Sunday, May 15, 2011

Headcase and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Lesson...

One of my favorite books as a child, in fact, of all time, is one by Judith Viorst called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.  As a child who was constantly falling down, knocking out teeth, finding gum in my hair, or being picked on by other kids, I identified with Alexander, the story's protagonist.  What I liked best about the book was that, despite the almost un-ending number of cruddy things that happened, there was an "end" to Alexander's day, and the promise of a better one to come.  This aligned with something that my Nana used to say to me when I was upset about something: "This, too, shall pass."  she would intone, in a somewhat biblical voice.  "But WHEEEEEEEENNNNNNN??? WHEN will it pass?" was my inevitable reply (patience has never been one of my strong points).

My reason for bringing this up (you did know there was a reason for this, right?) was that I had a lousy, brutal, ugly, miserable lesson the other night.  I kept heaping negative adjectives on to describe my ride and my personality, and lo and behold, there we were,  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day became Headcase (that would be me) and Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Lesson.  Really, feel free to applaud my brilliance now.

My biggest problem, and my trainer will back me up on this, is that I think too much.  No BS.  If I could get a pre-frontal lobotomy prior to every lesson I'm sure she and my horse would be a lot happier.  I've had several gnarly unplanned dismounts, let my previous horse use me as a doormat, taken unauthorized high-speed tours of other people's fields/rings/indoors and whatnot, but to date (knock wood, burn incense, poke voodoo dolls) I've come out in one mildly arthritic, semi fibromyalgic piece.  Nothing a big glass of wine and a couple of Flexeril can't handle.

So, she gave us a multi-element gymnastic followed by a circle to a triple of oxers set on the one stride.  Normally I do well in gymnastics because they eliminate the whole thinking thing.  I just have to get my mare to the first fence, stay in the middle, and let her figure things out.   Which she does, bless her big old heart.

What messed me up this time was the oxers.  Or, rather, the circle before them.  Too much time to think.  The first time through, by some happy accident, we nailed it.  Proving that we can, in fact, do this stuff.  Then I proceeded to worry, stress, gnash my teeth, and generally fret until it was time to go again.  We did okay in the gymnastic, but then I micromanaged her to the first oxer, choking up on her so she had no power.  She managed to get over oxer number one even though I buried her at it, but felt she had to shove 2 strides to get to the next one (again, it was a one stride) and just decided no oxer was ready to die over and stopped.  At which point my ass left the saddle and slid up her neck to her ears, a la Fred Flintstone.  Her ears, already long and slightly mule-ish, are now longer, as  I grabbed and held on to them in order to prevent a full frontal exit.

We tried those oxers several times, and never quite got them right, although the last few passes certainly were less dramatic than the first few.  Basically, we got it done, but I finished the lesson in a capital M Mood, feeling all woe-is-me, I'm a horrible rider, can't see a distance even if I had lasik surgery, yadda yadda yadda.  I'm only slightly ashamed to say I wallowed in that pony pity party for a bit, and in a fit of fix-it-ness went online to order a few Jane Savoie books about shrinking one's self to knock off all that headcase crap. (Um, did I mention the overthinking??)

Good grief, is there an end to this whining, you might ask??  Yep, sorta.  I watched the Nations Cup at La Baule and saw some of the best riders in the world messing up distances and sliding up their horse's necks.  Seriously, when Kevin Staut nearly buys real estate twice on the same fence, you get a sense of perspective REAL fast.  It happens, to EVERYBODY, no matter how good they are.  Best to just get over it. 

I also saw a post in the Chronicle of the Horse forums about someone's awesome lesson.  Seems counter-intuitive, but reading her post made me realize how few and far between really awesome lessons are.  Most of them are fairly awkward learning experiences that pave the way for more fairly awkward learning experiences, that sometimes result in moments of real connection and positive results, which make all the other crap worthwhile.

So, the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Lesson was not that bad after all.  Just took me several days and $50 to realize it.


  1. I suppose we all have to do that to a certain extent; take the bad and the worse with the good and the better. Although I should add that if you learned something, it probably wasn't bad at all, but more to the good (and do I even understand what I just said?? ;o)

  2. The memories of my worst lesson AND best lesson ever at my last barn are well-cemented in my brain. Worst: screwed up a triple Every. Single. Time. We simply could NOT make it to the last fence correctly and my trainer finally, literally, threw up her hands in disgust. I slunk out of the ring and contemplated booking future lessons at the Saddlebred barn down the street.

    Best: (Different horse) One of those magical days when Every. Single. Jump. appeared right where it should be and Ponykins and I repeatedly flew around like we were on rails. Earned a compliment from trainer that day, may have been the only time. :-)

    Guess you have to take everything as it comes and try to enjoy it all!