Thursday, 2 June 2011

Tuesday 31st May 2011 - Pretty Much Perfect Schooling

What a great lesson! K was such a good girl, not rushing into the trot at all, and not bothering with the nap either which is SUCH a miracle!!! However, her latest trick is definitely bucking and she put in two, but it was great....I just rode her forwards and chilled.....Its amazing what visualising Robert Pattison smiling at me can do!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We did various turns, reins changes etc and she really was good as gold - quite a big breakthrough I'd say. After my lesson, my instructor lunged her over poles and she was sooo sweet - it appears she has only been schooled to jump poles, not do flatwork over them!!!! so occasionally she put in 10 ft leaps across them!

Really really really pleased - its making such a difference working to a plan and having some consistency in the riding.....

Monday, 30 May 2011

Monday 30th May 2011 - Our 2nd Ever Solo Hack!!!

OK, so the goal for 5 weeks from now is to be able to hack out around the 1 hour route and include some cantering, but to do all of this without feeling any fear.....

So this morning's job was to hack out alone around the 30 minute hack route and stay in walk. This is actually a lot trickier task than it sounds, as 85% of the route is across large grass fields, and most horses would want to tackle them at a much quicker pace. But, to Kermit's credit she only jogged forwards 3 times and came straight back to me the minute I checked my outside rein and asked her to steady. I made sure that I kept her on a pretty long rein throughout so that she didn't feel like she had anything to fight against.

I have to admit, I was pretty nervous leaving the yard but just kept thinking of Robert Pattison and my blue circles and explained to Kermit that if he could see us he would be very proud, and that if she knew who he was, she'd understand why the thought of him smiling at me and praising me was a very good motivator!!!! The more I thought of this the more I smiled, and the more relaxed I became, and the longer the time spent in the saddle the better we were both feeling.

She hesitated a few times, and I even had to use the kick and 3 gentle taps once, but after that she was great and I think she was reassured enough to know it was all ok.

We continued on our ride very calmly and it was great (although pouring with rain and very very windy), but interestingly, I only really became aware of this when we got back into the yard. When I had woken up this morning and seen the weather, the gremlin on my shoulder launched into a whole host of reasons why I shouldn't ride out today, but luckily my new pain to power attitude shut him up!!! I reminded myself that if I didn't ride today, the pain I would feel at not moving forwards would be far worse that the fear I would feel whilst out on the ride....and it worked!

I felt so so powerful when I got back to the yard, but in a really quiet, gentle and contented way. I need to bottle up this feeling and sprinkle it over myself tomorrow morning before my lesson, to wash away any doubts or fears that my gremlin may talk to me about. Alternatively, I could just drown the gremlin in it???!!!!

Sunday 29th May 2011 - Kelly Marks May Masterclass

Kermit had a day off yesterday which wasn't in the original plan, but I thought it would do her good to have a day thinking about her schooling last night. And Charlie left early to go to Twickenham to watch the rugby, so I was home alone with the girls...

This morning Charlie hacked Kermit out on his own. Again, this was different to the plan where I had scheduled a family hack, but as I knew I was going on a solo hack tomorrow I thought it would be good if he took her out first, as she hasn't been out for about 3 weeks, due to her lameness....They had a great hack and included a long canter (homeward bound.....need to discourage him from this!!!).

This evening I've been to the Kelly Marks May Masterclass which was fantastic! It was great to see her riding and having so much fun. And it was also a great reminder about keeping your emotions out of situations, controlling your breathing, taking small steps and only increasing when both you and the horse are completely relaxed, standing to be mounted, body language, how to ride around spooky things and more!!! I took pages of notes which I can build into my planning for this week.

Friday 27th May 2011 - Nervous Nellie Plays 'Riding Intructors'

One thing I stumbled across last week when I was giving my husband a bit of help was that playing the role of the instructor can really help to boost my confidence. I found that by having to think of how to instruct someone else through a situation, boosted my own confidence in my abilities, as when I instructed him to do something that worked, it helped me to realise that I did actually know how to do things myself! So, included in this week's plan was to give Charlie a lesson.

We went out on Friday evening and K was her usual joggy evening self.....either she finds the light a bit spooky or she's protesting at having to go out to work when she thinks she's been brought in for the evening to munch (I suspect it's the latter!!!). I asked Charlie to focus on repeating small patterns in walk, and set him a route through the poles and around a square, always coming back in to the middle to halt. K definitely had the hump, and was jogging and shaking her head in protest, and napping back up towards the gate. Charlie was starting to get quite frustrated by this and so I asked him to concentrate on his breathing and keep looking straight ahead, no matter what. After about 10 mins she had settled down and was walking round nicely. I also taught him how to do the small circles that Lisa had taught me earlier in the week, and how to ask her to take responsibility for walking forwards herself.

I then suggested that we try the same in trot, with the goal of having a consistent balanced trot on either rein for one lap of the schooling area by the end of the session. Well, this was apparently all too much for Kermit who proceeded to buck at every opportunity. We tried small trots, long trots, pattern repetition, everything I could think of, and still she continued to put her head down, shake it about, buck, shoot forwards etc. Charlie and I had both got the giggles now as it was so ridiculous but we were both determined to end on a positive. Rather than traditionally reprimand her (as I know some people would have told him to do), I suggested that we view her in the same way as we would our toddler, and ignore this behaviour and just keep asking for her to do the same thing. This went on for about 30 mins with various rein changes etc. and then finally they did it - two laps of a steady, consistent, balanced trot on either rein - result!!!!

Charlie was absolutely over the moon, as was I, and it felt like a really good team effort. He had been really brave, calm, patient and focused, and I had tried really really hard not to totally piss him off!!!!

We decided to leave it at that, and end on our positive, and walk back to the yard. Kermit, however, decided it would be much more fun to jog however, so we spent the next 10 mins asking her to walk back to the gate, and backing her up each time she jogged forwards.

What was great about today was the calmness about all of this, and the focus and determination. I just kept thinking back to the 6 week plan and really didn't want to fall back a day, but to stick with it so that I would be closer to achieving my goal.......

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Fired Up!!!!!! - Thursday 26th May 2011

Day Two of Six Week Plan.....

Riding through bucks with leg on, determination and absolutely no fear, whilst returning to a balanced steady trot........Feels like we've made it, look how far we've come now baby.......

Result! This riding every day lark is sooooooo good for me and K - she was completely non-spooky today even though it was blowing an absolute gale, again!!!! We worked on small patterns and gradually increased the distances in walk and trot. Towards the end she tried to nap and bucked a couple of times, but without any tension or fear. I felt completely confident about putting my leg on and riding her forwards, which definitely gave her something to think about! She tried it again and I did the same, and this time she actually turned her head around and looked at me in disbelief!!!! We then did two laps of the schooling area in the best trot we've ever done.

I can honestly say that I wanted her to buck and nap again - just to prove to her that I can do it a 3rd time!!!!!

Am completely buzzing and now have Mumford and Sons cranked up on the stereo and dancing about!

Having a plan and specific exercies to work to is just brilliant - I know its back to that age old cliche that if you fail to plan you plan to fail but its true!!!!! Thx Lisa for getting us to buckle down xxxxx


Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wednesday 25th May 2011

Day One of the Six Week Plan.....

just got in from day one of training

charlie only got back in from work at 8 so i managed to get 40 mins of schooling in and gave him a demo of what i learnt yesterday (minus the trot).

its the first time ive ridden kermit so late in the evening and she jogged into the paddock and then humped a few times in protest when i asked her to move forwards and get into the schooling area so i decided to just take it steady.

it was great having charlie there as i talked him through what i was doing and lis - keeping her occupied from the off was fab and like yesterday, she settled down very quickly

charlie was v impressed by the tiny circles and i practised by circling around him whilst he sat on one of the water containers. the aim was for my inside leg to keep brushing him which i did just by using that high up inside rein and no leg - really good!

she was also responsing so well to the leg and most of the time i only had to give her one quick kick and she would move forward straight away - what a fast learner. and she only stopped in mid walk twice which is just a miracle considering i was using no leg - this feels like such a great learning achivement already!

we zig zagged in and out of poles and walked around the big circle on both reins and i kept my reins equal and parallel and focused on steering by looking where i wanted to go which also worked brilliantly.

i decided to leave it at that point as it was going dusky and v windy and i was determined to leave it on a high note for both of us. i untacked her and took her for a much on some long grass for 10 mins which she definitely appreciated - brilliant!!!!!

feeling really pleased as i was def out of my comfort zone tonight as i was out so late and she was def twitchy to start with but really pleased that she chilled so quickly - hoorah!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Tuesday 24th May 2011

Well, sorry its been so long.
After an amazing two weeks with the roundpen we had 10 days of fantastic riding, including my first ever solo hack!!!!!!!!!

Unfortunately my mare then got a respiratory infection and was off for 10 days, was then OK again for 5 days, and then went lame for another 10!!!!

So riding started up again last week and all has been going really well, but today was a BIG turning point......

Lisa Venables, my Holistic Horses confidence coach, came to give me a lesson for the first time. It was great to have Lisa over to meet my mare and see me ride as she is a key part of my learning journey and knows everything about my emotional state when it comes to riding - and lots of other stuff too!!!!

Last night at our strategy meeting we worked on a six week plan and so today we went about setting up wek one's activities to facilitate the plan.

Within minutes Lisa had my 'lazy' mare who hates schooling work walking around happily with me having to use hardly any leg, she showed me how to get her to stop immediately in trot so that I was in full control, how to ask her to turn on a sixpence with very little effort, and I feel that in one short hour my riding has already been transformed!!! Both my mare and I really enjoyed it and I can't believe how after one hour with Lisa such a dramatic change can occur. I really can't wait to try it all out again tomorrow!!! And by the way, it was blowing a gale and none of us batted an eyelid! Result!!!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Fri 1st April 2011 - Can I Get Join Up With My Mare?

Oh my goodness me - this join up malarkey is rather more involved when you move off shetlands and onto big cob girls!!!!!!

I think pretty much, my mare was just shrugging her shoulders at me, and if she could speak would have been quoting the words of Catherine Tate i.e. "Am I bovvered????" !!!!!

So, it took me a few minutes to start to get to get to grips with the amount of energy I would need to use to drive her away properly, and to really focus on my body language, keeping eyes on eyes and shoulders square.

She trotted away, and then she decided to change direcetion, and then stopped for a poo - clearly I was missing some basic Join Up skills!!!!! It was also windy as could be, so every time I tried to throw the line at her it just kept landing back on my feet - hilarious really!!!! I think me trying to do join up with my mare could become a good income generating spectator sport!!!!!!

OK, it was time to get serious!!!! I took a breather (as I was now quite red faced and puffing a bit!!!), doubled over my line to give it some more weight, and tried flapping it across my body and started using my vocal making a sssshhhhhhing sound, but very loudly!!

Good, so I got a response, and although only got a bit of cantering, she was trotting round well. I managed to get her to change direcetion and then after another 5 laps changed her direction again.

I was starting to see the signs of negotiation.....her ear was starting to lock in and her head was lowering. There wasn't any licking and chewing but her circles were starting to get smaller - was it time???????

I turned inwards, drop my shoulder and waited, and waited some more....nothing. She was looking in but she wasn't advancing towards me. So I walked quickly towards her in an arc, waited next to her for a couple of seconds, and then walked away....nothing.

I walked over to her again, waited for a few seconds, gave her a rub, and then gently pulled her headcollar to show her what I was hoping for. I let go, and she did take a couple of steps with me - pretty good......

But then I lost her to her one true love, to whom she will always be loyal.......grass!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Mon 28th March 2011 - Horse Whisperer Extraordinnaire!!!!!

We have a lovely shetland, who is absolutely good as gold. He's been with us for 2.5 years and he has never, never, put a hair out of line. He is adorable and perfect in every way.....

So, I decided that he would make the perfect guinea pig for me to practise my Join Up on, as I really didn't want to get it wrong with my big powerful mare in the round pen!!!

What a moment - it was text book perfect. He joined up with me, and followed up with me beyond my wildest dreams. We were literally 'dancing' around the round pen together, with his nose at my hip whichever way I turned. What a privilege to have experienced something like this. I think I'm going to have to practise on him a few more times though before I try my mare...........

Bucked Off - Sat 26th March 2011

Had a lesson this morning schooling my mare in the paddock and was working on my technique to master her napping at the gate. My instructor described what I should do in a different way today, by asking me to create a barrier with my outside leg and rein, to stop her from being able to move to the outside - something clicked and I finally started to get it - and it worked!

My mare was schooling really well, I was managing to stop the napping, and we were going round in a lovely balanced trot, and we had gone past the gate several times, when on about the 4th approach to the gate, she suddenly quickened right up and started to lean on the bit. I felt like she was going to try and nap, and put my barrier in place and put leg on to ask her to move forward, but lost my balance slightly and my feet went through the irons. Instead of asking her to come back to walk, I was so determined to conquer the nap that I asked her to keep going, which she did, but just after we passed the gate, she put in a massive buck and I was catapulted off, landing on my head and then lower back. Thankfully I landed on mossy paddock, and she stopped to eat the grass.....

I heard my instructor saying "Oh Dear, are you OK?" as he went over to hold my mare as I picked myself up. I felt abit dizzy and stiff, but other than that completely fine. I had a quick stretch and my instructor asked me if I wanted him to ride her, to which I replied "No, I want to get straight back on. I'm fine, let's get this sorted out".

TALK ABOUT A LIGHT BULB MOMENT!!!! Are any of you in shock???? What a major breakthrough.
I got back on, asked her to walk on, and then started to get the giggles. I felt such an odd combination of feelings and emotions including relief, thanks, pride, courage, strength, determination, but absolutely NO FEAR!!!!!

I waked around for a couple more minutes and then spent ten minutes asking for short trot sequences, some past the gate, making sure that I was relaxed, sitting up straight, hands carried high, with heels down. I then called it a day, and felt like I was now a real horse owner and not a faker!!!!! It felt weirdly like I had collected my first trophy!!!????

I felt like I had dealt with it in the same way I would if the children had a tantrum - ignore their reaction and quietly and calmly ask them to do what I wanted them to do again, until they started to listen to me.

I am so, so proud of myself.

Then my husband arrived home with the round pen that we've hired for two weeks - Join Up is next on the agenda.......

A Message From My Dad - Weds 23rd March 2011

OK, this is a big one.....those of you who read my first entry will know why straight away, but for those of you who haven't yet, my Dad died nearly four years ago, so getting a message from him last night was a very major deal for me!!!!!

So, now I'll explain how I came to get the message.....stay with me, hopefully it will all make sense by the time I get to the end.....

Here goes...... Last night I went for my final follow up strategy meeting with my Holisitc Horses gang as the conclusion to Part One of the confidence course I'm on. Lisa introduced us to a new confidence building technique called the Time Line. In short, we had to think of a quality that we wanted to have more of in our future with regards riding. I chose self belief, as my fear is subsiding and my confidence is increasing, but there is still something missing that I need to help me to achieve my goal of riding out on my own, and I think it is self belief. Everyone else is telling me that I can do it, my horse is showing me that she can do it with me, and so I just need that final 'push'.

Lisa told us to imagine our life as laid out on the floor in a line and decide where we are on that line (the present). She then asked us to backtrack to a time when we had the quality we wanted more of. She asked us to fully associate into that time and then to continue to go back along the line and gather up three or four experiences and associate into each one. By associate Lisa means to re-live the moment, remember the people who were there, how we felt, what it looked like, what the colours were, what sounds we could hear, what noises and voices there were, smells etc.

We then had to step off the time line, go back to the beginning, get back on and walk slowly along the line pausing at each experience, associating each experience, until reaching the present.

We then had to get off, go back to the past, and walk along the time line a little quicker this time.

We then had to repeat the last line but then continue a few steps into the future, imagining a time when we had more of that quality, and turn and pass back a message to the current us.

We then had to step off the time line and get back on into the present, and receive the message from the future us.

OK, a lot to read through I know, but if I didn't explain this all to you then I think you wouldn't fully understand what I want to try and record about what happened.

So, I got to the bit about thinking of past experiences in my life when I had high self belief. The first experience I thought of was when my Dad died, and I selected a very personal reading for his funeral and magaged to read it out, 6 mths pregnant, at his funeral. I was so proud of myself for being able to do and it felt like a big leap forward in my life in terms of realising my inner strength and higher self.... I was determined to do it for Dad and he kept telling me that I would be able to do it and so I believed I would. The second expereince was the day I married my lovely husband. There's nothing quite like someone saying they want to spend the rest of their life with you to boost your self belief. I visualised my husband grinning from ear to ear, and then saw a picture I see regularly in my mind, my Dad's face just before we walked up the aisle, looking at me so lovingly and telling me I'd made it! The experience before that was when I had my first big promotion at work and was given a huge pay rise and a sports car, and ringing Dad to tell him and him being over the moon and saying how delighted he was but how he wasn't at all surprised as he always knew I would be successful, and the final experience I went back to was passing the entrance exam into Oxford High School, and Mum and Dad coming in to my prep school to give me the news as they were too excited to wait until I got home, and them both whooping and cheering and cuddling me and telling me that I could do it. 

Well, you might be able to predict the realisation that hit me once I'd associated all of these experiences. You guessed it, it struck me right between the eyes, there and then, that when he was alive my Dad had been my champion. My Mum is too, very much so, but she is also a worrier like me, and sometimes that feeds my doubt. But it dawned on me that the giver of a huge amount of my self belief throughout my life had been my Dad. And so I completely broke down, because how could I step into the future, having acquired more self belief, to pass it back to the present me, when I didn't know where to get it from, as my source of self belief had died??????.........

So, how did I work through this? Lisa asked me if I could imagine what my Dad would say to me if he were alive, but the pain of imagining this was physically taking hold through my body, because thinking about what Dad would say to me if he was alive was something I had stopped allowing myself to do. I think this is because my way of trying to come to terms with his death was to tell myself to not go down that road, to accept that he was dead and that I would never see him again, and to try and get on with my life.

So, what Lisa then suggest I do was to think of those times in the past, during my moments of high self-belief, and just remember the words he would have said to me.

We left it at that for the evening. I got a tissue, and was very quickly chatting to others in the group. I started to feel lighter, better, very quickly after that experience, and felt very calm and grounded on the journey home.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

No Need for Blue Circles, Robert Pattinson, or Tapping!!!

Oh, and I forgot to say a moment ago on my earlier post that I had no nerves!!!!!

Holy Moly, you heard it nerves!!!!!

A few butterflies, yes, but there is quite a big difference between excitement and butterflies, and fear and nerves, as I'm learning to discover.

So, as a result, I had no requirements for blue circles, the lovely Robert, or any tapping........

Should we be adding the word 'healer' to Lisa's title I wonder??????????????

Tuesday 22nd March 2011 - Hacking Out With Company!!!!

Woooooohoooooooo!!! We have hacking buddies....Lucy (the rider) and Ed (the horse) rode up to meet us at our yard this morning and we rode out for an hour together. I am sooooooooooo excited I can hardly contain myself. Trying very hard to though otherwise she will think I'm some weird desperado (which I kind of am, but obviously I don't want her to know that!!!).

Anyway, Kermit was exceptional. She exceeded all my hopes and dreams and behaved perfectly, even when the lovely Ed was jigging and jogging. She took absolutely no notice and was so chilled - it was heaven.....

I had no idea how Kermit would react as she has only seen our shetland for 5 mths (plus a couple of riders coming past our fields who had lost their way) and so I thought she might be strong, excited, mareish.... Anyway, she was very very interested but that was it. She soon settled down and we walked around our 1 hour hack route across big open fields on long reins for the whole ride.

This is such a big thing for me I can't tell you.... In so many ways, but to avoid rambling, I'll sum up by saying that it feels like the start of a very exciting new chapter in my life - yiippppeeeee!!!!!!!!

Thurs 10th March to Sun 20th March - update....

Wow, what an amazing 10 days. I have completed 4 hacks and one schooling session and one of the hacks was my longest ever - about 2.5 hrs in the sunshine and it was utter heaven. Had some really long trots all through the woods, saw loads of deer, buzzards and squirrels and smiled from start to finish. My lovely instructor was with me for moral support but I went off for long sections by myself.

I guess a good sign of my increased confidence is that I am feeling very miffed that my husband's ankle is better and he is wanting to ride at weekends, and I am finding it very hard to let him!!! On Saturday I had to have half an hour practising mounting before his lesson as I couldn't bare not to have ridden at all that day......weird eh???!!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tues 8th March 2011 - Celebrate the small successes

The absolute secret to building confidence is to celebrate the small successes....

It's all too easy to focus on the negatives and build them up into great big things, whilst overlooking the very small successes!

I hadn't even realised that I'd had my first canter today in the big field until I was writing about it in my blog earlier, even though it has been a major goal I set myself 7 weeks ago. Even when my instructor said 'That was a nice little canter you had there' I just said 'I know, and she came back really easily', when what I should have done is wallowed in the moment!!! To be honest, I think what I'd just done really hadn't sunk in and I was in shock, or maybe it was because I was so relaxed about it that it had just become part and parcel of what I do when I ride now - even better I guess!

Even so, my confidence coach, Lisa Venables, said that we absolutely must wallow in our moments of success and mentioned something about champagne, so I'm off to the shops!!!! .....

Tuesday 8th March 2011 - Spring has Sprung! Canter Canter........

Isn't it funny when you suddenly realise how far you've come? Its like you're making laods of progress but it still just sits under the rader until something triggers the realisation.

My realisation came today when I was out riding across the huge field next to us that when my mare really began to walk out (and she never walks out, believe me, she really does plod...unless she is being a bit spooky), I was up for it just as much as she was. And it felt really cool to have a horse under me that felt like she was up for it!!!!! Whoa, hold up, I hear you say, what's going on???? I thought you were a nervous rider???

Well, I still am nervous about lots ot things to do with riding, but the point is I'm heading in the right direction. I've learnt that if we go across the big field on a long rein that Kermit will just walk, but that if I shorten them up she'll jog.... I've also learnt that if I check her she will come back to me, and as for voice, well that is the absolute beauty of her. One 'whoa' in canter and she's back to walk before you know it.

Oh yes, that brings me on to the small matter of the lovely balanced canter we had up the field

Sun 6th March 2011 - Family Hack

Amelie and Charlie rode out today. Its only the second time that Charlie has ridden since he bust his ankle about 7 weeks ago, so he was a bit tense to start with. But gorgeous Kermit walked along in front and was v relaxed and good as gold for the duration of the ride, even when a herd of between 50 and 70 deer ran across the field away from us - she didn't bat an eyelid!!!!!

Amelie rode really well and it was an absolute pleasure to all go out together across the fields.

Sat 5th March 2011 - Lunge Lesson in the sunshine

Had another lesson on the lunge this morning...

Oh, I should say that I caught Kermit perfectly yesterday in the middle of the day and brought her in, gave her some nuts, and then turned her straight back out again .......

Anyway, really good lesson practising weight aids and also my downwards transition from trot to walk. Really focussed on not gripping with the knees and sitting down into the saddle to minimise 'bounce'. I think Charlie is starting to understand that there is so much more to riding a horse then just getting on and going for it, especially if you want a really safe and responsive horse. He has asked to have a lunge lesson too - woo hoo!

Thursday 3rd March - Perfect Girl

Its amazing how easy it is to catch a horse when they have a headcollar, and they seems to know it and so just don't protest in the same way.....

Anyway, she came straight over to me this morning and I took her in, gave her some nuts, and then took her out and lunged her. She worked really well and it seems that all signs of her lameness have gone so really looking forward to riding her on Saturday. My Mum is here so she will look after the children and then Charlie can watch me ride and (hopefully) see how far I've come, as its been ages since he's seen me on her.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tues 1st March 2011 - Let's Play a Game of Catch! ......

So when my instructor arrived this morning he found my still out in the paddock trying to catch my mare. She had run at me, tried to kick me, and tried to bite me every time I tried to go near her to catch her....ho hum....

I knew that if I got a bucket of pony nuts I could probably catch her but as she has been so nippy lately I didn't want to use food to get her in. So my instructor and I decided to just try and get her to come to us by walking around the field, making up jobs to do, and completely ignoring her. She eventually came up to us after about an hour and I just rubbed her and walked off, purposely not catching her. We did the same for another 40 mins and again she came near us. This time we did put her headcollar on but agreed that we wouldn't work her that day, Instead, we took her in and gave her some pony nuts and a love, and then turned her back out again.

Over the next couple of weeks we're going to do this every day, i.e. bring her in once in the day and aske nothing of her, just give her a treat. But we will be leaving her headcollar on when turned out to start with !!!

Sat 26th Feb 2011 - Still Stiff

Kermit still seems a bit stiff this morning but is moving much better. My instructor is booked in for a lesson on Tuesday so we're going to rest her until then and see how she is.....

Thurs 25th Feb 2011 - Farrier

Our farrier has been this morning and all ok with Kermit's hoof so will see what she looks like in the morning...

Thurs 24th Feb - Lame Pony!!!!!

Oh Man!

My baby is lame!!!! Started lungeing her this morning to warm up for my lesson on the lunge and we noticed that Kermit is a little lame on her right hind!!!!

Got farrier coming tomorrow so will get him to test  her hoof, but I think it seems more muscular and higher up. Me and my instructor have had a good look at her and have decided to see what the farrier says tomorrow and then probably give her a few days rest and see what happens........

gutted .......

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

"Oh, We're Half Way There" .....Tues 22nd Feb 2011

Am very very very very very very excited and pleased with myself and my gorgeous mare!!!!!!! Dare I say it, but I think we're probably about half way there to achieving our goal of riding out together, just the two of us...

This morning we've had a fab schooling session in the paddock with lots of attempted napping at the gate to start with but I managed to get that completely sorted out by the end, and then I decided that I wanted to get out into the big fields and do my own thing. So my instructor just stayed at the gate and off we went. It was fantastic, and I mean really fantastic. My mare was listeing to me the whole time and we trotted off with a couple of short walks and halts for half an hour. We circled, rein changed etc and every time I asked her to she came right back to me, even when we were heading for home. We did it all by ourselves and are very happily in one piece to tell the tale - woo hoo!! We walked all the way home on the buckle and both of us had worked up a real sweat. Its the first time since I've had her that I felt like I was the leader, and a good leader at that, and I feel soooooooo happy - woooopppppeeee!!!!!!!

Last Couple of Weeks.....up to Mon 21st Feb 2011

So, its been cupcaktetastic in my house recently - that's what I do for my job by the way.....

Have managed to ride but keeping the blog updated hasn't been a priority so I apologise for that. I thought I'd just write a short summary of each ride just to remind me of what I've been up and to keep you all up to date too......

Sat 12th Feb
Hacked out with Amelie, my 6 year old daughter, and it was just perfect. It was sooo warm, the grass was bright green, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. We had a great ride through the woods and along the golf course for about an hour, and had some great trots. My instructor led Amelie and I just got on and did my own thing - I can remember thinking that there was nowehere I'd rather be!

Tues 15th Feb
Lungeing - had completely underestimated what an art form it is!!! My mare took complete advantage of me and was cantering round like a looney taking me further and further towards the gate!!!! My instructor ended up having to run in to the middle to help me out - hilarious really...although Charlie wasn't too impressed by the state of the field - looks like he'll be rolling at the weekend - oops!

Thurs 17th Feb
Great schooling followed by a lovely hack and she was good as gold. I can definitely feel my trust and confidence increasing.......

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Thurs 10th Feb 2011 - Blue Sky and Robert Pattinson!!!!!

Well, who'd have thought that stepping into a magic circle coloured with bright blue sky whilst thinking of Robert Pattinson could make such a difference to my horsemanship????? Well, that's exactly what I did this morning, and as a result my mare and I cuddled for at least 20 minutes, both with our eyes closed (I cheated and took a peep once to see what she was doing).

At last night's confidence strategy meeting, Lisa from Holistic Horses once again pulled it out of the bag by introducing another great technique to help us build our confidence when with our horses. We had to think of a feeling that we wanted to anchor (mine was relaxation) and then remember times when we had felt like that with our horses. We were supposed to remember 3 times but I could only remember 2 so I had to think of another tine when I felt relaxed. The magic circle thing reminded me of the latest Twilight book as Bella has the power to create a protective field that she can wrap around herself and those she cares for to keep them safe from the Volturi. Anyway, to cut  a long story short, being the girls that we are the conversation digressed momentarily onto the subject of Robert Pattinson. It struck me that I feel VERY relaxed when thinking of him so I decided that he would be my third relaxed memory!

We had to think of the relaxed feeling, live that feeling through remembering sound, sights, smells experienced at that time, and then when the feeling was at a high, we had to step into our magic circle, intensify the feeling, and associate a colour with it; I chose bright sky blue.

So this morning, I threw my magic circle of relaxation over me and Kermit, allowed us to be wrapped up in a bright sky blue blanket, and dream of Robert Pattinson (or in Kermit's case maybe Vollegro!!!!).

When we were schooling and she was napping, I threw it over us again and felt a big grin spreading over my face. It really helped me to feel relaxed and happy with what we were doing. When she tried to nap I didn't feel at all frustrated as I usually do, but just calmly applied the right aids and asked her to move forwards. Although she still thought about it during our session, most times I managed to keep her moving where I wanted her to go and got a big "well done" from my instructor.

We had big rubs and cuddles afterwards and all felt good in the hood....oh, and she didn't try to bite me once - yes!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tues 8th Feb 2011 - A Hole in One!!!

Well, the good news is that we didn't become the hole, but the golf ball that was fired at us by the most useless golfer on the planet of the earth landed about one foot away from us. My horse just stood and looked at it - I think she must have been able to tell from the golfer's swing that it wasn't quite going to get us...I'm glad she was more confident in his lack of ability than I was!!!!!

30 seconds before we were nearly knocked out, a bonkers dog (luckily on the lead) was going absolutely mad at us, so I tried to ride my horse away from it, but she was adamant that she wanted to take a closer look at the yapping spaniel and decided that the best line of defence would be to stare him out!!!

What an interesting morning!

Prior to our hack out we had had a brilliant lungeing session. My instructor lunged with me mounted, and my main aim was to work on my walk/trot trot/walk transition. I had to pretend that I didn't have any legs and just to use my seat. I love being on the lunge and being able to concentrate on just one thing like this. I feel like its really helping me to properly learn to ride - working on one very small thing and not having to think about anything else, but each week building in just another small step. Monty Roberts calls it incremental learning when referring to the horse, and I think its the same for me when riding.

The absolute pleasure of today was feeling the sun warming through my fleece and watching the mist rise as we rode - what an absolute privilege to be with my gorgeous horse on a morning like this morning. And to finish off with a short hack across the fields riding on the buckle just made it!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thurs 3rd Feb 2011 - Yee Ha!

Coolio, I did it!!!!

Set out on my hack this morning on a new route that I've been planning with the goal to trot all the way along the track that runs along the side of the golf course. Its a goal I set last night, to complete that particular trot, at Lisa's confidence strategy evening last night. Its something that I felt excited about doing and had visualised how good it would feel at the end of last night's session. Anyway, we did it!! And it felt fantastic. My mare was really light in the hand and steady, and I could relax and enjoy it.....

We continued around the route and we were walking around the corner when all of a sudden my horse took off!!! We were cantering along flat out and I had no idea why.....I just remember thinking that it would be really good if I could stay on, wondering how far we were going to go, and then realising that we were picking up speed!!! The next thing I registered was my instructor's voice shouting at me, but I couldn't hear what he was saying!!! Then I thought I heard something about right hand, and remembered the right hand up emergency stop. So, up went my hand, and miraculously it worked! My mare turned sharp right and then stopped (narrowly missing a tree, but she stopped all the same). Wooooppppeeee!!!! It works and I did it!

Isn't it funny how the fear of the unknown and the anticipation of the event can be so much worse than the actual event itself???? Ok, so admittedly I wouldnt choose for that to happen on a ride, quite the opposite in fact. But at least now I know that I can deal with it when it does happen, rather than wondering..... I feel in a weird way its actually good that its happened.....

Funnily enough, it was a dog off the lead that had jumped out of a bush behind her that had frightened my horse, the thing that I had mentioned I was worried about at the meeting the previous evening.....

Anyway, we continued on our hack and I think the main difference I noticed in myself again was that now I was concentrating on my horse, and trying to reassure her and calm her, rather than wanting to cry, get off, and think about myself. This is such a big change for me and I know I've got a really long way to go with it to be able to do this completely in a relaxed way, but I am really trying, and so am very much on the right path...

Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday 31st January 2011 - I am NOT Taking a Step Backwards!!!!!

Feeling a little unsettled this morning.....

Went out this morning to turn my mare out and it took me 5 minutes to get her headcollar on in the stable!!! She was trying to bite like crazy and kept walking off and turning around..... Anyway, I eventually got it on and took her out to tie her up in the yard with a hay net whilst I mucked out.

The water was frozen in the buckets and the ground rock solid, and for a moment I felt relieved that I would not be able to ride this morning......No!!!!!!! Why am I feeling like this??????? I have let the old negative thoughts creep in over the last few days unconsciously whilst I haven't been riding and so I'd better get it sorted out pronto, especially as we have had such good riding!!! Stupid brain! Off to train it, and read through my course notes and goals, and previous blog posts, after all, I'm keeping a blog to remind myself of all of my achievements and what I can do!

Will report back later....

Oh, also going to catch my mare in a bit and bring her in for a groom and a treat, and then I'll turn her back out. Think I need to spend some time with her.....

Friday 28th Jan 2011 - Sun 30th Jan 2011 - Poorly Toddler

My daughter, who is 3, has had d & v for the last 3 days and so I've hardly seen my mare, as my lovely husband has left me to lie in after being up in the night looking after her. Also, the ground is rock solid so riding has been out of the question.

I have been out to her tonight though and skipped out and fed and we've had a lovely cuddle for 5 mins.....

Thursday 27th Jan 2011 - Learning to Lunge

Well, today has been really interesting as my instructor has been teaching me how to lunge. The part that I found the biggest challenge was using my body language to back up my voice to ask her to move forward/slow down. My instructor demonstrated to me how he could aske her to walk, trot, walk and halt without using his voice at all but by thinking what he wanted her to do and using his body language and energy to convey that message to her.

My dream/goal that I set myself on the confidence course was to become the owner my horse would choose, a phrase coined by Kelly Marks, and one that I aspire to. Bearing this in mind, lungeing seems like a pretty good skill to acquire to help me achieve this goal as it is making me look at another way to communicate with my horse.

I started to get the hang of it after half an hour or so, and then rode her whilst my instructor lunged, and practised all the technical basics like hand and leg positions, shoulders, etc, and she was good as gold.

Tuesday 25th Jan - Longest Hack Ever!!!

This riding lark is getting more fun by the minute!!!

I've been out on the most amazing hack this morning with my instructor all the way around the Bowood riding route. I have been desperate to do this since first getting my horse and today I achieved it!!! What an amazing feeling. We were out for two hours and rode through woods, big stubble fields, up hills, down muddy tracks, and saw a buzzard, a few pheasants and about 40 deer.

I think my mare thought the deer were lions at first, as she stopped dead in her tracks the moment the first one appeared in front of us. She seemed quite on edge as the next 20 ran across our track, and was abit joggy and on her toes for a few minutes afterwards. I knew that if I let myself get scared then she would be too, and so remembered back to the course about what it felt like to be ridden by a nervous tense rider and what it felt to be ridden by a relaxed confident rider, and did my best to imitate the latter. My instructor gave her a polo to help take her mind off things and we walked on, and I praised and encouraged her al the way, keeping my legs in a light contact with her sides and chatting merrily away.

When the next group of 20 charged across the track in front of us she stopped again, but walked on, all be it a little warily, had a small spook at a bird that flew through the trees and then settled back down again.

On the homeward straight we had a really lovely steady trot and she she came back to me as soon as I asked her too.


Monday, 24 January 2011

Successfully Sat!!!!!!!!! Mon 24.01.11

Well, I have just got in from the ride that happened against all of the odds!!!!

My husband said he'd come home for an hour at lunchtime so that I could ride my mare in the paddock and he could be with me. I started trying to get my mare in at 12.30 and 4 attempts later at 1.15 I still hadn't managed to catch her. She was pulling faces, runnign off, coming up to me and then turning to put her bum in my face...what a performance!

I eventually managed to catch her on my 5th attempt just as my husband returned home. I brought her in and gave her a quick groom, eventually picked out her feet after 7 attempts to do the first one!!!! Jumped on and rode out into the paddock.

Sshe hadn't given up there.....she napped 6 times at the gate before I could even get her to go in! So, eventually I rode her in and decided to walk her around the edge of the paddock doing 10m circles along the way, in the hope that she would start to listen to me.....

That went well, so I asked her to trot and she trotted around on the right rein very steadily and calmly and we did a few laps of the paddock. I then changed reins onto the left rein and the napping begain again. She was determined to get back to the gate and we kept ending up in that corner and then she would turn back round to the left just at the last minute. I was trying really hard to remember everything my instructor has taught me, but clearly I wasn't putting it into action!!! Anyway, remaining calm I asked her to trot and we had two less steady trots around the paddock with napping each time at the gate. The third time round at the other end of the paddock from the gate she obviously decided she had had enough, so dropped her right shoulder and launched herself to the left!!!!

My left foot came out of the stirrup and I could feel myself starting to go, but I was determined I was not going to fall. She kept trying to run off, but I still had my right stirrup, so I put all my weight in it, sat up tall, and sat it out, managing to bring her back to half and getting my left stirrup back. RESULT!!!!! YES!!!!

Normally I would have wanted to cry at this point and get off, but I just decided to walk her round and calm her down, and then ask for the trot again. This time we trotted all the way round, in a slightly un-balanced fashion I'll admit, but nevertheless we did it, and she didn't nap, and then we came in......

Is this really me writing this??????????? Can't wait to tell my instructor tomorrow.....

Lungeing....Thurs 20th Jan 2011

My mare is so quick to respond to voice commands it is just fantastic! It makes me feel so safe as as soon as you ask her to, she will come back to you almost immediately. It is her real strength.

Today my instructor lunged with me on and we practised using voice commands to ask her to move forward and come back which was great. She worked really hard and was really willing for the duration of the session. I also worked on my balance, leaning right forward and right back, which she seemed a little confused about at first but then carried on regardless after a few minutes.

It took 3 attempt to bring her in from the field to ride, so was expecting the same in the evening when I went to catch her, but holy moly, what did she go and do but just stand at the gate, let me put her headcollar on without biting once, and walked in like a dream! What a buzz!!! I felt on top of the world, as anyone walking by would have noticed as they would have seen a very  excited lady jumping up and down and punching the air on the way back from the stable!!!!!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tuesday 17th January

Wow! Another great riding lesson schooling in the paddock with my instructor.....Although my mare was napping like crazy I didn't feel anxious or nervous at all which made such a difference as I could actually concentrate on my riding.

We got there in the end and all walked in feeling happy and relaxed. I turned her out straight after untacking her and enjoyed watching her roll around in the mud. I wanted to give her a little something extra to thank her for listening to me so I dug up a few parsnips from the veg bed and took them out to her. She was definitely smiling at me as she scoffed them, gave me a little rub when she'd finished and then plodded off to graze.

When it was time to bring her in late afternoon she did not want to come in. Even after our shetland had gone in and she was on her own she kept walking away from me, ears pinned back, tail swishing, and when I did get anywhere near her head she kept threatening to bite! It felt pretty awaful but I managed to think calmly about the situation. I decided that if she didn't want to come in then that was fine. I was pretty sure she would change her mind once she'd been on her own for 15 mins so decided to play with the children for a bit and try again later. As I walked away from her she whinnied like mad and cantered up and down the fence line, but I decided not to look back and keep focused on my plan.

I went out 15 mins later and she did the same again. I didn't get cross with her or myself like I would normally do, I just thought 'fair enough, it doesn't matter to me whether you come in or not'.  So went and played with the children for another 15 mins.

When I went out again she was stood at the gate, and was pretty hot, so I guess she had been cantering up and down again. Anyway, this she stood still enough for me to put the headcollar on, still trying to bite though, but seemed to accept that if she wanted to come in she would have to come with me. She walked in like an angel, stopping immeditately every time I did. And she waited on her shavings before being told she could go to her food. Things felt pretty good.
It came to me this morning that the best way I can describe what I learnt on the course was that sometimes self preservation can sometimes lead to self destruction. Constantly worrying about whether you and the people around you are safe is very very hard work. Worrying is soooo draining and you just end up going round in circles and possibly even a bit mad!!!!

Don't get me wrong, I have learnt that safety is paramount if you are going to be a confident rider. But the fine line between worry and self destruction is planning for safety and then going and doing the thing you want to do as safely as possible.

We were taught over the weekend to take very very small positive steps towards achieving our dreams, so that each step, no matter how small, was then going to have a positive result, and therefore build confidence each time.

My plan for this morning was just to mount my horse with confidence and without anxiety, however, after I found out about my husbands fall yesterday on the way home from the course, I decided to ask my riding instructor to come out and ride my horse around the same route instead so that my mare could have a positive ride in the same place.

Whilst tacking up my mare was being really nippy so I thought I had better start working on one of my main goals right away: to be the owner my horse would choose. As such I stood by her side and started to stroke her neck and shoulder. The nipping decreased and then stopped completely after about 5 minutes. I stayed in that same spot for another half an hour. My mare's head was right down and her eyes were closed. It was heaven for both of us.....

I then groomed her and tacked her up and just as I was finishing my instructor arrived. He put his hat on as if about to mount, and I found myself saying "Actually, I'd like to ride her for the first half of the hack, and then you can take over when its time to take her round the big field where Charlie fell off". We got going and we were chatting away and before I knew it we were in the big field. My instructor said that he'd be happy to get on whenever I was ready to which I replied " That's fine, I'll trot her round it and then perhaps you can canter her round afterwards. Now, this is a big field, and I mean really big ...approximately 30 acres. I giggled with happiness all the way round as I remembered that it had felt this good the day I had first ridden my mare at the sales livery yard where we bought her from. I felt, happy, safe, exhilarated, and whats the word?????.....confident! Yeeha!

Now, some of you might be expecting and willing the next bit of the story to describe how I then decided to canter her around the field and not ask my instructor to do it. Well, sorry to disappoint, but as I mentioned earlier, one of the key strategies to gaining confidence that I learnt during the weekend was to take very very very small steps at a time, and to keep repeating those small steps successfully before moving onto the next step. So, I halted my mare and then handed her over to my instructor who cantered her around the big field for me and I sat on the gate and watched that amazing sight feeling very inspired indeed.....

Later that day the saddler came to check my mare's tack and he asked me to trot her down the road to have a look at her saddle. Well, in my 'this is my first horse' naivity, I thought he meant in hand and so I brought back a headcollar and lead rope from the tack room. "No, I meant with you riding her", the saddler said. "Oh", I said, thinking what an idiot I must be!!!! Now, if the saddler had asked me to do this on Friday before the course, the fear would have been coursing through my veins. I would have done it, but I would have been very very nervous. I can't say that my brain didn't ask me if I should be nervous, because it did, but my immediate reaction was that no, everything would be fine. So off I rode down the road and trotted all the way home. The people on my course will know what a massive moment this was for me as it was the primary goal that I had listed out within the first hour of the course starting. Alleluia - mission accomplished. Not planned by me but as a twist of fate brought about by a request from my saddler - weird or what?????

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday 16th January 2011

Well, day two of the confidence course has been amazing. I have reassessed my goals/dreams and started to put together a plan for how to achieve them. I have loved every minute of the course, from meeting the people that run it, to getting to know my fellow course mates, the feeling of us all starting a journey together, the fact that I'm not alone... The list goes on .... I had another epiphany today....I remembered the moment I fell in love with my horse and the fantastic feeling I had when I first rode her. Somehow I had managed to totally forget that experience and bury it with negative affirmations. On the journey home the first thing I wanted to do was apologise to my horse for always expecting the worst of her.

On the way home i had a phonecall from my husband to say he had fallen off our horse and torn the ligaments in his ankle. They were cantering along when a hare jumped out in front of them and the mare had jumped to the side and my husband fell off.

Amazingly all I felt was that it was just one of those things. It hasn't made me feel worried about riding my horse tomorrow. In fact my first reaction was that she ought to be ridden out tomorrow along the exact same route to show her that there's nothing to be scared about along that stretch of field. I could never have imagined before attending the course that I would be feeling like this!!!!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Today I have been on a confidence clinic run by Lisa Venables of Holistic Horses. I have owned my horse for 4 months but as yet have been too nervous to ride her out on my own. Although my mare has behaved a little wildly on the ground she had always been very good being ridden. So I haven't been able to work out why I have always anticipated that she us going to behave badly, spook at objects, bolt, buck etc. I got to a point at the clinic earlier today where I realised that I hated being out of control in all aspects of my life, and that my anticipation of bad things happening and always fearing the worst was meaning that I was in a pretty negative state a lot of the time. I was really shocked to come to this realisation as prior to today I had always imagined myself to be a 'glass half full' kind of a girl....

Anyway, sitting on the loo a few minutes ago, it struck me right between the eyes that the possible, in fact probable start of this negative speak, started the day my Dad dropped dead of a heart attack....

On the 23rd July 2007 my husband appeared home from work at 11am. He told me that something had happened and could we please sit down. I panicked thinking that maybe his boss had had a heart attack, as we knew he had some heart problems. He then told me that my Dad had collapsed at home and had been taken to hospital, but that he didn't know what was wrong with him or what state he was in. He had received a phone call from one of my uncles and told to bring me to the hospital... 'My Dad?' I questioned, 'what, my Dad?'.... I couldn't believe it.... My Dad was only 62 and I wasn't at all prepared to receive any news like that...

We jumped in the car and I started to feel that it was odd that Mum hadn't phoned me by now tk give ms some more information or an update. Another half an hour of the journey passed with no phonecall from any family members and I started to feel very sick and nervous. My instant fear was that he was dead and they didn't want my to find out until I had got to hospital. The family had done the same for my Auntie and Uncle when their Son was killed at 21, and I had driven my Cousin 9 months earlier from Bristol airport to his Mums house knowing that she was dead but not telling him so that he would find out in the security and comfort of home...

So, What did I start to do? I started to tell myself, and mh husband, that Dad was obviously dead. I simply could not bear the idea of hearing the news from someone and it coming as a shock, so I very quickly accepted that he was dead by repeating it to myself over and over again. At least this way I wouldn't be completely vulnerable when I got to the hospital and I had built up some defences. I even made my husband stop at the services so that I could go to the loo and get a drink, to prove that I wasn't in a hurry and that I wasn't being fooled or tricked by anyone!!!!

To add to this, I was 6 months pregnant with my second child and I was damned if I was going to let myself be put in a position of shock or surprise that would cause any harm or stress yo my baby.....

When we arrived at the hospital I knew that I was right, as I could see the look of pity on the receptionists face when I told her I had come to see my Dad. Although I felt very dick and I was conscious that my body was shaking I felt quite relieved that I had prepared myself for the worst on the journey, as I felt relatively in control and knew that I wasn't going to lose it. Thank goodness I'd prepared myself....

The receptionist took me to a side room and there were my Aunties and Uncles and my poor gorgeous Mother. I cuddled her, told her I was sorry, and focussed on soothing and supporting her. After about 10 minutes I went into the kitchen area and started making tea for everyone, and started phoning my Dad's side of the family to break the news, all without shedding a tear. I could feel the adrenaline pumping and I was in project manager mode, my comfort zone, where I could feel most comfortable and in control in what was the most out of control experience of my whole life.

So, I guess, when getting back to the subject of riding, I've become so nervous because as far ahead as the night before a ride I am anticipating problems that might arise just to prepare myself for the worst. So I can at last understand why I'm
doing this now, and it doesn't feel so stupid anymore. It feels good to have the answer, as at least I can now work on how to make some changes.....