I knew Adam and Matt were worried when they closed the doors to the indoor school. It hardly ever happens. And Winnie was the only horse in there. This was my first ride on him since before Christmas and the boys were obviously eager for nothing to go wrong. And it didn't. I can't say that I wasn't apprenhensive but I knew I had to see it through. This was a part of my journey.
Again we settled in to a routine. I would have a lesson on Indi - to kind of warm me up - and then move on to a lesson on Winnie straight after. It was a big deal for me the first time I had to do the canter transition but I could also feel that Winnie was more balanced and we had practised being able to sit for a few strides as part of the trotwork. I wouldn't say the first transition was smooth but neither was it as bad as it had been before.
We practised a lot on a 20 meter circle. I would ask for canter across the open side of the circle just as we approached the track. This slowed Winston down and backed him off which meant that he was less likely to rush forward. My confidence increased. It was always better on the right rein than the left but after a few weeks I was no longer filled with terror at the thought of a canter transition.
Indi was once again dispensed with and my lessons continued with Winston. I was making progress but it was slow progress. There was so much to learn. I had to get him soft and round - which wasn't easy. I had to get him to bend on both reins and then to go straight. I had to get more engagement. I had to make sure he was on the aids and off the leg. And even with all this I was still only doing the things I'd always done - the basics - but on a much classier, better moving, more well bred horse.
I'm not the bravest person, as you have probably realised, and Winnie was also a worrier. He didn't like other horses coming towards him. He was ok if we were walking but if we were trotting or cantering and a horse came towards him he would spin round and canter off. Nothing evil but it was unsettling for me when the school was busy.
I used to watch everyone ride, particularly the young working pupils, and they would be half passing, doing tempi changes and canter pirouettes and the most I was doing was leg yield. I felt destined to spend my whole life leg yielding!
I know I must sound impatient and I am! But I'd bought this horse, spending more than I'd ever spent on a horse in my life and I still felt a very long way off my dressage dream! I'm a perfectionist. I hate getting things wrong. For me it was really hard to go back day after day knowing I wasn't very good and to be surrounded by people who all looked really accomplished. I desperately wanted to be as good as them. I wanted to do half pass and tempi changes.
I kept on flogging away at it. Poor Adam must have wondered if I would ever get there. I did! But slowly things improved and although I didn't feel good, I didn't feel completely bad either. But then something huge happened which changed the path I was going to take dramatically.
During the past months I had become friendly with one of the other girls on the yard. We used to talk about her dressage dream and the horse she wanted to find and we would discuss our struggle to achieve our dream. She was intending to buy a better horse and she wondered if I would be interested in sharing her current horse when she found her new horse.
She had a schoolmaster. A schoolmaster who knew how to do all the tricks! And he was safe. But we couldn't afford to pay out for another horse to be kept on the yard. But what an opportunity. I was completely torn. What should I do????
One day, I was offered a ride on this schoolmaster. It was just me and the horse and the owner in the small school. I had no clue on how to ride a schooled horse. I just remember an instructor telling me years ago that it was harder to ride a more schooled horse. Your average horse had the A B C of aids in place, whereas an advanced horse had the whole alphabet A to Z in place and you had to be really precise about what you asked for. It really didn't matter though. From that day I was hooked and my life was about to change dramatically!