getting on track

I was very nervous this morning anticipating my first private riding lesson in the school. I’ve been studying my model school that I made but I knew nothing but actually physically being in the school would prepare me for the experience.

I arrived early, giving myself chance to calm down before I mounted. I have a new RI to adjust to alongside the way the horses act differently and the school itself.

Someone had suggested I walk around the arena but I wasn’t sure how that’d help me once in the saddle.

I use sounds to hear where I am, near a wall, approaching a lamppost but these sounds are obviously different when high up on a 14.2+ HH of horse.

I did not expect the horse I got today. In fact, she would have been the one I least expected to be on in my first lesson. Yes, it was Bella. I actually can, after this lesson see why my RI decided to put me on Bella. It seems somewhat cruel to make someone who hasn’t had the easiest time on a horse use them first in their schooling sessions but I actually agree with why she probably made the decision.

I mounted Bella, and my RI walked with me up to the school. You have to remember, I’m her first totally blind student ever. So we are both feeling our way a little here, literally.

I’d already told her about my model so she knew that I knew the layout. The test was now to walk around the school.

She said from the start, today would more be about familiarising myself with the school and how to adapt myself to learning in it. I absolutely agree and I expected nothing less. In truth, it’s probably what I’m expecting from a fair few sessions.

We started at A and my RI walked with me, helping me count the strides from the corners. I was advised by a very wise lady earlier today, [Lorraine] to allow the horse to turn. I cannot tell you how hard it is to prevent steering even when you know you shouldn’t. And steering in the school is so much more subtle than when hacking out. Everything is so much more subtle and slight. I was using big turns but throughout the lesson learnt they have to be slight and gentle.

Bella’s thing, and the reason I think it was good my RI chose her, was she has a terrible habit of coming off the track. She would continuously come into the middle of the school and I double checked with myself and my RI and it wasn’t anything I was doing, it was Bella wanting to do her own thing. The trick was, to prevent her doing it before she did. I did not think I’d get the hang of that at all but gradually I felt when she was trying to come off of the track and keep her straight. This was no easy task.

Whenever she came off, I’d have to ask to push her back over. My RI said I was asking and she was ignoring so keep asking, don’t let her do her own thing.

I had joked with several people, saying I didn’t want to go into a fence, and I am happy to report I didn’t, not exactly.

Bella either loves or hates corners. So the corner by H she’d often go to close to the fence. The corner by K she’d try to turn too soon. And the corner by F she would go too deep into.

I say Bella was a good choice because it’s teaching me where not to go in a school and how to keep a horse on the straight track.

After a few walks round, with steadying ability to keep her straight on the long sides and trying not to go too far off track, my RI said we were going to trot. I was like, woa, am I ready to trot? I think Bella and I might end up all over the place. My RI ran with me twice, bless her to keep me straight. The first time she didn’t run, We almost ended up at X from the E side of the school.

She said it was understandable as I was upping it a gear and now had to think about keeping her going, keeping her straight and not tensing. So, of we went from F to M. This was a little better.

On the second go of trotting down e’s side, we kept straight but Bella turned too quickly and I wasn’t on the ball enough to stop her. I’m fast realising that it’s ten times more important to keep them listening and doing what you ask as opposed to what they want in the school.

Another trot down the long sides, and a few good walks into corners and the lesson was done.

I got a little feedback at A and my RI said I did really well. I guess because I don’t know many totally blind riders, actually I don’t know any, it’s hard for me to get a gist of how well or bad I did in my first lesson.

I knew it would be hard, and my theory is, if I can get Bella staying straight on track and turning where I want and not where she wants, I could probably ride any horse in the school. She is, as you all know, a stubborn mare.

My RI said we’ll keep with Bella for a few times, get the hang of her then go onto another horse as it’ll take time to adjust to strides in the school. We counted the trot strides down each side which helped but would be different on Shadow, Kenny, Topaz and Harry. And she was really good about telling me when I was coming up to the corner letters and when I was passing all letters.

I was nervous how we would do it, and I’ll be very curious to see how I go in proceeding weeks.

Maddi asked me earlier did I enjoy it, and now I’ve had time to reflect, I did. It was hard to say whether I had without sitting down and going through what happened.

Was it what I expected? I’m not sure in all honesty what I expected? It’s not easy learning the school but I’ve got a better picture in my mind of what it is like. Now the test is to keep Miss Bella on the track.

I’m kinda glad, in retrospect, my RI made the choice to give me Bella. I’ll know every inch of that arena once we’ve done a few weeks no doubt and maybe it’ll give Bella and I a better bond.

I was impressed how calm and yet how pushy my RI was today. Not pushy in a bad way, she was positive, gave me good constructive feedback and praised me when I’d handled a corner or kept on the track or responded in good time to Bella’s wandering and yelling leg on, keep her going when she tried to stop in trot and sometimes walk.

I did enjoy it. It was just a lot to take in at the time.

Thank you all for the wonderful support and I hope you’ll continue to enjoy the new learning curve my RI and I are now on.

I’m booked in for a regular slot every thursday at 10:30. And I’ll be hacking out this weekend.

Thanks for reading,


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I am beyond excited and so proud of you!!!! You did it! As we all knew you could and would.

    When you wake up tomorrow and it starts to sink in you’re going to realise just how great you were today 🙂

    You trotted – yes trotted – around an arena today!! Can you begin to imagine where you’ll be this time next year?!

    And as for Bella – well of course she was perfect for you – she gave you something to think about other than the awesomeness of it all 🙂 (Is awesomeness actually a word?!)

    You did great.

  2. Congratulations on a solid start to your schooling Marie! I don’t think you need a relative comparison: in absolute terms, you learned a lot today, worked in two different paces, did lots right and took in a lot of information. You also seem clear on the challenges ahead and areas for improvement: that is half the battle. Seeing these issues as things to work on rather than failures is key to success: your RI’s supportive firmness and your disposition have you set up to do well in my eyes 🙂

    I think Ransom is the only horse I’ve ridden that doesn’t try to cut off corners and fall in from the track: all the others have needed corrected, and while some got the message quickly and gave in, lots need the constant riding into the corners and onto the track. So, Bella is setting you up well to learn all that, as IME, it’s rare for it not to be an issue!

    So, when’s the next one Marie? 😉

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