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My dressage pony in the making is back with a vengeance

Enjoying a hack after a super schooling session
    My dressage pony in the making is back with a vengeance. The week began with Emma schooling Riley, and he was amazing. I watched on in awe as he did everything asked of him and had his work head on immediately. I felt an immense amount of pride.

The last few weeks had felt as though we had lost some ground as Riley had not seemed keen to work and had proved reluctant to canter. Although he can find some new things difficult, he is normally very honest and tries to do as he is asked, however there has recently been some reluctance on his part. This reticence made it all the sweeter to see him riding beautifully, and I was able once again to clearly see the dressage future we could have together. I felt elated and as it was such a lovely morning, I hacked him afterwards. Perfect timing as it happened, since it started raining not long afterwards.

This was both frustrating and upsetting

Riley and I hacking through the farm estate with Backwood Hall in the background
Midway through the week, due to some confusion with my lesson time, I found myself schooling Riley by myself. Apart from hacking, it had been quite some time since I had ridden him without having a lesson from Emma. The first ten minutes were indeed tricky, and I felt as though I couldn’t ride properly; my steering was awful and I couldn’t achieve what I wanted. This was both frustrating and upsetting. A part of me wanted to jump off and take him back to the stable, however deep down inside, I knew that this wasn’t a real solution. My brain was telling me that I needed to persevere and work through it. So I did. Riley isn’t the easiest of horses to ride and sometimes my inexperience can come to the fore, however I tried to put into place the things I had learnt during my time with Emma, and towards the end of the session Riley was trotting round beautifully in a lovely profile. I must admit to quietly feeling rather proud of myself, and enormously proud of Riley too. It was a happy moment and inspiring too.

A gentle reminder now and then that there has been progress is important.

  I am often awfully hard on myself and many times it has been too easy to look at the way Emma rides Riley and want to replicate that, without reminding myself that our respective time in the saddle is years and years apart, not to mention the number of horses ridden. Of course, I want to ride better but can be too busy looking forward to where I want to be, and not looking back to how my riding was at the start of the year. A gentle reminder now and then that there has been progress is important.

In typical Riley fashion, he didn’t seem interested

Riley has a way of stealing leaves on nearby bushes quickly so I have to always be on full alert
  For a change to Riley’s routine, Emma lunged him over flat poles and cavaletti poles. To begin with, in typical Riley fashion, he didn’t seem interested and simply crashed into them as he wasn’t really looking properly. Once he started paying attention, he was able to sort himself out and very quickly became proficient and worked well. He does love his work and loves trying new things, it’s just that he is sometimes a bit lazy for the first few minutes of any riding session.

Riley was distracted

Continuing with the pole theme, the following day we had a pole lesson and were joined by two other horses and riders. My friend Sophie and her horse Onyx, who we had ridden with before, and Fiona with her horse Ollie.
Riley checking to see that his haynet is ready for him after a hack
It was fun although Riley was distracted by the other horses and was nappy, but it was good practice for when we go out to compete in the future. Whilst Sophie and Fiona had a lovely canter on their respective horses, I didn’t manage to have the same success with Riley and struggled. So much so that Emma jumped on board afterwards and cantered him.

One smart pony

Afterwards I went for a hack. On the farm where we are based, there is a bush that Riley always walks closely to, as it borders the grass verge that Riley favours walking on. He has worked out that he can reach for a cheeky nibble of the leaves. If I am quick enough, I can keep his head away although more often than not, he gets the better of me. When he does manage to grab some tasty greenery, it often dangles out of his mouth so in the past I have tried to get hold of it a few times to remove it, but this week I am convinced he ensured it was fully in his mouth really quickly as didn’t want it confiscating. He is one smart pony.

If you enjoyed reading this, you can catch up on all of the earlier instalments of the life of Riley here  
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Sharon Howe

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