It Was Okay

In honoring my last post about having realistic expectations, I showed up to my lesson with Cooper in an optimistic mood.  I told myself that he was the best school horse for me, and that I should be very glad to have something that will take care of me today.  I also noted to a riding buddy that he was not my type of horse but that I need to know how to ride him.  Not everything was going to go around like O or Dee did.  Horse #2 may be more like him.  I should be prepared.
I got the big giraffe all tacked up (so cute in his green extras) and headed to our lesson.  Warmup was abbreviated to avoid the heat, and we started popping over a little x.  There were a few ugly ones, usually when I pulled without leg support.  While it was irritating, my trainer just had me keep coming around until I understood that the horse was going regardless, and that he prefers a nice release…so I should probably try that sometime.

Forest green on a chestnut!

We laughed (while I tried to recover from our 1000 attempts) and decided that while he goes around a bit like a giraffe, he really needs someone to be soft and offer a big release. My reaction is to whoa and try to get his head down, but he wants me to kind of toss him the reins.  It really does boggle my brain.

We moved into some courses and while there were a few moments where I should’ve left the horse alone to do his job, it wasn’t totally ugly.  We might of even had a few nice fences…dare I say it.

Super attractive.

At the end of the ride I agreed with my trainer in that he is not the hero in my horse love story-but he has a lot to teach me.  I think after this ride, the biggest win is that I could be grateful, and that I wasn’t obsessing in a negative sense.  I went out, rode, and it was okay!  It’s a step in the right direction both in riding Cooper and mentally handling my riding.

 

Realistic Expectations

This post is inspired by the thoughtful comment that EquiNovice left on my last post, while I was lamenting about how I have been crying my way through recent lessons.  She mentioned that managing your own expectations were some of the hardest part about not being in a consistent riding program.  That was a huge ah-ha moment for me.

From an outsiders perspective, if you had been watching my last lesson on Cooper you would’ve seen a woman who is struggling to not pull on a more forward horse.  You might have seen a few awkward frog hop jumps, and heard said woman shout some angry words (bad habits die hard).  But generally, there was nothing catastrophic happening.  No one fell off.  No refusals.  No galloping away wildly.  Just ugly jumps and some flowery words.

But.

That was not how I saw it.  I went from owning O, to riding some sale horses, a few schoolies, to leasing Dee.  99% of the time I felt very confident on these animals.  I knew I was capable of riding them and looking (within reason) okay doing it.  Obviously there were challenges, but nothing significant that stands out to me now.  They helped me, and I felt good about myself as a rider.

The cleanest horse alive finally got some dirt on him.

When I hopped on Cooper those first rides, and it went so badly, I was honestly confused.  I’d seen much less experienced riders take him around without a single issue.  Why was I struggling so much?  My expectation is that I should not only be able to ride this dude, but also do it well.  Yet everything I did seemed to set him on fire. Our flatwork has improved, buuuuttttt I still manage to turn him into Seabiscuit over fences.  I couldn’t even stop him in a straight line.  Even with my confidence at a high I can feel how hard these rides have been on me mentally.  All because my expectations for the ride were “ruined”.


It made me question buying another greenie – was I even capable of bringing it up correctly?  It made me wonder what I was even doing riding?  I mean, after 15 odd years of riding, I probably should be able to direct my horse over a cross rail.

Please note that I am not saying I’m God’s gift to horsekind – but I truly felt I should be able to ride better than I have been.  Maybe Cooper and I just don’t mesh.  Maybe it’s because I have not been riding consistently.  Maybe it’s just been an unlucky few weeks.  In my opinion, it’s probably a combination of all of those.  Regardless of all of that, I’m trying to spend some time before my lesson really resonating on the idea that I am only riding once a week right now, and I’m in this for the fun part.  I must alter my expectations.  

I don’t need to be expecting to be the exact same rider I was in the past, when I was doing more.  That is going to lead me down a dark path every ride!  I just need to be able to learn, and manage my personal standards for my riding.    Maybe then I can learn to enjoy my rides more.

 

Third Lesson Not the Charm

Since he is apparently going to stick around the blog a bit longer (no one seems to ride him on my lesson days) the red giraffe, formally known as Cooper needs a bit more of a bio.

I like him in purple!


Cooper was purchased by my trainer in 2016 (I think) from his home where he was doing the equitation stuff at some of the rated shows.  I actually rode him right when he arrived and where I sort of blundered through our ride.  However, he was perfect, and didn’t put a toe out of line.  After joining the lesson program, a teen rode him and fell in love; so while he is technically a lesson horse, he only “teaches” randomly.  He’s a OTTB standing 16.2+ but all withers.  Very giraffe-like in appearance, but has fabulously easy canter to ride.  He’s quiet, but can get a little heavy.  Until last week I carried a stick just in case I needed back up.

Don’t let the sleepy giraffe fool you.


My first lesson was all peaches and cream.  Second lesson is discussed here.   Third lesson, this past week, oh HOLY HOT MESS. Cooper’s teen has been traveling this month, so his 5-6 days a week of exercise has ended up being more like 2 times a week.

Everything was so exciting!  Trotting circles, passing the broken arena door, the barn cat – the whole thing was pretty exhilarating to Coop. Points to my Roeckl’s for still sticking with me after the giraffe just went around and around.  I was also in tights for my lesson, which I almost never do (it was so humid) and I felt like my butt just slid everywhere in my saddle.

3 legged giraffe! 🙂


We made it through our warm-up, and at the trot, I actually had a few moments where I didn’t have to peer around his giant head to steer.  Yay?  I did have a big issue with the “whoa” this week.  It wasn’t much there.  Half-halts were turning into pulling fests, and I was losing ground.

We were both sweating extensively by the time jumping came around.  And even then, I couldn’t regulate his pace to save my life.  By the 2nd or third try to quietly canter a 18″ single I was pretty angry.  I know, anger has no place with horses and all that.  BUT.  It wasn’t that I was necessarily mad at him, but I was so angry that I couldn’t ride him. Sure, I did call him some…names…but what was most difficult to swallow was that I could not ride this mostly level headed, lesson horse who I have seen less experienced riders waltz around on.  Enter internal self-esteem tear down.

Was he rude?  Yes.  Was he dangerous?  Definitely not.  Was I so embarrassed and angry and wanting to scream?  Absolutely.

It’s been a long time since I felt as bad about a lesson as I did last week.  I know there were good moments, but it really did shake me up.  Change is hard you guys.