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Grabbing the Highs

After last week’s roller coaster ride, this week has been incredible.  Riley has been an absolute superstar and if I overlook the arguments when putting his bridle on, I feel as though I couldn’t have asked for more.
Riley is beginning to show signs of improvement
I am not naive enough to believe that there aren’t any more challenges to come and I will probably  be brought back down to earth with a bump (let’s hope not quite literally); Nonetheless, this week I am grabbing the high with both hands and thanking my lucky stars for my fabulous horse. On Monday we started off with a schooling session and whilst there is still much to work on I have moved from thinking I can’t ride and feeling as though I’m just bobbing around, to believing it is possible and that I can ride horses.

All Fingers and Thumbs

The following morning however, I headed to the stables for Horse Riding Lesson Tuesday, full of apprehension.  I was going to be riding a school horse called Taggi who I have ridden in the past. Whilst she is lovely, she can have the occasional spook and so that was in the back of my mind alongside not having ridden another horse other than Riley for months.  As I didn’t want Riley to have a day off, I rode him briefly beforehand. As I groomed and tacked him up, I noticed that I was all fingers and thumbs and not at all relaxed.  After riding Riley, I mounted Taggi and immediately noticed how much higher off the ground she was. And so, my lesson began, full of tension, however as the lesson went on, I started to relax a little and I must say that it all went rather well.  I had my first canter in months, and I was left asking myself why I had worried so much.

Let’s see if we can get Riley to canter

On Wednesday I had another lesson booked, this time with Riley.  It wasn’t until 4pm so I turned him out in the morning wondering about how he would react when I brought him in later on, and instead of going straight to his stable as usual, he would be heading to the manege.  Despite these thoughts, I was feeling unusually relaxed about the lesson knowing that I would only be walking and trotting which we had been doing now for some time.
Concentrating hard as we work on transitions, trotting and steering
And so, for 15 minutes I walked and trotted around happily until the moment when Becky, my instructor said, “Let’s see if we can get Riley to canter”.  This came as a complete surprise and one I was unprepared for as he doesn’t know the aid for canter, and I thought it would be a while before we attempted it. However, the day had arrived much sooner than anticipated and I kicked on asking Riley for a fast-paced trot and then once we were in a corner, asked for canter. He of course didn’t know how to oblige so we proceeded into an extremely fast trot and then had one stride of canter.  We repeated this a few times and had success in the form of a few strides and a then a few more strides although on the wrong canter lead. Nonetheless my boy tried hard.  I must admit it was tricky cantering as the school had been split into two, so I was trying to canter in only half of it and my steering was awful to say the least. For those of you who have just started following Riley’s progress, he hadn’t done any work at all prior to me buying him and until a few months ago was a typical bolshy and very overweight Welshie field ornament who hadn’t been ridden for a few years. After the lesson I felt elated and in a daze all at the same time not quite believing what had just happened.

Riley shows off his extended trot

On Thursday and Friday I schooled Riley on my own, working on walk, trot and transitions although minus the canter (I’m such a chicken when there is no-one around to make me canter) and then we had a hack down the lane to cool off. Saturday morning came and we had yet another lesson and once again attempted canter. Unfortunately, Riley didn’t manage it and the result was me bobbing along and him trotting as fast as his legs would take him.   It didn’t spoil what had been a brilliant lesson particularly since it has now become clear as a result of trying to get a canter that Riley has quite a decent extended trot even if it is accidental and so we ended with another hack down the lane.
Riley has been a star all week and I can’t help smiling

Elevated trot and an insane grin

Sunday morning arrived and I schooled Riley in the indoor school. For the first time I felt as though as I was starting to ride him properly and things were clicking into place.  It was hard to imagine that only a couple of weeks ago I was scared to trot him, as I trotted all around the school changing direction and doing circles.  It wasn’t all perfect, I was still losing my stirrups and Riley was at times unbalanced.  David, one of the instructors on the yard, came in to ask if he could put out trotting poles for the horse he had planned to school after I had finished.  I am still unsure as to where my bravery came from, but I found myself asking if I could trot over the poles first.  David kindly set them up at the distance suitable for Riley, and we trotted over several times. The natural elevation that Riley managed to produce on his very first attempt over the trotting poles was incredible. I don’t think I had ever felt such height over trotting poles before with any horse and we finished the lesson with me grinning insanely.
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Sharon Howe

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