Well, that was unexpected!
What started off as an unwelcome and dreary day has resulted in me feeling like I’ve achieved a fair amount. I didn’t sleep so well last night for some reason. My head wouldn’t stop buzzing when I went to bed which meant I lay there for god knows how long just staring into the dark, not sleeping. Stupid head. I also ended up waking every couple of hours. In the time I spent asleep, however, I did have some pretty awesome dreams. There were a lot of topless men wandering around doing things. If nothing else, my subconscious certainly knows how to inject the “phwoar” factor! Can’t complain.
I started slow today though, got up late, left the house late. Not the best start. Then it was straight off to fetch the Big Fella from the field. Most of the morning kind of blurred by really. I can’t really remember what we did or what happened to the time until whatever time it was that Izzy and I lunged Africa.
Now that was a laugh and a half. It was meant to be Izzy doing the whole thing, and we all watched her having a great time with Miss Bucking Bronco on the end of the lunge line. Sonya then remembered that she actually needed Izzy to do some BHS work with, so asked me to step in. “Oh dear” I thought “This is going to be interesting.” Africa had been stood in the stable for two days without any turn out, and being a young mare she’s full of energy. She’s also naturally a bit cheeky, so…piece it all together and you can imagine what fun it was. What I was pleased with though is that even though she bucked about, tried to gallop off and generally threw herself around on the end of the line, I was able to get her back under control and didn’t actually feel nervous at any point. I’d imagined myself freaking out, yelling or getting kicked when she did that. But none of it happened. Instead, I told her to pack it in and trot on. Which, to my complete and utter surprise, she did! Growling “Oh stop it you silly horse and trot on with you” seems to work. She even worked forward into the contact of the side reins for a bit.
Emma was talking to me beforehand, just after Sonya had asked me to step in and admitted that she’d be too nervous to lunge something like Africa at the moment. “You’ve got more balls than I have Meg” she said to me. I don’t really think of it like that, but I suppose some people would consider me to “have balls” as she so eloquently put it. I just see everything as an opportunity. And on the whole, I like to seize every opportunity presented to me and make the most of it. I’m of the philosophy that you’ll learn something from everything you do and everyone you meet. It might be that all you learn is that you shouldn’t do that, or that person’s attitude rubbed you up the wrong way; but you still learn something!
The best bit of the whole day was when we went to check and clean out a water trough in a new turn out field over the road. Becky and Emma were bucketing out the water while I held up the stopcock (it’s a real thing so stop giggling) to prevent it from refilling. The water was black and there was sludge on the bottom. And then…Emma found a rotten sheep’s foot. I think we all threw up in our mouths a little bit. It was revolting. Good job we cleaned the trough really! Funnily enough, I didn’t get a picture of that. Thought I’d spare you the gore. Bleurgh.
Riding wise, I got the lovely Foxy Loxy. I have a soft spot for that horse. He’s a sweetie but because he behaves like such a baby all the time, he gets told off a lot. I think he’s had some traumatic times in his life already, so he freaks out at things for no apparent reason. It just takes a bit of patience to help him work through.
He’s a good boy most of the time. A prat and a nuisance out in the field, granted. And he can be an absolute idiot in the stable, chewing and eating things he shouldn’t (like Eileen’s gloves!) He’s also a complete plonker under the saddle sometimes. But I still think he’s a good horse. Eileen had us working independently in the lesson today, telling us to think about the horse we were on and what we felt we wanted to achieve. I told her I wanted to try and help Fox relax, bring his head down and accept the contact properly without panicking about it. So we started working in a nice relaxed fashion, keeping to an inner track to help him be brave and stop relying on the fence for support. I threw in loads of halt transitions and gradually gradually his head came down and his back relaxed underneath me.
Eileen said it was obvious that he wanted to work into the contact, he just found it hard to maintain it and his brain stopped him from fully relaxing. Of course, the minute I introduced any trot, the head shot back up again and nearly smashed my nose (again!). It took a while, but he eventually started lowering his head in trot as well, waiting for my instruction rather than trying to do his own thing. I was using a lot of outside leg to keep him off the track, something he seemed to respond to quite well. It was interesting to notice that the minute I let my outside rein go even the tiniest bit, he immediately panicked and we lost any sense of contact. I did get some lovely bits of trot from him though, which I was very pleased about.
Then it was time to brave the canter. This horse has a tendency to panic when you ask for canter and mainly just does his own thing. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. He doesn’t do anything nasty, he just takes off. Canter canter canter, he runs on all flat and long and fast. It could be worse, by a long shot. It’s just his way of avoiding doing any real work. And it usually makes his rider panic, so he gets away with it. Once he realised I wasn’t tensing, his face changed completely apparently. I couldn’t see the change, but I could feel it. All of a sudden I felt him listening to me instead of running away with me. At which point we started to work on a circle instead, encouraging him to respond to my outside aids again. Which had the desired effect of getting him to soften and lower his head in canter as well.
Eileen explained to me that the reason he’s such a prat most of the time is because he doesn’t want to work, because it’s hard. And because of the way he does it, he usually gets away with it. The minute someone tells him “no” and gets him to listen, however, he is actually a really nice ride. We just had to establish some communication first.
I like that horse. I like him a lot. And I’m really pleased to have achieved so much with him today. I know that to some people it may not seem like I achieved much at all. But for me, it feels like quite a lot. I don’t expect to be able to do things like that; getting a horse to work better. Encouraging horses to take up a contact and soften and relax etc still seems worlds away from what I feel able to do because it all seems so advanced and way out of my league. So when I manage to actually do something like that, it feels pretty awesome to me. Most of the time I end up wondering whether I really had any effect or whether the horse did things by itself. I think riding horses like Fox is probably good for me. Because at least with him I know that it was down to me that he relaxed and came round and did what I asked of him. I’ve seen him when he’s being a prat, so I know he doesn’t do it himself. And I also know that some people don’t get on with him at all. I feel like I do though. Which is nice, because I wasn’t expecting to.
Not every horse suits every rider, just as not every rider suits every horse. You form relationships with the horses you ride and if you’re lucky, at some point one of them will be something special. Kinda like people if you think about it.
I spent this evening with my parents. It’s been a while since I spent much time with them as I’m away from home so much these days. It was nice. We watched a few TV shows and the like, but chatted about various things as well and had a laugh. I think I’m fortunate to get on with my parents so well. They make me laugh, and I like them. I love them, of course, but I like spending time with them. Not everyone can say that.
Today has been a day of several small things adding together to form an overall feeling of success for me. Not bad going at all.