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.
Saturday, 30 June 2012
subtleness, Bonding, and Confidence Building
Considering I only had one ride today, I learnt a great deal about myself as a rider, about my progress and about the horses I ride. I've thought for the longest time that my bond with Shadow was very great. The gorgeous, white friend first gave me a little indication of our friendship when I walked into his stable just over a year ago to brush him and I couldn't hear him munching hay, or moving around. I stuck my hand out of the door, as at the time he was in the corner stable to check I was in the right one and not actually attempting to brush a non existent horse. I quietly called his name and incredibly this gorgeous, intelligent creature touched his nose to my hand, almost to say, "hey, friend, I'm right here". I've only experienced this amazing feeling with my guide dog Bailey and my nephew who on several occasions now, despite his lack of communication skills verbally, has moved into my open hands when I was looking for him and touched my hand to a fallen farm animal toy on his play mat so I could return it to standing. The beauty of children and animals is their upmost nature of innocence. Their sense that something isn't quite right as you're not looking them in the eye as other people do and their cognition that takes that information and instantly knows that somehow, they need to attract your attention to them in another way. I guess some people would say what Shadow did a year ago was just a coincidence and I should stop looking too much into things. But every time I ride that magnificent creature, I feel a sense of care from him. He takes care of me on his back and I know most horses do the same for their riders but I know he knows I need him to be a little more careful with me as I can't use my own eyes to prevent dangerous situations. This has what made me think today that ground work with horses, especially for disabled riders is essential. If I hadn't insisted on learning to brush, tack and untack and feed the horses where possible, I don't know whether Shadow and the others would truly know. As if they were being mounted from the mounting block, it's likely eye contact would never be an issue. But that day in Shadow's stable, he knew I was looking for him, and he knew I couldn't see him so he stretched his long neck and touched my hand, so gently to tell me he was there. But he had learnt that while I was on the ground, not on his back. I'm bringing this old event up as something happened today that made me remember this incident and reiterate my beliefs about horses intelligence and ability to know things that some humans wouldn't give them credit for. I chose to ride Topaz today. I had my safe rides last week on Shadow and I knew that despite not feeling nervy about riding him again, the longer I put it off, the harder it may become to get back on him. It was a really sunny morning so I mounted him and we set off on the ride. I had someone with me today and the young lady who walked with us was great! I didn't ask for someone to come with me but in some respects I'm really glad that happened. We followed another horse and went on the road routes. I felt secure in the saddle today, not at all like the last fateful ride with him. His trots were beautiful and for the first two, my walker ran alongside me. By the last trot, I felt comfortable enough to trot by myself. My contact was incredible with him today. He has a very long stride so even though he may not be going very fast, he covers a lot of ground so half halts come in useful with him. My hands felt light and the contact springy. He was so responsive and this just proves the keyness of subtly with horses. I kept my hands light and the movement I was using was so slight and yet he responded far better than with a heavy hand. This also helped with my own relaxed state to. The girl taking this ride, as our usual RI wasn't there today, happened to be the poor girl who was on the last ride when I fell from Topaz. I did make her a solemn promise I'd do my best not to fall today. She was so glad I was getting back on him and said I was right to do it sooner rather than later. She asked, halfway through the ride if I was going to canter? It wasn't really a question but an I-Hope-you-are statement. I said I would definitely try but asked if my walker would come with me. I was glad she did, not that my confidence was half as bad as I thought it would be, but because I got some amazing feedback from her. I asked for a canter, and we got one stride. I know this both because I felt it and because she said he'd put a leg out to canter than stopped. Then another stride later on. The good thing was though that there was a good trotting time that I actually was sitting to the trot. I'd said before when after the fall, I'd gone on Bella and asked to do some sitting trots. They'd gone OK but I wasn't as in my seat and bounced about a little. On previous rides with Topaz, I'd often bounce around in the seat, especially as he has a significant bounce to his trot. But I didn't feel that today. And not once did I feel unbalanced, unsteady or even feel like reaching for his mane. I just sat it out. It was pretty incredible. I guess the fall really did make my bum sticky. I wasn't disappointed we didn't get a full blown canter. The fact he did two strides and I was sitting to the trot made me so happy. The fact I've done my first ride back on him and had a fantastic one was more than I could have asked. We got back to the yard and I led him in and untacked him. The girl walking with me, just stood back and let me get on with it. She didn't interfere and allowed me to get on with the job. I appreciate that so much. She commented how much he was listening to me. She obviously could see his ears moving as I spoke to him and she said for most of the ride he had his ears forward. Part of me wonders if the reason he didn't fully canter was him remembering our last ride. Maybe he needed a confidence boost with our partnership to. I think we both got that today. I feel in the oddest way, the fall off of him strengthened our bond not weakened it, if that makes any sense whatsoever at all. I truly loved being back on him today and he got a huge hug and just stood there being so quiet and patient as I dug out the polos. So thank you Topaz for a fabulous ride. I'll be back tomorrow as I'm doing another ride in the morning. Thanks for reading my philosophical dribble. Marie