Monday, March 8, 2010

There's a first time for everything... this case, my first horse and rider fall. Not something I expected to have happen, but we're okay. More on that later.

My training has been kind of...I don't want to say "unraveling", as I'm trying to stay positive, but...we've been having some issues.

The past few rides I've been dealing with fear issues, which didn't make sense at first, but now I kind of realize that it's not just me being an idiot. Typically there is a reason for fear, especially fear bad enough to affect my enjoyment of things.

I've been riding outside, and Sofie has been paying less and less attention to my attempts to rate and steer. I haven't been able to just walk her around the yard - she will walk just fine on the driveway that's melted out, but once we go out into the snow (and away from the barn) she starts to speed up, drift, veer out and basically try to do her own thing. I think some of it is her trying to get through the snow in the best way possible - she can really lift herself in the trot and especially the canter, so perhaps it's easier for her to get through the really deep stuff. But also, I think I let her canter toward the barn one too many times, and now she is anticipating that, and trying to expedite the process. Can I really blame her? No, I can't, because this was really a training fail on my part. I knew she had been a rental horse at one point, and where do they typically canter at those places? Back to the barn. Sofie is very smart, and she does anticipate. I did turn on the forehand with her twice at one spot in the indoor arena, and now if I halt her there, I get a turn on the forehand.

She's also a bit anxious about leaving the barn sometimes. I'm sure my fear of her forwardness way out in the yard doesn't help her. She's not balking anymore, in fact yesterday I had to half-halt constantly just to get her to walk to the trail without breaking into a trot or canter. But when I ask her to go away from the barn, she meanders and doesn't stay straight. So we clearly need to work on that too.

Yesterday, after a relaxed warm-up on the driveway, I couldn't deal with her way out in the yard, and the snow was too sloppy, anyway. So we went back to the driveway and another area that had melted out. The footing was a little squishy, but okay, so I decided to trot a circle in an area that seemed firm. It went fine until I accidentally took her over a patch of slick snow, and she hit it with both hind feet, slipped, I flew off and she went down on her right side.

She got up, and was favoring her right hind slightly for a few seconds, but it seems to have just been bruised. I landed on my right knee and skinned it (tore a hole in my brand new riding tights, too) but was otherwise fine, just shaken up. I mostly felt really bad for getting her in that situation. I should have watched the footing more, but she is so surefooted and she'd been dealing with the snow, mud, slush, ice and slop so well that I just didn't think about it. She was moving sound, so after walking her a bit I got back on, walked her around the driveway area and then took her on the trail. She was really wanting to trot and canter, so I had to pull back on the outside rein a lot to keep her straight and get her on the trail when all she wanted to do was turn the corner and canter. I don't like getting up in her face, especially since it was my training fail that made it necessary, but (in that instance especially) she needs to listen. She can't just go do her own thing out there, she was 23 hours a day to do her own thing. Listening and waiting are not her strong suits, but I'm just going to have to be more assertive. And for a while it may just be too sloppy to ride anywhere but the driveway. The side of the road is melting out, so I'm hoping to be able to ride her down the road soon. She is still doing well on the trail.

The main issue here is not that I'm a bad rider or trainer. I don't know too many other people who could have gotten the results I have gotten with this horse. It's inevitable that I will have the occasional training fail, because I'm not perfect and I haven't been doing this forever. The fact that my riding occasionally falls apart when I'm upset or tired or hungry doesn't make me a bad rider. The main issue is that when I do mess up I am very unkind to myself. If I have a 40 minute ride, and 2 minutes of that are bad, then I will focus on those 2 minutes, and let those 2 minutes define the ride. A ride is not defined by its worst 2 minutes. But my head is screwed up, and while I can go back and re-analyze and realize that I did accomplish good things during those other 38 minutes, when I'm in the moment, I can't see anything but the bad, or the bad things that might happen, or every bad thing I've ever done. I'm not a good friend to myself, and it limits me. I've robbed myself of so much joy that it's ridiculous. I need to change.

So we have a lot to work on. I'm hoping that by later this month, when the one-year anniversary of me owning Sofie rolls around, I will have made progress that I can be proud of. Today I've got to go out and see how Sofie is doing after the fall. I hope she's okay, her right side has always had issues and it was just starting to be okay. The barn owner said she came out of her stall just fine and didn't seem reluctant or uncomfortable, so that's good. I don't care if I can't ride her for a bit, I just want her to be okay. And I really want me to be okay.

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