So I’ve managed to have two lessons at my new barn – one dressage, one jumping. And, much to my surprise, both were successes. I’m one who tends to see imminent disaster lurking in all corners, waiting to pop out at me and tell me that I’m ugly and I’ll never make anything of myself. My little pea brain is just hard-wired for anxiety and second-guessing, which isn’t exactly the best for riding. You know how people say that horses, accident-prone as they are, are just two seconds away at all times from planning their demise? Well I like to give them options. Because I am helpful.
“Ooohhh, that turn off that jump to the next one is tight. Maybe you’re going to not turn and crash into the standards/instructor/other horse over there. Or maybe you’re going to crash into the gate and send me flying. Or maybe you’re going to start cantering and decide not to stop for six laps. Just things for you to consider. OH MY GOD WE’RE GOING TO DIE. I just don’t know how yet. Let me know when you figure it out.”
Now each of these things has actually happened (besides death of course. Ollie has been kind enough to save that option for later). But my anxiety-ridden brain likes to expect the worst sometimes, and I’m sure I’ve actually willed Bad Things to happen with my overactive brain. I am working on this. And, having a new instructor is working to my advantage – with new people I feel less comfortable saying, “Ohhh do THAT? So sorry, but I’ve used up my quota of anxiety for the day. We’ll have to try again next time.”
Instead, I’ve been doing that. Whatever “that” happens to be at the time.
Now, I may let the inner little bitch in my brain try to talk me out of it, and I may try to explain how we will have trouble, but I have forged on. A few things we have conquered (but not perfected) in my two lessons and few hacks so far:
1.) Canter circles in the dressage ring. Oh he’s really unbalanced, and I have a hard time sitting the canter, and the width of this arena is so small….. oh wait. What? CANTERING IN A DRESSAGE SADDLE IS AWESOME. Oh, he’s actually turning. Oh wow. I can do this.
2.) Working on dressage in a mild double-jointed snaffle. Oh geez, he’s never going to turn. He’s a giant lug who really never in his life had a bit without leverage in his mouth – true story – and he can’t possibly go well in this. OH MY GOD HE TURNS. HE TURNS. Why is he listening to me? This is insane. I can’t believe we can do this.
3.) A super skinny jump. He’s never done one before. Can we trot it? OK, we’re walking first. Now trotting. Why aren’t you ducking out? This is amazing. We can do this.
4.) Lines of jumps put together that aren’t 100% hunter-ish, like we’ve been accustomed to. Wait, make that turn? He’s probably going to pop a shoulder and not totally make it. Jesus, I think we won’t be able to do it. Wait, what? He did it? YOU’RE NOT MY HORSE. I again can’t believe we did that.
And that’s just the start. I’ve started to receive the little instructive nuggets and tools I need to better control Ollie and his Percheron-y heft, and it’s obviously working. Now, it’s not like I didn’t know or haven’t heard a lot of what’s been taught to me in these lessons. But somehow it’s being all packaged together in a way that not only makes sense, but somehow makes me absorb and DO. Doing is hard, yo.
One thing that my new trainer told me today is that even from my last lesson, my shoulders were so much better – I tend to hunch. It’s my worst habit.
I left my lesson today feeling extremely positive, and I feel like Ollie and I are on a good track right now to where we just might become real eventers. I just need to remember to put more faith in my horse – and myself. And maybe get some Xanax.