Time to give this another go, without putting any demands on myself to do it every week. But I do miss doing my lesson recaps and for a good while, at least, they did seem to help me improve as well.
Yesterday was the first lesson of the new semester for me (I missed the first week) and I ended up on the lovely Barka. I had a feeling the cold and the snow would make her frisky and that turned out to be the correct assumption. Fortunately, frisky for her goes more up than forward (not up as in on her hind legs or anything, but she gets rather high-stepping and bouncy) so I feel quite confident in handling her anyway. I was a bit bothered by how much she was tossing her head around, however. It was more than when I last rode her, and though the instructor said its common when she’s frisky, I did ask if perhaps her mouth should be looked at since she had been reluctant to take the bit when I bridled her. That was definitely new behaviour, so I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s got some tooth issue. That said, the head shaking did stop once I got her to think about working and she spent some of that excess energy on more fruitful endeavours.
Other than that, she’s a very positive horse. She’s definitely got her own opinions—hello, mare—but she can certainly be persuaded to give work a good try. The exercises we worked on also suited her quite well; we focused on shortening and lengthening while keeping a steady rhythm and it gave her a lot to think about. The end result was an absolutely divine trot. The walk is still tricky to get good extension in and we only did a little cantering so I didn’t get very far with that. Her right canter is not great to start with and my transitions to canter remain a bit of a weakness (I move too much, especially if the horse goes against the aids like she did), so I am hoping for a bit more time next lesson to work on that. Once you actually get her cantering forward properly, she has a nice, round canter.
I am really hoping to get the opportunity for some private lessons on her during this semester; so far we seem to suit each other quite well.
So far, the new semester has gone well. It was off to a really good start on lovely Barka (alas, she’s now resting, having strained herself coming off the summer grazing with a bit much extra weight), and then I had some great dressage lesson on Nelson and Blacky and a very good round of jumping on Nelson. He’s really become very co-operative and fun to ride.
Which brings me to my last lesson, on Mynta the Fjordhorse. She is very much a Fjordhorse and a mare, which means she isn’t terribly interested in co-operating with anyone. In particular, she tends to try and avoid any and all work by just steaming on like a little locomotive. With a short, square neck, she ends up putting a lot of strain on my arms if I end up in a tug-of-war with her. And, of course, a tug-of-war with a horse is a pretty pointless activity.
When I’ve ridden her in the past, for various instructors, I’ve had different suggestions. Some want her packaged together, to get her to accept that she can’t just go at her own speed. Some have suggested lots of circling and over-bending to try and get through to her incredibly stiff right side and her somewhat less stiff left side.
None of this has really worked well for me so far. She clearly gets stressed if you ask too much, which isn’t strange given that physically speaking, she must choke herself a bit if she brings her head in. So, trying to pack her together isn’t going to work, except possibly at a walk, where she does wait and listen a bit more.
But there’s also the just plain stubborn side of her to consider. She is a Fjordhorse and she is a mare. That’s a combination that leads to a pretty darn independent horse. So far, I am not getting through to her with either polite requests or firm demands, so the lessons do end up being rather more confrontational than I like. I don’t mind a stubborn pony that cleverly tries to get out of work in all sorts of ways, that’s just stimulating, but “run-run-run” gets tedious.
I took most of the summer off from even glancing at the various blogs on the site, but since the new semester at the riding school started this week it might be time to get back to some posting. Especially since this week’s lesson was a big deal, to follow up on the big deal that ended last semester.
You see, on the whole last semester was a bit of a wash. We had a new instructor lined up and I do like her, but she was absent for quite a few lessons due to illness (she has young children) and we ended up with substitutes of varying quality. As a result, there really wasn’t much cohesive training or any particular progress. In fact, I was quite close to deciding that I would quit and look at some other stable (as two of my friends ultimately ended up doing).
But then we came to the last lesson before the summer break. We were going to jump in the paddock and I was a bit nervous about riding Digression; he jumps fine indoors but gets just a bit frisky and he’s large enough (aka not a pony or close to it) that it makes me a little jittery. Then one of the other riders didn’t show up and Barka, one of the new horses, ended up without a rider.
Barka is a Polish import, eight years old, and I had been eyeing her since she arrived since she’s probably just an inch or two from being a pony and with that sort of nice, square build that I like. We think there’s some Spanish blood in her, she’s got a nice back-end, a curly mane and a pretty high-stepping action.
So, despite never having ridden her, I asked if I could jump her in the paddock instead of Digression. I got the okay and I was determined to make this work.
It did work. Superbly, in fact. She was a little fidgety, but not tense. I could feel I was sitting into her rather than on top of her. She also turned out to be incredibly sensitive and a very honest jumper; we wobbled a bit coming into some jumps and she went over them anyway. She clearly hasn’t jumped much before since the first time she jumped at the stables, she jumped about twice as high as she had to. It wasn’t as extreme this time, but she’s clearly still learning. I was in heaven, pretty much.
Fast forward to this Tuesday, when I showed up for the first lesson this semester. I had been assigned Mynta, the very stubborn Fjordhorse, but once again Barka ended up without a rider. I asked again, could I change? Yes, I could. Then, the other news; we were going to be riding on a nearby field. Not out on a trek, but still, we’d have to trek along the road to get there. My nerves set in again, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to ride Barka again.
So, I decided to give it a go. She was very calm riding to the field, but once there she suddenly found a lot of energy and people with cameras and people running past on the road became reasons to jump this way and that.
But I didn’t give up. In fact, I had a thoroughly enjoyable lesson, not a sick-to-the-stomach-with-nerves lesson. Some of it was the fact that the grass was quite tall and seemed soft—I figured a fall wouldn’t be that bad—but I also felt that she really listened to me. Yes, she’d jump away from this and yes, she’d canter instead of trot, but she has a wonderful mouth and she really listens when you ask her to come back. I felt as if I could handle her.
I don’t think I want to trek out on her just yet, but other than that, I feel absolutely great about how much I’ve dared to do on her already. Sadly, she’s very unlike Murphy in one way; she’s a very popular horse at the stables. I still miss my grumpy and misunderstood Irish boy very much, but even if Barka doesn’t need any extra help to be happy at the stables, she’s quite irresistible.
The weekly updates turned into monthly summaries and then the monthly summaries disappeared altogether. My interest in chronicling my lessons certainly took a turn for the worse when I lost Murphy, now over two years ago, and then it took a further hit as our instructor Ulrika moved to another stable at the end of last year. She has been such a huge help and such an inspiration these last nine years and it has been very hard to adjust to a new instructor. Or rather, to adjust to her absence. On top of that, life have been a bit rough in general these last two years, so when the riding hasn’t been as relaxing and inspiring as usual it has created a bit of a negative feedback loop.
I’ve kept brief notes each week, just to not lose track of any useful insights, but I am not sure about trying to post anything specific. I might just clean up my notes to post as a reference for myself and to see if it can help me regain my focus if I look at what I’ve been doing since the middle of last Autumn. More generally speaking, I’ve managed to keep riding roughly once a week, though this spring has been particularly tough with various problems preventing me from attending quite a few lessons. I haven’t been able to add on any private lessons either, though I am still hoping to try both a somewhat nearby stable which is all Andalusians and a very nearby stable which is mostly ponies. Fortunately, my regular stable does have quite a few horses I can ride at the moment (including Digression, an actual, full-sized horse that’s won my confidence), so as long as they stay healthy I should be alright there as well.
I do think I need to do something different, however, to get my motivation back. I still love riding and just being in the stable, but I miss having a horse there that I have a really strong connection with. I have been toying with the idea of buying a horse again, especially now that we have a good stable just a few minutes away, but I am hesitant. There’s a lot of things competing for my time right now. If I was better at not getting completely stressed out when things pile up, it might work…but I am not.
I think I’ll see if I can get some extra riding in during the summer or, failing that, I’ll aim for a fresh start this autumn and see about getting some private lessons in then. I’ll also be trying to sort out my back, because I don’t need any physical issues getting in the way.
I haven’t horseblogged in ages, but I am currently having a major procrastination phase (my Master’s thesis may turn into my dissertation proposal or I may switch my basic idea for the dissertation from horses in Greek myth and religion to Roman horse racing or possibly even defixiones) so I am finding all sorts of things to do, bouncing from one to the other like I’ve had too much coffee. Except, I don’t drink coffee at all.
We’re well into July now and I haven’t been near a horse for weeks (sigh), so I am dealing with missing the stable by briefly recapping what happened during May and June. For next semester, I’ll need to find some new motivation to write more promptly; I am planning a website redesign and some more integration with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and whatever else it is that I am trying to keep up with these days, so perhaps that will encourage me.
Going back to May, I had a good jumping lesson on Nelson to start it off. I really liked riding him on the new noseband that they tried out, though later they shifted back again. I did remember what I had learned the previous jumping lesson and rode him with short reins and high hands, which gave me good control over his short little neck.
The dressage lesson after that ended up being on Ricky, a smaller pony I haven’t ridden for years. I had to get used to what I could ask of him—he needs to really get his back end started first, before you even think about his head—but he’s a great mover and once I did less he worked very well. At the end, as we were winding them down, he trotted in great balance on entirely slack reins. Just a little added leg pressure was needed if he started slipping. Such a sweetie, even when he got tired and needed some extra rest since he rarely works that hard.
After that we had a theory lesson that I missed and then a dressage lesson on Shanti. She gave me some great trotting and walking and very nice leg yields, though I need to keep in mind that she’s very good at just bending her neck and pretending. Getting those hind legs working properly is tricky. For the canter, I have to work on getting my aids to be much softer, but still determined. I also need to keep my hands up, especially my inner, and be aware that she finds collection hard and easily drops down to a trot if I lower my inner hand. Her head can be a bit unsteady, but calm hands are essential.
Following that, we did our dressage program on the next Friday. I was a bit nervous about riding Shanti after the lesson on Tuesday, but I started off very determined during the warm-up and I got some lovely canter outside. I also got her to really trot, using her whole back and hind legs. During the actual program, I did let her curl up a bit too much, which resulted in a wobbly form. However, I did get one great canter with exclamation marks after so I was very pleased and I really want to do it soon again. I get so nervous even before a mock-contest, but I love the feeling.
The final lesson in May was dressage on Nelson. A new horse caused a commotion at first (threw his rider, ran many laps around the paddock), then we got started properly. I had to work on Nelson’s rhythm, but once I was consistent about that and stopped worrying about his head, he came together better. He gave me some excellent canter and Ulrika said I was much calmer from riding Shanti. Nelson really waited for me and kept himself balanced throughout the canter. We rode diagonals with at least two changes of gait, and this worked very well to get me in the right mindset. I do need to keep focusing on not overdoing my aids and also on relaxing and bending my knees and also relaxing and bending my elbows to raise my hands (but not widen them).
Our last two lessons in June consisted of a very relaxing, cosy trek on Nelson and finally a bareback dressage lesson for the finale. I did a bit of bareback riding on Murphy and a lot of riding without stirrups on him and I really need to get back to it. It does wonders for my balance, though trotting Nelson was very hard. Still, I stayed on even throughout most of the little mini-contest Ulrika surprised us with; I only slipped off when we did a fully turn in the saddle as I couldn’t get my leg up high enough with my stiff back and it caught a bit on his neck. I had a close call, as well. The last challenge was to start cantering on a long rein, which Nelson did just fine…and then he thought that no rein meant “whee, run as fast as you can” so the acceleration almost had me off.
Where did March go? And April, for that matter? Ah well.
For the most part, other than when the car decided to act up, I have been riding weekly as usual. All of March was spent on Nelson, for three dressage lessons and one jumping lesson (plus a theory lesson to discuss the dressage test we’ll be riding in May), and there was in fact some significant progress. Being very firm right off about what’s allowed in terms of rushing away with me certainly helps, though after any break or if Nelson starts to get tired, the lesson is soon forgotten. I had some great results one lesson when we were focusing on “just” riding straight down the center line. Single-minded focus on such a precise task always means I am less fiddly with my aids, resulting in a softer, more relaxed horse. Nelson almost seemed on the verge of spontaneous passage at times when moving up was easier than forward in a straight line.
Another revelatory lesson was with a substitute teacher who employed a different approach than Ulrika. I am a little bit torn on whether it is a good approach or not, but it was certainly very efficient on Nelson in particular. Basically, she asked us to start by shortening the horses so that they’d find it hard to work in such a compressed form and come forward and down because of that (and of course be allowed to come forward and down). For Nelson, it worked very well. He likes to stick his head up and drop his back, but now he found he was simply asked to shorten and shorten whenever he did that, so eventually he came forward and down instead. We also worked on leg yields, with strict orders to keep the horses from slipping away with us, and when we got to the canter leg yields—we never really do this other wise—I had an amazing canter from Nelson. I could have dropped the reins.
Still, is it a good approach? Ulrika usually wants us to engage the hindquarters by riding the horses forward to the hand, not backing them up like this. I certainly have a tendency to collect too much on some horses rather than ride forward and get everything engaged that way. In most cases, I can tell its wrong after I try riding forward instead, but on Nelson its often very hard to get through to him by riding him to the hand.
We concluded March with a jumping lesson where I was perhaps too influenced by the dressage and held Nelson back too much to begin with. But I also had some issues with my back being stiff again.
April started off with Nelson ignoring me completely for the first part of one lesson as he had an abundance of energy. That earned him a stern talking to and all of a sudden he wanted to work. He is definitely starting to get the picture. The week after, however, I was on Shanti instead. We continued to work on turns on the haunches as we had the week before, though most of my focus that lesson was on dealing with some new issues with my seat. Or rather, not new issues, but issues that Ulrika have decided to tackle now that some of the others are out of the way. So, we have been trying to improve my knees as they grip too much and lead to a tense lower leg that is too forward. Shanti, of course, was lovely and talented.
Following a missed lesson, last week saw me back on Nelson for some jumping in the paddock. We had a new noseband on him and I really like the effect it had; I think that for my next dressage lesson, I will try him without the help reins he’s normally fitted with. I found that (just as on my dear Murphy, still sorely missed every week) when he comes forward without the help reins, his form is better than with the help reins. As for the jumping, we were asked to do gymnastic work, keeping the horses quite short. It went quite well when we jumped on a serpentine-path, but when jumping straight down the line I wasn’t able to hold Nelson together all the way. I think I made the mistake of lowering my hands instead of keeping them up, which made it easier for him to get away.
So, that’s where we are right now. Still all of May to go and a few lessons in June before the summer break. Unfortunately, Heddvig won’t be back after the summer, her owner is taking her home again. I hope she will get well enough before the summer break that I get to ride her again and next semester…well, we’ll see. There’s Nelson and Shanti, but I may have to look at moving to private lessons plus lessons at another stable where they have lovely medium-sized Andalusians.
Its a year today, but I really do still miss Murphy like it was yesterday. Best little Irish horse ever, stubborn as sin at times and grumpy too, but with such a heart. I can still see him looking over the side of his stall when I was somewhere else in the stable. Mind you, I don’t have any illusions about why; mostly he wanted more treats. But the way he made such efforts for me when I rode him, he must have liked it too. I certainly did.
The summary of February’s lessons ought to have been done a while ago, but we have had (and continues to have) a wealth of Game of Thrones news to tackle which have distracted me rather completely. I am also finding myself preoccupied with reflecting on my writing, not just for these lesson reports but in general. I feel like it has stagnated, in part because I read less than I used to and in part because I am finding that it always comes out so…superficial. Why? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I know my academic writing suffers from my lack of confidence, and it probably plays a part in other kinds of writing too.
But, that’s enough meandering thoughts for now. Last month started off with a dressage lesson on Shanti, the very well-trained not-quite-pony. Since I had mentioned my back issues in a previous post, Ulrika suggested some improvements to my seat that might help. In particular, she felt I wasn’t using my seat bones as well as I could. Certainly, making those changes made for a much better lesson on Shanti than my first and my back felt fine afterwards.
The week after that I was back on Nelson. I tried to find the same sort of seat on him, but I could soon tell that part of the reason my back has been worse since I started riding Nelson is his saddle. Its quite short and deep, making it difficult for me to sit well in it. However, after a rocky start where it felt as if I had two horses instead of one due to the complete lack of connection between front and back, the leg yields we were doing suddenly got through to Nelson. He found his balance and gave me a wonderful trot. Afterwards, I asked Ulrika about the suddenness of that change, and she felt it isn’t uncommon with horses like Nelson who are very heavy on the forehand. Once they do find a better balance and softer and more flexible, it can go from bad to good very quickly.
After that followed a jumping lesson which also included some interesting revelations. As we were warming up, Ulrika told me to shorten my reins quite a bit, saying that because Nelson has such a short neck I could keep them much shorter than what feels right to start with to get my elbows in the right position. It made an amazing difference to the control I had over Nelson. Suddenly I was in just the right position to smoothly control tempo and turns, plus it improved my balance and the way I followed along with his jumps. I could more or less hold onto his ears and be fine, it seems, and clearly I have been jumping him on too much of a “dressage length” rein.
The month finished off with a very tough lesson from a substitute teacher. I was on Nelson again and he was incredibly frisky. We did do some leg yields that helped me get him a bit more under control, but he spent most of the lesson trying to run faster and faster. The pace of the lesson didn’t give me much time to consider what to do and all the trotting just wound him up more and more. The end result was mostly very sore arms.
A new month and another Tuesday. What have I learned so far this semester?
Well, we started off with a not-so-soft start (then again, the break was pretty short). We worked with lateral movement, using that to have the horses naturally fall into a slower pace with more “wait” built into each stride. A good exercise for Nelson who isn’t one for waiting, though I struggled a bit with not interfering as soon as he slowed down a bit. As with the canter, I need to learn to leave more up to the horse. Ulrika also spotted some issues with my knees getting a bit “stuck” and my lower legs tensing in place as a result of that. So that’s one thing to focus on during this semester; a nice long and relaxed leg.
The second lesson was jumping, and I was halfways off Nelson on a couple of occasions. Ulrika wanted us to jump the horses in a way that would gymasticise them; get in close and get high, round jumps. Another exercise in waiting, both for me and Nelson. Learning to trust the horses to move without me badgering them is still a work in progress. Do less, but be more effective, that’s what I have to keep in mind.
The third lesson was theory and I missed out on it due to a deadline for an exam. Normally, I plan a bit better than that, but January was sort of eaten by my application to the doctoral program (which I won’t know anything about for months).
Finally, last week it was all about serpentines and another new discovery with Nelson. Even when he is more off the forehand (as he was after the serpentines), he still feels heavy. So, I need to try and trust that he will carry himself and not just keep holding him up. I also need to work on my canter seat again; my inner foot wasn’t down enough but at the same time my outer hip wasn’t back enough.
Unfortunately, I think this is now due to my back issues to some degree. Something about riding is hurting my back each week and has been doing for…well, at least 6 months and maybe more than that. I have no idea why it started, or what to do about it, but its becoming a real issue. The sit-ups that strengthened my stomach and helped with my back before aren’t doing anything for this lower back pain/weakness. We’ll see how it goes today.
Well, that was a bit of a break. A month and a half of no riding reports, in fact, though just two actual lessons missed. First I missed one lesson due to illness and then I passed on a theory lesson because it was so darn cold (we’re having the coldest December in 110 years, though for the most part I am loving it) and because we were having a substitute instructor anyway. For theory, that usually means watching some video, and I didn’t feel up to braving the cold for that.
The last two weeks before Christmas (but not last Tuesday, the stable was closed for the holidays until yesterday), however, I did get to ride. First, a new acquaintance, Shanti. Shanti is a modern “sport” pony type, bred for performance, and perform she definitely did. She is just on the verge of becoming a horse rather than a pony, or possible just over that limit now, but she moves like quite a lot of horse. Either she or possibly her full sister became the 4th best dresssage pony in Sweden last year. She was incredibly different from Heddvig and Nelson and I actually had a lot of issues adjusting to her. My aids are sort of tuned to less refined controls.
For the last lesson of the year I rode Nelson. Like last year, we did a little mini contest. Most canter strides from point A to point B, represented by a pair of rails on the ground (and with some thinking involved to pick the smartest path), least trotting strides from A to B, sideways movement along one or two rails with one set of legs on each side, least canter strides from point A to B and most steps in reverse. I did rather better last year on Fleur, alas. My back was too stiff to ride a short canter for the first test, so I just allowed Nelson to gallop on as he preferred so he wouldn’t start trotting instead. Then, of course, he was keyed up and ended up galloping in the trotting section, for 0 points. He also totally refused to move sideways across the rails, though he did show himself very able to go backwards. He did do well on the “least canter strides” test and really well reversing, but we still came in last. But fun, even so.
Today’s lesson will get a few words later on; still thinking about a new approach to rekindle my interest in writing in a timely fashion. Of course, work and school has sort of been eating up my writing energy.
Looks like last week’s lesson post was misplaced. Together with this weeks its a good example of ups and downs.
I rode Heddvig for dressage last week and afterwards I felt better about it than I have had for a while. We worked a lot on a slightly smaller rectangle than usual and (as always) I found that not having the wall right there on one side really makes me pay attention to my outside aids. Now if I could only get that into my head when the wall is there, too. The main exercise other than that was riding the horse into a halt and then creating a distinct inner side so that we could control which front leg the horse would start moving on. We then tried to take that with us to canter transitions, and I think I managed to be pretty decisive but not too over-active in the transitions this time.
Today, then, I jumped Nelson. The weather (we’re having a bit of a surprise snow storm—almost got it for my birthday again, like when we snowed in some 15 years ago) made him very lively and since I don’t use the help reins when jumping, he pretty much stuck his head straight up and rushed on. I thought my arms would fall out after 10 minutes or so.
Once we started jumping it did improve a bit, since his canter is better than his trot, but by then my brain was kind of scrambled from trying desperately for the first half of the lesson to figure out how on earth to get him to listen to me. I think the way he moved rattled my head too much. ;P
Last week we did more of the same canter exercises as the week before, with a few more things going my way. My back wasn’t as bad, at least not to start with, and I tried to focus on being decisive from the start. I also tried to remind myself to look out over the horse’s outer ear when cantering to get my hips aligned right.
Nelson did end up listening to me more quickly about not just rushing onwards since I put my foot down about that from the start. However, he found another way out of the work; dropping out of the canter earlier and earlier each time. He knew we’d start trotting as soon as we reached the corner, so he pushed the transition further and further back. Once I got around to doing something about it we had to have a bit of an argument which included the firm application of heels (I had set my whip aside because the snow had made him pretty frisky), followed by some bucking and concluding in grudging agreement.
I still didn’t sit the canter very well for the most part, however. And when Ulrika mentioned that I didn’t need to work so hard on Nelson, because he’s got a really good canter so I don’t have to work at it like I was riding Murphy, it really hit me again how much I miss him. I really like Heddvig and Nelson, but its not…well, special. I don’t feel the same connection. But I’ll keep at it, because I do need to keep riding.
This week’s lesson was a painful experience. My back hasn’t been great for a long time but lately its been really bad and this Tuesday was probably the first time I’ve had serious pain while riding.
Needless to say, it didn’t improve on my weak focus. :P I rode Nelson and we worked on getting the inner shoulder into the body in preparation for a transition. We rode straight down the center line, picked which way to turn right off and then rode with the new inner side prepared for that turn the whole way. The transition came a bit after the halfway poin.
To start with Nelson was an awful lot like a sewing machine, his little legs just moving up and down rapidly, and he was not too interested in waiting for me at all. I did take that conflict without prompting from Ulrika, so go me for that, though I wasn’t able to be completely consistent in my application of the rules. But he did stop pulling my arms out of their sockets. However, once we got to the cantering my back just said “owwie” and even though Nelson has a great canter, I just couldn’t sit it well enough which had me lapsing back into my over-active canter riding.
I was also constantly messing up where I was looking; I kept looking inwards which of course had my hips turning the wrong way. I have to remember to focus on the outer ear when cantering, but it just feels wrong somehow. Towards the end, I did manage to get my eye right at least and I managed to sit somewhat better, but overall I could have done much better. Fortunately, my back is now a good deal better following some pills and an acupressure kind of thing that you lie down on, so I am hoping next week won’t be so bad.
I haven’t actually missed two weeks of reporting, just one. Last week was theory and I wasn’t able to go then anyway. Unfortunately, I will also be missing next week, which really sucks because its a jumping lesson.
What about the dressage almost two weeks ago, though? Well, my memory is sketchy. ;P Heddvig was still feeling a bit so-so, so Ulrika asked me to make sure I was getting enough forward momentum before I start to ask for collection. Normally the momentum is there, but now I have to readjust for her being a little more laid back. Once we got to the cantering (more counter-canter by way of a curved line along the length of the arena), she did better. Laid back definitely goes out the window once we start cantering. ;) She really struggled with cantering along the whole curve, but mainly it was her giving up when it got a little harder. Once I asked her to keep going, she did pretty well.
I am definitely feeling a lack of motivation, though, and its leaving me a little less focused. I enjoy the riding, but I feel a bit lost. I guess things are much the same as they were before I started riding Murphy; I ride because riding in itself is fun, but I don’t necessarily feel I am accomplishing much or making any tangible progress. I like getting better, but when riding once a week and with my fear issues, I will only get so much better. So, being able to improve a horse and develop alongside of him was a new, fantastic experience. And now that I have done that, going back to “just” riding feels like its lacking something. Then again, can’t rule out that Heddvig won’t keep improving as well—she’s made a lot of progress, as it is—so we’ll see. But right now, I keep looking for something that isn’t there.