I think I had better explain the type of rider I am. I have been riding since I was little, on leased and borrowed horses and ponies. I went to Pony Club for a year or two when I was seven or eight, got my D certificate somewhere along the way too. But I never had any lessons. I mean someone must have taught me how to ride but I don’t remember any lessons as such.
Because of that, the way I ride and the way I think about riding is very unstructured. I can ride and can sit a buck and most spooks but I’ve missed some of the really basic things. Trotting on the right diagonal for example. I didn’t even know what that was until about a year ago. Using your legs to ask your horse to do things other than go...huh?
So despite the fact that I can walk, trot, canter, gallop and jump I am essentially a beginner.
When I got Fox, I realised I didn’t want to just hack out and muck round like I had in the past. Here I had a horse, that whilst unfit could actually do something.
So I started getting lessons with a local instructor. We started very slowly, getting Fox fit and bending. He still isn’t the most supple horse but that’s a work in progress. We also worked on my legs, me learning how to use them to keep Fox on a circle and to prevent him falling in or out. That didn’t last too long as I decided to move Fox somewhere closer to where I live.
It was tricky finding another instructor but I did eventually. We worked on lengthening my leg, my hands, my posture, pretty much everything but that only lasted for a few lessons. She would cancel lessons at the last minute, change days and generally just muck me around. And through it all, I got a huge sense that she just didn’t want to be there which was awful. Eventually I just couldn’t really be bothered with all of it and stopped organising lessons with her.
Then friend of mine came back from England and she gave me a few lessons. We progressed hugely until it came to asking Fox into an outline. It seemed like Fox hadn’t really been asked to work that way before, so essentially we were starting from scratch. Her method was to pull one-two on one rein one-two on the other and getting harder and harder until Fox listened. I had a bad feeling but didn’t really know what about.
Then she moved away and we stopped the lessons and I started my quest on the internet. I realised what I had been doing. I had been forcing his head down when he wasn’t ready. According to a more classical approach, he should be collecting by himself before you ask him into an outline.
So this is where we stand now, I have one approach that is hard and heavy on my horse and doesn’t sit quite right with me but does work. Before I came to my realisations, Fox was starting to go really well. The other way seems better, kinder, more in keeping with the style of riding I would like to achieve but slower and I don’t really know very much about it and don’t have an instructor who can teach me this way.
In the end it’s an obvious decision, the longer, better way is the way we will take. I want a horse that is willing to work, not one that is sour from harsh pressure. It looks as if I will be doing LOTS more research and trying to teach myself this new way.
But it is the right thing to do. The right thing for me and the right thing for my horse.