feeling My Way

After my initial bombardment of information in my first lesson in the school, I was excited for the next lesson. I knew my familiarity would probably take a few weeks so I was ready for a lot more off track action with Bella.

It was drizzly but not raining hard when I arrived at the yard. By the time I mounted, it wasn’t raining at all. Despite my initial concerns, I was happy to be back on Bella and yesterday’s lesson gave me more insight to the reason she had been chosen.

I rode up to the school, more confident of the path to it which is a small but relevant bonus. My RI opened the gate and in we went and stood at A. In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how much I would remember and how much information I would have taken in.

The first circuit proved that Bella was definitely in charge of me and not the other way around. She went deep into the corner at F and was about four strides off of the track down that side of the school. I wasn’t relaxed and was trying to do all I needed to do. Once back at A, my RI started talking about the reins and keeping Bella’s head straight. We obviously do this in hacking but as all actions need to be more subtle and no oversteering, it was a whole new concept in my head. I wasn’t helping as my hands were tense, and even I know they need to be light, especially with Miss Bella who is very light in the mouth. This is one of the reasons, coupled with the reason i’d thought of last week about her making me think of what she was doing all of the time to keep her on track. She was chosen for several reasons as my RI told me yesterday and to which I agree with all of them.

  • She’s light in the mouth which means my rein contact must be light and precise and any feedback from her down the reins will be as subtle which will help refine my feel through the reins of her head and mouth.
  • She needs me to be boss in the school meaning that she won’t be a good little girl and stay on the track, she will make me keep her on the track, ride all the corners and physically ride her around the school and keep me on my toes.
  • And finally, the reason I had never thought of and why my RI is the instructor and not me, Bella slows down if you’re confusing her as opposed to speeds up. Kenny, the coloured gelding would speed up and Magic the lovely mare would canter instead of listen to you. So Bella was a safer and practical choice.

I am so glad Bella was chosen for me. I cannot believe I’m saying this.

Back to the lesson though.

In order for me to develop a rein contact that feeds back information from Bella, my RI walked around the school, tugging Bella’s head this way and that. She wanted me to feel what was happening and react as quickly but as subtly and gently as I could. Keeping Bella’s head straight was the name of the game and after a circuit of the school, I was getting it. Her head turned, I’d gently half halt the head to pull it centre. My RI had me feel Bella’s neck to see if her head was straight, even her ears had to be central or else her shoulders would fall out. I gradually felt the smallest of changes and was quicker in my responses.

Oversteering wasn’t as much as an issue as it had been in the previous lesson. My turns were gradual and not sharp and I began riding her in to the corners with much more precision.

As last week, I had ridden her every time into the F corner too deep, I only did this on the first circuit of the school my RI said. She commented my hands were more relaxed and said that she can understand how my hands were tense, it was a lot of new information to take in but she’d noticed my hands becoming less and less tense during the lesson.

Last week, H and I had made many acquaintances, I don’t think I caught my leg once but rode close to it twice. A huge improvement I think.

We did four trots down the long sides, we’ve not tackled turning on the corners yet but my RI said she was very pleased with how I was riding the corners now. Toward the end of the lesson, she said I looked really comfortable with the corners and I was riding a lot more positively which was giving Bella less opportunity to do her own thing.

I have to watch out for her head turning, and her speed slowing, that’s when she’s given the chance to ignore me and do her own thing which is when she’s able to get off of the track.

I didn’t stay on the track all the time but it was becoming less and less as the lesson went on.

There was a funny point, when we were walking and she’d turned at H as H seems to be her least favourite letter, very sharply and we’d ended up about four strides off of the track and My RI said there was a jump in front of us so she’d get us back on the track. I laughed and said didn’t think I was quite ready for that one.

At the end of my lesson, we stopped and she’s really good in that she tells me what I did well at, what needs working on and she said to practice feeling the straightness of the horse’s heads out on hacks to get it well practiced as that skill is definitely transferrable.

She also commented how well I’d done today, telling me where I’d improved since last week. And it feels like I really made strides forward. I still have a ways to go but for week two, I’m pleased with what I achieved.

As I said last week, we’re sticking with Bella until I’m more confident in the school and I have a feeling this time with Bella will do me and her some definite good.

I rode her back down to the yard, untacked her and was chatting to my RI about watching Guided Blind Show Jumper video and she joked she was setting jumps up next week. I told her not to get ahead of ourselves. πŸ™‚

We also chatted about if I was her first totally blind rider in the school. She said that yes, I was and although they’d had blind riders, they’d only gone on the hacks and did it leisurely. She commented that I wanted to learn and was very keen and it was a passion of mine and said keenness was half the battle while learning. I told her I thought she was doing a great job, she told me where the markers were when riding, gave me all the visual aids I needed to do what I was doing and asked if she felt it was going OK? She said it was absolutely fine. So I feel great about yesterday’s lesson. It was fun and I made some improvements so lets hope progression keeps coming.

Thanks for reading,

Marie

About: Marie

I am 29 and feel like I have more blogs than I care to think about. That's where Life without sight has come into it. I finally have grown up and stepped into the hosting world. Lets see how this goes :)

4 comments

  1. Lorraine says:

    I think congratulations must go to all three of you πŸ™‚ When you teach you need to be able to help your pupil feel for themselves and that’s exactly what your RI is doing. I think it’s great for you all – I’m sure in months to come you and Bella will strike up some form of relationship! The last thing you – or your poor RI – needs is one of the horses freaking out because you’ve confused them! “Last seen heading over the fields and towards Manchester!”

    Be patient too – sighted riders take just as long to learn. Sometimes I actually think it hinders them because they think they know everything because they can see it! You listen and absorb – from an instructor’s point of view that’s really rewarding. Looking forward to next time πŸ™‚

  2. Debz says:

    Wow: what progress Marie! I’ve a lot of respect for how your RSO is approaching this: she’s chosen the right horse and made sure that you know why, and is giving you a great appraisal of where progress is made, what’s next, and what you can work on when riding out. I can’t think of what more you could ask for at this point, and your approach sounds great too, with a lot of improvement this week. Long may that trajectory continue! πŸ™‚

  3. elvonee says:

    Sounds like a great lesson! And it’s only your second! The title of your post is spot on, riding is so much more about feeling than sight. It’s only now, after 3.5 years that I’ve started to really “get” certain things that a rider can only achieve through feeling. As for riding off the track.. well, Maggie is queen of the “I’ll-go-wherever-I-want-thank-you-very-much” attitude. Poor girl is actually very stiff on her left side and completely numb to my leg, so she doesn’t do it on purpose (most of the time), but boy is it hard work! Bella sounds like her long lost sister πŸ™‚ Really looking forward to your next lesson!

  4. Marie says:

    Thank you all. I do hope I’m being a good pupil for her. I try to absorb all she is telling me. And yes Debz, I couldn’t have asked for a better attitude from her. She has so far been my dream instructor. I can’t think of anything she could do more to help me and it’s great and fun and I’m loving it as you all said I would. Poor Maggie El. However, Bella does have her own mind but it’s more stubbornness and marish behaviour than a numb side. But I’m growing to love her and respect her that much more. I think out of all the horses, Bella will refine me to the school. Perfect choice. Had some good comments over at hay net too about how I’m learning the “right way” of feeling and blindness is somewhat of an advantage in this early stage. Nice I’m changing the way people think about blindness to. That’s something I want to continue to do with regard to horses.

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