diary of a nervous novice's lessons

sophie33

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Aug 8, 2004
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Hi all,
I've long post on the riding school thread but I've decided to also keep a blog of my lessons. Be lovely if anyone comments, but I mostly want to do it so I can look back and see what I've achieved.
I am 41 (god how did I get so old!) and my only riding is in lessons at the local RS. I never rode as a kid so am learning as an adult.
I'm doing the BHS progressive riding tests in my lessons and have passed the first 5 and am aiming for the 6th in the summer. Examiner said in the last test that to pass it I needed to be more confident and assertive.
Last week I had a private lunge lesson on a horse I never thought I would as much as sit on! I've seen her ridden in dressage tests and she is very sensitive to the aids, you have to ride by seat aids (and I have a very very limited grasp of these!) She is very forward going and picks up on tension in her rider - I am far too tense a rider so when I saw the lesson was on her I thought :poop:.
Still not sure that I would ride off the lunge but the lesson was great. I managed to relax enough to get her to walk (rather than jog or trot) and I managed to get a nice relaxed rising trot out of her, and about half a circle of sitting trot at a time before I started to bounce. I didn't die :biggrin:
This week back in normal group lesson on a lovely big grey schoolmaster. I think my seat was a bit better some of the time - less leaning forward on downward transitions, better rising trot (I've tendency to lean forward and stick my bum out - did less of that). On the other hand I bizzarely kept rising on the wrong diagonal (thought I was past that)
And I was unnecessarily tense because it was drizzling a bit. This horse hates the sound of the rain on the school roof and can run off with you. BUT - 1) The rain was light and he didn't even get tense 2) The worst he does is run off and refuse to stop for a few circuits - I could (and have) handled that. So why do I start thinking 'what if'.
I hope I'm riding him again next week and I will make a determined effort to relax more. Course it would help if it isn't raining....
 

bitsnpieces

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Aug 22, 2007
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Ooh am looking forward to reading all your updates and who you've been riding so be sure to keep us all updated :wink:
 

sophie33

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Thanks bitsnpieces. I wasn't going to name the horses cos it wouldn't mean anything to NR folks. But as you used to be at my RS I will! Think they are both after your time but the lunge lesson was on Lady and the lesson last night on Kasir...
 

bitsnpieces

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Aug 22, 2007
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Hehehe, that place was such a big part of my childhood and whilst it's probably as kooky as you can get I just love hearing about how they're all getting on!!

I remember when they got Lady, she is certainly a sensitive soul so you did well there!
 

selside

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Jul 1, 2010
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I'm looking forward to your udpates too, Sophie33. I'm another one who used to post regularly in the Riding School Diaries thread, but it seemed to end up with only a few of us doing it.

I love reading about other people's learning experiences. Keep up the good work!
 

sophie33

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Aug 8, 2004
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Thanks Selside. I've always enjoyed reading about your lessons too. How is your riding going at the mo? Hope you are still having fun
 

sophie33

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Well this is going to be a boring diary for the next couple of weeks! Had to miss my lesson last night cos arm in a sling (nothing major but got to keep it still for two days), working away next week, and working late my normal lesson night the week after! But I will make sure I get a lesson another night that week and will tell the thread all about it...
 

sophie33

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Finally I had another lesson and...... I walked, trotted and cantered without reins!!
Can't really believe I did it. And when I was cantering I felt completely 'at one' with my lovely horse. Never, ever managed to follow the movement so well before...
So now all I have to do is ride the same way - but with reins! At the end of the lesson (with reins back) I tried to get the horse I was riding, Chester, to canter on the correct leg on the left rein. He finds this really difficult and bucks and wriggles all over the place. I failed mainly (RI said) because I tensed my grip on the reins just as he was about to go forward on the right leg. So my first effort to transfer what I learnt without reins was a bit of a flop. And I called a halt after one attempt because I still have a very sore shoulder and when he yanked the reins forward it was very ouchy!
But despite that ending I have a big grin on my face now...
 

bitsnpieces

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Aug 22, 2007
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Good for you!!!!! It's only practice that makes perfect so you will get there :)

Next time you're cantering you'll have to imagine you don't have any reins! I ride much better with my eyes closed so every now and then I do a long blink when I'm schooling which always puts me in a better position.

Great to hear you feel so good about it :biggrin:
 

sophie33

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Thanks bitnpieces - I'm still grinning! Lovely pics of your horse Puzzle on your thread... was she the one kept at Aldersbrook?
 

bitsnpieces

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Aug 22, 2007
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Thanks Sophie :biggrin: yes she was, we bought her through Pam who supplied another few horses to the school, Puz came on trial but wasn't suitable for the school so I paid a months livery and had her on trial then bought her. She's such a fab pony! My other pony, Inca, is her daughter.
 

sophie33

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Wow, must be lovely having a mum and daughter. Puzzle looks like such a character, I bet she fit right in Aldersbrook!
 

sophie33

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Me again! Due to various holidays, including my RIs, I had another private lesson this week with a different RI. Was on Chester again. We were in the inside school and it was hot, hot, hot... I definitely felt my ability to follow Chester's movement in canter had improved as a result of previous lesson and pretending to have no reins! Only cantered him on his preferred rein though, cos after one canter it was so hot we went for a little pootle round the block in the last part of the lesson. I need to talk while hacking cos of nerves. Although Chester didn't even react to a four wheeled motorbike thing roaring up to him! Nonetheless I bored the young male RI senseless with a monologue on how I'd like to have a horse at Aldersbrook one day, but would probably have to be on working livery, and downside would be lack of turnout there, and on, and on, and on, :redface: Still he's paid to listen I guess. And he told me a very cute story - that the owner of my old share horse was his junior school teacher - and when he was little she boxed her horse down to the school for them all to pat. How good a teacher is that!
 

sophie33

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Just me in my lesson again this week but back to my normal RI - who is used to being bored senseless by me! Bless her she took me even though (due to my own failure to check) my lesson wasn't booked in so she was expecting to go home at a decent hour...
I rode Star - a horse who hates the school and is inclined to plant and refuse to move. In the past I would end up like the girl on the thelwell pony flapping all my limbs in increasing desperation to get her to move. I wanted to see if I had got any better.... And I had - she still stopped a lot but I got her moving more quickly and RI said I wasn't losing my position to get her moving. My HEELS STAYED DOWN ALL LESSON!! :bounce: I could feel the difference and it came from my hips. The examiner who does the PRT kept telling me my body needed to make a frame while remaining soft. This was incomprehensibel to me but tonight I felt like I had one for hte first time ever. I'm not sure I can explain what I mean but I defintely felt like a) I was sitting consistently on my bum and not tipping forward b) I was sitting up tall c) my legs were stable. So woohoo - a breakthrough I think!
I also was trying to 'step into my inside leg' on a circle as RI last week used that description which I hadn't heard before - I think it helped. 3 loop serpentine was definitely better (not good but less crap!)
So - next need to sort my arms out! But I know I really was better cos my RI was so pleased with me.
 

sophie33

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Two lessons since I last posted. First was a private on Kas - which I thought went pretty well. Again felt like I managed to hold my position through most of the lesson and was more effective than I have been.
Then tonight my first group lesson in a while. I am always more nervous in group lessons! I was on Chester. Little sod kept jerking his head in the air when I was trying to get his bridle on and I have a frozen shoulder so it was agony. So I got a member of staff to put it on and arrived in the lesson later than everyone else and a bit flustered...
Overall I was happy. My sitting trot without stirrups was absolutely pants. At one point I could feel myself bouncing off to one side and RI had to shout 'GRAB THE SADDLE' - I did and I didn't fall of but it was close! It was because I was tensing and leaning forward (bad old habits tut tut!) but that was because Chester is mega bouncy and was in a forward going mood. On the other hand my canter with and without stirrups was much better. I stayed upright and tall and followed the movement even when he was tanking along. Reins were a bit crap but that is a longer term problem...
 

sophie33

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Had a lovely horsey day today. Went and saw some paralympic dressage this morning. Apart from my local RS's competitions I've never been to watch a dressage competition and I didn't really have a clue what I'd booked. Turned out to be the level iv freestyle competition. It was fantastic! I didn't realise the freestyle was the section with music. The horses were beautiful and the riding really impressive. Team GBs Sophie Wells got the silver - and she was great but the Belgian who won did deserve it I thought - really stunning. Sorry rather uselessly I only had my camera phone with me so didn't manage to get any decent pics.

And then I went for a lesson tonight. Was really nice as our little group - which had broken up over the summer - were back to together and we were all on our favourite mounts. So I got to ride the lovely Kas. I was in a determined mood - having seen how people with one leg ride far better than I ever will - I was determined to try my best and not be a wuss! Kas can be strong so is often ridden with a curb chain (is that correct term?) but when I asked RI which bit to put in she said - up to you - and I went for the snaffle. And he was absolutely lovely.
Then at the end the others wanted to all canter as a group - wasn't sure about that given Kas was in snaffle - and told others I'd stay in trot (he is so much bigger than ponios he could probably keep up in trot) but when they set off I asked Kas to canter before I'd even consciously decided to do it! And he was an absolute sweetheart. Interestingly (to me anyway!) RI said I followed his head with my hands much better than normal in the group canter. I was consciously keeping a fairly strong contact as I was worried about him racing so that obviously helped in some way - not sure why...
Sorry for anyone who reads this - it has turned into a book!
Just one question for anyone who gets to the end. I currently have a frozen shoulder which can be very painful if it gets jerked beyond its limited range of movement. That happens at least once a lesson but I love it so much - and from what I understand a frozen shoulder can take so long to get better - that I intend to ignore it and carry on. Has anyone else done the same? I am avoiding tacking up tall horses and horses who shove their heads in air when I try and get bridle on. Ridiculously I had a girl who is barely 5 foot kindly tacking Kas up for me today - when I am at least 5ft 7!! But I feel like it is unwise to risk being in acute (if only momentary) pain while in a stable with a horse. Or maybe I'm just being lazy :mstickle:
 

sophie33

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Me again! Had to miss last week's lesson so been a fortnight since I'd ridden. Not a lot to say about tonight's lesson really. I enjoyed it, was riding the lovely handsome lanky Kas again. RI said my canter contact and transitions were better again and I was finding sitting trot easy this week (although we didn't do any no stirrups work). One of the other girls was riding a pretty little Connemara (sp?) who is new to lessons a bit inclined to go ping. As a result the whole lesson was centred on looking after her and her ponio. So no attention on me and I even I wasn't really thinking about my riding - and so I rode better....
And the girl on the new pony did really well with him...
 

sophie33

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Well I had an eventful lesson tonight. Was a private (no-one else could make it - sadly this is becoming a bit common) with a different RI as mine is on holiday. Chester really couldn't be bothered and was taking the mick a bit. I could get him into canter but not get him going forward or keep him in it. In the end RI got on and after that he cantered fine. Was watching her to see what she did differently to me and - apart from just riding much better - I'm not exactly sure! Guess her legs are more effective than mine and she doesn't tense up with the effort of trying to get him going the way I do...
When he cantered properly with me after she'd sorted him out my RI said I gave reins away too much... a longstanding fault that I am improving on - but obviously not tonight.
But the excitement was when we were walking down the hill from the school. Horse in paddock next to path spooked and Chester spooked bucked a couple of times and cantered off at speed down the hill (or something like that - I'm never sure what exactly has happened underneath me after incidents like this - it all happens so fast!) All I could hear was RI shouting SIT BACK! And all I could think was sit back, sit back, don't fall off!! Because this is a narrow uneven path and I was pretty sure falling off would hurt a lot. And I was fine. Didn't come close to falling off. RI said the fact I was already leaning back as going down hill helped, plus Chester couldn't buck as high as he wanted cos of hill. Whatever, I felt pleased with myself. Finally maybe doing the right thing in a crisis is becoming automatic (fingers crossed). I just hope I'm not nervous next week. That is what tends to happen to me - I'm alright on the night - even smug at having survived - but the nerves kick in next time I ride...
 

bitsnpieces

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Aug 22, 2007
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It sounds like your confidence is really coming on!

One of the RIs that used to be down there gave me some advice that I always try and repeat to myself when I'm having a jittery moment "ride the horse that is underneath you right now, not the one that was there last week, or the one that might be there in 10mins time"

You did really well to sit to Chesters' bucking, so be proud of yourself, but treat your next lesson as a new day. Which ever horse you're on may or may not buck, or try to toddle off...so don't worry that they might, just ride "now" and half the time if they were thinking about it, they probably won't do it ;)

Love reading your updates :biggrin:
 
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