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Walking on sunshine!

Bronson and I attended one of Pip’s Horse Connection Clinics this weekend. Having only ridden four times in the past 3 months, and having lost balance and fitness over that time, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get us back in the swing of things. But, I have to say, my expectations of us were pretty low; Bronson has a big movement and Pip’s menage undulates (purposefully so that you actually learn to ride properly! As she always says, the world isn’t flat!) so my lack of balance has really set us back.

I arrived at the yard bright and early and the sky was blue, it was glorious! I was totally on it with my groundwork from the get go and everytime Bronson asked the “who is in charge?” question I was sure to answer correctly. He’s far more subtle about this now and it mostly involved him leaning into my space very slightly or turning his head towards me just off the vertical. Regardless of the subtlety, I was quick to respond and the payoffs were immediate. He lifted his feet with me just looking at them and I was to find that there were even more benefits to be gained, later on.

On the Saturday one of the things Pip got us working on was a spiral, working inwards and then outwards which was fantastic for engaging our brains! Who would have known that riding a circle could be so bloomin’ difficult and that making that circle smaller and then larger by increments, even harder still! But I loved it! It helped me to regain the focus I had lost over our break.

On the Sunday I was expecting to be doing some trotting poles. We headed up to the menage with our morning session, of practising everything we had been working on the day before, having gone well and I knew that getting Bronson to pick his feet up over the poles would require a great deal of concentration. First of all, Pip just raised the poles on one side and said that they were just trotting poles so we were to simply trot over them in the normal riding position. It soon became apparent that Bronson wanted to canter and jump the poles. Another time Pip would have insisted that we have the discipline to maintain the trot but today she decided that as he was ‘up for it’ we would embrace that. Bronson hasn’t done any jumping and when he first came back to Pippsway he was terrified of trotting poles! So she took this opportunity to ride on the back of his good mood and see what we could achieve. “Ok, you can go into canter and go over the cross poles” she said. He went in to this lovely gentle canter and popped over the little jump no problem at all! Pip made more jumps for us to go over and we had a whale of a time cantering about, jumping the poles and changing direction. What was so striking was how relaxed and confident Bronson was! I could feel exactly when he was doubting or unsure and could immediately respond and reassure him.

Neither of us have binocular vision. Bronson has no right eye and I only have peripheral vision in my right eye so this makes judging distances more difficult for us both. Also when I first came to Pip I had lost all my confidence years before after a bad fall going over a tiny cross pole exactly like the ones we did today. The horse had done an enormous cat jump and I’d landed really badly. So all this, married with Bronson’s fear of poles, was a world apart from the relaxed, happy pairing we were today. All the work that Pip has put into us came together today in the most wonderful of ways.

After about 15 minutes I could feel that my focus was sliding and I wanted to stop jumping whilst it had been such a positive experience for us both. Pip said I needed to work on my mental and physical fitness and stamina so whilst she was happy for us to stop jumping we needed to continue working. Bronson is super fit because of all the work Pip does with him so she said to canter for 5 minutes in one direction, then 5 minutes the other way and then to repeat both sides! There was a time when I struggled to maintain a single circuit of the menage without falling into trot, where we fell in on the corners, motorbiked, and had a habit of going far too fast to be able to manage the corners in a sensible fashion. In stark contrast today we found a steady rhythm and maintained it for five minutes, didn’t fall in on the corners or motorbike and, regardless of the camber changes, maintained our pace. I made sure that on each circuit I changed our path and Bronson listened perfectly to my every instruction going exactly where I asked. All the while we were both happy, relaxed and enjoying ourselves! My oh my how far we have come!

So not only did Pip’s Horse connection clinic get us back in the swing it has propelled us forwards to the next level. I’m walking on sunshine!


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