I wrote this blog post some time ago in 2018 and it was one of the things that prompted me to talk to you guys about your achievements, goals and recognising how far you’ve come.
I rode Molly for the first time in years today. I’ve owned her for five or six years and the first three we did a lot together. It consisted mainly of me celebrating the days she only reared twelve times on a ride, falling off her over jumps because she has a massive pop and a I couldn’t sit to it, lessons to teach me to jump her properly and culminating in some brilliant jumping practice at Porth Valley 😊 It was an amazing journey. But then she went lame and I had her shoes taken off, then I injured myself, then I got fat!
She’s not had shoes on for at least two years now, the lameness has long since gone. She spent last year living with my lovely friend Sam and then came home. Being the sweet horse she is, it took her a while to settle in, the others bullied her relentlessly ☹ but she’s now got them all sussed out and having walked her out a few times, I felt that yesterday, she was ready to go out for a short hack.
After all that time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she have gone back to being the flighty, rearing, bucking, dancing horse she was? It turned out no. She was an angel. We had a few moments of I’m not sure, I don’t’ really want to go that way. But they resulted mainly in her stopping, me giving her gentle nudges with my feet, a loose rein and clear direction, then we’d be off again. Once up on a time she used to stop dead, go straight up in the air and come back down in the opposite direction!
But what surprised me most was how much I had changed. I had absolutely no fear for one. My position has changed thanks to Sooz Foster and Mark Fuller. My hand position has changed completely too and I no longer cross my right slightly over Molly’s neck. A flaw of mine that Michael Van Houben used to pick up on constantly. When I canter, I pull carrots, thanks to Anne-Marie Beverley Jones! Not that I’ll be cantering Molly for a while. But I’ve not forgotten any of their teachings and despite not having had a lesson for ages, I have tried to practice what these guys have taught me every time I ride. What I haven’t noticed is that my riding had actually changed and it wasn’t until I got on a horse that I remembered being on so well, that I realised.
People often ask me if you should have lessons off just one instructor or swap and change sometimes. Well at camp, I feel that sticking with one instructor is the best policy all round. Six or nine hours of lessons with the same person gives you a real opportunity to try some of the things that they’re asking you to do and then go on to practice them. From your horses’ point of view, the instructor has a measure of what that horse needs from you to bring out the potential in both of you. And it’s better for the horses to stay with a group that they have started to understand. They are still animals with instincts and will naturally be wary or curious of other horses that they’ve not met. But throughout life I think it is very important to work with different instructors because they will all give you something new to think about or try that you may have missed. Plus you’re never going to clone yourself to ride the way your instructor does, you are unique and need to become your own version of a great rider.
Getting back on Molly, I realised that I felt much more secure in the saddle (I still fall off and have been to the hospital physio today because of the latest one!) but I am no longer swinging my legs around or flopping around in the saddle like a sack of jelly. My elbows are bent – those who were taught to ride in the good old days will know that this was a thing, carrying your weight in your elbows to give you soft hands and consistent contact. I used to ride Molly by balancing on her mouth ☹ because she used to pull and I’d pull back. Ridiculous, but until someone videoed me riding her, I had no idea!
I guess what I’m most fascinated by here, is that times move on, things change, but often our brains remember all of the rubbish stuff and doesn’t allow us to see the progression or recession of the present moment. How many times have you got on and thought, ‘Not going that way today, she might spook at that gap in the gateway.’ or ‘Not doing that ride, she might get sticky again on that track or chose to not cross that road and then we’ll be stuffed!’ ? I used to do that all the time! These days I live for the day and for the moment. I expect my horses to be amazing all the time, because they are! And just because they have done things in the past and we’ve failed to achieve the success we wanted to, I will not quit. Why? Because not every situation is the same. Even if my horses are amazing every day, I’m not and sometimes I make stupid decisions (like not tightening my girth and falling off when my horse spooks!) But if things go wrong and I quit, it is NEVER going to get better and that progression that I felt when I was riding Molly yesterday, would not have existed had I quit.
So from now on, I’m going to be kinder to myself because, in spite of everything that has happened in my colourful life, I have not quit on these horses. I have become self-aware and taken something from every instructor I’ve been taught by. I’ve tried my best to be better and for the first time in years, I realised that it has actually paid off.
What has changed about your riding and your horses way of going? Check out your old videos and compare them to the latest ones. I’ve seen a couple of pics recently of how much horses have changed, but I would love to see the videos too!
Hey Folks, I'm Lorraine and the picture is of one of my horses Tara - in our office! I really am the luckiest person alive to get to do what I do.