Double thread: Riding question and mental question
First with the more positive part.
I have wanted to get my to drive more from the hind end forever. If I don't encourage it she drags herself along. You can actually hear her feet hitting the ground and dragging at the trot. About a week ago, I decided to try something to see if it worked. I could hear her dragging her feet as well as feel her schlepping herself along. I lowered my hands, I picked up slightly more contact with both hands, pushed with my legs and set my weight farther back. Suddenly her feet stopped making that dragging sound, and I could feel her MOVING. Her withers seemed to come upward. Am I properly making her work from her hind? If I am, I'm really excited!
Now the more upsetting part.
Two days later we went to a horse show. Jumping at training level (under 3'), hoping to maybe amp up the jumps soon as I was getting really comfortable with this height. First round my head wasn't in it. I messed up half the course and got DQ'd. Second round was clear, but I knew I did some jumps like an idiot. I brushed that off and got to the third round. Well I OWNED the first half. I knocked one rail but my time was so good I still made the jump off. So the course starts with a jump towards the audience with a tight rollback to a long bending line, with the second part of that line being a WIDE oxer. First jump, score. Beautiful, balanced turn to the next jump. I'm not exactly sure what happened next. A combination of my general excitement, my urgency to get to the next jump, or the fact that I was happy I didn't tip over on the last turn, or that my horse just was excited and decided not to listen to my inside leg, but it all led to me taking the jump like an idiot committing suicide. (jump was on the rail) I was on the inside edge of the jump, taking it at a 45 degree angle for whatever reason. Stupid stupid stupid! My horse is a savior, because she takes the damn jump, clips it in the back (understandable, this thing was huge and just became bigger because of the angle), which causes me to flip over her head and land square on my back. (On a side note, whenever anyone else fell off that day their horse ran off. She stayed right next to me. ) I open my eyes and I see her neck above me. I roll over onto my back when I realize that it hurts really, really bad. I decide its better to not move. They take me on a backboard to the hospital with all this rushing around, to find out that I sprained muscles supporting my spine and pelvis. It was difficult to walk. Flash to a week later, which is today, and I can walk perfectly fine. Stairs hurt, running hurts, touching my back hurts, and I have semi-permanent superficial nerve damage to an unimportant spot on my back. Flash to two days ago, the first day I rode (walk trot only) and I was basically crying every lap around the ring. I lost a lot of leg strength from sitting around all day for a week. This made it really difficult to even attempt to do anything I was doing (see part one) and when I did attempt it, I couldn't keep anything up. Now last time something like this happened it was just me going through a phase. I was saying I hated riding and horses and everything and thinking about them made me upset, but I realized I was being stupid. But this time I just don't like riding anymore. I can spend all day grooming and caring for her, I just don't want to put a saddle on. Before my fall I was overconfident in my skills, and now I feel so weak and stupid. I know that as soon as I'm well enough my trainer will try to make me jump again. My hands are shaking just typing this. I'm not scared of falling off. I lost all confidence in my ability to ride, especially jumps. I guess I am afraid of falling off, in a sort of "I'msobadI'llfallwhenIjump" way. Giving up jumping would mean paying for expensive-ish lessons to only do flatwork (which, btw, the instructor will occasionally walk away from if there is something to be done. Don't comment on this please I don't want to talk about my trainer AT ALL.)
I don't know what to do anymore. I don't want to to talk to any of my riding friends because they've never been in this kind of situation. The only one who has was riding a horse way above her level that she was rather mean to, so neither of them liked each other. I love my horse to death. I don't want to be scared of one of the only things I truly love.
Sorry for the wall...
Firstly- bravo for realizing your mistake. It takes a real rider to know where they went wrong.
Secondly- we all make mistakes! Every last one of us has made at least one judgement error that has ended badly. I certainly have, and have a bad back to remind me of it.
Thirdly- what you're feeling is normal. You were confident, your confidence led to a fall that put you in hospital. That is scary, and it's allowed to be scary. What it can't be is all-consuming.
You are not dumb, you are human. We make errors all the time. You might be a bit weak and not as strong in the saddle because of the time off and the nerve damage. You will get that back. You will get your confidence back, too- but it's something you're going to have to work towards, just like getting your strength back. It won't be easy or fun, but it will happen.
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I lost my confidence for a while too, actually I sold my horse shortly after, took a few years off. But the way I have got it back is to not take it seriously, and to just pretend I am confident. To do what I enjoy with horses. Why don't you stop having lessons for a little while and just do trails? Or just muck around and have fun? Or teach her some tricks on the ground?.
Give yourself a couple of months and then re-evaluate the situation.
Can someone answer the first question as well? Not as important, just curious. :)
Please answer the first question?
I think you did have your horse on the bit. Lowering the hands and pushing the horse iinto the bit is kind of cheating (at least the dressage knowlegdeable persons will say so.) But it's a start, if you ask me. More important is that you took more contact, and then asked for more forward. Sometimes one needs to lower their hands to "show" the horse the way to stretch forward and take the bit forward. Just don't be too stiff with the downward pressure. If the horse is resisiting this, it's because when you lower your hands, the bit may push harder against the bars. If you do this, and she isn't too stiff, kind of "tickle " her with the inside rein to ask for some bend and if she gives to the bit, then be sure to give back to her , but just the tiniest bit. More like give "forward", and keep your thumbs pointing straight to her bit.
It's great that you can feel a real difference in her way of going when you ask her to make contact with the bit and step under some. You ask for more energy (legs) but you ask the horse to contain the energy and have more LIFT in the energy by not letting it fall out the front (the contact on the bit creates a kind of border for the forward push). Make any sense?
You might like to spend some time exploring dressage instead of jumping. Dressage is about detail and finesse, rather than speed and bravery. It can be totally addictive and might help you through this time of mental retreat.
I think you are young, so the physical issue will pass, be patient, ok?
Thanks for letting me yak.
While not textbook perfect, it does sound like you executed a successful half halt which brought your horse's hind end under her and lightened her forehand. Normally lowering your hands is not part of the equation, but then we have no way of knowing where your hands were before you lowered them. Maybe you had them too high and brought them down to where they should be. Regardless, half halts and collection comes in bits and pieces at first. You get those wonderful light bulb moments here and there, and after you play with it awhile, you find you can produce lightness on demand which is fantastic. You're definitely on your way there.
As for you accident, sorry to hear it. I can tell you that 2 weeks is way too soon after something like that to be evaluating your future as a rider after an accident that bad. Just take your time to heal before making the big choices.
For your first question, yes, I believe you're on the right track...like myboypuck said, it comes in short sweet peices, until it becomes more and more natural for you and the horse.
For the second one...I have never really been in your shoes, in that regard, BUT if I were ever to arrive there, I think i would probably just do what I am comfortable doing around or with my horse for a very long time. Maybe, more of your fear is coming from the fact that you feel inconfident in your ability to jump again...so don't jump for a long time; maybe take a year (or more, would depend), off from that part of horsey world, and concentrate on flat work...maybe get more into the collection aspect...ie, dressage. Just tell your trainer you have decided to give yourself and your horse a break from jumping, and would like to try something new for a while. Maybe just do some trail riding, or other 'non show' ie lower stress type riding, for a while too. I tell you, on the days that I just don't feel like riding, getting on bareback for a short mosie does wonders. Just be with your horse, ride if you feel like it, but Don't let your trainer, or anyone around you pressure you back into something you don't feel you're quite ready for yet.
Take your time...heal your body, and heal your mind.
Thank you!! These posts are beautiful.
1. As for the lowering my hands part, my trainer is a big "high hands" advocate because some students don't have the leg to stop the horses from falling all over themselves. I lowered my hands to the place a normal person rides with them. I'm really happy that I got a bit of a good start!
2. Oh my, how I wish I could take a year off for dressage...Unfortunately, my horse is a school horse that I really only lease in theory. There really aren't many riding instructors for my age around here that teach anything but basics and jumping. Schooling shows are CROWDED.
These posts are such great answers...I wish I could listen to some of your suggestions.
Perhaps you could kind of experiment a little on your own with dressagey stuff. I mean try positioning your hands in different places. The folks who wrote all the info on dressage, from the earliest texts to recent, know what they know not just from reading someone else's ideas, but from experimenting to see what REALLY works. You might enjoy doing some reading on dressage and trying out some stuff on your own. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing proposition, does it.? There are no dressage instructors for your age? I don't get what your age has to do with it? Am I misinterpretting?
Hope you are feeling better today.
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