Monday 26 July 2021


 Following on from our little adventure, you may or may not remember EC is a big fan of teaching people how to problem solve, rather than just ride. After every lesson or clinic she assigns homework in the form of exercises to work on and goal posts to look for.

The plan for me is to continue having lessons with her for the foreseeable future. She knows me well, I trust her, and I haven’t found much value in the brief forays I’ve had into clinics and lessons with others closer to home. I’m going to try to get to hers once every 4-6 weeks, or she’ll come to me. Just having that renewed support plan has taken a huge weight off my shoulders that I didn’t know was there. 

Picture has nothing to do with anything, just seemed like I needed one here.


For me, the big take home is just to trust myself and my experience. I’m more capable than I think. I've gone a step further and have a sports psychologist recommendation to try out. I'm tired of my brain trying to tell me I'll fail and creating all the anxiety around that.

On a physical level, it's been a long while without regular lessons, so remember to check my position every few strides. I unfortunately had a clinician try to change my leg position, and while it’s technically more correct, since I am not built that way it’s created some tightness in my hips and also resulted in my leg being a bit too “on” all the time. So, lots of work to do adjusting that. My new to me saddle is not great for me, either, it wants to put me in a chair seat, so maybe time to look into something semi custom for Sophie and I rather than fighting used saddles that are “good enough” all the time. (I'm not ready to unpack that just yet...;)

For Sophie...she’s still very immature physically for her age. I really need to work on that. Under saddle, that means I have to insist on her using her back properly and build up a stronger topline.

Sophie: "Uh oh, she's got a plan that sounds like work!"

For now, stick to walk and trot, ride 2-3 times a week. Lots of walk on a loose, rounder, contact, swinging through her back. Add hills if I can. Canter just a little so it’s a thing, but leave it alone for now. Her canter is huge, and I risk making it lateral if I try to school too much in the arena because she’s simply not (currently) strong enough to consistently hold herself with a rider from falling out sideways. 

Exhibit A: wandering around, not building any topline or fitness.

And it's not like we don't know how to do it.

In trot, ignore the little ‘speed wobbles’, and just rebalance. Forward, forward, forward :)

*trigger warning if you have strong opinions on longeing, fixed side reins, or vienna reins*

My other suggested homework is to long line or longe a couple of times a week. Loose side reins or vienna  reins, or long line - ideally mix it up so she’s not always using the exact same muscles in the same way or finding ways to lean or resist.  The main idea is she can build more muscle without worrying about balancing a rider too - this will apply really well for canter. While I do think such tools can be used unwisely, in this case I think it's a valid use - pony needs to build up some muscle and use her body properly rather than flinging herself around, and I like the idea of not always adding my weight to the puzzle. I tend to longe her around me as I walk around the arena,  so she gets plenty of straight lines along the rail and there is less worry about the wear and tear of a fixed circle.

Trail riding last night. I made sure to incorporate big hills, because as you can see, I can't be trusted to keep a contact and make her work all the time.

The overall verdict was that she's lovely and I'm totally capable of bringing her along. Stop doubting myself and start putting in the hours consistently. Also, if I make excuses, EC is just going to come visit me and hold me accountable, so resistance is futile  ;)


Thursday 22 July 2021

The One Where We Finally Did Something

 I had the most awful ride on Sophie last weekend. The hard part was that she wasn’t doing anything terrible, just your average baby horse testing. But, I could not for the life of me dig deep enough as a rider to get it sorted. I’ve got a lot of unnecessary dialogue floating around in my head these days, and the “you’re not good enough” narrative was winning. I can see that for what it is and it’s really frustrating to let it limit me. When it’s potentially affecting a nice pony, it’s time to call in some extra support crew.

So, we put Sophie on the trailer and went for an overnight visit to EC’s. I was equal parts excited and nervous. I had total faith EC was going to get us back to a good place, but equally taking the baby horse for such an excursion was going to face her with a lot of new challenges. We’ve taken everything so slow and steady to this point I had no real idea how she’d react to me throwing her a little into the deep end.

Step 1: The three hour trip including an hour on the ferry and a half hour waiting in the lineup. I brought Bridget for moral support because she’s so solid about this journey, so the most part, Sophie just ate hay and napped like a sensible pony.

An uneventful journey, whew! When we arrived, they both just wandered into their paddock and kept on eating. Ginger, on the other hand...(super long time readers might remember my Welsh D mare Ginger, who I sold several years ago to a lovely lady at EC’s barn)...Ginger was self appointed greeting committee and NOT pleased at all to see her old pasturemate Bridget, to the point of repeatedly charging and ramming the fence separating them. Sophie was also not welcome, because obviously any friend of Bridget’s is no friend of hers. Poor Sophie! Not a confidence inspiring intro to the barn. 

Our first lesson, from my perspective was equal parts good and awful. Sophie “forgot” everything she ever knew, so even tacking her up and getting on required reminders that the rules are the same everywhere. We then proceeded to spend a long time imitating a llama stuck in a tar pit. Which is fine, because that’s why I was there. What I was beyond pleased with is that EC’s is a very busy lesson barn with so much for Sophie to look at, but she didn’t bother much with any of that - she was really, really solid with all the things you’d normally expect a younger horse to look at or take offence to. Also, high five to me for getting on and getting it done, because I was way more worried about all the things than Sophie ;)

Like one of those puzzles. “Find 10 things this pony would normally spook at“ :)

Spooks all day long at the one mirror at home, yet a wall of them is fine.

EC then hopped on and mostly sorted my issues in about 30 seconds, lol. The really excellent part for me was seeing her ride S, and getting so much feedback about how she’s going, what I’ve done well, and what I really need to improve.

I probably don’t need to delve too deep into the fact that I had myself convinced that I am too big for her/my tack is maybe not fitting/there is something wrong with her/I simply can’t ride well enough. While there is always room to improve the things I can control, actually, T, when it comes down to it you’re just riding an unbalanced baby horse with bigger movement who’s not quite sure where to put her legs or how to carry herself all the time. So, just buckle down, stop worrying, and show her where you want her to be. Let her make mistakes, rebalance her and go again. Work to build up her topline and strength. Check in on your position and aids periodically, don’t make it complicated. 

So simple when someone says it out loud.

If you haven’t guessed by now, blurry screen grabs is all you get. I was anti media this time but husband videoed a little on the down low and I’m glad he did :)

Literally every corner of this arena is a spooky corner, and she didn’t care at all.

Day 2’s lesson was a huge improvement over day 1. I’ve got a lot of position fixes I’ve let slide, plus I was nervous, so please don’t judge my riding in the screen grabs too harshly. Sophie again made me proud by marching around confidently and trusting me every time she wasn’t sure and I said we were fine. In the moment it felt OK, with lots of not so great. On watching the video back, it’s mostly all ok. While the images I’m sharing don’t reflect the worst moments, they also don’t reflect the looked like what I’m sharing... I’m on a phone at the moment and don’t have time or technology to pick the nicest moments in time. You’re just getting wherever the screen capture grabbed and the image was clear. I’m beyond pleased with Sophie.

Her ring buddy left and she didn’t care at all. Plus Bridget screamed for her the entire time. Not helpful, B! But, as long as I gave S a job, she was totally fine. For me, such things are the biggest wins with baby horses.


Wednesday 7 July 2021

All The Best Laid Plans

 I feel like I'm currently really good at planning, and kind of terrible with the follow through. Continued covid complications, work scheduling issues, and living where I do kind of threw a wrench into many of my plans this spring.

 Which Sh!t happens, and I'm grateful the horses are healthy and happy and could care less whether I do all the things or none of them.

Where I'm dropping the ball is that instead of adapting and continuing to work towards the bigger picture things, I go from super disappointed Plan A was cancelled to treating it like a free pass to not have to do the thing at all. Show dates moved? Fine, lets go trail riding and not even think about having pony on a contact for a couple of weeks. Lessons cancelled? Oh well, I know she said to work on X, but since she won't be here for another month to check in, we'll get to it later.

Which would all be fine if I didn't actually want to go to shows, to be a better rider, to have nicely schooled horses. I frustrate myself because I know what I need to do, but the follow through just isn't there and I allow other (usually easier, but not as important to me) tasks, to take priority. I'm just too busy to put the riding time in every day, after all. Then I come full circle, discouraged that I haven't made the progress I hoped. Which, of course I haven't, I didn't put the time in!

The trigger for this post, and what finally really woke me up to what I'm doing, was a lack of note paper at work.

Rummaging through my desk drawer, I found some old day planners with some blank spots on the pages. Perfect! I've been flipping through and filling in the open pages as needed, saving the trees at the same time. But, these old books kind of work like an old diary too - despite them being 'for work' and full of old project notes, there are a ton of show dates marked off, lessons, entry closing dates, ride plans, etc penciled in. The difference between then and now is huge and made me really take a good look at how I've kind of allowed myself to fade away from anything that feels too challenging or risky or too much like a big commitment or chance to fail. I've been filling my spare time instead with 'safer' things that mean less to me.

What I do have going for me is that I'm aware I'm self sabotaging, and I'm finally seeing how much it's affecting my life. I'm ready to sit down and discuss why that might be and what I can do about it with someone. I'll let you know how it goes.