I didn't realize that when I started this blog about my thoughts on horsemanship and the things that I've learned along the way that I might come across as sounding like I am now a master. I am so far from that. I am mediocre at best. The entire purpose of this blog is to explore the nuances of horsemanship and to allow me to focus my thoughts on what horsemanship should be and where I would like to go in improving my horsemanship. I take this stuff very seriously and am constantly working on improving myself in numerous ways. You can't be in this "sport" (I hate to call it that because it makes it sound like a game and it's so much more serious than that!) without maintaining your sense of humor about the horse's ability to regularly make you look like a fool.
So, I thought this blog might be a good time to share with you some of my recent foolish moments and what I learned from them just so you all realize that I have absolutely zero delusions of grandeur when it comes to me and my horses.
I've already talked a bit about talking on the challenge of learning to jump with my older gelding in the balance blog. I'm still taking jumping lessons and continuing to work on my form and such rudimentary things as steering and stopping when I am in 2 point position. My jumping lessons, besides being fun, are also incredibly humbling and exhausting. It's amazing how much work it is to ride that way. I can happily spend 8 hours in the saddle riding in the mountains and never really get to that point where I'm ready to get off my horse. A 45 minute jumping lesson, however, leaves me exhausted and panting almost as hard as my horse. While my balance is getting better there are still so many things that I have to try to remember when all I can seem to think about is one thing at a time. For instance, on approaching the jump you have to gather your horse, count your strides, keep your heals down, push your horse into a collected frame, prepare to get into two point position, keep steady light pressure on the reins, look towards the jump then at just the right moment look beyond the jump to the next jump, keep your right leg back so that he doesn't change leads and oh yeah, don't fall off! (I'm sure I missed a few things in that list. I'm still learning!)
My horse is taking the jump and I'm still somewhere at "keep your heals down". I feel like a complete beginner. It's just so different from the style of riding that I have been working towards the last few years and by golly, I'm not a kid anymore and apparently learning new things and retraining your body is a difficult thing! But, I'll keep at it. I am nothing if not stubborn and I really want to get this. Probably the fact that I'm having so much trouble mastering these things is going to make me want to master it all that much more. It seems inconceivable to me that I can't keep my heals down. Really? How hard can that possibly be?
Pushing myself outside of my equine comfort zone has been so good for the rest of my riding. It has helped me to remember that form and balance that you think is second nature needs work. Just because you feel pretty comfortable in your western saddle doesn't mean that you don't have balance and form issues in your riding. There is nothing like a new discipline to really make you think about your riding and your communication with your horse. Even if you aren't switching disciplines, just take a lesson and have somebody there who can critique you and push you and correct that sagging shoulder that you don't realize you have. I don't care who you are, you can benefit from it.
My other heaping helping of humble pie came last week as I was teaching my 2 year old how to back out of the trailer. This is a hard one for me to talk about because it was a pretty traumatic experience for me. It hit me pretty hard emotionally. We got a new trailer this year and for the first time my horses have to back out. I have been turning my horses around in the trailer and leading them out and down a ramp since I as 16. I've just always believed that was safer.
But our new trailer has a spiffy rear tack and so the horses can't really turn around in it. I figured it was time for me and them to get this figured out and it's gone pretty well with everybody. Then I decided it was time for the 2 year old to work on it. I figured he'd be easy because he had few preconceived notions since he hasn't been trailered more than a handful of times. He was a rockstar. After about 15 minutes I had him backing out after I sent him in just by tugging on his tail. I figured I would do it one more time just be sure he had it well cemented in his young brain.
For some reason, probably because he was getting bored with this repetitive game, he decided to try to turn around and look at me before he got all the way backed out. He did that in the narrowest part of the trailer and got himself wedged and ended up flipping himself out of the trailer. I was completely powerless to do anything to prevent what I saw coming and had to just stand there and watch it happen. He fell out of the trailer into the driveway and thankfully landed on his hip and shoulder. If he'd come out completely backwards and hit his head he probably would have killed himself. (Not being dramatic, I've attended many of these accidents).
He popped right up and I put him right back into the trailer trying to prevent any traumatic memories from cementing and making trailer loading an issue and he went right back in. He took way longer to come out this time but made it out eventually. Then when we attempted to haul him to a ride it took about 20 minutes to get him out. I was so disgusted with myself for letting this happen. Here I had a 2 year old that was completely confident and backing out of the trailer like a champ and I ruined it by pushing it too far and letting him get bored and looking for a new way out of the trailer. I was upset enough and so frustrated that Dan had to step in and help me out because I was emotionally shot.
Honestly, I am still pretty traumatized from the whole incident. I just feel like I totally failed my colt and have had many nightmares about what could have happened. He'll probably get over it much faster than I will. I'm still processing exactly where I went wrong and maybe it would have eventually happened anyway.
The moral of these stories is that horses will provide you unending opportunities for making a fool of yourself. That's one of the beauties of having this as your life passion. You will never ever stop learning and growing and improving because this is a life sport. It's one that you can do your whole life and only a few will ever be considered "masters". I'm willing to bet those "masters" have days where they feel like an idiot too. That's just horses.
So, if you've been following along with my blogs and thinking, "what makes her think she knows so much about horses". Believe me I don't! I'm learning as I go just like we all are. Just like in horses, I think one of the most important traits in a rider is try. You gotta have try to grow and learn. If I can say one thing about myself I know I have try. The rest I hope I get figured out before I'm 80!