Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Lessons in Fear

I'll admit that there are very few things that scare me...spiders, zombies, losing things I love...horseback riding is not and has never been something I'm afraid. I have broken my back and my nose, sprained all of my limbs, been kicked, bitten, stepped on, smashed, thrown, and impaled but that has never stopped me. Heck, the first thing when I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to bed is horses but more specifically riding dressage. Nevertheless, April 22nd's lesson enlightened me as to what fears I had yet to discover, hence why it has taken me so long to write a blog about it.

Buddy and I had a lesson with Lynn in the early afternoon and of course the weather had to do something out of the ordinary. The week before and the days leading up to the lesson had all been sunny and in the low 80's/high 70's. Sunday proved to be rainy and in the low 60's...greeaat! That wasn't the only difficulty we faced. For some reason, the receiver box for Lynn's teaching system was acting up and cutting in and out regularly resulting in mixed/missed instructions and quite a bit of frustration. Buddy, luckily, was awesome with a really willing attitude and lots of highlights in his work.

Lynn asked what I wanted to work on and I told her to just watch and comment on whatever she saw problems with. We did lots of trot transitions into walk and halt to help square him up. The quality of his trot was AWESOME! We worked on keeping him up in the corners and not letting him drop at all which kept him better prepared for his shoulder-in/renvers/travers down the long-side. We moved into the caner and again she commented on how much this canter has improved in the last couple of weeks, yay!!!

Next, we discussed what I had signed up for at Dressage in the Sandhills and someone (can't remember if it was someone auditing the lesson or my dad...probably my dad because I think he is sick of watching 2nd level) questioned why I wasn't doing Third level. I remarked that although Buddy's canter is getting better, it is nowhere near what it needs to be to successfully do 3rd level.  Lynn told me all we needed was one flying change each direction to do 3-1, but I just didn't feel comfortable. She said that we were going to need to start schooling changes eventually and why not start now. We were three weeks from the show and it couldn't hurt to see where we were starting from. I did the only change I knew how to (I know it's wrong but my body decides to use it as a defense mechanism when I feel hurried or tense due to the on-coming change). Luckily, Buddy was super and did a quiet although late change. Lynn made a big deal that it was not that bad but I needed to do the exercise the way she originally explained it (granted, I didn't hear it due to mic problems). I went to perform the canter leg yield from right to left, maintaining the left lead and helping to make the previous outside concave and the new outside convex. Then the theory is to put the left leg back and push forward with the right hip while giving with the right rein to help encourage the new lead...my body had other plans. I fell back into my horrible habit of leaning forward, putting the leg back and pulling with the inside hand, this led to Buddy's head in the air, rushing around the corner and only flipping the lead in the front...in other words total CHAOS!!! Lynn was a little frustrated that I did exactly everything she told me not to basically setting Buddy up for failure. That is when I lost it. It had hit me, teaching the flying change was scaring me. I wasn't afraid of the change necessarily but more for doing it wrong which would result in the frantic running around. Lynn re-explained the exercise and had me do the whole thing again with the exception of the actual change. We turned that into a simple since the exercise would help those too in the long run. Unfortunately, I was too shaken to be pleased with how well Buddy was doing. With tears welling in my eyes, I managed to sit back and make the conscious effort to not ride my bad habit. I had to sit up and slow Buddy down with my whole body to make sure I wasn't hustling him in the canter leg-yield to get through the change in order to move onto another movement that I was comfortable with. The rest of the lesson was this exercise in both directions. I had my homework to do this over the next two weeks in order to improve the canter.

Once the lesson was over, I went back to the barn in order to untack Buddy. That's when the waterworks started...and I couldn't get them to stop! While untacking and systematically wiping the tears from my face, I managed to get my thoughts together on why this was so upsetting for me. I had had a really hard time teaching DJ the change (and still do!) which has made me dread them. They come hurried and flat and there is nothing calm about them. I haven't even been able to ride one on a horse that is already trained. My body literally doesn't know what to do and I freeze forgetting everything that I already know. I result to the old stand-by of bad hunter riding and leaning forward and pulling on the rein of the new lead. It frustrates me that I can't break this habit, that I fret that much about it which means I'm transferring this negative energy to my horse and that I let myself get this upset about it.

Now I know. There is something new that scares me and it's not the flying change, it's the fear of doing it wrong or late. I can't let it get to me but I have a LONG way to go before it stops bothering me. I can set a minor goal for now of attempting to not get a knot in my stomach when the idea of doing flying changes on either of my horses is mentioned. Hopefully, there will be less tears in this Saturday's lesson.