Love and appreciate Mr. Oats

Boldness comes from confidence and confidence comes from success.

Quote by Jack LeGeoff, a very famous showjumper. And I have to say…He’s right. I was musing on this verbally with my trainer last night. I have had long-standing anxiety/fear issues with jumping (even though I love it!!) and it’s taken me a long, long time to let my body and brain be okay with what I’m doing- jumping! Years and years at 2′ basically.

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Screengrab my trainer took- Oats cantering 2’9” like a little pro! Can you believe we TROTTED this in our warm-up? Me either! 

In some aspects I look back and am like, man why did it take that long? But that’s basically the same emotion as finishing a solid personal-best style race and muttering, ‘Why couldn’t I have gone just a little bit faster?’ It doesn’t serve anyone.

What does serve is being appreciative and happy with the progress you/I have made. Taking it jump by jump, lesson by lesson, and day by day. I don’t really take it for granted (much…It’s still a human instinct apparently).

Anyways, my trainer announced she was going to have me do something yesterday that she knew I’d really hate- trot jumps. Ughhh!! Even better, we were going to play the ‘how high can you go’ with a trot jump?! I was like, oh this is going to be good… But I played along! Part of my anxiety in the past wouldn’t let me just try things, and I’m ready to try now.

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Another, less fabulous screengrab- a fail on my part, a too-close distance for Oats over the oxer. We had to re-ride this (and it went fantastic!) 

So we trotted in! We started with a canter x-rail, and then moved it to a very small (under 2ft) vertical for the trot in. We did a few trot in, and up it went! And then up it went again and we went SPLAT for one jump- I kind of pushed and then pulled and couldn’t make up my mind to leave him alone to it, haha. And then to 2’6”! Wha? I got with the rhythm a bit better, and figured things out, and we called it quits…Until I said go to 2’9”- I know we can do it. And the first time, I got nervous and did the ‘Go-no wait, no canter, now go!’ And I did confuse the poor pony but he bobbled up to it and flew over! We had to do it again, and this time I TROTTED and didn’t get all nervous and grabby. 🙂 YAY Oats!

It felt like a ‘Oats/Jesus take the wheel!’ moment but it was excellent for the both of us. For me, to understand that jumping bigger fences and ‘waiting’ not rushing or driving at them is a-ok and totally fine. For Oats, he was pushing off his hind end more equally. Win-win! And a bonus- when we went to canter it for our second course, it felt pretty darn easy.

That’s not to say our courses were foot-perfect (hahah no) we got in way too close on our second round to the rocks and to the oxer, so we had to ride them again. But you know what? I just love and appreciate the ‘try’ my pony exhibited in the whole ride, his willingness, and the mind/mental freedom I had to give these new and scary things a go.

Moment by moment, I just really am feeling this little guy more and more now.

“20 push-ups? That’s pretty good. You could join the military as a man!” And other sort-of successes…

So, even though I was still feeling crummy and tired, I followed through on my jump lesson yesterday.

I will admit I wasn’t feeling super enthusiastic- I was still snotty, gross, exhausted, work was insane, and I was/am feeling just blah blah blah blah blah!

Older winter photo of Oats

Older winter photo of Oats

Nevertheless! We persevere! Right on to…Failing at gymnastics, yet again. It was even an easier one- x-rail to a small vertical, and I could NOT seem to get it together. Weirdly, my hands had a life of their own this time and wanted to pull back, catching poor Oats in the mouth. Normally they kind of float too high over his neck…So this was ‘floating, but also kind of pulling’ hands. ARGH. My timing was off, my knee was pinching like crazy, my lower leg was swinging…My riding was certainly sub-optimal.

Oats was feeling it from me too, I think. He was a bit pissy in the canter, we had 1 or two good ‘eff you!’ kick-outs but no other shenanigans with that, and we had TWO stops on the canter-circle jump (he’s not a stopper, so I figured he was just surprised by the idea that we now had to jump on a circle…’) AND we have 1 flub in the gymnastics where he tripped, I ended up on his neck, and I pulled him out of it, though to be fair, he would have continued through with no real problems if I’d actually sat up and rode through it…Now that I’m thinking about it, I wasn’t exactly riding assertively through the circle jump either…

Progress can be hard to measure

Progress can be hard to measure

Anyways, I was feeling pretty shitty and tired, and my riding reflected that sort of ‘out of it’-ness.

BUT Oats and I kept working at it, and darn it, we did improve. Not by a fabulous measure, (the circle jump got lowered to a tiny x-rail), but we rode through a small course after the gymnastics (which we did without me yanking him back) that included a skinny- rode it well, the circle jump that he just cantered over, and a really nice distance to the green boxes, and a really ick short distance to the black and white fence.

So…Good and bad.

I’m still learning to keep gymnastics in perspective (what do I do with my hands? When is the jump? How are we doing to get there? DO MORE WITH ALL OF YOUR BODY PARTS!>!!!???) and I guess I am going to have to keep, grimly, going through them, over and over, until they get a bit more natural.

I’m happy with some of the pace we had, I still had an issue with straightness but I felt like it was a tad better than last week, and I was mostly happy with our distances to the fences- minus the 1 really ick short distance at the end (blame it on pilot error here…).

I am still working on visualization and I hope it’s helping. I find I’m enjoying revisiting my lessons (well, the ‘ideal’ version of my lessons because it’s too flippin’ easy to visualize all the negative parts I just outlined).

And Oats continues to be a good Oats. Go pony! Also going to be riding with a neckstrap next week to see if I can figure out what to NOT do with my hands over gymnastics. Sigh…