Until Next Time

Today was my last day at college until September

Okay, the fact is that college broke up two weeks ago. But, like the crazy person I am, I’ve been volunteering extra days since then. I’ve enjoyed it to be honest. There have still been riding school lessons etc, but it’s been quieter than normal which has been pleasant.

Seeing as I’m off to Ireland on Saturday though, today was my last chance to go in and see the horses and work with the staff before I go. I could only do a short day as I had to be back in time for work tonight. But it was a good day to have as my last day until next academic year.

We only had to manually poo-pick two and a half paddocks as Sonya used the poo-hoover (now named Phoebe) to do the rest. So that didn’t take long, and we did it early enough for it to not be too hot. Once we’d done that, all we really had to do was groom and tack up a couple of horses for some lessons, and ride ourselves.

One of the previous second years brought her horse along today. She’s loaning her mare to college for the next year or so, and brought her in for the first time today. She’s a lovely looking Welsh Section C and she’s only a baby really. She’ll be four this month apparently, but she looks like a really sweet pony. She seemed to settle in okay initially, and didn’t show any signs of stress at being in an unfamiliar environment. Kelly rode her after the riding school lessons and she has some really nice paces. She moved nicely, apart from being weak behind. Kelly said she’s going to work her as a project over the summer so she’s ready for September, so I’m interested to see how she’s doing when I get back from Ireland.

And then I rode my beautiful Mr Star. I was pleased when Sonya asked whether I would ride him today (she knows me well) and despite the fact that it was 100 billion degrees, I figured we’d have a go. He was a pretty good boy really. Only a couple of moments of naughtiness where he got over excited, but he didn’t get away with it this time. I did as advised and gave him a bit of a jab in the mouth when he tried to buck, pushing him on with my legs at the same time so that he had to go into canter properly.

It seemed to work. We had two occasions of naughty behaviour, but the rest was fine, and when I told him off for trying to buck, he came back to me very quickly. I then got some beautiful shallow loops in canter out of him, and a little bit of leg yield too. Good boy!

I only rode for about twenty minutes, because it was so hot. It was more than enough for both of us. What was interesting was that Kelly and Sonya had both disappeared before I went to get on. I figured it would be okay to hop on and start working him in a bit, so I started walking and trotting around the school, throwing in some transitions here and there with a few school movements. I got quite focused on him, and was getting some good trot work. I kinda forgot that I wasn’t actually having a lesson, I was just riding.

Sonya announced her presence by asking “have you done any canter yet?” I turned Star around and trotted over to her. The answer was that no, I hadn’t cantered yet. Partly because I’d been busy doing the trot work, but also because I’d been left to my own devices and wasn’t 100% sure whether I was allowed to canter without anyone around. It felt strange, not having any staff there supervising me while I rode.

I think it’s a testament to how far I have come with my riding ability. While I might not have much experience of schooling horses, which means I don’t always know what exercises I should work the horse through to improve it, I have obviously got to the point where I am trusted to ride well without supervision. Obviously, if I had my own horse I would do that all the time. But it’s different when I’m at college.

I’m so used to being watched constantly, assessed, checked, supervised. Because that’s the whole point of doing the course. It does mean, however, that I spend a lot of my time wondering whether I’ll actually be able to do the stuff out in the real world where I won’t have that constant back-up. Since the end of college, however, I have more and more been left to complete tasks without any staff around at all. The responsibility has been upped, because I’ve been the only other one there which means we’ve split up to get all the work done on time.

But today was the first time I’ve ever ridden at college without anyone supervising at all. It was similar the other weekend when Vicky and I rode together, but even then I had someone else with me. Today, Star and I were completely solo.

Which was pretty great to be honest. I wasn’t completely sure about whether I was meant to be riding without anyone around though, which is why I refrained from cantering until there was someone else there. I think that’s partially to do with my lack of confidence. In a small way, I wondered whether not having anyone there would mean I wouldn’t be good enough to do it right. The other thing was that Star has been naughty recently, which meant that I wanted to have someone around just in case.

Once Sonya had given me the go ahead with the canter, I then worked him more. She watched for a bit, to see how he went through his transitions, and then she went back into the office and carried on with some fun looking paperwork. She popped back out when she heard his hoofbeats change and me growling at him, and asked “what happened there, was he naughty?” I told her what had happened (he decided to canter on his own and then tried to buck when I told him no) and so she watched for a few minutes again before returning to her work.

I realised that she was watching more out of interest in how Star would behave than in how I was riding. She did mention that my weight was being thrown towards the outside a bit on the right rein, but other than that she talked about the horse. This showed me that I was riding well enough to not need much correction, and that she was quite happy and relaxed with me just schooling Star as I saw fit. Once she’d watched his transitions she even said “Okay, great, you can carry on, do what you like, work him as much as you want, he needs it”

So, we worked. Like I say, it was only for twenty minutes, and we didn’t do anything spectacular. But I felt quite happy. We got those shallow loops in canter looking pretty good, and the leg yield was nice and smooth. Every time he mucked up a transition, I pulled him back and made him do it properly in the same place. He was a good boy, and did what I asked of him. So I pushed him into a whizzy canter at the end and put myself into a two-point position so that he could open up across his back. He went for it, but then allowed me to gradually slow him up into a nice tidy dressage canter again before cantering a lovely circle to finish.

The big deal of the day for me, was being able to ride my favourite horse unsupervised and work him through things as I saw fit. I really enjoyed it, and felt like I’d been able to move forward a step in my riding, even if it was only in confidence.

And it’s only 3 days until I go to Ireland. Eeeep!

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