It’s May 1st 2011, and my Gold Challenge has officially started! Today at 11am was my first ever Horse Riding Lesson. I’ve ridden Donkey’s on the beach before, but never a horse. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous, but in actual fact it was really easy and calming, and I quickly realised I had nothing to be nervous about – I absolutely loved it!
My instructor was called Becky and she was very friendly and welcoming! I came completely unprepaired – although I was told I was wearing the correct clothing – sum leggings and a vest top and cardy – however I didn’t have a riding hat, riding boots or gloves yet, so the Equine centre have very kindly let me borrow them for each of the lessons. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of me kitted up but I will have some next lesson – I just thought as its the first time its a bit cheeky to ask her to take a picture while she’s teaching a complete beginner! lol
So once I was all kitted up and ready, I was introduced to my horse. She was a cute brown horse called Jola, very calm and laid back and she looked very tired bless her – this is good though, as I think a horse with too much energy for my first lesson would be a little scary! The below picture is of some of the stables and Jola is the horse right at the end!
So, once I was all kitted up Becky talked me through some safety measures, the kit of the horse and how to walk her through to the inside training room. When leading the horse you clasp the reins in two places, your right hand just to the side of the horses head, and your left hand further down the reins by your hips. Once inside we then went through the Horse Tack – how to fasten the saddle, the stirrups and Briddle. You fasten the saddle twice – once before you are on and once after, as your weight can alter its tightness, this is felt by putting your hand under the fastner to check it is very tight. The Stirrups need to be the right length – you measure this by putting your hand at the top where they are fastened to the saddle, and if the stirrup tucks neatly under your arm, its the correct length, if not you adjust it.
Next was learning how to mount a horse. Becky gave me a demonstration first and then it was my turn!! eak! So I climbed onto the mounting stool and made sure my left foot was in a stirrup and my left hand was clutching the reins together at the base of Jola’s neck. I then placed my right hand on the top of the saddle and swung myself over! Considering how tiny I was compaired to the horse it was a very successful mount and I did it in one sweep! Once in the saddle the stirrups needed adjusting again so that the knees are bent at a good angle, and then its heels down toes up! I was shown the correct sitting posture – shoulder, hips and heels should be in-line – and was then shown the correct way to hold the reins – thumbs up, fingers clutching and little finger underneath – this is how you should always hold them and your arms should always be straight so sometimes you have to adjust the length of rein you’re holding – otherwise it’s too flax and the horse won’t know when your pulling.
Then it was time to go for a walk! Back straight, looking ahead always and both heels squeeze the horse, sometimes a little kick or a ‘walk on’ is needed and off we trot! 😀 Now at first it seems a little wierd, then you get more used to it, then towards the end of the lesson it really begins to stretch your muscles! Jola was excellent, she sometimes needed a bit of coaxing to start walking, and sometimes stopped in the middle of a trot (cheeky thing) but generally she did what she was told! After a few circles of the arena, I then learnt how to stop which was a gentle but firm pull back on the reins – arms still straight.
I then learnt how to steer Jola. A gentle but firm pull with my left arm away from her to turn left, and the same for the right but with the right arm. Occassionally I needed to squeeze a little harder or kick a couple of times to get her moving, and needed to adjust the reins alot as my hands kept slipping – the correct way to do this is to slide one hand down and then the other, always thumbs up and little finger under.
So we did this for a while, walking, changing directions, halting, changing speed from a slow walk to a more energetic walk/trot (you do this by kicking/squeezing a little harder whilst she’s walking). Becky said that I was picking everything up very well and that I was a natural and held a good connection with Jola! (always good to hear!) Jola was occassionaly quite cheeky and fancied just stopping halfway through a circuit or to basque in the sun – a lot like me then!! But generally she was lovely and calm!
Then it was time to dismount…! ahem…Even though it was a very long way down I managed it quite dignified however it did take me a few seconds of feet-out-of-sirrups-leg-swinging and body swaying, before I plucked up the courage to swing myself over! Again you have to relax the reins and put one hand firmly on the saddle to swing your body over. Becky was there to ease my journey down and I did land on both feet!
…and that my friends, was my first lesson! It went rather well and cor blimey do your legs hurt/turn to jelly after!!! I was told that next week after learning to trot and canter, they would hurt even more and I’d soon have legs and arms of steel…well, its a bonus if I get a work out from it! Next lesson I hope to get some pictures of me actually riding so watch this space! Until then, watch out for my next blog which will be Trampolining on Friday evening!