And back we go
College is up and running again. We’re back in the classrooms, the routine is settling down onto us all again and I have finally sat on board a horse after over two weeks without any riding at all!
This morning was a mixture of filling the gaps, cursing slow computers and giving a presentation to my class. Over lunchtime Amy put on Made In Chelsea, once again. And once again I sat there, somewhat incredulous at the attitudes of the people in that show. Honestly, being rich must be such a terrible inconvenience.
After lunch, I rode. Hurrah. First time in over two weeks and it was a jump lesson. At first, I seriously questioned my judgement of getting on board and agreeing to jump a small course. As all of the other horses had worked today already, Sonya decided I should try Midge. There was mild hesitation as we all know what Midge is like to jump (fast, like a bat out of hell) but we decided to just go with it anyway and see what happened.
I felt a little odd when I first got on, but my muscle memory is obviously much better than is used to be as I adjusted to the position very quickly. Sonya started setting up some jumps and I trotted around, basically just relieved to discover I could still ride after all. We warmed up happily, going over the poles without much ado. Sonya suggested popping up into canter and heading over the poles to see what happened. What happened was that Midge went like she had a rocket up her backside!! She’s got some speed on her.
Sonya started putting the jumps up, one by one, and got us popping over them from each direction, stopping and moving on when we achieved a good one. We realised that Midge is a horse who needs constant stimulation, changes of direction, changes of jump, to stop her from getting set in a particular pattern and going too fast. By making her do it in the other direction or heading to a different fence after each successful jump, she wasn’t able to anticipate, she had to wait for me to ask.
In all honesty, she was a very good girl. Lovely and responsive to my aids and although she falls in on her inside shoulder a lot, she was easy around the turns and responded quite quickly when I asked for a change of pace or speed. And over the fences she was equally well behaved. She locked on and charged off with me a couple of times, but on the whole she was polite and fairly patient. No bat out of hell to be found.
The other good thing is that Sonya commented a couple of times on how secure my lower leg was. I think it was partly down to the fact that I was very aware of the potential for Midge to get strong and fast, so I anchored myself the best I could, and also the fact that my muscle memory is clearly starting to work quite well, and putting my legs in that secure position just felt natural. I didn’t have to force my heels down or anything; just did my best to stay in balance with the horse.
I know that a lot of the time I still get slightly in front of the movement because I anticipate the jump before it’s happened rather than letting it come to me. That means sometimes I end up in the wrong position for the horse to take off, which results in them losing energy over the fence. That’s something I need to work on, as it lets me, and the horse, down. I also need to really focus on riding straighter and clearer lines around a course. Coming down to a grid is one thing; get onto straight line, aim at centre of fence, keep riding as straight as possible. But a course is different because you’re turning, changing rein, jumping, turning again, finding the line, jumping, changing rein, turning across the school, jumping, turning again. A lot of the time I can see the line I should be taking; it’s just getting there that poses a problem. I’m improving, I know that much, but I still need to work on it. Getting myself onto the right line will make it so much easier.
What I am pleased about though, is that while I was very aware of Midge’s rocket up bum potential, it didn’t make me nervous. I rode a bit defensively over the first jump, realised my mistake, and relaxed. From then on out, it was a successful lesson. She really put some effort in for me as well and jumped really nicely several times rather than just lengthening and hurling herself at all the fences like we’d sort of expected.
It was a very good lesson over all; I enjoyed it very much. It felt good to be back on a horse, riding properly and doing something fun. I was so pleased to find I really did remember how to ride and not too shabbily either. Oddly enough I actually felt more secure and confident than I expected to having gone two weeks without riding. I was expecting my legs to turn to jelly and everything to be slightly awkward and unnatural and instead it all felt more natural and like second nature than it ever has.
Clearly having a break isn’t always a bad thing!