Thursday, October 7, 2010

Windy Days

Windy days always go one of two ways:

1. Horse is excited, but still listens. You get tons of forward energy and have a super fun ride.

2. Horse decides every swirling leaf and funny noise is a giant horse eating mountain lion and you spend entire ride convincing horse that is not the case.

Yesterday we had scenario number two. What a pain. But, every problem is an opportunity to learn, right? So, what did I learn yesterday? Well, nothing new, really. But I got positive reinforcement of things I already knew.

Many, many years ago, when I was younger, hardier and bouncier, I knew exactly what my strengths were as a rider. I was young, I had a sticky seat and I was dumber than a box of rocks (although, back then I called it "brave"). These strengths combined to make me a strong, fearless rider, albeit not a very knowledgeable or sensitive one. As years passed, I realized that bounciness and stupidity were only going to get me so far. I fell into a very awkward phase in my riding. I wasn't as foolhardy, and didn't have the knowledge to back me up. So, I immersed myself in every scrap of information I could find. I rode every horse I could get my hands on. I talked to every trainer who would give me the time of day. I learned that knowledge is power. And with power comes confidence.

So, on a windy day when my horse is spooking at everything, I don't need to be brave. I know what to do: ride the horse. Ride every step. If I take control, calmly and confidently, my horse will follow. And if he doesn't, my calm, confident attitude should help me deal with the meltdown.

Now, here's a little secret. When a horse is sucking back, spooking, starting and spinning, it's nerve-wracking. I'm not immune to that. But, I have a trick. I sing. Loudly. Usually off-key. I'm a huge Beatles fan, so I usually choose "Yesterday" or "In My Life". When I'm feeling ironic I like "The Fool On The Hill". But, really, the song doesn't matter. It's the singing. Singing regulates your breathing. When you regulate your breathing, you calm down, focus and relax. You look like a lunatic to outsiders, but at least you're a calm, relaxed lunatic.

So, since Spider wanted to spook and spin, I started singing and put him to work. Just like my mind needed something to focus on to keep from spooking, his mind needed something to focus on, too. I put him on a 15 meter circle and we did transitions between walk and trot. At first he was tense and the transitions were bad, but as we worked he loosened up. Eventually we got some good transitions and were able to venture off our little circle. The key was to ride every step. If I'm riding and concentrating, I'm in control.

Today, it was still windy. But, I had scenario number one, and we had a good ride. I'd like to think it was because of my confidence yesterday in the face of horse-eating monsters. Or perhaps Spider just didn't want to hear my singing again.

6 comments:

  1. I do that too!! LOL. Either I sing, carry on a running conversation with the horse, or talk loudly to myself things that my Mom would be saying if she were standing in the middle of the arena teaching. If anything it gets the horse going "umm...WHAT is she TALKING ABOUT?!?" and he/she forgets what they were being weird about. :-P

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  2. I talk a lot, but singing helps too. Anything to take the focus off fear and put it into relaxation helps.

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  3. Superb well-written post ^-^ you made my morning!

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  4. Singing is great - I try to sing all western standards, they have a nice little rhythm for every gait. LOL

    That said you do have to ride the horse you have today and recognize what you can work on. I am still learning this lesson, hopefully it's starting to sink in!

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  5. Singing is a great calmer :)
    But when your neighbors are looking at you with a weird expression on their faces it kinda puts you off :)

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  6. I sing too - it does help... breathing, focusing (or de-focusing) and keeping things light.

    Regarding neighbors hearing - I figure if Val and I must tolerate target practice and paint gun battles, then they'll have to put up with horse lady and her crazy singing. :)

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