Its Catch 22!

Eureka ! I’ll advertise myself to exercise other peoples’ horses. Then I will have unlimited time in the saddle, great idea? You decide.

Of course I’m honest and say what level I’m at and over a few days I get some interesting responses. I pursue some adverts too and get into really interesting (email) discussions about other peoples horses and their lives in general. This starts to feel like a dating game and I feel nervous and excited about the possibilities. As with all matters of the heart there is the issue of managing expectations, so I review what I’m looking for. I want a friendly owner, who has time to introduce me to their “baby/steed/mount boy or girl” is generous, knowledgeable, and patient. I need a horse that is well schooled calm and forgiving.

However from my research I am starting to realise that “The owner” wants someone confident trustworthy, experienced with plenty of time and initiative to just get on with riding their horse, getting rid of excess energy and fizz and perhaps iron out a few problems as we go. “The Horse” needs someone who can ride them well, who can thoughtfully channel their energy and develop their potential and make riding a joy.

So not a lot of common ground there then, but in the spirit of optimistic optimism, I ploughed on through my emails, yes I do eliminate some because the gap between us was so wide, but decide to take things to a first date with some of the others who whilst honestly pointing out possible issues encourage meeting up.

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I will just mention briefly the ones I eliminated, some were described as “sharp when fresh, otherwise a dream for the right/strong, confident rider”, “generally calm and not prone to bucking or rearing 90% of the time”. “A lovely hack but occasionally spooked, better with others but sometimes better alone.”

The first one I met was a beautiful horse is there any other kind? very attentive sucking my zip fob, pushing his head between us, listening in on our conversation and generally part of the family. The yard was pristine with a school and hacking out directly from the yard. Wow I thought, this could be “the one”. I took a friend along to provide an objective viewpoint and I was already thinking perhaps there could be another horse at this yard for her to exercise and we could go out hacking or in the school together.

So he was tacked up and stood quietly in his stall where he lived most of the time. He stood perfectly still in the school for the owner to mount him and show him off. She rode him in a tight 15m circle at one end of the school, he walked and trotted but constantly pulled his head and came off the circle away from “stuff” drifting sideways. He hadn’t been ridden for a while although she had lunged him the night before.! Did alarm bells start ringing? , no I was in love and agreed to have a little ride. She advised it was probably best to stay in her track as he didn’t like the bottom of the school, because he could see tractors on the neighbouring farm. The birds in the hedge on the one long side frightened him and he didn’t much care for the gate going out to the fields at “C” either.

My friend gave me a quizzical look, but I thought “what?” this is great. I got on no problem he stood like a statue, small circle at walk ok ish a bit sideways then he went into trot all on his own and did the wagging thing with his head, then I decided to walk a serpentine to keep changing direction and give his head something to do and he seemed better but I wasn’t happy to do anymore, I got off smiling. Talked about going for a Hack my friend looked startled (what was wrong with her?)

So we spoke to others about this horse and got some good advice. About lunging, turning out, and defining barriers regarding personal space and magnesium. This one, albeit interesting, a challenge and having endless possibilities was not “the one”..

The next one I went to see alone, possibly I knew it was a bad idea from the start. I used to tell my daughter if you can’t tell me what you are doing then perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it. Well I told myself if I had a doubt I wouldn’t get on. It was a lovely day and the horse was waiting in the stable. He was lovely, of course and the owner suggested I groom him and tack him up while she got her horse ready and we would go out for a short hack! He was so calm and quiet and stood beautifully for me while I brushed him and lifted each foot in turn, what an angel. For an ex race horse he was so relaxed I thought. I checked with the owner he wouldn’t just go off you know bolt at a gallop. She assured me he never would do that. Before I knew it I was on him and walking out onto the lane with the owner on her much smaller horse/pony..

We walked until a car came along and she asked me to come into single file and he trotted off and I lost my balance a bit and my weight came forwards and then he started cantering I wobbled a bit and then we stopped, thank goodness. The owner told me I needed to keep my weight back I leant too far forward and this made him go onto his forelegs? And he had to catch up. I was constantly conscious of my shoulders. I had a little trot but that was it. I just couldn’t relax.

After about half an hour we came back and went into the school, familiar territory for me I thought. We walked round nicely and then I asked if a trot would be OK with a nod from the owner we went into Trot to canter and then a fast canter and after a tussle a bang of heads and a whip round in the saddle I came off on my bottom. Ouch! I lay there for a while, I could wriggle my toes and fingers but had to catch my breath. The owner was sorry I came off and she told me I had let my weight go forward again, what am I like! I thought I would tell her how sorry I was as soon as I got my breath back and stood up. The owner suggested that on reflection he was obviously too much for me. I think I had worked that out for myself. But I was so disappointed with myself, yes he was too much for me and I was not good enough. You know they say pride comes before a fall, that’s true on this occasion. I can see you wagging your finger at me and tutting and I don’t blame you. What did I think I was doing? I wanted so much to find the right horse to ride so we could create a beautiful partnership. I wanted so much to find a way to become a better more accomplished rider to learn from the horse and for the horse to enjoy our rides.

The fantasy was over I had to face facts I know plenty of you will be screaming yes finally! You are a novice trying to ride an ex-racehorse you nelly!

I have learnt a valuable lesson about over reaching and will continue my lessons but beg the question. If I am going to become a better rider then how? It will take forever at this rate (one or two lessons a week). There are loads of horses out there that need exercising by the capable rider/trainer, but I am not ready for that.

Whats the bit in the middle that I am missing is there help out there for a Novice rider who wants to be “experienced”

PS No horse was hurt in the making of this blog, only a daft human being!
PPS Everyone I have spoken to has been lovely and tried to help me and lots have spent time discussing my situation, thank you Horsey people!

Alison x