About me and this Blog

I am a woman of a certain age who has discovered two main things quite late in life:
1.I love Horses and riding them.
2.Riding horses is difficult and I am not very good at it. and perhaps a third thing?
3.Despite all the available evidence I believe its worth continuing my quest to ride a horse well.
See what you think as I endevour to succeed.

I have 2 other blogs, feel free to browse,

you can follow me on Twitter @alisonbarton1

Sunday, 9 September 2012

100% Concentrate. No (fluffy) bits

This summer because Oscar was off recuperating, I have had the pleasure and benefit of riding three different horses, a return to my schoolmistress Flaire, Latina and Oliver. All very different and all teaching me something new.

Latina Oscar and me on Flaire
My biggest lesson of all though was returning to dear old Oscar. He had been lame and had been in receipt of a whole raft of intense therapy and care and is now sound again.  He had been out with the grooms at the stables and he was eager and lovely. After my lesson riding him this week, I felt like I had ridden in a rodeo and felt a little disappointed. Where was that special bond gone that feeling of togetherness. Vaporized like morning mist.

I looked and felt like a sack of spuds on his back when we cantered, my legs started to shrink and my back bent forward, he felt all out of shape with lumpy bits. I was frustrated and felt like one of them Roman generals, “bring me another one this is no good”. How callous am I how spoilt?. I did recognise it was my riding that was letting us down but I wanted Oscar to carry both of us.

Me and Oscar I should have listened more!
I had my lesson on Wednesday but only today Sunday have I had my, “Aha!” moment. I was walking the dogs and started reliving the ride we had had. I had got on him like the old friend he is, but whilst I might have patted him and given him a polo, I didn’t  engage with him, I didn’t enquire how he was doing I didn’t explore how he had changed  what mood he was in. He had put weight on (his girth was tight) but I didn’t think how that might make him feel breaking into a Canter. He has new super dooper shoes on with gel cushions and over reach boots a whole lot of new things for him to accommodate. He had been sleepy in the stable but pretty perky once we got in the school and I just wanted to get on with it. I didn’t respond to him or ride him with my brain and my legs and seat just went to bits.

How we were and how we will be again!
Of course we learn early on that all horses are different and need to be approached and ridden as individuals.In addition to that each horse is a bundle of contained energy and intelligence each having his own good and bad days. Oscar is not a car that has had his brakes fixed and a swift check of the brakes and off we go. He needs my care and respect and 100% concentration. Lesson learned Oscar I will be ready for you next time, no fluffy bits. I promise.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pooch or Pony a problem solved ?

Horse and Hounds  come as a  set pack fab together

I love horses and I love dogs and if I had to live without one it would be a hard choice.  I love coming home to my dogs,  and love spending time with horses at the stables. 

Visiting the Monmouthshire show last week I was in heaven being amongst so many beautiful Horses and Dogs, together at the same time. 

To see Horses and dogs(hounds) bounding along side by side is breathtaking. So when you love both how could you choose one over  the other.? 
little or large there is a choice

Horses are big. and they can be gigantic
 like this huge Hunter, he must have been approaching 18hh. But right next to him is this lovely  little guy, small but perfectly formed and although you can't see in the photo he has a rider on his back too.. So there is a choice with horses, but perhaps not as much as with dogs? 
My Beautiful Beagles perfect dogs for us
I love the gun dogs, and Phil's favourite in the ring was a Pyrenean mountain dog which is huge of course. I loved the Irish Setter at the show but he was too big for me. 

We have beagles which are a perfect size and nature for us and so beautiful.  They can sit at your feet and snore gently while you watch T.V. At some point you have to leave your horse in the field or stable Don't you?.  

Well perhaps not, perhaps I could have the best of both worlds look at this little guy I saw at the show he's smaller than some dogs!

But this little fella is smaller than a lot of dogs

Could he be the answer? A horse I could have at home yeah !!! But then of course I couldn't ride him and he may be able to go into homes and many do as Guide Horses http://www.guidehorse.org/photo_page.htm  but my floors couldn't cope with it and what would my Beagles say . No I can't choose between them and while I can afford dogs at home and only get a horse fix with my lessons I have to have both in my life but just not together not yet not til I win the lottery.



Thursday, 26 July 2012

Going the extra mile at the stables

Its been a while  since my last blog and loads has happened, we've had a few ups and downs and some stuff I will tell you about another time. But today was one of those lovely days you want to have over and over so lets tell you about that now. Its hot, yes you know, well at our stables , that's Redbrook they really look after you when the sun is out. We walked into the tack room to see this notice, read the green writing carefully.

Line up and get your  bellie seen to!

The writing says: Very Important, 1st thing make sure everyone has suncream and cream on their bellies and wherever they need it. Well we are very obedient and if Hayley says we need sun cream on our bellies, well up come the T-shirts. We did think it was a bit excessive but she knows what she's doing and the lesson could involve some sort of exercise which exposed our bellies?

We may have lined up obligingly but the dogs just couldn't be bothered, so their body language told us come and slap it on if you want to.
its too hot you will have to come to me and do my bits

Chrissie me and Dorothy enjoyed our lesson and it was so hot we needed sustenance so we decided to join the other girlies, Hayley, Meg and Tony for lunch. We got changed first. Chrissie was a bit concerned that Latina wouldn't recognise her in her civvies, Latina looked blankly at her,"hey its me " . Chrissie  said.

Chrissie loves Latina 

Who are you?  whats this handbag you've never had one of them before!
The last two lessons I have ridden Oliver he is absolutely gorgeous and so clever, I miss Oscar but riding Oliver has made me happy again, please say hello to Oliver.

Alison Loves Oliver isn't he handsome?
Can you see the look of love in (both) of our eyes I am sure its mutual, but all I can give him right now is a  sugar lump and I am off for lunch, its just got to be done.

Tell me you love me too(its in the eyes)
 After a  busy morning rubbing sun cream in bellies and drinking loads of water and generally being pampered before during and after our lesson we retired to the pub, it doesn't get better than that. Lovely day thank you girls.
We need to eat too you know yum yum

Monday, 25 June 2012

Am I nearly there yet?

Here I go
Learning to ride, for me is like climbing a hill, but you can’t quite see the summit, but you feel you will see it in a little while just keep making steady progress and it will come clearly into view any minute. You feel the effort of walking uphill and your body takes a while to find a rhythm, eventually your breathing settles down and you feel comfortable, yet challenged at the same time. Keep going to the top you think.

Then you decide its not so close so you stop and admire the view, have a cup of tea even, enjoy the moment, to moment achievement of getting closer to the top. You have  what you think is your goal in view at last for it to turn out to be a bit of a plateau which stretches out for much longer than you could ever of imagined, whilst its sort of easy putting one foot in front of the other, you feel like you are not actually getting anywhere. Then your path starts to climb, much more steeply this time, you realise now that you are actually climbing a mountain. You stumble, quite a bit and take another rest and this time the view is magnificent, but its hard and you still are not sure if what you think is the end is really what it seems. You start to wonder if this height, is good enough, just stay put, why push on any further, how much better can it be up there. Then you consider all the options, rest longer, and enjoy being where you are. Throw the towel in and start back down where you would be much more comfortable, or keep going because it must be worth it.

still going!
While you are making up your mind you turn to your guide and ask “Am I nearly there yet” she looks at you kindly and answers, “nearly”.

Well if you don’t keep going and turn back you will never know what it‘s like to have actually got there, so……….


Sunday, 17 June 2012

A little Elegance, at last!

Sitting prettier?
A new girl joined our gang this week; she had not ridden for years and felt like she was starting from scratch. I must say though she was pretty good, nothing like when I came for my first lesson last year. Which was why I was particularly nervous when Hayley asked her to watch me while I demonstrated my canter, to illustrate the use of the ” seat”. I thought oh no pressure then, and tried hard not to let myself down. Hayley still had some guiding words for me about the transition, as I tend to push and lean forward, which was fine can’t have Hayley standing on ceremony that would really throw me.

Anyway you can judge for yourselves how it went as my friend, Jayne, had come to watch me for the first time and do some filming while she was there. (Probably because I don’t stop talking horse). Jayne loves all animals but doesn’t want to ride, so I found it very touching that she would come and watch. My sister did the same last week and when non horsey people show an interest its quite heart warming.

The ever watchful Hayley + the giving Oscar
I quite like the whole aspect of lessons, I know I am paying for the instruction, but putting that to one side. I get guidance on whether I am doing the right thing. I don’t mind being put right either, its all part of someone helping me be the best I can be. When I do get it right there is instant praise and recognition. Like how we nurture our children, praising them on everyday tasks to encourage confidence and surefootedness. What I have come to realise is that I for one haven’t outgrown the need for reassurance and support, but perhaps culturally we think adults are “there” so we don’t bother with that anymore. Well its not just in the school that I benefit from praise and acknowledgement and I don’t think I am alone. I am going to try and support fellow adults more and hope anyone reading this can remember to encourage each other outside the school too. I for one want to carry on growing and developing. I am not needy, I am just human.  

P.S I can see my dropped shoulder as I come into the 20 m circle, not pointing with the right(left) "booby" again. oh will I ever get it right/left!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Riding, staying ahead of the black dog

Dozer the Labrador Retriever at 3 years old.
He looks so cute but !

Good health is such a fragile, precious gift. Not realising that is completely understandable and in some ways a period of grace exists until bang, wallop, splat. You meet your first demon, which is to shake the innocent ignorance that stops you taking health for granted.

It may be your own first encounter with poor health, for me it was watching loved ones battle illness which burst my bubble of blissful ignorance. Well before, I myself experienced my own small disturbance to good health. So now I am in that worldly position of appreciating the delicate balance of life.

It just keeps raining but we must ignore it
The weather is affecting most of us one way or another and those who tread the thin line between equilibrium and blackness can be devastated simply by endless grey days. Riding is no longer just fun for me not only does it lift my spirits it I am convinced it keeps me well and on an even keel.

My ride was cancelled on Friday the rain was, well, just too wet and the wind too gusty, it just makes sense not to risk it on these occasions. I felt gutted but there is so many unpredictable things that can happen with wind, horses trees slippy mud etc its not worth it. Sense has to prevail. 

I ride in all weathers, just get my camera out when its sunny

But I am not a fair weather rider no way.I am happy riding, and I could just put a full stop there. Because I am happy come rain or shine. love it for itself, what I need to do is somehow bottle the benefits I get from riding which tends to enhance my well being for quite some time afterwards and be able to dip into it when I can’t ride.  

Until then I will keep riding, trying to stay ahead of that pesky black dog and hope anyone in the same boat can do the same.


Friday, 1 June 2012

"Carrot and Stick?" no "Tart and Sugary"

Being given a surprise Bday cake (my own bit of sugar!)
I want to be a good rider so much I am now considering its time for my husband to loose interest in his guitars and start selling them to create a much bigger riding fund.  Like that’s going to happen! He’s as equally crazy about music as I am about horses. And there we strike a pretty beautiful balance, because we don’t intrude on one another, we encourage we show a level of interest and when push comes to shove we actually stand in the wings and support with some zeal. “Yeah go you” and all that!

We are honest we are never going to be fanatical about each others passions but we do appreciate how much they mean to us.. That’s as far as it goes, and why I need other equally horse crazy folk who share my interest with the commensurate passion. I know when I get with the “girlies” as Meg calls us, that we can talk the hind leg off a donkey about horses and we will all enjoy it. I need to be circumspect with others I know because when Phil starts going on about his woofers, tweeters and reverb (sound effects or tools I think) I start to glaze over.

Its all about balance which is lot like being with and riding horses Physical balance in the saddle and balance of approach and demands. I am learning that the horses need a balance of sugar lumps and firm leadership to give them the confidence to allow themselves to be in synch with their riders requests /aids. Last time I shared one of Spirits first schooling sessions with Hayley (see last post). This week I was able to capture Hayley working with him and his nervousness about having the bridal on and how she overcame this and will continue to school him to get better and better.

the most wonderful setting to ride and talk horse
I am definitely on a journey of self discovery through the quest to ride and those around me are helping me juggle with the ups and downs of the challenges I face. Providing “sugar lumps” of encouragement and constructive direction in equal measure. That includes the “girlies”  and the horses.

This week they surprised me with a lovely lunch Meg made a fab leek Quiche (Tart ) and  they gave me a cake (my own sugar lump) on my birthday. It was so wonderful in a prefect setting being able to ride and talk horse endlessly, thanks ladies. 

Meg dishes out the wonderful Tart(Quiche) Chrissie looks on Yum Yum
I feel quite an affinity with Spirit, although he is a gangly teenager and I am an aging old bird, we still need our instructors balanced guidance and with the same measure of   “Sugary and Tart” to develop.
This week you can see how  with careful schooling Spirit is making progress he is more accepting when being mounted. Hayley explained that once he was obviously relaxed she had to be sure he didn't start playing a game with her around the mounting block. He is clearly relaxed!!!! and she therefore felt able to adopt a firmer approach, in tone and body language. I know all about that Spirit "control yourself woman" thats Hayley to me on one of my bumpier landings.

Alison x