When you fall off a bike or a horse the advice is to get back on immediately so that there isn’t the loss of nerve. For Eleanor 4 years ago, she didn’t have that luxury. She fell off a horse and was rushed to hospital to have a CT scan, MRI scan and X Ray and an overnight stay in the children’s ward courtesy of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. Thankfully she made a full recovery but she made it clear that horses were my thing. More details were on the blog from 11 September 2016 when there was another blog entitled Back in the Saddle although that blog was from Mongolia! This blog is set in the UK.
Every so often, when on holiday and I am heading out to go for a ride on a beach or through a tea plantation or tobacco fields (Myanmar) I will ask if she wants to come along and each time the answer is no. And actually while I feel I have to ask I don’t think taking her riding in a foreign country where I don’t know the horses is entirely sensible.
But when we were in England (on our working from friends houses week), my friend Claire said that as we were staying on a Monday, did we want to join her daughter and go for a hack or have a lesson. I gave Eleanor the choice and she said no she would watch. I opted for a lesson.
On the morning of the lesson, Eleanor changed her mind and said yes. Claire agreed to lead her, to be beside her and run while the pony was trotting. We arrived at Pevlings and Eleanor mounted Little Louis and let out a few tears. Understandably she was nervous and worried but Claire took control, firmly telling her that she would not let anything happen. I stepped back and went to mount Lloyd. I had decided that this was Eleanor’s decision and that I would not force this. The biggest thing was that the tears dried up, she talked to Claire and as that happened they walked on and into the paddock.
30 minutes were up quickly. By the end of it, her rising trot was there as well as a massive smile. A sense of achievement. No doubt there was still anxiousness, but she had conquered that fear. Quite frankly, Claire was instrumental in that. Pevlings just outside Wincanton was great in accommodating a change of mind.
After the lesson Eleanor said that when back in Northern Ireland, if not heading back to China immediately, then she would like to try lessons again. The nearest one we reckoned was Islandmagee Riding Centre. 30 odd years ago I had also started learning in Islandmagee. But this was not the same place. Easy to find on the Browns Bay Road we were introduced to Emma our instructor.
Lucy a lovely grey cob mare was Eleanor’s mount. Not to be left watching I joined her riding Jazz. Nothing fazed Emma. We confessed we lived in China, quickly followed by “but we have been out for more than 2 weeks” and also told her of Eleanor’s fall. Zoe led Eleanor and again at the end of the lesson the smile was back. I asked for a different horse. Jazz was a lovely mare but I wanted something with a bit of oomph. I got that the next day with Smudge. At 16.2hh he towers over everyone.
At £50 per hour for both of us, this is not a cheap hobby. However for her to ask to ride is a major thing. I am also not forcing her to get back on the pony day after day. She has got to want to continue. The day that Claire and I had left Pevlings, there had been a young girl that had been screaming at her mother not to put her on a pony. The tears and the screams from that little girl were nothing ordinary and I thought that no mother should force a child to ride when the child so vocally did not want to be anywhere near the pony let alone get on it.
On Sunday she joined a class ona different pony – Jasper. During the lesson one of the ponies took off at rather a fast pace. Thankfully the rider stayed on but rather than shocking the rider, it spooked Eleanor. Suddenly a few tears crept out. She had been taken off the lead rein and immediately asked to go back on it. This is monumental. To know your weakness and ask for help. She didn’t give up but she decided to go back on the lead rein. She did what she needed to do to maintain her confidence.
Back on the horse yesterday and today and tomorrow, Eleanor is now back off the lead rein. She may not be fully in her comfort zone but she is most definitely facing her fear head on. Riding every day is certainly expanding her comfort zone. Thankfully I am not spending my money on anything else at the moment!
Martin may be running everyday, free. We might be joining him on his run soon. Riding pretty much every day while expensive has got Eleanor and I out of the house. We are not glued to our computer screens. We are getting fresh air and exercise. If we hadn’t been riding I am sure we would have done something else but I am glad that we have found solace in riding. I have stopped feeling that I should be working all the time. I need to spend time with Eleanor, help her with her schoolwork and also have time for me. My neck is sore due my haunched position over my laptop at the kitchen table. So riding is ensuring my posture is getting back to being upright.
So Covid-19 has enabled Eleanor to find her feet again back in the saddle. And I have now found contact details for stables in Wuxi, the next city along from ours in China. Though when they will be open again who knows. I have no desire to go riding in a local stable – the most local stable to us in Suzhou is on the 6th floor of the Suzhou Centre – a shopping mall!!! So watch this space as to where we end up riding in Suzhou.
I hope that Eleanor’s bravery continues. her smile is lovely to see at this time. And as long as she continues to smile we will continue to ride… until we return to Suzhou next Friday.