Rider confidence: Leaving the ground

Last month, Rachel told us all about her battle with a trotting pole, but after a sunshine break, she's feeling ready to take it up a gear. Here she explains how she got on. 

Well this month it’s been hot hot hot!

Ruby hasn’t been impressed at the rising temperatures, especially as she’s had to wear a fly rug due to an allergy to bites. She’s been even less enthusiastic about being ridden at 5.45am to avoid the heat.

Oh yeah, and she’s now only spending just a few hours a day on the grass to due to her expanding waistline. Cue one moody mare!

Conquering the trotting pole! 

Conquering the trotting pole! 

In my last post, we had finally conquered a trotting pole…… in walk, and were building up to trotting over my nemesis, having had a tumble over a pole a few months ago. I was also just about to go on holiday.

The break can do you good

Well it’s amazing what a week of all-inclusive can do for you!

After spending most of the time on a sunlounger in Ibiza, eating my own body weight in ice cream, I was feeling extremely relaxed and returned to the yard with a new found confidence, eager to face my fears head on.

The day after I returned, I put my brave pants on, hopped on Rubaloo (who’d been thinking that she was retired after nine days off work), and headed for the indoor school.

I’m very lucky with Ruby, no matter how long she goes without being ridden, she’s still the same pony, except for her girth now being on a slightly looser hole!

After warming up and going over the pole a few times in walk, I decided to just go for it.

We established trot, turned down the centre line and… casually trotted over it as though it wasn’t even there.

I felt an immediate surge of relief. What was I even worrying about?

We repeated this several more times from different directions and ended the session with a massive confidence boost… and a determination to get over a cross-pole before the end of the month.

Before I could attempt a jump however, there were a couple of problems that needed to sorting out. 

Getting in position

Jumping for joy 

Jumping for joy 

I’d been struggling to maintain a decent position and couldn’t work out why.

It was only when my friend pointed out that I a) had tiny knee blocks that a small child would struggle to use and b) had stirrups more uneven than the Leaning Tower of Pisa, that I realised that with just a few little changes, I could feel much more secure in the saddle.

After a quick Ebay purchase and a stirrup adjustment, we were ready to go.

Having roped the mother in yet again to help (you wanted a horsey daughter!), we set up a small cross-pole.

As Ruby and I warmed up around the jump, it seemed to grow in size until in my head it was a six-foot spread.

After a couple of moments of “I can’t do this”, I pulled myself together, steered Ruby towards the jump, gave her a kick and… she did her best donkey impression, planted her feet and came to an abrupt halt.

Luckily, I’m just as stubborn as Ruby and instead of backing off and saying ‘never mind, we tried’, I became more determined to get her over the bloomin’ thing!

I circled her around, re-approached, grabbed my neckstrap and actually jumped! I chose to ignore the sound of the poles crashing to the ground behind us and concentrated on the fact that we’d actually done it.

I’d clearly backed off at the first jump and a more positive approach had been all that was needed to give her the confidence to leave the ground.

With a big smile on my face and a now excited, forward-going pony, we attempted the jump a few more times.

Leaving the ground! 

Leaving the ground! 

We eventually cleared it on the fourth attempt when Ruby suddenly had an epiphany and remembered that she also had to lift up her back legs as well as her front ones! We left it there so as to end the session on a high.

I think it’s important to stop when you’re ahead when trying something new.

Ending on a positive gives you a huge confidence boost, a massive sense of achievement and an eagerness to push yourself a little further out of your comfort zone the next time you ride.

I’m a little limited on how much further I can push the jumping at the moment as I’m getting married in a few weeks and refuse to have broken bones or bruises in the pictures!

I’m going to attempt to jump the same height again and maybe even try to complete a small course. I’ll let you know how we get on!