Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Challenge #6: Sarah vs. Horse Riding

"Ha, you're going to be walking like John Wayne..." That was my mate Sam's opening comment as I arrived at her house ready to take on my next challenge. A far cry from the comforting words I was in need of at the time.

I hadn't really thought about that, I explained, to be honest, I was more concerned about ending up like Christopher Reeve. "Isn't he dead?" Asked Sam. Yes, but I don't want to end up paralysed or dead if I can help it.

After getting my stylish horse riding gear on - joggers and leopard print wellies, oh yes - we set off to meet my horse. As we arrived at Long Lane Riding School, near Kegworth, there was a woman just finishing her lesson - it's important to add here that she was riding what we'll call a normal-sized horse, you'll see why shortly - and making it look easy.

I spoke to her briefly while waiting for my instructor, Ruth, to fetch my horse from the stables, she explained that she'd only just got back in the saddle after falling off about 10 years ago and being too afraid to get back on. It wasn't exactly the kind of conversation I wanted to have just minutes before getting on a horse for the first time.

Having located the smallest helmet in the place (is it called a helmet in the horse world?? I have a feeling it is not) to protect my tiny, child-sized head, we were ready to start.

Ruth came walking up from the stables leading the beautiful Millie, who looked cute as a button, but also tiny in comparison to horse-riding-lady-who-made-it-look-so-easy. She's not a Shetland pony, but size-wise, she wasn't that far off.

Sam said it was ok because my small stature (I believe the term 'child-lady' may have come up here), I would look in proportion with the horse and no-one would be able to tell. Genius.

 My lovely horse: Millie and me

When preparing myself mentally for this challenge, I had imagined sitting on the horse and being led around a little bit. In my naivety, I didn't think one horse riding lesson would involve me doing much work. I hadn't accounted for Ruth though, who i the best type of instructor there is and doesn't accept an 'I can't' or 'I won't', only an 'I'll try'.

I'd clocked there was no mounting block to help me get on the horse, so when I realised I was going to have to launch myself with one leg onto Millie's back I thought there was no way my short, child-lady pins would be of any use. In one smooth move, however, I threw myself in the air, swung my leg over and was on the horse on my first attempt. I felt so triumphant I was tempted to call the whole lesson off so I could go and celebrate my success with a gin. A bit premature perhaps.

Millie may not be the world's tallest horse, but she was certainly tall enough for me. Knowing it was just my legs keeping me on made me feel quite vulnerable, but once I'd settled in and got used to it, it wasn't so bad - until she started moving. 

 Leopard print wellies are a must when horse riding

For the first five minutes I was convinced I was going to plunge to my death at any second and every time Ruth told me to give Millie a little kick to get her moving, I thought she was going to raise her front legs, whinny and gallop off with me on her back. She didn't, just in case you were getting worried there.

But once I got into it, horse riding was good fun. Millie walked, I pulled the reins to tell her where to go and we did a few laps. Then Ruth taught me how to halt, so we had a go at that. She also told me off for my bad posture, because horses can tell these things. 

We walked in straight lines and circles, and we got on quite well, Millie and I. There were, however, a couple of incidents that almost made us fall out. See, horses are smart and Millie could tell I was a newbie, so now and again, just to let me know who was boss, she would pull her head really far forward, pulling me forward with her and making me shit my pants slightly. "She's having you on," Ruth said, "Give her a kick and show her who's boss." So I did, but we all knew who was really in charge.

Once I got the feel for walking and had realised that I wasn't about to dive head first off the horse, Ruth decided it was time for me to up my game with a trot. Oh God, I thought, this doesn't sound good at all.

As instructed by Ruth, I stood up with my feet in the stirrups, and she told me that this is what I would need to do as Millie upped her pace. I wasn't sure I wanted to try trotting at all, but at Ruth's insistence I gave it a try and hung on to Millie's mane to steady myself. What I really wanted to do was cling on to her neck and weep, but according to Ruth, this isn't the best tactic.

On the first go I struggled with trying to stand, while Millie was trotting, resulting in a major pain in the arse, but on the second go I got the rhythm much better and was delighted that I actually did it! "Do you want to try it again?" Asked Ruth. No, I think that would be pushing my luck, just the one trot will do thank you.

As we reached the end of our half hour session, it was time to dismount. Millie may not be the tallest horse in the world, but having to take a leap of faith and jump down from the saddle was a bold move and it took me a few seconds to work up the courage to do it. But I did. And I survived. Another challenge done and another challenge won. Go me!

Verdict: WIN!!!

I feel it is important to share with you how much I suffered in the hours following this challenge. My thighs and arse killed for two days and I am now on the verge of renaming the blog '30 dormant muscles to rediscover before turning 30'.

I also owe a huge thank you to Sam for taking me and Ruth for making sure I didn't die.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Challenge #5: Sarah vs A to Z Blogging Challenge

Aka my A to Z Challenge Reflections Post

A Summary...

Pledging to write 26 posts and blog every day throughout April - minus the Sundays - was always going to be tough considering I have no internet access at home. No, I don't live in the early '90s, I just can't afford such a luxury, meaning I had to be super organised and find the motivation to write before work, in my lunch hour and at my parents' house at the weekends, which on some occasions was really difficult and resulted in me banging my head repeatedly against my desk in frustration.

The Tough Bits...
I work in PR, so the majority of my working day involves writing, but not being able to give my brain a break really showed on certain posts I think. They'll be the ones where I simply went for a 'top five songs beginning with the letter...' post, which gave me the chance to share some of the music I love, but admittedly were pretty lame. Sorry about that.

You can probably guess what the tough letters were though, right? Yeah, you got it, the dreaded K and Q. Although I surprised myself by doing ok with X (is for X-rated) and Z (is for Zines), but I feel I could have done so much more with them if I'd allowed myself more time.

Good Moments...
I'm proud to say I made it though and I seemed to have survived without having a complete meltdown, which seemed unlikely at the time. Despite best intentions and plans to have the majority of my posts written before the challenge started, I limped into April with just a couple of posts prepped and spent much time panic writing in the spare moments I could snatch at a computer.

I wish I could have done it differently and I think if I'd had more time to write the posts they may have been more informative, but I know myself all too well and if I'm honest, that was never going to happen. It was always going to be the case of flying by the seat of my pants. I'm just that kinda girl. However, I did manage to get every post up on the right day, so I'm really stoked about that and have since rewarded myself with a celebratory gin or two.

I'm also so grateful to everyone who stopped by, left a comment, offered words of encouragement or support and have kindly started following me. I'm aware I talk a lot of shit, so thank you for your patience and for caring. You've made it such a great experience.

My Best Bits...

I go on way too much in them, but my favourite posts included P (is for Punk Pilgrimages), R (is for Record Store Day) and W (is for Women Who Rock). I think it's because they really meant something to me and they were the ones I really put some work into, so I hope people got something out of them.

What I've Learned...

That sometimes a little planning helps and occasionally more coffee doesn't. I have a slight anxiety problem, so topping up my stressed out little brain and increasing my heartbeat with more caffeine just created additional panic and got less writing done. Next time I'm bringing gin to the party instead. I might not get more work done, but it'll certainly be fun.

And of course, I'll start working on my posts much earlier. Yeah, right...

What I Would Do Differently...

The same as everyone else: start writing earlier, visit more blogs and plan my posts better.

I found it really hard to trying to visit all the blogs on the list and got nowhere near visiting all of them. If I didn't make it to yours I'm really sorry and if I did visit, but didn't comment, I'm sorry about that too.

What I Found...

I did discover some great blogs along the way that kept me chuckling, lifted my spirits and made me go 'wow', if you haven't clicky-clicked your way to them yet, go take a looky-look:

* Dina Thanki

* A Daft Scots Lass

* Art of a Hidden Heart

* Mandeep Bohgan

* Completely Unoriginal Thoughts

Overall it's been fun, as well as a little stressful, but it's shown me that I can do things when I put my mind to it and I'm really glad I took part as one of my things to do before I turn 30. It's certainly something everyone should try at least once, regardless of age, and you may even see me on the list again next year.

Verdict: WIN!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Challenge #4: Sarah vs Rollerskating

Out of everything on my list of things to do before I turn old and decrepit, this was the challenge I was mostly looking forward to. I loved rollerskating when I was a kid and was completely fearless on them, but would I still feel as brave at 29?

I hadn't had my wheels on since about the age of ten, but I was quietly confident that it would be just like riding a bike and as soon as I put those boots on I'd be away. By the time we got to Rollerworld, in Derby, I was so excited I nearly peed my pants. Yeah.

We're here!

My roller ladies... Lucy, Laura and Mandeep.
Note Lucy's sash, which reads Birthday Princess and she trashed within five minutes of us entering the building. She had been drinking before we got there. She's Scottish. Nuff said.

Super excited

My wheels

Birthday girl takes flight

Daren't let go

 Happy Laura
 Mandeep wasn't as confident on her skates as Lucy and I, note the terror in her eyes

 Ta-da - I can stand!

 What I think I look like: Ellen Page being hot in Whip It.
What I actually look like: An old lady on wheels who moves like she's shat herself.

Mandeep putting on a brave face

The ass shot

Action shot

 Getting the hang of it

Lucy had a massive complex about having odd skates on, so obviously I have to draw attention to them.

There they are again, those odd boots...

All in all it was a really fun afternoon and has inspired me to sign up for roller derby lessons, starting in July. Watch this space!

Verdict: WIN!!!

FYI - On the way home I got ID'd buying vodka in Sainsbury's, which was almost as awesome as the rollerskating.