A few hours before my flatwork lesson was due to start, my coach messaged me asking whether I’d be keen to do a joint lesson with a friend since we could get the ‘fancy arena’.

Good arenas in Noordhoek are about as scarce as carrots in my fridge, and there is only one really nice arena (that I know of) for rent in the area. It’s about 30x60m, rubberchip and has lots of jumping equipment. The only problem, being the only decent arena, is that it’s rarely available. I’ve ridden there probably about 3/4 times and the going is amazing. Bitou always puts his best hoof forward when we ride there, so I assume it carries his stamp of approval as well…

I rarely ride with other people because I quite like riding alone. Then I don’t have to worry about other riders or their horses. So when I do end up riding with someone else, it’s always interesting to see how Bitou responds. Sometimes it’s a competition, sometimes he couldn’t care less, and sometimes he’s the leader.

So our lesson starts and we’re trotting around the track, letting the horses have a good look at the jumping equipment etc. There was a warm berg wind blowing, so we didn’t take too long to warm up. I had to keep Bt quite a few lengths behind the other horse, otherwise he started to run through his gaits to get closer. In turn, the other horse was going slower and slower, waiting for Bitou to catch up! It was quite funny how we tried to manage their paces.

Eventually we settled in a rhythm. They would ride a 20m circle at A and C at the trot, and as they come out of the circle, Bitou and I enter it. Our flatwork was atrocious. Every time with a nice cadence going in, and then a rushed, running trot going out. I could barely ride a circle, it ended up looking like a 23m egg shape or a  14m circle with a square head…  The moment the other horse was too close, Bitou lost focus and fell on his inside shoulder. I struggled to feel and correct it in time and hence it was quite uncomfortable and difficult to ride. A little bit better on the right rein, although then our circles were way too small again! I increased the distance between the two horses and it became much better. Not nearly as good as it can be, but acceptable.

We proceeded to canter. Here I had to increase the distance even more, as Bitou covers quite a lot of ground whilst the other horse is more advanced and therefore much more collected in his canter. But, all of a sudden our circles were perfect! (Well, perfect compared to the trot circles!). If I just remembered to NOT DROP THE OUTSIDE REIN!!!!!! Albeit a bit small (prob more 17/18m than 20m), they were round and we managed to keep the pace.

It was quite funny. The scaredy cat rider can ride the canter properly, but not the trot!

Our coach then put up some little jumpies for us. The other horse competes at 70cm, but I don’t jump, so they kept it at my level of comfort 🙂 We trotted over on both reins and Bt was great, even though I struggled to get him straight onto the jump (as we were riding it on a circle). We then took a bit of a break whilst the other rider jumped higher, and then we finished, by trying to go over the jumpies at a canter.

And… we did! It was so much fun! It was in fact much easier to ride than the trot, and I managed to get him straight onto the jump much easier than a the trot! (And much straighter as well). Bitou jumped like a pro and I survived!

It was only 30cm, but I told him the whole way back what an amazing show jumper he is! 🙂

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