Riding Epiphanies

Letting go of riding & then a lightbulb moment!

So here is a little thing I want to share…I felt last week that I should spend some time looking at my feelings about riding – How me getting back in the saddle would feel. It is the time of year for a little look over where we are and where we want to go, what has happened and how that affects things, and how we move forward positively.

This is not about whether riding is good or bad. I don’t feel any emotion about the concept of riding in itself. A horse will be happy being ridden or it won’t. A person will feel happy riding or they wont. This is about me and whether I personally want to ride or not, as opposed to feeling that I should ride. That age old question that comes up from people “Why do you have horses if you are not going to ride them?” This social pressure amongst horse owners is becoming a lot less now, but funnily enough non-horse owners don’t often seem to understand that sharing a life with a horse is not necessarily about riding!. But, this exploration was more about whether I was pressurising myself or not.

I haven’t ridden in over three years now but I still have all the gear. I still look at the horses as being ridden and what I need to do to get them fit for that again. The horse I had starting working with for getting back in the saddle was Neige. I got the Total Contact saddle for her etc and we were doing well, when she got Uveitis and lost a lot of her sight. I considered the Total Contact for maybe Timmy or Risada, but I don’t think I would feel secure using that saddle with them.

Then I considered my relationship with and feelings around riding Risada. She loves just walking with me so I wondered why I would consider riding her again, and that is if I could get her to accept a saddle again. When I really felt into how it feels to have a goal of not riding her, it felt really good. It was like turning things on their head and I could feel all tensions leave me around my relationship with her. So that is that decision made.

And Timmy. He is not fit. The cribbing has caused muscular imbalance (a bit like repetitive strain injury), in that one shoulder is large than the other because he always cribs and windsucks in the same stance. His leg injury this year, although closing up now, would need a lot of physio exercise before he could take a rider again and put any power into his hind legs. The cribbing also hasn’t helped this. As I hadn’t saddled him in a while I got out a pad and saddle and girth and went through the usual motions of saddling him and for the first time he seemed to have a lot to say about the matter. He used to be really easy to saddle but I have been working with him emotionally to get him to ‘accept’ less of what he doesn’t like and he was very forceful regarding the girthing procedure, trying to nip me. We have been going out for walks and he seems to enjoy that more as we do it, and he has enjoyed playing with the big ball which I got out again yesterday. At one point he started walking off to crib and made a choice to turn around and stay with me and the ball.

So basically I think its time to shed the saddles finally, go with my instincts for myself and my herd, and buy a set of saddle bags, get out my good hiking boots, and buy a pair of roller skates!! And just thinking about doing that makes me feel laugh out loud happy!

The lightbulb moment

I had a bit of a light bulb moment this morning.. one of those where, when it dawns on you it seems so obvious, but you seemed to have spent years not seeing it.

I was out walking with Querida. We have been going on little walks in different directions for about an hour. Quite a bit of grazing, but also she is starting to like to walk next to me and can put on a nice little pace. These walks are about getting to know and trust each other and feel good about going out just the two of us. She has a lot of self confidence. She always stops to figure something out rather than bolt or get all high necked and emotional like the horses. As soon as she has figured it out she just starts grazing. I have learnt that if I let her figure it out and just stay with her until she starts to graze, she is then happy to walk on to the next point of concern.

She has also started lifting her feet better for me to check when we get back which will be a blessing when we get into spring season and she will probably need her boots on if her feet get sensitive.

I was thinking about the walk when I got back and it all felt quite similar to how Chocolate (the older pony) is when we go out for a walk. Always calm and sure of herself. It must be a pony thing. They seem to be better at not letting their emotions take over. And then it suddenly occurred to me :

Why do I always think of taking a pony out with a horse? Why don’t I ever consider taking a horse out with a pony?

Now to some people this will seem like exactly the same thing, but it actually feels very different to me. It is giving the pony the responsibility instead of the horse. When I shut my eyes and consider the difference in how each option feels, taking the horse with the pony feels confident, sure, easy going, whereas taking the pony with the horse feels more anxious and worrying weirdly, and this has I suppose come across when I have done this.

I always end up with being cut in two with the pony doing what she wants and being confident about it, and the horse feeling anxious because I am asking them to be in charge, be in front, walk forward and away from the pony to get the pony to move, which never really worked out. I think I have been told time and again by them all that that isn’t how they like to be, but I just wasn’t really listening. I had to let go of the riding thing to see it I think.

Its going to be interesting to explore, but first I need to do a lot more walks with the ponies individually. We need to be a lead team for the horses. I somehow think this way of going will suit Risada perfectly and she would enjoy just following me and a pony. She does not like responsibility and has never pushed herself forward in the herd. She looks after Neige quite a bit now but only if the others aren’t around. Not sure with Timmy, but I am more focussed on exercise solutions for the laminitics at the moment before spring descends……..

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