Thursday, June 29, 2006

My riding history.....

My husband bought me 10 riding lessons back in 1994 (I think!), it was all I ever wanted as I had dreamed of riding for a long time but frankly just didnt know how to go about getting started. So, I had my 10 riding lessons at a local riding school and on the 9th, two friends came along to watch. Sue was rather exasperated at how hard work it was as the horses I had been given to ride (rather sensibly for a first timer) were a little "dead to the leg", meaning that I had to work so hard to get them going it was pretty hard to do any concentrating on position and learning how riding really should be. Sue kindly agreed to give me lessons on her own gorgeous girlie and shortly after the first 2 lessons Sue had a back problem and I rode her horse a few times in the school and out hacking which was, frankly, wicked. Folly is a strong, fast (scary for a beginner!) horse and I thoroughly enjoyed my rides but it was a bit of an eye opener. I liken it to learning to drive. Once I'd passed my test I was soon driving a tank of a volvo courtesy of my Dad and any silly girlie driving was quickly put aside in favour of the need to be able to drive a mean beast. Folly is not even slightly a mean beast, but to a complete beginner it was truly a case of just getting on with it and not expecting any forgiveness. That said, Folly was and is kind - she gave me a fantastic start and looked after me so well as she is so genuinely kind.

After I had been through some stable management initiation with Folly and my good friend Jackie's horse Barney - not to mention Flynn who was a handful to say the least but now 10+ years later is a complete sweetheart - I moved on to sharing a horse called Donald, however not for long. Oh what a mind.. Donald knew where he wanted to go and at what speed, not too clever when that meant taking a sharp right and trying to canter home up the hill on the road that led in that direction - thank god for no cars! I gave up sharing Donald when he decided to take off across a busy road flat out after being asked to stand and wait for traffic for what he considered too long a time. We hit a car and were both lucky to walk away. As a complete novice, I decided I wasnt ready for that, despite him being a lovely boy albeit with a significant wind problem. Forever in our hearts, Donald has now passed away and is still being missed by those who had the good fortune to meet him. In fact, before I cancelled my share, I took him on a long sponsored ride and he looked after me implicitly; this was a major thing for me being so inexperienced and I'm so grateful I was in his capable hooves.

Ok, after that I shared Rhett for a very very short time as I have a back problem (dont all riders?) and at that time I was in a great deal of pain and gave up sharing Rhett as I just didnt know what I was dealing with. I got medical treatment ("you dont have a strong back - live with it") and when things started to settle down I started having more lessons. These were great for me as my experience was mainly around hacking and since my first 10 or so lessons I hadnt concentrated any time on really learning.

My next significant share was courtesy of my friend Kate who found Caroline, a local lady who had a number of horses that needed exercising. Between Kate, Chris and myself we set up a share arrangement which meant that we could ride on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Caroline's horses lived out and over the course of 2 years we rode Bandit, Brummie, Jack, Kizzie and Lou Lou (Lou Lou was gorgeous but just a little too small for us at 14hh ish. Muddy furry coats didn’t get us down too much but the impossibility of riding horses soaked through was rather frustrating, still, we had some fabulous rides in the glorious countryside and many in the sunshine involving trips to pubs!


Bandit was my fave, don’t know why, I just developed more of a bond with him than the others but we did make a point of swapping around so as to give each of us a chance with a different horse. Even so, it just so happened that we each had a different favourite which was lucky. Chris favoured the handsome Brumski Beat and Kate fell for cheeky chap Jack Flash.

Brummski Beat

Jack Flash


Lou Lou

Unfortunately Jack was sold which left Kate very sad (he was her favourite) but soon Kizzie came along (Jack's half sister) and although unbroken, this was soon remedied and we each had a couple of rides on Kizz, mine a little more traumatic than the others!

There is a long familiar route through the woods near to where the horses lived and I rode Kizz along there one day, with Kate riding Bandit. Unfortunately, Kizz didn’t much like puddles and was diagonally jumping any that she came across to the point where I was thrown about a bit. At one point, whilst riding a fast canter, Kizz shot sideways so fast I was unseated and thrown off, I had nowhere to roll to safety as Bandit was right alongside me and consequently I was kicked in the chest as I hit the deck - not helped because Kizz has knock-knees and her feet turn outwards!

Some things can be funny when you look back but not the pain. I distinctly remember some kids coming along and having a sword fight with our crops after Kate had used one of their phones to call the emergency services - I just kept thinking, "Please don’t hit me with that!"). Well, the ambulance service were a bit stumped because they couldn’t flatten me enough for the stretcher so the air ambulance had to be called to drug me into la la land and I was transported to hospital.

I spent an agonising week on all sorts of drug cocktails trying to stabilise 3 broken ribs and a punctured lung - not to mention the black boob, ouch! Kate and Chris came and cheered me up in hospital although I don’t think I seemed very grateful at the time because it bloody hurt, so sorry girls! Oh, just for completeness, Chris came to the rescue of the horses and Kate and Chris rode them back to the stables, unharmed, albeit flat out as I understand it!

Well the accident left me off work for about 5 weeks as I was rather fragile and certainly high on drugs for the first 3 weeks – I was told I left a rather rambled message for my boss saying I could work from home, needless to say he didn’t reply as he later told me he thought I was out of it!

Anyway, I did go back to work as soon as I could and was very anxious to get back onboard as soon as possible. Kate and Chris were there for me one day when I finally decided (about 2 months after recovery I think) that I wanted to get back on. I chose my beloved, dependable Bandit for a ride and he didn’t let me down. I rode in walk, mates by my side and I admit to being more nervous than I expected. My brain was excited, my body was bricking it! A ride in walk was just wonderful and quite enough for one day. That whole drama happened between May and July 2002.

Well, I rode Bandido for a while after that but owing to family commitments the girls gave up and whilst I love riding, there is a sensible side of me that recognises the safety in riding in numbers so whilst I rode a little I didn’t do so with such regularity.

This is me on Bandido and Kelly on Brum...

I was still around horses but rather intermittently during 2003, thinking more and more about the commitment of having my own and concentrating on being sure that I wanted to take this on.

I took a long while to decide this as anyone who owns a horse and is truly committed to the responsibility knows how much effort it takes. Essentially, I wasn’t prepared to buy my own horse without being able to contribute all the time and money that is absolutely essential when owning a horse. Unfortunately, there are far too many people who own horses and don’t take their responsibilities seriously enough.

I kept looking at horses for sale in magazines but to be honest nothing felt very real. I talked to friends about how to find the kind of horse I was looking for and eventually I started actually calling people and discussing what I wanted. This helped me to understand (or so I thought!) was I was looking for and so I started making appointments to ride some horses for sale.

The search begins............