The Melt Down – Part 2

Part 1

So as I am standing on the ground freaking out I realize that I am acting like a 2 year old. I am humiliated by my behavior and want to crawl under a rock. As soon as I yell myself in to silence my trainer jumps in. She says that she knew I didn’t feel comfortable, but the didn’t realize it was that bad. How it is okay if the SchoolMaster and I don’t work well together, she wont be upset. If I don’t want to ride him I shouldn’t be riding, how this is supposed to be fun and how I am getting better all of the time but if I don’t feel like I am getting better I am wasting my time. She told me all of the things that I wanted her to say to give me the okay to quit, and yet for some reason I couldn’t let myself walk out of the ring.

I knew that I had every right to give up and leave, but for some reason knowing that I could did not make me any happier. I looked my trainer in the eye and said that I didn’t want to give up. I just needed a minute to collect my emotions. I hand walked the SchoolMaster around the ring a few times wondering why I am so damn stubborn. If I am not happy why do I have to keep doing something. Why was I making myself ride when I didn’t feel comfortable?

The answers are always the same. I want to be good. I don’t want anything to stop me. I don’t want to be the rider who can’t ride this horse or that type of horses, etc. I also reminded myself that the SchoolMaster and I really are well matched if I could just get my head out of the way. It is not like I was being over mounted by anyones stretch of the imagination. There was nothing that the SchoolMaster could throw at me that I could not handle, and yet here I was feeling like I couldn’t handle anything.

I took several deep breaths and tried to get out of my head as we walked back towards the mounting block. My trainer asked me what I needed, and I told her the truth, that right now I just need a security blanket. She grabbed the lounge line and said that she would do whatever it took to make me realize that I was okay. So on to the line we went. You might think that it was humiliating, but really of all of the things I did on Saturday that was not the one I was ashamed of. Even on the line the SchoolMaster was keeping an eye out for ghosts, but the difference was I was feeling safe so I was fine. And of course since I was fine, he was fine.  When we changed rein my trainer took the line off, but stayed close by to give me the feeling of comfort. I walked, trotted and cantered like it was nothing, totally confident and okay.

After my lesson my trainer and I talked. She asked me point blank why I was riding a horse that I felt that uncomfortable with. She asked me what I was trying to prove, and why hadn’t I been more honest with her about being scared of the SchoolMaster. I answered back that I was riding the SchoolMaster to prove to myself that I could get over it because I don’t want anything to stand in my way and that I hadn’t told her that I was feeling scared because I didn’t even realize myself that I was afraid of him. She said that if he is not the right horse for me that is okay, and that we could stop. I told her that I wanted to at least try riding him on my own again and see how that went.

I spent the rest of Saturday in a complete and total funk.  Why was I doing this? What happened to my joy with riding? What was I doing? I thankfully had plans for dinner and a movie that night so I dragged myself off the couch to hang with the Young Rider and the Pinto’s Owner and see if they could help me get out of my funk.

To Be Continued…


14 thoughts on “The Melt Down – Part 2

  1. Oh how I sympathize, I have had all those feelings over the past year. My horse and I have had a rough year together, starting last January. I was forcing myself to take lessons and jump and was terrified and hating every minute of it, and I actually said the words “why am I still riding if I don’t like it anymore?”

    Fast forward to October when my horse came up lame, I was actually relieved that I could take some time off. I spent most of the rest of 2010 just caring for him but not really riding any other horses around the barn. By Christmas I started asking around and ended up having the opportunity to ride some really great, sane horses. It has made all the difference! I am back to feeling confident in the saddle! I have been leasing one of my trainer’s sale horses a couple days a week for a couple months now and am back jumping.

    It is going to be a few more months before my horse can be ridden again (ligament injury in the pastern), and I am hoping we can start over and be confident. It wasn’t always how it was between us in the last year so I am hoping that things will get better. In the meantime I hope to continue to build my confidence.

    While the Schoolmaster sounds like an awesome opportunity to learn and school yourself, I encourage you to also find the time to get on a horse you can really trust, even if it is just for a trail ride. I think when faced with the feelings you have been having it is important to take the time to rediscover why it is that you want to ride. You have always struck me as very driven and I think if you can regain just a little bit of that you can push through your fear.

    I so admire you for talking about all this, it has really helped me, especially with what I mentioned I have gone through in the past year. Not everyone understands (even other riders I have found) what it is like to feel this way. The fact that you got back on the Schoolmaster when you felt the way you did is really courageous.

    Good luck, we are all rooting for you!

  2. I really feel for you on this. I’ve been there, and almost everyone who rides has been there. Don’t beat yourself up, instead, realize that you did the right thing getting off the horse. You kept yourself safe, and prevented the schoolmaster from having a rider melt down on him. You’ve also been very brave to write honestly about it, and I bet you learned a lot in the process.

  3. I’m thinking that with time you will feel better about your fears and get back to being the rider you were before. Give yourself permission to take some time off if you need it. If you don’t want to give up riding totally, then perhaps try a different horse for a few weeks. If you feel safe and secure on a different horse it will help to get your confidence back and maybe go back and ride the schoolmaster at a later date (if that’s what you want to do).

    I don’t know the answer but I think with support you will overcome your fears and confidence problem. The main thing is not to beat yourself up for something you have no control over. Just because someone tells you it’s silly to be afraid doesn’t mean your mind can process that. You can’t tell yourself not to be afraid if you are. ‘Everything in life takes time, just as with training horses it’s one step at a time until you are where you want to be. Good luck.

  4. When we panic, it is just like when the horses panic. When a horse hears a horrible loud noise and goes tearing off into the distance or jumps straight out of his skin, no amount of telling him not to be afraid is going to prevent it, or even make him calm down right away. It isn’t until he feels safe and secure again that he stops spooking or running. So, give yourself a break, the same way you would give a horse a break if he was genuinely scared of something. You’d be patient, and reassuring, and kind, until the horse realized he didn’t have to be afraid anymore. Treat yourself with the same level of care, in whatever way is best for you.

  5. While I completely understand your NEED to feel like you can ride anything, remember that horses are not motorcycles. Each one has a personality. You don’t get along with every human, right? What makes you think you can get along with every horse? You have that special relationship with Gen because each horse is unique. The opposite happens too, even with good horses. You just don’t get along with the schoolmaster. Yeah, you had your good days, but there is obviously some deeper not clicking happening. No biggy. Just don’t try to force a relationship that isn’t there – the horse knows and somewhere in your brain, you know too and it doesn’t work. Relax, regroup, leave the schoolmaster alone for a while and get on something else – better yet, lots of something elses. One day, on one horse, you’ll have THAT feeling again – that riding is fun. And then go from there. If you want me to put Gen on the lunge for you to just get on and walk him, I’ll be there. That may be what you need – to get on the horse of your dreams (in a safe way). Sounds like you’re in a better place than Part 1, though. keep us posted.

  6. I had a lovely long post earlier this morning, but it didn’t. Post, that is. Bummer ;oD

    Anyway, the gist of my message is the same as what everyone else is saying here. You, like me and a lot of other riders, get “too much in your own head,” rather than focusing on the ride. Watch top competitors in any sport and look at their faces. They aren’t “looking OUT,” they are “in the zone” and focused on the task at hand–whether they are in the competition or just warming up. Only AFTER the event is over do they “come to consciousness and smile and wave at the audience–or even acknowledge the fact that there are others around them.

    Have you ever read anything by a sports psychologist on what athletes need for schooling or competition? I have a golf book, The Sweet Spot, by someone named Greene (that was part of the post I lost, and I don’t have the book at hand right now). He discusses that quality–the “zone” focus–that makes some athletes so GOOD at what they do. When they warmup or compete, time–for them–stands still and their performance is perfect.

    When you are aware of your surroundings and your self-doubts, and you are having several conversations in your head, the schoolmaster knows this (because horses are very intuitive ;o) and he gets upset, which just adds to your state. He joins the conversation. Not good.

    In this “dance” called dressage, YOU MUST BE THE LEADER. The schoolmaster needs to feel that he can depend on you to guide him so he is clear on his task, too. FOCUS. ;o)

  7. Brava! You got back up there and sorted yourself out on the lunge line! That was always one of my trainer’s choices when the student was losing focus. I understand that you don’t feel as if you’ve completely moved past your fears but what you did was great.

    Maybe you need to make a little time to play with this horse more than for just your lesson. And by play I mean groom, hand walk, lunge, etc. If you feel it’s a goal to figure this horse out, and ride him well, then make time to get to know him in other circumstances, just as if he was your own. The things we do as part of our everyday care help us get inside a horses’ head and see where this equine individual is coming from.

    Think about the racehorses and their grooms. In a big stable, the groom is there to care for the horse and probably knows more about the horse than the jockey or the trainer. His input would be invaluable to the jockey and the trainer who only see this horse as one of several they must handle in a day. On a small scale of owning one or two horses, if you have the time to be both groom and jockey, you get the opportunity to have that inner circle for yourself.

    I know you have mentioned you feel part of being a “good rider” is to be able to ride any horse. Well, as another poster has said, horses are all individuals, some respond to one rider better than others. Even famous jockeys can be pulled from a mount because they are not getting the best from the horse. Doesn’t mean they are not a good rider, just that their technique doesn’t work with THAT horse.

    I’ve been there, I’ve had experiences with horses where I wasn’t getting anywhere and the frustration was maddening. It’s that feeling of being “stuck” based on what you know and have done before that can make you doubt yourself. It is then when you need to find the different approach to see another way to address the issue. You remember how I took a different approach when Rugby dumped me. The Natural Horsemanship stuff gave me the different approach I needed. And as my NH trainer told me, “you have the benefit of all the experience you already have, I’m just offering you a different way to find a solution to the problem. Use both and find what brings you and this horse together.” He didn’t “preach” any particular trainer’s method, he helped me see different ways to use what I already knew.

    I wish I lived closer to you! I don’t know if I could help but you have my support and input always!

  8. You’re my hero. I can’t bring myself to get back on my horse. The thought of it terrifies me. I keep making excuses. I have a million. Riding anything makes me nervous. I get sick to my stomache grabbing the horse, grooming the horse, and doing anything that involves horses. I got a job working with horses once a week, but still struggle with doing anything with them. When I see a blanket strap that needs done my heart stops. I know I have to do it, but it terrifies me. I have started telling the horse how I feel. “That noise you’re making is making me nervous” and I swear that they understand and are better for me because I told them the truth. Good luck!!!!

  9. I totally agree with tryingtoride. Every horse is different and every team is a horse and rider who bring out the best in each other. Life is WAY to short to make yourself miserable trying to prove something like this to yourself. Fear gets in the way of learning and there is no reason to declare war on your fear.
    Pat the schoolmaster and thank him for a valuable lesson and move on. For one thing it isn’t fair to the schoolmaster and it most certainly isn’t fair to you. Find a horse that you can enjoy, learn from and get back to moving on with your riding goals.

  10. What is it about horses that can make us crazy with euphoria yet scared to our bones. Make a list, any list and anyone of us would be able to recognize points on that list that resonate with us. After reading your earlier posts about wanting to be a good rider and never feeling you have accomplished that goal and then you experience here, I have a suggestion. You are obviously comfortable with writing so maybe it is time to write for yourself and not us. Take some time and use your writing to look at your feelings about The General, about the School master and about riding in general. You have obviously had many wonderful accomplishments in the horse world, what are you looking for now? Is it riding that causes the fear response or is it you don’t feel you have the ability to be the leader for the schoolmaster? While many people think horsemanship is a you do as I say relationship, in reality it should be a can I make you take my idea and make it yours relationship. Everybody has their own journey with horses, what is yours trying to tell you?

  11. I agree with others IF you feel it is the horse you don’t get along with. However, it sounds like you don’t think that’s the case.

    Your story reminds me of my attitude toward skiing. I usually go on one trip a year and try to use EVERY minute I can and push myself to keep up with the others, who are better than me. I know it’s good to push myself, but by the end of the day I’m in (or want to be in) tears and HATE what I’m doing. Even when I know the technique, my muscles are so weak and I can’t really imagine them following through and actually completing it, so I can’t do it. I’ve had a few opportunities to just have an hour or two on the slopes a day or to just chill on the “cruisers.” Those things build my physical strength and remind me that I do enjoy the sport.

    It sounds like the lunge line did just this for you – gave you a baby step. Only you can know if SchoolMaster is right for you or if you’re just stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. If it’s the former, just give yourself those baby steps to regain your technique and confidence. You can do it!

  12. Such a fine line, knowing how far to push ourselves, how far is enough, or too far…

    It’s a struggle because we want to grow, to progress… and there is often some discomfort with growth.

    But being terrified is too far. There is no shame in taking a step back to assess the situation, and that is often the most courageous choice.

    Take care – everyone here is supporting you – whatever you decide to do!

  13. To me, it’s a case of right rider, wrong horse. You ARE a good rider. If the “schoolmaster” is looking for ghosts, then he’s not a schoolmaster at all. A schoolmaster is a horse that lets you concentrate on riding correctly instead of concentrating on his behavior. I hope you find a horse that’s fun to ride. You deserve that. Be nice to yourself.

    And there’s nothing humiliating about riding on the lunge line. The very best riders get lunged so they can concentrate on their position. It’s just a tool like any other.


  14. I’m reading this a little late, but just had to tell you that I actually got a bit teary by the end of this video. SOOOO proud of you to get back on him after being scared, and actually be trotting and cantering. You look lovely on him, and it just made me want to cheer by the end of the video. Honestly, it was just sweet to see you face your fears, and then do so well when you got back on him!! Thanks for the inspiration today!!

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