So the deed has been done and Dominica and I now have 6 feet between us, on the bottom rung of the dressage ladder. Our very first lesson together took place on Thursday and my goodness did she exceed my expectations!
Over the weekend I received the news that my Pure Feed Company, sponsorship contract would be renewed. This is such fantastic news, their invaluable support makes such a huge difference to me and helps keep all the horses looking and feeling amazing. SoYAY!
The week didn’t get off to the greatest start. I had planned for Monday afternoon, to be our last trailer practice before Thursday. It was a beautiful morning, which she spent sunbathing in the field. However when I went to get her in later in the day, she was sporting only one shoe….(*******beeeeep) Typical! I sent the farrier an SOS and felt gutted that maybe Thursday wasn’t going to happen after all. As I had the use of the pick up and the trailer was hitched on, spurred on by determination not to waste an opportunity, I loaded Dominica and her loan Louboutin and went for a drive. I took her to see the sea, our longest journey yet at around half an hour. She loaded and travelled beautifully, a relief after our little blip the other day and I started to feel much more confident that the travelling aspect of Thursday was on track at least. On the drive I saw my first lambs of the year and was buoyed by the feeling that Spring really is peeping over the horizon now.
On our return, when I checked my phone, I saw a message from my farrier to say that he was on his way. We all know these days don’t come around too often! I began to feel as if maybe, this was going to be my week after all. Being a stingy Yorkshire woman at heart, I set about searching for the discarded shoe. Not only do I hate spending money (because I don’t have any) I am also totally freaked out by leaving shoes in the field, we’ve all seen the horror pictures of what can happen and whilst it is for me one of the most painful equine related necessary care practices, I set too. Whilst hunting, one of my absolute favourite things about the village we live in played out. There are two bagpipe players, who practice in good weather in their garden, and as I scanned the mud, their music filled the valley.
Louboutin found and reattached the next couple of days where spent with a little schooling and adventure hacking. We’ve had a constant mild drying wind since the weekend and its making a huge difference to the fields, I almost don’t need my wellies! I’ve also discovered a lovely quiet arena about 20 minutes from here and have struck a good deal with the owners for me to start using it twice a week, which I hope I can squeeze around Angus’s nursery in the mornings.
Before I knew it Wednesday evening was upon us. Whilst I felt I’ve got Dominica sussed pretty well, you never ever know how baby horses will react until you have put them in the situation. Expect the unexpected! If you’ve read my blogs, you will know, this is something I’ve been building towards since the new year. Whilst she is a quick clever mare, she’s never been stupidly spooky. I had no idea what tomorrow would bring, but being ambitious and competitive, I was desperate to prove to everyone how amazing Dominica is and of course to impress. I just can’t help it!
On Thursday morning I wanted to keep everything as normal as possible and so turned her out at 6am with her friends. Explaining to her at great length the huge expense of keeping her in designer shoes and how I would not be angry, more disappointed, if I returned to find she had tried to sell them on e bay again. She seemed to take it on board and at 11am we set sail on our exciting adventure.
We arrived at the venue, it was lovely and quiet and whilst I could see she was nervous, she stood quietly whilst I gave her a brush, tacked her up and then I took her for a walk round the car park. Although there was some puffing of her chest and dragon snorting, she was really holding it together well. We headed up to the indoor arena and she stood quietly and watched as the girl before us finished her lesson. As she received her de brief from the trainer, I led Dominica into the arena and we did a few laps, having a look around, sniffing the surface and taking it all in. Whilst I was still to get on, I couldn’t believe how calm she was, like she had been here a million times before and had no clue what I was sweating about.
I got on and our lesson began. We chatted through what we’ve been doing and agreed with the trainer that the goal for the session was for Dominica to have a confidence building experience. All the while she walked around on a loose rein like an absolute pro. During the lesson we worked in long straight lines and big circles to keep things easy for her, I’ve only ever schooled her in a 60 acre field so this was a whole new ball game for both of us! She’s a very extravagant mover and because she’s young and still quiet weak, she uses her flamboyant, flamenco flailing legs to power her along. So we focussed on trying to keep a consistent quiet rhythm, encouraging her to stretch over her back and use her body more.
Whilst there is a huge amount to work on in terms of the bigger picture for her, what was so pleasing was the way she reacted to this new foreign environment. I doubt a bystander would have detected that this was her first trip away from home, in an indoor arena, with a new rider, on her own. It really is so exciting for the future to discover what a huge heart this little baby lion has. It was great for me to get a wrist slap on a few things I’d let slide with myself too!
As we headed home, I was absolutely buzzing from the day. When you’re on your own, working away with young horses, it’s easy to question if you’re doing it right, if you’re doing enough. We all compare ourselves on social media to other riders with horses of a similar age, and start going mental, thinking we need to get them more uphill, more impressive and expressive in their movement. But the truth of the matter is that we are all on our own journey. I came away from my lesson knowing that at least for now I am on the right path. Dominica has not been pushed and is being allowed the time she needs to finish growing and physically develop at her own pace, with longevity in mind.
Our next lesson has been booked for March 1st, and I very much look forward to working away on our homework and showing everyone our progress. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have this opportunity and what a solid start we have got off too. Whilst I am fully aware that this high in our relationship is probably about to be followed by a low, I’m so excited for this journey to continue.
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