Friday, November 18, 2011

The Trainer in My Head

I like that I hit publish accidentally and now everyone can see a post with no content called 'The Trainer in My Head.'  The fact that there aren't words pretty much sums it up.  But, for those of you who want to know more, here are some words about this afternoons ride.

First of all, I am fighting off a cold AND I'm PMS'ing AND I have cold sore (while I'm complaining) AND it's kinda cold out today (about 40 degrees and rainy).  It's an indoor, pajamas and popcorn kind of day.  But I dragged myself out to the barn anyway since we had such a great lesson yesterday.  Warm up went fine, lunging went fine, grooming was fine.  Got on and the walk was fine.  In fact, it was pretty good.  The trot?  Miserable.  Shuffling.  Head tossing.  Going to the right we were fine.  A little sluggish but listening and round.  To the left.  We fell apart.

Here's where the Trainer In My Head starts saying 'Forward! Forward!  You must push her forward!' and the little me, the baby Panic screams (in my head, don't worry, I'm not THAT crazy yet) "I CAN'T!! IF I TOUCH HER WITH THE WHIP SHE WILL GO UP!! LOOK AT HER CRAZY HEAD!!'

And sure enough, the Pony's head was not just above the bit but above the bridle.  Nose in the air, head in the air, front feet slightly elevated doing a hoppity hop.  She had done this once or twice in my lesson yesterday and L had mentioned that this would likely be her next evasion now that I've figured out how to keep her attention with my inside rein and leg.  But I was unprepared and afraid.  I tried to push her forward.  I tried to let her go into canter.  When I felt like I was pushing her forward I am positive that what I was actually doing was throwing away the contact, flapping my arms like chicken wings and leaning forward in the fetal position.  And in response, the Pony would bob up and up, head flipped backwards into my lap.

I looked for a good representation of how Arabians can do this.  They have cornered the market on the backwards head toss.  This horse is in the pasture but it gives you an idea of their amazing flexibility.  Not surprisingly, I can't find any pictures of horses under saddle doing this.  Nobody wants to admit this stuff happens when they're riding.

So Pony is flipped her head up and backwards, hollowing her back and going slightly up.  I know the answer is forward, but today my fear got the better of me.  Especially because I have a lot of fear around getting hit in the face.  Did I mention that a month before I bought my pony I had my two front teeth knocked out by a horse I was going to buy?  Yep.  She failed the pre-purchase exam and as I was putting her shoulder guard back on over her head, she flipped her head violently and smashed my jaw shut which shattered my front teeth.  So I'm kinda funny about my face around horses these days.  And with pony bringing her head backwards towards my face, it was all I could do not to just get off right there. I did make sure to do one more circle and get a portion of it right, but we were falling apart.  So we halted and then I just sat on her, trying to breathe and watching some of the other riders.  I find the other thing that's challenging for me is to have a bad day in front of really good riders.  It's hard to not let that become a factor in riding.  Because it's bad enough to know you're not doing it right, but to see it being done SO right by the other people in the arena can be intimidating.  Ah well.

Today is a good reminder that you can go from having THE BEST DAY EVER to having a really frustrating ride and that it's all part of the process.  I'll be going back out tomorrow with a new perspective and trying again.


  1. Two steps forward, one step back . . . it happens to all of us.

    Forward is key, but make sure you're allowing her forward movement by not bracing with your back and legs and be sure to allow with your hands - you have to have forward working first before contact will work.

    Good luck and hope to read of further progress.

  2. Remember me saying there will be setbacks too? Yes, thought so. The thing about setbacks is that they are always colored by the progress you've had. Making progress can make us toxic about so-called "Fails" because we've lost the memory of who we were before we made that progress in the first place. Your very real progress makes you an unfair judge, now, of a setback.

    The thing about fear, it is excellent at exploiting every moment, and it will always puff itself as much as necessary to get your attention again. It pushed familiar buttons during this ride, but that doesn't mean you were actually that afraid, only that you know exactly how to feel it. Because there is no trainer like fear out there, either, is there? Hard to fire that particular trainer, but it can be done with time and practice. Trust me, I'm almost there.

  3. Kate and Muddy K - Thank you for the reminder about progress and fear. It's true that it just keeps coming back and trying to be my friend. I'm hoping that keeping a journal online will also help me gain perspective.