If you've stumbled across this blog, then you're either a fellow Equestrian enthusiast, or someone who has an interest in reading the inner thoughts of a horse crazed adult, who wants the world, but needs to work towards achieving it first.
My name is Rochelle, I'm currently 24yrs old, and I have been riding horses for the past thirteen years, although I'm far from being someone who can comfortably ride a horse at the basic gaits. A part of that has to do with the nerves that I was gifted when I was about 15, where the "I'll jump anything you put in front of me and go as fast as my horse will carry me" attitude was met with the reality of my first broken bone. I guess you can say whilst I love the sport, I'm more paranoid than the average flighty Thoroughbred!! The other, more larger part is because I'm partially damaged, and have little strength to my right leg. I won't bore you with the logistics, but because of this, I've spent more time dreaming of riding, than the actual reality in the past two years.
However, I recently received a great dose of confidence and motivation to ignore the pain and just ride. So with the notion of not only starting a brand new year of 2011, I thought it would only make sense since there's been so many changes with the beginning of this new decade, to document it for the masses (I kid, we all know it's just my friends who have nothing better to do) who will read this blog!
Changes, for a totally new horse experience!
I've owned my own horses since I was 16. In that period of time, I had Bailey, my first pony, as my only horse for about 3 months or so. Since then, there's only been an extra month where I only had one horse, as I sold my second mare April, and looked around before buying my gelding, Evo. That was back in 2007, and from then I had two, and then three horses when I got Honey a year and a half later. Tomorrow when I go to the paddock, I will only find one horse there - Honey. Today Evo moved along in his journey of being a dressage/show pony to a home where he could actually be one. He was bought by me with all the right intentions, but not having the physical ability to ride such a forward moving, expressive animal, made me make the decision to give him what he so rightly deserves. And whilst it only has seemed to hit now, that the day is basically over and I'm almost ready for bed, I'm not as sad as I thought I would be. Perhaps because that Evo has gone to a home much like the one I used to offer him, although with the ability to get him out and about. I'm super excited for him, and wish him and his new owner the best luck!
And that leaves me with my beloved ginger mare, who suits me in every way to dabble through a world where she learns how to school under saddle and I learn how to trust again in my riding, in myself and most importantly in my horse.
I'm excited, because 2011 has signalled a new start, one that has already started despite the few days we've had into this year.
I hope you join us on this journey, I'll try to keep it interesting!!
My official blog can be found at Dressage Tails for better convenience!
Some girls always wanted the grey noble steed from fairytales when they were a kid. Or a magnificent black horse much like Black Beauty. I was a little different from the herd, and had always wanted a chestnut pony. Liver chestnut to be exact. Well I've not yet gained that wish yet, but I've come close with owning two lovely dark chestnut mares, and Honey just happens to be one of a kind.
Her story, much like the tales you hear from most Standardbred owners, comes with a sad beginning, and the hope of a new life when rescued by one of my best friends and great instructor. Since then she has lost the title of "dangerous" and "unstoppable" and become the bravest, safest, most enjoyable ride I've personally owned. Yes Evo had all the fancy tricks under saddle to make the way towards the riding career I want, but the reality was I needed something smaller, more compact in movement, but could still turn into something special with the right training. Honey's exactly that. Her nature is second to none, and so long as she's being ridden, she doesn't care whether its just plodding around, or off establishing her canter. She's the type of horse to excite their rider because being ridden is fun to her. I think that's what I like about her the most.
She has her quirks, she has her typical mareish arguments, but we match so well, that we'd do anything for each other. And its only recently that I've rediscovered why I always have been so happy to tell everyone that Honey is my one true riding partner. After a freak accident that meant I shattered my leg almost two years ago, I've been somewhat in a limbo of pain and desire to ride, but allowing myself to let the pain overrule my ability to just get on with this. Admittedly, this has meant Honey has barely been worked, and become quite the porker. In the last couple of months I've realised the extent to my mistake, and like a true horse person, I am guilty, but working towards rectifying it. I guess as horrible as it sounds, her weight gain has been a blessing, because it was what triggered me to start thinking of ways to get the weight off, all coming back to riding work.
And with Evo's departure, I got the grand scheme that I was going to have a farewell ride, despite not riding him myself (he has been ridden numerous of times) since my accident in Mar 09. It didn't go as well as I had hoped for it, nothing bad, and so I was left wanting to ride, and Honey was certainly glad I wanted to. Of course the fear kicked in, I'm not scared of her, but had little faith in myself, and just needed the lunge line and ground support, whilst I did everything up in the saddle. It went better than I expected, more so because of two things - the grand effect of riding a horse who's head dominant in a flash noseband (a new addition), and the sudden appearance of brass balls between my legs. Not only did the obese ginger try her heart out and soften so she felt so lovely in my hands, she tried to carry herself correctly, despite the mass of belly both she and I have. I couldn't not reward her efforts, and I only knew one way of doing so, asking her to trot. I've not trotted, hell I thought my leg wouldn't cope! But I didn't seem to remember that at the time, just determined to give her what she wanted.
It's ironic, something that used to come to her so easily, a click, a squeeze, etc, was so hard to find. Namely because the poor girl was stunned. She hasn't been allowed to trot, because of her ridiculous Mummy going "just walkkkk Honey" whenever there was a chance of it occurring. She was highly hesitant, something I've barely experienced with her before, even when backing and starting her, she's always been super brave. It took me nagging her, and praising her for jogging and then over praising her for taking two strides to actually show her that hey, I may have gone some where all that time back in 09, the same worry she has carried with her with other riders in the past near 2 years, but I sure as hell wasn't planning on going anywhere this time. This seemed to give her the courage she needed, and soon we were trotting circles upon circles until my leg felt like it burning and going to fall off! It was the boost we both needed and after crying tears of joy upon her neck for what seemed like forever, I left with the notion that I had conquered the world. The things most horse riders take for granted are the things I treasure the most.
Of course when history is being made, no one is ever able to take photos to document it, but the next day I went with my new found attitude, my camera and photographer for the day, in my fresh pair of big girl pants and rode my horse in a bigger space than usual, off the lunge, walked, trotted, rode for freaking half an hour with a bung leg, I couldn't feel my legs when I was done, Honey even threw in a wobble-canter and I didn't panic. It ended on the buckle, and the drive I felt, the pure NEED to ride her is back. I remember before the accident, how obsessed I was with riding her. How I loved it, how we were learning what softening and carrying meant, and working from behind etc. And she remembers it all now, and despite her physical limitations, is so freaking over the moon that her lazy, paranoid, over thinking the situation of a Mother, realised how simple it is.
Just get up and ride. I wished I had clued myself onto this strategy earlier.
Tomorrow, or should I say later today, is our third ride. She seemed a little bit annoyed that yesterday there was no ride, and to be honest I was too! But I'll make up for it tomorrow I'm sure. I'm hoping to introduce a ground pole tomorrow to navigate, and work on maintaining tempo at both the walk and trot. I'm sure Honey will try to throw in another excited wobble-canter, but for the first time in a long time, I can say I don't care! ^_^
When you're not panicking after a spook, you know you've struck gold.
There will always be a time where things need to be tested. It makes sense really, when we get new things, such as a camera or phone, we play with it, check out all the cool stuff it can do, we're excited and just happy to have it. Then its time to see what it can really do and start testing it. Although horses are far from technology, the same rule can somewhat be used here. Our first ride was fun and exciting, and not much went down at all. Our second was checking out what we could do still, and then today our ride was somewhat testing. More so from my point of view, seeing just how much I could throw at my obese, unfit mare and also myself really.
Of course comfort zones are something humans like to stay in, and especially me. If there was a club that you could join for people who don't like to leave what they feel safe in, I'd be a life long member! For crying out loud, I've always wanted to just PLOD down a beach, but my fear for big spaces keeps me in my paddock, and even in a riding area (albeit bigger than my previous one, so I am getting better). Of course little by little I challenge this, but I'm generally the type of person who if scared, I will retreat back. Its something I really need to work on, and I'll get there, just within my own steps. Since breaking my leg, its obvious I've become more nervous, and have always thought "uh oh, what if you come off again and break something else?!" It wasn't my first break, but the biggest break and the hardest to recover from, so rationally some of it would be normal fear. I was worried my balance would let me down with the smallest of slip ups, and I'd hit the turf easily. I guess this first week of riding is really going to broaden my outlook on things as we keep rediscovering ourselves.
The ride started out better than it had on the 7th, although I could tell Honey was a little too eager from having the day previously off. She proved this by trying to trot half way into our first round of the riding area, and was sadly disappointed when I told her no. I waited until she was settled into both reins well before asking and of course, I got a no in return by her kicking out her leg. Needless to say, it was amusing to see her personality under saddle back. She didn't resist after that little remark and trotted off, all too eagerly again. I had new stirrup leathers, and down a hole or two than usual, which felt bloody good in the walk, not so much in the trot. I was trying to post but felt the push to come out of the saddle much greater in the beginning, although I got there in the end! I'm thinking it might be just something I'll need to adjust to, rather than bring my length back up and looking bunched up. It helped my leg tremendously too, I didn't feel like the feeling in my leg went numb for a change haha!
After our trots on both reins, I went back to the walk and worked through that, focusing more so on myself, and once I had myself in place it seemed to help Honey get in hers really well. I always have a tendency to ride with my hands low and turned in rather than thumbs on top and it irks me with how "difficult" it seems to be to achieve the consistency with my hands, and so I worked really hard on fixing that today. Thankfully, it's shown up in photos that I actually did. It was great to see that once I stopped breaking the line from bit to elbow, Honey began to offer more of herself, to the point that she'd go to step under herself and slip a little because she's a bit too heavy to carry herself as well as she'd like! Never the less we were both trying really hard to achieve what we were doing and there were some LOVELY moments today where everything just clicked. I really love them! Still need to work on getting more activity into it, the one thing I find with Honey is she'll offer her to soften but she doesn't maintain her tempo and almost takes littler steps. I kept niggling with my outside leg to maintain it for her and we'd get spurts of active walking then she'd go "oh right I'm doing this with my head" and slacken off. Almost like she can't multitask, but bless her, she's trying... and we'll get it correctly and not her just softening at the mouth soon I'm sure!
Like I suggested in the previous blog, I brought a pole into the situation today. Of course with my Dad showing up, she was pretty amped up at the random man walking across to her, and oogled him more than she ought to have, and so her attention span was ridiculous by this stage, she was too busy looking at the 4yr old child that comes out on most visits, then my Dad, and then this weird pole in the middle. She didn't do anything stupid, but it did take awhile for me to regain her attention, namely with walk-halt transitions, and a bit of nagging from my inside leg saying "hey, weren't we relaxed and schooling before?!" But she didn't see the pole as a big deal, and almost went to jump it on the third time over it, which would have been totally laughable on my behalf. Thankfully she didn't though!
After another trot we cooled down and it came time for my test for the day. It was purely my fault it happened, I dropped the reins, and Honey was just cruising as she does, and so I let go of the reins all together and just enjoyed the freedom of feeling safe on my horse, happy to be back up in the saddle, and Honey saw the child clapping and went "trot time? OKAYYYY!" Well she went to stride off, and I snapped my reins up (not tight, just grabbed them). Stupid mistake on my behalf. Like I said to my friend Beka who wants to come out and ride Honey sometime, she's cool stuff, but if you reel her in or make a sudden grab at her head, she becomes cool stuff, either in the air, or with speed. She's never nasty about it, but my fright to her made her go "HOLY CRAP!" and shoot off. It's a good thing I didn't panic further than the rein snatching and just said "woah no" and Honey stopped immediately. I'd dropped her in the deep end and she reacted just like she has whenever someone else in the past has since the accident. Luckily for me, she doesn't wanna end up back on more paddock rest, and she was pretty certain she wanted to stop too. Of course this made her all jumpy underneath me, and so I had to cool her down again. I hadn't realised the child had clapped the first time, until she did it again, and Honey leapt up in the air in fright. I managed to get her calm, to the point she was back onto thinking about just me and ended on this little note....
So I was pretty darn stoked that when I hopped off, I hadn't gotten off because I was scared. I hadn't panicked and given Honey something further to over think, and supported her whilst she calmed down. I think handling this situation, albeit something small, but something still big enough to unsettle the "old" me, shows that I've found the strength and determination to get on with things. It shows that I have found the drive that's fueling me to continue this for myself. I guess in reality, I'm **** over hearing "why do you have horses if you don't ride them anymore?" from people too.
I'm finally riding for me, and boy does it feel good!
Well that's this blog finished, you poor souls if you made it to the end here. Hope your first week of 2011 has been good everyone, mine certainly has been!
As I sit here right now barely able to move due to some wicked sunburn, it feels slightly surreal that yesterday I felt like I was flying. For someone who's first full week back into riding ends on Thursday and so far have only had two days out of the saddle in that week, it's kind of amazing and unbelievable that yesterday I was urging for Honey to canter.
It's so not like me in the slightest!
When I had the grand idea of riding Honey last Thursday, I didn't exactly imagine I'd be doing everything we had been doing just before the accident within the space of seven days! In fact, I didn't imagine trotting would become so easily a thing to do and enjoy, let alone when Honey sneakily tried to canter, I all but kicked her into it. And then asked her to do so three more times, so that the trotting in between, whilst controllable and balanced, was near clocking up the speed that would leave even the fittest rider breathless! It was like a much needed hoon on Honey's behalf, to really get going and afterwards, everything just fell into place.
It's ironic because just ten minutes before our first trot, I had been sitting there, going "oh crap no don't you dare you bloody horse!" to two very persistent geldings! One had broken from his paddock, and ended up realising he couldn't get into where we were, and decided to snooze in the shade of the trees. The other is Honey's now closest friend and is notorious for climbing out of his paddock when he feels it fitting enough to do so! Whilst both lovely horses, I wasn't exactly thrilled that my in heat, flirt of a mare, with the loss of her usual male buddy, was pretty much hanging the neon sign out for all the offers she could get. I found that she became increasingly interested in her closest friend in particular, her attention span dropping away from me and to him every time we'd come around to his side of the riding area. Needless to say I did panic. I am only human after all, and I knew if one of them were to run for it, well, I was pretty sure the tart of a mare I was on would have been likely to try and join in. Thankfully, my brain doesn't seem to shut out options to remedy a situation like it did in the past so I started to really ask for her attention back, and when I felt like I had it solely on myself, pushed her forward into the trot.
I'm not going to lie, it's been nearly two years (yes, so I keep saying!!) since I've trotted, and I'm not exactly the fittest person around. In fact, since I was all but banned from the gym by my doctor and gym trainer for a month-6 weeks, I feel flabby and weak. So whilst I've been trotting around in this last few days alright-ish, its one story to go from a working trot that's just standard really, into a fully fledged, "if I wasn't trotting I'd be pacing up a storm around a track like I used to" kind of trot. It was consistent, I had to hand it to her for that, but when she first clicked into full gear, I wobbled around like a lame sack of potatoes on her back. I was way back here, whilst she was up there, waiting for me to catch up. And it was frustrating in the beginning. To be trying to find myself on an actually well balanced trot that racked up some mega speeding violations on such a sunny day. I felt lame, even though the odds were against me to get it right away, given my current condition. But I'm someone who wants to not watch others ride well, and be able to as well.
Needless to say, I missed a post or two and Honey went "okayyyy" and just pinged into a canter. Not exactly the nicest transition, but she was just so happy to be speeding, that she just threw herself into it. I was a bit concerned with her trotting that fast into a canter, but then I did realise that I was on a Standardbred... and by this I don't mean to be breed racist, but when they're green to cantering under saddle, sometimes they just need to be run into it... and since she was balanced, I couldn't fault her for trying really. I don't know where it came from, me the person who hates speeding and likes plodding, suddenly became as excited and determined as the ginger underneath me and wanted to fly. So here we were, speeding around the riding area, going "no not in this corner Honey, but here go here" and her just trying to get it when I asked. Of course the canter was sh*t, I can't exactly expect her to be able to do anything but wobble-canter being unfit, obese and lugging me around too, but it was better her last couple of attempts and she held it longer too, so of course I treated her like she'd just won gold again. And hell, when you have a horse that willing to try, with her "I did it, see, you just saw me do it, aren't I a clever girl" face on, how could you turn around and tell her it was sh*t?!
The thing I liked the most about the ride was that we were flying and then the next minute we were back to a walk, calm, collected, and working together like we hadn't just treated the paddock as a race way. Some people always have to get onto their horse and say "hey now, its walkies not trotties time, so stop jig jogging and bloody walk!" and that's what I was expecting to have to do as Honey will always be a forward thinking horse. But she was able to just drop back down to an active walk and listen to my leg and hands with ease. In fact the walk, as expected was a 100 times better, and I felt that even when I put my leg on and held my reins with a bit more weight in them, she didn't suck back like she usually does and do that "I'm working, I'm doing the head thing, but yeah, totally forgot HOW to walk again... sorry!" walk she does. It was nice not having to keep niggling over and over with my outside leg to keep her out of her plod mode and into a proper walk with swing from behind. I don't expect her to be able to carry herself and me as well as I'm used to, both being porkers, but I do expect her to try and be active in all her gaits. So it was a nice change not to nag at her and get "oh trot?" cos I've put too much leg on or whatever.
I was once told by my instructor that schooling is much like driving a manual, you have to keep the foot pedals in balance. If the horse isn't moving actively, then more leg is needed than hand to accelerate forward. But if there's too much activity not allowing for correct bend and use of the body, then more hand to help vibrate and maintain is needed. I love this theory and use it whenever I'm riding, but I'm still rusty as hell. And with Honey still being so unfit I need to be patient.
In a sense, that's why Honey's show name is Lovebug. Whenever I ride her, even the horrible rides, where nothing comes together right and all we do is argue over what we want to do, its like I'm absolutely obsessed. She's bitten me, and got me under her spell of needing to ride her so much that I come home, and could go back out and ride her again! And all my thoughts now are just horse related. I feel like sitting in front of my computer is not as much fun unless I'm doing something horse related. I guess the whole point to this blog is simply that - I can't stop thinking about my horse that I'm now needing to speak about her somewhere! Even if it comes out boring and rambling to the majority of my audience. Even if by the end of it, ya'll all get sick of hearing "two years" "accident" "I love Honey" and leave me, I can look back on these words I've written and be able to smile to myself.
Well I'll end this here. I'm on TradeMe with my best friends looking at horses... which is never a good thing!