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Rider holding horse

Back to riding

Me looking very happy with Coco the pony after one of my riding lessons
Me and Coco (one of the riding school ponies) after a riding lesson. I always feel so happy afterwards.

In January 2019, I returned to riding, and started having a lesson each week.  Whilst enjoying the lessons, I am a nervous rider and so as well as improving my riding I am also building up my confidence each week.

So that you know more about my equestrian journey, I thought I would share my riding history. It’s a story of love versus fear and it hasn’t ended yet!

  My parents were non-horsey and it wasn’t until I was 14 years old that I discovered a love of horses.  My parents lived next door to a lovely family who moved away after inheriting a house. This meant new neighbours, and these new neighbours brought horses with them.

Our new neighbours were a husband and wife who had three horses. The husband worked away most of the time and so they needed help taking the horses to the field every morning and then bringing them back in each evening. I was asked if I would like to help and said yes.

Until then I had no experience of horses so had no idea that this would turn into an absolute love of horses.  From that day onwards, I offered to help with mucking out, yard and field duties and whatever else needed doing, it just felt like a real privilege to be around the horses.

The three horses were all very different, a retired trotter who was a beautiful bay with a very sweet nature, a plodding gypsy cob, and a young fiery Welsh Section D chestnut with the most exquisite flaxen mane and tail.

I spent as much time as was possible around the horses and knew that one day I would want one of my own.

I was never, and in fact am still not, naturally confident around horses, and because of this, I generally was the one to walk the plodding cob to the field and back. As much as the Chestnut was the one with all the beauty, she was also the most difficult to walk to the field.

After a year of helping with the horses, I started having riding lessons at a local riding school and went with a school friend (who quickly found it wasn’t for her). For the first few Saturdays it was bliss. I remember riding a particular grey pony called Craggan and would ask for the same pony every week, until one day it all changed. 

I was starting to learn how to canter and Craggan decided it didn’t want to so gave a nice buck. To this day my Dad loves to recount the tale of my first fall and often reminds me that he has never seen anyone fly through the air quite as far as I did that day.  I don’t remember much about the flying, just being flat out on the ground, and then being swiftly plonked onto the back of a little Shetland pony immediately.  Even though I was as close to the ground as was possible on the cute little Shetland pony, I was absolutely petrified and shook the whole way round the school for the remainder of my riding lesson.

This didn’t deter me however, so the following week my Dad took me back to the riding school and then every Saturday for the next few weeks although by now I had become petrified of the word canter.  Fast forward a few weeks and I felt brave enough to try canter again, and canter we did, the problem was the horse wouldn’t stop cantering. The damage had been done.

I was caught between absolutely loving horses whilst being too scared to ride, however still went back week after week for a while.

I was still helping my neighbour out, but then I left school and had to join the real world of getting a job, so this meant I had to pass the baton onto someone else.

When I started working I decided to start looking for a horse, however I would only consider horses  from people that my neighbour knew, and were known to be as safe as houses, as I was still that nervous rider.

In the following two years, a couple of horses passed my way, one was a grey pony that I only tested in walk, and even then I was scared to death, particularly as it sneezed for the whole 5 minutes I was on it, I kept almost losing my reins, so that was ruled out.  The next horse was a gorgeous looking bay that was retired so was looking for an easy life.  My Dad drove me to see him, and again I was too afraid to do anything other than walk.  As my neighbour knew this person, it was agreed that we could have the horse on loan for a week with a view to buy.

So one evening, the horse arrived at the livery yard and I tucked him in and said goodnight.  The next day I went to the livery yard and spoke to the owner of the yard.  She said the horse had a very runny nose, and as it wasn’t a young horse, suggested that I shouldn’t take it on.  A day or so later, the horse was collected, if I am honest I was part pleased and part relieved.

We then moved home, and as I was no longer helping with the horses or having lessons I stopped looking.

Over the years, a regular although unintentional pattern emerged.  I would start having lessons, slowly build my confidence up and then stop. This wouldn’t be a conscious decision, just for one reason and another life would get in the way, working whilst studying for exams, moving abroad, having a family, renovating a house.

Each time I stopped it was fatal, as whenever I returned to riding, I was back to square one, and would have to build my confidence up. The mere mention of the word canter still frightened me all those years later.  On one occasion when I returned to riding, the horse was playing up so I had the instructor walk by my side for the whole lesson. Another time when I began riding again, I walked and trotted for more lessons than I needed to. I knew I had to move onto canter so I asked the instructor if I could canter on a lunge so that I didn’t have to worry about anything else.

Each time I started riding again, I would progress and eventually my confidence would build up very slowly only for me to let life interfere.

There are many other stories that I would like to share, however I wanted to sum up where I started so that you better understand where I am right now.

Horse and Rider
I can’t help smiling lots during riding lessons

My love of horses has never faded, and even when I’m not having lessons, I am always so happy to see one even if it is simply driving past a random horse in a field.

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Sharon Howe

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