The Melt Down – Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

*Since I got so many e-mail’s asking me the same question yesterday the answer is yes, the video is from my lesson this week. It was taken a few minutes after my melt down*

So over dinner my two horsey friends were working hard to try and cheer me up. They were coming up with all sorts of plans and ideas to try and get me out of my riding funk. They were trying to convince me to just take a break from the SchoolMaster. I heard very little of what they were saying because I was so distracted by my own thoughts. I was discouraged, frustrated, and just completely upset. Walking from dinner to the movie my friend with the Pinto turned to me and said, “Why don’t you ride my horse for a bit, just for a little while to get your head back on straight”.

The internal conflict I was obsessing about was the fact that to me, I am giving up if I stop riding the SchoolMaster. I wanted to conquer my fears, not give in to them. I have worked so hard and dreamed for so long for a chance to ride a nice horse, and here I have one and yet I am falling apart. I want to be able to ride any horse out there. To stop riding him would mean that I was saying that I can’t ride big and strong warmbloods. I was already starting to admit to myself that showing would not happen this year, but to stop riding the SchoolMaster all together, that would put the nail in my show coffin before the season even began. It would also mean that I couldn’t ride with my trainer anymore because she didn’t have another horse for me to ride. That is a lot to give up.

I thanked my friend for her offer, but told her that I would need to think about. I can’t believe I am even writing this down, but one of the things that I was secretly scared about was the very real (and frighting thought) that maybe this had nothing to do with the SchoolMaster at all. What if I didn’t want to ride anymore? Thinking it is one thing, but knowing it is true? That is terrifying to me since so much of my life is built around horses.

So with all that in mind I headed out to ride the SchoolMaster on my own on Sunday. Lucky for me one of my barn friends was there for a ride also. It is always fun to ride with a friend. When she could see me hesitating about riding, she asked what was going on. I told her the truth about how I was felling, and she was shocked. She has watched some of my lessons and she had no idea that I was feeling worried about riding. She became my biggest cheerleader on Sunday and she really helped me out mentally.

My ride was…well…it was what it was. I had hopes that I would be okay, but I wasn’t. Add to that the fact that the horses were running around outside causing a ruckus and well, it was a tough ride. The SchoolMaster would spook and run sideways several steps each time I got near open doors at the back of the indoor. I kept trying to fix the problem, until I finally gave myself a pass and let myself work on the other side of the ring away from the playful horses. Even being worried, I know that I still did okay. I make corrections and kept riding instead of giving up. The other woman could see the SchoolMaster spooking, but she said that I looked in control and fine. I told her the truth, that I can handle the SchoolMaster and his issues, but doing so is giving me my own set of issues.

I felt so defeated again when I got off. This wasn’t getting any better. I spent the rest of the day Sunday thinking about it. Why couldn’t I just admit that it wasn’t working and try something else? Why was I so damn stubborn. It just has become so important to me to not give up. I literally want a saddle pad with the word perseverance on it, because that is the story of my riding. After much thought I came up with a solution that I am okay with. I am trying to think of this whole thing as just a half halt. All I am doing right now is preparing to execute my next move.

I am going to take my friend up on her offer to ride the Pinto. No lessons, no SchoolMaster, just a few weekends of play with an adorable and safe horse. If in three weeks I am still not having fun, I think I need to be honest with myself and just take a break from riding. I hate admitting it after I have worked so hard at it after all of these years, but loosing my confidence is not helping me at all. If after three weeks I am having fun, I am going to try the SchoolMaster again, but differently this time. I am going to take lunge lessons, just lunge lessons until I can feel his gaits. Once I feel like I not am getting tossed out of the tack every step I am giving myself permission to stop riding him if I want to. If, of course, my confidence is back after the lunge lessons, I will keep up with the SchoolMaster. If not that is okay. I will find another horse to ride. I don’t know how I will be able to afford it, but where there is a will there is a way right?

At least I feel better having a plan now. That is something…right? What I really need is to go back in time and stop Gen from hurting himself since he was my perfect noble steed. Anyone know a good way to do time travel?


18 thoughts on “The Melt Down – Part 3

  1. I was getting very worried about you, but it seems like you came up with a good plan. You ARE NOT a loser for having issues with the schoolmaster. First, you rode him well before, you’ll ride him well again. Second, even if you don’t ride him again, it doesn’t mean you can’t ride all “big WBs” or that you’re not a good rider. Third, you don’t ride 6 horses a day like a trainer does, so there is NO WAY ( will repeat that: NO WAY) you could possible be able/have the tools/skills/knowledge to ride anything and everything thrown at you – that is an unrealistic expectation you have of yourself that may be at the core of your mental isssues. Remember, it takes 10,000 practices to get something down. If you ride 1 horse a day every day, that means it would take you 27 years to master riding. So, stop being so hard on yourself. “Should” is the worst word in the English language. I “should” be able to do this or that. That’s comparing yourself to someone else – some lofty ideal that is impossible to live up to. Look at riding the pinto as an opportunity to learn something new – each horse is different and will teach you something more. You did not fail. Period. End of story.

  2. You said, “I heard very little of what they were saying because I was so distracted by my own thoughts.”

    I repeat the gist of my reply yesterday. You need to FOCUS–like the top riders (and athletes in other sports) do when they are warming up or rehearsing–and learn to FEEL the moment, concentrating on what you are doing and feeling and how the horse (whomever it may be) is responding to what you are asking.

    I ride with a German national who learned at the SRS. She is all about precision. She knows about TBs having rescued and retrained several during her career. She asked me once what my riding goal was and I said to learn to FEEL what was happening during a dressage test so when a movement started to “go south,” I could correct it “in the moment” rather than think, “Well THAT 20M circle sucked, but now we’re at B and it’s time for the next movement–let’s see if I can do better on THAT one.” She said it was a GOOD goal and that soon I’d be able to FEEL the problem BEFORE it occurred. That got me to start concentrating more during my lessons.

    I find when I ride I’m thinking about the pile of laundry waiting for me at home or the unmade bed or the vacuuming and dusting that I haven’t done yet–rather than thinking about (and FEELING) what is going on between me and the horse. He has taught me that when he roots for the reins, I should give him more rein, so he goes around “all happy” (as a judge once told me) with absolutely NO contact at all. My German teacher says the same thing: “He’s not on contact, and you give him more rein. He has taught you well.”

    Get a book on sports psychology. Go online. Look up “neurofeedback.” As trying to ride says, YOU DID NOT FAIL. YOU ARE NOT A LOSER. You just need to get out of your own way. Chill! ;o)

  3. “The men who try to do something and fail are infinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed. ”
    -Lloyd Jones

    While you may be disappointed w. yourself over the Schoolmaster, don’t be. Your a great rider. We are all rooting for you, and if you need a break from riding, thats fine! I took a break several years ago after my horse bolted and wouldn’t allow me to pull him up. It left me emotionally drained and I couldn’t look at horses without my nerves skyrocketing.
    I think it will do you a world of good riding your friend’s horse. Nothing is more therapeutic than a sweet, understanding horse.

  4. This is purely based upon my own experience and my interpretations of what you’ve written, so I could be 100% off base, but this is what it seems like to me… I don’t think it’s about the schoolmaster’s gaits, his training, or the fact he’s a warmblood. You describe a horse with nervous/scared energy. While none of his behaviors sound harder than anything else you’ve dealt with, he sounds as if he has a total different energy. It happens to be the one type of energy which just absolutely wears me out and makes it hard for me to enjoy riding. You may be the same way. It may be that you now know that yes, you can ride him – but it saps you physically and mentally to deal with him. That’s not quitting, if that’s what you figure out. That’s just acknowledging a certain type is TIRING! I know some people (usually the types who want to dominate and BE IN CHARGE) who thrive with horses of that type of energy. I just choose not to deal with it when I can avoid it, because I want to enjoy horses. My horse may spook and buck and rear, but he doesn’t have *that* energy, so doesn’t wear me out in the same way!

    Regardless of whether I’m wrong or not, it sounds like you have a great plan! I hope you enjoy the pinto and have a chance to enjoy a different big warmblood to see the difference in personalities. 🙂

  5. I am really glad to hear that it sounds like you’re not being so hard on yourself at the moment. Sounds like you do need to “chill” a little and take small steps to get your confidence back. You will get there, even though it feels like there’s a mountain to climb in front of you. We are all cheering for you.

  6. If you ask me, which you didn’t 🙂 Go on a damn trail ride!! Get out of the arena. Just because you are not enjoying training does NOT mean you don’t love horses or riding. You are throwing the baby out with the bath water. You are feeling so much pressure. Find a way to release it. You cannot not keep doing the same exact thing and expecting different results. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?? Decide what result you want. Is it to show and win all blues this season? Is it to conquer this fear of a single horse? Or is it to be happy and enjoy your life? If your answer is the later than stop doing what you are doing and do something fun. So what if you don’t show this year, there is always next year. You don’t look old to me so what is all the immediate pressure about? You obviously love horses so do something with them that you enjoy. I say get out on the trails because there is nothing more relaxing, peaceful and fun than that to me.

  7. I really don’t know what to say. Everyone else has pretty much summed up my feelings. If I could (without feeling guilty) I’d just copy and paste Dom’s comment, and call it my own.

    Try to go into the whole pinto experience with a positive attitude. Just relax, have fun, and give Gen lots of hugs an kisses. It sounds like you could use a few of those yourself:) (if there was a button for a sympathetic smiley face, I’d click it. However, as nobody seems to have created one yet, a regular one will have to suffice)

  8. It looks like evryone else has pretty much covered what I would like to say. You are way too hard on yourself. Take the suggestion to go out and trail ride without putting pressure on yourself to accomplish anything …except to have fun!

  9. I am going to agree with everyone else. It’s time to go out on a trail on a safe fun horse and remember WHY you love riding. Or, switch gears and try something else for a while. Take some western pleasure classes, or try showing in-hand again. Chevy and I did a halter class at a local show and it was a blast (even if he didn’t want to trot on command LOL) ***hugs***

  10. Yay for making some decisions! And I love Annette’s comment- not sure if that exactly relates for you but I’m sure it does for many others. So true! The only thing I think you should focus on is fun, fun , fun! Good luck with it all and can’t wait to hear about your next enjoyable ride!

  11. DO not judge your love and desire to ride on a spooky horse. I don’t care how much training the “Schoolmaster” has, he is a spooky horse. You may be able to get through that, but you will have to have an enormous amount of confidence for him to feel better. That’s sooo much work. You really just need to work with a more confident horse, or one that can focus only on you.

  12. I’m with Dom. I read back over these posts and it breaks my heart to see you struggling this way.

    I was also thinking along the lines of what Annette said. I don’t know if it’s energy or not but there are just certain people and even certain horses that do not click. Big Name Trainers have certain bloodlines they just won’t deal with because they don’t mesh. There is no shame in that.

    I have met horses that I don’t want to ride. Not because I can’t but because I just don’t want to. I don’t need the stress or aggervation so I chose not to. No one gets along with every person in the world or every horse.

    There’s a cowboy I really respect who can do anything with a horse and I do mean anything and even he has horses he would prefer not to work with.

    Whatever the reason is you don’t enjoy riding the Schoolmaster, it doesn’t make you less of a rider. What’s important is that the experience is not fun for you. I would hate to see you quit riding all together because you and this horse are not a good match on some unknown level.

    I wish you weren’t so far from me, I think my boy, Dandy, would love some time and attention and he’s awesome at dressage.

  13. I just found your blog today, but I know just how you feel. I’m really so glad there are others out there who are struggling with fear and things like that.

    Unfortunately my own horse is the one I’m struggling to ride, mostly due to inexperience. And I can’t give up, even if sometimes I get in the saddle and am a nervous wreck half the time. Yet we deal with it because we love it. Or we’re crazy. Or both.

    I agree with the person who said that SM’s really shouldn’t be getting all worked up about things since they’re supposed to be quiet and steady-eddies.

    And a break to just have fun with a good, trustworthy horse is a great thing to do. I wish I could do it, myself sometimes!

  14. Okay, the more I read about the “Schoolmaster”, the less he sounds like a true “schoolmaster”. Why is he spooking so easily? I guess I had always thought a schoolmaster is a “been there, done that” horse that is so experienced in his role, he practically teaches his rider how to properly ride the dressage movements. I rode horses for years (don’t ride currently, sadly enough!) and I have to admit I would not have been thrilled to ride a spooking horse during lessons. When you are paying for lessons, I think the lesson horse should “feel” safe to you. Otherwise, it’s really not an ideal lesson horse. That’s just my opinion, but I can understand why you aren’t sure about riding him anymore.
    I hope your “time off” will help you determine what you want to do. I guess I am really hoping a nice, unspooky horse will come into your life by accident. Wouldn’t that be awesome!! 🙂

  15. Wow. I am so impressed that you are sharing your heart here in your blog. You are very brave and courageous. So many folks try to act tough and brave and never share their fears and concerns, but you are keeping it real. I admire you greatly for this.

    I am dealing with my own self confidence and fear issues related to my horse’s kicking me in the face last summer and clipping my hip last Fall and threatening to kick me when asked to do some ground work. Sometimes I get what feels to me like anxiety attacks where I can hardly breathe and my heart feels like someone is squeezing it too tightly.

    It takes a lot to move through and past those fears (I’m not sure i’s possible to completely conquer them…..maybe they are meant to remain to teach us important lessons?).

    Anyway, I just want to say that I may not know you, and I only just stumbled upon your blog today through reading Equine Impressions ‘Fear post’., but I want you to know I’m proud of you.


  16. Just wanted to say you’re not alone in dealing with self confidence and fear. I struggle with it too. One thing that’s been helping me is a book called “Ride With Confidence” (intro by Kelly Marks, i don’t know who the author is) and it really made me realize that my negative thinking and focusing on what wrong or bad things could happen are causing them to happen. It also addressed the internal struggle of doing something you love and yet feel anxiety about and how even that kinda messes with your mind.

    It has several chapters written by horse trainers and therapists, and it was really helpful to read and made me feel refocused on being calm, and positive, and confident. Thought you might be interested!

    Hang in there

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