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An Update on my Lessons #2

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  • An Update on my Lessons #2

    Hello everyone,

    Hope all are enjoying the equestrian events at the Olympics. I watch them and just stare, slack-jawed at so many of them at their ability. Since I've started to learn how to ride, I definitely have a new appreciation of the skill level involved!

    So, my lessons are continuing. Haven't upped and walked away. Still working on getting forward, getting & keeping a trot and managing to do all this with 2 or 3 other riders cantering around me - they are really good though and keep an eye out for me.

    The week before, I got the impression from my coach that while I may think I'm trying, I'm not REALLY trying. That has stuck with me. How do I know when/if I'm really trying? Do I give up too fast when my horse stops? It might be a really valid point. A woman I ride thinks, subconsciously, it could be true, b/c when I try harder, I go faster, and that's when I fall. So, something for me to ponder and try to get past. Freaking mental blocks...argh!

    Last night I had the normal frustrating "not going forward or being assertive enough lessson," and afterwards we went for a walk. Another rider who helps my coach was there so she took us a different way than usual. Around a corn field that has one edge beside the road. I was 3rd in line behind a pony. A cyclist went by, pony freaked, my horse freaked....!!!

    But....I STAYED ON!!!!!! I have no idea if it was just pure luck or maybe a little better coordination and less panic or what. He hopped to the side and forward at the same time, then took off at a fast trot. I saw waaaay too much space between his neck and my outside rein and had to tear my eyes away from the ground and look up. I did maybe swear though. I somehow got my butt centered back in the saddle, tightened the reins and slowed him to a stop. Then, petted his neck and told him he was fine...probably more for me than him lol! I knew I had to calm down so he didn't think "Omg I WAS right! Something WAS going to kill me!"

    Everyone caught up and congratulated me and on we went. Not 2 minutes later, his neck disappears and he's eating the grass and for the life of me, I cannot get his neck UP! I'm sitting there almost about to slide down his neck thinking "Really? I just rode a spook and I fall off when he eats grass??" Finally, neck up, re-compose and off we go.

    My coach bummed me out though...she only saw the grass bit and when I told her I rode a spook, all she commented on was his neck should never have been down in the first place. Um, yeah, you're right, but...but...the spook!! I rode it. I didn't hit the ground. Grumblecakes.

    When I told my hubby, he had a good point. If I am riding for me, then it was a good lesson. That was an improvement. If I'm not riding for me, then why am I riding? Or how can I ever expect a good lesson when I have no idea what others expectations are? Man, it drives me nuts when he's spot on lol!

    So, I'm taking it as a good lesson...b/c he's right, I bet that would have unseated me months ago and definitely on the mare I had.


    Ride on all, ride on

    Last edited by FourFaults; Aug. 5, 2012, 12:59 AM. Reason: Added a # to thread so as I post, everyone can keep track of my progress easier :)

  • #2
    I enjoyed reading that! You should feel much joy and happiness at every bit of improvement, and that includes riding a spook! I started riding as an adult as well, and it's harder, because our brains are developed enough to send out the caution signals that little kids don't get. We all have those "oh, crap!" moments, so don't feel alone. It would be nice if your coach would give you some positive feedback--and if you don't start to get it, you may want to explore other options. Not saying that your coach is bad, but it sounds like she might not have the best coaching style for you.

    Your hubby, however, gets bonus points for being supportive and saying the right thing.

    Keep an eye out for the other riders in the arena, but not to the point where you can't work on your stuff. Remember, you may be a beginner, but you have just as much right to be there as they do. Sounds like they're nice people who are willing to give you some space, rather than try to intimidate you. That's a very good thing!

    Please feel free to reach out here and share the good, the bad, and the stupid. We've all been there, and you'll get lots of support.

    Ride on!


    • #3
      It sounds like you may be at a competition barn. Not that there is anything wrong with that, most barn are. I teach beginners adults at a very competitive barn and sometimes get in disagreements with the trainer as to how hard to push my adults. I tell them I will work as hard as you want to work and as long as you are safe and happy with your progress, that is enough to me. If George Morris was training these woman every day they would never make it to even the local show level over fences so I see no reason to push them. I think more of them would quit because I pushed too hard than because they weren't progressing fast enough.

      That is all easier said than done, especially when competition is in your blood and is what you do. I would have a progress update with your instructor where you go over your goals and what you would like to have happen over the next several months.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • Original Poster

        Thanks both

        snugglerug - definitely more challenging as an adult. I didn't think about it too much before I fell, but now that I'm aware of what can happen when you do, I'm really wishing I was still a kid who doesn't even give it a second thought...and can bounce off the dirt better LOL! I think my coach is okay for now. Not sure if you saw my original post (below), but I'm just trying to get back on and get over my fear. Long term, she may not be ideal, but she's doing more than others have done to help me overcome my fear. I've been really lucky to have a supportive family and friends as well as hubby - but I'm appreciative of this forum to get a more horsey response

        Laurierace - it's actually not a competition barn. I looked at another barn that was and it was overwhelming! I'm so not ready for that yet lol! Goals are small right now just b/c of what I've been through, but one day I hope to have higher ones...like even maybe...canter...HA!


        Original post:


        • #5
          It's really hard to say if a beginner is "trying hard enough," because a lot of beginners don't know what they're trying to do!

          I used to teach adult up-downers (I might have just made that term up, but you get the idea) for fun, and there are some who really don't try. Who will let their horse get away with ANYTHING and wander around the ring with that far-off look in their eye the whole time, not really grasping anything I'm saying, because they're not really listening. That would be my definition of "not trying." They want a pony ride, they're getting a pony ride, so why is this crazy chick running after them, asking them to put their heels down?

          Then there are the people who don't quite do it right- I say "pick up his head." They see-saw on the reins, but use no leg. The peg the horse in the mouth, but give no reinforcement to go forward. Or the horse stops on them, and they bonk-bonk-bonk with their legs while flinging their hands in the air, also going bonk-bonk-bonk on the mouth. I don't necessarily judge for doing it wrong- what I pay attention to is how they react after I correct them. I don't expect immediate perfection, but I want to see that concerned effort to keep the hands down, or to use leg and hand seperately, even though it might be hard at first, while the muscles and brain are learning.

          Reading your post, you are obviously paying attention to what you're being taught, and while you don't always execute perfectly 100% of the time, you're on the path of learning. I'd love to have someone like you as a student!

          Sometimes instructors get frustrated with the part where students aren't all at the same exact level. It can be hard to tell a whole class something, and see only 10% of the people do it or even attempt it. But your instructor needs to really remember that teaching someone, especially an adult, is about being able to address that person's expectations and challenges- it's not about getting that person up to speed with the rest of the class to make the instructor's life easier.

          Keep having fun. Keep riding. Keep your goals in sight. Share them with your instructor in a friendly way- "Ok, when he stopped there like that. I really don't want to keep doing that. What do I need to do to keep going forward? I know you've told me, but I REALLY wanna get good at this!"

          Keep up the good work!!


          • #6
            Well done riding the spook!

            I used to have the same problem you describe - horse was like riding a bicycle with a flat tire, always dropping out of gait, getting behind my leg, etc.

            Partly it was because, like you, I thought it was easier to get hurt at a faster gait. Partly it's because I am not, by nature, a terribly controlling type and insisting that ByGodWe'llDoItMyWayandNOW didn't come easily to me.

            Then I discovered a couple of Wonderful Truths. Which I now share with you.

            It is easier to get hurt when you let the horse take control. When the horse drops into walk from trot on his own, or stops to eat grass - you're in just as much danger as when he decides to canter off with you. It just doesn't feel as scary. Until something bad happens. You're far safer when you, and not the 1200 lb flight animal upon whom you are sitting, are making the decisions. (I suspect this is why your instructor got upset about your allowing the horse to graze while you were riding him. It could also have been because eating with a bridle in is a Cardinal Sin.)

            Your horse will love it when you take control. He knows the world is full of tigers just waiting to eat him. When you take control, he gets to stop worrying about the tigers. Then he only has to think about doing what you tell him. It's like a vacation for him. Life is good.

            Do you have dressage letters mounted in the ring where you ride? We do, and I started out just planning my ride from one letter to the next, e.g. OK, horse, we will start trotting at A and by God we will trot to F and then we will halt. Start out with something short like that - just a few strides - and concentrate on getting the exact position, path, and pace you want.
            I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


            • #7
              Sounds as though you're doing just fine. When you're a beginner it is hard to know just what you should be doing to "try harder", and as an adult, you will find yourself worrying too much.
              Good for you for riding out that spook!
              If you are the lone beginner in the ring, you should be courteous, stay on the rail, and follow the rules of the ring for passing (usually left side to left side, but some arenas ask that the faster horses stay to the inside no matter what. But the more advanced riders should be watching out for you, just as the power boat has to watch out for the canoe
              Put in as much time in the saddle (or bareback) as you possibly can, and it will come to you.


              • #8
                Don't be so hard on yourself and have a heart to heart with your coach. Remind her of your past, present and future goals. You should ride for enjoyment, not someone else ' s. if your coach doesn't get it talk to her until she/ he does! Enjoy and good luck!!!


                • #9
                  I remember your original post, I'm glad you decided to stick with it. However, don't start getting bogged down in "am I trying hard enough?" muck. I think the fact that you're sticking with it, and facing your fear every lesson, is trying pretty danged hard. It sounds like you're already pushing yourself a bit more, which when you're at a comfort level there, you'll push a little further. Hopefully your trainer is supportive of this.

                  Something that helps me every time I ride is to have a plan. So for you, maybe next time go out there and think "today is the day I will NOT let horsey break to a walk unless I ask". Think about those Olympic riders you've been watching and channel them. I know it sounds kookey, but when I think about Beezie or Reed and I pretend I'm them when I'm riding I sit up straighter, I'm firmer, and ultimately, my rides go better. Its when I relax and don't have a set plan for the day that my rides usually go to a bad place So make it small and manageable, and just keep chipping away!


                  • #10
                    Do you have kids? One of my adult students made huge improvements in her ability to assert control over the horse after I explained to her that horses are a bit like kids. Horses want us to be the leader. They feel safer when given a firm set of boundaries and directions (like small children). And like small children reaching for the hot stove or running into the street as a car is coming you can't "be nice" to the horse. Are you going to leap after your child and grab him before he reaches the curb, or are you going to jog slowly behind and cry "come back...please" in a plaintive voice? Are you being mean about keeping your kid out of the street?

                    Okay, so there's no risk of getting clobbered by a car in the arena, however there are dozens of things that could happen that would require you to have an instant response from your horse in order to keep the pair of you safe so you need to learn how to be the leader in a safe place so that there's no discussion when it comes to crunch time.

                    The horse would prefer you to be the leader. But if you won't then he (or she) feels they have to take over. Just like kids with no boundaries - it's not the parents in charge of that household. Be the leader. Get the response the first time you ask (and if you don't get it, then make sure you get it or more the next time). The horses you ride will be so much happier if you can be their leader.


                    • #11
                      FourFaults - congratulations - that was most definitely a good ride! It sounds like you have a great group of folks at your barn, and that they're very encouraging. I agree with you, though, about your coach's response. For the timid/wimpy adult beginner (i.e. me!), riding through a spook is a huge deal!

                      As far as your impression that your coach thinks you're not really trying - are you sure that she means you're not trying or could she mean that you're not DOING it, even though you think you are? It's a big difference between the two. Can you get your husband to video one of your lessons? It can really help to watch yourself go. During my lessons, I would feel like I had my heels down, leg back, hands down, etc, but when I looked at the video, I saw that while I FELT like I was doing what my trainer told me, I wasn't really doing it. In the beginning, you'll probably feel like you're exaggerating whatever the movement is that you're trying to do, at least until you build up the muscle memory.

                      Another thing that may help is lunge line lessons. My trainer recently had me take a couple, and it helps! She had me trotting with no hands, and really working on my legs, seat and balance. If you haven't done this - I recommend it!

                      Glad you're still riding...keep us posted on your progress!


                      • #12
                        Glad to hear the update! Congrats on riding out the spook and staying on and it's good to hear that you are still riding.

                        Originally posted by FourFaults View Post
                        The week before, I got the impression from my coach that while I may think I'm trying, I'm not REALLY trying. That has stuck with me. How do I know when/if I'm really trying? Do I give up too fast when my horse stops? It might be a really valid point. A woman I ride thinks, subconsciously, it could be true, b/c when I try harder, I go faster, and that's when I fall. So, something for me to ponder and try to get past. Freaking mental blocks...argh!

                        That's a very good question, and from both the coach's and your perspective it can be hard to know. You think you're trying hard, but being new to the game you don't really know what you're doing (no offense, just sayin') so you may be thinking you're making a marvelous attempt at something... when you're not. That's the breaks of being a newbie on anything.
                        From the coach's perspective, if you are not actually accomplishing something that he/she wants you to, and they know the horse is capable, then they're going to assume you're not trying hard enough. Part of their job is to show you and explain to you HOW to do that.
                        It's like the teacher that admonishes a child to "think harder!" when they don't get something. Think harder? How do you do that? But a teacher that says "think about how we balanced the equation on the board. What did we do first? Did we count up the hydrogen atoms? Did we do that for the whole equation, or did we do each side separately?" (sorry... science teacher here). So some riding teachers say "Try harder!" and some will say "Try squeezing more with your leg and don't lean forward so much".
                        If your coach is more of the first kind, don't be afraid to follow up a "try harder" comment with, "What would you do?" or at least "How?"
                        It sounds like you're still overcoming some fears, so it will take time. Keep up the good work!


                        • Original Poster

                          Hey everyone!

                          Thanks so much for your excellent advice!!! I just love reading it.

                          erniewalker - I'm definitely trying to apply what I'm learning, not only with my new coach, but with what I learned before (not all of it was terrible), but wow...there are so many things to think about lol! Right now, focus is on leg on. And, I think I'd like a coach like you...on my way down lol!

                          pAint = Hello! My outdoor ring has no letters, but there are other things I could use like tree's or such instead. I like this idea and will try it next lesson. Last week I did something similar. When we were all done, I asked if I could just trot around by myself while the others when for the usual walk. She said sure so off I went. My goal was to get a trot all the way around the arena and then stop when I said stop. I managed to do just that and then she called out to change direction and do it the other way. By then I was getting pretty tired and hot so it wasn't pretty, but we did it. Felt pretty good then...and the girls waited for me so went for a walk too.

                          Hinderella - Worry? Me?? Ha! It's almost my middle name. I don't know why I do it. And, like ultimateshowmom says - also can be hard on myself. They can be good traits, but definitely can wear on me at times. Time and a place y'know? My Mom and hubby don't understand why I can be so assertive every other place in my life, but I get in the arena and it's not there...if only I knew too...if only! lol!

                          KateKat - Yep, see above lol! For some reason I worry about what my coaches are thinking and don't want to let them down. Ridiculous I know. It's MY lesson and they'll take my $ no matter what so with my hubby saying "Who am I riding for" this week, going to try to do less of that. And, from now on, I'm going to be Eric Lamaze!!!

                          RedHorse - No kids, but what a good way to put it! Those kids drive me nuts and I never realized by not being assertive, that I'm being that! Yikes! That should give me some perspective from now on, that's for sure!

                          nevertoolate - Very good point. I usually feel like my leg is on and I have contact, but she came up to me and pressed my leg in and put my heel down and I felt then that I wasn't even closed. Imprinted that feeling in my mind and will aim to re-feel it again when I'm in the saddle. Visualization!! I've been on the lunge line at my other barn and liked it. I will ask if it's an option!

                          Oldpony - You almost lost me at the science lol! And, where were ya when I did need the actual science broken down like that All good points though. Sometimes I don't ask ... not sure why. Intimidated? Feel stupid? I didnt speak up with my last coach and some of the comments were pretty mean. As I touched on with other comments, something to work on. It's my lesson and communication is only going to help me, then I need to get on with it!

                          Thanks again to everyone. I really appreciate it and will continue to keep everyone posted. We head to Boston tomorrow on vacation so will be missing a lesson so expect a new update perhaps in a few weeks.

                          Have a great week everyone!!