So there is a lot in life that is wildly difficult right now. Even going to the grocery store has become a complicated dance of protection and necessity. I am widly thankful to be in a small, but careful, program where we are able to enact biosecurity measures that keep everyone safe, while still allowing me to ride my horse. I am INCREDIBLY lucky and grateful right now.
But it doesn’t negate the fact that riding horses in general is HARD and often times eventing feels like trying to push three boulders up a hill at the same time. Maybe you can keep a hand on two of them, but the third one is trying to roll down the hill anyway.
A few weeks ago, I felt like May and I had made all the progress in the world. We were getting to the point where our step, balance, lines, etc were all really good, and we just needed to dial in on the rhythm. Great!
Then we had a lesson where we just COULDN’T get through a course. (link here) It ended well, and I was able to shrug it off. Oh well, we all have off days. Then, we had our combined test, and while all the rails stayed up, I felt like we had really struggled to get ANY forward momentum going. Again, I shrugged it off. Our next lesson was focused on finding accurate lines and distances, and it mostly went well.
After a week off to do some Dressage work, we were back at it. In that lesson (which apparently I never blogged about), we were forward and covering ground. But for some unknown reason, I couldn’t maintain a line or rhythm. I finally got it together and we did one good course… Again, it seemed like we had overcome things and were doing well.
So that brings up to this week… There is an online virtual combined test that I want to enter. (I guess it’s good I’m nowhere near the FEI levels) The plan was to ride my Dressage test (Novice A because why not get some feedback there), and then SJ at BN round. Fine.
The dressage test was good, and I’ll blog about it more once I get the video.
The show jumping… never happened. We set up the fences at BN height (everything measured), and for once, everything looked pretty small and totally doable. I felt confident, and I went to go do a quick warm up. A vertical, an oxer, another line set in the arena to get things moving.
It became clear pretty quickly that I. Could. Not. get May in front of my leg in a way in which she was covering any kind of ground. I put my leg on and the legs moved faster but didn’t actually GO anywhere.
It never felt scary or unnerving. It just felt… kind of hopeless. It got to the point that to get a standard 12′ stride I had to gallop out of the corners so hard that she was slipping in a freshly dragged, dry, and not deep, arena. And guess what, we were so flat and running (and tired I am sure) that we were catching rails.
It felt awful. I felt awful. Thoughts spiraled down VERY quickly. Like maybe I am asking for something that just isn’t doable for this horse. Maybe asking her to have that 12′ stride just isn’t feasible, and she really should just be a starter level packer. Or a dressage horse. Or a trail horse. Or a hunter pacer. Or something else that doesn’t require her to move in a way her body wasn’t really built to move.
Logically, I know these thoughts are coming from a place that isn’t entirely rational. The whole world is humming at a higher level of anxiety than ever before and, like everyone else, that anxiety is leaking into other parts of my life. But I am still struggling to see the whole thing with any kind of clarity.
Luckily, I have great friends, and one pointed out a really interesting fact to me. Teaching a horse a new skill is not a linear process. Things will get better then worse then better again. Covering ground and operating in that “fifth” gear is still a new skill for May (and me), so it’s not going to click into place immediately, every ride. But it should get closer to being the norm (and not the exception) over time.
So… tonight we are going to try again. Maybe it will go better. Maybe it won’t. If it’s not better, it might be time to adjust the game plan. But this little mare is still telling me she wants to try, so we’re going to keep giving it our best shot.