In Which Megan Gets A Grip

Recent posts have been less than inspiring.

And for that, I must apologise. As you may well have worked out, I’ve been quite severely out of sorts lately and have really not been myself at all. While that is perfectly acceptable, whining about it via my blog is certainly not. Inflicting such self-pitying drivel on you is most definitely not an okay thing to do. It was not what I intended, but it is what resulted. So, dear reader, I send my sincerest apologies to you and make a heartfelt promise that from now on I shall only post uplifting and/or horsey updates.

And so, I progress onto the point of this post.

Yesterday was a very good day. I can’t always go into college on a Friday, but I do try to and they’re usually pretty nice days as there are only a few of us in and it’s generally pretty chilled. We have a bit of fun, but manage to get everything done at the same time. This week, however, was particularly worthwhile. Not least because the sun was shining so very beautifully that I had to strip down (easy tiger) to just a t-shirt! No jumper, no body-warmer, no long-sleeved undershirt. Just a t-shirt. It must be spring!

When it came to riding, we split into two groups; those who wanted to jump and those who didn’t. The four of us that elected to do flatwork ended up having a lesson in the style of a Stage Two BHS exam, to give Becky some practice before her exam next week (good luck Becky!)

It started off pretty basic, but got gradually more complicated as the session unfolded. From walking and trotting in open order but only on one rein, we progressed to exercises which forced us to direct our horses away from the rest of the group (which they were none too keen on) and eventually to trotting and cantering without stirrups, independently of the group, even going past them to take up lead file etc. All of the exercises sounded pretty simple when Sonya talked us through them, but riding them proved slightly more challenging than I expected. Things such as, taking the reins in one hand and then changing the rein twice, away from the ride, before rejoining them, were actually quite tricky.

In fact the most challenging exercise was this:
As a ride, we were put into a numerical order. I, for example, was number 3. We trotted, as a ride, with the reins in one hand. Sonya would then call out a number and that rider would have to circle their horse out of the ride and around to take up rear file. Which was easy enough if you were lead file, because the horse would respond immediately to your leg aids, and circle around to the back of the ride. If, however, you were in the middle of the ride like I was, then circling away from the horses in front was less than simple. Naturally, the horse does not want to turn away from the others.

I wasn’t too bothered about the exercises though. Not that I didn’t want to complete them, or felt I couldn’t, but I haven’t finished my Stage One yet, so the Stage Two stuff isn’t a priority at the moment. I was more focused on just riding yesterday. And I was given the lovely Fox, so I was pleased. My main aim was just to get him working nicely for me, giving me some activity and energy without being a prat about it. I hadn’t ridden him properly for a while, so I was hoping we would be able to achieve something.

And boy did we. He was superb. Apart from one spooky incident during which three of the four horses, Fox included, took off thanks to a moron of a driver who decided to rev the hell out of their car as they drove past the school. We struggled a bit with the turning away from the others with reins in one hand thing, but then we discussed the fact that a horse like Foxy wouldn’t be given to anyone for a Stage Two exam. He’s a Stage Four horse due to his various nuances and complications. Which surprised me a bit, because I’m so used to us having to ride all these different horses. I hadn’t thought about the fact that they’d be classed at very different levels when it came to BHS Stages. I’m so used to hopping on whatever I’m told to and doing my best to work it, that when Sonya said that Victor and Harry would be Stage Two horses, Midge a Stage Three and Foxy a Four, I sat there thinking “oh…well at least I’ll be well prepared if I ever get that far”

The part of the session that surprise me most was to do with the no stirrup work. I was expecting Sonya to tell me to take my stirrups back for the canter because of Fox’s inconsistency with his strike offs and speed and coming back to trot etc. But she didn’t. I kept waiting for her to bring it up, and she continued to explain what was going on, suggesting that Emily keep her stirrups with Midge as the mare was quite fresh. But she still said nothing about me and Fox. Eventually, when it was our turn to do the exercise she turned to me and said “right Megan, your turn. Don’t canter until you’re happy with the trot, it’ll make a huge difference to your transitions” and that was it. We trotted our circle, and it was a lovely trot so we went for the canter. It was the best strike off I had all lesson! He popped into canter immediately, with a nice steady rhythm, beautifully controlled and calm, and the downwards transition was equally relaxed and measured. I rebalanced the trot and we went past the rest of the ride, slotting in front without a problem.

It’s not that I felt cantering without stirrups was a big deal. Because it was nothing new to me, I’d done it a thousand times while we were in Ireland last summer. In fact, Tillie and I seemed to do more work without stirrups than with when we rode there. So not having stirrups was no issue at all. It was more to do with the fact that I am so used to being told I’m not ready to do something yet. Sonya and Kelly tend to throw me in closer to the deep end, which is exactly the style of teaching that suits me as it challenges me and doesn’t give me a chance to worry about whether or not I can do it. I just have to go for it. It inspires confidence and motivates me to do more. But unfortunately not everyone has the ability to do that, which means that I sometimes feel like I’m being babied, held back, not even allowed to dip my toe in just in case something goes wrong.

And I suppose that the more I am put into that position, the lower my confidence and self-belief will fall. If the people instructing you do not have faith that you can do something, how on earth are you supposed to believe it yourself? And so, due to being in something of a belief-lacking hole, I sat there with Fox just waiting for Sonya to say “Megan I think we’ll leave the canter without stirrups for another day, when you’re on a steadier horse, when you’re more balanced, when you’re good enough”

The fact that she didn’t surprised me, but it also made me realise that she was perfectly happy for me to do it and therefore had confidence in my ability to complete the exercise successfully. Which, in turn, made me feel that I could definitely do it after all. And of course, I could and did. And my boy was an absolute superstar. He really did work extremely hard for me and I could feel the effort he was putting in. I knew he was using his back end properly, because I could feel him getting lighter in front and his trot got much floatier despite me having to use more leg to keep him on. Emma said that he was looking really good when we passed the fence and Sonya mentioned a couple of times that the trot in particular looked together.

I was very pleased with him, and with myself, for what we achieved. He was exceedingly sweaty by the end though and enjoyed a nice cool sponge off in the sunshine.

In addition to the wonderful ride I had yesterday, Thursday night also boosted my spirits somewhat. My lovely friend from University, Sarah, works for St. Richards Hospice and she messaged me a while back asking if I would be willing to take part in a charity fashion show she’s putting on for the Hospice. I said I would, and then realised “oh my god I just signed up to be a model…with people watching…oh jesus what have I got myself into?!” The thought terrified me, but I’d said I would do it so I wasn’t going to back out and let her down. I’m not like that. On Thursday night I went along to a rehearsal of the walks I will be involved in and tried on one of my outfits. At first it was all a bit awkward, I felt uncomfortable doing the whole rhythmic walking thing and the posing was just a no-no. After a few run throughs, however, I actually started to feel a bit empowered by the whole process. I saw that the other girls were too, and we all began to relax and strut our stuff rather than shambling along in an apologetic way.

And although I have never worn leggings before in my entire life and felt totally naked and self-conscious when I first put my outfit on…after a little while I began to feel more comfortable and realised it’s not much worse than wearing jodhpurs, plus the whole point was not for people to look at ME in the clothes, but at the CLOTHES on me; which is very different. I think.

So I get to dress up 80’s style and then for the second walk I’ll be in evening/party wear from a shop called Bella Due in Evesham. I haven’t seen what I’ll actually be wearing for that one yet as Sarah is yet to finish organising it, but I’m sure it’ll be great. She seems to have been quite clever with her outfit choices so far, picking things and matching them to people. I can only hope that people aren’t put off by my rather solid rider’s legs! Although at the end of it, it’s not about me; it’s about raising money for the charity so I’m more than happy to take part and help out my friend and her cause.

The show is in a couple of weeks time, and rather than being totally terrified and wanting to run away and hide behind a curtain, I actually feel a kind of mild excitement over the whole thing. It should be good fun and hopefully there will be some cool pictures from the event. All I have to do now is practice NOT bursting out laughing when I strike a pose…easier said than done I’m afraid. I am not a serious person.

As demonstrated by my glee while baking. I may have accidentally ended up with two dozen cakes in front of me this afternoon. And then I might have mistakenly piped icing onto them and made them pretty. It’s a damn shame really, all these accidental cakes. Someone will have to eat them.

It’s a hard life.


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