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image of Riley the pony

Fate

Riley and I enjoying a cooldown hack together after a schooling session
I am not sure if it was fate, however the first day of the new month fell on a Monday, and the 1st of November 2021 marked some changes for Riley and me.

We have been on schooling livery since January when we moved to our current yard, and whilst the schooling has been helpful and much needed, I realised that during this time I had only schooled him a couple of times on my own. I have recently felt that I needed to be doing more riding by myself, particularly in relation to my cantering confidence if no-one is watching. This resulted in the decision to take him off schooling livery but still have two schooling sessions a week with Emma. One where I would ride and the other she would ride and school Riley.

My steering went awry

So, as is usual she schooled him on Monday, and then on Tuesday I went solo. It was tremendously enjoyable and gave me the opportunity to practice canter in my own time. I knew that on my own, I would feel a sense of determination to push Riley more. I will admit there was the odd moment where I thought ‘help, I wish my instructor was here,’ particularly when my steering went awry, however on the whole I was able to relax and push Riley harder which resulted in a good session.

He doesn’t like being clipped

image of Riley the pony
Riley. Neatly clipped.
Towards the end of the week, Riley had a visit from the vet. It was a planned visit as he needed to be sedated for clipping. He doesn’t like being clipped and shows his disdain kicking out, which no doubt Emma would not have appreciated whilst trying to de-fluff him. Once sedated, the window for clipping Riley is limited, however unlike last year, this time he seemed more accepting when the sedative began to wear off and I’m convinced that with time and a little de-sensitising using some small clippers to get him used to the noise and the vibration, he won’t need the vet. Or am I just being overly optimistic?. Either way, he looks a lot smarter now.

my first ever dressage score sheet which I will treasure forever.

The weekend marked some firsts and some highs for Riley and me.  Emma had arranged a practice dressage test on Saturday for a few liveries on the yard. Another livery and I did an Intro A test whilst the others, who are much more established with canter, did Prelim. It was a fun afternoon with each of us helping and cheering each other on. At the end of the tests, Emma handed me my first ever dressage score sheet which I will treasure forever.

I haven’t told Riley yet

My intention has always been for Riley and me to compete together, however I hadn’t felt the need to enter competitions for Intro tests and was simply going to wait until we were working at Prelim. Saturday however, opened my eyes to how important intro tests are. Riley and I need experience of competing and to receive continual feedback will be invaluable as it will provide us with goals and hopefully, a measure of continual progress.

I haven’t told Riley yet, but I have entered us into a local unaffiliated competition at the end of December at Foxes Competition Centre where we are going to do an Intro B and a Prelim 1 test.

To be honest, the idea absolutely terrified me.

Riley at a scary spot along the way. He’s usually pretty good though, and only requires some gentle reassurance
After the dressage test on Saturday, I found myself making an arrangement with my friend Sophie, to go for a hack off the yard the following day. On the way home from the stables that evening, I did wonder if I should have agreed so readily as it would be the first time I haven’t had a side walker whilst hacking off the yard and to be honest, the idea absolutely terrified me.

When Sophie and I met at the stables on Sunday, she asked if I still wanted to go. I explained that part of me was hoping she would cancel and the other half was still hoping we would go as I knew that I needed to break out of my comfort zone. To add an extra hazard to an already potentially perilous journey for two apprehensive people, It was an incredibly windy day so I think we both wondered if it was wise to proceed, however we took the brave option and decided to go ahead.

Our adventure didn’t get off to the best start

Our adventure didn’t get off to the best start however as Riley decided that he didn’t like the look of a puddle that he needed to walk through and spun around in an attempt to head back to his stable. This took me completely by surprise since we hadn’t even left the yard and had walked that way, through the same, albeit slightly smaller puddle so many times before and is always relaxed and on a very loose rein.

Once I had turned him around and we were heading in the right direction again, Sophie and I continued towards the gate at the end of the farm track in order to leave the yard. It’s an electric gate which Riley has only seen twice before and that Onyx doesn’t like at all. Sophie and I dismounted before reaching the gate because on the other side is a busy road and it seemed safer to pass the scary electric gate and cross the road on foot before mounting again on the quiet lane which is situated directly across the road. Onyx was very unsettled which I think made Riley nervous, however we made it through and mounted on the other side of the road.

Riley the brave

Once we had re-mounted, Onyx led the way with Riley following. All was well until we reached a point on a bridleway where there was a pile of wood in one of the fields adjacent to us. Now this pile of wood isn’t normally in the field. Onyx stood still, presumably knowing that this was a new feature along the route and decided it looked scary, so “Riley the brave,” went ahead and happily, Onyx followed. Onyx however returned the calming favour when Riley later decided that a wooden hut was the scariest thing he had seen all day. Strangely he must have found it to be not so scary when he first walked past it on the outward part of our journey. What terrified him from one angle hadn’t appeared at all frightening when he had viewed it from a different angle earlier.

Both Onyx and Riley were positively angelic by comparison for the remainder of the journey. Sophie and I wandered back to the yard feeling proud of them both. I must confess that I also felt a gratifying sense of achievement myself and to top the afternoon off, I had been able to enjoy most of it, rather than feeling fearful the whole time. So much so I said to Sophie “we must do that again.”

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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