Sunday, December 16, 2012

Evaluations and Chickening Out

I didn't go to my jump lesson last night.  I could have.  I told myself I just didn't feel like it.  It was cold.  It was dark.  It was raining.  It's the same weather that it's been for the last month and will continue to be for the next few months.  Nothing new.

I know that it's because I'm afraid.  But I'm questioning my goals and my fear.  Because this might be a healthy fear.  Jumping IS more dangerous.  There's loads of things I can do that don't involve jumping.  So why am I jumping?

It started as a way to do something different and a way to meet the basic Pony Club levels.  However, I've done that.  I've jumped my course of 18" jumps (and some a little higher).  I've jumped crossrails, cantered through ground poles, jumped oxers and sailed over verticals.  It was scary every time.  And though I felt a sense of accomplishment, I feel like I just realized that now that I've accomplished that I need to move forward.

Moving forward is jumping is bigger jumps.  Jumping more jumps.  More complicated patterns.  More chances of accidents. The jump clinic is looming in my future and I'm not looking forward to it, I'm terrified.  I don't know how to say "Sure I want to jump, but I'd rather it was single jumps and only 18 inches high".

I'm thinking of dropping out of jump lessons but I don't want to let fear get the better of me.  I think what I really want is to try some other horse things that involve less adrenaline.  Some trail riding.  Some Western. 

A friend of mine asked me the other day if I had fun at the barn.  I paused.  For a long time.  I love the people.  I love my horse.  I love my trainers.  But fun?  What I feel after a good lesson or a good ride is a sense of exhilarating accomplishment.  But I'm not sure fun is the right word.  Maybe that's what's driving my sense of their being something not quite right?  Maybe I'm looking for fun?

I started riding at a barn with a serious lesson program.  Lessons are what I know.  But at that barn, we used to have fun days.  We'd have a polo instructor come in.  Sometimes, in our group lessons, we were paired up with a partner and had to ride dressage tests in tandem.  We went on a few short trail rides.  Though the barn was primarily dressage and jumping riders (all lower level), it wasn't unusual for someone to decide to try reining and to put a Western saddle on their horse and tool around.  There was goofiness and silliness.  The riding was not as perfect, we weren't taught softness or lightness.  But there was fun.

I know we've gone down this road before, but I'd like to hear from you guys?  Do you have FUN when you ride?  Is it every time?  Sometimes?  Is it your barn that helps create this fun?  Tell me your stories! 


  1. I want to take the moment to introduce myself because I've been reading your blog for a few months now and this is something I felt compelled to comment on.

    Do I always have fun at the barn or my lessons? No. Sometimes I get frustrated and get into arguments with my OTTB. Sometimes my lessons are hard and I feel like I can't get anything right. But do I have fun at the barn? Do I have fun when I ride? ABSOLUTELY. When it starts becoming not fun I start thinking about why and how to fix it.

    For me, this is a hobby and it's not supposed to be like "work." I spend too much money and time on this hobby for me to keep throwing that away for something that doesn't bring me joy. This extends into the show world as well. I love competing and showing off my horse but the minute it stops being fun is the minute I take a break.

    So I make sure I make it fun. If things are going bad in my dressage lessons. I take a break and go trail riding. I made sure I picked a barn where I liked the people and the atmosphere, even if they are all way more into dressage then I am. I try to ride with friends, even if we're both just working on a circle at either end of the arena.

    I think what might help is if you figured out what your goal with riding is. Is it to compete? Is it to master a new skill? Is it to have fun? Good luck!

  2. All good and valid thoughts that I think any rider has at one time or another. I will no longer jump, but I did, and although it scared the crap out of me, there is nothing like feeling that connection as you fly over a 4 foot fence.

    And yeah because of my change in circumstances now even loping scares me. But that's what my lessons at this point are for, to push the envelope just a little out of my comfort zone. For the first couple of lessons D had to beg me to lope. Last week on my own ride time I did a flying lead change! (Now that was fun! I giggled like a little kid.)

    I think you need to find out what makes you and Tessa happy. Until then keep pushing that envelope. From the sounds of it the jumping lessons are helping you feel more secure in your every day riding. If that's all they accomplish that's great.

    I think that riding in the jumping clinic would be good for you. Try something you like with someone new, have them encourage you to come out of your box a bit.

  3. I agree with mydandylonglegs - being with your horse shouldn't be "work". Laughing and smiling are the “fun” meter for me. I would say that I do have fun. Sometimes the fun comes from riding Gem, sometimes it comes from hanging out with the other riders, most of the time it’s a combination. :-)

    I find that lessons can be repetitive – not so much fun. I need lessons, so I am not shy about suggesting incorporating using poles or cavallettis or barrels in our lesson, just to change it up a bit and when we do, it’s fun. :-) Would you consider or be able to do an obstacle course where you board? We have done some of the "obstacles" in lesson and it's so much fun while still being a challenge. Check it out:

  4. I'm pretty serious about my riding, but although it's work, in the good sense - something I'm dedicated to and intentional about because it's important to me - I enjoy it immensely. This hasn't always been the case for me at all. For me, it's all about hours in the saddle, the more hours the better. And it doesn't matter whether I'm in the arena, going on the trail, tooling around the pasture or just being with the horses - it's all good.

    You don't need to "progress" in the usually understood sense of the term - jumping bigger jumps, etc., to be progressing in your horsemanship and relationship with horses. I think variety is very good for people and horses both - I ride both Western and English - if you're riding correctly there's actually not as much difference as most people think - and love finding new and different things to do with my horses.

    It's fine to keep doing lessons, if you've got an instructor you like who you believe has values that are in agreement with yours and who you think can teach you something, but variety in activities you do with your horse can improve the fun quotient, too.

  5. Is it always fun? No. Am I usually enjoying myself? Yes. I have fun when I feel like we're making progress on something that is difficult or we couldn't do previously. Like today we learned reinback and that was fun. Some days I don't feel like schooling so I tool around bareback for 20 minutes and that's fun.

    Riding is what you make it.

    At my barn on Sundays my trainer does a drill team that's open to everyone. The people are all great, and we have hunters, eventers, dressage and western riders all doing a pattern together. It's a lot of fun and we all mess up but we laugh and really enjoy ourselves.

    If you don't want to jump courses or anything higher than 18", then don't. Work on 18" single jumps with no stirrups, or bareback, or no reins, etc if you want to keep jumping but don't want to go higher or do more jumps.

  6. Most of the time I have fun when I ride. If I didn't have fun doing it, why bother? Sometimes, I don't, but usually it's because we just aren't getting something we should be getting and I get frustrated and start doubting my ability.

    I love to jump...I love to go fast and jump. Many people don't and there is nothing wrong with that. The beautiful thing about horses and riding is that there are so many things you can do that you don't have to stick with something that doesn't thrill you. If you're scared to jump any higher than 18", so what? The world won't end...find something else to do with your time in the saddle! I love to trail ride, fox hunt, jump, ride dressage, horse camp, I can drive two-in-hand or drive a sulky, I enjoy playing with my horse in long lines and I've done jousting, mounted shooting and other medieval games on horseback and have a ton of fun doing gymkhana games. And yes, I have FUN.

    I keep my horses at home so I can't depend on any one else to make riding fun for me. I do it all on my own and if I'm going to spend all that time, effort and money on my horses, I'm gong to have fun doing something I love. I've ridden my entire life and what I've seen is this: Those people who grew up riding with other kids, without a set "agenda" of lessons and the option to just ride to ride (go out and just have fun on the horses), tend to have more fun riding. Those who grew up riding in a barn that was nothing but lesson work and arena riding with the occasional controlled "outing" tend to see it more as work and an accomplishment than fun.

  7. Do I always have fun? Close....some rides are really disappointing but I always enjoy myself. I love riding, I am at my own place so I don't have a barn, but I do trailer out to a friends barn a few times a week and I have equal amounts of fun no matter where I am riding. My horse and I fell at an event this summer and although I was stressed and upset, I still had fun there. Crazy eh?

    The thing with jumping is, most people never go higher than 18". That is fine, stay at that level and have FUN doing it. If you do it long enough you may get bored and be able to go to 2'. If not, who cares. Jumping is a good change of scenery for your horse, but it certainly is not a necessity. Do what you like to do. Maybe you just aren't ready, maybe you never will be. My mom shows dressage and has been riding forever and she won't go near a cross rail. Some people just don't like jumping...and that's ok.