Building Upwards


Ponies are awesome

Since my last post, in which I told you about Foxy Lox and our no-stirrup work, I have had several more rather brilliant riding lessons which had gone a long way to continue building my confidence back up.

I mentioned how badly I’d been knocked through falling and breaking my ribs in January to Sonya and Kelly who both said they had noticed and that they understood. So on Monday when we didn’t have a full hour to ride in, I mentioned to Sonya that I would be happy to have a flat lesson rather than jumping, to continue working on a few things and further improve my confidence. To my utter delight, I was given Harry to ride. I hadn’t ridden her for something like a year, so I was really looking forward to it.

She’s such a fantastic mare. She’s extremely well schooled and very responsive, which means she’s fab to ride. She does not, however, do it all for you. You have to ask her right to get her to do what you want. Because it had been so long since I last rode her, I’d forgotten not only how wide she was (jeez what a stretch!) but also how comfortable she was. After warming up a bit I turned to Sonya and expressed surprise at how much work I was having to put in, as I didn’t remember her taking that much effort before. To which Sonya told me that while it looked like she was being particularly difficult with me, to ride her properly she did actually take a lot of work. She also added that the last time I sat on Harry, I probably wasn’t riding her properly, as a year ago I didn’t have the understanding or ability to do so. In the past year my riding has developed to the point that I can now actually work a horse to a certain level.

So on Monday, Harry and I worked our butts off. We got some lovely collected canter work, which I actually asked and worked for rather than just letting Harry do it herself. We also did a lot of work on shoulder-in. At first I struggled with it, as my brain couldn’t quite get around the correct aids and the right time to apply them. I got it once, but after that I just couldn’t quite get it right. In the end it took Kelly marching down the long side of the school behind me yelling “INSIDE LEG, OUTSIDE REIN, INSIDE LEG, OUTSIDE REIN, LEG, HAND, LEG, HAND” for me to finally register exactly what I needed to do. My brain suddenly clicked in and went “ooooooooh yeah, that…duh, of course I can do that” and we got some lovely bits of shoulder-in.

The following day, after much confusion with people down to ride and then not riding and horses switching all over the place, I was given Harry again and I certainly wasn’t complaining. There were only three of us in the lesson so we had a good amount of space to work in which made a nice change as so often there are five or six of us trying to ride together. We warmed up and were then told to take away our stirrups. Emma then got us working on small circles at specific markers, using our stirrup-free legs to wrap around the horse’s body. We did shoulder-in (which I totally managed to get more times than not) and then progressed onto cantering without stirrups. By the time Emma said we were going to do some canter work, I was already shattered as working without stirrups and keeping Harry going (she was rather reluctant) had really worked me hard.

I did feel my legs turn to lead when I head Emma tell us to do walk to canter, canter a circle and then return from canter to walk. But, trooper that I am, I figured I’d give it my best shot. I knew the walk to canter would be no problem; Harry is an absolute star and does it beautifully and I’ve always found it a much nicer transition than going up from trot. And as we were to do all of this without stirrups still, I was quite pleased to be doing it through a nice gentle transition. Harry, of course, was excellent and did me proud. Our canter to walk wasn’t quite as precise as I’d have liked it to be, but that was my fault not hers. I wasn’t quite prepared enough and therefore my aids were not disciplined enough. She was only doing what I asked of her, which wasn’t quite enough. Next time!

And yesterday I had the opportunity to jump my lovely Mr Fox again. It’s been a little while since I jumped anything at all, and even longer since I jumped him, so while I wasn’t nervous I was aware of the fact that I might be a bit rusty. I just hoped he was in a forgiving mood. Which he was fortunately. In fact, he was an absolutely fantastic boy and did everything exactly as asked. He didn’t put a foot wrong all lesson. Even when the big scary lorry with flapping blue tarpaulin parked up outside the school, he shied away from it but didn’t try to canter off or anything. Big brave boy that he is.

And although his jumping is never beautiful or tidy or natural, he certainly tries when asked. The only times we knocked fences down were the times when I didn’t ask him for quite enough energy coming into them. He responded to my aids perfectly and allowed me to direct him around the course without a single hitch. I was extremely proud of him, and even more pleased when Georgie said I’d done a lovely job with him and that if I was happy jumping him then I should stick with him as it clearly helped both of our confidence levels. Brilliant stuff.

Apart from all my wonderful horsey progress, I am also beginning to make some positive decisions about my future. Rather than allowing myself to continue feeling panicked and stressed by the fact that I have options this summer and a huge open space once I finish college, I am trying to look at it in a more upbeat light. It’s fantastic that I have options! Think about it for a second…

A girl like me, coming into the equine world in her twenties, with only two years experience doing anything horsey, having options?! I should count myself lucky to have anything in front of me at all, let alone a choice. I was expecting to be scraping the barrel, grabbing and snatching at the dregs of things people better than me didn’t want. But instead I have prospects. It’s exciting. And terrifying. But exciting.

I have just signed up to a well known equestrian job site to see what there is out there that might suit me, and there are loads of things! It’s got me a bit fired up actually, I’m all pumped and ready to go. Everything I do from now on is going to be a conscious decision, a real positive thought on my part. I’m not going to do anything just because it’s there or because it’s the easiest thing to do or because it makes life simpler. I’m going to do the things that will have a positive effect on me and my life. I am going to take every step I can in the direction I want to go. And if an obstacle pops up? Hell…I’ll just go grab Fox and we can fly over it together.

One of these days I will make something of myself. I don’t ever expect to be earning masses of money or to be living the high life. I only want to feel fulfilled in the things I do and the life I live. I know where happiness lies for me, and I’m beginning to work out how to get there.

Wild horses couldn’t stop me now…


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