Warning: There's a bit of a whine coming up. If that's not your cup of tea, or you're just not in the mood for it, feel free to skip this post. No hard feelings. Really.
It's winter, which means that our trainer heads South for warmer climates. Budget constraints, and educational and employment obligations keep us up North, freezing our tuckuses off. No biggie. As my Nana always said, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Our trainer made arrangements for another trainer to teach us while she's away. Before she left she had this interim trainer come and give the kids lessons so we'd have a sense of what to look forward to. I was impressed by the new trainer's attention to basics and felt our time with her would be a positive one for the three of us.
Fast forward to last week, our first lesson. Holy crap, what an eye-opener that was! I went in to the lesson expecting to get some correction for bad habits. What I did not expect was to come out of the lesson feeling like the world's worst rider ever. Not that I feel I'm a particularly good rider, but I did feel I could be considered to be fairly adequate. Let me tell you, I was disabused of that notion, fast and in a hurry! I knew I had issues, but did not expect to have more than my kid did. (And yes, I am completely aware that makes me sound like the world's worst mother, but hey, I'm trying to be honest here, and you guys know I've never been afraid to admit I'm far from perfect.)
Sophie and I rode together, and as expected the new trainer, who will henceforth be known as T2, commented on and corrected a few of her form faults, such as her hand carriage and her leg position. Now, normally I'd have considered myself a slightly better rider than my kids. If you'd seen our joint lesson last week, you'd have thought Sophie was the accomplished rider and I was the rank beginner. My legs were in the wrong position, my hands were a nightmare, my seat was too heavy, my elbows locked, and my body moved way too much, like a sack of spastic potatoes, while I was jumping. There was a whole laundry list of other issues as well, but I can't remember them all.
On top of that, T2 did not like Sugar at all. She thought Sug was heavy on the forehand, stiff as a board, and unwilling to work. I'll admit I actually took this worse than I did T2's assessment of my own skills. I may suck, but every trainer I have ever had has loved Sug, finding her supple, light in the hand, and extremely willing willing to work. All of them have commented that of the horses they had to ride in the course of their day, Sugar was one they looked forward to sitting on.
When I've ridden in clinics before, every clinician (Bernie Traurig, Jeff Cook, and Eric Horgan) have all loved my mare. One of those clinicians is an Olympian, one was a top show jumper who won numerous grands prix and represented the US on many Nation's Cup teams, and the other was assistant trainer to George Morris for a number of years, a successful rider in his own right, and a frequent contributor to Practical Horseman magazine. My point here is that is these guys liked Sug, so she couldn't be too bad, right?
To say I was a bit taken aback is an understatement. And yeah, I realize my ego was bruised, and yes, I know I was in a strop because of her assessment of my horse. I couldn't figure out if this lady just didn't like me for some reason or if I truly do suck, in which case, why didn't any of my other trainers point this fact out to me? Had they just given up, feeling I was beyond help? Is T2 right in her assessment of me and my other trainers did me a disservice by allowing me to continue as I had been? Or is she wrong and the other trainers right? I had some serious soul searching to do, and I needed to try to take my ego and outraged horse-mama self out of the equation and look at the reality of the situation.
The way I saw it, I had a couple choices:
1) I could say we were not a fit and discontinue working with her while my kids my kids continued to lesson with her. After all, I'd only be on my own for a couple months. Not ideal, but hey, you can say that life is too short to deal with something that doesn't make you happy or makes you uncomfortable. Especially as riding is supposed to be fun.
2) I could do a couple more lessons with her, see what happened, see if there was improvement, and reassess from that point. I was a swimmer in college, and played softball, basketball, and soccer during my school days. I know that anytime a coach adjusted my stroke, swing, shot or kick it felt awkward as hell for a while until I broke my bad habit and retrained my muscle memory. I could tell myself that T2 has trained many people in our area successfully, so odds are she has something to teach me.
I'm going with option 2, at least for the moment. My bruised ego and I will stick it out for a while and see what happens. Option 1 feels too much like giving up and quitting to me, and that's not how I roll or what I want to model for my kids. I don't want them to think that when things are different or uncomfortable that you just get to throw in the towel. I'm willing to concede that I'm having an issue because this situation is uncomfortable for me, and that there is a very real possibility there may be something positive that will come of this. So I'm hanging in there for now.
I've since had another lesson, and while I still felt like a remedial rider, there was some improvement. More importantly, I've seen how her attention to detail has improved the kids' riding, so if she can help them, well, I have to believe she can help me. I have another lesson today, and I guess I'd say I am cautiously optimistic.
Many thanks to those of you who read through this whole whine and for allowing me to self-therapize. I'll keep you posted on how this goes. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, even if it's just to tell me to pull my big girl pants up. I can take it.