Addressing tension, stress, and…excuses.

Honestly, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. And this is going to be a media-less post because I just don’t have any. I do have pictures of a new car because there’s an entire story about my car getting rear-ended by a Mennonite (and private Mennonite church insurance) as part of a 4 car incident), but that’s a story for another day…

Anyway, due to car-crap, work, and life, I rode Friday, Sunday, and then took a lesson on Tuesday (yesterday). Friday Nay Nay was pretty incredible. Nay was quiet. We were 100% alone which… isn’t safe, but, feeding time was soon and I figured if something was going on someone would find me. So bad, but since Nay was feeling so trustworthy, I did whatever I needed to do. My routine is that I do lunge before riding so I felt comfortable to get on but even trotting around, Nay was just… perfect.

After a nice trot, I actually warmed up over our boogie fence from my previous lesson first at the trot, then cantered it a few times. He was great. No crow hopping, no resistance. He was a tiny bit speedier at the canter, but mostly I think it was because I was a touch loose.

From here? We moved to the canter and cantered both leads. Then I worked Nay hard over the small fence at the end of the ring. It was tiny (12-18″ no standards) first at a trot, then cantered circles over it several times, working on maintaining a steady pace, shortening when I needed to, working on the turn, and all that jazz. Interestingly, while Nay bends SO MUCH BETTER to the right, I am so much more comfortable to the left. So the exercise was easy to the left, harder to the right. As a result, we worked harder to the right.

Feeling tight, we went back to the exercise from the last lesson (the rollback to the jump I warmed up earlier). The first jump wasn’t an issue, never is. BUT, Nay tried to pull his antics to the second, but I was tight, confident to the second (we DID jump it several times) and closing my outside leg, Nay groaned and jumped it without actually having much of a fit. We did this a few more times and the only issue was he was speedy on the landing, but no problem arose again with the approach. I THINK the issue is when Nay gets tired or decides he’s done? He says haha nope. But once he realizes he needs to work, he gives up. My confidence plays a role too.

Sunday I wasn’t feeling it. He was a spooky mess, but we rode and everything was fine. I just wasn’t feeling it. We went through the motions. Just nothing to write home about. I didn’t push it, but it was fine. Nay did nothing bad, but I just didn’t enjoy anything (the days you ride because you should not because you want to?).

Which brings us to Tuesday. The weather sucked. Nay was a touch tight? I lunged outside and he was wild. Then we came in the indoor where my trainer was finishing a training ride and Nay proceeded to almost jump me off. Basically she picked up the canter and Nay decided to jump and spin and spin and jump. I hopped off and Nay Nay proceeded to stand like a PERFECT GENTLEMAN and try and snuggle. Bastard.

When my trainer finished her ride (filled with antics), I turned down the opportunity for a brief free-lunge/chase around the indoor and jumped back on. Obviously Nay had my number. We started off trotting and man was there tension and we were determined to ride out the freaking tension. We trotted. Faster. Faster. Faster. Nothing I did was fast enough. We got there. I had to stop pulling with my left hand (it appears I pull with that hand). But we trotted forever, ultimately at speed. Then we cantered, first to the right.

The right was interesting. Nay was still full of tension. We picked up the lead and held it until he decided that he wasn’t at all interested in the right lead and swapped and suddenly we were on the left lead. “I don’t care.” was my trainer’s view point so we continued counter-cantering for about 5-6 minutes as fast as Nay wanted to go. This tired the shit out of him and once we was quiet, I trotted a step and we continued on the correct lead for several more minutes. The goal was canter as fast as he wants on down the long side and allow him to collect down the short side.

We trotted a quick change of direction and cantered AGAIN, this time to the left. The left was… interesting. There was a touch of tension but this was my fault. I was pressing my spur into him (my saddle was moving a touch — I was using a fuzzy girth vs his preferred professional choice girth) so he kicked the wall and then had a tantrum… twice. But, the key with Nay is that, in this case, he WAS trying to do what I asked. Spurs (this time my left spur) told him to move his hocks over) and he did, into the wall. He realized that wasn’t the right reaction so he got upset because he wasn’t sure what I wanted. He may buck/crow hop, but he does NOT try to get me off. Never. That isn’t ever his goal. I’m not the stickiest rider, but I never feel like he’s trying to get me off. Subi? Yeah. Nay, nope.

So we kept the canter while focusing on the placement of my leg. OMFG. So hard. Basically overcompensating knee in, heel out. It was…extreme. But we got it. And eventually walked. We did finish with a few small jumps which were of no issue.

We stopped chatted awhile about anxiety. Mine, Nay’s. While I sat with my feet out of the stirrups showing how relaxed we both were…

My trainer brought up ulcers and suggested I either treat or scope. He’s lost some weight and is more reactive, but I think the weight is more due to weather and all the grass gone. I need to up feed. Nay tends to stop eating when he has a flare (he stops eating hay and/or feed and he’s still eating). He might just need winter rations to make up for less grass. He is much quieter outside of lessons vs lessons and he’s always reactive during rainy/gross weather. I’ll toss him on some ulcer meds (he’s on preventatives so I DON’T think we’re dealing with ulcers) vs scoping as he’ll respond in a couple of days if its ulcers.

The big problem is… me. I get crazy nervous for lessons. I tense up. I need to release tension because Nay feeds off me. We ride on our own, especially when the rings are empty? Nay is a puppy dog. No tension. Just a lesson horse. But, we warm up differently. We lunge, yes, but we walk around on a loose rein for a while until I want to trot (5, 10, 15, 20 minutes depending on the day). We trot FOREVER. 20 minutes, sometimes more. First slow. Then faster. Lots of change of rein. Circles of all sizes. By the time we move on, we’re both relaxed and happy.

It’s hard to do this kind of warm up before a lesson just due to real life (I usually ride during the day during my lunch break), but I’m going to see if I can get on and just walk around for 20 minutes and work on relaxing. I think my nerves are setting us both up for failure. For some reason, lessons make me nervous. They always have. Every trainer, every horse. Even lessons on RANGER ffs. And that horse was a saint.

So yeah. How do we fix me?

3 thoughts on “Addressing tension, stress, and…excuses.

  1. I get like that for lessons too. For me, it’s my overwhelming desire to do well. I will often say to myself ‘I need to get out of my head’. It does help. But it’s just practice and time.

  2. I used to get that way for lessons as well. Your trainer really seems to work well with you and Nay, and Ranger before that, so I’d suggest talking to her about this. Tell her about your tension, that you’re not even sure why you’re so tense – just that you are. Ask her if you can incorporate some of your normal riding routines into lessons. Ask her to watch you guys and give tips or pointers as you’re doing your relaxing 20 minute trots – such as how the bend should be in this turn, or something of the sort. This gives you new things to incorporate into your usual warm ups, and is beneficial to both you and Nay so that you’re both relaxed as you move onto newer things you’re learning or even just building on the things you have been doing. A lot of this is mental, and I think it really helps to have someone on your side, or at least know about your tension. If she knows about your tension, it can help her better address whatever she is seeing on that day and time of the lesson instead of pushing you past what you’re comfortable that day. I know for me, I’ve spoken with my trainer about a few of my issues when I reach a mental block or an emotional wall for that day, even to the point where I had to get off of a horse I was riding because I knew if I tried to push that it would lead to nowhere good. She had no judgement whatsoever, helped me understand things better, and the lesson was much better instead of bad. Having that rapport with her has been so beneficial to my riding and learning, and I am so much more confident riding English than I have ever been. Sorry for my long-winded reply haha, but I hope it helps a little!

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