Know When to Fold

Last week I had the last lesson of the day with two other adult ammys and I was pumped!  It had been a long week and I desperately needed a win on Cooper.  Which in hindsight is not smart to put that type of pressure on horse or human.

As I’ve mentioned he is still one who I just can’t seem to figure out.  We walked, we trotted, it was okay-ish. Flatwork for the two of us comes together slowly, so I spent a lot of time circling and trying to install forward, but not fussy with my body. By the time we cantered, I was getting crazy with my hands, and Cooper was practically backwards in the bridle.  We were going horribly.  My trainer was on us, trying to work us through the hot mess.  After a circle or two that was marginally better, I gave Cooper a pat and changed direction.

This way was so much worse.  He was bouncy, I was holding him (making him more bouncy) and honestly I could feel the tears threatening.  I am not a crier, but that night nothing my trainer said was sinking in.  Basically I had no right to be on a horse. I was frustrated at the horse, even more angry at myself, and honestly a bit scared that I was going to send this mild-mannered horse into hysterics. I’m told it didn’t look that bad, but it felt bad.  I pulled him to a walk, waved my trainer down and told her I was done for the night.

She gave me a very odd look, but nodded and she advised a quick walk around outside to calm down and sent me off.  I was horrified, and felt every inch a dramatic ugly crying quitter…even though I made it all the way to our outdoor before any real tears came out.  Those might have been more about the embarrassment too, but that doesn’t matter.

I couldn’t think of another time in my 15+ years of riding that I’d ever walked out during a lesson.  

Even days later, thinking back, I am still embarrassed.  I think I did the right thing for myself that ride – since my brain, body and horse connection wasn’t there.  But it still sucks.  I totally felt like I let my trainer down.

Another adult ammy talked me down from my crazy place when Cooper and I finally made it back to the barn, and trainer texted me to check in.  She reminded me that it’s supposed to be fun, and if it’s not I need to tell her.  

I think we might do some confidence boosting types of rides on some horses I’m really familiar with before tackling Coop again.  You have to know when to admit you need a break, even if it sounds stupid.

I want to ride him well.  But forcing myself in this situation isn’t going well either.  I’m really hoping that I just need a mental break to regain my sea legs, before diving back in.

19 thoughts on “Know When to Fold

  1. I have so been there (more than once this past year) with tears in a lesson because my body wasn’t listening and I couldn’t get things right. Sending big hugs.

    For me switching horses was a big help, I ride my crew but for a long time continued to do lessons on schoolies to improve as a rider. Therer were a few that I simply sucked at riding, when I had a tough ride one night I’d ask to ride a easier/quieter horse the next time. You are not alone!

    Some horses are also super sensitive to your emotions/stress levels which doesn’t help things. Hang in there! Maybe have someone video next time, I bet you will see a lot of good things (because I know you are a skilled and competent rider) and it might give you some clues about where things are going awry. Cheering for you!

  2. Ugh. Totally been there. And as tough as it is to call it quits, sometimes it is totally the right thing to do. Sounds like your trainer understood and you can move forward. Cooper isn’t fun now, but you will learn a ton from him, it just takes a painful time to happen

  3. Ugh, I’m sorry. I feel like a floppy mess these days but try to just work on me in my lessons. Sometimes it’s gotta look ugly before it gets pretty. Try not to be so tough on yourself ❤ Also, jut a thought, cuz I'm a fixer, LOL. Is lessoning after work or at the end of the day a good idea for you? I had to stop them after work because I was just too tired & fried from my day. Weekend and early morning lessons worked much better for me mentally.

  4. Don’t worry, it coulda been worse – at least your trainer didn’t stop the lesson midway through because you weren’t really breathing… (been there!)
    You’re no quitter. Quitting isn’t something you do in one ride. Knowing when to get off and give yourself a break is wisdom. It’d only be quitting if you never rode again.
    One thing I do want to contribute is, please give yourself permission to change horses. Being halfway across the globe, I wouldn’t know if that really is the right thing, but the tone around here has been quite frustrated ever since the arrival of Cooper. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad horse and you’re a bad rider. It just means right now, maybe you and him just aren’t what you need. It doesn’t make you a failure. It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you wise, and human. I’m a trainer, and I’ve lost count of all the horses I’ve told people “I’m never getting on that one, thanks” or how many clients I’ve turned away because I value my nerve a lot more than my pride.
    You’re doing great. Stay awesome. ❤

  5. You did the best thing if you were getting emotional. Stopping is better than creating an issue if you can’t shut down the feels. I hope it gets better for you.

  6. I’ve been there, too. There are times I come out to ride Harley and he is super tense and spooky and, for whatever reason, my mind isn’t in the right place to be patient enough to coax him out of it. There have been a few times I have gotten so pissed-off at him for acting that way, I have just dismounted and called it a day. I’m embarrassed that I get angry at him- he doesn’t deserve it- but I’m only human.
    It IS good to know when to fold sometimes. You definitely did the right thing. Switching horses for a while is a wonderful idea! Don’t think of it as a negative- it’s not even a “break” or an “easy win” it is literally just another one of many strategies you could choose from to get closer to your goals.

  7. Sometimes you just don’t click with a horse and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s also nothing wrong with making the choice to bow out before you let your emotions get the best of you and got into a fight with the horse. Sounds like you made a smart decision to me, embarrassing though it might have been at the time. I hope getting some rides in on different horses makes you feel better!

  8. Sometimes we just don’t get along with a horse, no matter how nice the horse and how much we try. It only cost me about $15,000 to learn that lesson 😦

  9. Pingback: All Four Legs | A Gift Horse

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