Last night I had the strangest dream…
I went shopping for toothpaste. Yup. You read that correct. I dreamt that I went to buy toothpaste. The strange thing is that it was an incredibly significant and important thing to be doing for some reason or other. I honestly don’t know where it all came from.
What I do know is that my brain suddenly switched last night. I went to bed perfectly content, curled up and was almost asleep, when my brain suddenly flipped and said “nope, you’re not relaxed, you need to jump and twitch and freak out at every tiny noise” Which is exactly what happened. The slightest noise and I was leaping in the air. At one point I was convinced that there was something on the pillow next to me trying to eat my hair, so I hurled myself forward and turned on the light to find…nothing. Of course. It was really rather odd. And after all that excitement, I finally fell asleep and dreamt of toothpaste. Dream big Meg, dream big!
I should sleep pretty darned well tonight. I am absolutely shattered. And it doesn’t stop yet. I’m working the long shift tomorrow as Kelly is not in, so it’s going to be a long day, and then it’s straight into the next three days of college. Wednesday is going to be a weird one as well. And then I get one day off before coming in for 8.30 on Friday to start the yard before going to do my First Aid training and then back onto the yard afterwards to help finish off. The Saturday that I thought I would have off, I am now working because Steph is off that day, then it’s the Dressage Championship on the Sunday, and then straight back into college. Again. Add into that my job on Wednesday nights, plus trying to finish assignments before Easter.
I might die.
At least if I collapse, I know that my fellow students can correctly come to my aid. Sigh. What a thing.
Oh, and the clocks go forward tonight which means I’m going to feel even worse in the morning.
On the bright side, because there always needs to be one of those, I had an extremely educational riding lesson today. It was an experience and a half and I learned a hell of a lot.
I rode Connor, a new addition to the yard. He was already in my good books before I got him, as he is extremely well mannered which is very refreshing after the rude barging you get from some of the others. So I was interested to see what he was like to ride. I was only mildly apprehensive at the thought of jumping him (because we were having a jumping lesson) but I’ve jumped horses without knowing what they’re like before, so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad.
Until, that is, he freaked out completely before we’d even done anything. I was adjusting my right stirrup, as I was considerably jockeyfied when I first got on. He is very sensitive to the leg, so when I accidentally nudged him with my leg while doing the stirrup, he started to turn. Which was fine, until he saw something on the yard that clearly bothered him. I don’t know what it was, all I know is that he suddenly brought his head up, gathered himself at the shoulders and took off. I had to let go off the stirrup leather so that I could grab my reins. Which means I only had one stirrup, my right leg being distinctly unsupported. What I didn’t realise is that the stirrup leather actually started coming undone, which meant it was bashing against his side, causing him to keep going. There were a few moments where everyone thought I was going to come out of the side door, myself included, as the saddle decided to start slipping increasingly leftwards at this point.
Picture it…a chunky cob cantering around the school full pelt with his rider almost sitting on his side, desperately kicking at the air with her right leg to push her weight back that way, trying not to hang onto the reins but seriously starting to worry that they’re never going to stop. After some “ooooooooh” moments, I eventually managed to convince him to come back to trot, and then had to ride him straight at the fence to stop him.
Once Steph had assisted me in sorting out my stirrups and girth (shifting the saddle into a more central position first) we tried again. This time we achieved a couple of other paces before cantering. And I gradually relaxed. It was strange actually, while he was cantering around with me flailing about on top of him, I was perfectly relaxed. It wasn’t until we stopped and I then had to think about what to do next that I started to feel tense and worried. So we did some transition work to chill us both out. Eventually I was able to ask him for the canter, and control the speed of it much better. By the time we started jumping, I was feeling much more comfortable with him.
The jumping was another thing entirely, of course. Actually, he jumped the single cross pole perfectly fine. Nice and polite and neat. Once Steph popped up another one, that’s when we started having a few issues. I discovered that he drifts to the left in a huge way! And he does it quite quickly and suddenly. The first couple of times we jumped the double nicely, knocking things but given his lack of experience, we all let him off. Once it was made into a triple, however, I realised there was a problem.
To be honest, it’s almost definitely more to do with my own caution as a rider than anything else. I was reluctant to put too much leg on as he was super responsive to it and every time I tried to push him round with my outside leg he just got quicker, which was not the aim of the game. But every time I thought “yes, this time we’re going to make it into the jumps” he would suddenly spin off to the left, immediately before the fence. On a couple of occasions he did it so close to the fence that my right foot ended up taking out the jump wing as we went past. I started to get a bit annoyed with him over it, but knowing it wouldn’t solve anything, we decided it would probably be best to take the third one down and ride him through the double again to give him back his confidence over it.
In the end, we got him jumping the double again, and I managed to point blank refuse to let him run out to the left. I think, at the end of it, it was a very positive experience for both Connor and me. He jumped for the first time at Holme Lacy, and did so in a controlled and positive way, and we ended on a good clear double with no running out or refusing, so he finished the lesson having done exactly what was asked of him. And given that he hasn’t done a huge amount of jumping, he achieved a lot in a short space of time.
And for me, it was an extremely valuable lesson. I was able to practice using my seat more than my legs, and influence the horse in a big way just by thinking about trotting. Our best transitions didn’t involve any leg at all, just a thought and a positive push with my seat and hips. We got some nice trot work at times, and we jumped fairly well. I had to keep myself quiet and contained at the same time as having the confidence and the faith to release the rein and ask him to keep going forward. I also rode and jumped a horse I’d never sat on before, successfully without falling off or doing anything drastically wrong.
I think the only reason I stayed on during our one stirrup wonky saddle adventure was through sheer willpower. All that was going through my head at the time was “No way in hell am I falling off this horse, he will not unseat me, I am staying up here” And, that is exactly what I did. After a fashion.
Unfortunately I now have pain in my right hip and right side of my lower back. Probably connected. My shoulders are extremely tight at the moment as well. In fact, I generally just feel a bit tightly wound. Part of that is probably to do with the fact that I had to let people touch me yesterday for the first aid thing. And we all know how I feel about that.