Thursday, March 30, 2017

first grade: a jumping lesson

It's no secret that I had a lot of nerves going into last weekend's event at Loch Moy.

Some nerves were due to very specific (and imo, reasonable) concerns, like would Charlie cope well with the atmosphere of an event with 275+ entries? Others were more amorphous and vague, having little to do with the horse himself, and none at all with our chosen level.

<3 this canter always. also i kinda appreciate that this pic almost makes the horse look kinda stout haha
Charlie is not a scary horse, and there's nothing about an 18" fence that should realistically worry me, right? I mean, for fuck's sake, even *I*, on my own feet, can handily tackle an 18" fence and nobody's ever confused me as particularly coordinated or athletic haha. So why the nerves?

suddenly charlie is a pro at trot fences. who knew?
Idk, honestly. I think it's the same shit that ebbs and flows for lots of us and seemingly only gets worse with age. In my particular case, I think the nerves have been compounded by the negative downward spiral with Isabel, followed by a couple emotionally and physically painful riding accidents last summer as I tried to keep riding at the same level on new and unfamiliar horses.

And the more mistakes I made, the less I trusted myself. So now I'm kinda in this place where I'm not so sure I should be pushing certain boundaries without supervision. It's self-fulfilling too, bc even when I make myself go forth and Do The Thing, I'm not always fully committed so then I make more mistakes and then feel even less convinced that it was actually a good idea in the first place.

big guy will GO tho if i goose him haha
The problem here, tho, is that in the last couple weeks we missed a couple jump lessons. Trainer P had also encouraged me to keep the horse jumping in between lessons anyway, now that he's starting to figure it out. She said even if it's just bopping around over 5 jumps at the end of the ride, keep it up to keep him thinking about it.

somehow couldn't quite find a good distance to this jump, but big guy made it work anyway
So I dutifully set up little cross rails (and one night actually pulled on my big girl pants and put a vertical or two in the mix as well) and made myself school my horse over tiny fences. Replete with pulling to the fences, power steering failures (one of which resulted in another runout, fml), dismounting to reset all our knock downs repeatedly (damn this horse needs a jump crew tho!), but still forcing myself to be brave and actually canter a damn fence for the love of god....

locked and loaded!
None of these schools were actually totally disastrous... Probably not even close at all. But none of them left me glowing with pride either. And I couldn't make myself set the jumps up to the size I know we should be practicing over. And I wouldn't set up an oxer, even tho Charlie jumps those WAY better than he jumps cross rails or verticals.

Idk. It's like every time something went a even little bit wrong, I immediately felt like "See, this is why I shouldn't be doing this - I knew this was a bad idea!" Which is totally bogus, but the mind can be a very unkind thing sometimes.

we biffed this one a few times too bc turning right is hard. finally got it sorted tho
So when we finally made it in for our weekly jump lesson the day before Loch Moy, I told trainer P in no uncertain terms: "I need a confidence-building ride." And, bless her, she delivered.

We intentionally kept things very light (it was hot out ugh) but purposeful. She didn't mess around with the "tiny" stuff (bunny ears absolutely relative here bc our "big" is .... well, you know haha) and quickly got us figure-8ing around an outside line to warm up before going down the line and then putting a course (Charlie's first!) together.

The warm up jumps went well enough that I only half-jokingly proclaimed, "We're done!" after cantering our first fence (in the video lol).

unimpressed horse is becoming quite fun to ride!
For the 'course' itself, trainer P kept it vanilla plain: inside single, outside line, inside single, outside line. Charlie's first real course! Honestly I thought the oxers looked too big - but this is why I ride with trainers I trust. I'd NEVER set that oxer up for myself right now, but if trainer P says 'do it,' you better believe I'm doin it! Plus, Charlie can trot them in his sleep haha.

Anyway tho we kinda biffed the course the first time through bc I kicked for a leaper at the first oxer and we never quite recovered our balance through the next 5 fences (tho we did get an auto lead change haha, #winning?). In a sense, I was proud of myself for actually committing and making a decision that wasn't "zomg better pull more!" On the other hand tho, it totally threw Charlie off his rhythm. Oops. Useful lesson to learn, tho.

pony can be cute when he feels like it!
We went through again, tho, this time trotting into the first oxer. And Charlie landed in the most perfect, easy rhythmic (dare I say hunter-esque?) canter that he happily maintained all by himself while I kinda just sat up atop him drooling like an idiot.

We biffed the next line bc I still don't know how to turn this horse right (it's a struggle, yo), but then the rest of the course was perfect (including an easy-as-pie simple change!!) - esp when I allowed him to get the correct striding down the other outside without goosing him. And trainer P had us go back and fix the first line right away, which flowed equally well (even if the turn was still slightly suspect).


I obviously still have a lot of work to do as a rider.... But the horse hardly seems to notice lol. He just keeps on truckin around. And rides like this do so much to help further dispel my nervous energy and give me the confidence I need to keep trusting the horse and committing to riding him forward.

Bc it's getting kinda obvious that Charlie is progressing in the jumping department a little faster than I am haha.... I gotta keep up with him! Have you ever felt that way with your horse? Like you were the one slowing down progress? Or have you ever felt like certain exercises were off-limits outside of lessons bc you were afraid of messing up?

49 comments:

  1. I tend to stick with things I'm comfortable and confident with outside of lessons. But Stinker is slowly becoming more forgiving so I can push him more.

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    1. man it's such a good feeling when the horse can be a little forgiving... that's definitely a quality i need in my horse too!

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  2. *raises hand* I ALWAYS feel like I'm holding Griffin back and slowing him down from reaching his full potential. He saves my ass SO much (and omg does the horse keep his head/neck UP to help me stay on when I really make an error, thanks buddy). Whenever anything goes wrong, 90% of the time I know it's my fault. I apologize to him and promise I'll try to start riding better. I need help/supervision with seeing distances to a jump. I think once I have that, a lot will go better, but until then, I've gotten absolutely awful about jumping ahead and on my worst days I squeeze with my knees too much and my leg flies backward as a result. The last jump school Grif and I had I was bareback and it was AMAZING. Without the saddle supporting me through my errors, I was able to actually RIDE. Bareback riding will be paramount in our near future, and hopefully we will start getting lessons 1x or 2x/month starting in May.

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    1. ugh the 'jump ahead' habit is SO HARD. honestly the best way to fix it is not at all something i would recommend haha, but riding a dirty stopper usually does the trick (wait, is this why i have problems with nerves?!? lol....). if that sounds unappealing to you for whatever reason lol, i spend a lot of time counting strides when i'm jumping. it kinda helps. maybe. idk haha.

      so cool tho that the bareback riding has allowed for such a cool breakthrough! and eeeee i'm so excited for your upcoming lessons and can't wait to read all about them!!

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    2. A deep-spot taker will also help you with jumping ahead. But it might not help you get the balanced seat that is perfect -- you know the one the pros have where they are perfectly with the motion 90% of the time.

      So I think the solution is a perfect horse who never leaves long and never chips in -- TOTALLY POSSIBLE RITE?

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  3. Gives me chills! You guys rocked it in this lesson and it carried over to the show. Great job! You guys are a jumping machine now!! <3

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    1. ha thanks!! i think he's learning esp quickly from getting to watch you and bella over the big fun stuff - he wants to go play with the big kids too!

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  4. I am absolutely the one holding both Ruby and Cinna back. Literally every day. #strugglebus

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    1. lol i relate.... oh well ponies, too bad! you're stuck with us!!

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  5. I have a perfectly lovely horse that everyone has a great time on BUT ME (please, someone buy him!) So obviously it's totally me holding him back. I'm so upset by the whole situation I don't even want to ride anything else for fear I'll screw them up, too.

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    1. ugh i'm sorry Susan, that's an awful feeling :( my fingers are crossed that he finds a new home soon and that you can get back in the saddle with something that can make it fun and rewarding again (and i PROMISE that horse - actually, those HORSES - are out there!)

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    2. I had what I thought was a perfect buyer and at the last minute they backed out. You know, after I had deleted all my sale ads. They were first time buyers, I think they started looking at expenses and got scared. Ughhhh​!

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    3. aw man, that's so frustrating! i can't imagine trying to sell a horse, the whole process is totally alien to me and vaguely uncomfortable. good luck, tho. seriously. hopefully once it's all said and done it'll feel like it went by in a flash!

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  6. Great job in the lesson and I am so guilty of NOT jumping unless someone is in the ring teaching me. It is a HUGE mistake i know but i just dont have the confidence to do it. But yet will haul by myself and do an event on my own with no help! GO FIGURE! (I have my own issues i know). I love how Charlie is developing his jumping though. I can totally see the changes in him as you keep posting media of him! YAY so exciting. And I think you ride just fine. Stop shortcut'ing your self :)

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    1. lol i totally get it tho - i'm the same way about jumping at events too. it's like, "well, if it's on my course than it's ok - that's what i'm supposed to do!" even if i would never jump half the stuff on my own otherwise lol...

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  7. Oh girl I totally feel you on the fear thing! I was nodding along reading this post. The anxiety making you less committed in your ride, causing mistakes, causing more anxiety cycle... UGH. But you guys have made a lot of progress in the past few months, and even though you feel like you're holding Charlie back, I think your ride LOOKS a lot more confident and secure! I tend to only push the envelope outside of lessons if I'm feeling really confident, and will work myself up to it. My trainer encourages me to go back to things I feel 100% sure about when jumping alone if I start to feel myself getting wishy-washy, so that I set myself up for success. It's a process. <3

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    1. it's a nasty cycle for sure. luckily the cycle works in both directions. if we can just start breeding positive experiences, just start regrowing the confidence, all those little mistakes that feel like self-defeat right now can turn into minor nothings or bumps in the road. like you say tho, it's such a process. and turning things around takes time and patience ugh lol

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  8. Charlie looks great and you do too!! I'm 100% holding my horse back, well sorta since she has no interest in going anywhere or reaching any potential beyond eating grass at the moment, but we all start somewhere. I'm a bit odd (well in general) but I tend to push the envelope way more at home on my own than in a lesson. I tend to shut down if someone else tries to push me past my comfort zone too much and then its game over. When I feel ready to tackle something new I go for it

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    1. oh man, i totally feel you on getting pushed beyond our comfort zones by other ppl. i definitely am very sensitive to that, too, for which reason i've been pretty careful in choosing my coaches. i need to have absolute faith, absolute trust in my trainers, that when they tell me to do a thing, it's bc they *know* i can do it, even if i don't necessarily believe it myself. and i won't ride with someone who i think could undermine the confidence i've worked so hard to build.

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  9. man I love posts like this, because me too and then I read all the comments that are like 'me too' as well and then I realize we're all lacking a little confidence but we all do this crazy stuff on horses anyway because we love them and it's awesome.

    hes quite neat with his hind end in the video which is nice to see!

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    1. yea the confidence thing is so real. riding horses is hard and shit can go sideways reeeeeeally quickly haha. but like you say - we love the horses and all the crazy that goes along with it! in the end it's worth it, i guess!

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  10. You and Charlie are doing so well! Good for you for doing your jumping homework despite all those niggly brain demons trying to hold you back! Slowing down progress for my horse? Why yes, I do--is there any other way to ride? haha!

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    1. ha yup - honestly i think it's kinda a good feeling when the horse is progressing more quickly than me. it's like an insurance policy, sorta lol. the horse gets bored and blind to all my little stupid mistakes at the levels that are easy for the horse, so hopefully those same mistakes are just as easily ignored as the stakes go up? maybe?? lol....

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  11. Look at you guys go!! Green horses are so hard to ride, even the good ones. Plus you're rehabbing your own post-Isabel confidence, which is rough even on a really good horse.

    FWIW, I think you guys are doing awesome and I love your updates.

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    1. thanks :) honestly this horse has been super easy compared to a lot of green horses. even from day 1 he's kinda just wanted me to be in my place and do my job and let him be.

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  12. I basically could have written this post. Once I'm in a lesson and my trainer tells me "go jump that thing", I just do it. If I am at home and I set up the exact same thing. HARD PASS. Plus I am definitely always the one that is slowing down the progress. Charmer is honest and 99% of the time will do his job if I am doing mine (honestly he still does his job most of the time even when I am flopping around like a useless fish). He definitely is a much happier horse when I actually, you know, ride. I think you are totally rocking the confidence building thing though! And Charlie is such a total star. You guys are going to do some really really cool things together!

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    1. lol "HARD PASS" - that's exactly it haha. it's such a fickle game, this whole confidence thing. but i still remember what it felt like to feel good about things. honestly i felt at my best when i was also at my strongest as a rider. so my hope is that with more practice, and with regaining strength again, things will naturally feel better too. we shall see!

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  13. I was oddly lucky in that respect. I got Scarlet when he was young and inexperienced. I was also young and inexperienced. We've kinda stayed at the same place of who is holding the other back. It has always been a learning process together.

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    1. yea, in many ways that's how it was with my last mare. we were both kinda learning together. i spend a lot of time trying to instill confidence in the horse tho, bc i need to be able to rely on that when things get messy in my riding (lol), so i guess it's natural that the horse would then feel ready to keep progressing even when i'm not haha

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    2. Yes but now you can work the opposite way. Your horse is confident and will say, hey mom I got this and then you can gain confidence due to their ability to take on the challenges. :)

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    3. yup!! that's exactly my devious plan haha - i like my horses to be infinitely patient baby sitters lol ;)

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  14. I could kiss you for posting this. I don't think I stopped nodding going, "me too," through reading the whole thing. What is it about horseback riding that makes us overthink so much? Getting older has made "doing the thing" way harder when unsupervised for sure. That's why I like videos so much. I'm all, "he's wild!" Then I see video playback and I'm like, "Oh wait, that's practically a western pleasure lope. My bad."

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    1. oh man, i'm an absolute video junkie too (in case that wasn't super obvious lol). bc yea there are things i see in the video that i didn't notice while riding. or things that felt a certain way while riding that don't look it at all (like in the video of our stadium round from this past weekend were i felt the horse getting strong bc he was pulling on me, but he doesn't look strong at all in the video {tho he is pulling haha}). but yea. the struggle is real and apparently never actually gets easier!

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  15. Confidence is a hard thing to build and I struggle with fear issues on all manner of things, some of which look like things I should be able to manage without a problem. Hauling the horse trailer is still a white-knuckle affair. Riding along the hard road makes me jittery. (We have logged more than 100 miles of hard road shoulders since the start of 2017.) Jumping jumps, need I say more? I don't know why I have so many fear issues, but ugh. It's either soldier through that stuff or stay home, so I soldier on but I feel like I'm the only one.

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    1. if i can say one thing definitively, and one thing only, you are NOT the only one. my lack of confidence in riding hit me like a ton of bricks when i got back into the saddle after a 4yr post-college hiatus. i didn't expect it at all, but here we are. and it kinda sucks. but i agree 100% with "either soldier through or stay home. so we soldier on." it's worth it tho!

      also, unrelated, i didn't know you used to live in baltimore! saw your morgan post - i actually grew up right around there, and izzy lives just a couple miles further up the road. small world.

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    2. Yeah, I lived there for a while while I was going to college, plus my mom lived there from about 1984 through 2005 or so, off Perring Parkway a couple of blocks north of MSU. These days I reside north of the border in the gloriously beautiful but economically struggling lands of Greater Rednecklandia. :)

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  16. It's so nice reading this post and all of the comments and realizing that a lot of people struggle with similar stuff. I am totally on that bus too. For me, it's even worse because I am nervous to push the envelope myself with certain things, but I only get a lesson every couple months so that makes for some really, really slow progress. It's the major reason why I STILL can't canter my horse consistently (which brings me so much shame, but that's where we're at). I find it's helpful to focus on enjoying the journey. Really, nobody but ourselves will care if we don't get to point y in x time.

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    1. not being able to take lessons was a challenge for me for a long time too. seriously tho? you should definitely NOT feel ashamed of the canter issues. we all have sticking points, but all that matters is that you're trying and you're working on it. agreed completely that nobody is going to care more than we will, so we might as well enjoy the process!

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    2. SarahO, that was me too! Agreeing 100% with emma, NOT shameful. Great reminder re: progress...I'm bad at checking something off the list and then being frustrated I haven't reached the next goal.

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  17. Every single ride on very one of my horses/mule I have the feeling that I'm the problem one in the relationship. I know they could go better with a pro. But they are sadly not owned by pros and I am not rich enough to keep theta a trainer full time. Thus must manage with the owner they have. You're taking lessons, you're doing right by him. As long as you're both having fun, nothing else matters.

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    1. yea i mean... most horses go better with a pro. that whole.... 'being a pro' thing lol. sadly for charlie, he's not exactly 'pro ride' material (it takes a certain kind of stupid to by a half lame high mileage horse haha) so he's stuck with me. seems like he's doin just fine tho!

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  18. You could have written the mental aspect of this post about me, definitely all things I struggle with. Speaking from my (limited) experience, riding is REALLY hard when you're on a baby and it's quite easy to start to feel like you cannot be trusted to do things unsupervised, because lets be honest, even if you do all the things perfectly right, baby horse might have a baby moment and things get weird anyway :) I watched the video and it looks to me like you're doing an awesome job of making it happen but also being quiet and letting him figure out where his feet go. You both look great, the end of the video looks awesome...look out hunters :)

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  19. At my old barn we were not allowed to jump outside of lesson. Not sure about the new barn but I probably won't

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  20. I dreamed that I was at a show and the judge gave my riding a -2. So yeah, I can relate to the lack of confidence.

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  21. OK I'm sorry for the completely unrelated and unhorsey comment but... I love you trainers hair!! So much so body! #hairenvy

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  22. Your fears aren't lost on me. I have a hard time cantering without "adult supervision". Lol hoping to change that at some point because I really need to school my horses when I'm not around a trainer.

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  23. I always always get apprehensive before my jump lessons - let's chalk it up to always showing amateur horses over them. I also psych myself out. Remembering to breathe always helps? And my trainer once had a girl sing out loud during her entire course just so she would stop overthinking the tiny jumps - it was hilarious and also worked!

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  24. I'm always afraid of messing up. On the horse I'm leasing I'm basically like "Ok if I ride on my own I can only do stretchy trot" because it is the only thing I am confident at and I don't want to mess her up

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