The Panic Button and I are good friends…. we go way back. We’ve had so many moments together, both in the ring and out. Whenever I look for reassurance and confidence, The Panic Button is always there by my side, waiting to support me in all my endeavors. She’s like that frienemy that you love to hate but somehow her constant in-your-faceness is frighteningly comforting in a weird, codependent kind of way.
My lessons with Angela have been very good for me. She’s very direct in not letting me OR Ollie get away with any shit (“Oh I don’t like that trot at all. What are you doing??”), but builds you up at the same time. I need that. Last week, I had a dressage lesson that left me feeling like I couldn’t do jack shit, but DON’T WORRY. The Panic Button was there to boost my spirits. She’s really predictable like that. Luckily, the next day’s lesson was a bit better. But I longed to receive one of those “YEEAAAAAAAH!” exclamations that I heard in some of Angela’s other lessons. Students of hers, you know what I’m talking about.
I have The Panic Button handy during flatting, but I pretty much have a button built into BOTH sides of my jump saddle. Because jumping. Well, this week, we had our first “real” jump lesson of our time in training. And it was a bit of a shit show at times.
They were tiny little jumps, but the jumps have never been our problem. It’s us BOTH holding our shit together in between that’s always been the issue. I silently scream in my head and Ollie either goes to sleep or decides to activate the Shenaniganator.
At one point, I was supposed to trot one section of the ring, then pick up the canter and turn left into the jump. Ollie tried to run into the canter and I was running out of room to make it happen, and my old friend was there to greet me.
Yeah, I hit The Panic Button. Every time things don’t go quite as planned, or even if I THINK something bad MIGHT happen, there goes that button.
Angela stopped me and basically said, “OMG YOU NEED TO CALM YOUR ASS DOWN AND STOP PANICKING, YOU FREAKSHOW OF A RIDER. YOUR MOTHER WAS A HAMSTER.” OK, she didn’t say that. But she did tell me to calm down, and that when things don’t go as planned… well, then make your Plan B the best Plan B ever. If he doesn’t have a nice canter depart, then make him have a NICE trot, and the trot you want. No big deal right now. And to remember that I CAN DO THIS, and I have all the knowledge and ability to do so. I just have to, you know, actually employ it.
I tried to quietly set that button aside and push it out of sight. I don’t need no stinkin’ button.
And then my lesson partner, who has an ADORABLE super fancy green five-year-old mare, had an unfortunate parting of ways over the liverpool. It was just one of those green horse moments, and the horse took off running for the hills.
And then MY MIND took off running for the hills after seeing that. OMG, DANGER IS IMMINENT. BAD SHIT IS HAPPENING. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AGAIN. I quietly scooted the panic button back over to me and applied it liberally. I panicked when we had too much bend. Panicked when Ollie tucked his head down too much. When we didn’t get straight. When I didn’t plan turns properly. OMG, PANIC BUTTON, LET’S DANCE.
Well today, we had another jump lesson. I tried to have a moment of zen before the lesson and tell myself that I am amazing and Ollie is… well, he is TRYING to be amazing lately. He’s actually been pretty good, all things considered.
We warmed up and trotted some jumps. I got several “beautiful!” comments as I aligned myself well to the jump, made decentish turns and halted where needed.
I pushed The Panic Button to the corner of the ring.
Then we started trotting in, cantering out, cantering some turns and then trotting again. I was thinking calmly and got Ollie to mostly cooperate.
I pushed that button out of the ring.
I had to have a few reminders of using a proper Plan B, and to ask and then TELL, and to allow Ollie a chance to make good choices first. Things were going great, and then it was time for a course.
I was told to trot into the first line, canter out, trot a bit, then pick the canter back up to go into the next jump. Then pretty much repeat for all the jumps. Canter out, trot, then canter into the next (because Ollie can’t hold a NICE canter for too long). Easy peasy.
Things were going well until I was making one turn to the right into a jump, and Ollie didn’t get the correct lead. I calmly brought him back to a trot, and into the jump we went. NO FREAKING PANICKING.
I locked that button in a trunk in the barn.
As we were coming out of the second-to-last jump in the course, Ollie’s canter felt so nice and soft that I totally skipped the trot. We kept that awesome-sauce canter around the turn and straight into the last jump like a baller. I didn’t even second-guess myself (who am I? Am I actually me? Am I on a milk carton somewhere? Help me out here).
And then it happened. I got the “YEEAAAAAAHHHH!” And then Angela asked for a whoop whoop standing ovation from the peanut gallery watching. No really, she actually did. I was, ahem, that awesome. Did YOU get a standing ovation from a Rolex rider during your last lesson? YEAH, I DON’T THINK SO. Un-panicking is HARD, yo.
I immediately said, “OK, well that’s going to be my last lesson with you, ever. We’re gonna end it right there on that high point aaaaaand peace out.”
Eye of the freaking tiger.
He knew he deserved mucho treats.
I left that lesson today feeling like a million bucks. Like the king of the world. Forget Leo. All I need is my horse.