move to improve
move to improve
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Based: Oxon/Gloc, Cotswolds, UK
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So, I fell off again!

walkingThat was Friday 2pm, it is now Sunday.

As I previously wrote that situations like this were an indication of something lacking, I thought I should share my thoughts on this particular matter with you.

tarpaulinFriday 9am I had told some friends that I was celebrating feeling fitter and healthier than I had in a long time, yet I was still about to embark on a weight loss and fitness program. I had ridden my Welsh D, Jed, on Thursday, he had gone reasonably well. We had worked from the ground, before I mounted, quite calmly. Once I had mounted he was a little lazy to start, I asked for some more activity which he gave me, but at the same time he began to be a little spooky, along the long side of our covered arena. This is a familiar pattern. I have been trying to unravel the issues for many years. I am well aware that any training issues are of my making, as I've had him since he was 3, I backed him, I am his main rider. I can pinpoint the moment at which he turned from my safe well-mannered pony to the pony with a nervous spook that he is now. But I could not identify the trigger for that event. He has frequent bodywork from a variety of practitioners, none of whom have identified anything significant or specific with him. In the last month he has had a new diet and a change of saddle to see if that might help. I have regularly invited others I respect to share their thoughts on ways to help him with his nervousness. We have not nailed the issue yet.

plastic car wash curtainsFor example, at the suggestion of one trainer, I took him along to a Horse Agility Training day, he did overcome his fear of going through the plastic car wash curtains, but where he would previously be confident to place his feet in the plastic hoopla hoops, he became terrified of them, because when he kicked one it rattled. Since then I've been working at home to get him more familiar with rattling hoops, and accepting the standard hoops again, we are making progress but it's not 'fixed'.

So, what caused the fall? We started out much as we had done the day before. Well in part it was my failure to tighten the girth another time before I started cantering. I know this because when caught his saddle was under his belly. So why didn't I do so, I usually do. The trot was good, the transition easily available, I just went for it. After I'd cantered once, I just continued with my trot canter transitions, I didn't think about it. We'd cantered on the 20m circle several times on each rein, several times there was a spooky step or two off the line at a certain point in the arena. I was looking to ignore the deviation and keep riding the line and pace to the best of my ability. I was about to stop, I may even have moved through into trot, as he turned sharply right into the right rein circle.

jumpI went off to the outside. I landed heavily on my left hip. The back of my pelvis and butt is bruised, I strained the adductor muscles in my left groin. I have been a study in slow motion as I've learnt to move around without pain (my Feldenkrais training helps no end). I've had some treatment and rest and I'm now feeling much better. I won't be riding for a few days. I will start teaching again tomorrow and working my horses from the ground once I can move more easily again. I will have some more bodywork treatment for myself. Has it shaken my confidence? No. Am I frustrated? Yes. I feel I must be missing something, but I've yet to put my finger on it. Maybe 'it' is a combination of things.

He is a sensitive little soul, always has been, when I first saw him he was hiding at the back of the herd of 6 or so horses, watching what was going on, but reluctant to approach. He is frightened of all sorts of noises, especially clippers (and electric toothbrushes, the rattly hoops, cars bouncing through potholes). He is frightened by things moving at speed towards him, be they vehicles, other horses, or horses including himself the arena mirrors. He can be frightened of shadows and dark plants, cross country fences in a field. In all these areas there are significant improvements, but they can still be triggers for him. His fear response is generally turn and run, occasionally it's just run. The run distance has shortened appreciably, sometimes now he will spook on the spot.

What I do know for sure is this is a fear response, not a vindictive response. I will work with him from the ground once I am fit enough to do so (in a day or two) then ride him again once he and I are both in a fit place. In the meantime I will continue to talk to him, groom him, be his friend. He is my teaching partner. He has a fine line between his comfort zone, stretch zone and panic zone, as do many of my riding and movement clients. Patience and persistence, with the willingness to try something different, will I'm sure see us through this apparent maze. We can take our time and small steps.

There are many trainers around who never talk about falling off, it's as if they never have and never do. However, it is part of riding. It is part of the learning process. What is important is how you respond to it. If you need help ask for it, I certainly will.