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What to do when you are frustrated?

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  • What to do when you are frustrated?

    I started taking Dressage lessons almost 2 years ago after riding hunters for a long while. My horses love the work, but we haven't been able to have a lesson for the past 8 months because I cant really afford them like I used to be able to.

    I often get frustrated with myself because everything seems harder. Before when I was having problems riding on my own I would move on to something my horse and I could do well on our own, and address the problem in our next lesson.I always looked forward to them and felt really good afterward.

    After I ride my horses, I feel bad all day. Wondering if I am going in the right direction and just stewing about all my mistakes. Worried that I have upset them and am training bad habits into them.

    How do all of you who have your horses at home and no regular lessons keep yourself positive and on the right track?

  • #2
    Sometimes the best thing to do is back up a step or two to something you can do well, so you and your horse can have a positive ride. Then try to find a different approach going forward, making sure you are explaining correctly to your horse what you want him to do, and that he is strong enough and has a correct foundation so that he can do what you are asking of him. Of course, the first step if you are hitting serious resistance even with basics is to check him for pain (teeth, saddle fit, muscle soreness, etc).

    If the problems aren't so much about a particular thing your horse does, but more the overall challenge of working on your own, what helps me is to write it down. I give myself a moment to be a whiny student, and complain about everything. Then I change roles, and I think as a trainer, how do I help this student? I look at everything I wrote down, and make a list of possible solutions (everything from massage the horse, check saddle fit, check that my aids are correct by riding the same movement on a dif horse, to training exercises to help explain to the horse what I want). I suppose this only works if you have enough background in dressage to know how to fix different things, but if not, it would help you know which questions to ask on COTH

    Writing it down has the added benefit, if you save your writing in a journal or blog anyway, of letting you see your progress over time. Then if you are frustrated due to a general "I'm not getting anywhere" feeling, you can look back at what was hard 6 months ago and see your progress. Of course, if there really isn't any then you know that your feelings are justified and you need to get to a clinic or arrange for a few lessons or something.

    There is a book called Solo Schooling that is all about coaching yourself. It goes over being in the right state of mind to be productive, problem solving, encouraging yourself without letting yourself get lazy (a fine balance!), etc. You might find some really good suggestions in there to get yourself in a more positive program.

    Good luck, it's not easy!
    Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
    Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
    My Training Blog: www.dressagefundamentals.com

    Comment


    • #3
      It sounds like having more lessons would help you feel better about the direction you are going in. Can you sell some stuff on Ebay, so you can afford a lesson once every 2 weeks or once a month?

      It's so hard when you are on your own. I like the writing it down idea for in between infrequent lessons.

      Good luck.

      Comment


      • #4
        There were several months last fall and winter when I had to suspend my lessons because of expense. It was very frustrating for me, so I feel your pain!

        I would arrange with a friend to ride together, so she could watch my ride and I could watch her ride. We have both been students of the same instructor, and often watched each other in lessons, so we had a good idea of what to look for.

        Also, I would save as much as I could and would then pay for a lesson every 6 weeks or so. It helped keep me on track as much as possible, and kept the connection with the instructor strong during those months when I couldn't afford weekly lessons.
        Sheilah

        Comment


        • #5
          What level were you riding when you had to stop your lessons? Were you showing, or just having a great time learning?

          I think we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves and our horses to constantly be moving "up" in our training, and honestly, I don't think that's always necessary, especially when lessons aren't an option for awhile.

          The training pyramid starts out with rhythm and suppleness, and really I think relaxation and acceptance are huge. none of that comes very well when a rider is tense, unsure, worried…

          Sooo, I'd suggest taking a break from trying to continue "training" in dressage so to speak, and work on the basic foundation of rhythm, suppleness and contact. Don't worry about a super dressage-y frame, don't worry about schooling specific movements you're unsure of. Turn on your iPod and trot happily and rhythmically down the trail. Enjoy some relaxed circles and serpentines and think about suppleness and letting your horse flow around your leg in a nice bend. Do a little shoulder-in here and there (even on the trail!) - I'm sure you schooled that lots in your hunter lessons (I know I did!). One of my favorite things to do with my mare to this day, despite having plenty of dressage goals of my own, is packing a little lunch in some saddle bags and riding out somewhere beyond cars and houses, just in nature, and sitting down having a snack, looking at my horse and the scenery. It just makes me feel incredibly lucky to be amongst the horse-having population.

          With that in mind, pause for a moment next time you hop in the saddle, and just think how awesome it is to be able to be on the back of your horse, in the fresh air, with the birds chirping and your mind free of the everyday stresses of life. Dressage is great, but there's no pressure on you to take it to any level in a certain amount of time. Riding is FUN and if you can't take lessons for awhile, take a break from really serious training and just get back to relaxing and having a great time with your horses. That will have you all working in a quiet, accepting frame and state of mind that will be ideal when you are able to get back into lessons!

          Comment


          • #6
            Riding with friends helps, even if it's not always the best advice you need at the moment, just having some extra eyes around and the friendship can be uplifting and keep you motivated.

            If you dont have people to ride with... Then you get stuck like me. So i play dressage in the yard now and then, but i started driving my ponies and trail riding. Just to give us something else to work on and keep my brain off all the goals i had for my dressage. I play dressage down the trail too. Driving has REALLY helped my cob mare in ways i didnt think it would. She's finally figured out how to balance herself in the shafts and it's transfered to her under saddle work. She's really getting fun.

            So sometimes i think you just have to step away from it and find the fun again. Then you can come back and remember that its meant to be FUN, not torture.
            Your Horse's Home On The Road!
            www.KaydanFarmsEquineTransport.com

            Comment


            • #7
              Posted by butlerfamilyzoo:

              I play dressage down the trail too.
              Persoanlly, I think this is the best foundation that a rider/trainer can give a horse regardless of the long-term goal.

              I think it provides the best underlying foundation for soundness over the long term useful life of any horse.

              "Long, slow, distance" foundation while adding the aids.

              Comment


              • #8
                Have someone take a video of you riding. A lot of times we think we are riding correctly, but after watching even just a few minutes of a video of yourself, so start to realize what is going wrong- it is a great way to evaluate yourself.

                Sometimes just a small break from the arena can also be good for both you and the horse- a trail ride, a walk around the property, a gallop in the arena, a ride of just stretching.

                Stay positive and remember to have fun, if you are not smiling chances are the horse is feeling the same way.
                Welcome to my dressage world http://www.juliefranzen.blogspot.com/

                Comment


                • #9
                  I have been unable to afford the luxury of lessons for the past 6 months. While I was boarding, I made a point to audit lessons when I was at the barn. I would practice exercises the instructor had the students do and was able to identify when students were working on issues which related to ones I was having with my pony.

                  I ended up doing what esdressage suggested above. I realized there was a lot wrong with the structure I was trying to build my training off and I took it back to the basics. I dedicated my rides to focusing on rhythm, balance, and the horse working properly over his back. I also worked hard to correct my own position. It was a little frustrating at first to take such a leap backward, and the first month or so was difficult, but it helped SO MUCH in the long run. I found I'm better able to identify exactly what issues I'm having during my rides and what measures I can take to address and fix them. My training is accelerating at a rapid pace because of the proper foundation and I've surpassed the level I was schooling before my step back in just a matter of months. Plus, it's also correct this time
                  "Last time I picked your feet, you broke my toe!"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by BaroquePony View Post
                    Persoanlly, I think this is the best foundation that a rider/trainer can give a horse regardless of the long-term goal.

                    I think it provides the best underlying foundation for soundness over the long term useful life of any horse.

                    "Long, slow, distance" foundation while adding the aids.
                    you know what I REALLY like about this approach; you leave that moment of imperfection on the trail behind you. In an arena, you physically revisit the same place something didn't go right, you are reminded and in some minute ways it latches on to you again. on the trail, you generally don't revisit the same physical spot, and i've found it's easier to move forward.
                    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
                    chaque pas est fait ensemble

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                      you know what I REALLY like about this approach; you leave that moment of imperfection on the trail behind you. In an arena, you physically revisit the same place something didn't go right, you are reminded and in some minute ways it latches on to you again. on the trail, you generally don't revisit the same physical spot, and i've found it's easier to move forward.

                      This is SOOOOOO true!
                      Your Horse's Home On The Road!
                      www.KaydanFarmsEquineTransport.com

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by JLC7898 View Post
                        After I ride my horses, I feel bad all day. Wondering if I am going in the right direction and just stewing about all my mistakes. Worried that I have upset them and am training bad habits into them.

                        How do all of you who have your horses at home and no regular lessons keep yourself positive and on the right track?
                        wow, do you feel like that after most of your rides?

                        While all make mistakes and most ponder them, you should feel that bad during most of your rides. If it comes from riding, try to make simpler daily goals. Don't overwhelm yourself with many tasks during one ride, simplify it.

                        But maybe it's a side effect of any other issues that might be going in your life? If so, try compartment method: don't think about those issues when you ride. Make riding time a fun time with no thoughts about anything negative not related to horses.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I've found cross training to be very helpful for me and my horses. I grew up doing h/j also and then went to dressage then to eventing and now back to dressage. I find the moments of perfection, no matter how few and far between they are, exhilarating. It is a great sport for a thinking rider. But because of the thinking/focus aspect of it, I think we get too emotionally wound up in striving for those fleeting moments of perfection.

                          I had a horrible lesson a few weeks ago - worst one I've had since . . . a long time. I was looking at my schooling program (I keep the horses at home and have lessons once a week or every other week) and realized I hadn't been doing cross training as I had been doing in years past.

                          I hit the trails. Took Paddy out for a nice long gallop through the woods. It is great for his brain (and mine!) and his fitness, also. Ever since then, I've had a huge turnaround in our work. We go for a gallop on the trails once a week, have a jump school once a week, and then can work on dressage the rest of the time. We really need the mental break.

                          Can you get out on the trails and take some pressure off? Do you still have your jump saddle and can you do a bit of that for fun? Dressage can be so serious, perhaps you just need a bit of a mental vacation?
                          My Mustang Adventures - Mac, my mustang | Annwylid D'Lite - my Cob filly

                          "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            I don't have a ring..indoor or outdoor.All of my training is done on the trails.My boy loves it and is so complete!I can go out in my comfy western saddle and it's all good and the next day go out in all our dressage stuff and school with great success.Happy owner,happy horse!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thanks! I just feel lucky to have my horses at home, and that I am able to provide them with the best care possible.

                              I dont have a ring or anything so I ride around the field which makes me nervous sometimes, I think it adds to the tension.
                              Keep the suggestions coming.

                              I am going to get on my horses tomorrow and forget all the troubles and just work quietly in the walk all around the fields.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Okay, first off. As a former "Hunter Princes turned Dressage Queen" and an instructor of both, I can tell you first that the hardest dicipline I've found to convert from to Dressage is Hunters. They are just SO different. So, it IS frustrating. BUT, take heart, progress will be made!

                                I have a few people who take only a handful of lessons here or there for various reasons, usually time or money - which, who has a lot of either anymore these days!?

                                What I recommend is stretching your dollar as far as it will go by either having regular, but well spaced out lessons, taking a group lesson on a school horse somewhere occassionally (this is great because instead of 'training' you should be on a horse who is well schooled - you can get the feeling, and then take it back home to your horses ) or even just going and WATCHING a few lessons given by a good instructor.

                                Clinics are another option. Now, if you pick big name trainers, you will spend your entire budget in a weekend or 2, but if you find well respected but younger or newer trainers you can spread your budget further. If you can even find an amatuer that can just mentor you a bit - just having eyes on the ground will help.

                                If you feel pretty confident in understanding what is SUPPOSED to be happening, have hubby or a friend take video and self school yourself by playing back the tape and noting what is going good and what needs improvement.
                                Concordia means "Harmony" in Latin.
                                Full Time Dressage Addict

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  When I was unable to take lessons for over a year due to a death in my instructor's family I got every Walter Zettle video there was made and studied them. I then got Jane Savoie's Happy Horse Home study course and really put time and effort into learning from that series. There is a lot of material on Youtube for both Zettle and Savoie as well as many other instructors. Walter Zettle told you when and Savoie told you how. Savoie is a very engaging speaker and addresses issues of frustration and motivation on her website. Good luck!

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by esdressage View Post
                                    What level were you riding when you had to stop your lessons? Were you showing, or just having a great time learning?

                                    I think we sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves and our horses to constantly be moving "up" in our training, and honestly, I don't think that's always necessary, especially when lessons aren't an option for awhile.

                                    The training pyramid starts out with rhythm and suppleness, and really I think relaxation and acceptance are huge. none of that comes very well when a rider is tense, unsure, worried…

                                    Sooo, I'd suggest taking a break from trying to continue "training" in dressage so to speak, and work on the basic foundation of rhythm, suppleness and contact. Don't worry about a super dressage-y frame, don't worry about schooling specific movements you're unsure of. Turn on your iPod and trot happily and rhythmically down the trail. Enjoy some relaxed circles and serpentines and think about suppleness and letting your horse flow around your leg in a nice bend. Do a little shoulder-in here and there (even on the trail!) - I'm sure you schooled that lots in your hunter lessons (I know I did!). One of my favorite things to do with my mare to this day, despite having plenty of dressage goals of my own, is packing a little lunch in some saddle bags and riding out somewhere beyond cars and houses, just in nature, and sitting down having a snack, looking at my horse and the scenery. It just makes me feel incredibly lucky to be amongst the horse-having population.

                                    With that in mind, pause for a moment next time you hop in the saddle, and just think how awesome it is to be able to be on the back of your horse, in the fresh air, with the birds chirping and your mind free of the everyday stresses of life. Dressage is great, but there's no pressure on you to take it to any level in a certain amount of time. Riding is FUN and if you can't take lessons for awhile, take a break from really serious training and just get back to relaxing and having a great time with your horses. That will have you all working in a quiet, accepting frame and state of mind that will be ideal when you are able to get back into lessons!
                                    And when you come back to lessons, your instructor will be amazed at how far your horse has come. I never cease to be amazed at how much horses can generalize information. Calm, straight and forward is a mantra for a reason.
                                    "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer
                                    http://dressagescriblog.wordpress.com/

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by GallantGesture View Post
                                      Writing it down has the added benefit, if you save your writing in a journal or blog anyway, of letting you see your progress over time. Then if you are frustrated due to a general "I'm not getting anywhere" feeling, you can look back at what was hard 6 months ago and see your progress. Of course, if there really isn't any then you know that your feelings are justified and you need to get to a clinic or arrange for a few lessons or something.
                                      Actually, also often writing things down forces other parts of your brain to get in on assessing the situation. Specifically, with stuff you feel emotional or stressed out about, the act of writing it down and then being able to read it engages the logical/rational side of your brain, so it removes some of the emotional 'weight' from the issue and turns it into a problem you can figure out how to solve by proceeding logically.

                                      Another thing you can do is go through things in your head sometime before you go to bed - not how it went wrong, but visualize it going right, all the things you're supposed to do, how it's meant to feel, etc. Sometimes that can jump start your brain working on it while you sleep. (I know that might sound kind of weird, but I did it both when I used to take lessons and when I was learning to drive cars, and it did really help.)

                                      Finally, I agree that sometimes you do need to just take a step back and do something you know you can do well, or something you and your horse will both enjoy, just to remind yourselves that you're trying to have fun, too.

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