Splat: Finding Commitment And Drive After Discovering That I Don't Bounce Anymore
|Thelwell - the authority on ponies|
Dino came out a little quieter than normal for our lesson this week, and it took some work to awaken him in our warm-up. He felt bored and a little resentful about yet another trip to the indoor, and letting him cruise around in a forward gear on the rail wasn't really doing it. Homeboy is overdue for a trail ride, and I can definitely tell! In any case, we combatted the pony'tude with lots of walk/trot transitions, focusing on riding forward into both the upward and downward transitions, and getting him sharp off my leg. We added in canter departs earlier than normal as well to shake things up for Dino, and while he was cranky about it, it definitely helped get the motor running.
Finding his jumping gear has gotten so, so much easier. It no longer takes half the lesson to find Dino's gallop, and once we're there he maintains it fairly well on his own. It's a good feeling to know that gear is in there, and it's reliable.
Once we were warmed up in canter, we practiced big figure-8's across the entire arena with simple changes through the trot. The right-to-left change was pretty good, but I was having major issues with the left-to-right. I wasn't committing with my position to moving him out towards the wall before changing, and instead just bracing crookedly and therefore inviting Dino to motorcycle around the turn like a counter-bent 2x4, and so we both exacerbated each other's issues.
My trainer told me to keep my reins short and glance down at my hands as I came across the diagonal to make sure that my reins, and therefore my hips, were even and straight, and think about leg yielding out to the wall before asking for the change. It was really amazing how much keeping my own body straight helped balance the simple change and the turn, but they key was committing to straightness in my body instead of letting myself react to what Dino was doing and try to muscle him around.
After we successfully completed the figure-8/simple change exercise a few more times, it was time to get started jumping. My trainer had set up a triple combination in addition to several single fences, and I was feeling mentally ready to tackle it all. I picked up a great canter and circled through the center of the arena to jump our warm-up fence: a small 2' wall set inside a crossrail. The turn was balanced, the approach was straight, I saw a good distance and kept my seat and hands soft and leg on, and Dino slammed to a dirty, dirty stop in front of it, effectively flinging me over his head and onto the ground.
What a little shit.
|The face of Naughtiness.|
I was pissed.
My trainer was concerned that I had really hurt myself (I hit the ground hard, folks.) and cautioned me not to get back on unless I felt that I was 100% OK.
At that point in time I was so mad that I didn't even care how badly I was hurt, plus the adrenaline was kicking in, so I got back on and made Dino get the hell back to work.
After all the months of hard work I had put in over the past year to get past this kind of crap, I was furious that Dino had behaved so badly and dumped me in the dirt at a glorified crossrail. My trainer took down the rails so that the jump was just the plain wall, and I picked up a bold trot and aimed Dino at it again, 100% committed to getting his bad pony butt to the other side. I grabbed mane, shortened up my reins, got in the backseat, and rode the crap out of him, popping over the little box again and again, then from the canter, riding right to the base so Dino wouldn't have the excuse of the long spot to quit on me again. Once he was taking me over reliably, I rode to a longer distance. And then we did it a few times in the opposite direction as well, just to make my point, until my right arm and shoulder and ribs started hurting too much to continue.
I rode like an eventer for once in my life and made SURE that the pony was going to jump the fence. Stopping was not an option. I was, finally, committed beyond all doubt to getting over the jumps.
Despite the pain that I'm in today and the irritation and frustration I still feel about Dino stopping and flinging me into the ground, I'm happy to say that this fall doesn't feel like a massive setback. I'm more than satisfied with my response in the moment - instead of filling myself with paralyzing fear, I got mad and got back on and schooled the snot out of my bad pony. I found commitment to the ride, to forward, to jumping, and that kind of drive and intensity and relentless riding is something I haven't felt in a long time.
I'm comin' for ya, show season.