Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I’ll kick off by introducing myself and my horse, Harry.

My name is Alison Bridge and I’m the Editor-in-Chief of Horse&Rider and a fifty-something riding returner. I rode from age seven until I went to University and then only occasionally up until three years ago, when I caught the horse bug again. My horse bug resulted in the purchase of Harry, an eight year old, 14.3hh skewbald cob.

Harry is like no other horse I have ever ridden, more like a chunky, overgrown pony with attitude. It took me a while to get used to him (and vice versa), but now I absolutely adore him. He’s cute, clever, cheeky and brave – he’s had a bash (literally, sometimes!) at everything I’ve asked him to do so far, from sponsored rides to dressage.

Harry lives out 24/7 with his pony friend, Snoopy, and I ride him two to three times a week, or more if I can. Recently I’ve kept it to short hacks in the rain – I hate getting wet right through to my pants! And of course I spend lots of time poo-picking his field, not a lot of fun in the rain, either.

But a couple of days ago, finally the clouds parted and I had a wonderful riding lesson. My trainer Fiona is an event rider, and a great confidence giver, which is just what my training buddy, Jane, and I needed. We’d both had falls jumping, but Fiona has been brilliant, getting us happily tackling poles, grids and jumps again. This week she put up a couple of new grids. The first was a jump with a placing pole either side to trot over.

Harry was a bit puzzled at first – "is it a very high trotting pole?" I could almost hear him thinking – so he didn’t so much jump as scramble! He soon got the idea, but found it quite an effort: although he is quite powerful, he’s not a natural athlete.

Then we did a combination of two jumps, four long, or five short strides apart. I tried for the long strides first, legging him on in between the fences, and nearly got them.

Then Harry put in a fast short stride just before the second jump and shot straight up like a helicopter - cue my first shriek of the day!

We managed four strides on our next attempt, with Harry barrelling towards and over the second jump with gusto, then getting his head down and giving a few little humps – his version of a few cheery bucks – which my companions found hilarious!

Now Harry was really on a roll and thought he knew what he was doing, so when Fiona asked us to jump the combination in five strides, I had to take quite a vigorous check between fences. It worked, and we did a few more variations.

We ended our session by doing a spread, then a single fence on four long strides again, which he absolutely flew over without touching a pole. More humping from Harry, more shrieks from me, more laughter from my unsympathetic colleagues!

I was knackered – our session went on for an hour and twenty minutes – and I had minor whiplash, but I haven’t had so much fun for ages.

Roll on my next ride!

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