I didn't start learning to ride until May 2010 and for the entire summer of that year was injured. My first year of riding was not that solid but since April last year, I've not missed a ride. I can walk, sit and rise trot, canter, and have started learning transitions and diagonals on a variety of horses. Come and join me on my adventures with my horsey friends all done with no sight on my part. don't feel afraid to ask me any questions. being blind and a horse rider is new, interesting and very exciting. So I hope you can gain something from reading this.
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Two years ago, when I began this journey with horses, after all the missed opportunities, I had limited expectations on what I would get out of learning to ride and take care of these magnificent creatures! I knew little about the horse's gaits, I knew even less about taking care of them. I had no idea what a bit was, what it was for and how to tack and untack a horse. I'd sat on a horse and had had a walk around an arena and I knew I liked it but was even apprehensive of upping a gear and going into trot. So when, almost two years ago, I showed up at the yard I am now a regular customer, on a very warm spring day, I was nervous and unsure what I would find. Walking into Harry's stable with a young lady who I found was very nice and helpful and not patronising in the least, I was firmly introduced to this lovely, pony. At the other place, we were just put on a mounting block and the horse was brought up. There seemed something family like about this yard and although it wasn't what I had expected, it surpassed those expectations. I felt safe, and even did a sitting trot. The young lady who took that first ride is the one person who has been a consistent part of my learning process. I wonder if, like me, she would have had any idea on that first day that nearly two years later she would be able to stand and hear me say, "I really enjoyed that canter, it was so collected and I was able to relax and love every minute of it." Because, those are words I spoke to her today. You heard from yesterday's post that I rode a coloured gelding friend of mine who I had previously been unnerved by with his bouncy gait, something two years ago I didn't even know horses had different styles of gaits but yesterday, I was able to ride this horse with such ease. Even a year ago, when I was struggling with my rising trots, thinking I'd never get it and I'd forever be stuck learning and hearing, "up! Down! Up! Down!" And now, on each horse I ride, I can just fall into their rhythm in forward and consistent trots. Today, after the amazing, yet somewhat challenging ride I had, I had something of an epiphany. I was walking away from the familiar yard, feeling tears form in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Not because I had had a bad lesson like I did two months ago and wanted to walk away but the complete contrary! The past two weekends, I've had nothing but positive feelings about my riding and have not only gained positive results but have also had three different individuals on separate occasions praise my riding ability. For someone who had, previous to taking up horse riding felt like I was useless and not having anything I was particularly good at, to be complimented on things that I actually believe I am getting better at is a huge stride forward not only for my riding progress but for my personal development. I've said it before and I will say it again, horses have saved my life both physically and emotionally. They have taught me so much about myself and about my strengths and weaknesses and how sometimes I have to take responsibility for my mistakes and how other times it is not my fault at all. They've taught me to keep fit and healthy as that helps me be a better rider. They've helped me see the beauty in myself and the world around me as their spirit is so beautiful and their nature so kind. I've especially learnt that not all sighted and able bodied people think I'm an incapable wreck and incompetent. Every time I'm asked to untack, brush, put a stable rug on, I feel that much happier that these people realise I'm not a health and safety hazard. And the horses; They have shown me nothing but kindness and openness. They see me as a rider and take me as I am. That makes me smile more than anything and knowing that they also see my progress is that bit more beautiful every time it happens. So today's ride was special for those reasons but also for the ride itself. It was the handsome, tall, Topaz I rode today. Another weekend of three different horses for me. We took the road route today which was fine with me as we'd done the farm hack twice yesterday. On the lane down from the yard, he was off in his own world so took a bit to get him to listen to me. Eventually he did and our trots were pretty good. We were following a smaller pony so my half halts came in very useful. But my usual instructor, who was back in charge today said she wanted me to do the route without a walker or leader. I was OK with this. There was always someone around to say if I wasn't going the right way as Topaz was sure he wanted to go anywhere but follow the pony in front. I did my best to keep following and remembered to use my arms for signals and turned him well with my legs. We approached one of the cantering grounds and my instructor asked if I felt comfortable trying to canter with him alone. She would stand at the set off point, as she has done countless times with Shadow in the past and just yell if I needed to stop/change direction. So the other ponies went off for a trot and I took a deep breath and tried to canter. Topaz on the other hand, was much too interested in what his friends were doing. Apparently I had given him enough but he was just not interested so she had me come back and try again. The result was amazing! The flying feeling was still there but so different on this horse! He has a slight bounce but his canter is much smoother and you really feel like you're flying on him. I felt so in control and like he was really listening to me. I'd always looked at this horse in admiration at the yard. I would often stand outside his stable and pet him and deliver some yummy treats but I had never, in a million years ever expected to ride him. He was the horse the experienced riders rode! He was the horse I daren't ever dream of riding. He was the horse I would never be good enough to ride. Only three months ago, I was introduced to this incredible horse. I'd been lead to believe, nice, ploddy, cobs would be the only type of horse I would ever be able to ride. I was happy with that. Some of the cobs we have are amazing and so beautiful like all breeds I've ever met. But a part thoroughbred? Forget it! I could never ride such a majestic horse with its fast pace and long strides. Sure, he's not pure but even part was beyond my own expectations as a rider. The shock when I was told I'd be riding him and the thrill I'd felt was indescribable. But to know, only three months on and not even riding him more than ten or so times, I'm comfortably, confidently and independently riding him. This is something I never expected to achieve! Carrying on with the ride, following the lead pony and doing some more fantastic trots, I really felt like, wow, I've actually done more than I ever expected to do. Two months ago, I would have laughed if you'd said I would be sitting on the back of my lovely, tall, cheeky bay friend, having had canters of such success in the past few weeks and finally doing it on my own with him too. We didn't get our final canter but you know something? I didn't even care. My sitting trot was pretty good anyway! As we were walking up to the yard, my instructor said that my canter on him was fantastic earlier in the lesson and my position is looking really good. Her feedback always means a lot to me. And when she doesn't need to correct me means I've finally got what I'm meant to be doing! This week's post on School your Horse helped too with my rein contact. I think my thumbs have probably been pointing to the horse's ears all this time so thumbs down is now making it easier on my hands too so thanks Lorraine! I dismounted and was asked to untack him and put on his rug which I did by myself today. Another step forward and another personal achievement. They seem like little things, I'm sure but to me they're a huge step forward and not just in completing the task but merely to be asked to do it on my own. He got several polos, a huge hug and kiss and I left the yard feeling like I'd accomplished so much! Sometimes we look at ourselves and see the mistakes and downfalls we're having and other times we see how far we've really come. The latter is definitely what I felt today. And although this has turned into an incredibly long post, I'm sorry, I'd still like to just thank some people. Some you all may know and others you may not. Firstly, my mum and my mum's best friend who I have considered a second mum for most of my life. You both always had faith that I'd get to this point. To Lorraine Jennings, who's blog I refer to frequently, you have been one of my biggest supporters in the past year and your words mean so much to me. Thank you for always being honest, seeing the funny side of things and making me see I have more to offer horses than just a polo or two. To Maddi Naish. You are one of the biggest reasons I didn't quit in the beginning of this year. Your upbeat attitude and your ability to see past my visual impairment and to make me realise I'm not a terrible rider made me think twice about quitting. You have become a great friend and I love the banter on twitter. :) To Hay net admin and all the people who have ever commented on my blogs, thanks for the support and feedback guys. You've restored my faith in the non-disabled world. Not everyone sees me for an incapable blind person. To many of you, I'm just another horse rider! Thank you for that. And lastly, to the school owner and the young lady who instructs me the most at our yard and the girls who help out there, thank you to all of you! You've made me feel welcome and not like a nuisance at the yard. I'm accepted by all and without the continued support and belief I can do it, I'd never have had the confidence to even try to canter. I feel, it was necessary to thank everyone as I've come to a point in riding that I never thought possible and without all these people, I don't think I would have persevered and made it. The journey's not over but I can look back at this day and say, whenever I have another bad period, you came through it once, you have to try because the results are well worth the tears, frustration and self doubt! Thanks, if you made it to the end of this post, you're a fabulous person. Until next week and a shorter post hopefully, ;) Marie