Things can’t go perfectly all the time. Things can’t go perfectly all the time…
Sometimes I am the victim of high expectations. I’ve gotten fairly used to things going well with the CANTER horses most of the time, and setbacks are usually minor and not very flustering. So when I have what can only be called a “bad ride” it tends to knock me back and surprise me a lot, and I probably take it much more seriously than I need to.
Of course, I also have the added bonus of being on some serious blood thinners right now, and only two days ago got the very stern lecture from one of my doctors (for serious, I have a whole TEAM, it’s sort of crazy) about how serious falling is. Not falling from a horse, but any falling. According to them, if I have any “serious” fall, I am to go directly to the ER. By “serious” they mean something like falling two feet, or down a couple stairs. So basically, for any fall off a horse, I am to go to the ER immediately. Even if it’s not “serious” or I don’t land on anything particularly fragile. This has made me uncharacteristically cautious. I have a tendency to get defensive in bad situations, but I’m finding that things I normally handle fairly aggressively are worrying me a bit.
Which brings me back to last night. Mikey had essentially been “off” for a few weeks, getting ridden a few times by one of our volunteers, but as I’d been working him several times a week prior to that, it was a downgrade in the work schedule. I got on last night expecting everything to go swimmingly, only to find that he seems to have learned a few new tricks and forgotten some of the stuff we had been progressing with (specifically, the voice-command “whoa” – he was nowhere near perfect but was getting much better… last night found him ignoring me completely). Steering took a lot of correction at first as well. It felt rather like riding him for the first time did, like all the work I’d done over the last month with him hadn’t really happened.
Now, I did perhaps not take a few things into account: I rode in the top jumping ring (it’s big, the weather was nice) and it was dusk (which often serves to make horses a little more on edge than riding during the day, I’ve found). Both of these things probably contributed to the bad ride that followed – unfamiliar environments at an odd time of day can really mess with things.
After a few really good things happened (we used the pony club kids’ bending poles to practice steering, which he seemed to “get” right away, we had some great trot work at a nice, relaxed, happy, slow speed, etc), he for some reason got revved up. Rather suddenly I was on a horse who was not listening to me at all, and was focused on something back towards the barn, and was going sideways rather than turning where I wanted. As he began tossing his head and acting angry at my attempts to direct him, I found myself getting nervous.
I realize he probably needed a more confident approach, but I don’t have it in me right now, and frankly, have learned to listen to my gut.
I brought him back to the indoor, which is where he is usually ridden, just to get him re-focused. I wasn’t intending on doing much or riding more than a few more minutes but really wanted to get his brain engaged again and back on me.
Which was working fine until the lights went out. It wasn’t quite pitch dark outside, but in the ring it was pretty close. After stopping for a split second, Mikey suddenly… well, he sort of had a meltdown. He jumped up into the canter, had no response when I tried to turn or stop him (if there was light, I’d have been happy to canter around a few times but when you can’t see anything and don’t know where the obstacles are in the ring… well it seems like a bad idea). I got to experience a really lovely sidepass at the canter, as Mikey ran around the ring sideways, not looking where he was going, and we narrowly avoided crashing into a pile of jumps and poles stacked at the end of the ring. When he stopped (partly at my insistence, and partly because he was near the gate and another horse), I just got off.
There was just too much working against us. I did not feel good about continuing. It was intensely frustrating to have a bad ride on one of my absolute favorite horses. It also left me with a laundry list of “things that need improving.” I also need to make sure he’s staying centered – hopefully this afternoon we can get him out for a trail ride after his farrier visit. I think it would do him good to relax.
I hate to burst any of the “OMIGOD Magical Fairy Dust Mikey!” bubble, but we started these blogs to be honest about the process, and setbacks are part of it. In this case I think that riding in an unusual place, at an unusual time, with me feeling a little not-so-confident was a big player… I don’t blame a thing on him, but was sort of amazed at how such a minor thing as a bad or frustrating ride could make me feel afterwards (which was, to say the least, pretty gutted).