This week found me jumping for joy, literally and figuratively. My sense of excitement and anticipation increases each week and begins with my journey through the West Sussex countryside to the horse riding school in Lavant, north of Chichester.
I’ve built quite the rapport with the Popcorn the pretty palomino, so my coach decided he’d be a good choice for me ride this week when we would start jumping. Woo hoo. A friend of mine used to love saying, with dramatic aplomb, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. This came to mind during the lesson as my instructor took me through various exercises as groundwork for successful jumping. I was holding the jumping position in all paces, rising high up out of my seat, folding low over the saddle and generally having a jolly good workout.
After feeling like I was really getting somewhere last week, it was back to the beginning for me. I’d guess the last fence I jumped was around three foot high, albeit twenty odd years ago. The ones I’d recently watched the pro’s jump at London Olympia were around five foot. I found myself facing the dizzy heights of a cross pole approximately one foot high – two poles, used to form a cross, encouraging the horse to jump the centre of the fence.
With childhood memories of whizzing over cross country fences and show jumps, the meagre cross pole seemed very amateur. But I needed to leave my ego at the door of the indoor arena. To get back to those confident and competent times, I have to begin by re-visiting those building blocks. So, this meant trotting poles and cross poles, all the while keeping a secure jumping position – looking up, riding forward and leaning forward with heels down. The workout continued, both physical and mental.
Starting with, or going back to basics and ensuring the foundations are solid is something Lavant Equestrian pride themselves on. My coach said it’s often hard for returners not to be self-critical as they’re covering old ground that was once very familiar. The structure of horse riding lessons offers repetition, enabling you to complete an action again and again. This gives you the opportunity to improve on it each time; meaning when I went over the jump and looked ever so slightly like a Thelwell rider (if you don’t know, google it for a laugh), I got to do it a number of times more, each time feeling a little more familiar and natural.
‘We offer adult group lessons for all abilities in the evenings after work and at the weekend. With a maximum of six riders per group you can be assured that you’ll get all the help and coaching you need. Our groups are a great way to meet other like-minded people and also improve your horse riding by watching and encouraging each other.’ Lavant Equestrian.
The riding community at Lavant is a very social one, full of people of all age ranges who help and encourage each other, building lifelong relationships. Many adults choose to take private one to one lessons which are great for progression and convenience. The riding school also offers group lessons for adults which are fantastic for progression and also the social aspect too. Riders in group lessons often have a camaraderie and support that sees true friendships develop inside and outside the arena.
Whether you’re a rusty rider, an experienced equestrian or a complete newcomer, there are always new skills to learn and challenges to overcome with horse riding. As a new decade begins, isn’t now the chance to take some time for you, make the jump* and take up the reins?
*Sorry, not sorry.