At Astley I had been put in a ride with beginners after the owner realised, after a few years in the most advanced class, I wouldn't be riding every week. In the beginners ride I ended up teaching some of the girls and being the instructor's (read: yard helper) aide and showing the rest of the class the right and wrong ways to do thing. Yes, they made me adapt things to make them wrong and over exaggerate them so it was obvious what I was doing. Okay, this would be fine if I wasn't paying £20 an hour, but having to pay to teach others and not learn anything myself?
Okay, rant over! Now onto the good stuff.
I'd been looking for somewhere new for quite some time but work got in the way of visiting different stables and investigating, so when my father ended up being called out to a yard, I kept my fingers crossed. Small yard, nice owner, looked good and someone I used to ride with was there & she recommended it. The only problem, the price of the classes. Still, I couldn't not go and try it.
The place is a tad disorganised, but in a good way, that makes you feel relaxed. Was left to hang around in the pony club house while the others got horses ready etc. The owner's daughter (who was taking the class) lead into the arena the ex-race horse while the others brought in their own mounts. Safe to say I freaked a little. Ex-race horse is something I've not experienced before and wouldn't be a good combo with my butterflies. Luckily he was passed onto someone else, who obviously couldn't cope with him in the yard, and I was given the big bulky horse.
Jaffa is pretty much the same build as Bandit who I used to ride all the time, so I was more than happy. He's (Jaffa) an Appaloosa, is 15.1hh (or his back is 5'1" to those not in the know) and is only 5 or 6yrs old, which is a bit of a baby compared to riding school horses so he's still learning.
Start of the ride was walking around the arena to warm up. Instead of walking straight on, Jaffa decided he was heading for the door which had been left open. Now if you've ever tried a tug of war against a horse you'll know that it's impossible to win, but somehow managed to convince him that the new girl was in charge and she knew what she was doing. Didn't stop him trying to take the mickey every so often though. Just going around the arena as a ride he decided the horse infront was too slow and then decided he didn't like being at the front and would walk sideways into the wall instead. Luckily my long boots are a little to big so it wasn't my foot that kept colliding.
Next up, canter circles. Done those often. Very easy. Well, not with Jaffa. Anticlockwise circle? He'd fall out to the right and then head straight on. Into other horses. Missed the front of one by millimeters. I wasn't winning the tug of war again. Holding my whip against his shoulder as an added pressure did the trick, just before I got too dizzy to focus and my arms fell out.
After this the girl infront turned round and said I was doing really well as Jaffa is a pain to ride. Shed fallen off twice and refused to ride him again. Okay! Just what I wanted to hear! She was just trying to be nice though and luckily I had enough confidence to believe I wasn't out-horsed.
Onto riding square corners, again this is basic stuff that I've done a million times. With new horse, doable. Lets go straight in the deep end. Canter. Over poles. With everyone watching. (including everyone in the pony club room which doubles as the viewing area.) Jaffa's fast, I like fast, just not so much when it involves trying not to get my leg taken off by the wall or trying not to accidentally kick the pony club people who were so close they were getting whipped by tails. Was great fun despite this, and the loud thunk as the wall met my foot as we stopped. My father heard it from the other end of the building!
Others doing this exercise had much more difficulty than me, especially the girl on the ex-race horse. I think he was called Kiki or something similar. Anywho, as he cantered up to the first pole, which was laid on the ground, he took off. A very impressive jump and the girl managed to stay on but Kiki had spooked himself and kept charging round. Next time round he was on the wrong stride and jumped early to avoid landing on the pole. It was a huge jump, over a metre high and easily over 6 foot long (I'm estimating, using people lengths!). Horse still charging round even more spooked; girls hanging head first over his shoulder. Somehow she managed to stay on and calm him down, just. Many a rider would have come off and not sure how I'd have faired. Fingers crossed for when I get to ride him!
Something else I liked about the stables - I was trusted to go, untack and rug up Jaffa without anyone checking up on me (Dear Elf of Safety - I've been doing this for 17 years, you can assume I know what I'm doing), which made a nice change to Astley. I did notice a hoof pick on the floor in the middle of the yard, point up. I may have saved a lot of money by picking it up and moving it so you owe me plenty of good times, Saxton!
And on a lighter note, one of the best things about being on a yard are the cats there. I found a lovely fluffy grey thing that made me it's cushion while purring and doing happy paws. I may have to kidnap the fluffball next time!
*breathes* So yeah, that's longer than I expected but to sum it all up: Yay! new stables! Have booked another ride there and will be phoning Astley and telling them to stick it.