Had an interesting dressage ride last night- it was not just tough, but more like very mentally difficult.
We worked on quick steps, and then moved up to sitting trot to leg yield, and then leg yield to canter on the short side of the arena. And MAN this fired up my defensiveness in a hurry! I felt anxious! Oats started ‘hopping’ and I felt very worried, and it showed through my hands raising, my leaning forward and taking my leg off. The hopping and his anticipation of the canter made the bugaboos in my head run wild- all I could think of was this is it, this is when he leaps up and turfs me! (I’m no stranger to getting dumped by my pony!).
When I started blanking out and getting nervous, Karen was like just focus on what *you* want out of this- a trot. Not canter (at this point) nothing else…Keep your hands low and stop raising them defensively, don’t stop riding and freeze up…Just…keep going with what you want!
It was very challenging. Him rising up and hopping triggers all of my anxiety and brings bad bad memories, not even in my head but in my body too! I SOoooo did not want to continue, in the worst way I wanted to stop, call it quits!
We kept going! I put my leg on, ignored the hopping into canter, focused on low hands and sitting very still, and asked for bend bend bend bend. Oats got with the program. and started to acquiesce to my demands. We noticed a pattern- when he got to the far side of the ring- the open side- he would try to either spook, or hop into a canter, because it was easier than what I was asking- for more trot, and more bend through his right side. This was clearly an evasive tactic.
Once I could see it for what it was, I started thinking and riding more effectively and clearly. The anxiety fog in my brain lifted, and as Karen said, Oats wasn’t even being naughty or anything- he was honestly having trouble with what I was asking, and he was trying to find ways to deal with it. He CAN be a little shit, but this isn’t it. Not at all. And the rising up/hopping behaviour is him lifting off his forehand (a positive sign) that I am actually having a hard time learning how to ride! I want to pull back and pull him to a stop.
So, I learned a lot but it was learning that was hard-won.
Oats learned a lot too, and I need to be more open and flexible in my approach when he struggles to do what I’m asking. He doesn’t want to be bad at this point- he is learning and having a tough time with it sometimes.
Oh and he was really good to the left. Ha.