All has been going well with Tiny and I at home. He’s not put a foot wrong and we are slowly building our relationship together both on the ground and in the saddle. However things in my head have been somewhat unhelpful lately and despite my strong desire to be much further forward with my return to jumping, I’m struggling. A lot.
Confidence doesn’t understand logic, it doesn’t really care too much about what you’ve done in the past and what’s ahead in the future either. The mind is a powerful thing to overcome at times.
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All sounds quite pathetic too. Why can’t I just kick on and pick up where I left off all those years ago. I’m still the same person, I’m still competitive in some aspects of my life – I certainly can’t keep my mouth schtum when there’s a quiz on the telly, that counts doesn’t it? I just can’t transfer that over to the times I’m in a saddle and there’s a rail approaching. I just freeze. The devil on my left shoulder out shouting the encouraging angel on my right shoulder and I go through the gate or gap rather than take the jump.
For heavens sake I need to get a grip!
I get SO frustrated with myself at times about it too, really disappointed that I gave in to the devil and chose the easy option. I certainly ride a willing enough partner!
I mentally went back a few steps to try and understand what’s at the bottom of this. I know I’ve always detested ditches since a couple of incidents when I was much younger. One with my first pony when we took off far to far away from a deep sided ditch and he landed half way up the other side, deposited me and cleared off. The second when I ended up upside down under my horse in another ditch. So I get why ditches aren’t my favourite but as you don’t find too many ditches in show jumping it never really affected me. In the hunting field that’s a totally different case. So I’ve been avoiding them lately! Tony has been quietly taking me over a little one near home when the opportunity arises, but doing it really does help me and helps me build trust in Tiny too.
Rails though, there’s just no real reason to why I stutter at these.
I’d so love to be the one flying from fence to fence without a care in the world as most of our hunt country’s rails aren’t big. At all. However riding an ex-racehorse is a little different. As I’ve mentioned before he’s not currently able to come to a fence and pop it quietly. His instinct is to have speed and, where possible, to stand off his fences. That’s fine with single rails and am I slowly seeing strides again, albeit it at a much faster pace than I’m used to. Tiny has never done a double before (to my knowledge) and taking off boldly at speed means your landing distance is compromised to the 2nd element. Teaching him doubles will come when we do finally get in the arena and start pole work, I always thought. His speed means that some down hill rails, however small, need to be considered particularly if there’s a steep drop after or with a road the other side too. I need to make decisions. Each time I decide not to jump something because I don’t think he’s ready or we are not ready as a partnership, I compromise the overall mentality with jumping and the confidence takes another chip!!
I got really frustrated during our most recent day in the field. Not being too committed to some fences meant Tiny didn’t jump all that well. I’m still thinking about my more secure hunting style to sit up going over rather than kicking him into the fence. As a result he got under them and picture we created not too pretty. I left out too many fences when I should have just focused and just got on with it, driving AND remembering to sit up! At one point I approached a tiger trap a bit too cautiously. Sitting too still we nearly stopped but my genuine little lad clambered over. I was so angry with myself for not helping him. As we came up across the field to the next rail I really kicked him into it and we soared over it. The smile was huge and a friend was with me to share my total delight with high fives all round!
“This was what it was about Rachel”, I was thinking… “just believe in him, kick into them and adopt that strong seat going over”. I’ll sort the rest with pole work very soon. I flew the only other fence we met that day and I felt really good about it all. What I really needed was a day or two with some good runs with a number of fences linked really to get a rhythm going. That would bring me into line. Do that and get the arena booked to start pole work and I was sure my old jumping self would be making an appearance!!
However, when we got him that night Tiny came off the box sore, with a tiny trickle of blood from a small puncture wound and the start of a swollen knee.
The Tiger Trap.
Now I was doubly annoyed at myself. I’d put Tiny to a fence poorly and now my happy little chap was sporting a knee the size of a cart horse. Obviously we’ve been taking care of it and it seems to be coming right with much cold hosing, potions and powders. However having ended the day determined to sort my head out and book the arena, I was back down with my heart in my boots. I ‘broke’ my pony and I did it at a jump. He wasn’t lame out hunting, no-one spotted anything and he gave me no indication that he’d hurt himself at all. Clearly he was on adrenalin.
So now instead of being able to get in the arena and start pole work we are slightly on the sidelines. He’s still not lame, so it’s just a case of waiting for the haematoma to go on his fat leg. It’s just one of those things really.
However, playing the waiting game now though just gives power to that naughty little devil on my left shoulder…
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With love from me and The Orange One, see you next time!