Sarah & Natty's STORY
I first met Natalia nearly 2 years, and for me it was love at first sight (for Natty, it took a little longer to warm up to me). This beautiful Arab mare – surely I, with such little experience with horses, surely I wouldn’t get to ride her?
But I did, and we started to bond, and I learnt about all of her funny little idiosyncrasies. How she hated to be tied up. How she preferred to jig-jog instead of step out into a proper trot. How she managed to move around her sore shoulders with the scarred muscle from an attack by another horse. How she hated her ears being touched to the point she didn’t let ANYONE touch them, or even tolerate the reigns going over her head!
About 8 months into working with Natty, I started to realise I wasn’t really going anywhere. I didn’t feel comfortable in my seat (my back injury was creating more problems & pain), I was getting confused about my aids, and Natty was growing increasingly impatient with our workouts, zigzagging around the arena in that annoying jig-jog that was half trot, half walk, and felt like a limp. That is when we first met Katie.
I joke now that Katie must have cringed in horror as she watched me and Natty riding together in our first ‘getting to know each other’ session, but I knew from the first moment that Katie started her lesson that she was gold.
Katie explained to what she saw, and we agreed on several goals – firstly, to get Natalia into working condition, as being a paddock mare with injuries had left her soft and less tolerant to exercising and holding her body correctly. Secondly, to help me become a more competent and confident rider so I can work with Natalia further. Lastly, my ultimate goal – to be able to canter comfortably. Now for some horse riders cantering is second nature. For me, every time I had cantered prior to meeting Katie had resulted in me landing on the ground.
We started out with a combination of groundwork and riding exercises. Katie was patient with my inexperience, even agreeing to dedicate a whole lesson to groundwork (including identifying which areas of the body we were working and building on) when I physically couldn’t ride one day but didn’t want to miss an opportunity to learn. We also investigated the problems of head & ear shyness, reign fear and being tied, and worked through gentle exercises to teach Natalia to be tolerant and non-fearful of these rather simple daily routines.
Within 2 months, I could say to Natty ‘reigns on’ and she would stay still as the reigns went over her head, instead of the usual head throwing, snorting and backing away whenever we had tried before. I cant tell you how happy I was the first time ‘reigns on’ happened without incident, and it still gives me a thrill of accomplishment when she remains relaxed. Within 6 months of lessons, Natty was holding extended periods of collected medium walk and had moved on from her infuriating jig-jog trot into a more established working trot. All this time Katie was ever-mindful of my back issues – but to be honest, ever since working with Katie, I have had only a few relapses of pain due to her lessons encouraging me to strengthen my core and hold my body properly when riding.
12 months down the track and you wouldn’t pick us as the same horse and rider. Natty is trim and fit (you should hear the compliments from friends who have known Natty for many years more than I have!), she is developing muscle in areas that is needed to maintain optimal fitness, and she actually looks forward to her weekly lessons. I can use my aids accurately, recognising the evasions that Natty uses (being an Arab and a Mare, sometimes she is crafty!!). My seat is so much more secure and we even had our first attempts at a canter – to which I can proudly say did not result in my buttocks connecting with earth! My confidence and knowledge as a rider is tenfold what it could have been without Katie.
Katie has continued to modify our lessons & groundwork so that we are constantly challenged and continue to develop together (even when we do slip ‘backwards’, though she assures us we are moving forward), without creating pain or fear for either of us.
I love my girl, and I love that Katie has helped us create a relationship of love and trust based on that fact that we will always look after each other.