So I was extremely lucky, and thanks to a few very kind and generous people I was fortunate enough to have a lesson (or two!) with Andrew Nicholson. For anyone who knows me, they will know how much I admire Andrew, to be able to ride a horse like he does is every horse rider’s dream.
How it came about: Active rider (an equestrian group/company/community) organised a charity auction to raise money for Bolton Hospice that was looking after a fellow horse rider who was unfortunately suffering with cervical cancer. Lots of the big names, shops, online stores donated very generous gifts. As soon as I saw the Andrew Nicholson lesson I knew it would be amazing. I was unfortunately outbid but was messaged by a good friend (now best friend )/sponsor/supporter Nick Gill Photography to tell me that he and his partner Karen had managed to get it for me.
As we were travelling 5 hours from Leeds, Andrew kindly offered me a stable. They even greeted us in their dressing gowns with a smile when we turned up at 10pm after getting lost.
So the lesson itself was wet, very wet! We started off in the arena where he picked up immediately that Siren has a weak canter. In fact his words were ‘he canters like a Shire’. After a bit of (hard) work, Andrew suggested that we go jump, give him a few hours in the stable and then he will get on and ride him (!).
The main points he gave me about my jumping is that I need to work harder to be more consistent. Sometimes I hold him too much, then next I’m firing him. He also took my whip off me and told me to use my legs. He got me ‘working his canter’ between fences so he keeps his focus, head down and back legs under him. I then jumped the course again it was a million times better. I’m not sure who was more tired though, me or Siren. Apparently the best riders in the world look like they aren’t doing anything when actually they are working incredibly hard. He complimented that Siren has all the jump he needs and he wants to be careful – I just have to give him the time to be careful. He was then washed off and put on the walker for a while and given a few hours to rest whilst I watched him school a few of his horses.
Then it was time for Andrew to ride Siren! Before he even got on he said ‘he won’t like me’. Then it started – leaping, bucking, rearing! When Siren doesn’t want to work hard or finds something tricky this is what he does – I was slightly worried that he was going to get him off! But Andrew didn’t get mad or angry – he just ignored him and after a few minutes it was as if Siren just gave up. His head dropped, his back legs started working and he looked incredible. Siren was white with sweaty foam, yet Andrew looked like he had been on a leisurely hack – how does he do it!?
I then got on and Andrew got me to ride properly. He wanted Siren a little over bent, as he said if he gets used to working like this, when he goes in the dressage arena he will naturally ‘lift up’.
He gave me a really good simple exercise to build up his canter. Extend along the long side and collect in the corner, and if needed a 10m circle. He said a 10m circle is a really good movement for ‘freshening up’ the canter. This movement is also done in counter canter, which Siren finds extremely hard. By the end we got the hang of it, and have been doing this at home.
Andrew complimented Siren that his canter had improved a lot more easily than he thought it would.
At the end he was saying that I should be proud of what we have done, there are just points to improve on that will make it even easier for Siren.
The main points I have brought away:
•I need to be harder on him. When he’s ridden in the arena he works hard. Hard work for twenty minutes is better that faffing for an hour. (An example of this is I forgot to do my hat up so I just did it up whilst in canter. He said I should have halted square, done my hat up and then continued).
• He didn’t like my roller ball spurs as they just massage his sides!
• Keep my legs forwards as the horse is most sensitive there.
• I need to ride him like a professional and not treat him like a novice horse (or my pet!)
• I need a breastplate and non slip pad for dressage as when the saddle slips back it helps no one.
I think the winning comment of the whole day has to go to my (non horsey) Dad. At the end of the day when we were chatting away my Dad said ‘I’m not being funny but we have been for a lot of lessons with a lot of people who don’t seem to have any interest, but you really seem to know what you’re on about’. Yes Dad, that’s why he’s the world number one!!
A few thank yous to finish on.
My Dad for driving me there and back (although I did offer to share the driving) and getting absolutely soaked to the skin.
Active rider for organising such a fabulous auction, and raising so much money for a fantastic cause.
Nick Gill and Karen Buncher for understanding my admiration for Andrew and buying me it.
Finally to Andrew and his team. His grooms were lovely and very welcoming. Andrew for being so understanding and going out of his way and showing a genuine interest in my horse and I.
I would highly recommend anyone to go have a lesson with him if the opportunity should ever arise again – although I’m saving the pennies already so I will take some outbidding!!
Next up for Siren is some galloping this week, and a few lessons with Andrew Fletcher (recommended by a friend) this Sunday.
Editors note: we strongly advise an up to date helmet is worn at all times when mounted