This week, I was presented with a new mount. When I took him out of his box, he seemed a little stiff, which I initially put down to it being a cold early morning. A few minutes later when I worked him into a trot, I realised I was wrong – my horse was lame, and was promptly swapped for a non-lame horse.
I was warned that my second horse of the morning is young and it requires a fair amount of work to hold him together. Oh, and by the way, he’s having issues striking off into canter. The news regarding canter transitions made me groan, given that’s my own biggest issue at the moment, but my instructor assured me that she thought I’d enjoy this horse.
And I did. It’s a long time since I’ve ridden a youngster, and this one has a few habits which range from bad to plain naughty. He leans chronically on the outside shoulder, and either turns so quickly that he’s liable to topple over, or via falling out and overshooting corners. Both of which meant that I found the whole thing a real challenge!
The good news is that he has a great trot… providing he concentrates long enough to organise all four legs correctly (which isn’t very often). It turns out that straight lines are as much of a challenge for this horse as corners are.
As my instructor predicted, the cantering was tricky. With it already taking a lot of energy to hold this horse together, moving up a gear made it even harder, particularly when he chose to buck rather than strike off! Fortunately, they weren’t ejector-seat bucks designed to actually throw me off, more like “I don’t like what you’re asking me to do and I can’t be bothered to do it” toys out of the pram-type bucks. We managed a canter on both reins eventually, before moving on to some pole work.
The first round of trotting poles – off the right rein, which appears to be his more difficult rein, though it’s my better one by far – was pretty disastrous. He overshot the first couple of turns and couldn’t hold a line to save his life, despite me desperately trying to hold both back and front end together with my legs. We managed one decent attempt, and I was pleased to end on a good note before switching to the left rein.
Turns and lines off the left rein came much easier, as the horse is more balanced in this direction, and by this time I’d figured out which classic mistake my rusty riding had decided to make on this occasion. My instructor hadn’t pointed it out, although she has on a previous occasion, so I did a bit of self-analysis and tried to fix what I thought might be the problem: I realised that I’d been so focused on holding the horse together that I’d spent the entire approach looking at the first pole – as it’s what I was trying to get him to focus on – rather than the horizon.
So up I looked, reminding myself as I remind anyone that I teach that the pole/fence/obstacle isn’t going anywhere, and that I must look ahead. We sailed over the poles every time once I realised what I was doing, the horse gaining confidence from my more assured position and the lesson ending well.
Sadly, that’s probably my final ride this year, due to my commitments with work and the festive break. The next time I’m in the saddle will be 2014, and I’m as excited as ever.