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Video: Horsing Around in Richmond, the final hurdle (part 9)

In the ninth and final installment of Alan Campbell’s Horsing Around column, he attempts his first jump.

To strike something off his bucket list, reporter Alan Campbell enlisted the help of Yolanda Blommers, of Blue Meadow Farm, to learn how to ride a horse.

Horsing Around
Yolanda Blommers owns and operates the Blue Meadow Farm horseback riding school in rural, south-east Richmond

WITH the clock ticking down on my final lesson, the time came for the moment everyone (colleague Megan, instructor Yolanda and three Richmond News readers) had all been waiting for: The small jump.

We did some trotting over poles first to warm up myself and Yetter, including getting into the “two-point” jumping position (hands near horse’s neck, back angled forward). All good.

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Alan Campbell practises the two-point jumping position on Yetter, moments before taking on his first jump. Megan Devlin photo

As I walked Yetter around, a small crowd had formed, including Megan, other instructors, stable staff and other riders and I could see Yolanda building the poles into a small jump.

In we came, keeping him going as best I could with both my eyes open and firmly fixated on the “daunting” jump, 20 yards or so ahead. I leaned into the two-point and aimed Yetter at the lowest part of the jump.

Yetter, of course, veered slightly to the right, at one of the “higher” ends of the jump. As I felt him pick up speed, my adrenalin was pumping.

But I trusted old Yetter to get me to the other side. To be honest, it was so smooth I had to glance back to make sure I’d even negotiated the hurdle. I had.

Video by Megan Devlin

A few friendly cheers echoed around the arena as I reached down and gave Yetter a few appreciative pats on his neck.

We did it another two times, at least…I actually can’t remember, as I was in a bit of a daze.

I’m told it’s fairly unusual for someone with zero riding experience to be taking on a small jump so soon.

But that’s a testament to the amazing teachers in Yolanda and Jenny. And, of course, the incredibly patient and good natured horses they have at Blue Meadow, such as Yetter.

For six of the nine lessons, I’ve been fumbling away on this beautiful grey Apaloosa, poking and prodding the old boy the wrong way on numerous occasions and failing miserably (initially) to get that big chunk of metal in his mouth.

Not once did he nibble, not once did he show signs of disgust or contempt, for which I likely deserved. He was a star.

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Blue Meadow Farm proprietor and instructor Yolanda Blommers adjusts the tack on Yetter, Alan Campbell's faithful lesson mount. Megan Devlin photos

Earlier in the lesson, I was aiming for my other goal, cantering for a full circuit (I’d only managed a length of the arena).

Whether it was the small crowd or not, I was distracted, as was Yetter, and I was finding it difficult to maintain the canter. However, a slight shortening of the stirrup length by Yolanda was all that was needed. Boom! One length of the arena; a length and a half; a length and three quarters and….sh**.

I forgot to keep squeezing Yetter with my legs and that was that. So close.

And, for the first time in nine lessons, I actually had a bit of a wobble and my colleague Daisy nearly got what she’d been wishing for — Campbell: UR (unseated rider).

Back at the unsasddling enclosure for the final time, I realized that not once, in eight lessons, had a horse “dropped a load” for me to shovel, despite other riders having to.

As I was brushing him down Monday, I thought, “what’s that sm….?” Nice one, Yetter. Saving the best to last.

At the outset of this column, the goal was to strike one item from my bucket list and to get me competent in the saddle.

For the former, it’s job done. For the latter, I’ll let Yolanda and the readers of this column be the judge.