Tuesday, December 26, 2017

workin on my mojo

The early days with Isabel were marked by a pretty significant degree of independence in my riding and schooling. The only trainers at her farm just did up-downers or natural horsemanship. Neither were very interesting to me.

Sure, I had over a decade of formal training by this point, and was in a weekly lesson program at a different h/j barn... but I'd never actually had a lesson with Izzy during the first two years.

And yet, we progressed. I rode 4-5x weekly, just as I do now, and often set up jump exercises and small courses. Always trying to improve, and keep growing as a rider while bringing Isabel along into something a little less wild lol. I wasn't necessarily any more brave then than I am now... It was just that if I wanted to jump, I had to make it happen for myself.

surveying options
Fast forward a couple years and my entire riding landscape looks pretty different. I'm at a different barn, have a different equestrian partner, and have since figured out a training and coaching program that works really well for me.

Somehow tho.... in all this, I seem to have lost some of that "independence" in my riding that was a hallmark of those early days with Isabel. Actually, even toward the end of my lease with her we'd still set up fun stuff to work on at home (like this awesome jump course Brita and I built out of "found objects" around our barn lol).

But with Charlie? I can probably count the number of times I've really honestly jumped him myself outside of lessons (not including his earliest cross rails bc.... those don't really count right? lol).

skinny trot poles! these..... were surprisingly challenging for charlie lol
And it's not really clear to me why I'm so reluctant to do so. Like maybe I've been worried about messing something up. Or something? Idk. It doesn't make a lot of sense when I sit down and really think about it. And actually... given what I know about my own mental state as a rider, I'm really at my best when I'm jumping twice a week.

With Isabel, we got into a fantastic routine where I had two weekly lessons: one with trainer P where we got our miles and repetitions in over interesting courses; and one with trainer Dan - who really zeroed in on technique and style. In the absence of that second weekly lesson with Dan, I've kinda often felt a bit adrift with Charlie.

canter ground pole that we circled off both leads. notice how our tracks were always on the outside of center lol
Especially considering how much time we've lost, how many lessons we've missed, bc of random bumps, bruises, or dings in Charlieland. In a way, it's almost like I've cheated myself by not feeling empowered to be more independent and make schooling happen on my own when possible.

Like. It's kinda ridiculous. We've been at this awesome eventing facility since July. Charlie's schooled the xc course like.... once since we moved here. Sure, there were extenuating circumstances. Cancelled lessons. Weather delays. And, ahem, fucking surgery for the horse.... But still. Likewise, Charlie's been cleared to jump for a couple weeks now.... but before the ride from these pictures, we had jumped twice since coming back to work.

simple verticals in fore- and background, and swedish oxer in the middle
So one of my big new resolutions looking forward is to be a little more in charge of my riding, of making things happen. Making choices, being active instead of passive. Ya know? I want some of that independence I used to have back. And I want to get a better grip on some of those persistent, pesky nerves.

Since Charlie seemed to (somehow) be no worse for the wear after his tangle with barbed wire, I bucked up to school the damn horse over fences. Then almost lost my nerve when I saw what was set up in the arena haha... sigh. It's stupid too, bc had this been a lesson I probably would have felt like the jumps were too low lol, considering they were all 2'6 and below. My mind is a funny cruel place sometimes.

and a mini corner!!
Anyway tho, I pushed ahead and got the horse warmed up. Taking advantage of trot poles that were set up that Charlie kept trying to jump and canter through.... Goof. We had to work a little more over those than I expected but finally Charlie figured out how to just trot on through.

Then we circled over a ground pole at canter for a while on each lead, with some breaks in between. I focused on trying to not micromanage. My job was the size shape and balance of our circle. Charlie's job was finding the ground pole. He was a very good boy - even on the left lead too! Maybe we're finally getting some strength back, yay!

Finally, nothing was left to do but actually jump things. So.... we jumped some stuff. I trotted in over a couple lower verticals first and Charlie stepped right up. Then we just started piecing things together - a figure of eight with one loop over another vertical ridden from both directions.

I had to force myself to aim Charlie at the swedish oxer lol. Idk why. He was fine tho. Well, let me temper that : we kinda ran past our distance so I just threw the reins at him and hung out in the back seat lol.... But we came back to do it again and I actually rode like somebody's taught me, and he jumped it beautifully.

charlie's pleased with himself. he's a good horse, guys
The only other "big" fence left in the arena was the mini corner - probably a hair under 2'6 since the poles were resting on the side of a barrel. Nothing about this jump should be imposing to me, but I can come up with excuses all day long.

Luckily tho, it's just so easy to believe in Charlie. So easy to trust him. Sure, he can be strong and fast and very careless.... But he's a good boy. He likes jumping, he wants to jump, and nothing seems to impress him. Certainly not this little corner arrangement (his first!!!). And he was just up and over like the easiest thing. Bc... uh, Emma, it *is* easy for him.

first time using these boots in mucky conditions. they didn't budge or rub. we'll see about drying times but so far they seem promising!
So idk. Not sure exactly what my point is here, except to say that looking forward, I hope to be more purposeful, more intentional in making things happen with the horse. I need to just force myself to trust the horse, and trust myself and my training.

Bc it turns out, it's pretty worth it! I really do love to jump - and jumping Charlie in particular is really its own brand of special. We really ought to be doing more of it. I've got all kinds of ideas and plans bumping around my head for how to get back to that sweet spot of two weekly lessons (fingers fucking crossed), but in the meantime - I've got to be more responsible and accountable for utilizing the resources we have available to us. So. No time like the present!

Am I the only one who feels this way or has to deal with these mental acrobatics just to make myself do the things I truly love doing? Do you ever have little arguments with yourself, or sit yourself down for a stern talking to about not making excuses? Or maybe it's always been really easy for you to just go out and do whatever strikes your fancy at that exact moment?

37 comments:

  1. You are speaking to my soul. Excited for you to really attack those weird anxious feelings this year and just JUMP STUFF!

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    1. Jumping stuff is the BEST and I'm so eager to do more of it!!

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  2. You read my mind! Before starting lessons with Trainer last year I had spent the previous 7 years doing everything by myself. I got her trotting, cantering, jumping a small bit and doing endurance all alone. But ever since starting lessons I’ve become so reliant on them that I am hesitant to ride alone now. Silly. I’m glad you’ve found your solo mojo again!

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    1. Ugh yea feeling overly reliant is the worst. It doesn't make any sense either. But luckily so far it seems I can overcome those feelings by just taking one step at a time, and pushing a little more each day. Hopefully now that you have that amazing arena you will feel similarly!!

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  3. I am struggling with the idea of even riding again. My last horse totally broke me. I mean, we went down in total flames (made up of burning money. Sigh!) and my confidence is 100% gone. There isn't anyone I feel comfortable lessoning with that actually has lesson horses, so I don't know where to go, and sometimes I think it just isn't worth it. But at the same time, I need more in my life than just going to work and vacuuming my house, you know. And horses are so all consuming, I don't HAVE any other hobbies.

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    1. Ugh I'm so sorry Susan. You definitely need more than just vacuuming tho!! The couple times I've tried to start up at new barns as an adult - both with and without a horse of my own - have been so challenging. I'm pickier now about a good fit than ever before. There are so many good horses out there tho, I hope you can find a place (maybe through the grapevine?) that has what you want!!

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  4. Ugh, yes! I ride by myself, at home, so if I want to do anything I have to be the one to set it up, change it, fix it, etc. The motivation is hard, and yet if I'm not changing things up I'm getting bored and less likely to ride.

    It's a bit changed now that I'm back in lessons and have goals to work toward, but of course a ridiculous cold front hits and without wind chill it's below 0F and no one wants to be riding in that. It's just not healthy for human or horse.

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    1. Ugh yea nasty weather can be such sap on motivation! At Isabel's barn it was a real challenge too bc the arena would freeze for the season so we would basically be unable to ride on weeknights unless we hauled out somewhere.

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  5. A year and a half into owning Rio and I finally, sometimes, jump outside of lessons. I totally get it. Growing up, I trailed to my jump lessons, so I spent a LOT of time riding by myself and jumping by myself. Sometimes I think it's weird that I don't anymore, but I have basically decided that jumping is hard on their legs, and I'd rather make the most of it (i.e. in lessons) then by myself. When I do jump by myself, I keep it to small stuff though- mostly 2'3 and below.

    <3 Kelly # HunkHano

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    1. Yea I definitely prefer to do my jumping in lessons - ideally I'd like two jump lessons a week. Without that tho, I gotta find ways to make it happen on my own. Personally I don't much ascribe to the idea that it's hard on their legs and should be minimized, since I specifically own this horse for the purposes of jumping haha (if that weren't true I'd still be doing dressage with Izzy, right?). Like obvi we have to be fair to the horses and condition them physically so that they can be healthy and happy in their jobs.... But yea. At this point I own the horse so I can have fun jumping it lol

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  6. The jumps I do with a coach are not the jumps I would do at home, that is for sure. Having an educated person telling me what, when and where is a crutch I am not afraid to lean on. But at home on my own, I do jump (conditions permitting) even though I have to push through the butterflies on every approach. I'm so happy you got to jump Charlie and play around with some cool things on your own!

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    1. Yup I'm basically exactly the same. Right now I just feel like I've got to get some work done solo so we can actually move on to more stuff in the actual lessons (presuming we can get back on a schedule eventually lol)

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  7. With horses, I've found it pretty easy to just go and do the thing. Haven't really had much other choice though! A steady schedule definitely makes the daunting stuff seem more doable in the moment though. Other passions in my life though? I do have to sit down and have a stern talking-to with myself to not make excuses - especially with climbing! The mental fortitude I've gained from pushing myself mentally with climbing definitely helps me in the other aspects of my life though.

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    1. Yup agreed about the schedule - I'm such a creature of habit that it makes things a lot more manageable when I can stick to a routine!

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  8. It can definitely feel daunting to tackle things you are fully capable of when the partnership is still so young. Horses are resilient though, and as long as the questions aren't traps (Which they wouldn't be anyways) the likelihood of giant level borks are a lot smaller. Hey, and ain't no shame in getting off and resetting stuff, I know I get lazy sometimes too, but it's also good mounting/dismounting practice as well!

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    1. yea this is basically what i keep telling myself again and again: it feels daunting but we are capable. i don't typically do very dumb or foolhardy stuff with horses, and naturally tend to be very conservative. i know how to make good use of simple exercises, and usually know my and my horse's limits -- if anything i'm too likely to not push. and yea getting on and off to reset stuff is another excuse i like to use.... tho in this particular case i knew that even tho i didn't feel great about the jumps, they really ought not to have been any lower. for charlie, where he is right now, there actually isn't a lot of value in schooling him over 2'-2'3 fences bc he's too careless and sloppy about them. so..... i just need to buck up! one step at a time ;)

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  9. It can be so easy to fall out of a schedule and then it just all seems to be too much and there are a million very sensible reasons not to. I love how you just decided to tackle that head on.

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    1. ohhhh yes, i can be *so* sensible in rationalizing my way out of pushing myself to work harder and better haha. but. it's also usually so worth it to try that little extra bit.

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  10. It definitely seems like it's easier to get things done when there is a trainer around to push you. It's easy to hesitate when a coach isn't around, especially when your horse is coming back from an injury. You sound like you're on the right track and have a good plan going forward though.

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    1. thanks! it's definitely easy for me to fall into a trap of coddling myself by disguising it as coddling the horse lol. i do have a plan tho! just gotta execute it!

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  11. It's not comparing apples to apples imho--my riding has followed a semi similar trajectory to yours (tho we're clearly in somewhat different places now). I think we start out bolder because we don't know what we don't know and so we're more willing to just DO THE THING and muddle ahead.

    There's a time and a place for that, certainly.

    But the more you learn about the nuance of THE THING and how it is done, the more important it is to break said thing down into bite size pieces and attack those separately so that progress can go from THE THING to A MUCH BETTER THING.

    Obviously there's a balance here--for my part, I'm careful to make sure I keep "goofing off", "random photo shoots" and "silly side trips" as part of our regular rotation.

    And of course, as with anything YMMV and we're all on different journeys.

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    1. yea honestly my mileage varies pretty significantly, i think. i did a lot of soul searching to figure out what i wanted in a horse and in riding, and decided i wanted a horse who would be happy doing novice level eventing, or more if i were so inclined. charlie is developing into that horse. i have to do my part too, tho, and that includes schooling the horse and myself over fences -- even when circumstances aren't exactly perfect.

      the entire post above is all about holding myself more accountable and responsible for making sure that schooling happens. it's about staying active, intentional. i tend to write my goals using a positive voice, but another way to say the above would be to "stop making excuses."

      so in the vein of not making excuses.... in response to your comments, saying it was easier before bc i used to be bolder from not knowing what i was doing is both an excuse to not push myself now, and coincidentally it's also false (as i wrote in the post, i was *not* any braver with isabel than i am now with charlie).

      i also have to argue against the idea that there's a limited value in breaking down the "nuances" of jumping 2'6 into such bite sizes pieces that we're only jumping three times in two months. that.... is also an excuse and not valid in my understanding of how a horse becomes schooled over fences. and also doesn't match my experience, since it's not clear that i know anything more about jumping today than i did in 2015. charlie will become a more nuanced jumper by getting mileage and reps over fences. i will be a stronger and more capable jump rider by practicing regularly.

      so..... yea. it's time i step up and DO THE THING. muddling or otherwise. no more excuses.

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  12. "do you sit yourself down for a stern talking to about not making excuse" Errr yes, often hahah!! Especially for training something difficult e.g. tempi changes with Vallu who loses his sh*t whenever we do them, so much so that I only want to do them during lessons. But since I've not had a lesson in months I had to force myself to do them last week when riding on my own and surprise surprise they weren't actually that bad once I'd gotten over my nervousness!

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    1. see that's exactly the feeling i love! kinda vaguely dreading something, or avoiding practicing it, bc it's hard or tricky. but then doing it and feeling like, "hey that wasn't so bad after all!" nothing gets me feeling more motivated - glad it works out with Vallu too!

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  13. ugh preaching to the choir. I used to actually jump between lessons but now am so out of my head i literally CANT Jump without someone standing there telling me what to do. Part of it is that Remus is ahem...less enthusiastic at jumping at home so he plows through stuff (we dont have robust jumps at our barn). I know going to Kealani or Straight Up not only am I getting a lesson but there is someone to pick up poles etc. IS This a good habit to be in!? NO! UGH. SO maybe i can get some mojo from you? Please?? I really need to at least do some poles and crossrails if nothing else at home. OR we will never be ready for Spring LOL. I have had a lesson with Sally at least once a month (Sometimes twice) this fall/winter so am already ahead from last year with that but I NEED TO RIDE AT HOME AND JUMP. Le sigh. Great post Emma thanks for letting me know it is not just me who can talk myself out of a jump! LOL

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    1. yup i know exactly what you mean. and feeling like "ugh but i'm just gonna have to get on and off to reset a million jumps when charlie knocks them all down" is a favorite excuse too lol. tho -- imagine my surprise when we got through the above schooling session with exactly ZERO knocked rails!!!

      but yea, i'll happily share whatever little shreds of mojo i can dredge up. i usually have to build myself up over the course of a couple rides - starting with little ground pole exercises that won't get all messed up if my horse kicks them around. practicing over that helps tune me up and remind me that we can do this thing. then maybe i'll stick one or two simple fences in there to work around. and suddenly i'll find myself actually jumping real things. eventually. slowly but surely haha.

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  14. Argh my first attempt to comment got eaten!

    What's interesting to me is that I've never boarded anywhere that allowed boarders to do more than trot a cross rail outside of lessons. I've always been told it was for liability lessons that a trainer had to be present.

    I think I'd be fine jumping small stuff on my own but I certainly wouldn't push myself. When my trainer sets something up I know she has faith I can do it which helps me go with it regardless of my personal fears.

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    1. yea that's actually a really important point that i meant to mention but didn't. i think that's a very common rule at h/j barns -- that was the rule at my barn in rochester, and i was never really sure what i was and wasn't allowed to do on my own at the h/j barn charlie lived at for a while. which may be a large part of why i didn't really jump him all that often there -- i was never sure if i was allowed haha (but would just do it anyway when nobody was there.... lol).

      also tho i totally agree that when my trainer sets stuff up, it gives me that extra boost of knowing that she knows what i can do and believes in me. the trick is trying to internalize that feeling for myself too!

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  15. I've pretty much always had to hold myself accountable, but that has had it's own pitfalls for me. It's easy for me to lie to myself about the quality of work I'm getting. Sigh. I need more lessons.

    Good luck with your confidence building! You guys are so good for each other. You force Charlie to expand his definition of "fun" and he's always there for you over fences. I love it. :)

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    1. yea charlie's such a good boy. it's easy to think about all the things that could be easier or different, or what i'd change in my next horse, etc etc etc.... but really he's basically exactly what i want in a jumping horse

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  16. My story? trajectory? is really similar to yours. I used to jump by myself a lot more, but in recent years I just don't anymore. I know it's my confidence in myself that's the culprit -- right now, I'm cutting myself some slack about it. This summer just... sucked for that sort of thing, and now that winter is here I'm not riding consistently enough to even think about jumping!

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    1. yea it's definitely hard to get the good juices flowing without consistency! that's good that you can be more relaxed about it all tho - definitely better than feeling guilty all the time!

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  17. Totally hear ya. I used to be so carefree about jumping and now I can't even tell you the last time I jumped outside of a lesson. So weird. Glad you got Charlie out and had a good time!!

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    1. it's so funny to me how so much about riding changes with just plain old passing time. certain lessons never want to stay learned, and some battles need to be won again and again....

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  18. I feel like I know what you mean here. I usually do better with two jump days a week also, though I don't usually get two lessons. It's so good for me to take the time and set up fences and work on getting the things I learned in my lesson really integrated to my riding toolkit in a second jump session that week. But it's so easy to let little things get in the way (other jump lessons, dressage rides, time constraints, laziness..
    ) I should plan to do more of this next year so I can really chip away at some skills!

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    1. honestly i don't really care if it's two jump lessons or one jump lesson and one solo school or whatever - i honestly really just need to be physically going through the motions of jumping twice a week. ideally, for me personally, it *would* be with two jump lessons, with 2+ dressage schools, intermixed with hacking out and conditioning (meaning a dressage school could be short and sweet and followed by some hacking). but. ya know. life happens despite my best planning efforts.

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  19. I am kinda on the opposite wavelength - I don't have access to regular lessons so I kinda just muddle my way through things the best I can. Ironically enough, my resolution for the New Year is to take more lessons and clinics!

    FWIW, I am glad you are finding that inner badass to just go tackle the thing!

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