Since my last update I had a wonderful lesson with L in the outdoor arena on the Sunday - we worked mostly on spiralling in and out of circles in all three gaits, concentrating on my relaxing my inside hand and using my outside rein to maintain our circle while using my inside leg to push her out while keeping her on track between my outside hand and outside leg.
To say it was tough work is an understatement as I have been overly reliant on using my inside hand to guide her in circles and shall take some rectifying. There are two little videos, thanks to same friend who caught previous videos & photos, which I'll include below - apologies but they aren't very exciting. The sun was in the wrong place and no other videos could be made, which was a great pity as I managed to get our best canter transition & maintaining our shape & contact ever on our normally worse rein - I was so pleasantly surprised I wish I had it on "film" to watch back and try to pin-point what we did differently in the hopes of repeating the process. As I was so caught up in the moment & listening to L's advice that I couldn't honestly say what my body was doing - so not sure i could replicate it from memory alone!
As is often the case after I see videos/pictures of myself or have a good lesson - I tend to get caught up in my head with what I want to/need to change and as such my riding suffers - and the rest of that week was no exception. I didn't ride Monday or Tuesday evenings and was late getting into the saddle on Wednesday evening as I'd offered to help L with her jumping - being the gopher & fence fixer, it is the least I can do seeing as I can offer no constructive criticism!
What made my riding worse that day was that I knew all day (and indeed the two previous days) that i would be crap as I knew I'd get all caught up in my head and then got annoyed at myself for not being able to stop it from happening. L was there and helped me save the spin be coaxing me out of my head and then scolding me for being too hard on myself after we finished on a good note. Needles to say that as soon as I was out of sorts Kika took full advantage and pretended to be terrified of the sides on the arena - which gave me a good giggle at the end of the session as L & agreed that Kika was never going to be the type of horse to help me out if I'm in a fluster - teehee. More a case of she takes full advantage to have a bit of a spook - she's such a character and there was no badness in her so I could but laugh.
I had a better spin the following day, although still far from the nice work we'd had at the weekend as I tried to incorporate some of the advice I'd been given re:where my hands should be and how I rise out of the saddle in trot work...
I was also listening to different music lol - since I started riding with my mp3 player, I'd been continuously listening to Florence + the machines latest album 'Ceremonials' - which I adore. But for a change of pace I decided to have a go with the calmer Snow Patrol & 'Fallen Empires'.
Might be an interesting experiment to see if I ride better listening to certain types of music over others - although the frequency with which I listen to certain albums will also have a baring as I think familiarity will breed contempt - and if the music fades further into the background and my mind gets more of a chance to tick things over and think - I'll start interfering/tensing more...Perhaps changing things up will be best - either way have just talked myself into a sort of experimentation - any readers care to join me?
(If I have any followers left considering the length and now infrequency of my posts I wouldn't blame you all for jumping ship! :-p )
On Friday, Kika & I made our long awaited return to hacking in the woods (the title of this submission is now all being tied in I hope). Our previous two outings while not thermonuclear (sorry have recently read the Fifty Shades trilogy and some of the vocabulary is contagious - not unlike "Laters" in the books ;-)) were far from smooth. For anyone who may not have been following the blog during Kika & my "troubles", we went through a phase over a year ago where Kika took to rearing straight up when dis-enclined from going forward - I had everything checked and it turned out her saddle never fit - long story short, it's been a twisty road - but we are (fingers crossed) out of that dark time!
Anyways as a hangover (if you will) from this period in our partnership, Kika realised that if we were out hacking and she threatened to rear, tucking her head in so I'd lose steering, prancing/tossing her front feet around in a "don't-forget-what-I'm-capable-of" kind of threat - which there was no fear of me forgetting seeing as my confidence took a serious knock. Anyway, thanks to my wonderful Guru (L's) help we had got everything back on track and our partnership and progression was better than ever - the final hurdle to negotiate was returning to the big bad woods where for whatever reason (probably previous threats and lingering fear) my brain would go into shut-down/freeze mode when she'd start to be silly and rather than reprimand her and drive her on I'd tense in the saddle and in some way she'd win as I'd panic slightly and wind up getting down walking a bit on foot and then getting back on board - all the while being annoyed at myself as I knew it was a victory for her!
Giving myself a mental talking to and finally building back up the belief in ourselves and of course with L's consistent encouragement & support we headed back into the woods last Friday with what I hoped was the mental fortitude to not lean forward and panic if she started acting the hound, but to sit up straight and drive her on as I used to do when we were in Ireland before 'the fear' took root. I also brought my trusty smaller riding crop as opposed to the longer schooling whip.
Being the semi-coward that I am, I walked alongside her to the entrance of the woods as (1) we had to pass her turnout field where her overly attached fieldmate would make a fuss at our passing and (2) Straw was being brought in and after having been almost run down twice by speeding tractors & trailers in going to get Kika from her field - I decided I'd rather avoid any potential opportunities to set us off before we even got going.
Plus I didn't fancy an audience (the drivers) if Kika and I did get into a tiff.
Just inside the entrance to the woods there is a bench which I was able to mount from, although on the wrong side as I was still in semi-coward mode and didn't want to turn Kika towards home to mount from the correct side. Despite my not often mounting from the incorrect side, it thankfully caused no ill effects and we could continue on down the hill into the woods strolling happy out with L's 2 bearded collies ahead of us and L thankfully nattering away to me keeping me out of my own head - she really is a Godsend!
This isn't a Disney story or a Hollywood film - so it wasn't all smooth sailing, we did hit our eventual speed bump when after a few minutes in front going up an incline Kika decided something ahead was just too scary to keep going towards and spun a 180 almost bashing into L and her horse - we had to go single file as the path wasn't really wide enough to ride abreast. Thankfully I kept calm, remembered to sit up and turned her back the way she was refusing to go, when we got back up alongside L Kika realising I wanted her to go back in front had another "Hell No" moment and spun again - this time the stick came out down her shoulder as well as some growling and with encouragement from L I drove her on up the hill ahead of the other horse ignoring her nonsense.
To say I was proud of myself in that moment would be an understatement - I was bloody delighted with myself - and I really hope that this doesn't come off as sounding big-headed or conceited ... but this was our big milestone and what had been holding me back from really appreciating all that we have accomplished in the last year. This gray cloud loomed on the horizon, the fact that I knew I was still afraid of what might happen if we returned to the woods hacking.
We had a few more discussions later in the hack about passing logs piled on the side, but no more spinning just a bit of eyes-on-stalks and kind of zig-zagging on approach to the scary pile of logs and/or patch of sunlight through the trees! *roll-eyes*
She can be so silly when she want's to be, L quite rightly laughed at her carry on and pointed out that if she was faced with the prospect of jumping the logs she'd have a completely different attitude to them - which was a spot on observation as Kika did love going Cross Country when we lived in Ireland.
We even went for some trots & canters in the woods which were wonderfully liberating - I think L was actually surprised that I was happy to go faster than walk - I don't know if I can explain it properly - but once I'd weathered her first pique I knew we'd fine if any more were to happen and I was only too happy to do whatever she wanted after that.
I know this is unbearably long - so apologies once again!
Don't worry though that is all the equestrian activities all caught up, as although I had great intentions of doing more work with Kika over the weekend and indeed this week prior to my visit to Dublin for the Horse Show this weekend (Excited doesn't begin to cover how much i am looking forward to this, L is coming with me! Yippe!) ... I was very stupid on Saturday just gone and managed to scorch the front of my shins while reading in the back garden, so there was no way I could get into jodhpurs, socks & tight gaiters and go for a spin!
I did manage to coax the gear on myself yesterday (national holiday for some religious day so no work) - but wouldn't know know Kika had let something bite her where the saddle goes and she had a nice bump on her back. Nothing to worry about, but she just wasn't 100% comfortable with my touching it so I figured my weight in a saddle would just be too mean - and we know how sensitive she can be about an ouchy back!!!! ;-)
So the lucky sod gets another unplanned week's break - and hopefully when I get back into the saddle on Monday we'll both be refreshed and ready to get back to work!
Hopefully I'll finally have learned my lesson and keep out of my head and out of my own way!
Watch this space ;-)