Monday, August 24, 2009

"Enjoy your horse"

Just some pre-school (no, not that pre-school) pausing for consideration. This summer with Greta has been nothing short of an exhilarating roller coaster ride. Might as well blog about it.

I guess I could say that I have this jealousy of those excellent riders I see on the covers of Dressage Today. They don't bounce all over the place sitting the trot. Their feet don't do the Charleston or the hillbilly jig when they post the trot. Their canters are collected and controlled. Their horses are supple and rounded and on the bit. They are nothing short of perfect. I admit it: I am insanely jealous. Why can't I be there? I've already shown successfully at Training Level. Greta is supposedly trained up to third level. And I've seen her, felt her, collect the canter and the trot and even do a flying lead change. But I didn't ask for it. It seems like everything I do ask is just responded with a burst of speed. What am I doing wrong?

What am I doing wrong? Well, let's answer that.

"Foundations" is a song by Kate Nash. One of the lines, she sings in her very-apparent British accent, "My fingertips are holding onto the cracks in our foundations / And I know that I should let go / But I can't."

We have cracks in our foundations. I'm expecting instant perfection, even though my instant perfection from previous horses was primarily due to the fact that they were all schoolmaster horses that I was riding. Of course I looked good. Greta has a year and a half of retraining for polo and who-knows-what-else between her previous training and now. I do put some slight blame on our riding situation until the end of this week, but it doesn't even compare to how rusty we both are.

I am holding onto the cracks in our foundations. I'm blaming this and blaming that. I'm expecting perfection in that instant. There have been a few times in this past three months I have just hopped up on her and gotten frustrated at myself for not knowing what the hell I was doing and then getting frustrated at poor Greta because she was hyped because I was hyped up. I know that I should let go of all this frustration with our riding status, but I have not.

I took Greta out on a trail three times this summer. Each and every time was so very refreshing. We were just dawdling along, just us. I took her into her pasture, the least hole-y of the pastures, and just rode her. Let her run around a bit. We had a blast.

Today was my last lesson at the HELP Barn. The arena was closed off, so we had to do a lesson in the pasture. I was already frustrated at my inability to wake up on time and the fact that the arena was closed off and the fact that there were still ditches around the barn from where they were planning to lay the new electrical wire and the fact that I hadn't ridden Greta for two days and the fact that she had gotten into a fight with a temporary pasture mate and I felt that Greta was just about being blamed for something that the other mare equal dealing with (neither sustained serious injuries anyway!) The mess of it all was just frying my brain. I was calm grooming Greta and tacking her up and talking to her and cuddling with her and telling her honestly what a perfect and beautiful horse she was. And then I got on her.

A big open field seemed much more ideal than a tiny intended-for-walking-only arena. But my frustration made me stiff and anxious. I bounced all over the place at the trot, our canter was totally on-the-forehand, and I still couldn't get my feet just where I wanted them. Greta's weaving all through the mesquite sproutlings was driving me crazy and throwing me off which threw Greta off. It was disastrous. Finally, I just stopped and gave Greta her head and walked her. I suddenly realized my stiff back and my clenched jaw.

I let go of the cracks in our foundation and I moved on. I actually relaxed. I felt better. I felt calmly happy. I tried a trot. Smooth. Perfect. I tried a canter. Collected. Controlled. A walk.

"Perfect!" my instructor called.

This was. This was perfect. We were tapping into the little thing called harmony.

The lesson ended, my instructor walked up to me. "Cool her down and quit trying to make everything like a lesson. We're not cramming for a show. Enjoy your horse."

I walked Greta around, and she picked her way through the brushy part of the pasture like the smart, trail-savvy girl that she is. We walked. We reached the other end of the pasture and I halted. Greta seemed to follow my gaze to the other end, and she flicked an ear and eye back at me. I flopped over her neck and whispered, "Me and my temper. We'll get there.... eventually."

She perked both ears up at the end of the pasture. Nothing was there. I felt some energy churn up in her. We were in a big, open, spacious field. We walked for a few strides, and then we ran. I stood up in the irons and let her go.

I felt so silly about my petty frustrations. For God's sake, I have a horse of my very own! What more could I want? She still comes up to greet me and check in on me no matter how flustered I get. She came up to me and let me hold her the day Claudia went away. She called for me and nuzzled me when she heard me crying behind the barn the night we put Rocket down. Three months, and she is strangely already in tune with me. What was my problem?

I saw what Greta had been looking at earlier. My instructor was at the entrance to the barn. I was embarrassed that she saw my cliche run. But she just smiled.

"Walk Greta," she called, "then you'll be done with your lesson."

Lesson indeed.

Excuse the rambling. Just a story.

I really do look forward to starting up school again and going out to groom Greta for the rest of the week, and then the rest of next week, and maybe the next week after that while she and I both get adjusted to the new stables. Besides, riding isn't everything. It's fun, yes, but I find it just as fun to sit and socialize.


  1. Well, you aren't the only one who has ever felt like that! I still do at times, but I have just realized that with my horse I'm going to enjoy the journey. Have you noticed, that you set a goal with Greta and reach it you just want more? Hmmm. You've only had her three months. Let me use and example. Two years ago I went off Jackson and broke my shoulder. This was a pretty big deal and I have had fear issues to deal with out the wazoo. (Also, I have had a bigger deal with fear as I am single mom and NO ONE ELSE is going to pay the bills...)NOW, I ride him all the time on trails and in lessons and can forsee actually doing the things I want to with him. And I WANT MORE! I want more lessons, higher jumps, I want to progress faster, etc. But you have to take the time it takes. I love the book called Ride with Your Mind Essentials by Mary Wanless. I think I like it more than my Sally Swift books. Check it out. It has bettered my riding exponentially. If I could buy it for everyone I know and then make them read it, I really would. It is that good! Have fun in school!

  2. Hmmm. That saying on the side bar looks familiar.

  3. I will look at that book! Oh, it's good to know I'm not the only impatient rider out there. Yeah, I kind of slapped myself in the face with that last incident, and I've been taking it slow now. Just grooming and loungeing, and working on trailer loading for Saturday! Now I'm just impatient to be patient. I'm ready to be patient for more than a few days! God, I'm bad.

    Yes! It is your quote! Is it your quote or did you get it form somewhere else? I absolutely love it. It's a nice little reminder to me every time I see it. And I think it is a "code" everyone should live by. It needs to be posted up in every barn!

  4. I actually saw it during a DVR of World's in 2007--a commercial for the World Equestrian Federation. I rewound that thing a ton to get that quote down. It was super cool because they had a silhouette of a girl with her saddled horse going out the door of a barn. I still have it saved on my Tivo. I agree. It is inspirational and I look at that when I start wishing too hard for things! Lots of people just wanna own a horse... I WISH i could think up stuff like that! But truer words have never been spoken. You should check out my poem "Always There are the Horses", I think it is my very first blog. Obviously someone you know who has that blog title! YOU WILL LOVE IT!!! Going to ride my friends PERFECTLY trained (in dressage) AngloArab (same breed as Jackson)for a lesson today! Jacks isn't as healed as I'd like and riding Ozzie will give me some "me" time as far as not worrying so much about also training my boy!!! When I get impatient I get into my books and research riding and "see" myself doing it. I also keep a journal detailing every lesson and ride so I can see where I've been. I dream it and pretend my car is a horse; god, you'd think I'd be ready for Grand Prix with as much as it goes through my head....But it does help channel the impatience, and does help with the learning; they say envisioning yourself doing things correctly helps you to do them in person!!! (GRIN!)


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