My weekly lessons have been going well. Each week I feel like I am progressing, learning, and getting to be a better and stronger rider. Every time I go I seem to add another tool to my toolbox (or at least knowledge into my brain....sometimes so much that I think stuff leaks out the sides). That was until last week. So early last week I decided to ride Pilgrim after an exceptionally good lunge in side reins. He was quiet, relaxed, with good tempo, and seemed to be comfortable with the contact. I thought, "wow, we are going to have a really good ride!" Well, we didn't. The minute I put my foot in the stirrup it was like a ticking time bomb ready to go off.....I think I could actually feel him shaking underneath me. We walked and walked trying to get him to soften and relax, but it never happened. When we started to trot, it all went south. He would tense up, slide out through the shoulders, spin and pop up repeatedly. The more I tried to fix it, the worse he got and the tenser I got. I finally settled for some somewhat quiet walk to halt transitions and me breathing steady.
After that disaster ride I was feeling pretty down. I thought for sure we were making progress, but this was the worst he's been in a while and instead of being confident and pushing him through it, I panicked, got tense, and fell apart. By the time my lesson came on Thursday, I knew I hadn't let it go. I put my foot in the stirrup and tensed up immediately. It took me half of my lesson to relax enough to even come close to putting myself in the right positions and still was just an absolute mess. My lateral was awful, we couldn't stay straight and I kept letting the shoulders swing back and forth. I was always a half second late catching the horse with my leg and hand. I left my lesson feeling like crap with a bad case of the poor, poor pitiful me syndrome. "I'll never be able to do this. I'm not good enough. Etc, etc..." My trainer was oober supportive, insisting that having a bad ride can be hard to work through mentally and Pilgrim is extremely tricky to ride under the best of circumstances. So I reminded myself that he will be in training soon and it will get better.
So here comes Thursday and my next lesson. I haven't been working out and an old injury to my right shoulder is flaring up (guess I need to start my strength training back in my arms....it's always a tell tale sign I need to when my shoulder feels like there's a knife in it), and my right shoulder always creeps forward anyways and I lose the contact in that rein when riding, which makes tracking left a real challenge. I immediately knew it was going to be a bad lesson since my shoulder hurting would aggravate a weakness I already have. I get on and get going, Rebel was a little sore so we took our time warming him up. Once we got going I really concentrated on my shoulder, keeping it back and dropping it down.....keeping both shoulders in line with my hips. As I would do this I kept getting moments of proper bend and flex out of Rebel but then would lose it. One time he did really well and I felt him really step underneath himself with his inside hind, but I lost my posting rhythm in that moment of suspension and kind of got behind the movement and off he goes with his nose out and rushing forward. Then all of a sudden, everything came together....my seat was right, I maintained steady outside contact, created the bend with my inside rein and inside leg, softened when I needed to....I actually squealed with delight (in which my trainer quickly yelled "just keep going!"). I finally felt it, and could re-create it on my own. I spent the rest of my lesson with a giant smile on my face, Rebel soft and round and thinking "I can do this!"
It was an important reminder to me that every time I think "no you can't" I just need to keep telling myself "yes, you can!" So to all my fellow riders; young, old, beginner or pro....don't forget: YES YOU CAN!