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Curiously, I find it easier to canter on Riley’s weakest rein.

This week was spent working mainly on my position.  Much of Tuesday’s lesson with Emma focused on walking and trotting Riley without stirrups, followed on Wednesday by a ridden lunge lesson without stirrups and with my reins tied.  I cantered on the lunge with one hand holding the saddle and the other loosely by my side. Curiously, I always find it easier to canter on Riley’s weakest rein.

Riley’s canter stride seemed more lengthened than usual

Riley and I hacking along the lane on the farm estate
Riley and I hacking along the lane on the farm estate
Emma schooled him twice during the week and her ride on Thursday consisted of lots of canter work.  As I watched on, I noticed Riley’s canter stride seemed more lengthened than usual.  After the schooling session I remarked to Emma about how much canter he had done and the lengthening.  Her response was that she had been working on that during the ride and it would play a part in what she had planned for me the next day. As you can imagine, this last remark left me feeling rather anxious and I approached the following day’s lesson with some trepidation.

On Friday, just before I was about to mount for our lesson, Emma asked that I shorten Riley’s stirrups and we spent much of the lesson in jockey position trotting and cantering. Once the lesson ended, I felt that a short hack would be lovely for Riley and me, so we headed off to an open field with the idea that I might also have a canter so that we could practice what we had just done, particularly since my stirrups were still short. Unfortunately, as we arrived at the field there was another horse being long reined, so I decided against it, and instead we had a trot.

“You can do this”

Riley and Sharon riding through a water feature
A shared moment of triumph as we wade through the water together. It’s a moment I will treasure
With last week’s pond debacle such a recent memory, you could be forgiven for wondering why I would consider it a good idea to try it on my own all over again.  Sensing a wave of bravery, I told myself “You can do this”, and courageously decided to get into the water with Riley, and this time on horseback.  So off we went. At the top of the sloped entrance to the pond, there was much discussion between Riley and I as he kept spinning around and trying to walk in the opposite direction. I held my nerve and gently but determinedly, refused to let him walk away, and kept turning him back to face the slope and walk forward until he began to sense that I was not for turning back.

Eventually, and with much encouragement, we made our way down the slope and into the water with me sitting firmly on Riley’s back.  I didn’t make him wade in too far as I felt just being in the water was enough for one day, and I was proud of him for achieving that much.

Riley decided to make his own bid for freedom

Afterwards we took what I thought would be a gentle stroll back to the yard and were only a minute or so away from Riley’s stable when I saw an escaped horse from the other yard, galloping towards us.  In that moment I decided the best course of action was to jump off Riley, and position him and myself to one side. My idea was to keep Riley calm, and hopefully attempt to slow the oncoming horse down.  I did jump off, although that is where my carefully considered plan ended because as soon as the said horse galloped by, Riley panicked, and in the ensuing melee, I lost hold of his reins and Riley decided that his best course of action would be to make his own bid for freedom and so galloped away after the loose horse.  
Riley and Sharon riding out of the pond
A joyful departure from the pond. I felt so proud of Riley, I could have burst.
Now, the dirt lane that we were on, although part of the farm estate, is also used by cars that come onto the estate and at that moment, one was coming towards us. Fortunately, the driver realised what was happening and came to a stop. Happily, the vehicle stopped where the lane forks and coincidentally blocked the main access towards the road. This meant that the loose horse had no option but veer away from the car ahead and took the fork which headed directly back towards his stable yard and safety. Riley must have concluded that freedom wasn’t on the cards today and that he didn’t need to run any further, so he stopped not too far away from me. I was quickly able to catch Riley and headed back to our yard which is just a few yards away from the main one where the loose horse had returned to. I was surprised at how calm I felt and whilst I wouldn’t ever want a repeat of the incident, I feel that I have gained some valuable experience and would be better able to cope should anything similar happen again.

We waded in triumphantly

On Saturday there wasn’t any schooling planned; just a relaxing hack, and with the success of the pond experience the day before, I was minded to try again.  Once again there was a disagreement with Riley at the top of the slope and also part way down towards the water, which didn’t help my hill phobia one bit, and I will admit to a moment of panic.  On the other side of that however, we were in the water and this time we waded in triumphantly almost to the far end of the pond.  Our first proper water experience together and complete pride in my little pony. We ended the week with a day of rest, well for Riley at least as I still had to muck out!

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

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