Early Days

Snap out of it!

Well, we didn’t do the schooling at Shepherd Ranch we had planned for this weekend. Mother Nature didn’t get the memo that it’s summertime and decided to bring in a windy rainstorm. Aarrgh. We trailered down the street to get a jumping lesson at our trainer’s facility instead.

I have to say, it was a crazy morning. Miscommunications were abound and it resulted in me feeling pretty stressed out. 9 times out of 10 I can shrug that stuff off, but unfortunately that leaves me feeling helpless and hopeless the other 10%. Saturday was one of those days – for some reason I just couldn’t snap out of it.

So, how do you work on improving something when you aren’t faced with it very often? I’ve got two things in this regard that I need help with: refusals (preventing them), and snapping out of a bad mental state.
My lovely Spirit is game. Especially when she was younger, she’d jump anything. Now she’s caught on that its much easier if I actually ride her correctly, so she now expects me to do my part. But at our last schooling we had refusals. It really put me off balance, since we so rarely get them at home. I didn’t know how to handle it, and its something I definitely want to fix before the show. I don’t expect to be competitive at the HT, but it is my goal to compete in all 3 phases so I don’t want to get eliminated in XC. The refusals have me nervous about achieving that goal. So, here is the problem: how do I practice identifying and remedying in-progress refusals when my horse doesn’t refuse often? I asked my trainer if I could ride a different horse at the barn – there’s a wonderful mare who absolutely demands that you ride correctly or else she will not jump – period. I was hoping some time on her would be a crash course in feeling a refusal coming and learning how to fix it. My trainer thought it was a great idea and I got it all set up, but then she changed her mind due to the horse’s schedule & current rider (they’ve got a good groove and I guess a lesson with me could throw it off) and I’m left now kinda at square 1. She suggested another horse, and I definitely will take her up on the offer, but I rode that other horse before and she was a point-and-shoot. Well, maybe that one ride was a fluke ride? It may be weird, but I really want to ride a horse that won’t jump! I need to work on fixing it!
As for my second thing to work on – how do I fix my mental attitude when normally that comes so easily to me? I got in a mental funk this past Saturday and I had a very hard time getting out of it. Took me two days, lots of crying, lots of hugs from my amazing fiancée, and even now I feel a tinge of it lingering around. Unlike my first problem, I’m not gonna go looking for situations to put me in a bad mood so that I can practice getting out of it. My approach to this one is to compile a list of things I can do or think in those moments, and feel more prepared for the next time it happens. I think I’ll have to put the list in my wallet or something so that it is with me at all times. We’ll see how that works. 
So, given that I had a personal raincloud over me for the jump lesson, I will do my best to give an accurate account of how it went. Firstly, my trainer taught me the important distinction between obedience and patience. I had always slumped them together. When I mount my horse and other horses start walking away, and I want Spirit to wait until its *my* idea, I was just forcing her to stand. This of course pissed off Spirit who started to get light on her front feet, and I start growling at her. Laurie taught me to instead walk her in the opposite way, then come back and halt, and then when I feel her sigh/release, allow her to follow the other horses. Worked like a charm. This is why she gets the big bucks. ;)
On to actual jumping: we did fine. Nothing great, nothing horrible. My frustrated mood made my response time slacken, and I made a few bad judgement calls that I immediately got chewed out for but then immediately fixed. We worked on our bogie – down banks – and Spirit is now a pro. I’m still nervous about them, but Spirit didn’t seem to mind at all. She’s such an amazing horse. We also did a little hill, and I felt good about keeping Spirit upright when going downhill. Jumping course was good. Got to do some singles and double-strides, which we don’t do at home (too few jumps). Spirit was a champ – patient or forward, depending on what I asked. Plus she was listening very nicely, I thought. A problem that she and I have was articulated nicely at this lesson: when we land on a jump, Spirit throws her neck and head forward causing her to go on the forehand and me to go on her neck. I’m used to it at this point, and don’t have much of a basis for comparison.  Laurie told me that it is not very easy to fix: I have to sit up and give her a little jerk to immediately get her back on her haunches. I tried a few times and apparently did a good job, though I couldn’t really feel a super significant change. 
Well, on to read how some of my favorite bloggers did over the weekend! 

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