With all the extra competing I have been doing for the riding club, I have been making sure to have lessons as often as possible – and on horses other than my own two ponies.
Before I had Galahad I used to ride so many different horses and it was such a good thing for my riding. When i competed at university (where we had to ride unfamiliar horses at a yard near the host university) I had a huge advantage over the riders who only ever rode their own horse and didn’t know how to cope with one which reacted differently. Not that I won but it did give me a head start!
Since I started riding Galahad though, I have ridden far fewer other horses. I hadn’t realised what a difference it made until I started practising for my first riding club competition earlier this year. I suddenly found myself sat up on a strange horse and I didn’t have a clue how he would react. It was quite scary and is part of the reason I have made sure I kept having the lessons. Of course, the extra practice also makes me much more likely to do well!
Incidentally, this pony was pretty much my dream horse as a child. I was hooked on Patricia Leitch’s Jinny and Shantih books (although I was quite scared by some of them) and so I always dreamed of a chestnut horse.
The other day Cookster and I went for a little adventure in a neighbour’s field. I had ridden Galahad in there before but it was all brand new to Cookster and he was more than a bit excited. He is not usually the most energetic of ponies but on this occassion he was offering me a canter every time I asked for trot.
This particular field slopes steeply down to a stream with very marshy banks. The hill is almost terraced by a path zig-zagging its way up the slope so we skirted our way round the marsh and set off up the hill.
The path isn’t particularly wide and the hill is very steep but I was still enjoying myself immensely. Then I got to the top and had to come back down and I realised that the branches I had happily avoided on the way up had become much more intimidating. Ducking under branches when riding downhill is pretty nerve wracking anyway but I was suddenly very aware that I was sat on a pony who has occasionally been known to nap and try to canter home. It was amazing how such a small moment could rob me of all confidence.
Of course, Cookster was in fact perfectly well behaved and my momentary panic was a complete overreaction. It made me very aware though of how fragile a thing confidence can be.
On Friday evening I went out to see a demonstration by Emma Massingale. I have been a fan of hers for several years now but had never managed to see a demo so I was very much looking forward to it – I bought the ticket way back in May!
I had wanted to get a hot chocolate to keep myself warm but I only had five minutes to spare when I arrived and didn’t want to miss the beginning. It was so cold though – it took me ages to warm up when I got home.
The demo was brilliant. The bond Emma has with her ponies is wonderful to see and something I would love to achieve with my own ponies. Not that Galahad and I don’t have a bond but it could be so much more.
Emma worked with several ponies individually to show us their various stages of experience. She reinforced something which really I already knew but which is easy to forget sometimes – it is much better to stop working on something once it has been successful than to keep repeating it because the first time might have been a fluke. I can certainly be guilt of doing that sometimes.
She also said something which I found very interesting – she doesn’t want to be the herd leader because, although the other ponies do what the leader tells them, they don’t actually like him very much. She had left her leader at home and the ponies she had brought didn’t really care. Emma said she wants to be the ponies’ friend and that seems like a much better attitude to me.
The work with the liberty team was great to watch too. The way she can get the ponies to work together and then send one off to do something by himself is just incredible.
I had such an enjoyable evening (despite the cold!) – if you get the chance to see one of Emma’s demos I would highly recommend it.
Today was very exciting for me – I wore my riding skirt out on a pony for the first time since last winter.
I actually don’t wear it riding as much as I would like because I love to wear it as an ordinary skirt so much and it isn’t really sociable to wear it around town when it smells of horse! Today though it was raining and I decided it was time to take it out.
We had a beautiful ride as all the leaves are turning and the countryside is a blaze of colour. My sister and I turned a corner and it was like we came out into the light – we were surrounded by bright orange leaves. It was absolutely stunning and we sat there for a good five minutes just drinking it all in.
I love autumn!