"Does it matter which way the saddle pad goes?"
I've been riding all of about 5 minutes, I started in 2014 at a local horse riding school having lessons with an instructor called Rachel Glover who at the time was working at Willow Farm, which if I'm completely honest I only started because I was super competitive with my friend. Stuck on the end of a lead rope on the oldest, slowest, safest cob on the yard, whilst she was trotting around with the wind in her hair. So that's how I ended up riding, not because I necessarily enjoyed it, but more because I didn't understand what all the fuss was about.
“I didn't understand what all the fuss was about”
I wasn't at Willow Farm for long as Rachel left, as an instructor she was down to earth and really supportive, her lessons were fun, she was patient and became a good friend, I just didn't enjoy horse riding after the new instructor came in. My very good friend, Louisa, put me in touch with a lady called Meg who very kindly gave me the opportunity to share her super cob Nutmeg. Brilliant, no responsibilities, I could rock up and ride as little as I wanted, didn't matter if I didn't know how to put the saddle on, Nutmeg would withstand my utter uselessness and after about 45 minutes of me trying to tack up, she would take me around the track or around the school. Rachel came a few times to give me some lessons. Nutmeg loved to jump, so I would basically sit and hold on! Unfortunately Meg sold her later on down the line and I was back to being pony-less.
My friend meanwhile was still having lessons. She had switched to lessons at Onley Grounds and was riding a horse called Chino and having lessons with a lady called Clare Hall. Competitiveness is not something that just goes away. She suggested after I had been moping around for 2 weeks to go there and have a lesson.
So on I got on Chino, it was nice, I had perked up, it was nice to be riding again, the next lesson I had with Clare, she put me on a horse called Cody and I was smitten! She was an impressive 17.1hh horse, knew her job and loved it. Clare gave me so much confidence, she works so hard and wants the very best for her clients. She taught me how to compete and got me around my first clear rounds and then subsequently my first competitions. Clare is worth her weight in gold and I would probably still be there now, however, unfortunately Cody was getting on and she was struggling to be so competitive with jumping, the decision was made to retire her and I was yet again left without a horse.