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THE FLYING CHANGES BOOK CLUB In this post I mentioned in passing about how I read that holding my pelvis, while in saddle, as if it were full of water, with the intent to prevent the water spilling, would secure my seat. This reference inspired the following comment from a reader:

You mention here about how a book describes it and somewhere else you mention things you’ve picked up from books. Do you have any good recommendations on books that were worthwhile? Especially any with exercises geared towards riders?

Why, thanks for asking. It happens that I do. Read the rest of this entry »


MORE BODY LANGUAGE I am walking past Connolly Station and I see everything: I see the people swarming out of the station itself, I see the crowd surging against the light to cross to Talbot Street, I see the taxis pulling out of the rank, I see the buses trundling back up the coast road, and in the distance, I see the LUAS curving away towards Abbey Street. I see it all, I take in all the information, because my head is up, my eyes are forward, and my chin is down.

I’m fairly certain I’ve spent most of my life walking with my head in the pavement rather than the clouds. When I lived in NYC, I was pathologically obssessed with picking up pennies— because I always saw the poxy things. I always saw them because I was always always looking down. I was walking up Seventh Avenue once, saw a penny, picked it up, and some homeless dude passing on my right smiled at me and said, ‘Good luck!’ I replied, ‘I think I should be looking up at the sky, or something, you know?’ Sadly, he had places to go, and our conversation ended there. Read the rest of this entry »

What do I know, then? As I mentioned in the previous post, I was struck by the fact that I didn’t really know that I know how to jump. The mechanics had obviously been taught to me, and I was obviously doing it, but how do I know it? How did I know anything about all of this?

What I know: I know that my heels are down now. I know that my hands are in the proper position, and fairly light. I know that my chin is down, that my back is generally straight. I know that I’m getting longer in the leg in the canter. I know that I’m rising properly in the trot. I know when I’m on the wrong diagonal. I know these things because: no one’s shouting at me about them anymore.

If no one’s shouting at me about them anymore, then I must know what I’m doing. My head wants to know how I know that I know this— my head is fairly shouting at me now, replacing my instructors. Well, busy brain— it must be because my body knows. Read the rest of this entry »

LEGGO MY EGO Yeah, Tango was in the ride, and I have to say, I was dreading it, but not for the obvious reasons.

What if his rider got him to go? Read the rest of this entry »

Having just ‘sat’ an exam, as they say over here, I’m thinking about learning.

I love learning new things. As I explained in item number one here, I’m a bit of a chancer when it comes to studying. In this case, as always, I managed to study the right things, enough to know, once I turned the exam paper over and gandered at the choices, that I could actually, with confidence and only a moderate amount of spoofing, satisfy the necessary three topics from four different blocks of two. I also had the gratification of seeing a few choices that I passed over in my [astonishingly brief] study time, had shown up, too. Ah, well. I guess it’s something to be able to second guess the test setter. I expect that’s an instinct that’s gotten me through elementary school to post-post graduate study. Sheesh.

The thing is, this seat-of-my-pants thing is something that I’ve mused about for a number of years now. Used to learning things on the job [I taught myself desktop publishing from a book; I graduated from art college before the new technology had hit], I’m also used to cherry-picking what I want to know and hoping for the best. I’ve always so admired those that I think really, truly, fully know what they’re doing, like, I don’t know, electricians and carpenters and the like, and I’v always felt that I know just enough about stuff to get by…

This has changed since— waait for it— I got involved with the horses. Read the rest of this entry »

I was so delighted [and relieved] to have Delilah again on Saturday. The ride is coalescing— we are closed to n00bs, now, and that helps— and even though we’ve had different instructors for the last bunch of weeks, things are going well.

I was told that Delilah was cranky, but she seemed to be going pretty fine, and was very much up for the jumps. Which reminds me…

IS IT BULLSHIT? PART 3: JULY, 2007 We’re going on a ride out.

It’s been two or three weeks since the fall at the log.

It’s been a true Irish ‘summer’ and I’ve been praying for more rain.

But it’s dry, and we’re going out.

‘Delilah.’ We’re waiting for me to grab a block and get up. ‘We’re going out. I’m nervous. Easy does it, yeah?’

She looks at me. She hasn’t tried to bite me in weeks— it’s never all that hard, but she’s nippy, the alpha mare, setting the boundaries. I try not to bug her, and hold her correctly, and we’ve worked it all out between us.

She looks at me, and blinks, nudges me a bit.


We go down the lane, down the road, trot back up. This is okay. I practice my seat when we walk, and when we trot it feels nice and light.

We turn into the upper west field, and I breathe and breathe. ‘Delilah. Remember? Easy.’ She’s fine, stepping delicately as is her wont.

We go through the gate into the lower west field.

‘Alright?’ asks Val. She was there.

‘Uh, yup.’ Here we go, girl, I think— Delilah thinks?— and the ride ambles down to the bottom.

We halt, in a loose queue.

Nikki turns to me. ‘Want to jump?’ Read the rest of this entry »

MORE OHMMMMMM [ALSO: IS IT BULLSHIT? PART 2] Yeah, spacing out. ‘Dissociating’ as it is known in psychological parlance. It’s been kind of a hobby of mine for years. A coping skill, I suppose, that I’ve mostly been aware of, often calling it by the harmless name of daydreaming. It is not a terrible defect of character, and indeed, I probably wouldn’t be a writer without this capacity to stare out of a window for hours on end. It is, on the other hand, a surefire way through which I quietly check out of difficulty and into a misty, rose-coloured netherworld of my own devising.

I’ve read a lot of books about horses and horse-things in this last year. I’m deeply interested in the work that equine facilitated therapy is doing for folk, and read books like Linda Kohanov’s [The Tao of Equus, Riding Between the Worlds] with great attention… and yet, in the abstract, scoff. I grew up in Jerz, not Illinois, but you’d been forgiven for wondering. I mean, how’s a horse supposed to help people work through stuff? In fairness. On the one hand we’ve got the crowd that howls at the slightest indication of anthropomorphism, and on the other the ones that recount great, long dialogues they’ve had with their mounts.

So, show me. And the horses have. Read the rest of this entry »

THE LAST MISSED SATURDAY OF 2007 Posting from Dublin Airport, in the shockingly revolting Ryanair wing, bracing myself for the riot to board the plane, off to London for the weekend.

I will, of course, miss the horses tomorrow, but it’s good to take a break, somewhat in the same way I’ve gotten better after each fall. But with less chance of a broken bone.

Oops, shouldn’t talk about breaking anything, should I? Read the rest of this entry »

INSTALLMENT ONE The thing is, it can seem like bullshit, because I read the books, I’ve read all these books about the transcendence of horsewomanship, of the bond, of the communication, and here’s me, handed a school horse, told to get on, told to ride a twenty meter circle, a serpentine, a figure of eight, to trot, to canter, told to get off, handing over to the next person, never grooming, never tacking— So? So what am I supposed to do? How do I get ‘it’? How can I? I’m reading a brochure while everyone else is gazing in wonder at the pyramids of Egypt. Read the rest of this entry »


Twelve years on from my first ever riding lesson, these posts are still wandering round and round, a figure of eight starting with today, probably, and yesterday, definitely. It’s the antithesis of how I usually do things, but… that’s horses for ya.


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