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A serious plan

Sharon Howe wearing Kingsland Polo top with Riley
Looking forward to getting back in the saddle. The time off had been good for Riley

Woo hoo! Back in the saddle.  After so many weeks of not riding and Riley being off work it was exciting to start the week knowing it was finally back to business as usual.

Just as I was leaving the yard on Monday morning, I received a text from Emma with our schedule for the week and it looked like we had a serious plan for the next few days.

Time off had been good for him

On Monday afternoon Emma schooled him, and as I watched the session I was amazed at how talented and willing Riley looked.  It seemed as though the time off had been good for him, and he hadn’t forgotten anything. In fact, he had improved. Emma suggested that she school him again on Tuesday and once more he worked brilliantly.  As I was going to have a lesson on the Wednesday and hadn’t ridden in weeks, I suggested I hack him straight after Tuesday’s schooling to familiarise myself with being in the saddle.  We had a wonderful relaxing hack and the joy of being back in the saddle was immense.

Caught unawares

During the following two days, I had lessons and seemed to have bounced back as quickly as Riley.  I had been concerned that the time off would set me back, particularly with my confidence in cantering, however I surprised myself and the time off hadn’t impacted me as much as I thought.
the life of riley blog
Smiling bravely
At the end of the first lesson Emma commented that she hadn’t been sure if she was going to ask me to canter but decided that I was actually ready for it. My canter transitions were becoming more established however I was still having problems keeping Riley in canter.  Emma suggested we head to the farm ride for a canter the following week as he may canter for longer on the long tracks by the fields. We were to finish the week’s schooling with a pole lesson which we did, although after about ten minutes Emma suddenly announced that we were off for our cantering session on the farm ride. Caught unawares, I asked myself if I had misunderstood when we would be going as I thought I was safe until next week, but I didn’t have time to think about it and so off we went.

Riley’s amazingly fast trot

Sharon Howe and Riley out hacking
Riley and I rounding the corner to rejoin the field where we would begin to canter
Full of trepidation, I hacked down the lane and passed the beautiful chocolate box cottage at the bottom and around the other side of the cottage where I would begin to canter.  Emma was waiting at the top of the field for me.  I didn’t manage to keep Riley cantering the whole time and he would often do his amazingly fast trot instead.  When I made it to the top of the field and spoke to Emma, I breathed a sigh of relief. That was until she said, “let’s go again”. So, we did.

I wished that I had bitten my tongue

Feeling brave (or crazy) I told Emma that I would have another canter in that field when I was hacking him alone the next day.  I wished that I had bitten my tongue as when I tacked up the following day, I was feeling very apprehensive.  Normally I feel relaxed when heading out on a hack however I had just added on something that I didn’t actually want to do.

Riley might turn into Frankel

Someone on the yard suggested I canter in a different field as they find that the far side of it a great place to canter, so I headed off there.  I trotted the first part with the intention of cantering when I reached the cantering part, however when I was faced with it, I couldn’t bring myself to ask Riley and let him go.  I was worried that he might turn into Frankel and gallop far too quickly for me, so instead, I kept him trotting.
horse and rider in fields
Enjoying the beautiful surroundings
I left the field feeling deflated and was extremely disappointed with myself for not being brave enough. I knew that if I didn’t canter that day, I would go home and dwell on it all evening, so headed off to the place where we had originally cantered to see if I could summon up the courage to try again there.  I must admit it didn’t happen immediately, and I trotted for far longer than I should have, however I did eventually ask for canter and realised that it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I had actually managed to partly enjoy it.  So, as we crossed over to the other part of the farm ride, I found myself asking Riley again.  We didn’t quite manage it this time as Riley gave me his fast trot, and as another horse was hacking towards us, I ran out of opportunity however I had enjoyed the hack for the most part and I was gaining confidence

A very eventful hack

We finished the week off with a hack although a very eventful one.  We headed out of the yard towards the lane that leads to the cottage.  Part way along the lane Riley stopped, and no amount of kicking on made him budge; he was steadfast.  I thought that something may have spooked him or perhaps he was in some discomfort, so I decided to get off and walk him in hand to the end of the lane.  When we reached the end, I used one of the gates to get back on board, then we hacked round to the other side of the cottage to re-join the field.  He seemed happy at this point, and I dismissed my initial fears that there was something wrong.

I wasn’t accepting his refusal

Because all seemed fine with Riley, I decided to hack down the lane again, with the intention of not having the same problems.  At the head of the lane Riley put on his brakes and refused to move which resulted in me once again getting off and leading him.  After a few minutes I remounted using a gate by one of the fields under the impression that we would be able to continue our journey.  Riley of course, had a different opinion and refused to move.  I sat there for a moment wondering what to do next as I didn’t want to get off yet again, and I knew he was choosing to stand still. Firmly, I raised my voice and told him off along with a tap of the whip and made it clear I wasn’t accepting his refusal. Mercifully, he began walking and we were able to finish our hack without any further incident.

If you enjoyed reading this. You can read more instalments of the life of Riley here
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Sharon Howe

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