Monday, August 10, 2015

The Kottas Experience: Day 1, Trainwreck

So, as I mentioned before, I was the one organizing this clinic. I did have loads of help and a wonderful venue to work with, but I still had to get there early to set up and register auditors, make sure riders got into the ring on time, get breakfast and lunch put out, etc.


Clinic set up is always a royal PITA, but this one was made far worse by the fact I had to bring my crazy horse with me. This is worse than bringing my children with me, because Spider is about 100x more needy, clingy and loud than my children. Still, I decided it was preferable to having to drive back and get him for my ride. (Mistake #1, I know he doesn't do well with away trips, even short ones, where he isn't The Center Of The Universe.)

So, I got there at 7:30 am with Spider in tow. My ride wasn't until 4:15 pm, but the farm owner was awesome and had graciously offered me a paddock for Spider to stay in. Spider hates being in a stall, and will scream and thrash around if he has to be in one, so that was not an option. The paddock seemed like a great alternative. There were other horses around him, plenty of grass and a shady spot  under some trees to nap. It was absolutely perfect, but not to Spider. He was actually OK for about an hour, then he realized no one was paying attention to him and we weren't going home any time soon and started throwing a fit. We had to turn up the PA system so poor Arthur could be heard over the crazy in the paddock. Auditors kept peering outside to see what was going on. I tried to pretend that I didn't know him, but eventually had to fess up that he belonged to me.  (Mistake #2, I let myself get stressed because Spider was stressed.)

I did get to sit and watch Arthur teach everyone else in between my hostess duties and making sure my horse hadn't exploded, which was absolutely wonderful! (The watching part, not the "I hope my horse didn't explode" part.) I highly recommend auditing an Arthur Kottas clinic if the opportunity presents itself. I listened as closely as I could and took note of how he teaches and what he was asking people to do, with the intent of being better prepared for my own ride. (Mistake #3, Like you can ever be prepared for your first ride with THE Arthur Kottas!)

By the time my ride came around, I was exhausted both mentally and physically and my back hurt. Usually when my back is bothering me and I need to ride I take something for it, but this time I just forgot. It never even occurred to me, actually. I was too busy trying to get ready. (Mistake #4, and one I'll never make again.)

Spider warmed up really well in the outdoor arena and I was pretty happy. I knew my back was really bothering me, but I figured I could handle it. It was too late to take anything by then, anyway. Into the clinic I went....

A friend of mine described what happened next the best, so I'll quote her: "You careened around like a drunken sailor." Between my back, the rapid-fire way Arthur calls off exercises, many of which were combinations I had never heard of, let alone ridden before, and the fact that I don't usually ride in a full size arena with letters, I was absolutely careening around like a drunken sailor. Actually, I was a drunken sailor without a rudder. In retrospect, it's hilarious. At the time, I just got flustered. (Mistake #5, I let myself get flustered.)

Because my back was hurting, my position wasn't great. And by, "wasn't great", I mean I looked like a drunken monkey with palsy. My hands were bouncing everywhere because I couldn't use my back well and get my hips properly aligned in the saddle. Arthur is a big stickler for position, so I heard "Your riding is bad." more times than I can even count. Eventually he stopped me and tried to explain that I needed to fix my position in order to ride correctly. And then I had a dilemma....

I have become much more open about my health problems in recent years. I started talking about it more because I want people to see past the stigma of "invisible" disabilities and realize that they probably know people with these problems who might just be afraid to talk about it, and also so that other people with disabilities like mine can see that it's OK to talk about it and be "out" about it. But, for every person I tell about my health problems who is totally cool and supportive, there are many more who feel the need to tell me I'm just using my chronic health problems as an "excuse" and if I just saw a chiropractor/massage therapist/faith healer and ate that yogurt Jamie Lee Curtis shills I'd be totally cured because their father's brother's nephew's cousin's roommate, who totally had the same thing they think I might have, was totally cured by that.  So, in certain situations, like a clinic where there are auditors I don't know and I don't really know the trainer, I tend to keep my mouth shut. I've heard, "Well, if you're that sick, how can you ride horses and go to shows and clinics?" way too many times. I was willing to just let my shitty riding be shitty riding and fix it the next day.  

Unfortunately, my decision not to say anything was a poor one. Arthur decided to take hold of my right leg and physically put it where it belonged. I wasn't expecting that, he's quick! I jumped several inches out of the saddle as pain went searing through my back and screamed, "Don't touch my leg! You can't just grab my leg!" into the face of the former Director of the Spanish Riding School. Surprisingly, he did not beat me to death with an in-hand whip. But, I then had to explain my back problems to him. He was very kind and asked several questions about my abilities and lack there-of, all of which I answered. I'm not sure if he was more taken aback by the yelling or my crippled-ness, but he very quietly said, "With this position you will never ride past First Level. Maybe you can trail ride."

At this point, my brain totally checked out. My back was a knot of agony and Athur Kottas had just told me I should take up trail riding. I finished the lesson as best I could, but I don't remember much of it. I will say that Arthur was never unkind in anything he said, and he was always 100% truthful about everything I presented to him.  He did say that some of my work was good, when I presented good work, and that my horse was very much able to do the work that was being asked of him.

After my lesson, my very good friend helped me get off my horse and get him untacked, loaded in the trailer and home, then we went out to the Cowtown Rodeo with Arthur. (He wanted to go to the rodeo, and who says "no" to taking Arthur Kottas to the rodeo?)

Then I went to bed and prepared for Day 2..........


  1. Oh dear. So sorry that was such a rough day.

    1. It was only the first day. I redeemed myself the next day!

    2. Ooh, should I have added a spoiler alert there?

  2. I'm glad you told him about your back. And I'm glad that you have shared with us. I find you to be an inspiration (don't get a swelled head ;). Seriously, I think it is impressive the way that you perservere through the pain and the setbacks. I'm sure he was impressed too.

  3. Hooooooly long day! Having issues others can't see is awful. I'm glad he was somewhat understanding. I have pretty obnoxiously bad ADHD, which doesn't cause me as many problems riding as it can elsewhere. People tend to think it's fake and that if I just "put my mind to it" I can overcome. Funny enough, that doesn't seem to fucking work. I do eat a lot of yogurt, though. Maybe I won't get back problems. ;)

    Can't wait to read about the next day! Did you ride the kids instead of the horse?

  4. ugh what a perfect storm of stress and pain and uncertainty... i'm glad he wasn't unkind to you - and even more glad that day 2 will hold a tale of redemption. i can't imaging being put in the position to have to share sensitive medical information not just with a new trainer, but also in front of a crowd of total strangers...

  5. What's wrong with trail riding? (Just kidding)

    You must have crazy amounts of energy to get all that done and I can't believe you took him to cowtown. That is hilarious.

  6. What's wrong with trail riding? (Just kidding)

    You must have crazy amounts of energy to get all that done and I can't believe you took him to cowtown. That is hilarious.

  7. Gah, pain in clinics is the worst, when to admit it and when not to. So sorry the first day was so rough. Can we request a write up of Mr. Kottas and his rodeo reaction??

  8. Nowhere to go but up, right?!
    Looking forward to the next installment. :D

  9. I was completely nauseated with nerves the first day of the first Arthur Kottas clinic we had. I completely understand where're you're coming from and am so impressed you rode through the stress and pain. I can't wait to read your next installment. We just finished our clinic yesterday and it gets easier to ride with him and learn each time.
    I went off course from where he instructed me to go several times in the first clinic and Rogo even jumped out of the ring at one point :). Now I love the rapid fire instruction.
    Looking forward to your next post!

  10. Center of the! Funny how many times I've heard that expression used to describe a person, but not a horse. I'll have to remember that.

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