Full recap of our weekend with Sharon White to come (once I shake off the clinic hangover, omg I am exhausted), but I’ve walked away from the last two weekends with so much information. Namely, much of Archie and my challenges come from a place of fear. In stadium, he knows the drill so even when I get a little bug eyed at a fence, he’s not concerned. But take us out onto the XC course and he feels that hesitation or fear and he thinks, “Well shit, if she’s hesitating, I shouldn’t jump that.” Except, it escalates when he stops: I get more nervous, he starts throwing himself around (after all, why is his crazy owner trying to make him jump something she’s nervous about?), which feeds right back into the cycle. Now some of this is Archie taking advantage and being a dick. Lots of this is my own riding. It’s the combination that puts us into an unfortunate place. Once I get confident, he’s fine – I’ve seen this as I’ve gotten comfortable with the smaller XC fences.
It boils down to two things: physical and mental strength.
The physical is straightforward: when I’m stronger, I’m less nervous. I don’t worry that every big jump or minor disobedience will land me on my ass. I’m more confident to try new things. I also die a little less in my lessons which is always a positive. This is the easy one to solve. I’m back on my spin bike, back into yoga, adding pilates and some weights. I don’t love working out, but if I remember I’m doing it for riding (literally my Peloton name is @thepartypony) it makes it easier to do. And spin is fun at least.
Mental on the other hand… that’s the harder one. Repetition helps. The more I jump something, the easier it gets. But that’s not always possible, particularly when it comes to showing. And it’s totally lizard brain taking over, because if I think through it logically, I’m fine. BN black rolltop at home: I’ve jumped it 100 times between Doc and Iggy. Never had a problem with it. It always jumps well. We were jumping it coming towards home, which is always easier. What was I afraid of? That he’d jump it giant and unseat me? He’s never done that before. That he’d take off? Never done that. Worrying about a stop? Well, if I worry about the stop and think he’s going to stop, the horse is going to stop! No kidding. A quick tap on the shouder or behind the leg to remind him I mean business is usually all it takes. But that tap? Takes the mental willpower of an elephant. Despite that my horse has never lost it over a quick tap.
I struggled for years with fear after my riding accident. Like, went from a happy hunter kiddo to being afraid to have a lunge line lesson. Then afraid to canter. Afraid to ride outside an arena. It’s hard to accurately represent the terror I had as a kid. I distinctly remember sitting on my trainer’s older than dirt gelding for an entire “lesson” – and when he shifted his weight to cock a back foot, being in sobbing tears of fear. The fact that I ride, much less event, twenty years later is remarkable. The fact that I’m able to work through my fear 99% of the time is amazing and a testament to a lot of hard mental work as a kid. This fear is not that fear. That fear was paralyzing. This is just self-doubt.
So, I’ve bought the books. Signed up for the classes. Brought it up to work on in therapy.
I’m not afraid to do the work. I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t do the work.