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I’m on one of my thrice-yearly tears, throwing stuff away, giving stuff away — clearing out. Someone looking round the place might be surprised by this, because even I’m a bit ‘Eh, really?’ but there have been three large bin bags that have made their way out the door. We’ll see, there may be more to come.

And then I find something like this and hope I haven’t thrown out anything I may like to come across at some future date.


This was one of those tests for which we did a dry run in our lesson and never got around to ‘doing’ properly, with the white boundary markers and the marking. It is so old that I was riding Delilah at the time — so this is like, 2007 — I am pretty sure I moved on to Rebel at some stage that year as well, so it must have been winter.

I also remember how good Delilah was at this particular test, and thinking that maybe she liked doing it, without really being sure why. Now I think that horses ‘like’ dressage because the rider {me} is giving the aids clearly — the way they should always be given, whether or not one {me, again!} is being given a number grade for every transition.

I remember coming over the jump #2 and leg-yielding her over to M, and thinking, ‘She’s actually letting me leg-yield her over to M!’ — and also the way she really went for the last change of rein over #3, from H to F.

I can’t predict how Connell will approach those fences — and I immediately stop myself from visualising anything but a strong result. Let’s do this!


For those who like a nice cross-reference: that nail polish is spoken of here.



I know that weather is only weather, but holy wow, the weather. It is horrible. As of this writing, the sun is breaking the stones, but that’s just for now. Who knows what it will do later? It could — because it has — turn into November in July in the snap of a finger.

Not that is stops me, or any of us, showing up on Tuesdays.

On Tuesday afternoon, it had looked like the gray, the suffocating gray that has been hanging over us like a shroud, was about to blow off, out to sea… and then it didn’t, it started lashing rain about half an hour before we were to begin, and ach, looked like we’d be stuck indoors.

Now, this is a huge improvement for me, and I am not sure when this happened, but I used to prefer riding indoors. I think the walls made me feel safe. It’s not so much that I feel unsafe indoors now, it is more like I now feel safe out of doors; also, the outdoor arena is bigger, and I felt like jumping. Not like we can’t jump indoors, because we do, but — bleh. We’ve been very, very lucky in our Tuesday night weather, even throughout the winter, and this just — it was crap, just like the weather.

And it’s not like we all haven’t ridden in onslaughts and downpours. Did I post about that time I went on a ride out in Bath, England in a deluge? Yeah, so once, I went on a ride out in Bath, England, in unbelievable, relentless rain. I was doing a residential school week in Bath University as part of my psychology degree with the Open University, and we had free time, and I went to the equestrian centre to which I had gone the previous year at the other res school week I had to do for the degree. I got the same horse, Colt, and off we went, myself and the ride leader, and it was insane, complete and total lunacy, but I needed to be out on a horse; too much head-stuff going on, doing the course work. I was soaked straight to me knickers in three minutes. We passed a car that had helpfully stopped to let us go by; the driver rolled down his window, looked up at me, and said ‘You’re mad.’

That is one of the best memories of my life thus far.

Anyway: so, it’s been done, riding in the rain, but who wouldn’t rather be outside in clement weather?

We went out anyway. The rain had turned to mist, and as we warmed up, it was an exceedingly pleasant feeling to have cool water falling on the skin. Plus, Connell and I were on it: bending like nobody’s business, clean strikes off the right rein in the canter — brilliant. We started jumping, and it was… it was effortless. I was in the space where I was doing what I was meant to be doing without really thinking about it, and Con was juiced to jump. In fact, I had to circle him before we headed for the fences, he was so juiced.

I was happy with all the jumps, which hardly ever happens, and I was doing the thing where I look in the proper direction whilst in mid-air over the second fence, and hey, it really helps the horse get the correct lead upon landing.

It was such a great hour. I think I’ve still got the endorphins floating around in my system. It is so great when it is great. It’s okay when it’s not, even though great is preferable; it’s okay when it’s okay because it’s still being there, on the horses. But when it’s great! When it’s great, nothing matters. Locusts could have started raining down upon us, and it would have been fine. Well, the horses might have been bothered. Right, okay, no locusts.

But is it so great when it is great, when it is effortless, when everything I’ve learned to date seems to be there in my actions, and I don’t have to think, and everything goes.

Wish I could be out there now, in the sunshine…

I have one more chapter to go in my horsey-divorcey book, and I  — I don’t even know how to get my head around that.

The last chapter to go is the penultimate chapter, which is weird, but not. It’s kind of the ‘biggest’ one of them all, and the actual last chapter was really easy to write, I think it was the fastest one of all.

I think there may also be an epilogue, maybe.

Sorry, totally talking to myself! I had started about three posts this last week, all with variations on the theme of ‘life-lessony stuff’ and I didn’t get anywhere with them.

I also started to post, at least twice, about how spectacularly well Tuesday evening’s lesson went. I’ve usually got a little bit of the fear after a fall, but holy wow, I went at those fences like, I don’t know, A Really Determined Equestrienne. They weren’t massive, and I can’t resist pointing this out, the second fence of the two, organised as a related distance*, was 80cms, and: not a bother on me. Tiny bit of a bother on Con, who wasn’t only nominally in the mood, but I managed to convince him to rise [LOL] to the occasion, and we went really well. Really well, especially after such an annoying tumble on Sunday.

My impulse had been to write about making excuses: I had been going on and on in my head about Oh, those fences looked so high. And maybe they were ‘so’ high. And another part of me goes, So what, just ride… In a gentler way, a few days later, I can agree with that. On Tuesday, we were coming around to the first fence (a turn which seemed really tight to me…) and we did it really well! and then I got caught in the thought, That went really well! and in the seconds during which we approached the second, I realised at the last minute that I wasn’t very well prepared for it, I was just sitting there, and sure enough, Con stopped. [I didn’t fall off!]

It doesn’t pay to focus on the triumphs any more than the failures, apparently. One of the things I really want to get in the book, and that’s why I think there’s an epilogue-y bit, is something one of my instructors said to me a couple of years ago. It was under very similar circumstances: I had Delilah in a private lesson, and we were coming around to a related distance, and as is her wont, she cut the corner extremely tightly, and as I berated myself for letting her, we barely made it over the first fence, and as a result, struggled with the second. When I said I had realised the turn was too tight — trying to justify why the jumps had been poor — my instructor basically said: get over it and get onto the next thing in front of you.

If I could needlepoint, I’d stitch that on a pillow.

The next thing in front of me isn’t the thing that made logical sense, and I went ahead anyway. I’m tip-toeing around it a bit — let’s say, I’m still warming up. I’ve got it all in line, and with all going well — nope, I can’t even write when I think it will be done, because it’s really soon. Don’t want to rush my fences…

* From A related distance ‘refers to a distance in between two fences that the course designer has set to be ridden with a certain number of strides in mind, this is where the skill of knowing your horse comes in so that you can judge how best to ride the distance, for example if you have a four stride distance and are riding a short striding horse you may adjust your horses stride so that the distance becomes five strides instead of four.’


So. The showjumping league has been going on for ages, and yesterday was the last one until summer. I talked myself out of it the first week, and after that, there wasn’t even a voice in my head to ignore. I was doing okay on Connell, but every fence felt like a 50/50 proposition, and I just wasn’t feeling sufficiently confident.

On Saturday, one of my lesson mates basically talked me into going, and since AM was going as well, I figured, Ah, sure, feck it.

And then I was unexpectedly out Saturday night, home at 12ish, how’d that happen? and when I woke up, I thought, Ah, no, sure, I’ll sleep in and forget it… but then somehow, I suddenly found myself up, and washing my face, and having coffee, and checking the bus times, and walking out the door.

Weird, how that happens. How the mind goes lalalalalala and the body decides to ignore it.

At some stage on the bus, it occurred to me that just because I’ve been riding Connell, it didn’t mean I had to jump him. Hmmm. Since Rebel is no longer around {I can’t — I’ll write about that at some stage but not now, not here} I thought, Maybe I’ll take Delilah? I mean, she’s stiff and she’s getting up in years, but I watched her jump fences for a very indifferent rider recently and thought, Well, she’s bockity, but she’ll get me over the fences.

Connell or Delilah? Delilah or Connell? went my brain, getting me back for ignoring its chatter about having a lie-in instead of a showjump. I got into the car, barely said hello to AM. ‘I might take Delilah,’ I said, and pros and cons were weighed.

When I went to pay, Paul said, ‘And you’ll want Connell,’ and I said, ‘Can I have Delilah?’ and he said, ‘Either one!’ and so I went and got Delilah. Oooh, the warm up: I had forgotten just exactly how bockity she was, and it was a bit of a struggle to sit back in the canter. She refused one practice fence. Feck! I thought, and was thisclose to putting her back and getting Con… but I went at the fence again, we went over — okay. Off we went, me and D, to go jump a course of 70s.

I… I don’t really remember it? It was eight fences, and then if you went clear, you did the first six over again. Right. There was one at F, and then a related distance at X, then over to E, then back around to F for the line in to a double at X, then eeeeeeeeeeeeee H around to M, then the first fence became the 7th, and the 4th became the 8th.

I remember Delilah shaking her bum and trying to take off as we trotted large around the arena; I remember thinking Hmm, well, if she’s hot, she’ll be strong and get us over the fences, and then thinking, No, I want to control this, and sitting back and not letting her get out of hand; I remember being worried that I would forget which was the 5th fence; I remember thinking, Oh, God, I am bouncing around like a sack of potatoes and then sitting in more fully; I remember coming around the turn at H, heading for fence 6 and hearing another of my lesson pals call encouragement; I remember going over 6 and looking and thinking Oh, there’s 7! and feeling surprised by it.

When I cleared 8, I heard Paul call ‘Clear round!’ and I thought — I don’t think I thought? I don’t know, I just kept going, and went straight to 1; I remember coming around to 4 and feeling myself losing my left stirrup, and then putting more weight in the right stirrup and keeping the left; and I remember, as I came around again to 6, I thought Holy shit, I think— and I remember thinking as we sailed over it, thinking Ah! and then we landed and everyone cheered! and I felt like my whole body was my heart, beating and beating and laughing and full of pure, unadulterated joy.

I thought, Maybe I’ll do the 80s?, but I brought Delilah back up, and AM handed me her phone so I could video her round, and I commenced taking photos of me and my ribbon and texting them to myself. I remember, because I feel it now, the surge of absolute delight, the absolute and clear and incontrovertible sheer joy of having gone around clear. Of having been in the moment and only the moment, of only thinking as far as the next fence and of the… the ‘nowness’ of it, of one thing coming naturally after the next and doing just what was in front of me. Of urging Delilah on and forward and over and around: clear, clear, clear.

I’ve just remembered that I didn’t untack Delilah, oh shoot, but I was completely satisfied with my round of 70s and figured, Ah, I’ll do the 80s next time, and I forgot to go back, and oh, dammit, oh well.

I’ll never forgot whispering to AM, Do you think I get a rosette, and we weren’t sure since I hadn’t been in the league before now — and I’ll never forget the shock of delightful surprise when names were called to come forward for the ribbons and mine was one of them, and me lurking around like Gulliver, waiting for all wee girls to get their rosettes, and for the league winners to get their plaques. {Plaques?!? Hmmm!}

I tucked the rosette carefully into my pocket, and whenever anyone said the word ‘rosette’, I’d touch my pocket. There it is, I’d assure myself. There’s mine.

Wowee! I didn’t even notice that bruise until Sunday morning. And I don’t think Photo Booth does it justice. Or else it has faded considerably.

I was in the middle of finishing up my house-moving process on Saturday, and when I woke I wondered should I go? Because my head was wrecked… but my body needed to move, and not just up and down stairs lifting boxes. So, given that I have moved closer to the horses, and I was eager to see what it felt like to take just one bus instead of two, or two buses and a taxi, or a bus and a tram and a bus — well, off I went.

And it was good. Walking up that long, long road is not great, but someone did finally take pity and give me a lift up to the yard, at about the halfway mark.

And it was stunning out, simply gorgeous, sunshine-y and the tiniest bit brisk.

And then we started jumping, and I wasn’t all there, and Connell stopped believing my intention to get over that second element, much less the third one, and balk followed run out and lead up to a big fat stop that had me tumbling, slamming down onto the pole — yup, never not gonna wear my back protector, thanks — and apparently, somehow, hitting my left forearm, too.

I’m reverse-engineering this in my mind… yeah, came off to the left, as you do… smack/bang onto the pole — the wing fell over twice, thanks to me, I think that is a new record — yeah, I guess I flung the arm out, or something?

Eh. It didn’t and doesn’t hurt, but damn, that is something else.

Note to self: just don’t ever talk, ever, about how you haven’t fallen off for a while. Just — don’t. Even as I was on my second chat about how well Connell and I had been going, and how my confidence is back, and blah blah, Little Voice in My Head was going, Shaddup shaddup, sssh, oh, for God’s sake.

Ah, well. I’d put some arnica on it — if I could find it!

Eyebrow is courtesy of HD Brows, and the review is here.

Had a good go on Connell on Tuesday night — he was extremely fresh, which is not like him, and much better than the alternative, which is extremely unwilling to go. I know we jumped, and I can’t remember, I think it may have been a triple, but everything got trumped when I got home and stripped down. Read the rest of this entry »

Last night, Rebel was strong again, but it was the manageable kind of fizz; even though he was literally lunging at the fences — taking off from waaay out, and then unable to get his stride for the second face of the double — it wasn’t a big deal. I got to do that thing with my butt again, the pinching thing that makes him shorten up his stride. It is fun! And it makes me laugh, the way it works, just tensing up my arse, and suddenly everything changes.

In the car to the LUAS, we chatted about the lesson, as we do. My horsey friend said how she trusted the horse she’s currently riding — and maybe that was a mistake? And I said that I didn’t think so: ‘Because since you trust him, you’re relaxed, and he feels your relaxation, and then he relaxes, and the whole situation just feeds on itself, in a good way.’

So what’s the opposite of a vicious circle? I initially thought ‘precious circle’ and criiiiiinged. This from someone who makes smoochy noises at Connell, in the barn, in front of everyone! Seriously, though, as words go, ‘precious’ is just one of the worst. Sorry, it just is.*

Luckily, Wiki offered up a legitimate antonym to ‘vicious’ in ‘virtuous’ and this pleases me, not least on an alliterative level. This also allows me to go down a dictionary/thesaurus rabbit hole. Virtuous has mainly to do with morals, is what I conclude, and I think… I think that the virtuous circle with the horses goes back to that state of trust.

The more I trust someone/something/somehorse, the less I worry. The less I worry, the more present I am. The more present I am, the less I worry, and then trust is a foregone conclusion, because I am confident and relaxed [because I am not worrying!] It’s like when we’re jumping a series of fences as we did last night: double at B and a crosspole roughly at X, on the right rein. Now, I don’t trust Rebel on the right rein, it seems to make him fizzier and fightier, but since we had so much to do, and I had so much to think about, I mostly just left him to it and focused on getting us around the place. Now, I do trust that once Rebel at least sees the fence, he’s going to go over it. I know that much. Since I trusted him to do that, the fact that he was taking off really early on that first fence — well, I just went with it.

The thing was, he needs to be able to trust me to do my job, too, which was to notice that, hey, he’s taking off really early and not getting his stride, so therefore perhaps I should pinch up my butt. We did the double again, with me pulling up my arse muscles, and it was perfect. [This was not an independent decision, just to be precise, my instructor reminded me to do it.] So maybe he trusts me, now, to be paying attention and making adjustments?

I don’t know that I trust Rebel in the pure sense of the word. I know I can rely on him to be stroppy, frustrating, and moody. ‘Rely’ means many things, but ‘count on’ seems to work here, in a less than positive sense. But! I suppose the answer here is to be able to rely on myself, to know that I will be present, in the moment, in every moment that makes up the lesson, and that I will flex as necessary.

I am finally in the place where I understand [acknowledge, know, be aware of, be conscious of] that I have to be there, every single second. Even more than I already have been. Which I had thought was a lot, but apparently, there’s even more Now to be experienced. I’m very juiced up to be experiencing this, and am going to be seriously experimenting with this virtuous circle thing — without being too precious about it.

*Some words I do like.

I forgot to be nervous on my first day back in the saddle. Read the rest of this entry »

[MOJO IS A GOOD NAME FOR A HORSE] It’s been a year and half since I joined the Saturday lesson, since The Injury, since despite It, I tried to jump in my first Saturday lesson, fell on my head, and have been struggling week by week, Saturday by Saturday, to like it again. Read the rest of this entry »

I don’t even know where to start, because I want to start with the punchline.

Hmmm, let’s see. Weather: squally. It waited to bucket down until we pulled into the car park at the yard. It was cold, which just makes me want to go to the loo every five minutes. I had hoped to use Connell’s saddle instead of Rebel’s — Reb’s girth is rubbish — but I had to liberate said saddle from the floor of Con’s loose box; he had somehow wiggled out of it, and dumped it, and it was liberally dotted with poo.

Rebel let me bridle him without dislocating my shoulders! I can do this with authority now, but every single time it is like, Hey! Rebel let me bridle him without dislocating my shoulders!

I’m humming to myself as I think, doot dah doot dah doooo… yeah, okay, feck it, we jumped over 1m10 last night. 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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