There are a fabulous group of ladies I tweet, facebook and generally online socialise with who have been amongst the biggest support of my riding life. When I wanted to quit because of my cantering a few years ago, several of them kicked me up the virtual backside and I kept going because of their support. They have been there through the jubilations and commiserated on the not so fun times.
I’m telling you this, A to recognise the fabulous of the “twitter Sisters” and B to explain the origin of this particular blog entry.
A year ago, I was chatting with one of my twitter sisters just before I started my lessons in the school and set myself some goals. She had, unknown to me, set an alarm to remind her of this fact so she could prompt me to do a reflections of my first year of riding in the school. So here we are, just over a year later and I shall address the points my lovely friend has set for me. [
Anyway… This blog.
What’s the best experience you’ve had in this past year, and how has it changed you, your confidence and/or your riding?
There have been many small points that have overall contributed to my build of confidence in the school and my riding. The many firsts that as a blind rider you must experience, like:
- walking around the school on track for the first time.
- Doing the first lap of the school in trot.
- Trotting perfect circles for the entire lesson virtually.
- And jumping.
Putting two of the horses I ride the most over my first little jumps is probably the biggest positive experience for me. I finally thought, yes, I can do this. It gave me the confidence to use my lighter seat more and more in canter out on hacks and also showed me how much faith I have in the horses and my instructor.
Even though jumping was a huge “wow” moment for me, that lesson trotting circles and changing the rein was a real telling point of the ground i’ve covered in my first year. I had all the contact, the turning, and the confidence to do it all in trot.
My lessons in themselves, whether good or negative, have helped me become a better rider outside of the school. I look neater, have better control and generally feel more confident in the saddle.
Without dwelling on it, have you had a riding low this year, and if so, what have you learned and how have you moved forward from it?
I think everyone has lows in riding. Before I get to a specific low though, I think the one thing I truly learnt in the school is that whilst one week you can have it all together, the next week, for whatever reason, it can fall apart and you just have to move on from it. That has been my biggest challenge as a rider to put behind me the negative lessons and ride each lesson as a fresh sheet of paper. My instructor has been pivotal in learning that lesson and has often reminded me to ride positively and put all negative thoughts and feelings behind me at the gate.
There have been a few low moments through the year. When I couldn’t get Bella to stay on the track. Or when my rein contact fell apart recently due to one thing or another. But as I said, putting those moments behind me has been the hardest lesson I had to learn.
I also believe that hacking out between lessons is the best cure for negative feelings. Having that fun time between lessons on the horses I ride has given me the down time and relaxed environment to practice some of the skills I’ve learnt in the school and be able to go back into the school with fresh feelings and attitudes, on the whole.
How has your relationship with each horse you’ve ridden changed, and what have you learned about/from each of them?
This is an awesome question as a lot has changed. I’ve seen my relationship with Bella in particular improve and blossom. Before riding her in the school I thought she was difficult and stubborn but since her teaching me in the school, I’ve grown to love and respect her. She controlled me in the first few weeks. But as I gradually learnt to take the reins and ride quieter and ask rather than tell, she’d become a willing partner. We went from Bella telling me she didn’t like something to me asking and us working as a team in lessons.
Some weeks, the moody mare returns but often it’s a fascinating time with her. Riding her in the school has made me want to ride her more outside of it to and I enjoy her so much more.
The few incidents that really stand out for me in how I’ve won Bella over is when she took off in canter in the school because something spooked her and I just sat there and quietly pulled her back to a trot. When she’s kicked up a few bucks for whatever reason, I’ve handled it with calm. She’s taught me to act and react quietly to everything and she’ll give me what I want. She’s taught me about impulsion and how that mare can move in dressage movements and she’s shown me how you have to ride a horse, it not carry you especially in the school.
Shadow taught me a lot of things to though. He taught me how to keep a horse contained in the school, how the body should move the horse and how quiet hands are imperative for neatness and preciseness. He taught me how to sit quiet in the saddle and move only when I needed him to change direction. He also taught me how to leg yield, how to not let a horse fall in and he taught me how to jump. Surprisingly, Shadow taught me never to assume anything of a horse in the school. He showed me that although he’s a gent, he can also play the mischievous pony role to.
My respect and love for Shadow has only increased and love that pony even more than before.
What is the single best piece of advice you have picked up, or would pass on to someone else now you’ve done a year in the school?
I’d probably say, take each horse and each lesson as a fresh start. Don’t assume anything and learn from each experience, taking forward the positives and leaving the negatives behind.
One year ago, you said you’d like to do a walk and trot dressage test ideally, and jumping would be a longer term plan. So, as luck would have it you reversed that: you have jumped this year, but not had the opportunity to do a test yet (we all know you will, though)! So, what are your goals for this next year, and how do you plan to do to achieve them?
I aim to still do a walk and trot dressage test. I might even do a walk only initially to build myself up. Obviously, jumping more would be in my ideal plans for the future, getting better at jumping and jumping higher jumps.
This next year holds a lot of unknown potential and just continuing to learn and expand on my skills. I would like to canter to, this time planned though. So:
- walking then walking and trotting dressage tests in the school
- Jumping more Improving skills in all areas
It’s been a great start to my learning and I just want to improve and expand to the best of my ability. I’m lucky, I have a fantastic instructor who is open minded and does what I need when I need it.
As well as the lessons, things have changed in regard to hacking to. My lessons and time at the yard have helped my confidence to no end. I did my first two hour hack last December and have done a few since then to. I hack out with no help on the ground any more on virtually all horses. I feel more confident and comfortable and loving riding all the time nowadays. Even the low days have a purpose to highlight how the awesome days truly are awesome.
Thanks for coming on this journey with me and here is to another year of horses and riding.
[Thank you so much to my friend Debz who provided me with these questions. I appreciate the alarm being set. :)]