I left for Ireland. And I wasn’t going to stand for it!
By the time I got back to the school she was quite happily working transitions between walk, trot and halt. She even managed to go straight from trot to halt. So, I suppose it’s hard to tell which way round it goes, but there’s definitely something in our genes.
After her lesson (when she finally dismounted and gave me back my hat and gloves – I blame Angie for chatting too much) I had a lesson on the lovely Star. Kelly had asked me what I wanted to do and when I responded with a shrug and “anything really” she decided we’d do a bit of flat work over poles, and then some jumping. So that’s exactly what we did.
It was quite a tricky exercise, as it focused on some rather tight turns and constantly changing the rein and therefore the necessary aids. It was brilliant fun though. I was working really hard, but so was Star. He was great, even if he did get a little over exuberant on more than one occasion. Mum said she had to watch pretending that I wasn’t her daughter most of the time. I can’t say I blame her though, as it must’ve been slightly nerve-wracking watching her child get bucked about by an ex-racehorse. He wasn’t being malicious though, he was just responding to my request for him to engage his hindquarters by showing me just how well he can use them…
There was one moment when my brain did actually engage over the bucking. Usually I’ll just go with the horse and ride through it without even thinking about it. But for one brief moment I could have panicked. Fortunately, I think my somewhat cavalier nature overrode the possibility for “OH SHIT” because it was at exactly that point that it was most essential I rode through it without panicking. He tried his hand at the bucking bronco game. He was dropping his head and really put some effort into the bucks, chucking himself around in front as well as behind all along the short side of the school. Like I say, I had about a split second thought of “oh, this is a bit…” before I forgot again and just pushed him on. I’d like to say that’s a good thing? I feel I sat it all quite well to be honest, given that in the past few days I’ve been bucked about more than I ever have in my life, or ever thought I would be.
Apart from that, however, he was great. The other issues were my fault, not his. I was hesitant at times to apply my outside aids, as I didn’t want him speeding his canter up anymore. Which meant we drifted a bit. And, over jumps, that is not ideal.
But! The actual jumping part went really well. I’ve got some fine-tuning to do, but Kelly said my overall technique and position is good. I need to work on my turns. I can see the line clearly, it’s just actually getting onto it that I struggle with. Those cursed outside aids need some serious improvement! But I jumped higher today than I ever have. I don’t know how high it actually was, because we didn’t measure them, but I was jumping verticals rather than cross poles, and even flew over a vertical spread a couple of times at the end.
I was delighted with what I achieved, and very proud of my lovely Starry boy for working so hard. I seriously need to loosen my attachment to that horse. I’m going to be totally grief stricken when I can’t be with him anymore. I don’t know how I’ll cope without him actually. Is that a bit sad? He’s not even mine and I’ll be heart-broken without him to spend time with and ride.