Graduated and Raring to Go: Those darn invisible dragons

This week, Heather's been trying out different horses for size. No one tell Socks... 

I was about to write about how much I hate winter – no light to ride, everything is wet – but then I remembered that’s how I started last fortnight’s blog, too…

So to illustrate my point, here’s Socks standing in her own home-made mud spa, looking very pleased with herself. Can somebody please tell her that she’s already mud-coloured and there’s no need for her to wear any camouflage paint?

Mud-roll complete, Socks can now get on with her day…

Mud-roll complete, Socks can now get on with her day…

Weather gripes aside, I’m taking this opportunity to give Socks a bit of chill time. Always a silver lining, right!

We’ve been clocking up some hacking miles with our new hacking buddy Jennie and her two horses, Billy and Callie, and since Mia has gone away skiing, Mum has been spoilt for choice between her new friend Robbie and Mia's horse, Ice, as well.

As I’m sure you can all relate, with the weather being unhelpful, Socks ends up slightly, er, fresh.

And not the cute kind of “jog a little and snort a bit” fresh. More of a “bounce out of the yard on stilts and spook at ANYTHING THAT MOVES” sort of fresh.

To school, it’s a matter of pretending you’re relaxed, but being ready for Socks to shoot sideways for no reason. She’s just checking I’m concentrating, honest.

Battling invisible dragons

As much as I love my horse, when she’s like this she isn’t particularly fun, or relaxing. When I realised that Mum had made excuses not to ride for 10 days straight, I knew I had to do something.

I was always a bit adverse to calmers – I thought they might take away Socks’ character, and there was something about relying on drugs to be able to ride a horse that my pride couldn’t overcome.

But I did my research, and apparently calmers are not the same things as tranquillisers, which made me feel better!

On the first day, I half expected to find her meditating in her stable, nicely stretched out from her self-led yoga session. She wasn't quite that laid-back, but in our first schooling session the change was miraculous.

She was still a bit fresh, which was to be expected as she hadn’t been turned out for two days before – but once I asked her to focus, we were away!

No more looking around for things to spook at, no more spooking at the sand underneath her feet, and she was so much more relaxed over her back to start with!

Heading out of the school

The real test was going out hacking. We did still bounce out of the yard with Socks hopping in excitement, but she soon got that out of her system. The calmer seems to have just given her those extra few seconds to consider what she’s doing before she does something stupid.

Sadly, Socks and I still disagree on what’s a necessary reaction and what isn’t. We’ll get there.

After about 10 days of only hacking and the odd lunge, I thought that must have been enough holiday for her and decided to take her in the school to check if she still remembered how to diva.

The overwhelming feeling from Socks was still just sheer excitement, which I'll assume was at doing some proper work again. (Is that slightly hopeful of me?)

I learned a few thing that day:

  • Firstly, that there’s not much that’s more upsetting to my horse than being splashed by wet sand.
  • Secondly, that yes, Socks had remembered how to dressage diva (hooray!).
  • Thirdly, that being a lovely mother and letting your horse stretch on a long rein is prime time for an invisible dragon attack. No way was I falling off into a muddy, sandy puddle, though.

And then after that, a foot-perfect hack with Mum and Jennie. So, it seems that it’s to be a kind of spook-roulette.

Mum, Robbie, Jennie and Billy were having so much fun they went blurry…

Mum, Robbie, Jennie and Billy were having so much fun they went blurry…

Saying all this, Socks is still 10 times better than even last year. If Charlotte Dujardin likes a sharp horse, then I feel entirely justified. What’s life without a few surprises?

 A happy realisation

I’ve always been a fan of riding as many different horses as I can, if only for a bit of variety. 

This month Jennie kindly let me school Callie while she was injured and couldn’t ride. It was a revelation! Control of the shoulders, actually being able to carry my hands without fear of a giraffe impression, not having to consider about fifty factors at once… what a relief!

But the real reason I loved it so much was that it showed me all the bad habits I’ve picked up riding Socks, so getting back on her everything was so much simpler and both of us were so much happier. I really have to make an effort to do it more often!

Schooling myself as much as Callie!

Schooling myself as much as Callie!

Next month, the work begins in earnest! I’ve got a few things booked in so check in next time to see how we get on!