Competition Season is upon us.  It has been quiet of late. The good weather has continued and bar one week when we experienced very high winds and lashing rain all lessons have been able to take place.  Rio is doing really well and our partnership continues on an upward trajectory. He is far more energetic and when I get on him we immediately begin to work together rather than me having to push and shove him along. He is a fairly laid back pony although we did have one slight hairy moment a couple of weeks ago when a group of walkers went past in all their day glo glory.  Rio decided he wasn’t sure about this and jumped slightly – I had my eye off the ball (looking at all the day glo!) as he upped the trot to what felt like mega miles per hour – it probably wasn’t but that’s how it felt. Glad to say that at least my brain said “don’t drop the reins – just bring him back gently to the required speed” and I survived but it was good practice for those moments that might happen at the competition. Nip Tuck and waving plant pots come to mind!

In the last few weeks I have experienced my first bit of pole work. This is something Rio loves to do apparently but for me it’s all new.  In my last blog I had been doing some turns on the forehand and circles walking over the poles at set intervals. We did quite well once I realised that Rio knew exactly when to lift his legs and when not – I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to indicate to him when to step over or whether he would know himself. My coach said it was an interesting question and we considered the situation of what happens when horse and rider are not in sync. Generally the horse misses the stride and trips the pole or kicks it. Getting into a rhythm is important and once I got this we worked together quite well. Of course the next step was trotting over a pole. This was nerve wracking!  Yes, I know it was only a pole but the feeling was quite strange. Was this how jockeys felt when facing their first fence in the Grand National?! The first time I felt a bit flappy in the saddle but after two of three times learnt to keep myself upright and go with Rio. It was fun even though initially it was quite scary for me!

We received a very welcome donation this past month. Haemmerlin offered us some wheelbarrows to replace the ones we had which were fast becoming unusable. What a fantastic offer. We were very pleased to receive them and one of our volunteers drove up to Walsall to pick them up. Liz another volunteer had contacted them sending a rather lovely poem about how our wheelbarrows were on their last legs and would they consider donating a replacement. They did more than this and offered us four!  So now we have a wheelbarrow in each corner of the yard – what luxury and what a wonderful response from such a firm. There are so many kind people and businesses out there that support charities like us and we are always grateful for their help.

As it’s only a few weeks until the RDA Regional Competition we have been practising some of the elements of the test we shall take.  I have also been learning how to deal with mine and Rio’s tendency to fall out – not helpful when attempting to do right hand circles!  So with my coach’s help I have been learning how to stop Rio dropping his right hand shoulder and thus contributing to my tendency to slide sideways out of the saddle. My wonky spine isn’t helping but when Rio also drops then it’s doubly difficult. Learning how to keep his hind leg under more and his head at the right angle immediately straightened him up and I felt far more anchored centrally with much less sliding.  It was one of those defining moments which are so exciting for a novice rider like me. As the Regionals are not far off I want to be able to take Rio into the ring and perform as good a test as possible. Keeping him straight and more forward going not only helps with my posture but makes things much easier to do – there is no need to keep pushing and once he was going his walk was really energetic and once I had worked out how to pace him we did some lovely circles and turns. New nuggets of info are also helping me to manage the shapes whilst keeping Rio on track – think threepenny bits when doing circles – too short reins can result in too much bend so it was really helpful to think of just keeping him straight but enough on the bend to do a lovely smooth circle without him falling in or out. A couple of weeks along and things are improving although it’s giving me a real physical challenge for my right leg which is feeling somewhat weak at the moment. But hey, who ever said learning to ride was easy!

Rio also went on a trip to a local equestrian centre just to get him used to the new horse box we are going to use to take him to the RDA Regionals this year. He was a perfect passenger and happily munched on his haynet as he was driven a few miles up the road. A good work out in their arena and then it was back home again. What a star he is!

The youngsters have also been working really hard and last month two of them were awarded their Grade 1 and 2 RDA Proficiency Test Certificates. Timmy and Thomas love their riding and have worked hard to achieve these. Well done to them both!  Here they are with our pony Fudge.

Whilst I am feeling positive about my forthcoming competition I have been pondering on something my coach said to me. She said I need to change my mind set as I tend to think every time something doesn’t go well it means I can’t ride – i.e. I’m a failure. But things don’t always have to go well in order for the lesson to be positive. Learning is a progressive act and to learn we have to get things wrong sometimes. I need to think I can’t do something YET rather than I can’t do something. She’s right of course – as she always is!  But I have thought about this a lot and I do tend to do this so I am now going to be more positive and take positive things from whatever happens. Thomas Ritter of Ritter Dressage reminds us that the ups and downs of riding are normal even though sometimes they can be unnerving. Reducing your stress levels by adjusting your mind set to be more positive can help enormously and make the learning process much more fun. Obsessing over things that don’t go right won’t help so just enjoy the moment and progression may happen quicker than you think.

Kesteven RiDeAbility. Sue’s Blog. Mar/April. 2019. www.kestevenrda.co.uk

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