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.

 

Lessons with the Giraffe

Thank you for all the opinions and ideas for prizes on my last post!  I appreciate it.  

As it turns out the teenage leaser of the big red giraffe from my lesson a few weeks ago, is out of town a lot this month.  I got to take him for a spin this week in my lesson, and he was such a good boy.

He’s a tall drink of water


Last lesson it was one of the first really hot days and he’d been ridden the day before.  Cue big tired giraffe.  This lesson was the polar opposite, he was fresh!  I got the opportunity to remember how to ride a much more forward mount and test out whether my roeckl gloves could hold up.  Big dude wants you to hold him and can get very heavy in your hands. The first few laps around our indoor my brain wouldn’t stop screaming that he was running away with me.  Ugh.  This is exactly why it’s good to ride new horses! 

I did manage chill out and had a killer time with the big guy.  (His name is actually Cooper) The fences were low, so essentially he just loped around the courses, but he did do his changes for me which made me smile.  He just recently came back from his former life as a equitation horse, so I was kind of giggling about how he jumps.  It was very flat and minimalistic; I felt like the whole front end of the horse never moves.  I still am waiting for Dee’s big, round jump; so the first time I about rammed my face into his mane.  Lesson learned. 

A different borrowed chestnut thoroughbred


I don’t know how much he’ll be available for lessons, but I really enjoyed riding something so different and once I figured him out, he was so good for me.  I couldn’t just drop him or float the reins, he needed someone actively supporting him.  And there’s a lot of horse there to support!

What Next?

Wellllllllllll, alright game plan time.  

Since the husband and I made the decision to not pursue buying this year, I’m living the quiet riding lifestyle.  I’m stealing rides on some lovely beasts who reside at the barn and reading everyone else’s blogs to fill in my horse quota.  I’m kind of in a holding pattern until I can either find a new lease, or stumble upon a similar situation for my lessons.  I have great faith that something will come wandering by, but in the meantime I have been soaking up the extra quality time with family and friends.


So it looks as if I am going to rock out as life as a lesson kid again.  I’m sad to not be riding as much as I was with Dee, but it still feels good to be riding period.  That’s what I need to focus on.

My first real lesson as a free agent was this past week, and I was so pleasantly surprised!  I always worry that since I had been riding the same horse for a long time, that I’d struggle with a new mount.  Well, my trainer must have a sense of humor because she put me on a 17hh+ red giraffe masquading as a thoroughbred.  He is long, bouncy and jumps quiet and flat.  So essentially the only thing he has in common with Dee is his species.  Ha!  But I had a blast.  And by the end I figured out how to steer again and we had some nice moments.  Not sure he’ll be a permentant fixture in my life (he has a lesser), but I was very glad for the ride.  


I’m the worst at photos. Here’s the giraffe feasting after our ride.  

This week everything will settle into my new normal, lessons midweek and hopefully a borrowed ride during the weekends when they are available.  It’s going to be good.  

BUTttttttttt if anyone knows of a magical unicorn who wants to be leased by yours truly-just let me know!  

 

1, 2, 1, 2, 1…

I don’t care how old I get / how advanced I might get…my go-to for courses, especially ones with plenty of long approaches, is to count.  I know some riders sing, others talk, but there is something ridiculously therapeutic about counting 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2 and so on.  With a greenie like O was when I bought her it helped me regulate the pace, to be an active rider.  With Dee it operates in the exact opposite way, it distracts me from micro-managing the long approach or picking at the distances.  But regardless, it is my go – to maneuver.

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Purple thinking hat on!

This weeks lesson had a long approach small single to start off, where you really hard to get the pace early on.  Then a long 3 stride off a short approach.  To a nice moving two stride.  To another super long approach single oxer.  So lots of great questions!  My job was to get the pace early on, keep Dee bouncy and block that outside shoulder around the turns.  After running through each component individually, we strung it all together.

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Matching game is strong (for hunters)

 

And it was good.  Like it felt good, Dee felt good, pace was correct.  I even gave a tiny, slightly embarrassing “whoop” at Dee once we landed the last oxer.  We let her be done with that.  It couldn’t have gone any smoother in my mind.  It might have been due to my obsessive 1, 2, 1, 2 (you can totally hear me coming to the oxer) counting, but whatever it is, I’ll take it!

Please also note, that I had packed for my lesson the night before, grabbing a purple Kastel shirt.  Once at work, I realized I had both a purple saddle pad AND a purple trimmed bonnet in my car…cue fabulous idea to convince the two other adult ammies in my lesson to go matchy match.  One went all navy, one went all black/grey and I was in purple.  I don’t know if Dee has ever even wore a horse hat, but it was really fun dressing her up!

Steering is Important

This past week I experienced an embarrassing lesson in steering.

When people ask me how old theirs kids should be before they start riding, I always answer with a “when they can understand steering”.  So by that note–I should not currently be enrolled in our lesson program.  Palm to face.

Cutest Hony around.

In our last lesson we were working on a course full of twists, turns, pace questions, lead changes…all the wonderful things that require both lots of steering and use of your eyes.  This is what I get lessoning with the jumper girls.  It was going okay, our first attempt I neglected to ignite any kind of momentum from Dee.  So we chipped here, chipped there, chipped everywhere!!  Gross guys, so gross.

Off we went to try it again, with Trainer  making my reins long and loopy.  I was instructed to not touch them during the course except to open them.  For a hot minute, I actually felt like Dee was going to run away with me.  (Pause for laughter…we just actually had the correct amount of pace to navigate our funky course.)

Having “no” reins, made such a huge difference.  We nailed the distances this time, with Dee really stretching down, and even though I felt like I have zero control, it forced me to really sit up and support.  Voila better riding!  This is why trainers make the big bucks.

We gave Dee a minute to catch her breath, and off we went to polish our efforts a bit.  Here’s a lovely diagram of the chaos that was this course.  I’m super proud that I remembered which jump I was supposed to be at.

Exercise from March 2017 with 1 stride

So many twists.  My hunter heart was terrified.

I did good things over jumps 1-3, landing the leads, and not creeping up on my reins.  Except that after jump 3, when we turn to jump 4, I forgot something very important.  It is vital to steer AROUND solid objects.  Even this handy little horse couldn’t make the turn I asked for, and I connected my left kneecap to the wooden standard on a jump in our turn.  The whole jump (one we weren’t jumping) toppled over and instantly my whole left leg went numb.  It hurt.  A lot.

I really wanted to go finish the course, but trainer made me stay put.  After a few minutes, my foot and calf were still numb and we could see the swelling through my breeches.  My lesson looked pretty over.  Off I went to Urgent Care to be sure I didn’t crack anything.  After a very long night I was dubbed “pretty banged up” and sent home with painkillers and instructions to not ride until I could do stairs/run/etc. without pain.  I know it happens plenty of times, but that doesn’t make you feel any less like a total goob.

It hurt way worse than it looked. So annoying.

And here I am at a week plus from that date and it is STILL sore. I still can’t do stairs very well and I haven’t tried to ride.

So please, humor me, has anyone else ran themselves into a jump instead of around it lately?

Moving Right Along

We’ve got a horse show tomorrow, but I’m still riding the high from some great lessons lately.  So regardless of what happens, I’m feeling like the improvement is there.  Here’s some little clips of lessons lately…keep an eye out for:

  • Staying down and soft on the backside of the jumps.
  • Keeping Dee’s shoulders up on approach.
  • Attempting to keep my elbows in, less “chicken dance”.
  • Making a decision on distances and sticking with it.

Here we go.

I struggled at first (and struggle at the end of the other clip) with getting to this single at an odd stride.  But this one was my best ride, and really using my outside rein to keep her body straight.  Yay!

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She is adorbs.

 

Full course, complete with ugly last jump (you can see the second I waffle on my choice & pull).  Also-enjoy Dee’s pre-jump grunting! Ha!

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Eating these bigger oxers up lately. 

So there we are!  Happy with our overall picture and excited for what’s next.  Wish us luck!

 

Do all the things

It’s been awhile.  Dee decided to nap in some hay and get poked in the eyeball.  So she got a few days off.  Then I decided to come down with the 3rd…yes 3rd stomach bug of the season (day care is evil) and then got this sweet sinus infection.

Essentially, nothing much has been happening in my neck of the woods for about 2 weeks.  I hadn’t swung a leg over anything and I broke a sweat going up the stairs.  BUT.  This week I dragged my butt to the barn on Sunday for a makeup lesson, tossed on some spurs, grabbed my stick and off we went.

Someone was exhausted.

How Dee feels when I asked her to get up! Lol

Dee of course, was a good little cupcake, and did her job per usual.  I had forgotten that smarty pants mare would know exactly how to evade work, and got a little heavy on me.  But lots of transitions and the fan of death (bounce poles on a circle) had us moving right along.  We  jumped around a low little course; things came up easily and we finished with a smile. Bonus: I have media coming!

Blurry snaps from horse shows ftw

I was sore afterwards (pitiful I know), but still snuck in another quick ride in the random 60 degree weather this week.  It feels good to be back on track.  Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I managed a second lesson, where we really worked on my eye and my (bad) decision making skills.  Such as this:

I want to pull the pony to the jump.  She doesn’t like to be pulled to the jump.  Inevitably we put in teeny baby stride and sloth over the fence.  What did I learn here?  Apparently nothing, as I tried it like 3 times last night.  In the end I decided to do what I’ve been told a “few” times for the past 15 years and put more leg on.  Magic!!

Still on the path to do our thing at the home show in February.  AND loving my new gloves!!