Wednesday, March 18, 2015

True Confessions: Overcorrecting

In the past, I have been guilty of overcorrecting my horse.

Part of the reason it was such a victory for me to detatch from Boca's meltdown on Saturday is that this is not something I would have been capable of in the past.

I have always struggled with being an emotional rider. I envy those who possess other-worldly teutonic cool. That's not me. For a long time, I was not able to NOT respond emotionally to my horse. I took things personally. I couldn't NOT. I just didn't have the skills.

I often would take out my frustrations on my horse. If things weren't going well, it would devolve into a pulling match, yanking on their mouth, pony-club kicking or even in moments of extreme frustration, I would lose it and smack so-and-so on the neck.

I was not proud of these moments, but I just didn't know any other way. I didn't have the tools to fix whatever situation I was in, and my emotions would take over. I would even sometimes get really resentful - I work a 40 hours week and sacrifice so much, and this horse who has stood in a field all day eating and hanging out with his/her buddies cannot even give me their attention/focus/effort for 30 minutes.

The shift in perspective happened for me back in the fall.

Waaaay back in the fall (a whole 6 months ago), Boca did not know how to turn off of the outside aids. In particular, tracking left, he could not / would not turn left off my outside aids, no matter how hard I applied them. I would always have to give up at the last minute and pull on the inside rein, which I KNEW WAS WRONG BUT GODDAMMIT WE ARE GOING TO CRASH INTO THE FENCE. I would end up losing his outside shoulder, and another ugly wonky circle was complete.

Combine that with the horses being led in for dinner, to Boca's complete and utter distraction, and we were in full meltdown mode. I ended up jerking him to a stop in frustration, hating myself and knowing something was missing, but having no idea what that might be. I was doing everything I knew, everything I had ever been taught or told or read, and it wasn't working.

In complete despair, I got off and went looking for my instructor, who miraculously had some time free before her next lesson. She came and got on Boca and had the magic answer. To help him understand that he was to turn off the outside aids, she shortened and raised her outside rein, all the way up to the top of his neck, way up by his 3rd vertebrae, and used it against his neck to help guide him around the turn.

Not only did it help Boca understand what we wanted, but a lightbulb went off in my head. I wasn't able to fix the issue, because I didn't have all the tools. Boca wasn't a bad horse or a jerk, or an idiot. He wasn't being deliberately difficult (ok maybe he was a little) but I didn't have what he needed to understand what was being asked of him. It was so black and white to me, because there was no way in the world, no matter how long I spend going in circles, that I would ever have come up with that as a solution.

I guess for me, it was a combination of a lot of things. It took knowing that I may not have all the answers. It took taking my ego out of it. I always wanted *so badly* to be a good rider. Now I accept who and what I am - a very average rider still learning. It took a horse like Boca, who I trust, and who doesn't escalate beyond a certain point, and who doesn't usually deliberately act like a jerk for no reason.

Last night I had a good ride at the walk and trot. I decided to put him on the longe and ask for canter. It was a mess. We had running, flailing, bucking and fuckery. I did not get one good transition.  But you know what? I didn't get upset about it. I shrugged and said to myself, "maybe he's not strong enough yet, maybe the longe is too small of a circle, maybe its just not his day." We didn't really even end on a good note.

Canter? Please?

But you know what? That's ok. Today is another day. We can do things we are good at, until my next lesson.


  1. I know this story well. Used to be SUPER emotional and over corrective, and I still have my bad days ( like last night). This post is a great reminder for me.

  2. :-) I love the progression here. It's so hard for us ammies to accept that we aren't pros and shouldn't be. Like if we could ride that well, what the hell are they doing all day anyways?

    Congrats on a great leap forward for your horsemanship. :-) Glad you and Boca are becoming a better team.

  3. I got emotional and overcorrected (well, only a little over, Murray was being an ass) my horse AT A SHOW. IN FRONT OF A JUDGE. It was a bad call. So I completely, COMPLETELY understand your feelings. I have, I feel, come a long way since then (and really even up until that point, he was just pushing all my buttons that day) and Murray and I both work more collaboratively because of it. Since I don't get emotional about little shit, Murray knows that when I'm asking him for something hard it's probably really worth doing. You're totally going in the right direction!!

  4. I still get emotional about riding, but I'm getting better at realizing when I'm doing it and just stopping. I know 99.9% of the time, things are going wrong because I'm DOING something wrong. But it can still be frustrating.

  5. I have worked long and hard on my emotional fitness. I'm much better but I'm miles from perfect. One of my young horses seems to only take me seriously if I get I don't really know what to do with that!

  6. this is something i continue to struggle with - and probably will for the rest of my riding life. i just, ya know, really like *control* ...

    your points about having the tools (and enough honesty about one's own ego to admit when we don't) are great tho. and i'm actually starting to think this ability to take emotions out of it is directly related to rider confidence...

  7. I can so relate to this. What helped me the most was riding other people's horses. I COULDN'T lose my temper or take things personally. I'm glad that it's getting easier for you :)

  8. I can absolutely relate to this & admire your mature approach. I still let myself get sucked into being emotional, but i invariably always end up apologising to my horse and telling them how great they are to put up with a bumbling idiot like me and of course thanking them profusely for not unceremoniously dumping my stupid ass