Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Study in Forward 4: Jumping. Whoops.

attention fear gerbils
After dressage, I stuck Courage in his stall with hay for an hour or so so he could just chill out and I could walk the course. I told myself I was calm, but I was steadily moving into brain-panic-XC mode. Yes, I know they were wee tiny cross rails that we can walk over. I didn't anticipate just how bad taking a green horse XC would kick off the panic function and let all the fear gerbils have a party in my brain.

I mean... Courage does open space and trails, no problem. He's been exposed to all the cross country elements, no problem. He jumps, no problem.

Clearly, I am the one with the problem.


Totally unconcerned
I pulled him out of his stall and put tack on. I had a whole new (normal) horse. He was all "O HAI PLAYING JUMP JUMP I AM THE BEST AT THIS". Seriously. Total 180. We walked out to the jump warm up on a loose rein with no antics and no screaming.

We wandered around warm up.

We watched other horses go by.

I did some walk/trot transitions with him and tried to incorporate the little bit of terrain into my riding plan, but mostly I was in full-on brain panic mode "AHHHH GOING TO DIE DO NOT WANT MORE BROKEN BONES AHHHH GIANT SOLID XRAILS OF DEATH."


I can't explain it. I am terrible at emotions and this was a straight-up gut response to fear of bodily harm. Between the deer leaping last week and my on going XC issues, it wasn't pretty. I trotted and cantered over the baby cross rails in warm up while redheadlins said things like "LEG ON" and "DON'T PULL" and probably muttered a string of well-deserved expletives about why the hell she spends so much time helping us if I'm going to show up and not ride, but she's too nice to say those things out loud.

always duck when you re-present
Anyways. It was finally our turn to go. The first jump was going down a slightly inclined plane. Not even a hill. I'd walked the course a couple times with Alyssa and we'd talked about how we needed to ride positively, blah blah blah.

I'd like to say I'm writing a book called "Pulling Your Way to Success: The Way Ammies and Green Horses Don't Get Around XC", but the truth is I just had total brain freeze, took my leg off completely and pulled all the way to the fence.

obviously he was terrified
Shocker, he stopped.

We circled around and hopped over it. He landed cantering, so I pulled some more, though I did manage to kick just in time to get him over #2.

Because this was going so well.

We walked our terrain change (crossing a road) and said hello to our fans, but I never really got him in front of my leg. Not at all. Not even a little bit.

He didn't think it looked dangerous, but I said it was
We made it over the next jump or two, but then we had to turn the corner and head towards a field of cows, which is something we are not the best at yet. He took a hard look at the cows (since SOMEONE was neither steering nor kicking), then decided against the jump.

Oh, and he slipped, which was all "DANGER COURAGE ROBINSON DO NOT ATTEMPT". I presented twice and then was like "screw it, not fighting him over a crossrail and BRAIN PANIC WE WILL SURELY DEER LEAP AND DIIIIIIIIE"

pull, pull, pull your horse slowly to a stop
And yeah, I wish I was exaggerating.

So we skipped the jump. We made it over the next one, then the course doubled back on itself. Here's the thing. If you take a smart, older OTTB and tell him that the little black cross rail is dangerous and then don't ever bother to kick and just let him camp behind your leg, you aren't going to "trick" him into jumping the X the other direction on the basis that he doesn't know it's the same jump. He totally does and you are an idiot.

So we skipped it again.

merrily, merrily, merrily he will bail you out
Not my proudest moment. On the other hand, we were (obviously) not in contention to win and we are trying to accrue calm, positive experiences. Maybe next time we'll go for calm, positive and SUCCESSFUL or something crazy.

So anyways. We trot/cantered the rest of the course and he was a total star even though I continued to not kick and usually pull. I don't know why. I can say quite authoritatively that riding backwards isn't incredibly useful, but I think I'd already done that survey before.

So there you go. If in doubt, kick instead of pull.

I guess I'm not sure where that leaves me. In hindsight, I probably should have put redheadlins in the tack for the weekend because she would have gotten him around and I could have seen him do it and maybe calmed down. I didn't do that and I can't change it.

I'm really frustrated with myself for my total inability to just get out there and ride like I know I can. Courage showed up and did great. I'm not sure what more I could expect from a green horse who was totally guessing on what he was supposed to do... like if I ride completely opposite of how I do at home, is he then still supposed to do the same thing or change?

dat ass
It's a fair question. We'll be addressing it this coming weekend. I signed him up for a cross country clinic at the facility and am practicing my kicking skills in the mean time.

PS If you're asking "wtf sprinklerbandit, don't you want to do hunters? If you suck at XC this much, maybe it's time to give it up. Why are you still trying?"

That is a good question.

I don't know.


  1. It happens, don't worry about it. You had the experience, didn't die or experience bodily harm, and next time you'll feel more confident. You put yourself out there, and that is sometimes the hardest thing of all to do. Also, I'm pretty sure no one will want you to give up :) We all know you can do it!

  2. ((hugs))
    I know riding is very much a mental sport, and sometimes it's hard to have faith in our four-legged partners. Sometimes the gerbils arrive and don't leave, as much as we want them to. But (try to) shake this off and know that you CAN ride and you CAN dominate those crossrails. Courage tries his little heart out, and although it's easier said than done, look foward to that XC clinic and don't dwell on this past weekend. I'm cheering for you! :)

  3. Don't beat yourself up! It happens to all of us.

  4. Having wondered just a few years ago whether I could be anything other than a Dressage rider, I know where you are coming from and I am here to say you can get through it. You know you can, you've been there before too. Don't write anything off!

  5. Kick instead of pull is the best advice to give yourself! Hang in there! I get nervous and do these too when my horses are just starting out - and I am a really brave rider normally. You guys will be cruising around in no time.

  6. I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing....only I will remain.
    --- From Dune

    Sometimes, having experienced pain and fear when riding horses, it's really hard to mentally move on. I know. I've been there. Riding is at best an exercise in letting go and trusting your partner not to dump you. I am having mental issues about going over a 12" jump, so I understand how difficult it would be to jump all the fences. Twice.

    Remember to breathe. Maybe next time try singing "Grandma got ran over by a reindeer." It's much harder to be scared when you are laughing.

  7. You can worry about this all you want but you are going to remember this past weekend and you are not going to make the same mistakes. Your brain will settle and you'l realize that when you rode, you had a great ride and when you sat back (figuratively) and played passenger, it wasn't so great. You signed up for the xc because you know you can ride (and you do it splendidly!) and that clinic is going to give you so much confidence and experience. So you had a bad go this weekend, no worries - you two are rockstars - you'll be leading the pack at three-days soon! Seriously.

  8. oh and hugs too. You guys are just sorting things out on your way to greatness!

  9. This sounds very similar to my first XC ride on Loki. I don't think I stopped pulling until the last third of the course where I was finally too physically exhausted to pull anymore. Surprise, surprise the last third of the course was ten times better than the rest.

    Why do we still want to go XC when we are so scared? I know for myself that I want to defeat these fear demons and do something that is absolutely fun when I can get my brain unstuck. Plus, for me at least, Loki will never be a hunter, lol.

  10. I've had the crippling fear/panic before. When I got Simon, I knew that if I didn't LEG and make it seem like jumping was no big deal then I wouldn't run into any jumping problems. That's the positive side of a green horse. In the end I was more terrified of turning him into a stopper than I was of dying.

    If you're this scared over these jumps in a field, I'd step back if I were you. I know what it's like to ride badly from fear and bail. Stick to your comfort zone and get super comfortable before you up the anty. Just my 2c that you may or may not want :)

  11. Well I'm proud of you! I am about to be in our very first horse show this Saturday and I am already shaking in fear thinking about our first cross rail class!!! Why do I do this to myself?! Because those moments the fear is NOT there going perfectly over that cross rail of DEATH is ...the best thing ever. Ps. If my horse deer leaps this weekend and I surely die, it was nice getting to know y'all. :P

  12. I think you're on the right track. Trust takes time to develop. Your focus has to be on giving him good experiences. If it means Lins needs to be in the saddle, that's totally ok! If you need to do poles classes instead of jumps, that's ok! The one thing that cannot happen is for him to have to be the brave one, that's gotta get nipped in the bud asap. I know FO SHO you have all the tools, smarts and ability to continue to support Courage so he can continue to be the great horse he is! Remember there is no timeline here, only the one you impose on yourself. Take you time, use your resources, build the trust <3 You guys are doing great!

  13. Don't be so hard on yourself. Our first outing was filled with many highs and lows and it's all baby steps to getting you both confident doing something you love. Emily will be riding Riley in his next event officially to get him around confidently, but I am responsible for maintaining his behavior in the meantime. So no spinning, refusing and running backwards while we ride together.

    You guys are doing great. You're not going to break him because you're worried, and it seems like you figured out what to do in the end.

    ps. It's the Lindseys and Emilys that make this so much easier for us and they wouldn't help us if they didn't want to see us succeed with our ponies:)

  14. Dont be so hard on yourself, everyone makes mistakes and it sounds like something you guys just need to work through.
    Sometimes all it takes is an experience like that to put you back on track. You and Courage are doing amazing. Don't let something like this pull you down!!

  15. Oh, hey, our brains are besties.

  16. Well you've already read all about my show issues with Dandy and how he has made them a hundred times worse (and they've leaked over to non-show time nerves) so you know that I get it. It is HARD when you're scared even if you know you shouldn't be. Like you said, Courage could have walked over all of those jumps. Doesn't make it any easier to shut that panic button off.

    *Hugs* Work through it one step at a time. Make things easy again and work back up if you need to.

  17. Let me know if you'd like a forward or guest chapter for "Pulling Your Way to Success: The Way Ammies and Green Horses Don't Get Around XC" since I also have the whole ride-backwards-at-shows down pretty well.

    But I think you may have had a similar experience even at a hunter show. After all, you were jumping X-rails, not solids. It will come together in time and experience, especially as you trust him more. Plus the nice thing about green horses is that he doesn't really know better so he isn't upset about it. Confused, maybe. But not upset. Look at those photos - he's getting the idea =)

  18. Don't give up! You can beat the fear. It's hard (and definitely justified after what you went through), but Courage is a great horse and he will get you through it. :)

  19. Conquering fear, maybe? To quit XC when your last experiences are all terrifying and giant in your head makes it feel (to you!) like you're giving up on yourself. And maybe, just maybe, when you battle the demons and win - maybe then you'll start enjoying it.

    Thank you for your honesty in battling through it. We all have our own demons that we can relate to with the horses, I think.

  20. Hey! Nerves get the better of us. More exposure will help with that :) You are a brave lady!

  21. We all have these moments. I have put in some seriously s-l-o-w rounds because I was panicking and suddenly everything felt like it was coming at me too fast. I agree with some of the above posters, go back to whatever arena and jump height feels comfortable and have a positive ride. Then do some poles, or watch Red do field work on him. I love watching someone else jump my horse higher than I jump, then its obvious we can do the littler stuff, or as high as I can dare.

  22. So hard on yourself. Little steps.

  23. Ah, but it's all about perspective. I would argue that it was TOTALLY SUCCESSFUL. (1) You did not fall off - always a win! (2) You were afraid and you did it anyway. (3) Your horse, green though he may be to that situation, was honest, tried, and carried you through it - big win rather than said GET THE HELL OUT OF MY FACE, I'M BUCKING YOU OFF AND RUNNING AWAY like some might! (4) Courage went got experience doing a jump course in a field.

    We are amateur riders -- we screw up a lot. I would invite your book to be Volume II to my own inspired piece, titled "Consider Dressage Done! How Clamping Down, Clenching Every Muscle In Your Body, & Holding Your Breath Inspires Your Horse To (Not) Perform."

    The number one quality I advise people to look for in an ammy horse is his brain for exactly this reason: I need a horse who will save my ass and forgive me when I do (a lot) of really stupid things when I know better. Because that is the horse who will keep you safe and be patient while you both fumble along (raises hand). Hey, I'd been riding for 20 years when I took Solo to our first CT and shown dressage through First Level. That day, my goal for my horse who had never been in a dressage arena (didn't have one at that boarding barn) was to (a) not fall off, (b) stay in the ring, and (c) do the test in the right order. I'm all about practical and realistic. :-) Hey, he got a 55, so we did it a little more than half right and he jumped clean, so woot!

    So I'd say congrats -- your horse has just shown his kind nature as a forgiving ammy horse and you can both try again another day! :)


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