July has been a busy month, with one very important decision to make, choosing between two different horses, and deciding which one I’m going to keep and progress with, and which one I’m going to sell. In order to make that decision, I took a back seat with riding Midget, seeing as I know how he feels, and most importantly trust him completely, so that I can get as many sessions in on Alfie, and test him in different situations.
The main thing we wanted to test with Alfie was how he was away from home, as the last competition I ever did with him, I didn’t feel 100% safe or comfortable as he was nervous, which in turn unnerved me. I’ve always been used to horses who are confident within themselves, which fills me with more confidence, because both myself and the horse know what we’re doing, whereas Alfie needs you to be confident, so he feels safe about following your lead.
Now I’ve learned that the secret to making Alfie feel safe is hugging him with your legs to let him know your there with him, I wanted to see whether the feeling he gave me away from home was any different in comparison to the last time we went out, so to do this, we took him out a couple of times to do training in a spooky setting.
One of which was just round the corner from home, where the arena had green houses all down the one side of the arena, as well as horses kicking the wall inside the stable, and to top it off, a farmer trimming hedges in the field next to us. Anyone who knows my mum will probably have an image in their head right now of her hiding behind someone, with her hands over her eyes.
The other venue was at Kingswood Equestrian in the outdoor arena, on a day which turned out to be very windy by coincidence, which in my mind worked out well, as the banners up the side of the arena were all flapping and making a lot of noise, as well as a few other spooky things that Alfie would of been justified to have a bit of a freak out at.
In both instances, Alfie was as good as gold, and actually, the fact that he was a bit nervous and had to trust me worked in my favour, because it meant he did whatever I asked of him with absolutely no resistance because he was getting his confidence from following my lead. He did have a spook at Kingswood, but it was a really positive thing in my eyes, because even when he spooks now, I don’t feel in the slightest bit phased or unnerved like I used to. Both sessions were really positive, which enabled Alfie and I to develop our relationship more and put more trust into each other.
At home, the main focus has been to teach Alfie to keep his balance at a slower tempo whilst keeping the energy, so he has to engage his core, which is something he finds particularly difficult, as he feels most comfortable when he’s a bit too strung out and hasn’t got his core engaged, which obviously isn’t the end goal, so he needs to learn to use his core and balance himself in a more controlled pace.
Now I feel comfortable and safe enough on Alfie, we have also started incorporating a lot more test movements into the training sessions, which again, is proving to be a bit difficult for him, because he needs to develop his balance and core stability in order to perform those movements such as 10 meter circles with no resistance.
Again, this comes back to doing those movements in a slower, more controlled pace whilst containing the energy, with him pushing through from behind. At the moment, resisting in the contact is the only way Alfie can maintain his balance throughout those movements, but it’s all a process we have to go through and teaching him how to manoeuvre his body in an effective way.
You probably can tell from reading the last few paragraphs, that I have decided to keep Alfie and sell Midget. This decision, has been really difficult to make, but my reasoning behind it is that Midget is a lot like a couple of other horses I’ve had in the past.
I’ve learned which skills I need in order to make that particular type of horse work, whereas I’ve never really ridden anything like Alfie, and it’s a new challenge to learn a completely new skill set to put into my toolbox to progress and develop my riding, and for me, the ultimate goal first and foremost is to be the best rider I can be. I know whether it works out with Alfie long term or not, I’ll walk away with a lot more experience and knowledge under my belt ready to take on to future horses.
In reality, if I continued with Midget, I’d be restricting myself to lots of valuable lessons I really need to learn on different types of horses so that I can progress. At some point I need to step out of my comfort zone so that I can give myself the opportunity to develop myself more, and that point is now.
I can say, hand on heart Midget came into my life when I needed him most! I was at the point where I had practically given up on the one thing I’m most passionate about and love to do, when I was questioning my knowledge, abilities, whether everything that I’ve dreamed about since I was a child and worked so hard for over the years has all been a complete waste of time, and generally whether I’m even good enough.
Over the short space of time where I’ve had the pleasure of owning and riding Midget, he’s given me the most valuable thing; confidence. Now confidence when your riding is obviously a must, and that’s a sign of a good horse, which is why we brought him in the first place. But Midget not only gave me confidence in riding again, but restored confidence I lost within myself, and to me, that’s a sign of an amazing horse, and for that I will be forever grateful for.
Midget has so much to give and teach, and I know if I kept him, that would also be restricting him as well as myself, because there’s a rider out there that he’s going to be able to help so much, not only in the respect of giving them confidence like he has to me, but teaching them the valuable skills and knowledge they need to develop their riding, the same way I need Alfie to teach me to develop mine more. I’ve only said this about Prince, but I’ve been lucky enough to have a second one in a million horse, and whoever owns Midget next is extremely lucky, as was I.