Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Back on Course

Suited up for the big drive
 We're back. Cuna was super--loaded and hauled like the pro he is, and was just plain awesome to be around. We rolled in to Ogden, UT around 4pm and by 6, we were out hacking on the cross country course. In order to get there, we had to ride down the race track. I was a little worried that a certain Mr Racehorse might have some memories to work through, but he just marched along. 

The other horses had a good look around and were a bit silly. Cuna was the solid citizen that made everyone feel safer. I felt privileged to be on him at that point. 

Waiting for the jumps
 The next morning, he and I were set to ride in the first group at 8am. He obviously knew what was going on--he'd stop eating and stare at the track/course for several minutes at a time. No anxiety or nervousness, just calm mental preparation.

I wish I had felt half as good. I barely slept the night before, which is really weird for me. I didn't eat anything when I got up and I limited my water intake. I wanted to manage the amount of things I could be sick on. (Here's a link to my last XC experience. If you're new to this blog, the gist of it is that I ended up with a broken arm and jaw and 6 weeks out of the tack.)

I did my best to stay away from Cuna while I did chores. I knew I was a nervous wreck and I didn't want that to unduly influence him. He was quiet and patient when I tacked him up, and stood nicely while I held him and another horse whose rider needed to step out for a minute.

I got on and he was quiet but attentive. He didn't understand why I was so ridiculously tense to go out for a ride, but he jigged appropriately to remind me that he was in tune with me. I tried to remember to keep breathing and loosen up, but my brain was not cooperating very well.

We warmed up on the grass, trotting and cantering around in big loops over the undulating terrain. I felt more comfortable out in the open and more secure in the saddle than last time I was out here. I felt relatively calm, but I knew I was tense. Mr Laid-Back himself was reminding me that I was very, very excited as he pranced a bit and tossed his head.

The first jump of the day was a tiny log, maybe 12" tall. As we trotted to it (slowly, so the horses wouldn't trip), I felt like throwing up. I wanted to get off, quit, do anything but go forward. Cuna stopped in front of the log and pranced in place. I knew that all I had to do was put my leg on and he could have stepped over it.

I sat there, legs hanging useless.


We circled around, came again, and he went while I put my leg on and kept my hands in his neck. I barely even felt the log--it was so small that it really wasn't any effort for him to go over. We kept circling back over it and I finally started to feel a little more at ease. Then Steph asked if I wanted to jump the BN log laying next to it.

It might as well have been the great wall of china. I froze up just looking at it. I couldn't just dig down and grit it out to go over that--it was everything I could do to convince myself I wasn't going to die over the tiny baby log.

Boss pony. Does it all.
The lesson progressed in kind. Cuna did exactly what I told him to, which thankfully, did not involve any more stopping. We made it over a ditch, up and down a bank (terrain questions don't bother me. Not sure why jumps make me want to die), through the water, down a different bank, and over another log. We put a little course together. I got to pick the jumps, so we did tiny log to tiny log, over the ditch, up the bank, down the bank.

My goal for the day was to not go to the ER, which I achieved. I also stayed on, which was sort of a secondary goal that I was willing to part with as long as I made the first one.

Beyond that? I am really not happy with how I rode. I hate that I went out there and froze. I hate that I was too scared to push myself. I hate that I wasn't willing to try something more. Yeah, it's my first time back, but Cuna and I have done way harder, cooler things in an arena every day of the week. This is different, but not that different. He was fine for the whole thing. I froze and could hardly keep myself together.

I'm telling myself that it was a "non negative" experience and next time might be better. I mean, at least it will never be my first ride back after a wreck on Izzy again. I'm frustrated with how much crap I still have to work through. I'm annoyed with myself for not just loosening up and having a good time.

Give this pony carrots.
 At the end of the day though, I'm still thrilled with Cuna. He was such a trooper. There were racehorses working on the track, a train going by, a green horse freaking out and wanting to be with him, and the old man just took good care of me. He made me ride every jump, but he didn't do anything dirty or naughty. He didn't scare me--I just didn't realize how hard it would be to come back.

Going forward, I have no idea what to do with myself. The whole point of selling Izzy was to try and have fun again. This weekend wasn't really what I'd call fun. Maybe it will get better.

I'm not going down without a (continued) fight. Cuna and I are jumping 4-5 days a week from here on out. Not to worry--it will be over tiny little insignificant things that won't stress him at all. I am going to learn to trust him, keep my leg on, ride forward, and give him the reins. I'm going to focus on the backside of the jump and what to do on the landing. Whatever happens, I am not going to pull back on him for the rest of the month. All motion is forward.

We're supposed to go to a local derby at the end of the month. I entered BN, but I think I'll drop down to the 2'3". Maybe I'll try to get in to one of the clinic days and just see how it goes after two weeks of trust boot camp. I don't know exactly what to do, but I know I don't want to stay where I'm at.

PS For those concerned, there is video evidence of me jumping a giant red gelding over teeny tiny logs. I will post it as soon as I get it.


  1. Cross country, cross country...it's such a mind game! I think you have to go slow and gain confidence...It's ok to go easy and learn, jumping outside is different than in the ring! BUT, part of the deal with XC is jumping things that scare the crud out of you, that's just part of it. You ROCK for doing what you did, keep it up and make sure you add in a few new/bigger jumps that make you want to vomit every schooling, if they're BN or N height I am sure with Cuna you'll fly right over, and feel like a MILLION bucks for facing your fears and trusting your school master! Cross country and nausea do sort of go hand in hand, it's not for the faint of heart. There's no higher high than a clean round! 70% of the course should look doable, 30% should make you want to curl into the fetal position...at least that's what my sister the overachieving ** rider told me, haha! You can do it!

  2. Dude, I feel you. I've definitely been there before and it's really depressing. At least now it's just you you have to work on and worry about--not the horse that you have to jump the scary logs with. Just keep plugging away and trust your kick ass pony to take care of you.

  3. Sounds like to me you did great for your first time back out there on XC. The mental game is such a huge component to competing in any sport, you'll get there and the best part is you'll get there with Cuna. He's your buddy and he'll take the best care of you! I look forward to the video!

  4. Just look at how far you have come in a short time. Don't rush yourself - you don't want to lose your confidence now. Cuna will take care of you but you can't be say in the saddle "no no no" and expect him to do it all. This is what I am working on with Lucy and myself now. She's more gung-ho than I am and sometimes I ride her toward something that is really scary (to me) and I'm giving her the "stop" cues the whole way down the line subconsciously because I am scared shitless! I can't blame her for stopping at that point.

  5. Aimee, dont feel bad it was your first ever actual cross country together! Just remmeber most racehorses realize once there job isnt racing they get over it, which is nice, and that horse has done everything you can imagine, but you still gotta ride (like you talked about). Oh and if your going to do the clinic let Gina know ASAP as were almost filled! you will have fun at the derby cause Cuna has been to our place about a zillion billion times:) trust him youll have fun!

  6. Take your time. You need to "cement" your position in the saddle so you feel confident in your seat at all times. (Keep that leg forward and your heel down...think "leg forward," every stride. for the cross country stuff.) I've evented quite a bit, so I've been "there, done that," enough to know how important it is to have the feeling you will stay on the horse. And all that takes is "practice, practice, practice!" Cuna will do the rest.

  7. This is different, but not that different.

    Oh, sure, not that different! Except for the difference in surroundings...and context...and task(s) at hand...and mileage under your belt...and history...and your physical fear...and and and. But sure, other than all those highly significant differences, it's not that different at all! :-p

    Stretching your comfort zone is good, but so is staying close enough to it for you to be successful. If it was Cuna who was coming back from an accident, would you be thrilled with him for giving it a whirl and getting stuff done, or disappointed that he hadn't managed more?

  8. I think you did great considering the accident you had last time. Just keep on practicing and it will seem like no time till you guys are rocking the bigger courses :)

  9. Whoa dude don't be so harsh on yourself. You got out there and jumped things! Who cares how big they are you stayed out there!!!! Next time I bet you will be able to progress to the next step up. Things progress slowly and that isn't always a bad thing becuase you can cement things, cement the idea of going forward, cement the idea of trusting your horse. If you can do that over the small logs and slowly build up from there you will be fine, PROMISE!!!!!!!

  10. I remember coming off during a jumping lesson and breaking my wrist in 4 or 5 places. Being unable to get back on and take the line again, and having to wait weeks to get back on at all, was really damaging to my self-confidence. When I got the ok to right with the cast, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do less than get back on my horse.

    I think you're going through something very similar. You haven't done much in the way of cross country schooling since that day with Izzy. So, it's still haunting you. Give yourself time to rebuild your confidence, and don't beat yourself up for wanting (or needing) to back off a little and do the easy stuff. Soon enough, the big stuff will seem easy too. And Cuna will take care of you until you get back there.

  11. Oh, I completely feel you on this! Arch and I took a little oxer that we'd done a ton of times before. But, for whatever reason, I fell off and landed on my bum. Broke my tailbone in two places. Got back on him and made him canter around a little bit.
    But I haven't jumped like that since. I *want* to, but the other side of the fence is always there, looming like I'm going to die. So, yeah, I completely get the freaking out over little logs and stuff. I'm the Crossrail Queen.

  12. Ok, you got your self-flagellation out and now you are not allowed to do any more of that. I do the same thing, so I will permit you one go. And I understand the anxiety after a wreck, TOTALLY. Now you have to think this:

    I went out on my completely awesome red horse and trusted him. He took care of me and we jumped over logs successfully (NO ONE GETS IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME EVERY TIME, NOT EVEN PHILLIP DUTTON) and we had no problems with water, ditches, and banks, which many horses struggle with. I stayed on my horse and I was brave enough to go over jumps that scared me and trust my horse to get the job done, which he did. Since I went over 12" logs, I am now totally capable of doing a Green As Grass horse trial and could do an entire XC course with no issues, although I might need a beer beforehand.

    :-) Repeat.

    1. Eventer79, you are awesome. Pass the beer?

    2. Once I find someone with more money than me so they can buy me a beer, I will happily pass it along! Encore ate my beer money. Literally.

  13. Stretching your comfort zone is good, but so is staying close enough to it for you to be successful. ~ Hannah = WISE This is very sage advice we should ALL keep close to heart!

  14. It sounds like you had an incredibly positive, confidence-building weekend with your awesome pony. Yeah, so you didn't go out and burn up the course, but cut yourself some slack! Away is different from home in the arena, and your last experience was pretty darn sucky.

    Maybe it seems like it was a tiny step right now, but it sounds like it was really huge in the grand scheme of things. Take a deep breath, give yourself some credit, and move on.

    Oh, also feed Cuna extra carrots. ;)

  15. You will get there, it takes time and practice and sometimes faking it

  16. You're being so hard on yourself. Considering your previous experience I think you did tremendously. Speaking from someone who has suffers from crippling anxiety regarding things like this (and understands that feeling of being "stuck") it's good to find a way to communicate with your instructor that you are feeling "stuck". Once you're in that spot, it can swiftly move to complete shut down (which I've also experienced -- including getting so stuck that I had to get off and leave a lesson), so being able to articulate that you are getting those feelings and having your energy redirected quickly might help you recover. For instance, if you're stuck at a particular jump, move quickly to something that you DO like (cantering around in the open, transitions, anything else) to unlock your brain and anxiety. But pat yourself on the back for making it out there, being safe and having a good ride!

  17. I agree with everyone - you did a GREAT JOB!!! Doesn't matter that you have boss pony since the issue isn't you trusting him (you know he's super duper) - the problem is between you, your brain, and those logs. I think only more XC schoolings is going to fix it. If you need to jump baby logs 20 times, then that's what you gotta do, and don't give yourself a hard time about it. And if your tummy can handle it, I would recommend a small medicinal shot of alcohol to help calm your nerves. =] Go you!

  18. I think you did fantastic!!!! Just the fact that you went back to the scene of the accident AND rode you super Cuna AND jumped AND stayed on is SO FREAKING AWESOME!!!! Please don't belittle what you accomplished. The fun will come back eventually. Right now you just need to build up positive experiences to replace those scary memories. Keep fighting girl, because you can totally get back to have fun on XC.


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