Autumn changes

I don’t like change.

The latest change is that my livery yard will no longer be a riding school.

If anything the conditions for livery owners will improve because there won’t be days we can’t get a school to ride in because of lessons, and there won’t be lesson kids getting in the way. There’ll still be instructors if we want lessons, but no school horses.

But that was the school I learned to ride in. And even as a livery owner, while the lesson days were inconvenient, I liked the hustle and bustle of 6 horses being tacked up for 11.00 on a Saturday. I liked watching random people’s lessons while I cleaned my tack on a sunny day. That was the atmosphere I learned to groom and tack up in – getting the lesson horses and ponies ready for the lessons. From the end of November that will all stop. I was proud to learn to ride there, and to be a part of a good riding school. The staff were proud and, some days, even the littlest ponies were proud.

But you can’t run a business on pride. Not these days. And the lessons weren’t paying.

So at least one of my friends will be losing her job. A friend who helped me when I was struggling to work out what the hell was wrong with a twisted martingale, and when a horse stuck his head in the air so I couldn’t get a bridle on. A friend who talked to me from the outset even though I’m not great company with strangers. A friend who felt like a fixture of the yard.

So maybe the change will be better for the liveries. It might be better for the school horses who are being sold, and better for the people who buy them at discount rates. But it won’t be better for her. So it doesn’t feel good to me.

New Year, new challenges

As some of my readers will already know, my riding instructor (to whom I was quite attached) left the riding school a few days ago. This panicked me rather as I was fearful that some of the lessons I had learnt from him and through riding would be lost. Perhaps when he went I would forget how to relax and forget how to release my habitual death-grip of control on my life. In short, I feared that when he left I would revert to being the person I was nearly a year ago when I started riding lessons with him. Obviously this was not particularly rational. I am aware that I am the one who made all the positive changes in my life and he was only a catalyst.

Mostly he allowed me to change by providing an environment where everything felt safe, so even the most terrifying and unnatural act (i.e. relaxing) became OK to experiment with in my lessons with him. Gradually I began to try taking the lessons I learnt there outside of the riding school – to relax at my desk at work, for example, or in the supermarket. To try not to control the person I was supposed to be training, but to let them make their own mistakes. Still, as I tried out these new things in the wide world I knew that in my next riding lesson it would feel safe again, even if it felt scary in the real world. So when my instructor left, he was taking my mental safety net with him. When you take away the thing that was making it safe, you wonder if you have the courage to carry on. The scary stuff isn’t as scary as it once was but you had a comfort zone to retreat to and now that it’s gone you’re not sure that you can dare to get up on that trapeze without the safety net.

So the new challenge for the New Year is to fly without the safety net. To carry on being the new me without the weekly “safe place” to retreat to that I’d got used to.

Another concern was that when I lost my riding instructor that I might not find riding fun anymore. We had lots of fun and laughter in my lessons and I am not a person who naturally has fun easily, particularly not when trying to learn something difficult. However, this morning I had my first lesson with a new instructor and successfully achieved the goal of having fun. I also cantered a horse I’ve not cantered before and didn’t expect to be able to, which was great. The new teacher effect meant that I learnt lots of new ways of thinking about my riding which was also fun. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to stick with this instructor (I’m going to try out the other two instructors as well before I settle on one) but I certainly could be happy to carry on with him.

I didn’t feel ready for the training wheels to come off, but that’s in my character. Now I seem to be finding that I’m riding the bike without them. It looks like I can do it. I’m sure there will be wobbly moments and sometimes perhaps I’ll fall off the bike (and perhaps the horses too) but it seems like perhaps I was ready for this new step. Let’s take it up a gear!

*****

P.S. A most interesting comment from today’s riding instructor was that I’d relaxed my sitting trot too far. He seemed a little taken aback when I was delighted to hear that. Too relaxed??? Me??? WOW! Looks like the “new me” definitely didn’t leave with the old riding instructor.

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