As 2020 draws to a close, I’m realising now what a year it’s been. I started the year without a degree, I’m finishing with a first class BA Hons degree in English Literature. I’ve lost Jackson and missing him a lot right now (first Christmas without my baby 🐱💔) but I’ve got Whiskey keeping me going. I’ve had my poetry featured as part of an art installation curated by Luke Jerram. I spent a week behind the scenes at an international eventing yard, and I’ve now started a level 2 horse groom apprenticeship which I think is going well so far, so hopefully on my way to becoming an equestrian journalist. I ran a virtual half marathon (here’s to hoping the Royal Parks Half 2021 can go ahead) and I’ve just signed up to run the distance from John O Groat’s to Lands End over the course of 2021! And then obviously Covid-19 just is. It doesn’t need to be anything, just it exists…
You get the idea. Just over a week until Christmas!!! 🎄🎅
In this week’s lessons I think we’ve learned that my best riding happens when someone’s yelling at me (sorry to all my instructors – I get the feeling I’m frustrating to teach…)
It’s my day off tomorrow so I’m planning on getting some washing done. And giving Malibu and Foxy some attention (they definitely enjoyed their playtime in the arena today)!
Santa is coming! From the North Pole. In 13 days!
Unfortunately Olympia isn’t happening this year (this time last year I was on my way down to London ready for a week of volunteering and media duties). Instead, I’ll share some of my favourite Olympia moments next week so we still get some of the magic!
This week we’ve been powering through Workbook 4 (just a few more questions to go) and started pole work in Tuesday’s lesson, which went well until I couldn’t canter at the end… Cantering on Thursday went somewhat better (I actually managed to canter). I need to work on keeping my heels down and not bouncing like a sack of useless potatoes in the transition from trot to canter though!
As usual, I headed for my weekly walk today, followed by watching The BFG (I’d forgotten what an amazing story it is!) and self-care Saturday listening to The Flat Share while soaking up my pomegranate facemask.
It’s the Strictly semi-final tonight, so I’ll be enjoying that shortly!
Well, not literally. At least, not like Alice. Although given that I thought the moonrise was the sunset the other day…
After Tuesday’s lesson, it was suggested that I try putting my stirrups down a hole, which I did today. Sure, we were still chasing a bit, but with longer stirrups I don’t think I was tipping forward quite so much. Next step – strengthen my lower legs (especially my lower left leg) so they don’t slide when I canter and maybe then we can try going down another hole (of the daydream variety this time 😉)!
Yesterday I headed up to Dartmoor for a bit of an explore (more – or should I say moor – exploring needed) and saw a herd of ponies! It was great for my driving too, involving single track country lanes, A roads, and just about everything in between.
Self-care Saturday has involved a run, bike ride, watching The Railway Children, listening to my latest audiobook (The Flatshare), and applying my self-care Saturday face mask.
Was pleased with a sub-30 5k (supposedly 5k) although my hands were so cold after my bike ride that it hurt under my thumbnails and I felt a little ill (whoops)…
Of course I piled the calories straight back on by eating too much chocolate cake… 🎂
It’s always amusing when you come around a corner and bam! At least five people taking photos of the sunset 🤣 Admittedly, I did manage to just about sneak one myself, but the sky wasn’t as good by then…
Anywho, look at me going off topic already…
…You put your left foot out…
Today’s lesson was focused on leg yielding, in which we discovered my left leg is basically useless… Might as well not have a left leg to be honest… Sorry, cheerful, I know! 😂
Too many ellipses and emojis?
I’ll sign off now, and should probably crack on with workbook 4 before next Thursday! And get some lunging done. And go for a run. And get my shopping done. And eat more chocolate.
Yes, I’m naming this post after my poem that featured in Luke Jerram’s Of Earth and Sky project in Gloucester.
Why? Because on my days off I like to take myself up to the forest for walks (or runs if I’m feeling up to it like last week). Last week’s run saw me complete the 5k route in 30:12. I’m not sure I’ll be running the 5k Challenge+ route anytime soon though, given how muddy and slippery – and hilly – I’ve seen it is. The route I walked today joins the 5k Challenge+ route half way round, sticking with it until almost the end.
I’ve also changed to the non-ridden pathway for the apprenticeship, although I’ll still be improving my riding (hopefully) joining in the student lessons, but we decided it’s less pressure on me if I’m not assessed in my riding (I get flustered enough without being assessed).
This week’s lessons focused on control and maintaining the same distance between everyone, and then in our second lesson of the week we worked on walk-canter transitions, which I got rather flustered about when Jacob kept trying to rush off in trot rather than walk, but we managed a few on each rein. I think the key for me is to learn that the bubbliness is actually easier to control than trying to hold it, it’s just getting me past that ‘OMG it feels too powerful!’ stage.
In the past couple of weeks I’ve officially started my level 2 horse groom apprenticeship!
In last weeks lessons I rode Dillon and Jacob, focusing on turning my body rather than leaning, ‘pulsing’ using my leg muscles rather than pony club kicks, half-halting, and not being afraid to bring my inside hand away from the neck more to ask for flexion to the inside. No pressure to remember all that and apply it all next time then…
We all have to make sure we get photographic and video evidence of practical tasks such as mucking out, which I’ve started collating. I know my mucking out isn’t the best, but I’ve been working on making my stables better this week (or trying to, at the very least).
In other news, it was my birthday earlier in the week so we managed to squeeze in a birthday meal before lockdown 2 kicked in. And that was on top of seeing my parents last weekend and a trip to Yeovil Literary Festival to hear Carrie Hope Fletcher talk about her new novel Into the Spotlight.
In terms of lockdown 2, I’m definitely feeling noticeably more anxious again… I was reluctant to go out today, and that was just to go for a walk in the forest (I almost ended up in tears driving up there I’d got myself so worked up…). I’m yet to deal with lockdown shopping…
Too many ellipses probably means I should be getting some sleep.
It’s been a better week this week. Despite not riding properly since last Wednesday (we need more cobs for us all to ride) and being nervous about the possibility of riding Pinky again – I literally had nightmares this Wednesday night – I got back on her for a lunge lesson on Thursday.
The takeaway points were:
- Using my weight aids during transitions
- Taking deep breaths when I feel myself tense up
- Establish a good sitting trot before either rising in the walk-trot transition or walking in the trot-walk transition
All of these things should help me not to tip forward so much as I’ll be teaching both myself and the horse to respond to my weight aids. It should also help me to start getting more of a feel of the correct trot diagonal when I do start rising (I got a few right!).
Let’s just say this week hasn’t been my finest. Wednesday just wasn’t my day riding wise and I’ve taken a knock to my confidence. Our instructor on Thursday is coming up with a solution though – I think the plan is to take me out of group lessons for now and build up my confidence before I rejoin group lessons.
In terms of what went wrong, the pony I was riding is clearly very enthusiastic about jumping, so much so that put three trotting poles in the middle of the arena and she jumps the width of them. Then proceeds to go into her silly cantering mode with me struggling (I have an awful habit of tensing up and leaning forward, and squealing it turns out).
Anywho, on a more positive note (or maybe not for my parents) I found a gorgeous pair of denim jodhpurs earlier which fit perfectly and have become an early birthday present (how am I almost 22 yet remain the height of a 11-13 year old?…)
We also seem to get lots of rainbows here, so I’m sharing a photo of one I took earlier this week.
It’s world mental health day, and time for a long overdue blog post.
I’ve spent the last few weeks settling into a new routine having started a horse care apprenticeship (I sign up officially on November 3rd – my birthday).
I won’t share any photos just yet as I haven’t asked for permission, but I’ve started doing a bit of lunging with one pony, helping to school another pony, AND we have a student dressage competition coming up. I’ve ordered a show shirt and purchased a tie, just need to give my boots a bit of a clean beforehand.
I can share photos from some of my days off, where although I haven’t been doing much extra with the horses, I’ve been taking some much needed me time and exploring the local area.
I’ve purchased a guide to walking the South West Coast Path so I’m hoping I can walk small sections on some of my days off.
Talking of days off I’m excited for a couple of weeks time to be headed to a literary festival (my pre-birthday treat).
On the subject of books, three years ago saw my first self-published poetry collection Angel Awaiting which documented how I felt during my A Levels. Last year I self-published a second collection The Colour Behind Me reflecting on the progress I’ve made while at uni. Admittedly, I still have wobbly days (I know I’m not alone there) and Covid-19 didn’t help initially as I still had my degree to complete and no jobs available, but having started my equine apprenticeship I’m on the way to combining my interests of horses and writing, and becoming an equestrian journalist!
Look after yourselves, keep doing what’s best for you, and love yourselves.