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Category Archives: horses and riding

Western or British?

Just had my first taster lesson in Western riding today.

I came away shaking, teary and euphoric, just because of the roller coaster of emotions and amount of adrenaline going on…

It was something like:
ooh, this is exciting…This is different…Oh, god, heels again, I always get nagged about them… This horse is playing up… Actually, that one was my fault… That one wasn’t, though!… (mutters) I hate this instructor, I am never, ever, ever going to get this and I want this lesson over…. Oh, that was OK actually. ..Actually not too bad… Bugger, lost it again… One handed reins, hand on the swell like a real cowboy – this is cool! Ohmigod, I’m loping! Love it!… Oops, where’s he going? How do I stop this thing?… Wanna go again, cool!!

Here’s how the professionals do it…


legs, legs!

I went to my riding lesson feeling a little trepidatious this afternoon. This was because I was a bit concerned that my legs wouldn’t function properly, having walked round the entire county of Suffolk at the weekend.

My brother-in-law, his wife and friends came to visit and they’re all keen walkers. One in particular. Very keen.

So we extended our daily amble along the river to a seven mile round trip with a stop for lunch in the pub.

It was easy flat walking (ahem, this is Suffolk) and bright and beautiful (I got sunburnt. I do whenever the rays poke through the clouds).

One of the party was technically a giant and I took three strides to his one (not hard, I’m only about five feet tall). This meant the pace was just that little bit too fast for my comfort. But I wasn’t going to show myself up by asking them to slow down – oh, no – particularly as they all live in Cambridge and have huge brains. Besides, I’m trying to get fit for this horse riding lark.

I spent most of the afternoon whispering, ‘Ooh! Legs’ to J when no one was looking. (Actually they all got blisters and fell asleep in the tiramisu, so it wasn’t just me).

The next day we decide to go for it all over again with a walk round Aldeburgh. (Packed. Where was everyone last November?)

Well, my legs recovered speedily, which was good because my riding instructor is keen that I use them effectively as aids to move around horses. (Actually, it was hands she wanted me to use this week. And shoulders. And back. But I’m getting there).

Fortunately, a large group of school children had nabbed all the solid, dopey, chunky horses (Fergus and Bertie), leaving me with Duke. Yes, you can tell a lot from a name.Duke was enormous and I got vertigo at first. But he had the advantage of being really sensitive to any aids. Unlike the safe, slow horses, he responds to slight pressure of the leg rather than requiring several ungainly kicks.

The disadvantage – other than his height – was that he was more likely to spook easily and bolt (Fergus just stops). He didn’t, and I felt happy being on a horse that would normally be ridden by an experienced rider because I totally trust Karen, my instructor.

It was like having a go in a Ferrari, before you’ve actually passed your test. You know it’s beyond you, but it’s motivating.

On the way back I stopped off to check out the cattery Pippin will be spending our summer hols in. More horses! Hundreds of cats! Kittens! I would’ve sneaked one of the kittens out in my pocket, if it weren’t for Pips carrying the cat flu virus which he could pass on.

Anyway, today horses and cats are the things I’d add to the Action For Happiness website.  I love the concept. It’s crashed now due to too much interest, ironically making people cross and frustrated rather than happy.

I’d also add being outside in the sunshine, matzos with cheese, builder’s tea in the afternoon, finishing my freelance work way before the deadline andhaving a huge supply of library books on the table. J’s away doing exciting radio production work in London, which makes me sad, but there’s the anticipation of his coming home, plus I can watch back to back episodes of Shameless all evening while he’s not here.







Haiku Horses!


I’ve started a Haiku diary! Here’s today’s entry, after my riding lesson.

I try no stirrups.
Fergus grumbles and stumbles,
But I don’t fall off.

Yesterday was the more domestic:

Washing on the line
Dank and cold in the gloaming
Waits to be brought in

It’s addictive stuff. Thanks to my copy writer friend for inspiring me.

That’s not me in the photo, by the way (I wish…) It was taken at the Poplar Park Horse Trials on Sunday. (Husband says, ‘Bet they’ll get off.’ Ho ho).

Feeling the ground shake under my feet and listening to that rhythmic, heartbeat sound of galloping hooves was atavistic (that’s a word I had to look up recently and I think this is the right context…!)

Fergus rebels

I had my fourth riding lesson today: a disaster!

I’d booked a lesson with Fergus and Karen. Karen had a lesson with someone else so I was with Fergus and Kim.

As I said in my earlier post, Karen and Kim (fortunately, both are incredibly patient and empathetic) have very different teaching styles. Karen spent a lot of time on posture, balance and how small muscular movements like tightening the stomach affect your horse. Kim understood I’d lost my nerve when I was younger and was keen to push me out of my comfort zone, asking me to canter for just a few strides so at the end of the lesson I’d have achieved something to look back on.

Anyway, at some point – something minor like Ferg stumbling a little – I got anxious. I made the mistake of not stopping him when he started to play up and really lost control.  He, being a clever horse, picked up on this and carried on being awkward and I got more nervous to the point where I felt like crying and my stomach was churning. I was also sending out conflicting signals with my legs and voice and whip (something Karen doesn’t use, interestingly) to move him on, but then instinctively and confusingly pulling back with my hands (and heart!).

Kim was patient and supportive, telling me things she and other riders feared, and made me do it again: “You’ll hate me now,” she said, “but it’s worth it. I wouldn’t ask if I thought you couldn’t do it.”

She was right in that now, looking back, I can remember that the few strides of canter were longer than the last lesson and that for a split second I identified that there was something soothing and appealing and even more comfortable in the rhythm. And Fergus didn’t try and throw me off.

Unfortunately, I’m feeling like it was a disaster overall, that the successful canter was more by luck than judgement, and am worried I’ll start out even more nervous in a fortnight’s time for my next lesson.

Should I book an interim lesson with Karen, I wonder, to ‘ground myself’ in the basics?
The idea of alternating between thorough, steady technique and lessons that push me out of my comfort zone is appealing.

Should I just trust that Kim wouldn’t push me further continue if it truly was a disaster? Especially as Fergus’s method of expressing displeasure isn’t to buck or bolt, but to just stop!

Questions to ponder before the next time…