Thursday 10 July 2014

Never Take it Too Seriously

Weather warnings last night meant hardly anyone sane showed up for the lesson, so we started early and got some extra ride time in, not to mention a few extra rounds. It did rain on us, but it was refreshing more than anything and I'm glad we opted to take our chances in the outdoor. The wind and lightning held off and it was one of the better lessons in recent memory. Jumps were set small for the most part, but in some good gymnastic lines. Pic below looks like a simple one stride, but there were 4 cavalleti bounces leading up to it - sorry my iphone can't get a wide enough shot to ever show much of the outdoor - it's huge. I think I've cracked the secret to sitting Checkers' big jump and had no real issues with it today. For the record, I need to sit a little more back and deep than normal and focus on those heels down - it feels almost like I'm riding a little defensively, but I suspect it's actually normal and I've been getting in the habit of jumping ahead a little. On the other horses it's not super apparent, but with her big size and expressive jump it makes a difference. Light bulb moment, thank you once again Checkers.
Grey and damp, but refreshing (and no dust)

Overall, I feel like I'm riding better now than I ever have. I know I was more serious about the lessons a couple of years ago, and likely more of a technically correct rider then, but I always felt like I had to ride very correctly to not get Ginger upset. I got really caught up in the idea that I wasn't good enough and could set back her training or cause issues with my mistakes. It's not overly relaxing or confidence inspiring to think any mistakes were potentially going to 'wreck my sensitive horse' or end with me sitting in the dirt :) (For the record, these are pressures I put on myself, not so much what my instructor at the time would have really said to me)
Summer 2012 - feels like forever ago

 For me, relaxation and letting go of trying to be 'perfect' is proving very much the key to better riding. It's easy enough to have tension in your body but look fairly correct at first glance and I think I got stuck in my frozen and ineffective habits for a very long time. I've mentioned before that the instruction at the current barn is not exactly intensive, but in a weird way it's exactly what I needed - fun, low stress hours in the saddle. I've learnt tons from previous detail oriented instructors, but I think I may just be the type of person who learns more when challenged to just 'make it happen' and left a little to my own devices. Current instructor is fun and positive, and unlikely to nitpick or stop you on course unless you're about to do something really, really dumb. It's bringing back a lot of great memories from when I was a kid with a pony and everything I did was by intuition or feel. I think a lot of that got lost over the years in my efforts to be 'correct' and it's very freeing to find that part of me again. I've always felt like since I didn't have lessons as a kid, I learnt things 'wrong', but lately I'm not so sure that's entirely the case - I learnt a lot of really valuable things just listening to my horses and figuring out what worked for me, and I should have kept those things closer, rather than doubting myself and pushing them away as an adult in an effort to 'do it right'.

I'm excited to take some of these ideas home with me - I know they're not groundbreaking by any stretch, but you know how it is - something can stare you in the face for a very long time before you finally have the insight to acknowledge it.
One of my favorite Ginger pics from 2013- happily heading out on the trail alone

 Is the reason Ginger is so relaxed and successful on the trails really because that's where I am most confident and relaxed? Now that I have a little more perspective on just how serious and uptight I was about the whole dressage/training thing, it seems embarrassingly obvious, really.


  1. Oh man, I hear you about the perfection thing. I am so hard on myself. This is what I tell myself when I'm nitpicking myself: "It is more important to be effective that perfect and the whole reason you're involved with horses is to have have fun." Sometimes I ever believe it, haha! Glad you had a fun ride :)

    1. Excellent advice, and something I need to remember way more often...even yesterday I was doing a test ride in front of the horses owner and that nasty part of my brain tried to get me worried she'd hate my riding and refuse to sell me her horse! Stupid brain ;)

  2. So true, when we own vs lesson we put so much more pressure on ourselves without even realising it & the fear of "messing up" our ponies or "inhibiting them from reaching their full potential". We humans really and truly are our own worst enemies - sitting back, relaxing & enjoying the ride is why we have this extraordinary hobby after all, right?!
    To have fun...Now please remind me of this, when i do get back in the tack more often and start getting frustrated with myself for sucking...please parrot these words back to - as i tend to forget such things when it comes to myself :p

    1. I will happily remind you! Sometimes it's so hard to remember to be kind to yourself...