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Iíve been into horses as long as I remember.  I was lucky that my parents let us have a riding lesson when we went to stay with our grandparents.  Money was tight as theyíd just started our family business.  Things went well and I was able to go to Kingshott School.  Here, instead of an hours games lesson we were taken to Baldock Riding School for a lesson.  This lasted a wonderful year until parents started complaining about us returning after 4:00pm!  So the lessons stopped.  By this time my parents realized how much I enjoyed riding and my sister and I were given a private half hour lesson during our summer holidays and also saved up for us to spend a week away on a riding holiday in Kent, where we had our first ride on a beach.  The teachers at Baldock said we were ready to join a group lesson, so our poor parents found enough to pay for us both to have a half hour lesson each week.  I canít remember how long this lasted, but we were then progressed to an hour lesson a week.  We went on Riding Holidays in Norfolk for a week each year.  Then, after seven years of riding at Baldock, they said they werenít making enough money to keep the ponies, but we could progress to riding in the adult lesson and start riding their horses.  What a change to riding ponies.  The first lesson was a nightmare and the horse really took the mickey out of me, but the following week Iíd thought about what I was doing and the lesson went smoother.

After passing my A-Levels I wanted to go to University to further my learning for me to eventually join our family business, so off I went to study Electronic and Software Engineering.  To make sure I chose the right university for me, when they asked if I had any questions in my interview instead of asking technical questions I asked to the surprise of the interviewer if they had a horse-riding club!  The answer was ĎI think soí, so off I went to Leicester University.  At £8 for an hour's lesson at an eventer's yard was brilliant.  This is where JP Sheperd used to train his horses.  I rode some lovely horses and thought I was in heaven until they said they were going to sell the horse Iíd grown fond of.  At this time I couldnít afford him, so they found an RAF school that love him to pieces.  I didnít realize how much this loss affected my riding, but from riding a very soft responsive horse to some of the other stiffer horses was another shock and I started to loose my soft hands.  After three years at University I thought Iíd stay in Leicester, but my Dad offered me a job I couldnít refuse in our family business, so sad goodbyeís to the other horses and I moved back home.

Estelle had bought Seanog by this time and even though Iíd had a brilliant summer riding him the year before while Estelle cycled in front hiding bin bags and scarecrows, heíd changed and was very unhappy hacking.  Iíd also changed after a bad fall, so riding Seanog didnít seem like a good idea at the time.

I spent a few months without riding and eventually started at a local school in Stevenage.  I used to ride one evening a week, so I could spend the weekend in Leicester with my boyfriend.

My partner finally moved down to live with me nearly a year on and we rented a place together.  I missed my friends in Leicester and the horse I loved riding was deteriorating and his back was getting worse and more uncomfortable, so I stopped riding as the teacher expected me to get her horse in an outline and keep him working for a whole hour without a break.  Luckily I was also riding the horses in Welwyn by the viaduct.  The lady that owned them respected my ability to ride and we had a lot of fun, but I knew that I could not improve unless I had sole care of a horse, as other handlers were too harsh when they should have been warning and others were too soft when the horses pushed them around.  I had started riding Dandy and fell for him immediately. He was a pain on the ground with no respect, but ridden was lovely.  Estelle rode his part sister and I rode him out on their own for a couple of evenings.  This was great.  This is what itís all about, I thought. 

The lady said her herd was too large for the grazing and money was tight, so she offered Dandy for sale.  I said I wasnít sure as Iíd never owned a pony before, but Estelle had her horses at home and encouraged me.  Luckily I was able to loan Dandy for three months.  Weíd had fun out hacking while Estelle led Chip out with us.  We had a couple of spooky bits, but nothing scary, so I bought him.  Estelle was helping me with our ground skills and Dandy was respecting my space a little better. Seanog was teaching him the most!

Estelle then found a lovely Arab for sale, so we went to try him out a couple of times (not my sort of horse, but he was perfect for her).  She bought him and brought him home.  We started out hacking well together.  But my inexperience showed through.  Dandy was becoming stronger and fitter and I didnít realize his saddle was becoming too tight, so Dandy being Dandy let me know and I had my first flying lesson.  He ran off and it was lucky Estelle was in front as Ely stopped him.  Whether it was his saddle or excitement, as he knew we were about to canter Iíd never know. I  thought it was just a playful buck and started riding carefully. When he was full of beans, Iíll get off and lead him, when he settled down Iíd get back on.

This was working well, until we went out with Estelle with Chip and Mum and our dog.  Weíd had a little walk and I thought Dandy was warmed up.  I got on him and allowed him to stretch his back, but he just kept rushing.  Now I know I should have got off and done some more groundwork, but I thought heíd settle.  He didnít and let his full bronco on me down hill!  He had great balance, I didnít.  Luckily a tree broke my fall, but again Dandy ran off.  My Mum was in front and brought her energy up and waved her arms in the air and Dandy stopped.  He would have ran her over six months before without the groundskills.  Iím still not convinced if it was Dandy trying to play with Porkie (our dog) as when Porkie ran after Mum and jumped up and down which is when Dandy started.

After this I had to reassess our relationship.  I was confident that an osteopath would be able to treat him without being run over, so I had him assessed.  The osteopath found a few things wrong and corrected them.  I still donít think his reaction to me was quite called for.  The osteopath kept seeing him every three months telling me a few things and correcting the same problems.  I asked for exercises to help, but he just kept saying he was okay to ride.  At this time I didnít want to hear this.  I wanted ground exercises to loosen him.  This went on for about a year and then I thought I better buy another saddle.

This was difficult as by now I was scared to ride as it had been so long and I could only remember how definite Dandy was for me not to ride him.  I had a saddler over and Estelle kindly led me in walk.  The saddler said it was a perfect fit and I found it comfortable.  I thought I better do some circling games on line to see if Dandy liked the saddle in trot.  He didnít have a problem.  Now I thought Iíd better try the canter (we hadnít been very successful anyway, but I thought it would be worth a try).  Dandy had great fun, kicking out and not liking me to tell him to go forward.  The saddler said sheíd never seen a horse react like this and said he must be in pain.  So I took her advice and had a second opinion, they didnít find any major problems, so I was happy I had a comfortable pony.  It was Dandy being mischievous.

Now with a saddle that fits and a horse that isnít in pain the only thing stopping us was me.  I decided to bite the bullet and join in with the clinics.  Weíve done quite a few now and we progress each time.  I still think Dandy is waiting for me to catch up.  I donít quite know what he wants.  He loves walking out with me.  I think he got very insecure when we used to do the fast work out hacking with just one other horse.  I canít believe the change in him and me.  He is a lot more trusting and confident.  I keep thinking how I can do something now, which would have been hard work six months ago and unthinkable a year ago.  Itís quite amazing when you communicate with a horse in a way they respect and understand how much they are willing to give you.  I canít wait to see where we are in another yearís time.

Dandy is seven this year, so I think we are at a wonderful time that weíve re-schooled and learnt lots of new things together.  I believe he is really growing up with me and heís not the insecure baby I brought.  He still has his cheeky moments and I would not want to take these away from him as this is who I love and itís those cheeky, curious moments that we learn from.  I remember when we first went into the Shuttleworth indoor school.  I thought I would spend the three hours just trying to persuade him to walk in, but he went straight in with Chip behind us. I was going to let him roll, but Estelle told me to keep walking as if we stopped we might not carry on.  We then went in with everyone else.  This was the first time everyone else had met Chip.

It was a memorable day, especially for Nins (Nenagh).  Dandy was still scared to walk near the school walls, even the next few times.  Then, at Jayneís clinic at Meldreth, we played the squeeze game with the wall and me.  I asked Dandy to stand in the middle of the squeeze.  He politely did.  Then I asked him to walk on.  This was good, so I made the gap smaller and smaller, but this time his bottom brushed the wall.  That was it he had made a friend for life as he itched his bottom with the most satisfying face.  It was then difficult to keep him away from the wall!

Dandy is very athletic. I caught him rolling in the paddock, so I took some photos. Just as Dandy was about to get up, just before his legs were straight he did the most gigantic jump in the air. He then proceeded to do flying bucks to Seanog and Chip.

As you can see from Seanog & Chips reaction it is something he does often and they are not worried by it.

This picture was me being lazy and asking the three of them to trot around our square paddock playing the circling game. They were also being lazy and objected a few times and showed their disapproval with a few bucks and rears, but I persisted and they gave up and we had some lovely trots. The hardest part was asking them to stop one at a time!

This is Seanogís reaction to Dandy cutting in front of him!

This is Dandy showing me how well he can jump at Potton cross-country. Just think one day I will be able to sit on top of him and let him glide me over the jumps and canter to the next one.

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