Growing Pains


If you’ve ever taken an art class, you know that art teachers sometimes say that to draw something as it is, you have to draw it how it ISN’T. Basically, to end up with the end product appearing legit, you have to draw the shape in a way that hurts your mind. Perspective and all that. Kids’ drawings often look out of whack because they get the perspective wrong. You know, they draw it how they think in their mind it looks without knowing they have to go through the process of making it what it ISN’T.

Riding is no different. To come out and perform legit and have that beautiful end product, well, sometimes you have to break it down into not-really-there steps for the benefit of horse and rider. For so long, I kind of went right to the end piece of art and got mah drawings all child-like.

And then came Angela. She’s helped me develop that artist’s eye with my riding. But to even have a chance at a beautiful piece of art at the end, we’ve had to ride Ollie how he isn’t. And not quite how we needed him to eventually be.

Oh, the examples I could give. So you need a horse to be forward, responsive, light. Willing. Athletic (HAHAHA OMG I KNOW). Ollie was in such a state of disobedience and with such a lack of physical ability that we couldn’t skip to demanding that. We had to work on OMG HALT NOW. Listen NOW. One inch of getting rushy and forehandy, and back on your butt you go. For a while, having the right pace was off the table. Not only was Ollie not ready for it at one point, but I wasn’t either.

So we’ve spent a good while going through the motions of surviving courses rather than really riding them. A semblance of obedience was really all I hoped for. Sometimes I got it. Sometimes I didn’t.

But recently, we’ve made great strides (har har) in our riding, collectively. Ollie’s balance and canter have improved. I’ve not only allowed but ASKED for more pace. I’m starting to recognize imbalance and demand corrections. I’m learning to have a better eye for distance.

But in some ways – maybe a lot – I’m still drawing with that old sketchpad. I’m still riding the horse I used to have, not the one I have now. I see distances (or really don’t see them at all…) based on our old pace and Ollie’s old way of going. Basically, it’s caused me to be a little bit of a mess and making me feel as if I can’t ride at all.

This showed at our recent horse trial at Texas Rose. Dressage was pretty good; Ollie was way more obedient than ever in a test, and I felt it was very even all around.

For stadium, I felt myself really RIDING, but I still felt inept.  I know I was on the wrong lead at one point but felt I didn’t have time to fix it AND get his balance back in time to make the next jump. My fighting to get him to trot change caused me to bury him and take a rail. I caught him in the face twice because my eye was so off and I was unprepared physically.

But looking at the video after the fact, I can see myself really making CHOICES and not just surviving. After he took a rail on the second jump out of pure laziness, I got him really going after that. I saw myself rebalancing him between jumps while I was sort of unaware at the time I was doing it. Progress overall.

And then came cross country. Ollie was uncharacteristically spooky in warmup and bolted sideways. I got him under control, though. When we got out on course, he was behind my leg the first two jumps and climbed over. Jumps three and four? Butter.

Then we had to make a right turn to jump five, the hanging log that looks as if you’re jumping into nowhere. Ollie ran out three times, booting us from the course.

I can see now the errors made. I assumed he wouldn’t have a problem with that jump. I didn’t correct his balance well before the jump, and when barreling down to it, it wasn’t going to be a good idea. Then, in my effort to be assertive, I rushed the process of getting him over the jump. I got emotional.

I have to own my part in all this. I was perhaps mentally unprepared for this course. After having a couple falls the week before, I was a bit rattled. And, let’s face it, even the BN course at Texas Rose is no joke. It was to be the biggest course I’ve done, and I admit I was nervous.

I am self aware enough to know that I will always be a bit of a nervous rider. But I need to get it more under control. Ollie is way more prone to shenanigans if he feels I’m not committed, and perhaps I wasn’t that day, if I’m being honest with myself. He is a strange horse in that he is equal parts saintly and forgiving (of things such as catching him in the face) and complete and utter douchebag who isn’t going to help me out.

So now it’s back to homework. I can feel myself improving, and I can feel Ollie learning more of what’s truly expected of him each time we ride. As we go through this process of actually becoming what we’re meant to be, it’s going to be ugly in a few spots. But I have confidence that we’ll paint that beautiful picture in the end.

Not-pretty but very proud Ollie after dressage and stadium.