Thursday, 12 January 2012

Falling off and getting back on again

I rode regularly as a child and teenager then became a more sporadic rider when I got the first of many jobs, went to University and got more jobs.  Writing remained a constant (mostly).

Then, after a long gap, in my 30s I started riding lessons again.  Buying the hat, boots and jodhpurs (and gloves!) was very exciting because, as a child, I’d never had the right gear and usually rode in jeans.  I felt like a “proper rider”.

Although I never completely lost my nervousness, this was my golden riding age in terms of achievement, thanks to Soames and Benson.  Soames was a big bright chestnut “schoolmaster”, very forward going, responsive and knowledgeable.  I was a bit scared of him in our first lessons together but he enabled me to experience my first perfect walk to canter transition, which was a revelation!  Soames, although you left this world many, many moons ago, I will always be grateful for what you taught me and the confidence you gave me.

Benson was a bad-tempered bay, not overly fond of humans on the ground but when you were on his back, he was totally different.  Willing, bold and very experienced.  I remember the first time I rode him on a cross country course and was confronted by a row of tyres capped with a pole that looked pretty scary to me.  I hadn’t done a lot of jumping.  But the instructor said, "He knows what to do.  Just let him do it.”  So I did.  And he did.  I felt on cloud nine that night, amazed at what I had been able to achieve on this horse.  I hope Benson is keeping Soames company in horse heaven.  Both horses have made appearances in several guises in my pony books and my book Transitions was partly a tribute to Soames.

Shortly after my riding triumph, funds ran out again and another long gap from riding followed.  More than 10 years ago, maybe longer, I rode again.  The horse was a young, dark bay called Stormy and half way through the lesson, he bucked me off.  This was a first for me and came so out of the blue - one minute we were cantering happily, the next I was flying through the air and narrowly avoided being impaled on the fence.  It shook me up a tad.  I lay in the sand for a while, contemplating what had just happened.  Legs shaking, I caught up with Stormy and remounted.  But my nerve had gone.

Recently, I have been trying to tackle my phobias and fears and understand now why it it so important to get back on after a fall.  To face the fear as soon as possible, because the longer you let it fester, the bigger it becomes.

Gazing out of the window on a train journey just before Christmas, looking across the frost covered fields, I had a sudden urge - longing almost - to be on horseback again.  The place where I used to ride has gone, but I’ve made enquiries and found a local stables where I can try again.  I’ve resolved 2012 will be the year I get back on again -  in every sense.

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