Monday, December 5, 2011

Notes and December Goals

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.


  1. The hand pressing sounds like really good advice and neat technique. Great report!

  2. I stopped jumping when the horse I had--Toby--proved to be a super jumper with the heart of a chicken. Because I could not trust him to take the fence the first time--he liked to spook and have a look before deciding a fence safe to jump--I lost my desire to meet the challenge. All this despite some 25 years of jumping and eventing. The point is that somewhere along the way, you will find a reason to stop jumping on your own, whatever it may be.

    In the meantime, with a super instructor like you have, and an equally super horse like Izzy, the fence work is only going to improve all of your riding. It is worth the time to jump hundreds of crossrails if need be to gain your confidence and skill. And once you master them, whatever jumps you decide to take will be just a matter of routine.

    Excellent work with the reins. Soon the "Crazed monkey" will be a creature of the past. *G*

  3. Sorry you are really struggling with jumping. You will find your answer. Sounds like you are having great lessons though! And you guys are looking good!

  4. Sounds like you are learning interesting things, enjoying some superb moments on your horse, and figuring things out.

    There is so much to learn with horses, and so much to learn within ourselves. Think back to when you decided to event and WHY, and see if it is still what you want.

    There is nothing that says you have to be able to do training and higher. There is nothing that says you can't have fun with your mare at events for an outlet and concentrate on doing dressage as your main competition. There is nothing that says you can take IZZIe as far as you both want to go ~ Prelim, Intermediate,... gulp.

    What you are feeling is normal. If you didn't question,"Is hard work or uncomfortable work really worth it? Is slightly outside my comfort zone getting too far out of my comfort zone?" you wouldn't be a particularly bright person, IMO.

    We average horse owning mortals aren't made of money, with no other job requirements and access to all the top trainers~ a working amateur has a horse to ENJOY. If you find that pushing yourselves is how you find happiness, go for it. If you'd rather find a level that you and Izzie can totally rock all the time, that's fine, too. You will decide the balance between goal seeking and stopping to smell the roses.

    But all those kick ass lessons will give you the tools to decide how high you want to go, and how safe you'll be while you do it.

    (As always, so jealous... your trainer sounds like she has some great techniques to help you get a confident x-c seat. Wish I had an eventable horse again; wish I could take some lessons!)

  5. Meant to say "There is nothing that says you can't take Izzie as far as you both want to go"... typed too fast!

  6. Sometimes the most simple concepts are the most difficult ones to wrap your head around; just keep at it, do things that challenge you but don't make you fearful, and eventually you'll get there.

  7. She's got a great leap - those bounce lines always throw me off and I forget to steer ALL the time


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