Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The Fear Revisited
It's better to move forward than to keep looking back. But sometimes you have to look back to see how far you've come.
A while back, I did a post on The Fear that had plagued me for so long. The Fear that came up quite often when I rode Sofie through her moments of exuberance or baditude. The Fear that started years ago when a school horse took off bucking with me and eventually threw me into a wall. At the time I wrote that post, I had hope that Sofie would help me conquer The Fear. And she has. I no longer panic and freeze up when her ears go back and she balks and swings her butt to the side, or when she throws in a little hop of protest at a canter when my reins are a little snug (in her not-humble opinion). Sofie has helped me more than anyone. But today, in the arena where I took that bad fall, a trainer I swore I would never ride with again helped me, too.
But first, Sunday's ride. Sunday's ride was challenging, because the horses had once again been kept in due to a chance of thunderstorms. They were just being let out at 1 when I arrived at the barn. Half an hour of turnout and some longeing helped to take some of the edge off, but there was definitely still some edge there. I did a long warmup in the indoor, complete with trotting, which went well except for some slightly heated exchanges. You probably know the kind. They go like this:
Me: Get off my leg. Stay on the rail, please.
Sofie: I don't WANT to, I'd rather fall in.
Me: Get off my leg. I mean it.
Sofie: GrrrrRRRRRRrrrrr....oh, all right, if it's THAT important to you. Jeez.
After the warmup, I could postpone the inevitable no longer, so I went outside with some foreboding. Sofie was inattentive and had a lot of pent-up energy, so I avoided The Place Where We Like To Canter like the plague, not wanting it to become The Place Where We Like To Gallop. I walked her around in different patterns and different places in the yard to help keep her mind occupied while I tried to work up the nerve to go faster. Eventually I started trotting her away from the barn, which she wasn't happy with, but I maintained that if she had so much energy that galloping toward the barn was not far from her mind, then trotting away from the barn should be no problem. At one point, she broke into a canter (which I proceeded to post, since I had been so intent on keeping her trotting. Note to self: posting the canter makes Sofie come back down to a trot. Must remember that in emergencies!).
It was a little hairy at first, but then she started listening better, and we ended up having a successful ride. It was not without its difficult moments (particularly when I was trying to get her to bend and stay out on a circle...that caused a few balky moments. She really does not like being confined between my leg and hand, but sometimes when she doesn't listen, she has to be for a moment), but I felt like she became round a lot of the time, and she made a nice "lipstick" of foam. We had one really nice canter that I "semi-asked for" - I sat the trot and encouraged her to go forward while not really asking. All in all, it was a good ride, and I felt like I really accomplished something by working through adversity and getting her to listen to me.
Today I had a lesson with a trainer who was on my Evil Trainer list. Basically, my first and previously only lesson with her, on a very green pony I was leasing and loved dearly, was a lesson from hell. Her methods are VERY different from how I ride and train, and sadly common in the sport of dressage. But she has an Actual Trained Horse that she uses as a school horse, which is an incredible rarity in these parts. I thought it would be fun, and probably helpful to ride an Actual Trained Horse. And it was. I felt like I "got" the concept of leg yielding a bit better, and we worked on my position a bit. I enjoyed riding a trained Warmblood for, like, the third time EVER, but it was also very tiring. I do not understand why anyone would want to train horses in the "crank 'em in, drive 'em forward" style when you could train your horse to have self carriage and actually be light. GASP. I know, I know, my way takes a hell of a long time. But seriously, I can't imagine having to work that hard every single time you ride your horse. Jeez.
So I was having a reasonably good time, but when the time came to canter, I froze. The mare wasn't going right into the canter (because I was being totally noncommital...that never works) and I got really scared and started having flashbacks. I hadn't thought about the potential mental hangups of riding in that arena again. The trainer decided to longe the mare so I could see that she did indeed canter without taking off and bucking, and I sat with my mom and watched. Then, with encouragement, I got back on the mare, holding onto the bucking strap at first as the trainer asked her to canter. After I few times of this, I let go of the strap and started holding the reins normally. Then I asked her to canter several times on the longe. I actually got a few nice transitions, and was able to ride the canter-trot transitions fairly well (I always tend to get bounced all over during those, especially on a new horse). I also started to use my seat and core more to regulate the mare's pace, so I didn't have to keep using the reins all the freaking time.
So as hard as it was, I think I took an important step forward today. The Fear isn't powerful like it used to be. I tried for so long to fight it, but sometimes help comes from sources you'd never expect.
If you haven't already, be sure to read the latest Sunday Success Story on the Eventing-A-Gogo blog (http://eventing-a-gogo.blogspot.com). It features our favorite little arthritic paint mare!