Figure Eights in The Wind

I arrived at the yard and brushed a few horses while I waited for Bella, yes, Bella to be brought in. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. As I brushed the ponies, I really felt like bursting into tears but I am not one to whinge and moan about a situation, I get on with it. And I don’t believe Bella was used today for anything but good reasons.

As a blind rider, seeing where the track is is not a given so learning the lay out is a must. I have been told previously, Bella will just shut down if you’re confusing her whereas other horses may take off with the confusion. So her disposition is currently useful for some things. Despite all of this knowledge, I was a little frustrated that I’d have to deal with Bella at all today but I patted her pleasantly, mounted, sorted out the stirrups and headed up to the school.

It was windy today so this impeded a little on my sense of direction. It does generally even when I’m on the ground so to contend with wind was nothing unusual. I’ve ridden in the wind before so I know how it feels to get disoriented on a horse but today, movement was so crucial. We were learning figure eights.

We’ve done short changes of the rein from K to B and F to E and other variations but not on the long diagonal. I was a little nervous I don’t mind telling you. But we have a method that Lorraine, over at School Your Horse had also advised me to do.

So we walked the figure of eight but soon realised I was over steering and my legs and hands were so tense. Part of my brain must think, if I leg her on so much she’ll go faster or actually put some work into it but this has the opposite effect on Miss Diva. Instead, she just doesn’t do it. So working on loser legs and hands today had a considerable effect on her. She stopped fighting me and in turn I didn’t have to fight so hard to get her to move. Either that or the wind took a good bit of credit for today’s Bella mood.

Once loser hands and legs were in play, and I remembered slight adjustments were much better and everything was all light and relaxed, things went a little better and instead of starting at K to go to M, and ending up at E, or F, yes, both happened, I was on a better track nearly every time. The left rein seems to be Bella’s favoured rein as going from K to M was always a little dodgy until right at the end. Then it was time to trot. We’d counted the steps in walk that were around 24 strides on each diagonal then we counted for trot. First time I was counting each up and down rise, I’m an idiot, what can I say? Then we managed to get fifteen to sixteen strides instead. That made more sense.

My RI helped me a little in trot today but I was definitely getting more familiar with the school in the figure eight. It was a hard concept to get right as the wind was not in my favour and having gotten lost a few times but I’m learning to feel where she’s going so much more which is helping along with counting strides.

Hopefully, once i’ve mastered a few more school shapes and my hands and legs are not intense anymore, a productive partnership may enter the school. Although, it sort of felt I broke through a barrier a little today.

My RI allowed me to walk her in a loose rein at the end as we’d done more trotting than we have before in lessons and while she chatted to the people who are trying to create a run off so the school doesn’t get washed out with the rein all of the time, I walked Bella around the school completely by myself and I was on the track pretty much most of the time. She walked lovely for me so it was a mighty big achievement.

When I pointed this out to my RI, she asked why I thought Bella had been so responsive in our long rein walk and I said because I was relaxed? She said that was it and once I’d loosened my legs and hands for her in the class she’d become more responsive to my aids.

She also commented how well I’d handled last week’s group lesson which was nice. Having have her recognise that I can take challenges like that and attempt them rather successfully, even though I needed some guiding by a leader, makes me really smile. As other riders in the class had leaders to it didn’t make me feel like a complete novice or idiot or singled out because of my blindness. I was grateful for the chance of a group lesson and maybe that’ll happen again at some point but hopefully when I know more about the school and feel more at home there.

We think figure eights and circles may be the biggest challenges but I think both my RI and I are approaching it in the best possible ways and mapping out with counting the strides.

Looking forward to a nice hack this weekend.

Thanks for reading,


This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Figure of eights already and progress in working Bella’s buttons? What a cracking lesson Marie! Relaxation is a key to so many things in riding and can be one of the most difficult to achieve at first: how you relax without vision has always amazed me, never mind throwing in wind and new configurations of the school. Well done! 😀

  2. You’re not stupid for counting the ups and downs – lots of people do it 🙂 You were counting steps – each beat – not strides – the time it takes for all four feet to pick up and go down. No big deal but it is easier to count strides because it’s slower!

    Reading this for the first time ever I understand where your RI is coming from. Without seeing you we all makes our own decisions but I’m guessing you tighten up in your shoulders/arms/hands and legs when you concentrate! Loads of people do that – and when they’re worried. The problem with this on many horses is they freak out! On a windy day they all get the wind up their tails too so Bella (bless her little obstinate socks!) was by far the safest option for you. I would have done the same 🙂 You are doing so well – with or without any help from Her Majesty – be proud of yourself because the rest of us out here are 🙂

  3. Fab fab fab fab! I was all for you switching horses even if only to have an enjoyable lesson for a change; but when progress comes on a horse that’s made our life hell, well you can’t beat that feeling!!! Makes it all worth it! It’s also really interesting reading about your RI’s “strategy”. I bet she loves teaching such a determined rider 🙂

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