Saturday, October 1, 2011

WAAAAAAAAHHHHHH! Or, Get Over It Already, For Heaven's Sake...

Hi. My name is Amy and I am a Chicken.
Today I had my first lesson since I attemtped to emulate a lawn dart at my last show.  My travel schedule for work as been crazy, so it's really only the fourth time I've ridden since I damn near found oil two weeks ago.  Certainly the first time I've jumped.

Well, as you probably picked up from the title, things did not go well.  Number one, due to the severe neck sprain I gave myself (the Doctor's terminolgy, not mine) anything more than light exercise has been VERBOTEN for the past two weeks..  Think "gentle stroll on treadmill." So, my fitness level, never great to start with, is close to non-existant.  (Can somebody PLEASE tell me why it takes a 40 year old woman MONTHS to gain any kind of muscle and a nanosecond to lose it???  PLEASE?  That my friends, is one of life's nasty little ironies.  The others involve childbirth, but that's another discussion and you'd need to buy me a drink before I get started on that one.)

Plus, I'm still sore, so some things, such as turning my head to look for the fence, were uncomfortable. Thus,  I didn't execute them well and we had missed distances, awkward jumps, and some "Oh Sweet Baby Jesus!" moments.  So why was I attempting to lesson under these circumstances?  Well, if you haven't realized I'm not exactly the brightest bulb in the string by now, you haven't been paying close attention to this blog.  I suggest you go back and read a few more posts.  You'll get what I mean soon enough.

Basically, I rode to each fence in a state of high alert, fearing the worst and rendering myself darn near incompetent.  My trainer said I was exaggerating ( this would not be unusual, I am known to amplify things a bit) and not riding badly at all, but you know how you it is when you feel like you're only moments away from a trainwreck.  At this point I was about one sniffle away from starting to bawl.  Not just tears, but a full-on, snot pouring from the nose, howling like a crazy person meltdown.  Luckily my mare turned to me and gave me one of her LOOKS.

What is going on?? Are you leaking up there?

No, Sug. (sniff)  I'm fine. (sniff)

You don't look or sound fine, and you're clenching. Stop that, please.  Do that breathing thing, would you?

Sorry, Sug. (Sounds of deep breathing ensue.)

So how do you take one ad incident and stop from making it into the 800 pound gorilla in the arena??  For some reason the Friends episode where Phoebe, Rachel and Monica do a cleansing ritual to rid themselves of bad boyfriend karma.  I thought briefly about a cleansing ritual, but I saved up a gazillion Dover's gift certificates to get that hunt coat, darnit, and knowing my luck I'd set the house on fire anyway. 

I asked my trainer to lower the fences and to let me work on easier groups of combinations of fences, rather than entire courses, which she did, and things still weren't going great.  I couldn't keep a consistent rythym, partly because my mare was feeling herself  and dragging me to the fences, and partly because I was picking at her till we went from a gallop to darn near going backwards.  You can imagine what kind of jumps these resulted in.  Let's just say I was inadvertently dropping some words that would have gotten my mouth washed out and my behind blessed with a wooden spoon about 30 years ago.  Thankfully my kids weren't in the arena.  Her Highness Princess Sugar Britches was not impressed either.

Hellooooo! Koninklijk Warmbloed Paardenstamboek Nederland!

Gesundheit, Sug.

Sigh.  Translation: Royal Warmblood Studbook of the Netherlands. Such language is inappropriate in front of an equine of my eminence.

You know, you may not want to take that tone with me today, Miss Thing.  Ain't no Royal Netherlanders standing in line to pay your massage bills.  Just saying...

So I told my trainer I thought it would be a good idea to go back to basics.  More longe lessons.  More gymnastics, more work on my form and the security of my position and leg, until I feel secure again.  I have the chance to show again this week, and quite frankly, I'm hesitant about doing it.

I like feeling fully prepped.  Knowing I CAN do something (usually by the skin of my teeth and feeling I've just received a miracle) and feeling like I can do something succesfully is a big difference.  I feel that when I ride with confidence, I can ride well.  When I don't ride with confidence, things get dicey and I'm worried one day I really will hurt myself and my horse.  To be fair, my trainer does prep me well, working on exercises that she knows will prepare us for the courses we'll face.

George Morris famously said that he "faught chicken" all the time. Sometimes that makes me think, "Wow, even George has moments. How liberating!" Other days I think, "What a load of crapola. If he were chicken why was he jumping 5 foot fences so well for so long? If George really wants to see chicken, he should come see me approaching a 3' oxer. You can see the "Oh sh#$! Oh sh#$!" cartoon thought bubbles over my head!"

So what's the deal?  Am I just a big whiny ninny who needs to pull on her Big Girl Pants, pull down her skirt, and suck it up?  Or, do I pat myself on the back for getting back on and giving it a go, and then realizing I'm still hurting and the more prudent decision is to retrench and go back to basics until confidence is restored?
Or, do I hire a Native American Shaman to burn sage and do a healing dance for me?


  1. You are still physically dealing with the fall and can't see the fences you are supposed to be turning to and yes, once we are over 40 muscle strength AND coordination can disappear while sleeping one night and take forever to get back.
    AND you are not riding your normal amount. I think backing down the fences a bit and working on restoring confidence will work better in the long run than pretending that everything is fine and shuffling along until the horse revolts against the ride.
    I have done this myself after a fall and worked with students who have done this and what generally happens is that when you take the pressure off, have some fun your muscle memory suddenly returns and you don't have to think yourself through a turn. :-)
    Loved the post, I am not usually so funny after a fall. Have some fun and good luck.

  2. In absence of an unlimited bank supply, unlimited time, and unlimited access to the horse/body/food trainers of the stars, I think you can cut yourself just a little slack. :-)

    There is no harm in rebuilding slowly. There is nothing wrong with accepting that your best may vary from day to day, as long as you still commit to always try to do your best. Or at least 90% of your best. All the time could get exhausting.

    One of my favorite quotes is :The amateur practices until he can do it right. The professional practices until he can not do it wrong.

    Without access to unlimited time, which really means money, too, we can only do our best. Just think how many things you ARE a professional at (hoof picking, nose kisses, treat dispensing) and build up the list! :D

  3. This is great stuff. Love your blog!