Thursday, May 4, 2017

Head Games

I am sure all amateur owners and riders alike have been there – whether or not we care to admit it. The mind can be a very powerful thing, a useful tool in most applications, but a deadly war-zone in others. There is a weak trace of  irony in it for equestrians -  mixing in a 1,000lb beast that most love and enjoy because of their sheer ability to make us feel free. But sometimes we don’t feel very free. Sometimes we don’t stop to appreciate what we have, and moreso don’t have appreciation for what we are striving for or the stepping stones along the way.
Riding horses is one of the most beautiful, gratifying, and completely mesmerizing things in the entire world. I imagine it is much like deep-sea diving or orchestrating a masterpiece in front of a live audience. It is terrifying, exhilarating, and completely and utterly satisfying to the heart.
The common-thing that drives each of us equestrians to our goals isn’t to be the best we can be, but to be the best partner we can be. We strive to be an honest rider, and we strive to do the same with our horse.

The future I have for Annie isn’t so different from this kaleidoscope we all look through with starry-eyes and mesmerized minds. We don’t need the next 4* eventer, and we know that, but it doesn’t stop us from dreaming of the future and all that we can accomplish with our partner.
Horses are a funny thing. They can be young or old, big or small, but they throw us hurtling on this roller-coaster that never seems endless of ups and down. And to say I have been chugging along steadily would be a big, fat lie.
People are planners by nature, and when progress isn’t met, or other diversions pop up, we feel very cheated. Our spirits plummet, our motivation drops, and our minds chug along with a roller-coaster of their own. 
Obviously for me, the biggest obstacle is the business of trailer loading. It is like this big, ugly green monster that lurks behind every well-intentioned conversation and every plan I had made. Our lack of mobility is a whole slew of emotions : embarrassing, frustrating, depressing, frightening, annoying, stupid, discouraging…
Most times I manage to shut the unwelcome, negative words out. But it gets harder with each conversation and as the guilt of what happened piles on and spills over the edges. The recent blip in progress is just the nail in the coffin of what was beginning to look like a very promising and painless process.
But horses aren’t like that. Nothing worth having comes easy, and plateaus are to be expected, especially in this business. But still, the frustration is something that will never fully dissolve or dissipate, especially when you have had the taste of sweet victory before.

Not all nectar is sweet, and the typical non-linear progress that is horses keeps us humble. There will be bumps in the road – sometimes sink holes – but this isn’t about avoiding or skirting around them.
These bumps, I imagine, are more like bridges. Rickety bridges that have withstood years and years of weather and wear.

The question is, how fast are you willing to cross them?


  1. There's a meme that I've seen several times now that shows "what you think training a horse will look like" and it's a nice straight line, vs "what it actually looks like" and it's this crazy squiggle with drawings of all sorts of mishaps. It's definitely a crazy, squiggly journey. But you and Annie will get there - you've been taking the trailer setback in stride, and it sounds like you have come up with some great strategies to figure it all out. I can't wait to see what you guys are doing a year from now!

    1. Yes! I have seen the one you are referring to a few times now... it always seems like something funny to giggle at, but when we are in the moment we seem to forget just how applicable it is!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment - it does mean a lot!

  2. I think that you are still dealing the fear and emotion that came with that trailer 'issue'. My own experience tells me that it will take time for you to get over. I will not tell you that you need to get over your feelings of "embarrassing, frustrating, depressing, frightening, annoying, stupid, discouraging…" because that advice is NEVER helpful.

    Take the time to absorb those emotions and come to terms with them. When you're ready take them out and look at them, say 'I see you' and then go on. My anxiety about trailering has literally nothing to do with a trailer accident. It all started after losing Steele. The only thing I can think of is that I am struggling with having a horse vulnerable and they are very vulnerable in the trailer. I take a deep breath, overplay and do it. that works for me but it feels awful.

    On a more practical matter- Annie will learn to load with time and patience. Horses are good mirrors to pick up how we feel so if you need to hire someone to help you do it- it will be money well spent. Or if you have a friend who's good with trailer loading do that.

    IN the meantime make the best of what you can do and I've been so impressed with everything that you have been doing with her and how far you have come.

    1. I feel like you need to be my life counsellor, lol!

      I love how you articulate yourself and how helpful you are. I appreciate your post, and I've mulled over what you have said a few times and I think you are right. I'm not terrified to trailer Annie, but I am quite nervous about it. I want her to load, but I also don't want a repeat of what happened and I think that may be my own mental block in this whole thing.

      Patience and persistence, right? :)

  3. We were actually talking about making mistakes and beating ourselves up for it last night. You know what? We ALL make mistakes, but what's done is done -- you can't change that. All you can do is learn and forge forth. Maybe it will take you a bit longer to get where you want to go because you've had to stop and work on this issue, but you'll still get there.

    1. Thanks, Tracy :) I appreciate your kind words. I'm sure a year from now I'll look back and laugh at how melodramatic I was being lol

  4. First all, that was beautifully written and all us horsegirls can totally relate.

    Secondly, trailer loading is hard. I've had some horrible experiences with trailer loading. Dangerous and debilitating. Also extremely embarrassing in some cases...

    You absolutely will get it. You are driven and dedicated with your horses. Give yourself a moment to regroup and get a game plan.

    I went to drastic measures with my first horse teaching him to load. In his case he was truly frightened to get on. So I parked that trailer in his pasture and put his feed in it. It eventually worked! And he started to associate the trailer with good things. You can do it, girl!

    1. Thank you!

      I have a few things mulling around in the back of my brain, so hopefully I will be able to make them come to fruition and be able to help Annie more.

  5. trust horses to keep us humble and introspective... it's not always what we want, but sometimes (cheesy and cliched tho it is) it's what we need. good luck - it sounds like you're doing good work with Annie! often when i feel myself crashing into the same wall again and again with my horse, i'll just... change the subject. leave it be for now and go find our fun elsewhere for a little while. focus on the stuff that brings us joy and furthers our partnership. then revisit that one problem area when i'm feeling like the horse and i are working better together. hang in there!

    1. I think you are right - it can be hard to try and enjoy your horse when all you are thinking about is the ''sticking'' point you have. I try to not beat the whole trailer loading thing too much, which is why I didn't bother practicing it for a week, but it can become a sticking point regardless.