My sweet boy is doing so great! My trainer is working on his topline and teaching him to be on the bit. I know it won't be long before I am riding him all over trails and having fun together.
My lessons are going good too. I'm trying to work on being less emotional during my lessons. Last lesson I just shut down after 20 minutes because I was taking everything my trainer said personally, and I was getting wound up, and I knew I was getting to a place where I did NOT need to be on the back of a horse. I told her I was getting tired. My husband was there and as soon as we got in the car he said "I knew when you said you were tired you just meant you were tired of her". He said she is a bit harsh. I dunno, I mean, I know she is good and she gets the job done, so I appreciate that about her. I just can't take it sometimes. It's not her job to coddle me though, it's her job to push me and make me better.
She's great with Max in his lessons. Very patient.
It's kind of been getting me depressed. I started horseback riding as a fun treat that I had been wanting to do all my life. It's fun when I accomplish a goal and am good at what I've been taught. It's just weird that I have that one "ahah" lesson where everything is great, and I get it; and then for the next few weeks I just kind of feel miserable in my lesson. I'll be fine for the first part of the lesson, and then a little ways in I feel like I'm being yelled at for three different things, and I just get completely overwhelmed and can't even do the stuff I know how to do.
I didn't come into this thinking that I would go for dressage and even competing. I just thought I was going to learn to ride a horse so I could meander along a trail. I like where it's going because I feel like I'm really learning to ride. I'm getting pushed farther than I thought I could go, and I get pushed more and more each time I go to the stable. So I like that, and I just need to realize that I am working towards being really good instead of just being kind of okay.
I'm sure it's me. I feel like I am in the right place, and I feel like I am learning about horses and riding, but also personal self improvement lessons. It's just a very painful process.
I'm trying to focus on work more so that when I get to the stable, I have the "Ahhh I'm not at work" glow. Anything I can do to make my attitude better. I want to be open and take my lessons the right way instead of ruining them by being defensive and stressed.
Today was a for fun day at school. I went to the field to get my lesson horse, and there were two people watching Maximas. All the other geldings were in their field, munching on grass, but my boy was over at the fence with the ladies. In particular, a very lovely Swedish Warmblood in heat. He was giving her all the romance a mare could ask for. Love nips, nuzzles, devilishly good looks. He tried to mount her a few times, but the fence was in the way. There was another mare who was completely jealous of the situation. She kept moving herself in between them. My sexy boy!
I got to try out my new Kerrits super grippy riding pants. They were amazing. I felt like I could fall asleep on top of the horse and they would hold me on. I somehow still felt my legs get tired, so I must have been gripping subconsciously with my muscles.
My lesson was cut short because my neck started acting up. It got sprained or something last week, and it had just gotten better, but I felt it catch and OWWW. It's not as bad as it could be, but I didn't want to make it worse by pushing.
It worked out for the best. My trainer and I spent the rest of our time talking, and I got to unload a lot of stress off my chest. We talked about goals, and stretches, and just generally talked. I actually feel like I can go to class without being stressed, and maybe even have fun again. She really helped me feel better. I think I just needed an emotional booster day.
I don't have another lesson until Monday. Hopefully my neck will be better by then. I am going back tomorrow for Max's lesson.
I have taken time off from online horse stuff. I felt like it was causing a lot of problems in my mindset toward riding. I've never succeeded in anything when I allow myself to look around at what other people are doing, and I couldn't help but compare myself when I looked online! Even looking up solutions to whatever I was stuck on was just stressing me out. So, I took the advice of the little voice in my head, and dove into just being in the moment with horseback riding.
I went to the U.S. Dressage Finals at the Kentucky Horse Park. It's not that I have tons of cash to go on vacations, it's just that I live a few hours from a lot of venues, and it's not that much $ for my trainer and I to take the weekend and split the bill.
It was amazing!!! I not only saw the best horses and riders in the entire US, but my trainer took me all over the horsepark and showed me the inner workings of the beast. I saw everything from the stables, to the warmup rings, to the halls where the horses lined up. Seeing those huge warmbloods tacked up and lined up to go out to the ginormous show arena was something I'll never forget.
One thing that was encouraging was the variety of horse breeds at the competition. Of course there were lots of warmbloods, but I also saw an Appy and just regular cute looking horses that were having fun with their owners. I also saw a really cute, pretty horse breed there called a "Drum Horse". It was so adorable! Maybe not the best mover, but it was there at the U.S. Finals for a reason!
Other highlights of the trip included walking around the horse park, visiting the horse museum, and seeing a demonstration by a trick horse trainer with his Frisian. I need to take the pictures and videos off my camera!!! I'll do that soon and post a bunch. I was a sucker for video taping the cute unique horses during their freestyles!
Since I got back from the trip, I've been working steadily on my riding and my trainer has been working steadily on getting Maximas ready for me to ride. I have a private lesson three days a week, and Maximas has his private lesson three days a week. We are so fortunate to have such an experienced and talented teacher at a ridiculous cut rate!
I've moved from the indoor arena to the outdoor arena. The first time I did it, I got tired and almost bounced off my horse. Since then, I've gotten the hang of keeping in better control of both of us. I'm getting better about checking my diagonal and correcting it on my own. I don't know all the terminology, so I might be describing this in a weird way. I learned to sit back and feel where her butt is, and keep her connected and moving forward from behind. I'm learning to maneuver her around things and over poles so that she has the space to go where I want her to go.
My last lesson, my trainer told me that I should give the horse a breather since we were trotting pretty fast. I said "Fast? We were going fast? That felt kind of slow!" so she said that next week, she thinks I can try cantering! She had me practice two point. She said that's how I stay off the horse's back so I don't get bounced off during the canter. So I am spending the weekend working out to make sure I am stronger come next week's canter!
Maximas is doing great too. He is off lunge line lessons and getting ridden for his lessons. I've been there for the last two, while my trainer rode him herself. The first one, he was pretty snarky. I was glad I wasn't on him! This last lesson, though, he was a completely different cookie. He looked happy and comfortable, like he was figuring out his job and he wanted to do it the best he could. She said he never was taught to balance under a rider, and she also found out that he has some reaction like he's been spurred as a punishment before. As with everything we've done so far, though, the more we show him our way of doing things and how it's gentle and paced to help him succeed, he changes and blossoms into a better and better horse.
My trainer said that "in the very near future" I'll be able to come tack him up and ride him around the indoor arena when I want. We won't be doing anything other than walking and trotting, but that's what both of us need to get a little stronger and a little more balanced.
Oh, and I also have been shopping way too hard for Maximas! Like OMG, way too much $$$, but it all is so satisfying to open up and use! I need to take pictures of all the stuff I got on him, because it always looks way better on him than it did on the website where I bought it.
I got him his winter blanket. It's this lovely aqua blue color. He looks so smart in it! I also got my saddle. I had been working up the guts to fork over the money, and then it went on sale. Like super sale. It's the New Bates Isabell, which is usually upwards of 3k, and I got it brand new for 2k from Dover. When does that happen? I haven't sat in it yet, or put it on Maximas, so I'm going to do all that tomorrow.
There's the short version of everything that's happened in the past few weeks. I'll pick apart each topic and add pictures over the next few days.
More updates incoming, but for now a reflection of the past few months
I had a big setback when I ended up taking three weeks off from riding. I was feeling kind of sick and wanted to take time off and get my body back in balance. Of course, when I got back to riding, that set me way back.
I stopped riding Max and went back to just riding the lesson horse. I realized too, that I just wasn't ready to really ride Max. I can walk around on him in the ring, which is good and something I am going to get back to... and hopefully more than that, but I just wasn't balance or secure enough to really be a rider like he needs.
I've been dedicated to going to my lessons, and I'm making lots of progress at them. My balance is a lot better. I'm learning how to ride at a more advanced level than squeeze legs, hold rein out to turn. I feel stronger and more secure now. My main problem is that I am sedentary when I'm off the horse, so when I get on the horse I get winded pretty fast. My muscles are fine, and I could keep going, I just start huffing and puffing and getting dizzy and have to take breathers. I'm going to start doing some serious cardio to fix that.
I still haven't officially cantered. I unofficially cantered a few times. One time, before my teacher started to get on my case to ride with contact, I was warming up my lesson horse and she was giddily trotting around in the brisk air (and I was giddily riding with her, happy that my upper leg was gluing me to the saddle like it should) and BAM, we were cantering. I stopped her because my trainer wasn't there and I didn't want to get in over my head. Another time, I was trotting over a pole, and the horse hopped over the pole and zoom, cantered off with me hanging on to her neck. Sweet lesson horse she is, she realized she had an idiot hanging on her neck and slowed down so I could sit back up (with my poor teacher having a heart attack at the ring side)
I haven't fallen off. Yet. (watch, I'll fall off tomorrow)
Mainly my lessons now are my teacher calling out patterns for me to go, letter to letter, circles, shoulder in, yields, learning to tell the horse to bend around my leg, that sort of stuff. Not speedy riding, but controlled riding.
I'm mostly concerned with learning to have gentle hands and be a quiet rider so I can give simple and direct cues so my horse can relax and happily follow them. (instead of being a spaz that is telling her 20 different things at once because I don't know better)
Oh, and posting on the correct lead when I trot. Cuz' apparently that's too advanced for me.
Yesterday was awesome! I trotted on Max (on the lunge line)! That seems like a little victory, but it is huge for me.
We found out why Max has been so ornery under saddle. The original vet that did his pre sale told me that his teeth were fine. We've had some drama with that vet in the barn, so this is no surprise, but his teeth were NOT fine at all. I had his teeth floated right at the one year mark after getting him, pretty much, and the vet that did it had me feel his teeth. It was like putting my hand in a shark's mouth. Every tooth had a sharp point. I was so mad!!! Of course, as soon as his teeth were done, he turned into a completely different horse under saddle.
My coach and I have been working diligently to get Max and me ready to pair up. She's been working him almost every day and I have been riding almost every day, too! I switched to a great little lesson pony that jars you out of the saddle every stride. It was awesome! It really worked out my muscles and endurance. I learned to canter on that little guy.
I was falling in love with that little pony... and then he went lame. :( It wasn't my fault, although I was scared to death I had overridden him by coming by every day. Apparently he bruised his hoof a little bit while he was out frolicking. (which is kind of hard to image since he is the most sedate little bombproof pony) My coach was trying to figure out who I could ride so I didn't "lose it" while my lesson pony recovered, and then she said "You need to ride your own horse anyway! If you can ride Rusty, you can totally ride Max"
I had a lesson back on my original lesson horse, and it was amazing. She's got this really smooth quality to her ride, and I felt like I was floating at every gait - walk - trot - and canter! My coach said "see! You can really ride now! You can't beat yourself up when you're riding Rusty, that's just silly. He's just a really bouncy hard pony to ride!" That made me feel a lot better. She told me that if I could ride bouncy Rusty that Max would feel easy after that!
I walked Max around the ring the other day on my off lesson day. He was such a cute sweetheart. I realized just how curious he is. Usually you think of a horse spooking at something and running the other way, but with him it's like his curiosity draws him right back to it.
Well, except for sunlight. 'cuz that stuff's going to kill us all! My coach was riding him around the ring kind of late in the day, and he started getting scared of sunlight. It was hilarious. At one point, he thought the shadow from the fence was a rail he had to jump over. At another point, he thought the pool of sunlight was a river he had to wade through. He was so funny! By the end of it, he realized we weren't all in grave danger of being irradiated to death.
So, anyways, my hubby was there in the ring with me while I walked Max around. He was watching videos on his cell phone, and one of our walk-bys the cell phone let out this screeching scream. Max flinched for a second and looked at it, so I walked him over to the cell phone and my hubby held it out. Max sniffed it and proceeded to try and eat it. We didn't let him do that, so he sniffed my hubby's shoe and tried to eat that. It was a really cool moment. He's so naturally curious and explorative, and it reminds me that he's only been alive for 7 years! There's so many things that are new to him. I don't plan on stopping and showing him every one of them, but it was cool to explore with him a little bit.
I showed up to ride today after having a day off, where my coach rode him, and was greeted with a recount of his bratty demeanor in my absence. She said all his old bratty habits resurfaced on their ride. I was going into my ride on him thinking "oh great, I screwed him up!!!". I was ready for battle! I was going to learn to be more tough! Then I got on him and he was a perfect angel. He was even better than my walk on him the other day. He was relaxed and happy and did everything I told him to.
My coach and I decided I would feel better trotting him around on the lunge line. Last time I tried to trot him, I feel forward and squeezed with my legs... and we had to use the fence as a stop. She hooked him up to the lunge line and told me to do my thing. It was amazing! After riding that bouncy little pony, he felt like a smooth pleasure horse. Of course, he's still a bouncy fancy lipizzan, but nothing like Rusty! We trotted both ways. She also had me work on my stopping, because he stops when I just think stop. If I do anything more than move my pinky, he skids to a halt. I thought that was just the bees knees. Then I had to work on not stopping, because he was kind of digging the concept of stopping and standing there while I loved on him.
So there it is! After months and months of self doubt and writing an endless stream of checks, I'm finally riding my own horse! One thing I learned along the way is there is no scrimping in the horse world. If I want to make progress, I just have to work more and write bigger checks. But... it's worth it in the end! Sooo worth it!
Hopefully I will have videos and more updates soon.
It is always amazing to read someone's trip to getting confident at riding. Makes me try to remember how in hell did I learn, because now, after all those years, I feel like I can ride almost any horse at some level, but none too well. And especially, starting to trot on bad ground with my completely green horse, whose trot is all mismatched due to ground and getting used to extra weight on his back, reminds me, how similar to learning to trot it is. It probably looks horrible from the side, even though after seeing a video my friend said it was looking very good, for so few rides on him.
Everything comes with time, and I am sure, if you saw yourself a year ago, you would laugh all the issues off and be your confident self you are now, riding your own horse!!! It is a special feeling, isn't it?