Making Progress

Today’s post is a long one, I’m afraid, and one that I have been planning for a while but haven’t had enough time to give it it’s dues. Neither did I wish to tempt fate.

Some of you may remember me wittering on about a young client who overthinks her riding and is a bit neurotic. What happens if she fell off … Her pony doesn’t like that bag six miles away … She doesn’t want to hurt herself.

Before Christmas I was running out of ideas so I suggested to her Mum that we do the equivalent of turning her away and take the pressure off completely. She still needed to help care for her pony but she would only ride if she wanted to. Instead of teaching her I would teach her brother on the pony instead. Over Christmas the weather wasn’t particularly conducive to riding so I think everyone benefitted from a break. Then in January we borrowed a friends pony so the two kids could have a couple of lessons together. My client rode this friends pony who she initially liked, but then decided he was too fast … I think a snail i overtook them in trot! And she saw her brother doing his riding trot and going over poles quite happily on her pony, which I think made her determined to ride her pony again and be better than her brother.

So in mid-January we started the private lessons again. Now her pony is cute and lovable, but boy does he know how to take the Mickey! He’d been schooled by one of the teenagers at the yard and was perfect, so any nonsense stemmed from his jockey, and was unfortunately something she had to overcome.

The break seemed to have changed her approach to riding as instead of panicking when her pony stopped or tried to go past the gate, she told him off and gave him a little smack and they continued on their way. I have to help from the middle  of the arena with my schooling stick so her legs don’t get too tired, but she is mastering his trot.

So that they didn’t get bored, and I continued to take advantage of this positive approach we started going over poles and little crosses. I had to lead, obviously, and still am even though the jumps are getting bigger. She’s much more confident over the fences and I’ve done exercises without hands to develop her core stability, particularly as her instinctive reaction when she’s worried is to put the handbrake, to which her pony responds with an emergency stop! Which doesn’t help anyone!

after a few weeks of trot work and building up the poles I introduced canter. This pony has such a fast canter! I have to really sprint, but thankfully he’s getting more balanced into the transition so it’s more comfortable for her, him and me!

Still leading, I’ve increased the length of canters, introduced letting go of the saddle and last week letting go of the reins completely. My little client vowed she would never hold both hands out to the side as it was scary, but she quickly realised how much fun it was and let go for herself. I’m not in a rush to stop leading her, despite what my thighs cry, as I need her to be comfortable and balanced into canter so she doesn’t put her handbrake on, as I said earlier, and confuse her pony.

Using cantering and jumping as a bribe, I’ve also persuaded her to walk down the road. This is where her neuroticism comes in as every movement causes her to worry. But I distract her by making jokes and. Last week we posted a letter, so she had to get all the way to the post box without panicking, and practised posting the letter in case she has to do Handy Pony at Pony Club.

Last week was particularly satisfying from my point of view as we successfully went on a hack, cantered with hands out to the side, worked at the scary end of the school (it’s not, there’s just bits and pieces for the horses to look at), trotted over poles, and all with a smile on her face!

Fingers crossed that progress continues with the lighter evenings and warmer weather, and I think my little rider will be ready for Pony Club Camp!

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