Exam stress: I miss my pony

I wanted to lie under a tree today and stare at the sky forever

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“All my life, I have been in love with the sky. Even when everything was falling apart around me, the sky was always there for me.” –  Yoko Ono

 

I had my fourth exam this afternoon. It was a really tough, gritty exam which squeezed every last ounce of power from my brain. I tried my hardest and that is all I can do.

Yesterday I sat and revised all day, didn’t leave the house.  I thought I had better do something physical, so I did the workout on Miranda Hart’s Maracattack.  It was hilarious and cheered me up no end.

I didn’t really sleep last night. I suppose part of it is stress, and a part of it is having done nothing but sit.  My brain is constantly trying to remember and take in information that when I do finally lie back and close my eyes,  a million thoughts and images rush through my head at lightening speed, trying to get out.  They’ve been there all day but I’ve been too focused on revision to allow them to be heard.

It’s this sort of time when, while I was doing my A-levels, I would say OK, I’ve done enough revision for today.  It’s time to chill. I would go to the yard and spend hours with Oscar, grooming him, chatting to him, feeding him polos.  Then my friend would arrive and we would go for a hack together, talking about everything and nothing.  I’d make Oscar’s bed up for him, give him his tea, fill a big haynet and put him to bed all snuggly in his rug.  And then I had relaxed, I could go home and carry on, and have a good nights sleep.

But this time it’s relentless revision. Mum and dad are coming to see me this weekend, to take away everything that I don’t need for this week.  I have three exams next week and then that’s it.  I can leave these exams, this house which should have been fun, but four opinionated girls living under one roof was always going to be tricky.  I can go back home to my Bramble dog, my family and my Sheryl, before I start the next adventure in July.

That’s an exciting adventure.

And I cannot wait.

 

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An old photo – me and my boy, Oscar.

 

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REWARDING WORK

While I’m away from uni on what seems to be a never-ending summer holiday, I’ve been working at a local riding school, doing yard work like mucking out and making feeds, and getting ponies ready for lessons. I don’t teach or help out in lessons leading like I used to when I was just volunteering, which in my eyes is a good thing because running around with slow ponies and bouncy kids isn’t the most fun!  However last Monday it was back to leading, and I got a taste of what it’s like teaching someone the first steps of learning to ride.

The owners of the riding school have always been very involved in foster children and there are often children staying with them and on the yard.  On this particular day they were having a day for foster children where they could come and have a picnic and have pony rides. Everyone seemed to have great fun but there was one boy in particular who stood out to me.

For this purpose, I’ll call him A. A was about seven or eight, and turned up in his shorts and baseball cap, keen for a ride. I got him grooming  a pony and then found him a hat and riding boots and got him on board. A told me he’d ridden a pony once before, but it was really scary so he was a bit worried. I kept him on a lead rein the whole time, even though he was on the steadiest pony there is, but thought him how to hold his reins properly, how to shorten them so he could feel the pony and the pony could feel him, and showed him how to steer. A girl who was there on work experience put some jump blocks along the school to weave in and out, and A was steering the pony all by himself, weaving in and out of blocks, stopping and walking on again.

When I asked A if he wanted to trot, he didn’t know what it was. I explained that like people will walk, jog and run a horse will walk, trot and canter, so trot would be a little faster and a bit bouncier than walk, did he want to have a go? He was up for anything, of course he did! I got him to hold onto the front of the saddle, give the pony a kick and off we went, giggling along the long side of the school, beaming smile on his face! He wanted another go before he got off, but boy was he a natural, with a sitting trot I was almost jealous of! I’m sure with a few lessons he’d make a great rider!

He wanted another ride after lunch but I had to leave before then so didn’t get to see if he got another go or not. But I felt pleased that he had had a good time and had learnt something during his day out.

Maddi x

Weathering it.

“There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” — Sir Ranulph Fiennes

The BBC forecast 25knot winds this afternoon and really they can’t have been far wrong. Wind howled across the hill, lifting silage wrap and flinging it into the air, spinning it around and draping it across trees. Rain came in starts, slapping you in the face like an icey hand.

I zipped my jacket up a little higher around my chin and pulled my helmet onto my head; it did little to shelter my face from the weather. In the centre of the menage I found shelter behind Caris, 16.3 hands of shire/thoroughbred cross. At 8 years old she had been lunged before my lesson to see how she would react to the weather conditions – she didn’t bat an eyelid. The black mare nuzzled my hand as I pulled down and adjusted my stirrups, and then it was time to go!

Having been used in a riding school, Caris was lazy. I must admit I was a bit surprised at this due the to her age and being part thoroughbred, but saying that Oscar could be lazy at times. We walked around the menage and my instructor went to fetch a schooling whip. It was definitely needed.

When we got her going, she had a lovely, big movement and covered the ground well. In some ways she rode similar to Oscar, having to ride the canter every stride. Only with Oscar a tap of the whip would send him forwards and he would be very sensitive to your leg afterwards. With Caris, she pretty much ignored the whip, apart from once when she threatened to throw a buck.

I didn’t ride as well as I could have, having not schooled since September and not had a proper lesson in a long time. Caris tends to bend to the outside when on the left rein, but the right rein is her – and my – weaker rein and she leaned on my left hand when on this rein. This made things a bit difficult as I haven’t got the strength now to carry a horse and hold her up, AND keep her going in a good canter on a circle to the right when both of us really want to be going to the left!

At some points it was a struggle, but it’s something to work on. I enjoyed every minute of my lesson, despite the weather and my grumpy mare. One day I’ll get her working nicely!

Amazing to be back in the saddle. But now struggling to walk.

Loves to y’all.

Maddi x

Enter Mr Whippy

I’ve done it. After months of subtle hints from Lorraine at schoolyourhorse.com (‘a tap with a whip would really help’) and not so subtle hints from Vicky (‘if you can’t keep the canter in your dressage I’m going to throw a schooling whip at you’) I’ve bought a schooling whip. And what a difference it makes!

I hardly ever have to use it, but Oscar knowing it’s there is enough. He is electric off my leg, and tries so much harder than he did before! His hocks are full of power and you can just feel the energy and impulsion in his strides. His head drops onto a steady, willing contact and he’s very forward. If he ignores my leg, he gets a tap with the whip. If I feel him slowing in canter, he gets a tap with the whip. And it just gives him that extra spark he needs to work so much better.

And it’s paying off in jumping aswell. Swapping the schooling whip for a crop, he actually jumps properly! None of this bare minimum to get over the fence rubbish – an actual proper jump! Legend pony!

I still have to take a few minutes to settle him when we first go in the school, as he used to get beaten he’s a bit unsure of the whip, and we’re still trying to perfect swapping it into the other hand.

But he’s doing really, really well. We’ve hacked out a few times since the incident we had a few weeks ago, and he’s been good as gold. I was worried that his cough would come back with a vengance when we ran out of supplement, but apart from the odd snort he’s been ok.

I’ve got 10 days left until I have to say goodbye to him for a month! :( but then hopefully he’ll be coming up to Shropshire to man up and be a northern live-out! It’s starting to feel really close now, as we had to say goodbye to some people on the yard today. They’re going away on holiday and wont be back before the Hibberds and I leave, so we won’t see them any more. Which is sad because I liked them, and saw them most days. It’s weird that all these people won’t be a part of my life any more.

So, there we have it. Oscar is being a babe, -10 days and counting.

Maddi x

It’s Not All Fun And Games

Today my intention had been to take Oscar for a short hack before it started raining, and then nip in the school for 10 minutes afterwards. Oscar had other plans and refused to stand by the muck heap ramp for me to get on, so as I had to go into the school to get on anyway I thought I may as well school first. As I walked towards the school the yard owner’s daughter came with her pony and asked if I would mind her riding in the school too. I didn’t so she came in and put up a little jump for her pony.

I went over a short section of my dressage test a couple of times which was all I had intended to do in the school anyway, and then put my stirrups up to go over the jump. At this point the yard owner had come over to watch and put the jump up a little, which was fine as it was still quite small, so Oscar and I popped over it a few times, which he did beautifully. I was very happy with that :)

Sheryl came into the school with her new horse, Banjo, for the first ride on him at home. He moved beautifully, and seemed to float around the school. I went to take a line to pop the jump when I looked at the jump and it only had one pole. The yard owner had stolen it to make a monster jump for her daughter, and proceeded to yell at her daughter for doing it wrong, and us for being in the way.

After avoiding her for a while I realised I wasn’t going to get another jump in, so I got off and went in. Oscar was as good as gold, he didn’t put a foot wrong, but I was so annoyed with the yard owner for ruining my schooling session and making it difficult for me.

Normally I’d have a laugh with Sheryl afterwards but she had brought her boyfriend so I felt like I was playing gooseberry as they spent most of the time gazing into eachother’s eyes / telling eachother how much they loved them / generally making me feel awkward.

And to top it all off I reversed into the wheely bin on the drive when I got home… ;-)

Prep starts now

It’s official. On Friday Oscar and I are going to do our first dressage test together. We’ve entered, we’ve got the test. All we have to do know is learn it.

Having looked at the test, it looks ok. There’s nothing in there that should be difficult, the challenge will be making it look good, keeping it sharp and remembering where to go! I’m not looking to go out and get placed, especially as I’ve never done a dressage test before, but I just want to go out, for Oscar to work well and ride it nicely. What I’m most worried about is that he hasn’t been out in months nor in an indoor school, but I’m sure he’ll take it all in his stride. In fact, being more forward will probably work to our advantage as we’ll be able to keep the canter better.

And so now I’m off to learn the damn thing…