My riding drought ended last week. I hadn’t been on a horse since I before I left camp, and I finally carved out time in my schedule and found somewhere I’d be comfortable riding, booked a slot and went. It was also the first lesson I’d received in about five years. I knew it’d be tough, and I’m possibly being typically hard on myself, but I found it brutal.
As usual, I currently want the moon on a stick when it comes to the thing that I love most, and it was always inevitable that I wouldn’t be able to achieve everything in one go as I had hoped. I went riding at the school I spent most of my childhood learning at, though the centre had sadly become livery-only whilst I was at university. Thanks to a new colleague revealing their own horsey background, I discovered that the centre had re-opened as a riding school as well as livery yard two years ago, and I instantly knew that I’d found the place which could help me tick off one of my goals.
With re-gaining my jumping mojo being high on my wish list, I knew it was important that I found somewhere which made me comfortable, and where better than the centre at which I actually re-discovered my nerve the first time I truly lost it almost 15 years ago?
My first assessment of the way I rode was that I did a terrible job: I knew I’d picked up bad habits – I’ve barely ridden in an arena for years, having spent most of my recent time in the saddle on trails either on holidays enjoying myself or supervising kids rather than focusing on my own riding. So it didn’t surprise me when the instructor commented that I was leaning forward a lot (I’ve done a lot of cantering in a light seat recently, so that it’s easier to keep an eye on those behind me, as well as riding up many hills), and that I realised my ability to bend a horse around my leg has decreased significantly. I’ve got a lot of work to do!
That said, as the ride progressed and I got to know my mount better – something I took into account later when analysing my ride, the fact that I spent last summer riding the same horses repeatedly, got to know them very well and, ultimately, rode them far better than I could ride any horse when sitting on it for just half an hour – he did come down into my hands. This was a great thing to feel again: most of the horses I rode last summer suffer from a drastic lack of schooling, as they aren’t ridden year-round, and there’s only so much you can do when your priority is keeping the riders on the trail safe, rather than ensuring your own horse is moving in a balanced manner.
The conclusion I’ve come to is that I need to go a little easier on myself, take it slowly and make sure that each ride is an improvement on the last. As long as progress is made, it doesn’t matter to me how long it takes for me to achieve what I want, really.
The absolute best thing about my ride is the fact that the next day, when I really thought about it, the old magic of being on a horse was still present for me: for half an hour last Thursday morning, I thought of nothing but what was going on beneath me. My mind emptied of everything which wasn’t connected to the saddle and bridle, and I concentrated fully on what I was doing. This is genuinely rare for me, and although I was annoyed with the state that my riding has gotten into, I was completely focused and relaxed. Once again, riding is my successful escape route from everything else in life, my slice of “me time”, and something which is eternally precious. I’m already excited about my next getaway.