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Setting the pace...

Hacking out with Pippsway Classical Natural Horsemanship Wellington Somerset near Devon

Today I enjoyed my first ever Pippsway hack. As I’ve come to expect, it was unlike any hack I’ve ever been on! We set off with Imogen riding Jack and leading Puzzle, then Bronson and me with Pip and Pizarra bringing up the rear. Pip explained that as the horses are barefoot I needed to make sure I kept Bronson off the stony line in the centre of the lanes, that I needed to maintain a horse's length between Bronson and Puzzle and to make sure that I was in charge and that Bronson wasn’t just following Imogen and the horses. All sounds pretty straightforward, yes? But it wasn’t!

To start with, Bronson would fall behind and then I would push him on until we caught up, then he would fall behind again and so on. Going around the first corner it was clear that Bronson was indeed following the other horses. So Pip came alongside and told me to keep pace with Pizarra. She said I could ride in any gait of my choice providing I maintained the pace and to make sure I was choosing, not Bronson. Again this sounds straightforward, but it wasn't! It was only then that it became clear to me just how often we think we are in control and in charge when actually we aren’t, the horse is!

The ménage at Pippsway has deliberately been made so that it isn’t flat. I’ve noticed during the clinics that when Pip rides in the ménage she always maintains a constant pace regardless, whereas many of us tend to speed up or slow down as the camber changes. I’ve never really considered before that if our horse is changing his pace of his own volition then we aren’t really in charge, he is! This became crystal clear out on our hack. My training in the ménage had set me up well for trotting up and down hills though, of all the things I was having to think about that wasn’t one of them, which was great.

I made all sorts of mistakes and some old bad habits reared their ugly heads. I was too heavy on the reins at times and once when Bronson went forwards my knee jerk reaction was to pull on the reins……..I lost my balance and caught him in the mouth. When I was trying to get him to step onto a verge I fell back into using my legs and it was clear that my usual confidence had dropped (I’d felt under par for a few days) and that was causing uncertainty in Bronson.

With encouragement from Pip, who stayed alongside me the entire time, except of course when I raced ahead or fell behind as I wasn’t successfully maintaining the pace, I relaxed my reins, realised that to slow slightly all I had to do was breathe out, to speed up slightly all I had to do was raise my energy and that the feeling you're aiming for is like the horse’s legs are your legs.

Having now experienced riding in this way, beginning to understand the true endeavour of riding properly, what it actually takes to be in control, in charge and ride responsibly it’s shocking to think how I rode before! I am so excited and grateful to finally be learning to ride properly and I know that with Pip’s tuition and guidance I am on the path to becoming a real horsewoman.

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