Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Stepping Back

We are back safe and sound from the BVX and Spud did awesome - a post about it should be out sometime soon... but until then? No spoilers unless you're on my Facebook and/or Instagram, haha!

Following the Online Dressage show, I waffled between feeling pleased with the test and being too hard on myself. Which, surprise surprise, right?

Lately, I've avoided the riding arena - opting instead to hack out on the trails and roadways. I don't really feel motivated in the arena simply because I feel like we have mountains of things to work on and haven't made much headway in the most basic of principles.

Sometimes I sit back and wonder if I'm the best rider for my mare, or if she would be making better strides in progress with someone else?

And yet still, I press on and ride the horse - arena be damned.

It's hard when you have a shit ride out on the trails
and question yourself even more...
I just feel... inadequate.

I feel like we should be further along than we are; that we're struggling to master the basic concepts a riding horse should have and despite having a wonderful arena ride post-online show (with zero cross-firing or missed leads), I still can't help but think it's my fault. This whole bringing up greenie world is so new for me, and I constantly let these thoughts plague me:

I can't even isolate her hind-quarters.

We canter crooked.

We can't even trot straight down center-line.

She is STILL behind my leg.

We haven't practiced shoulder in, she probably forgets how to do it.

She isn't relaxed in those videos - she looks tense and annoyed.

We sometimes pick up the wrong lead still...

She redeemed herself tho - after over a week off and no prep
we went out for a 7k trail ride and she was super.
And all of these negative feelings manifest and breed together, until hopping up on the horse looks unappealing... and when I do? I opt for the easy option and trail ride.

Which, I guess isn't a bad thing, considering Annie can be a bit nervous on new and "harder" trails.

But still.

What about that canter?

What about the tense and fussy bridle connection? 

And what about her constant tail wringing? Is she broken? Am I breaking her? Will she ever stop?

What about the lack of forward we still have?

What about bending through all our corners instead of 2.5 of them?

I watch and rewatch the videos and my insides just cringe with the amount of
tail wringing she does... And no matter how many times I hear clinicians
tell me it's her protesting my legs, I can't help but wonder if I'm
doing something wrong?
I let the negative and frightening questions plague me, and instead of working diligently to surpass them, I either ignore them completely or go all out all day every day trying to fix them.

Which, once I had a good idea about the lack of forwardness and how to appropriately fix it, Annie and I spent two weekends filled with clinics and weekdays filled with schooling sessions really drilling the new change into her. And now?

I'm kinda tired.

Drilling exercises is sometimes needed, I guess, but it's also fun to just enjoy the horse for enjoying the horse. Twenty meter circles and centerlines be damned.

So, this works for us.
Before I get swallowed up like I did last year in comparing Annie to other horses her age (or younger) and pushing ourselves too hard and fast, I'm taking the time to step back. I'm not going to keep avoiding the ring much longer, simply because the year is ending fast and before we know it, we'll be under 4ft of snow.

It's just hard.

Bringing up a young horse is hard.

And I am so damn thankful for being able to share every minute with you guys - the positive words, relate-able blogs, and many words of encouragement keep me sane in this journey.

For what its worth, the mare has been (mostly) good (save for one trail ride wherein she could just NOT).


  1. I’m with you in the struggle bus. So there’s that. I look at other 8 year olds who have no issues being like normal. And then there’s my mare.
    No one can answer the question of keeping her but you. I will say though that a firmly entrenched habit is hard to get rid of. Like quitting smoking hard. I will also say that there is ALWAYS someone who could probably ride our horses better but who cares. They have their own horses. Carmen is happy most of the time and is not the same horse I brought home. Neither is Annie. I see changes even if you cannot.

    Take a break. Trail ride. Enjoyyour horse.

    1. I think everyone is on a different #strugglebus, at least in some point of their horses career, haha.

      Horses are horses are horses.

      And damn, it can be so frustrating sometimes.

      <3 Thanks for the kind words, Teresa. We are for sure gonna keep plugging along - slowly but surely!!

  2. Honestly you might feel way different if you start using a different set of yard sticks to measure yourself against. That first list you write - Charlie picked up the wrong lead in our last show. Charlie can be tense and hollow in his connection. Charlie is crooked on the centerline into halt every. time. He gets behind my leg and can be extremely grumpy about it. And he doesn’t even know how to do shoulders in (tho yes I still keep trying haha). But this doesn’t demoralize me bc ya know.... there are other things I can focus on that are maybe better gauges of progress anyway. Like for you and Annie - you are cantering reliably in a test. She’s become quite obedient. It’s clear that you are both trying and have built and foundation of trust so that you can take the bobbles in stride. All the rest of the stuff will come eventually - but it seems like you are doing a good job of figuring out how to keep things moving along. Enjoy the ride and be pleased with the progress you have made!

    1. I think you are right, Emma. It can be hard too, bc on social media people only post what they want to post/say... and sometimes it's like an illusion of sorts to those reading and our perceptions get skewed.

      Thank you for your kind words tho - we will keep plugging along and moving forward (literally, haha)!

  3. Nakai is 27 years old and still fights me on rating.
    He still picks up the wrong leads on occasion.
    He wrings his tail and drops BTV because he's impatient and even after 10 years I'm STILL not always able to calm his brain.
    He's so competitive with other horses that during the spring time I ride by myself for the first month or two so he doesn't get my friend's horses all worked up when we go out together.

    99% of my problems with Nakai are from rider error. As soon as I shut up, relax, and just DO IT, our issues vanish. I used to have a ton of issues with Nakai in the ring - turns out, he's much happier as an endurance horse. As soon as I found something he loves to do, our ring issues vanished. I know have lovely, productive schooling in the ring because he's not sour from it any more. It took 8 years to find out what he really loves - and I've done everything from jumping, dressage, cow work, reining, and finally endurance.

    There's nothing wrong with taking a break from ring work.
    There's nothing wrong with enjoying your horse.
    You cannot compare you beginning to someone's middle or end. It's not fair to you or Annie.

    1. Nakai is fricken adorable tho, hahaha.

      But yes, I agree with you there. It's funny and ironic in some ways bc Suzie was wayyyyy more of a hot head than Annie is and yet, I constantly am worried about ruining Annie. Maybe it's bc Suzie's behaviours were so solidified and ingrained in her that I knew I wasn't going to completely change them??

  4. You and Annie have come along way since you first got her. That said, there’s nothing wrong with taking a step back and taking a break from schooling her and just enjoying your time together. She may get confused at times and not know what you’re asking of her because she’s still young and learning.

    With arena work you both might have more fun if her time there is more interesting. Set up some obstacles to play around with or cavelletti. If you make the sessions short and don’t ask for more than getting the walk correct then take her out for a trail ride when she gets it right. Once she gets the basics at the walk you can progress to the trot and more. I also do a lot of groundwork and don’t even ride most of the time until they know how to move properly and their voice commands. Currently, I’m reteaching Rosie how to use her body correctly. We do bending at the walk, cavaletti in different patterns at walk, different patterns like circles,figure eights etc. at walk. We trot occasionally but not for long.

    There’s always the tendency to want to get it all done too fast, I’m guilty of impatience and frustration at times but in reality it gets you nowhere fast. The slower you go the faster they learn. They can sense our moods and if you’re frustrated she’ll pick up on that and be frustrated too. It takes a long time to turn a horse into a willing partner. Horses only want to be treated fairly and with respect. I try to accomplish that by not over facing them with things they don’t understand and teaching them slowly to accept and accomplish what I want from them. Good luck and enjoy the rest of the summer.

    1. The idea of mixing it up in the arena is a good idea - our club has rails and stuff so I'm sure I could bug someone to take some out for us :)

      And yes... I am so guilty of trying to push things and get things all done now. The biggest thing that I'd like to see is for her to RELAX fully when I'm riding her in the ring. Relaxation I know can take years to master, and we can't rush it.

      Thank you for your kind and thoughtful post <3

  5. Every journey is unique -- it's both wonderful, because it keeps life interesting, but also hard because when you compare yourself to others, it's easy to feel like you're falling short. I did that ALOT when I first got Niko and it made me miserable. Then, I worked on NOT CARING. I don't care what other horses and riders are doing, no matter how similar they are to me or if we have the same exact goals or not.

    It's your journey -- as long as YOU are happy, then that's all that matters. Nothing else <3

    1. It really is, isn't it?

      I need to take a page from your book #DONTCARE.

      Thanks Tracy <3

  6. I don't think I have anything different to add than what anyone else has said. You're doing a great job with her! Some areas of progress are just slower than others, and the only horse you should be comparing her to is the one you bought. When you look at her now compared to how green she was when she came to you, you should be super proud of all that you've accomplished!

    1. That is actual wonderful advice - to compare her to the horse I bought. Because... oh my god, ahha. The horse I bought couldn't even canter!!

  7. Sometimes I slip into comparisons too (like seriously Shiraz! Annie can do a whole trail ride with real bears out in those woods and you can't even walk from the barn to the outdoor arena without thinking the leaves might eat you!!). But mostly with greenies you just have to keep slugging through until one day, years from now you stop and realize "yo, my horse is broke!!" Until then, enjoy the journey :)

    1. Bahahah; "with real bears". I laughed.

      I was actually just thinking that - when DO they become considered no longer green? 'Cause I feel like we have a few years of green-ness left, lol!

  8. Everyone's journey is a little different and as much as we want to be comparable to our peers, we're all a little different. No two horses are the same, nor are no two riders. You have to ride the horse you have that day, regardless of where you 'wish' you were. It's a slippery slope, but we're all riding the same one.
    You and Annie have done fabulously and will continue to do so. You're your own worst critic and don't give yourself nearly enough credit for your hard work! Upwards and onwards <3

    1. We'll get there! Sometimes it's nice to just take the pressure off and toodle for a while and leave the "hard stuff" for another day. :)

  9. Oh girl, I so feel your pain. Currently in the same boat with you....wondering why I even bother. Hugs to you. You are doing a great job!

  10. Every horse and journey is different, take the time to be kind to yourself. My best word of advice is to not drill. Diligently work everyday to improve but be sure to do a lot of the things you both find easy to continue building up your confidence in each other, overly praise for the tiniest correct response. You got this.