Friday, July 11, 2014

Lesson #113: The Never Ending Battle

Last night's lesson was off-property at the Erin Fairgrounds. It took me longer than I anticipated, to find the location b/c I couldn't quite figure out how to get inside to the grounds. I drove back and forth the main street and was more and more confused because I could see riders and their mounts but I couldn't figure out how they got inside! Eventually I just took the risk and drove into a driveway and lucky enough, everyone was there. I quickly pulled myself together and I saw Ariel munching on the short grass outside the arena.

There wasn't a mounting block so one of the parents helped me up... I have terrible timing and was told to jump on 3 but jumped on 4 instead. Despite that, that mom was super strong and didn't seem to have trouble getting me up (she does have 3 kids who ride and had 2 horses). I was a little embarrassed because I let her lift my big fat arse onto Ariel. But in my defence, I've rarely had to mount from the ground! I was also super nervous. I am one of those "terrible test takers" who are usually so nervous and tense that I could make myself sick. During the day, I was excited about getting out for my ride but as the time approached, my anxiety levels were escalating. By the time I arrived, I was ball radiating nervous energy.

I entered the ring that had two other young girls who are like two fish to water... trotting around and doing some jumps and even getting into the canter. They are both excellent riders and that observation added to my ever escalating nervous energy. Knowing that I've never been off property in an arena, Sheri reminds me that my attention needs to be "on" and the best way to ride anything out is to sit up tall, chest open and shoulders back. She further soothingly reminds me that I just need to take time to shake my nerves off and if the entire lesson is just spent walking around with Ariel, then so be it. Ariel isn't a spooky mare but she is definitely pushy, inquisitive, attentive and curious. In some ways, we're two peas in a pod because she's uber alert and I'm equally edgy about everything around. The fairgrounds is tucked away from the main road but the traffic is audible and you can see some small houses on a smaller street as well as a section of bush.

B is talking me through my nerves and reminding me to sit up while we walk around and try to keep Ariel's attention on us. I make the effort to take deep breaths and talk myself through my mental check-list. Instead, I find my tension manifesting itself physically: my right heel slowly creeps up and when turning, I actually twist to the left, regardless of the direction; this irritates Ariel as she raises her head and turns it inwards in an effort to rebalance herself. Despite this, I do regain some posture and control. Sheri asks me if I am comfortable to get into the trot... which I willing do. I feel a little better but Ariel took a quicker trot and it is a bit unsettling at the get go. I try to rein her in a bit but then remember my "magical half halts" as better tools.

I spent the remainder of the lesson in trot or walk along the perimeter and crossing the center. It was both inspiring and intimidating when the other two young riders got into their canters and jumped a few fences. A few times Ariel tried to get sneaky and grab a tall blade of grass while I was stopped--it was such a funny sight with her trying to be subtle about reaching for that piece of grass while standing still. As I was starting to become more comfortable and having my confidence rise, I turned a corner and out of (what seemed like) no where, a large dog dashes into his yard (fenced) and because Ariel and I didn't see it, she just heard the sound and freaked out with a little jump forward and rushing away from the scary noise. I cried out and nearly fell off. OY. Thankfully I didn't but that one incident (I'm sure) reduced whatever comfort or confidence I had built up to that point. *sigh*

Even with the little bump at the end, I found the experience very helpful and worthwhile. My assessment of my own performance is that I am unlikely to be ready for any show (no matter how low key) at this point until I can work on getting my nerves under control. It's a never ending battle for me: I've always been a Nervous Nellie with pretty much everything I do... which is why I've spent a lot of my adult life doing things that push my boundaries. It's not that I have the goal of becoming fearless... but rather learning to deal with my fear and anxieties while building confidence. It's a long and difficult road but I am sure the rewards will far outweigh the challenges.

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