After recovering from two front leg suspensory ligament injuries with my mare April, I knew the time was right to start to bring her back into work with jumping.
As many of you will know from previous columns, I’d never had a horse suffer from a leg injury before despite it being an occupational hazard of ownership. So fear had become my master, and I was paranoid that the landing after a jump would make her legs snap in two.
I’m lucky that I have a fab riding instructor who has been with me right from when I first bought my little coloured mare. Michelle Harris is the kind of woman who instinctively knows when to push you and gives you the confidence in yourself (and your horse) to break through your comfort barrier and achieve more than you’d believe possible.
Michelle knows me and my horse very well. When I first bought April my paddock was being rested and I boarded at her lovely yard in Belton. She’s got a very rare gift for giving confidence to riders and horses, although she probably has no idea she does it.
Occasionally in the school holidays or when I’m not fit to ride, she comes to my house and schools April for me. On this occasion I had my daughter with me and we were watching her ride April in a ménage (special riding arena with a prepared surface for exercising horses safely) and as usual she was working beautifully (she never quite does it like this for me!).
Michelle asked me when I was going to try a little jump with her. Of course, my paranoia at hurting April kicked in and I waffled on about how nervous I was and I felt that I’d damage her.
There was already a little jump set up from a previous rider and she asked me if she could try, she felt once I’d seen April was OK I’d feel more confident about trying it myself.
Watching April take the tiniest of jumps was probably the scariest feeling I’d had in a long time. It was almost on par with watching my daughter go to her first full day at school. Both my daughter and I held our breath, and before we had time to blink April had popped it beautifully and I could at last breathe.
April was fine. Her legs hadn’t snapped. She wasn’t limping and more importantly my horse was thoroughly enjoying herself once again. Phew.
So it wasn’t long before I hired a fabulous ménage from Emma out in Owston Grange and booked in my first jumping lesson in probably just under a year, with the ever patient Michelle.
April adores jumping and really has a lot of fun. I have no style whatsoever but seem to stay on (touch wood for the future) and clear them with her rather than in front of the horse on my own. Always a bonus I think.
There is not a feeling in the world that can describe how wonderful it is to fly through the air, at one and in harmony with such a magnificent and powerful animal. It is total euphoria.
If it wasn’t for Michelle I’d not have tried it for a long time, so I’m very grateful for her help and I mustn’t leave it too long before we hire the place again.
Husband, be warned - your daughter and I will be wanting our own ménage next!