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

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