Tuesday, September 17, 2019

repeating the cycle

So I'm coming to the conclusion that late summer is.... not really my peak season lol. A lot of people struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder - a mood disorder characterized by depression that occurs at the same time every year. Typically, you hear about this in winter, when it's dark early and we feel deprived of vitamin D.

I'm not trying to say that I have Summer SAD tho, but maybe it's some variation characterized more by major burnout? Like the opposite of a lack of vitamin D -- instead it's these long days that we're always trying to pack to the brim, to fit everything in, make everything count. Couple that with unrelenting heat, and suddenly we're all just damn tired.

i tried parking charlie at a wheelbarrow with loose bits of hay for a pre-ride snack, but he kept wandering away. also, ew check out that nasty skin funk on his shoulder... so glad that's gone now!
It's almost a relief, then, to finally see signs of the seasonal change. Days getting shorter (omg tho, it's already dusk by quarter after 7pm...) and expectations cooling off literally and figuratively. Do you know what I mean? I feel like everyone I talk to lately has felt tired in a similar way this year haha.

putting him on cross ties kept him in place tho ;)
And naturally, this sort of cyclical systemic feeling of tired shows up in my riding too. All year long I've been pushing for more, trying to work harder, driving myself to be better. And objectively speaking, I'm really happy with the results of all that.

For instance, it felt really good to get a little bit of redemption after Full Moon by getting out to the jumper show for some 3'3 rounds. Those rounds weren't perfect, but we did them. And then obviously that awesome xc lesson with Sally at our home course, wherein we jumped a whole bunch of new-to-us training combinations. That was pretty sweet, right?

gotta tank up before the ride, right??? 
We also had another dressage lesson at Hilltop Farm right after that, where we focused on show prep since I was entered in the MCTA Jenny Camp starter trial, an annual tradition. I entered the Novice division, which somewhat confused both Sally and Trainer P. But... ya know... see the above references to just being tired. All I wanted was a good time, to feel happy and excited about the rides.

Idk tho. Once show day actually rolled around, I still didn't really feel all that excited about it. We got through our dressage test in a perfectly reasonably acceptable manner for Charlie (ie: middle of the pack mediocre), but even just walking out of the ring back down to the barn I had this overwhelming feeling of not wanting to do it.

he's not spoiled, you're spoiled !
So.... I didn't. I withdrew after dressage, and spent the rest of the day hangin out with other buddies who were showing. And didn't regret it for a second.

That whole next week I basically just took it easy. Relaxing hacks, low key low pressure flat rides. Just focusing on enjoying the ride, ya know? And our next jumping lesson was more of the same. Low key, nbd. Nothing crazy, just having a good time.

aw he's my favorite dressage brontosaurus tho
 And it all was a good time, focusing on adjustability between different exercises: here a line on an open stride, there a compressed distance. Back and forth, seeing how quickly you could adjust.

But the issue with Charlie is and always has been: when I'm not disciplined enough in my schooling, he gets rusty quickly. Charlie doesn't distinguish between my "relaxing, low key, no pressure" fun rides and the rides where we have to be serious about getting the job done. To him, they're all just rides, except I keep changing the rules from ride to ride.

he's so handsome it almost distracts from my questionable eq lol. but hey, you'd stare at that neck too!!
So if in one ride, I'm not enforcing the rules about being straight and in front of the leg, I shouldn't be surprised when in the next ride, the horse is not straight or in front of the leg. Right? So poor Charlie, I tried to ride him from an open stride over a triple bar in the short end of the arena, then make a tight turn to a grid of skinny fences set at one-stride distances.

But like, we've established that I can't really turn this horse, so here we are reaching the first element of this combination, while Charlie's outside shoulder is still basically in an entirely different zip code. Had it just been the single fence, we would have been fine. But it was a grid, so by the time he got to that second fence he was in a completely unjumpable position and came to a crashing stop, lawn darting me in the process. Sigh.

wheeee charlie go fly!
It really bugs me when the horse ends up paying the price for my mistake, ya know? So like, here I am feeling super burnt out and like I "just want to have fun!" But meanwhile my horse gets super confused, like, "Uh excuse me tho, I need a little support here!"

And so we end up having these major mistakes that don't really do anything to snap me out of my funk, but maybe actually reinforce the idea that probably I suck as a rider and should stop trying or whatever. Bc the mind can be a cruel place, right? We've all been there. Luckily tho those feelings never last.

easy peasy over the warm up fences
Because the answer is always the same - I just gotta keep trying. Charlie is such a good boy, he tries so hard. And he's so extremely capable. If I can just do my job and be consistent for him, consistent rules, consistent expectations, he will always rise to the occasion.

lol wat r straightness tho. also, a few weeks after this ride, this same jump turned into the first element of a triple combination. and my same lack of straightness turned into my second ever fall off charlie, womp....
So ya know. Burnout or no, we keep going. We've had a ton of lessons since that, including a couple more with Trainer P, another xc lesson with Sally at Windurra, and another dressage lesson at Hilltop. And - miracle of miracles!! - there's media from a lot of it!! Yessss haha.

Bc y'all know how much I love media, esp videos. There's just always so much to learn from them. Like the pictures in this post are from early August haha, nearly six weeks ago. But it's a great demonstration of the exact issues that are plaguing us right now.

LOL EXCITING
You see - Charlie is, as I already mentioned, extremely capable. Homeboy can jump a fence. It's easy for him, and there really isn't a whole lot that impresses him. And now, three years into his retraining as a jumping horse, he's experienced virtually every mistake in the book and is generally educated enough on jumping in imperfect conditions.

aw guys he's such a good boy
All of this has led to some bad habits tho. If you read back through the archives, even from the earliest days I've talked about Charlie being hard to steer, and hard to turn. It's never really mattered too much tho bc jumps below 3' are easy enough for Charlie that there's never been much of a penalty for being crooked.

And honestly, even with bigger fences, being crooked just costs a rail most of the time. Except, ya know, when it doesn't haha. And then Charlie ends up in those unjumpable positions and we find ourselves in deeper trouble.

#keepinghim <3
Especially when the fences were smaller, I compensated a bit for the crookedness by taking away pace. But that leads to its own issues too - and possibly the biggest takeaway I've gotten from a few lessons with Sally is that we need more canter to the fences. I need to not shut the horse down as much, and instead really push him up and forward into the bridle.


So our new current holy grail is figuring out how to do that - how to keep the canter coming to the fence, through turns and corners and whatever, without losing our straightness in the process. Apparently, it's kinda hard haha. Who knew?!?

sweet pony
We'll see, tho. I've got a bit of a backlog of posts to write, but they all sort of revolve around this same topic. Just addressing it in different ways - including on the xc course and in the dressage court. Oooh ooh. And there's media, too. Yesssss. So ya know. Stay tuned for that.

And meanwhile, I'm also just trying to kick my butt into gear again and fix my attitude. I'm tired of being tired, ya know? Maybe galloping through the finish line on my amazing horse is actually exactly what I need haha. Esp now that we're finally getting some downright perfect weather :D

Is anyone else also feeling kinda glad / relieved to be saying goodbye to summer?

31 comments:

  1. Rusty, tired, burned out, and just not feeling it. That's how I've been lately. Lol. I'm in a fall slump and need to snap out of it. Happy to see you posting again!

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    1. dude the fall slump is so real tho, bleh. i'm hoping that now that we're getting better weather i'll perk up a bit?

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  2. Summer SADs is a real things I'm pretty sure! I started calling it Reverse SADs a couple years ago because I get so blah in summer and only fall and winter reinvigorate me. When T pushed me to explain this ludicrous idea to him I realized it's exactly because I grew up in such an insanely hot place and once the initial joy of getting out of school wore off (June) I was subjected to heat stroke and uncomfortable sleeping (yay no air conditioner... not) so definitely don't knock your idea of Summer SADs you probably do have it honestly!

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    1. ugh yea the heat is such a frustration. and actually i did a quick cursory search of SAD before writing this post just to make sure i was getting the definitions correct, and none of what i saw said it was specific to winter or darkness. it just said "same time every year" but my impression was that could be different per person. who knows tho, the brain is such a strange place....

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  3. The last year of "terrible horse experiences" has really let me wallow in the summer SAD. Two summers in a row. There was nothing to do but keep trudging on since whatever horse I had at the time was not able to work or show or anything. I know EXACTLY what you mean by tired and tired of being tired. I don't have any recommendations for you, other than do what makes you happy and keeps it fun. I had it at the end of the last summer I showed Penn. I was mentally done. I was given a forced rest though!

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    1. ugh yea. sometimes it's important to wallow for a bit tho, esp when facing such unreal tragedy :( but also yea, totally agreed that eventually we just gotta keep going and keep moving, and focus on the good parts while we're at it!

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  4. I had that exact same feeling at the end of August. I am glad that I headed out on a vacation, even though it means that I'm pretty not ready for the show this weekend. But, hey, it's for fun and fundraising so who cares? I think I just get tired of every ride being work when I don't think it should be. I am plotting out my hack rides after this show so that I can just enjoy riding the pony without worrying about the perfect shoulder in.

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    1. yes that's exactly the feeling that frustrates me -- i hate feeling like a ride might be a chore, or like we "have to" do xyz when i'd much rather be doing abc.... finding that balance is so hard tho, maybe i need a vacay too ;)

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  5. I feel like we had to take much of the summer off/easy so no burnout here, lol. But I have some fun clinics coming up (hopefully), and trail rides.
    Can you do some work on the trails - not on a long rein but still practicing what you do in the arena just a change of scenery? Or a few training rides for Charlie while you take a few days off.

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    1. yay for fun clinics! and yea actually we spend a lot of time out on the trails - for hacks and for our warm ups for every single ride (i wrote about it in my july post "conditioning the bronto 2.0" if you're curious). training rides are a hard pass tho lol. my time with charlie is often the highlight of my day, i love riding him and it generally brings me a lot of happiness, the idea of skipping out on that sounds extremely counterproductive lol. and also i don't like sharing my toys ;)

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  6. I feel this post soooooooooooo hard

    I've been thinking about what I'm gonna do about winter; I don't have lights or a ring or an indoor and I kinda just came to the conclusion that when the weather gets real bad I'll probably just... not.

    So, cheers to 'just not'-ing.

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    1. lol sometimes "just not"-ing is the answer, and don't let anyone ever make ya feel bad for it! ;)

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  7. ugh I feel you on this. I have ridden my horse like... idk 6 times in the last month? The heat really isn't my friend, so I know that is a contributing factor. But honestly, some days I wish that we could just move to a trail riding barn and take all the pressure and expectations away completely.

    As for the shoulder thing, I totally feel you. I actually have to consciously make sure I can move May's shoulders around on the flat before we can even attempt to jump anything haha.

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    1. the heat is so brutal, esp bc it just doesn't stop, it's relentless. this year we had so many LONG stretches of heat wave that it felt impossible to not eventually just succumb to the fatigue bleh.... thank god for fall tho!

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  8. I am tired too Emma so totally get it. I am glad you are just enjoying him. I salute you for just cancelling after dressage. I bet you had a better time and so did Charles. He doesnt care if he competes or not. UGH it is going to be cold before we know it!! :( stay cool for now!!

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    1. yas that's exactly right - charlie sure didn't care about competing. maybe we would have had fun, or maybe it would even have helped me snap out of the funk... but also, maybe it wouldn't have gone well and that probably would have cost me even more, so. yea. it was the right choice at that time, and we'll get back out there when we're ready and firing on all cylinders!

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  9. I think we all get that way at some point. I avoid jumping when I'm in that mindset since it's safest that way. Or stick to singles. But it sounds like you've taken steps (and lessons!) to keep things moving along, so hopefully you're feeling more motivated soon!

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    1. yea i really need to get better about being more definite in my ride, vs kinda just feeling a bit wishy washy but going for it and hoping for the best anyway. charlie reeeeally does not appreciate the wishy washy ride! luckily tho i hope we're having a few breakthroughs in that regard, fingers fucking crossed lol

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  10. At the end of August, I felt the same way. I def fell off the blogging train since we were so busy most of the Summer, and I was pretty glad when our last show of the season was done. And I feel kinda bad because I know there are a lot of people who would give anything to show their horse, but I'm just kinda over and done with it and ready for Winter.

    Ready to snuggle up under a blanket with the dogs and a cup of hot chocolate. Altho.... once Winter comes I'm almost always waiting eagerly for Spring lol.

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    1. oh man, that's always how it goes tho, right?? i think part of why i end up burning out mid year is bc i spent all winter plotting and scheming and hoping and dreaming and then i come out guns blazing in the spring, but completely empty the tanks way too quickly. what's that called, biting off more than we can chew, or something?? lol ugh... some balance would be nice. and yea i feel ya on some of that first world guilt about being tired of something that could be considered a luxury... but also we work damn hard for our horses and we should be able to be honest with ourselves about making sure we're doing what we want to be doing, and for the right reasons.

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  11. I was on a good vibe until the summer returned last week and I gave up. It was 102F one night after work and I said screw it. I don’t mind the heat in the summer when it’s supposes to be that hot but I’m so tired of soaking wet saddle pads, walk only rides because it is too hot to push it and heat headaches when I’m done. He got all last week off and now I have a lesson tomorrow and we aren’t really prepared but oh well. Such is life sometimes.

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    1. ooooh i hope the lesson goes well tho!! but yea, i think if we get another heat wave here i might just lay down and die ugh. luckily i think we're finally on the other side, but still... enough is enough!

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  12. For real!!!! I've really been struggling to ride Chimi this past month and honestly taking a month long break and then watching a horse show has really reset my brain. I still groomed my horse and spent time with him but I haven't ridden since August (until tonight) partly due to an accidental 2 weeks of different houseguests that I booked (whoops!) and frankly b/c I was burned out from the heat, the constant stress of riding, and just lack of motivation. But after watching The Blue Ridge Mountain Horse Trials and seeing people out and about I felt that itch to go and do come back. So don't stress too much! We're definitely all in the same boat!!!!!!

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    1. ugh yea in a way it's definitely kinda nice to know that other people feel similarly! glad to hear that you got to hang out at the show and that it got you all motivated and inspired again!! i love going to big shows for exactly that reason :D

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  13. Can I just say I feel this post so hard? I worked so hard all Spring and Summer toward specific goals. I was focused and determined. It was hard work, but it was really fun.

    My show season ended on Aug. 31st and now with no goal or target for the foreseeable future, I'm sort of adrift. I'm still lessoning weekly, but it is hard to push myself on the flat in between lessons. I'm definitely not as sharp as I was.

    I'm finding I don't like slowing down, and I did really like having a goal to work towards. It's a weird feeling. But my wallet/bank account sure could use the rest!

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    1. that "adrift" feeling can be so scary, ugh... esp after so much time spent working towards something so specific. i'm the same in that i like to have things on the calendar and something to work toward, tho i'm also trying to learn how to be better about setting more riding-specific goals that don't necessarily rely on some date on the calendar. it's hard tho. except on the banks accounts LOL but don't tell the horse that bc he'll surely find some other way to spend your $$$ ;)

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  14. Sorry to hear you were feeling super burned out for awhile but it sounds like you are super aware of it happening and take care of it accordingly. It is a little frustrating that Charlie gets rusty that fast since a nice meander is sometimes just the cure for a case of the blahs lol

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    1. aw yea, it's not really charlie's fault, he's just a horse doing horse things. rather, my feeling is that i need to be aware and accountable in the saddle so that if we are just meandering today, i know that tomorrow i may need to make sure to re-calibrate the parameters. or if i know i have an important lesson on tuesday, maybe monday isn't the day for a meander. does that make sense? it's just about making sure we're set up for success, and not taking it for granted that i can push a button and get a response from charlie if we haven't recently practiced pushing that button LOL

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  15. Every year i think "I'm going to ENJOY summer this year" and I never do. And while this summer was particularly tough, I still think those long days contribute to feeling like you have to soak in every moment of daylight. Which yeah, leads to be really tired come fall. I'm glad you're getting your mojo back and always happy to see so much media of you and Charlie crushing it

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  16. I'm catching up on blogs now so I know this is late, but I just wanted to say that I feel ya, boo. I also struggle with keeping rules clear. Some days I just want to wander around the farm on a loose rein. Some days we clearly need to work on THINGS. But it's not fair to the horse because if the expectations are different day to day so, like you, I'm a work in progress with that

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  17. I'm glad I'm not the only one with a pile of unfinished drafts. :P

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