Today I realised how far I have come
I was given an opportunity today, in riding a horse I’ve not sat on since November. Well, I say given, I didn’t have much choice!
The last time I rode him, I was unhappy and panicky as he felt too strong for me and made me feel unsafe. Today, despite being another assessment (more on that later), went very well. He was a star, and I fully appreciated for the first time how much my riding has improved. Whereas last time I felt out of control and helpless, today I felt totally at ease, in control and completely comfortable. He did everything I asked him to do, mostly because I asked him to do it right.
There are a few things I was particularly pleased with from our ride.
1. This pony has a particularly whizzy canter and he tends to run through his transitions rather than stepping into them smoothly. I managed to get his transitions much more off the bat by asking for walk to canter with no warning at all. After a few goes at that, he started to snap into canter immediately rather than running off in trot first. I also got him working on circles of different sizes in the canter, to force him to get it together and stop racing. And it worked! I wasn’t sure how effective it would be, as he can get quite unbalanced sometimes, but decreasing and increasing the size of the circle got him controlled and steady. It was a lovely canter by the end of that exercise, and I was really chuffed.
2. He started to work on an outline. As a novice rider, I do not ever expect to be able to get a horse to come round onto the bit for me, because I just don’t have the experience. So when I get a few strides of something with a nice rounded shape and light feeling in my hands, it feels fantastic. Today, despite the fact that it wasn’t continuous, I really felt like I achieved something when it came to working on a contact. I had quite a long stint of trot work with a beautifully rounded Owain, and although it meant I had to use extra leg to keep him working into it, I was delighted to have a proper contact.
3. Lateral work and turn on the forehand. I did not realise how much this pony knew! I thought, “Well I’ll just ask for a turn on the forehand, you never know” and wahey, off we went on a super duper turn. That was after some pretty impressive leg yield. He was an absolute cracker of a horse today and was managing to respond to my legs without trying to race off full pelt.
There was the unsettling factor at the end, however, of being assessed and asked for my assessment. Which was, to be frank, disappointing.
I had a tutorial the other day, during which we talked about how frustrating I find this side of things. Academically, and even in my practical work, I am a high achiever. So I have come to expect high things from myself. When it comes to the riding, however, I am forced to let myself down through pure inexperience. Which is hard for me. To pass, is great, because it’s certainly something I couldn’t have done a few months back, but a ‘pass’ just doesn’t seem enough for me. It’s difficult, because I want to get the higher marks because that’s the kind of student I am. And yet, I know it would be asking far too much to expect me to get high marks in something I’ve only been doing for ten months. While I can go and get distinctions in fitting a saddle or putting on an exercise bandage, I can’t get it in my riding.
It’s taken me some considerable thought to be at peace with myself over this issue, because every time I try to reason with myself about it, I just get more agitated again. Agitated isn’t even the right word; it’s frustration, pure and simple.
The tutors today talked to me about the fact that I have taken on a huge amount of learning in a short space of time. They said that to have got to the stage I am at now, and to be passing a riding assessment, is a big deal given where I was when I started out. And I know they are telling the truth and being more than fair. But there is still a little voice in my head telling me I should be better.
Like I said in a previous post, I’m too hard on myself. But then, if I don’t push myself, I won’t learn. I think my pride gets in the way as well sometimes. I’m so used to being good at stuff, that when I fall down on something, I don’t quite know what to do with myself.
I must stop thinking of it as if I’m failing. I know I’m not. I really must believe in myself more. I know.
It’s just hard sometimes.