My plans to post a timely account were foiled by figure skating and by Easter. However, last week’s lesson can be summarized quite well like this: It was cold, Fleur was jumpy, she spooked me but at least I stayed on her the whole lesson.
I may not have mentioned it in so many words before, but I am about the least brave rider you will find. I was in a somewhat bad accident when was about 10, and I never regained the confidence I had before then. For the first few years after the accident, I freaked out if a horse so much thought about doing something I hadn’t asked it to do. Eventually, it got a little bit better, but now the natural timidity that comes with getting older has kicked in, leaving me with a fairly limited range of horses that I can handle.
What it comes down to is whether I perceive myself as in control or not. The horse I had my accident on was quite tall and he ended up bolting with me outdoors. I hung on for a while, screaming like a banshee (which didn’t exactly make him run slower ;P), before falling back first on a rock. So, big horses, fast horses and riding outdoors are nightmares for me. Murphy is the biggest horse I will ride outdoors (and he’s just under 15 hands tall), and only because I know he is pretty bombproof. Ideally, I prefer ponies for outdoors, but once I am comfortable, I am fine with galloping, jumping and assorted activities. Indoors, I can handle a bit more, but 16 hands is definitely an upper limit, and the taller they are the more I need to trust them.
Fleur is not a big girl. She’s maybe just over 15 hands tall. However, she spooks very easily. Not a good combination with me seeing as I often spook too. ;P To make matters worse, when it is cold, she gets very tense and excitable (there’s a bit of Thoroughbred in her). And I just hate the kind of tension that makes you feel as if you sit on top of the horse, without really getting in contact with it. I had expected to get that last Tuesday, since she decided to start off by spooking while I was fixing my stirrups (fortunately, I had asked my instructor to hold her for me meanwhile), and I almost got off right then and there.
But I decided to give it a try, and tried to make myself sit deeply, to connect with her and force her to work to keep her mind occupied. And you know what? It worked. She gave me some really nice trot (for being Fleur, that is). Unfortunately, my conviction didn’t quite hold when we started jumping. I have never been scared of jumping as such, but she got this really bouncy, brisk gallop between each jump. Which meant I just tried to shorten and shorten and shorten it, and she got rather unhappy.
In the end, after much help from my instructor as she called out to me what to focus on before and after each jump, I managed to get around our little course with decent flow. I even managed to ride correctly for a change of canter across the jump, though Fleur still failed to change until a few strides later. My instructor noted that she was a bit disappointed with Fleur not doing it right when I got my riding right, though did add that she’s never seen that horse, with her really crappy canter, do a clean change of lead before. So I guess I got her working decently.
Still, I am nervous about getting her on Tuesday again, because its still quite cold. I may have managed to work through my fear this once, but with me its no guarantee for a repeat performance. Its just too deeply rooted.