If you think you are the worst rider on the planet, rest assured, you're not. If you've ever thought that you have no business being on a horse, welcome to the club; I am the president.
For the last two months Sydney's been nothing but mellow and happy. When I ride him, he eagerly shoves his nose into the bridle, and his ears flop lazily to the side. He's had a few reasons to spook and run, but after only a stride or two, he quickly returns to his happy, mellow pace. I know he's not on the bit and he's definitely not forward, but he's relaxed and working with me.
I was feeling so pleased with his progress that I decided to do a video of our riding. I propped my camera up on the mounting block and did my regular morning ride. I tried really hard to ignore the camera and just do what we always do. I finished with a happy horse who isn't anxious anymore. That was enough.
And then I watched 35 minutes of oh geez. Really? That's what we look like? Very deep sigh of frustration. The carabiner broke and I've tumbled back to the bottom of the mountain.
There was no way I was putting that video up on my blog. After a year, this is all we can do? My contact is anything but steady. My seat and legs are anything but solid. My hands are anything but quiet. Welcome to my pity party.
Being a perfectionist has many benefits. I get a lot done and it's always done well. The problem with being a perfectionist is that there's no posing; I can't fool myself. If I know I've failed or haven't done something satisfactorily, it's impossible to shake off the cloak of failure. Out come the boxing gloves and I proceed to beat myself up.
I took Speedy to my regular Wednesday lesson, but I wasn't feeling like taking a lesson. I started by telling JL what Speedy and I had worked on over the week, but then I found myself spilling my guts about the video and how I have no talent and why can't I get this. I even teared up a bit. Admitting that you suck can be a painful experience.
JL is an awesome trainer. She listened intently without placating me or trying to stroke my ego. She also failed to agree with me. One of the first things she did was tell me a quick story: another student made the comment that she was unable to ride and talk at the same time like I do. She needed to stop riding before she could answer JL's questions. When JL finished her little anecdote, I burst our laughing through my tears. I may ride like sh*t, but at least I can walk and chew gum!
The point she was making was that we are all better at some things than others. She asked me if dressage is easy. Of course not. If it were, everyone would be doing it. She then asked me what I didn't like about the video. I told her. Her response had to do with form and function. Of what value is it to look good if our horses aren't moving correctly? She then gave me some suggestions for moving on since Sydney now seems ready for more.
After my lesson was over (more on that in the next post), I rode Sydney and tried some of the things she suggested and quit worrying about how I looked while doing it.
JL's advice was to start riding Sydney with fewer accommodations. He's ready for me to turn up the volume without the need to panic. One problem has been his pokey trot. JL said to go ahead and ask for faster. She suggested I point him forward and ask for GO. Let him go a few strides and bring him back to slow. It worked beautifully!
I asked for a brisker trot and got it. In the past, he would have bolted out from under me. I let him go for a few strides and then slowly sank deeper into the saddle. He immediately walked. We did a few more of these transitions until he was happily trotting around briskly and then slowly. We came back to the walk and cruised around the arena to check out the scary farmer pulling weeds in the orchard just beyond the fence. Sydney gave him the one-eyed ogle but then went back to ambling along his way.
If you're still with me, thanks for letting me vent. I find it humiliating to admit when I am not competent at something. I read quite a few other blogs and get really discouraged to see and hear how fabulous everyone else is doing. Don't misunderstand; I am happy for their success, but it often makes me feel even worse about my own struggle.
Here's a very short clip of my ride on Sydney. Please don't tell me that we look great just because you want to make me feel better. I can see for myself that it's not great. I also don't need a bunch of advice either. I can see what's wrong. Part of it is definitely me, but part of it has been Sydney's inability to relax and trust me. I think the one thing the video does show is that he is a lot more relaxed and mellow now than he has been in any other video.