I had another lesson on Saturday. It was one of the hardest lessons I have had in my entire life, and I am including the one where I fell off and broke bones.
It was over crossrails and I never left the saddle.
In an effort to quiet my upper body and encourage Izzy to use her body correctly, Steph had us do like a 10 meter trot circle over a 12" crossrail. I had to keep my inside rein open and both reins forward, pushing toward the jump. I had to keep Izzy out on the circle with my leg and keep my upper body absolutely still. That presented the jump to Izzy, but allowed her to stumble over it, take a flying leap, or jump from a normal distance. It gave me enough to think about that I couldn't anticipate, and it was fast paced enough that I was forced to trust that Izzy would actually jump.
As Steph kept saying, "trust her with everything except your hips". Ha!
We expanded the exercise to include a serpentine of crossrails, all with turns that were about the same or less than our initial 10m circle. Again, trusting Izzy with everything but my hips. Riding forward, pushing hands forward, never pulling back, never anticipating anything.
It seems ridiculous because it doesn't even sound hard when I describe it, right? The underlying problem is my confidence. I gain mental security by hanging on like a crazed monkey. I rationally understand that the "crazed monkey cling" is not accepted as riding protocol because it's counter productive, but that doesn't mean I can just switch to something more logical.
Even though I know I can generally stay on in good form when Izzy stops, even though I can ride her massive leaps most of the time, it completely TERRIFIES me to just let go and trust her to do her job. I don't know why--she's a very game jumper, she rarely stops unless I tell her to, and she's extremely honest. I don't understand this mental block, and I want to overcome it.
It's not as easy and concise as it sounds above. I spent the rest of the weekend wondering why I was even trying to do all this. I can merrily ride Izzy around and do dressage on her and never jump again if I want to. There is no one forcing me to jump anything. I don't have anything to prove to anyone, myself included. I don't know why I even want to event--I mean, if crossrails are scaring me, what do I think XC jumps are going to do?
The truth is, I'm not sure. I do know that if I quit jumping, I want it to be my choice made free of fear. I won't stop because it irrationally scares, though I probably would if it rationally scared me.
Honestly though, the last time we did the serpentine, I took a wider turn to the last crossrail, kept her straight between my hand and leg, and galloped forward. I saw her ears lock on to the jump. I have never felt more confident as a rider than when I pushed my hands into her mane as she lifted off right out of stride.
A dichotomy? Yes.
With that in mind, it's time to set December goals. I didn't have any goals for November because I didn't know how the month would shake out. Now I have things to work on outside of class, though.
1) Gallop on. I can get Izzy out in front of my leg; it's just that it takes me the whole arena at a gallop to do so. In light of that, I need to gallop or extend every time I feel her duck back.
2) Get comfortable. I realize that the point of working with a trainer is to challenge me, but I need to readjust some of my basic thinking. I will focus on staying light and balanced over Izzy and being comfortable with her moving at speed.
3) Press your hands. That's what Steph says to me every time we turn to a jump. The crazed monkey wants to grab the reins. What I need to do is put my hands on Izzy's neck and ride positively forward.