Normal service appears to have been resumed. After a few weeks of bucking, bracing, over-jumping, rushing and pulling multiple bitch-face expressions at me, I found her a soft Italian leather saddle, to go on top of a Cavallo sheepskin gel pad. And she is sweetness and light again. Her back likes it, my bank balance doesn’t. She is evidently a girl of expensive tastes. More Gucci/Dior than her owner’s favoured Aldi/Decathlon. (Sigh).
After spending far too long worrying about whether every canter transition was going to get me launched into orbit, I finally began to trust her and started jumping her at home again. She was fine: Calm, listening, willing. So I braved the Big Outdoors and took her on the farm ride at Somerford.
I had 2 pals along with me who are multiple leagues above me in the competence/confidence stakes. But I was determined not to wimp out of jumping this time. So I took up ‘Position 5’ (AKA The Oh Shit Position) hung tight onto my martingale strap (AKA The Oh Shit Strap) and set off behind a lovely youngster being ridden out over jumps for the first time by an event rider/instructor. He often teaches me but today was teaching his new baby horse and letting me sort my own riding out! This was not about schooling. It was about giving Amber a fun day out, improving her fitness. And, not least, reminding myself that I CAN jump over things without falling off! I can’t say I rode with any particular skill or style but we jumped up and down steps and over lots of jumps. Hurray! After the first line of jumps I was physically shaking. BUT soon after that, wonderful, glorious, much missed confidence came flowing back as my amazing horse just ran and jumped with pricked ears and fabulous enthusiasm. God I love this horse.
A couple of day later I went to an arena eventing clinic instructed by the event rider/instructor I rode out with. I was never going to get away with “I’ll just stick to 70s today” but I was actually feeling pretty confident and Amber was awesome. I had wondered whether the farm-ride would have got her back into YEEHAA LETS GO mode again. (Last year my usual RI said every time I took her XC I de-trained her by a couple of months!) But she remembered her manners and was just so rideable. Calm, focused, balanced and willing to wait for the fence and listen to me. We jumped a full course at the end of the lesson including the 90cm corner, rolltop and house. She just pinged round effortlessly. Vids of about 5 minutes of the session if anyone is interested
Then best of all I returned to the scene of ‘Ping-Off-Gate” to have another jumping lesson there. It could not have been more different. Amber was so much more relaxed and co-operative and the RI said the whole picture just looked completely different. Plus I looked more solid through my core so perhaps the pain of Pilates is doing its job?
So all of a sudden I am back to ‘what events can I do/where can I go next” and feeling very excited again. I really need to stop stressing about the setbacks and stay focused on the bigger picture. The successes would be meaningless without the struggles. And whatever the horse is doing – good or bad – is an opportunity to learn. So 1 important lesson from the last few weeks is to ride the horse I actually have under me, not the idea of the horse I have in my mind. When she first started playing up I was too hung up on ‘she shouldn’t be like this’ and when she was back to her normal co-operative self I was too hung up on ‘I can’t trust her anymore’. Neither of which are very helpful.
Oh and I’ve also learned that I need to squeeze in another few hours of paid work each week to keep her in finest Italian Leather and sheepskin…..