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It seldom comes without frustration.

Once we were off the yard and on our way, he was super for the whole ride
Riding involves continual learning and mastering the skill. I thoroughly enjoy the process of improving my riding even though it seldom comes without frustration. Admittedly, I have felt deflated with my equestrian progression recently. It has been difficult at times, standing at the side of the manege watching my pony being ridden superbly well by a real pro. It looks easy, and I am determined to replicate that. I had also imagined by now, that Riley and I would be cantering confidently, and yet I still don’t always have everything together when I try.

Poker face

To help with my position and confidence Emma lunged Riley and I twice this week. The first time, as I was mounting, I noticed a small ball at the side of the manege and asked Emma what it was, not suspecting that her answer would be that it was for me to use in the lesson. With her best poker face on, Emma didn’t give anything else away, so with humour I replied that I wasn’t sure if I should have asked.

My sitting trot left a lot to be desired

When we were on the lunge and after we had warmed up, Emma gave me the mysterious ball to hold and explained that it should be still and not bobbing up and down whilst I was riding. I did manage this with a fair degree of success, although my sitting trot left a lot to be desired and a few times I felt as though I was slipping to one side and saved myself by gripping with my knees. Why is it when learning to ride that everything one does instinctively to stop falling off, is precisely the very thing that makes matters worse?

Immediate panic

Riley having a good look around at the new surroundings during our hack off the yard
I was still holding the ball when Emma announced that we were going to canter, and in that instant my mind was triggered into immediate panic. How was I going to hold this ball between my two hands when I knew that I would feel unsafe and want to use them to hold onto the saddle? So, I created another option for myself and ended up with the ball safely tucked under one arm. Emma, noting that I wasn’t for having two hands off the saddle whilst cantering immediately took the ball away.

So, we worked towards me holding on with one hand only and after a while I did manage this and even felt courageous enough to extend my free arm out to the side. I am not sure that my arm needed to be quite so extended however I thought that perhaps it might stop me putting it back on the saddle for balance. Emma also asked me to take my left foot out of the stirrup as this is my weakest leg, although I did wonder if it was perhaps a sneaky attempt to work me towards cantering without stirrups.

I felt more confident immediately

On the following day when we lunged again, I felt more confident immediately. Normally, I feel more daring as the lesson progresses however this time was able to take canter with only one hand on the saddle immediately, and I did have thoughts about taking both hands off but never felt quite balanced enough to attempt it.

We passed a scary sheet of corrugated metal

With my new plan of giving Riley more variety in his work and a change of scenery more often, we ventured off the yard for a hack. To get off the yard we have to go through an electric gate which he has only been through once before and it wasn’t exactly trouble free on that occasion. This time, on our way to the gate we passed a scary sheet of corrugated metal which Riley hadn’t seen before and didn’t seem to trust, so he gave it a continual sideways glance and a wide berth. To be fair to Riley, he didn’t panic though and we walked past it. He didn’t seem particularly keen on the gate though and stood apprehensively whilst it opened automatically. As I nudged him towards it, he wanted to run forwards, which was not helpful as there is a road on the other side of the gate.

A world of good

Once we were off the yard and on our way, he was super for the whole ride. He spent much of the time having a look around, and a few times you could see that he was unsure of his new surroundings but carried on. Once or twice, I gave him a few reassuring pat’s but I think that might have been more for me than him. On the way back to the yard we did have to face the gate again but this time he handled it more confidently. I’m hopeful that with more experience of it he will be striding through there without any issues. I think the change of scenery did us both a world of good.

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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