Try something totally new 
Western Reining. 

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Richard wanted to try something new and as he had achieved his very first canter on a western style trekking horse decided to contact the Western Equestrian Society who put him in contact with instructor Lauren Jolly who has been part of the British reining team.
Richard arrived early and full of excitement for his very first Western lesson and decides to take this opportunity to get introduced to the groom and make friends with Smokey, a very calm dark bay quarter horse that he would be riding.
By the time Lauren arrived, Smokey and Richard had become well acquainted; Together Lauren and Richard  tacked her up and walked across to the menage.
Richard tells us all about his first lesson...
On arriving at the menage I noticed that the stirrups were so much shorter than I had expected and unlike the many cowboy films I had watched as a child where the reins were held in one hand, I was told to hold the reins in two hands.
I was starting from the beginning again, the cues and aids for western reining were totally different to the ones I was used to in my regular riding lessons. Lauren talked me through the cues for walk which were to lightly move my lower leg away from the horse's side and then back again. This subtle movement was enough to propel Smokey into a fast walk. 
The first correction I had to make was to slow the walk right down and relax, and try to get a good even pace; this was so different to the marching active walk I do in my English riding lessons. 
To start with I struggled to keep the walk slow, however it didn't take Lauren long to identify why this was happening. I kept leaning forward, in western reining the weight aid is used to control the pace with in a gait, so to lean forwards is to speed up and to lean back is to slow down. A couple of attempts and I mastered the control and pace of Smokey, realizing that this was a common theme in my riding, this correction was going to be relevant and beneficial to my English style riding.

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Lauren soon took me to the next stage of my lesson where she instructed me to send a signal down the loose reins (a light alternate flick) to get Smokey to lower her head in to the long and low western outline, followed by turning Smokey which could only be achieved by moving my outside rein on to the horses neck and opening the inside rein away from the neck and towards the centre of the circle, in conjunction with putting more weight on my inside stirrup. WOW in wasn't long before Smokey and I were walking circles and figure eights confidently and correctly.
Walk mastered - Lauren instructed me on the aids for halt. I had to sit deeper in the saddle, let my upper body weight go back and raise my legs out and forwards from the horses' body. And that was it, just like magic Smokey stopped. It felt very alien to me not to be pulling on my reins to halt and took lots of concentration on my part not to move my arms back, I had to really focus on sitting up as soon as Smokey stopped, otherwise she thought I wanted her to back up. A few attempts at halt and we were both in tune with each other.
Moving on to the Western Jog
This is best described to an English rider as a slow sitting trot, the art of it is to keep the horse just above the point of dropping back to walk. After a bit of effort, I got the hang of how it felt and before I knew it I was making the transition from walk to 'jog' by fanning my lower leg (moving the leg away from Smokey's side and then back to a light contact) and making a clicking noise at the same time. The horse makes the transition up to the 'jog' .however it is imperative that you keep the transition slow and relaxed and use the whole of the long side to achieve this - again I found this exercise to be the complete opposite to my English lessons where the walk to trot transition has to be direct and at an exact point. 
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My first Western Riding lesson was an enjoyable and fun experience and I was disappointed when the hour came to an end. 
I found Western to be a relaxed style of riding that actually suited the way I naturally ride which was great - my introductory lesson encouraged and relaxed me so that I was able to take the time I needed to work with the horse , Laurens style of teaching also helped with my confidence levels - she really does encourage you to enjoy and have fun - the whole experience left me so much more aware of how my body, movement and balance affects the way the horse responds to aids - I came away knowing that my general riding could only benefit from adding Western riding to my riding experiences‚ I couldn't wait for the next lesson.
Next time - Richard moves up to the lope and tries out other Western Reining moves too!