Dressage lesson semi-private last night, and we had a long chat about courage and progress. I have done a lot – a LOT – of work on this particular subject matter this past year, to manage my anxiety. So, I had some things to say on this matter for sure!
Wish we could ride outside now!
I still have trouble managing my anxiety on occasion- and when this happens, I have to breathe, accept and recognize how I’m feeling, acknowledge it, and let myself ‘feel’ that discomfort. The more I do this, the better I get at it. It’s a journey, for sure, and we live a long life!
In our lesson, we worked on haunches-in against the wall, quickening to trot steps, then back to walk, all in the haunches-in. We struggled a bit with maintaining the angle of the haunches-in during the transition, and actually during the trot as well, but when we changed reins and tried it again on the other rein, and then went back to the original side, things actually improved!
Oats did give one sassy buck/kick out in protest, but in the general scheme of things, he was very good and getting WAY better at lateral work without big hissyfits. Ha, never thought I’d see the day when Oats isn’t the lesson’s problem child!
Instead, my lesson partner had to manage some issues with her horse that cropped up during the canter. Her horse is very good at lateral work, better than Oats, but is managing some behavioural issues right now…
And one thing struck me- you can say ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I would definitely canter, it’s just that my back hurts’ or whatever, but in the end, you are lying to yourself and your horse. It’s ok to be afraid. Hell, I spent a good, long while being afraid of various canter transitions with Oats because I got turfed off him more than once–more than I can recall actually!
When you say ”I’m fine” ”I can do this” and etc., but you ARE AFRAID you are doing yourself, and your horse a real disservice. Be honest. Accept it. Live it! Just don’t try to bluff or bravado your way through it. I can see you are afraid. When you canter, you hunch into a fetal position and your stirrups are literally rattling around instead of firmly planted under your feet! This is not the position of a confident and forward-thinking rider! How do you FEEL?
Very telling, and interestingly, our trainer asked my lesson partner how she felt when she was longing her horse, and the horse was starting to ‘come down’ from being a total jerk. The answer? ”Oh she’s starting to be submissive to me,” and my trainer said yes, that’s good–but how do you feel? That’s not a feeling! There is a mind/body connect that is clearly missing.
Don’t say ”oh that was great” when you are really, truly, genuinely afraid. Your riding gives it away BIGTIME. Horses don’t do well with this type of cognitive dissonance.
How did I get over my fear? Well here’s a big one–I still feel it. I now acknowledge it, and I understand how I am feeling on any given day, and it gives me the tools to manage it, and ride well with it. I don’t push it away, shove it under, or gloss over it. It exists.
The motivation has to come from inside. I don’t think my lesson partner gets it, at all right now.
It has taken me a long time to get it. Sometimes, I don’t have it even! That’s fine, it is a part of the journey and a good part of that is recognizing how far we have come even now.