dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Fragility of Confidence

I need to tell you guys about my ride on Sunday so that this post makes sense. I got Carmen ready like I always do. I started her off at the walk and she immediately wanted to head across the ring towards Troll Corner. I decided to let her do that and then we walked down to the far end of the ring. All of a sudden we were in full flight back up to the top of the ring. I could not get her stopped so I turned her in a  circle and kept her there until I could gain control of the canter and then we cantered some more. 

That was the start of what was an awful ride. It was like my rides from last year. I could not get her down to the far end of the ring without bolting. In the end I worked her butt up in the far end and then took her tack off and brought her back to the ring to do some ground  work. It took about 15 minutes to get her to listen to me. She even thought about running me over at one point. I got her back to being settled and calm and put her away.  

Now a sensible person would realize that bad rides were going to happen and that this was a glitch. But of course of this is me and my confidence was shaken by it and my inner demons were saying things like:
You thought you had worked through this but you were obviously wrong. Of course you don't know what you're doing. You have been putting too much pressure on her. You've been letting her get away with things and not asking enough.....blah blah blah. 

The truth is that I don't know what set her off. It could have been the final hurrah of her heat cycle, it could be she saw a deer in the neighbour's field or a rabbit in the brush. For whatever reason the hamster fell of the wheel and she was a basket case. That evening she was more like herself- calm and affectionate.

I was surprised by how shaken my confidence was. I wasn't afraid exactly, although there was one moment when I thought that we were going to wreck on some poles. I was more worried our gains were more shallow than I thought and couldn't withstand a 'real' test. Even given our successes this year.  

I was not sure about going to Rachael's the next day but I did it. I rode defensively there- I know I did but Rachael was helpful and in the end I was really glad I went. 

Wednesday I had a lesson with Shanea. I spent time with Carmen in the barn getting her ready and then was on her walking around a good 20 minutes before our scheduled lesson. I brought up my lunge line just in case. She was a bit spooky at the far end but I tried Rachael's technique (I will do a post about that soon) and it worked well. 

When Shanea came I gave her an update. I need to be honest with her if she's going to help us improve. I also have trust that she won't leap to all sorts of judgements about what happened (I can do that to myself, thankyouverymuch). Instead she listened carefully and then we went to work. 

And it was an amazing lesson. Carmen was with me the whole time, listening and trying. Shanea walked me through how to set up Carmen to listen and not wait until she stiffens or gets spooky. Essentially it was to ask her to bend to the inside and once she softens give and ride her forward. That really helped a lot to prevent her from getting off the aids. It was nice because at no point was I 'pulling' but I was gently insistent that she bend and soften around my inside leg and then use the outside rein to get her through. 


As an adult amateur I don't have the advantage of riding multiple horses or the educational background to have the confidence of my plan. Horses are thinking, living creatures and much more sensitive to the world around them then humans. It's easy to read a blog or forum post and know what that person should have done. But in the moment it's hard and mistakes will get made. And sometimes I am doing the right thing but it feels like it could be wrong because the reaction is not what I expected. Then the question of whether to stick it through because it will work or try something else. I think that this is why so many amateurs end up doing so many different techniques and confusing their horses.

This is why when I hired Royce I stuck to his program. He didn't need me dismantling what he had accomplished in between our sessions.

This is why I am so happy to have Shanea come regularly to help us and keep us on track. I realize that my self-confidence with Carmen is not as deep as I would like. I also know that I have a tendency to believe that progress should be linear even though I have lots of empirical evidence that this is not the case.


 Even more importantly, at the end of my lesson I felt my confidence returning. Which is a sign of great coaching- it wasn't about stroking my ego and lying to me. It wasn't about lecturing me on how I should be doing this or that. Instead Shanea helped me to put elements together and talked me through it. In our lesson we practiced elements of T3 and we did very well. Shanea declared us ready for our next show on August 5-6. We're going to do T2 and 3.

I love riding this mare and I am not giving up.


SaveSave

41 comments:

  1. "I have the tendency to believe that progress should be linear..." so much this. One bad ride is just that...one bad ride yet I tend to grasp that single bad moment and believe it is the only reality. Why our brains can't do the same for the glorious rides too, I'll never know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's because we are unable to credit ourselves for the good but are good at blaming ourselves for the bad.

      Delete
  2. I'm glad you managed to rebuild that confidence pretty quickly :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm not in any way glad that you and Carmen had a setback, but I'm glad that you were able to quickly rebuild the confidence -- you're so right that horse training isn't linear, but it can be easy to get mired in setbacks. But you and Carmen have been putting so many 'deposits' in your trust bank that this 'withdrawal' sounds like a blip in the road. Shanea seems like the perfect trainer for you as you guys continue to build confidence. I can't wait to read about your show adventures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this analysis. It makes a lot of sense.

      Delete
  4. I've been there - you know Red.

    Having good coaching can make all the difference in the world. There's nothing linear about horses or horsemanship . . . despite the dressage training scale!

    One of my mares (Dawn) was always much more spooky and hyperalert when she was in heat - you might want to consider trying some MareMagic or MareBerry (plain raspberry leaves) - it made a difference to Dawn.

    Actively riding is the key for me and Red - if I'm lollygagging along on a loose rein or not really riding - asking for something specific - he's much more likely to either get distracted or react to something he senses/sees/hears. It doesn't prevent all of his bolting, but it cuts it down and if it does happen I'm in a better position to redirect his energy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right- Carmen is not a fan of lollygagging either. Her brain is too busy for that.

      Delete
  5. You love riding this mare, that's the thing: ) I'm not sure I'm there yet, but I appreciate your continuing encouragement.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your coach sounds very similar to mine! Way to go, working through the mental stuff is harder than the actual riding, i think

    ReplyDelete
  7. I think everyone needs their own Shanea. She sounds great.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I totally understand the feelings. So many times this year I have been feeling much better about my rides and then one bad ride or clinic will shove us backwards. I can recover my lost confidence more quickly than before, but it still takes time. I really like the trust bank metaphor. You may have had a withdrawal, but past deposits mean your balance isn't completely negative and you can build it back up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The trust bank is a great analogy

      Delete
  9. I am glad you have the professionals in your life that you can be honest with and who support you. Having that network really does a lot to rebuild up any confidence lost.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I would be floundering without them.

      Delete
  10. Ironically enough, Annie and I have had some seriously strugglebus rides this week. I rode her this morning and things were back to being normal again. I too, had that feeling of "you aren't good enough" and all that... but it isn't productive. It's hard tho, because it really does shake your confidence.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is hard. I think, though, that it speaks to our grit that we keep going back and trying.

      Delete
  11. Do I ever identify with this. It is so easy for a bad ride to change things mentally. Even knowing logically not to be hard on ourselves, we still are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes we are. I am not sure why but we are.

      Delete
  12. Its easy, like you said, for us amateurs to have our confidence shaken. It was one bad ride; it happens. I think your percentage of good rides is in the 90s; pretty darn good -- especially considering the baggage you both started with. (Not a criticism).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are spot on- we started with a lot of baggage and it's good for me to remember that.

      Delete
  13. I am glad you have a good trainer who is able to get your confidence back on course for you. I think it's normal to have your confidence shaken by non-linear rides, and that's why it's so important to have a knowledgeable set of eyes on the ground. From the outside, looking in, it's clear to see that you ARE making steady forward progress, glitchy rides aside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the phrase 'non-linear rides'. I'm going to use it! Thank you for your vote of confidence.

      Delete
  14. ugh i'm sorry, i definitely know that feeling :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know that you do! I love reading your blog, in part, because of your honesty.

      Delete
  15. Ah, yes, progress is not linear, is it? And, there is no moment when we can say we've arrived at perfection. That whole living, breathing being thing is fun like that. But I will say, you two sure seem close to perfection most of the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aw, thank you Linda. That is lovely of you to say.

      Delete
  16. It's just the natural progression of things that all rides can't be stellar. Once in a while we get that bad ride to shake our confidence. The good part is that we ride through it and come out with more knowledge on the other side. You and Carmen have had good and bad but you always soldier on. Having a supportive trainer helps put it all back in perspective.

    ReplyDelete
  17. You know the graph image of progress and how it's not a straight line and goes up and down? But it's so hard in the moments when it goes down, right? I struggle with that a lot. I mentally still think it should just be a nice diagonal line. It sounds like you've got a good trainer to help you along though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I immediately leap to the conclusion that the up was a fluke and the down will continue!

      Delete
  18. I also have a hard time remembering that progress is not linear. I guess the steps to remembering that it isn't linear are quite curvy and I'm lost? I'm so glad that the next ride went so smoothly and you're feeling confidence return quickly. You two are a great pair.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence!

      Delete
  19. I have a tendency to really beat myself up over things like that as well. You'll have to tell those feelings to shut up, because they are deceptive and inhibiting. Everyone has a bad ride now and then. You guys look amazing in that last picture!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will work on telling my feelings to be quiet.

      Delete
  20. Good for you! You get it, girl. I know the feeling, but you have to shut those voices out. They are not logical. You know your mare and the real progress y'all are making together. You just have to look back to prove it to yourself and to her. We all have days. The horses and us. Just look at how different your day at Rachel's was. One day does not undo the pattern. And you are right about the switching of programs, you have to stay the course and give it a chance to work. Give yourself a chance to get it right. Give the horse and chance to figure it out. Give it time. You will come to know if it is working or not. Seriously, that last photo! Y'all look great and she has grown up so much. Cary on the good work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are very wise. Thank you for the comments.

      Delete

Thank you for leaving a comment. I love the feedback.