About me and this Blog

I am a woman of a certain age who has finally been able to enjoy my love of horses Initially to ride them but as time has gone on I have learnt there is more to horses than riding them and want to share this with you.

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

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Trust me I am going to sit on you

If you must know I lost one pound this week, well now I am disappointed I have worked so hard, been swimming, walking and had three rides! Moan over back to it the only way is down. I am intent on sticking to it and being lighter for my dear old Oscar, or whoever else Hayley puts me on. In an earlier post I hinted that as well as loosing weight there were six other things I needed to, get a grip of, which riding helps me with. One of the other things is quite major really its” inner peace”.    

This week as well as riding at the stables I have been hanging about generally like some groupie after a rock concert! Although I have had a busy time elsewhere I wanted to soak up the atmosphere, it really is good for the soul.

Hayley has just taken over a 6 year old 17h beautiful black gelding, called Spirit and although broken to ride he has quite a lot of issues which have built up over the years.  Spirit is therefore very much a horse after his own name. I have been watching Hayley in some schooling sessions with him. Its captivating, I am sure she could lead me round by the nose, if she wanted to, oh I think she does!

He is a big gangly teenager with a lot of power and emotion and not enough training something which could be, I suspect a potentially dangerous combination. Actually getting on him has proven one of the first challenges and although he has started to settle down, with Hayley, when I filmed him this week you can still see the, edginess and nerves. It’s amazing what can be achieved with patients and taking things slowly, building on success.

I for one can be extremely impatient with myself and others. In my lessons I want to go, from this to that quickly, still like a bull at a gate. This week Hayley was asking me to take my time collect myself, as much as Oscar, give him an idea of what I wanted from him before I asked and get set up for the next instruction. It’s a great metaphor for how I am with others. I often start my conversations in the middle of a sentence and then have to go back and unravel the confusion. I need to paint a picture, lay down an over view and invite people to join me in my vision. For years I behaved like my dear  husband was a mind reader. I can tell you he is not and even with quite explicit instruction he still looks at me with that quizzical look and raised hands and asks, ”what?”

Its not just about being explicit it’s also about building an understanding, a trust between you that what you ask for is ok. When you achieve something together it’s reinforced as a good thing and mistakes are let go. How often do we allow each other that type of unconditional love?

The times Hayley has suggested the same things, to me, don’t rise so high, heels down, shoulders back, think contact, soft with the hands, the list is, I am afraid, endless.  Does she ever betray any tone of exasperation? No because if she did, I would shrink and she wants me to grow. The same with Spirit, he needs someone he can place his trust in, completely. As Hayley says he wants to be sure if he is busy working for her with his head down, she will be looking out for the Lions, who might want to eat him.  

I think after all the years of work and pressure my spirit was a bit dented and bruised and I coped by trying to always stay in control, watching out for them Lions! Like Spirit I now have the right opportunity to relax and trust those around me to take care of threats, while I invest in rebuilding myself body and soul.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Going in the right direction

Its two weeks since I committed to loose weight for the sake of the poor horse I ride. I have been mainly on Slimfast and lost 4 lbs. I am a bit disappointed, but let’s face it its going in the right direction. And going in the right direction is very important especially when on horse back. I had a wonderfully exhilarating lesson last Thursday. Talk about patting your head and rubbing your tummy. I was trying, for the first time, simple changes, change of rein whilst in canter back to trot for the change and then straight into canter.

 I was doing a figure 8 changing at X, or there abouts. Well that was the plan anyway, there were so many things to remember, leg to get the bend, flex inside rein, one way then the other, half halt, down to trot rise momentarily flex the other way etc etc and away in canter again. What I tended to forget was to look where I was going. We are told so many times , think it and the horse will know, look and your body weight will follow and the horse will be right there where you want him to be.

 A few times I was so full of what I needed to do I forgot where I was going and made it hard for myself and Oscar by turning too sharply and too quickly, at one time I was so caught up with my flexing I forgot to go forward into Trot and we did a flying change, of sorts together. That’s changing the rein without coming out of canter and the horse changes their lead leg on the go,(I think) correct me if I have that skewed. Hayley said she didn’t know Oscar could do that. I didn’t know we could do it either. It wasn’t pretty though very bumpy


So Yesterday, we didn’t rush back into this exercise we concentrated on transitions up and down trying to sit quietly and back and keep my blooming hands down especially when I come down into trot! Oscar’s poor mouth! I do try to get it right I really do. Also trot to canter , up ‘til now I have been going straight from walk into canter, so its good to practice that.

 But the biggest lesson of all was to keep in mind where you want to be set your sights on your goal and head for it. So Me and Oscar can look forward or sideways or wherever but we are going to know where we are going and I am going to carry on loosing weight, little by little in the right direction.


Sunday, 6 May 2012

How Welcome you would be!

Because I ride in the week, I have never been up to the Stables on a Saturday before.  I went this morning because I just couldn’t wait until Monday, Oh, things are getting bad! It will be every day next.

The atmosphere at the yard was different, there were more people around than usual, you know those little people, children. They clearly knew their way around horses. They were happily getting on with tasks, chatting and handling the ponies with ease.

Toby, on trial, he's beautiful
I joined a Saturday morning regular (adult) and we had a good lesson, the new horse “Toby” was brought in and joined us with “Jim” (Jemima) one of the young girls riding him. Hayley has him on trial. So far she has had his back “done” lunged him and sorted out his saddle, etc... This was his first session with other horses in the school. Jim looked so tiny on his back, yet handled him beautifully.

Hayley said that if Toby worked out he would be my next “challenge” 17 hands of muscle. Wow, just when I was feeling “comfy” with Oscar, Hayley’s talking about the next stretch!

As we finished our lesson the group of children led their ponies down for theirs and I watched them for a while. They were so good, honestly they put me to shame. I certainly wouldn’t be worthy of riding alongside them, I have the grace of an elephant with clogs on! It was very humbling to watch them gliding around the school.

I give myself a pat on the back just for trying. (Hayley would say I am very trying, of course). It’s easy to dream and let opportunities pass you by, worrying you will fail or look silly. But I can’t express how much finally doing this has meant to me. I really don’t care if I look silly, why should I? That is liberating, not to be so self conscious. Its not entirely ego less as there is a battle going on of course. The little girl craving attention comes out, when I get it right, “look at me.”  What am I like? Still I feel in the main I have surrendered to the task and loose myself in it.

Humility is good for the soul and not being good at something and having to take instruction even better. Children, on the whole expect to be shown how to do things and accept new ideas readily. I had got to the age when I was used to knowing what I was doing and “showing” others how to do “stuff.” Perhaps as we get older we get less  comfortable accepting direction. Is that why dreams stay just that? I don’t want to sound arrogant, in suggesting I can inspire others, I just want to share this, because I have discovered it’s good to challenge yourself, good to fail and pick yourself up and eventually succeed at something difficult.

Getting over a threshold can be the hardest part, of starting anything new and if you want to start riding but feel held back. I want to put a smart boot to your behind and push you over the doorstep.  Don’t feel daunted you will be welcomed with open arms.

 (PS finding an  accredited riding centre in your area is easy search  Association of British Horse Riding)

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Me, Myself, I

My pursuit of my love of horses is all the sweeter for the wait.  It is itself a whole wonderful experience but also is an analogy for how I try to live my “retired” life, after moving to the “country”.

The choices I made in the past were good bad and indifferent, but they are done now in the past. There isn’t a fat lot I can do about it now. There is however some constants, which still invade my daily life, like bad smells.

This is my before picture, no need for a bikini to see the problem!
There are about seven things, (more later) which I think are probably common to all of us the first one that springs to mind is, my weight. It may not really be at the top of the list priority wise, but sadly it’s the first that pops up.

I am not alone in my passion/obsession/ love of horses what psychologists make of this phenomenon, I don’t know but I think I am going to research it. Loving horses like I do, has made me think of the poor horse when I get on it. Now if you have been reading? You will know I worried about this from the start. (September 2011).

 I thought upping my activity (riding) and”watching” what I ate would do the trick, great, sorted! Love the riding and it is great exercise and love watching my food, yum yum, but I can tell you it’s had no affect on my weight. In fact I put nine pounds on. Can you believe it?

So now I have faced up to it, got on the Wii and did a body test. Uh, oh, first time since last summer. Its pathetic really isn’t it. If its important and I care about the horses back why didn’t I do something immediately instead of living on the banks of De Nile?

I am determined now to do something and writing this and posting it on the internet is a clear way of demonstrating my commitment. The key motivating factor is riding, I want to be a good rider so much, be as kind as possible to the horse I ride and enjoy riding as much as possible. To do this I need to loose, wait for it, three stones, according to the graph at the doctors, but I will settle for 2 ½  stones, but no less.

Its OK  Flaire, soon I will be a lot easier on your back
I want to big up, Meg the head groom at Redbrook, she is my inspiration, not only has she done it herself very successfully. But she had the tact and diplomacy to broach the subject with me in a very compassionate constructive way, hence jumping on the Wii. Thank you Meg you are a star. What a team Hayley the Instructor from heaven , patients of a saint. and Meg a friend/coach at the yard

So I have started, with Slimfast in the first instance for about a month I think to get going and then I will segue into a longer term healthy eating plan. Wish me luck.

My question is though if I can do this, finally, for the horses I love, why couldn’t I do it for me?

Alison x

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

There's more to Horses than riding

As we have become better known at the stables, we have been allowed to do more with Hayley's lovely horses before our lesson. I find brushing extremely therapeutic  I run the brushes over Oscar's neck and legs  before I take his rug off. I love talking to him watching his reactions and feeling a connection. He is warm and his breath smells great its not everyone's  idea of a pleasant aroma, but I love it. Don't ask me if it s the actual smell or the  memories it evokes, the lifelong love affair with the horse. That oaty, sweaty smell  oh I love it and that warm air that passes  over your hand and the flick of the ears,yes Oscar I know you're listening to me. A snort and a shuffle of the feet ,yet when I ask him to stand he stands still like a statue ,lifting each foot in turn as I pick out his hooves. If he didn't want to co-operate their would be no way I could make him. The trust and co-operation feels so genuine and honest.

Arrive early and groom the lovely Oscar and get him ready for our ride
Hayley calls him an old boy and I don't actually know how old he is, he's certainly spritely enough  when ridden. In the stable he is so warm and quiet he doesn't push into your space but melds with you as you prepare for a ride. Hey he knows what's coming and he's relaxed about it. That makes me feel good.. I find it hard to convey the warmth that wells up inside of me when I am with him and I can tell you I have my moments of anxiety and stress and Horses well, they just settle me.
Dorothy  ready to get sky's tack on
I am so lucky because moving to a new county, you leave your friends behind and you do wonder how you will meet new friends you can really connect with, especially at my age. Well  Dorothy and Chrissie are new friends I have met through my love of horses. We all volunteer at RDA and although we are at different levels, (I am the entertainment) we can enjoy lessons together and the odd lunch etc.. Yes I am so lucky. Of course I still have my pre- move friends who I love , and make sure we see each other regularly. None of them are "horsey" though . This new episode my life  is so liberating !

Chrissie  with Latina after our ride free of her bridle waiting for some hay(Latina not Chrissie ha)

We are starting to feel like part of the furniture at the stables and glad Hayley now trusts us to be more involved with the horses. I have mentioned before my dream wold be to win the lottery so I could afford my own horse but also afford  the help, as I am not so sure I know enough to really take care of a horse well enough on my own.

I don't want to diminish the  other vital parts of my life , like being a wife and mother , sister and friend but laying underneath that on a par with my dogs I love horses and they complete me. Now watch my "horsey " friends "working" at the stables, we don't exactly break into a sweat!  Ha! Love
Alison x

Monday, 23 April 2012

" Well I wouldn't start from here!"

If I was going to start riding again from scratch would I prepare any differently and would it make any difference? Because I have been posting updates of my progress on my blog I can’t go back and pretend I  did things differently. The story so far is I am afraid set in the cement of the Internet.

On reflection though, perhaps I wouldn’t start at my age (52). The younger the better, for one thing we learn slower, mentally and physically, as we get older. But what alternative do I have now, I don’t have a time machine and the only thing pondering on my age will do is make me older!  If your age is putting you off you have to face up to it you’re not getting any younger so get on with it.

I would not have been quite so heavy and certainly it would have helped if I had been fitter, when I started riding. But this is akin to not going to the gym until you have lost weight and toned up. I asked around about my weight and was told I was fine. (Well that the horse would cope!) Any good instructor will take your physicality (height & weight) into account and choose your mount accordingly. I was half expecting a giant cart horse to be brought out to carry me round when I arrived for my first lesson. Not the exquisite “Flaire” who has borne my weight with ease. Riding is great exercise and I am certainly fitter now and healthier, but no lighter yet I am afraid!

my new boots -I ate my Christmas dinner in them!

Knowing now that I am committed to riding I might have brought some riding gear to start with, instead of turning up in my sloppy Joe’s.  No eyebrows were raised I was just ushered into the shed to choose a hard hat and borrow boots and chaps for my lesson. I was told I could borrow their stuff as long as I wanted. It was par for the course.

After all it would be madness to spend a lot of money on all the gear if you didn’t like it. Not that that was going to happen to me, I loved it from the get go!

 Now I am well and truly committed to riding, buying presents for me is now a doddle I really love all the proper gear now and Santa brought me fabulous boots and chaps, Valentines Day arrived and so did “sticky bottom” jodhpurs, a real boon for getting a good seat. Early on I invested in my own helmet/hat. Acquiring the gear that works for me has been fun.

Friends I have met through Horses(note all the new gear)
So would I change anything, well that’s not going to happen, Its no good getting directions  from A to B if you are at C.  You are where you are and you have to navigate from there, obstacles, challenges an’ all.

So go on get going!


Friday, 20 April 2012

To Infinity and Beyond

Where is this adventure going to take me? Riding and my interest in Horses generally is opening up an exciting new world. When I was diagnosed with ME/CFS in 2007 a day to day struggle of “trying “ was all I could manage. Trying to get out of bed , trying to sit up, trying to hold the kettle with one hand, trying to walk the dogs. Life felt very “trying” and I am sure I was a bit of a git to everyone around me.

The fact that simple things were so hard was in itself so frustrating and draining. Slowly I have regained a level of activity which is extremely satisfying Moving to the Forest of Dean  two years ago was key to my next phase of recovery, although I wasn’t consciously moving for that reason.

Walking the dogs most days in the Forest I regained more fitness and stamina. I started volunteering with the Riding for the disabled and met a lovely group of friends who shared my love of horses. I went for an hour or two to start with as it was exhausting. I was truly inspired by our clients who rode despite a range of disabilities. That’s when I got the confidence to start riding again myself. It was a bumpy start, literally and figuratively. I really should have worn a red nose, when I had my first few lessons it was hilarious. And tired! Well I still sleep or rest for a good few hours afterwards but it’s worth it.

I am making progress I am riding Oscar now a more challenging horse and I love him as you will know from my other blogs. Yesterday I went up early and gave him a good grooming session, oh we bonded. I think my love is reciprocated. Our ride was much more fluid and some tone in my core is helping tremendously, I used to be like a big blancmange, all soft in the middle. I am still soft just a few lumpy bits now. Ha.  

The great outdoor beckons  I haven’t been for a hack yet, but I am told that it’s a must when the bluebells are out and Hayley, the lovely Hayley has told me I am ready to be let loose. Praise in deed, for the sack of potatoes that arrived at her stables last September. 

Imagine riding a horse on a beach like this !
In addition to that my lovely friends, my new friends I met through our shared love of horses have suggested we go on a riding holiday.  Where could we go, what wonderful new horses could we meet. Imagine cantering along a beach with the sea breeze blowing the foam spraying around the hooves of the horses wow,wow,wow. Research time now where can we go?

Alison x

Friday, 13 April 2012

Forget swimming with dolphins


Yesterday I was unexpectedly alone at home in the morning. Usually not a problem I like my own space and getting on with chores, or not, as the case maybe without the hindrance of him indoors is bliss.

However on this occasion I had agreed for the “guys” to come and “do the snag list”, to finish off our newly fitted kitchen. I didn’t think too much about it because I would leave  the “liaison” to my beloved. I planned to go horse riding at 10.30 and to be extra productive squeeze in giving a cupboard a coat of paint before leaving.

Unfortunately having committed to this course of action, Phil had to leave me to it. He said he’d be at the end of a phone. How was that supposed to help?

Well I started painting giving myself plenty of time to finish and clean my brushes and tidy up, which I like to do, ready for the next coat. But the guys didn’t arrive until quarter to ten, I was half way through painting and then they had questions, where’s this where’s that. “In the garage” I told them “look I have to finish this get changed and get to the stables” Stress notches started to turn in my belly. I am not used to multi tasking anymore, I live a quiet life, Urhh!

Anyway I phoned my helpful husband who was indeed at the end of the phone but all he could say was” Its all in the garage” , “Yes I told him I said that but where exactly?” The garage is a no go area for me and might as well have a big no entry sign on the door.

Well then, my less than ebullient husband started going on about why I had arranged for them to come when he wasn’t there. The screw turned some more steam started seeping out of my ears. I had explained I had exactly 3 minutes to wash my brushes change my clothes agree how the “guys” would lock up and that also included zipping my chaps on which can be a fiddle.

I wanted to tell him, quite loudly yes I wanted to shout at him, that when I arranged it he was supposed to be here, but he had changed his plans blah blah, but I didn’t have time. So because my helpful husband on the “end of the phone” could not actually help me at all, I clicked the red phone.  He was gone, If only it was that easy! I can hear you all thinking, naughty!. I don’t do this usually and it is very rude but Hey ho I was going riding and come rain shine, bloody workmen or unhelpful husbands I was going out the door, gone.

 With the rush I actually arrived at the stables a bit earlier than usual, warp speed all the way! My stress levels were through the roof, something was trying to get between me and my precious time with Oscar and being shouted at, I mean guided brilliantly by the ever wonderful Hayley. Oh bother how’s this going to work, you’re supposed to be calm and relaxed riding a horse because they can sense when you are tense, right?

You know by the time I had given him a light brush and tacked him up I was much calmer. By the time I swung my leg up and over his back I was floating on cloud 9. Forget swimming with dolphins. If you want to feel at peace get close to a horse
Alison x

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Flirtatious Moi?

Look I know I have declared my undying love for Flaire and she is a wonderful schoolmistress and she is truly gorgeous. (You can sense a but here can’t you,  

And here it comes BUT,I rode Oscar last week and now I am smitten. I am such a floozy! (He's the one on the right of the photo being ridden by Meg a couple of weeks ago)

I went up last Monday because we couldn’t ride on our usual Wednesday and Flaire was not available for me, Hayley told me I could have a go on Oscar. “You will find him a bit different,” she told me.  The nerves started to creep in.

 I wanted to appear chilled, “oh tell me more?” Well go very soft on his mouth and start gentle on the leg ‘til you find the right level of pressure. Now I am summarising here and not talking proper “equestrian” like Hayley, but that was the gist as I understood it. Sorry, Hayley and all proper equestrians everywhere.

Anyway I got on and I don’t know if you get this feeling when sitting on a new horse like you’re pitched precariously like a pea on a ball, but that’s how I felt. Flaire is so comfy and familiar. Stretching out, warming up and soon into a trot, whoa what’s going on, trying to go in a 20m circle and we do a hairpin bend. I was being gentle with the legs and forgot about the mouth! Scary but exciting, I start feeling his moves better and its lovely , my transitions are pants because I am nervous and Hayley is shouting at me(nicely) “control yourself women” What is a matter with me  I’m doing an alright canter and then collapse down into trot. Ugh!!.  Rise up, she tells me, instead I am sitting there like a sack of potatoes.

The scary feeling didn’t leave me all that lesson but I tried everything I was asked even tried squeezing the rein and using my leg to get Oscar “onto the bit” very technical for me I really don’t know what I am doing unless I am instructed you know.

Later on I started feeling a bit guilty I didn’t even cast a glance over towards Flaire as I left I was just running over all the new feelings riding Oscar. I booked in for Thursday and was on Oscar again and I was thrilled it went reasonably well, a degree of progress in relation to riding Oscar as Oscar needed to be ridden, but not entirely pretty. Me not Oscar ‘cause Oscar is so handsome and now I am in love for real. Given the choice I would ride Oscar now. But I have discovered something new about myself, never ever being the dumpee in my courting days ,I always thought of myself as a loyal stick with it sort of girl. Moving on without a backward glance is an unchartered territory for me, I will be honest I like it. I didn’t plan it, it just happened! (well Hayley may have planned it for all I know!) it turned out to be the right time to try a new challenge. It’s taught me a something about life in general as horse riding often does, you / we /I can be too comfortable for our own good, so perhaps its time to flirt with change, go on you know you want to.

PS I love you all x

Alison x

Saturday, 31 March 2012

If I won the lottery would I......?

We had another “if we won the lottery" chats last night and it throws up a real conundrum for me. If I had the money would I then buy my own horse/ horses.

I am a novice in all ways riding and Horse care, but I know enough to know how little I do know. It seems to me owning and caring for horses is a huge responsibility that some people don’t think enough about.

The situation is bad enough with dog ownership in this country (the UK) I don’t know if laws in other countries control owners and protect animals better?

I have two dogs the oldest is 13 the other her daughter is nearly 11. I am very comfortable looking after them. But a great big horse is another issue. I take my hat off to all of you who obviously do a good job in your care schooling and riding of your horses. The stories you tell of your adventures together and that wonderful relationship you build is very tempting, something I yearn for inside. But my head tells me I couldn’t manage and I should just go on with my lessons and learning as I go and enjoying that OH!

Good job I haven’t won the lottery then so I don’t have to really have to make any decision and occasionally I can just dream ahh!But how would winning the lottery (a big win) change your horsey life?)

Love Alison x

Thursday, 29 March 2012

With a little help from my Friends

Last week’s lesson was a bit of a wash out in terms of satisfaction, not weather

Getting last week’s disappointments behind me meant moving on with confidence. Going along with friends, who clearly care and understand the phenomenon that is the horse riding rollercoaster, does help. No hiding under a duvet then.

Flaire my trusty schoolmistress, was waiting for me .I could swear she was smiling! I was determined to have a good ride, dangerous territory I know, relax relax, I told myself.

 The sun was marvellous and we were all smiling and happily warming up, on a long rein. No sloppy walk at all .Spring was in Flaire’s step she has been on a new diet and had some Spring grass. No one told me this before I got on, but I definitely felt the difference.  We went through our paces trot and canter and although not perfect I felt happier coping with my deficiencies. Flaire’s increase in energy was making it easier for me. I had plenty of encouragement and laughter with friends in the sunshine. So really a non event, no drama then, but perhaps that’s just what I needed.

Until next time,, a happy Novice (ahh!)
Alison x

Alison x

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Wow you’re a tough lot out there!

I thought there has to be advantages, as well as the obvious disadvantages of learning something new at my age.

After all I have had a career, a family, negotiated my way through a host of challenging relationships, my muscles might be stiff but surely I have a well developed  muscle in my head to carry me to success on horseback.

So you would think my preparation would be excellent for starting a new, physical activity. That’s what maturity has taught me right? “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.

Well not exactly initially I had no intention of riding, I got amongst horses again helping out at RDA(Riding for the disabled) and then inspired by our clients I thought go for it. No preparation, not even a limbering up. I went along in my “tracky” bottoms borrowed boots and hat and jumped on and was cantering before the end of the lesson.  I say cantering but it wasn’t pretty, I pursued this two more times until my back said whoa and went into spasm. What exactly did I expect, never mind poor technique, lack of knowledge my body was just not fit for that purpose.

After I re started my lessons I slowly got a bit fitter but I could have helped myself and prepared!

Joining Haynet has been a great help though because I do read and try and learn from others which is a sign of maturity (little pat on the back for me then). Still it has been a bumpy ride and I am sure there are more “down”s to come, as well as the rare but wonderful, “ups!”

Reading other people’s blogs , there seems to be a pattern developing whilst I find everyone ,without exception, tremendously kind supportive and encouraging to others, we all seem to be pretty hard on ourselves.

It doesn’t matter whether someone is a beginner, novice, intermediate or top of their game, “we”, I include myself here, are so intense, easily disappointed, demanding and critical of ourselves it is hard to read sometimes. I never thought I would come home in tears after a riding lesson, or doubt whether I could go back for another lesson because I was so hopeless. It’s a hobby supposed to be fun ha, no its not its horse riding and “we” who undertake this glorious adventure want to be more than good we want to be great “thoughtful” riders connecting with our mount in a seamless partnership which takes us to new highs.

You are tough you lot out there, tough on yourselves. I read about your abilities and go green, yet you worry and want better from yourself. C’mon guys cut yourselves some slack. One thing I promise myself to do from now on as a mature student is to learn, work hard but also be fair on myself and not to be too hard when things don’t go well, but, I know I will still expect to do better next time, because “we” demand it of ourselves and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Beginning again!

If I’m so crazy about horses now, didn’t I love them before? I am middle aged (and a bit) and I love riding so why aren’t I an Olympic champion by now? Well I should be right, but, no I am not, I am a middle aged Novice and here’s my tale.

I was smitten with Horses probably from birth well shortly afterwards then! I often dreamed my Dad would bring a lovely little pony home and pop it in our pocket sized garden. Of course it never happened but I did have my first ride quite young. I can remember I was about three or four on holiday camping in Scotland and the ponies were brought to the campsite early one morning. I was put on a small white Pony and no sooner was I on than I was off, sliding down his neck, as he grazed downhill. I was put back on but was off again as he went into a trot! So I was put on the back of my brother’s pony holding tight round his middle, he booted his steed into a trot and off I came again. This time no amount of coercion could get me back on.  There you are then game over, or so you would think but no, all through my childhood, I rode out on hacks snatched rides at farms even enjoyed donkey rides on the beach, but had no lessons.

For a short spell in my twenties I had sporadic lessons and slowly gathered boots, hat and “Jods”, but not a lot of technique or skill. Then work and family commitments grew, so no riding for ages and ages. I gave away my riding clothes and gave up hope of finding time to ride again.

Then all of a sudden I was an old gal retired with time on my hands. I didn’t think I could ride myself, being a bit stiff over weight and scared, so got a safe inoffensive, horse fix by helping out at the Forest RDA (riding for the disabled). All of a sudden leading the horses round wasn’t enough though, so last July I started lessons.  It hasn’t been a smooth ride to say the least and I have posted initial progress on my other Blog site    · http://cupofteaandachat.blogspot.com/      

But this is getting serious now and my equine adventures deserve their own special Blog also if you’re particularly interested in horses and riding you don’t particularly want to read my rants on NHS, Family life, renovating our cottage our dogs or walking in the forest.
I am not on my own, in being a late bloomer, a lot of us don’t have  the time or  the money  to ride when we are young it just so happens we have all the other things ie the energy strength, physique, flexibility and bounce  to do it well.

Now I have the time and enough money and I am determined to drag this middle aged body onto a horse and ride it well. I am interested in all the horsey things I can acquire to make me ride better (is that possible). I want to get fitter so I can ride longer, lighter and with more style. I am also interested in what others think and what other late bloomers experiences are, so tell me is it going smoothly for you?
Alison x