We didn't have lesson this week - waaay too hot. My lesson last week was sort of a non-event for me. I wasn't there mentally for the first time in a really long time. I was psyched for the lesson that morning, but my up mood completely deteriorated in the afternoon. I had to drop everything I was doing and clean up a big, time-sensitive mess that someone else made and my anger, frustration and stress left me with a bitter taste. To be honest, I was more in the mood for a vodka soda and a good ear to listen to my ranting and raving instead of riding.
I was not as patient with Gem when we were tacking up. He has started pulling his feet away from me when I am cleaning them. It's really annoying and he pulls me off balance. The first few times he pulled his foot away, I just kept picking it back up and when he eventually let me hold it for as long as it took, I told him he was a good boy and gave him a little scratch. But, by the time we were going through this routine on the third foot, I lost my patience and yelled "NO!" every time he pulled away which was, unfortunately, a lot. I am sure I looked like some crazed middle-aged lunatic....sigh. Not a good way to start.
I went through the motions of my lesson, but LA could tell something was up and asked me later in private. I didn't go into detail, but she did sense that I was still angry. She said that if my head really wasn't in it, it was OK to not to ride. She would rather me be aware and safe, not distracted or angry.
But how do you determine when you shouldn't ride because you are mentally not there? I mean, you are mental, so how would you know, right? There have been many times that I have tacked up and still had residual stress from work clouding my brain. Yes, I have ridden under the influence of stress!
Spring and summer are pretty easy for me work-wise. But, I am now getting into my busy season at work (last fiscal quarter, year end, renewals, yearly audit and two major conferences). The next 6 months will be brutal. There are going to be times when my mind will not be on riding, but thinking about what deadlines need to be met the next day. My patience level will start to lower. Last year, there weren't too many times that I rode under the influence because, frankly, I was still nervous of Gem and I was focused on staying in the saddle! This year will be a bit different. We are more familiar with each other. I have been working on his boundaries, so I am more assertive with him when he pushes them. This is where it can get tricky; depending on how much under the influence I am, I may be more physical and rough with him without realizing it.
Most times, riding has actually helped dissipate my stress and tension. But where do you draw the line between relieving stress or being unsafe? I find that doing my stretches before I ride helps reduce my physical tightness. Tacking up also helps relax me. But sometimes even my AEIOU routine does not help get rid of the pinched look on my face that appears when I am stressed. No soft face for me.
I want to get the most out of my lessons and my time with Gem. I want to be safe while riding. We all know how quickly a situation can change while riding and how dangerous it can be on occasion. You need to be aware of what is going on so that you can take care of yourself and your horse. There will be a few things over the next few months that will help me determine whether I can ride on any given day -
* maintaining an acceptable patience level with Gem
* being able to change my focus from work to the ride
* if I can loosen up my body and face to an acceptable level
* if I can remind myself that I am going to have fun riding and
not resent having to change clothing at the office and drive
40 minutes to get to the stables
* if I can stop hitting my head on the steering wheel of my car
long enough to drive to the stables
* if I can clear my mind of plotting revenge and remember that
stupid people don't know they are stupid, so deal with it
* if I am not in jail for verbal abuse
OK, I may be exaggerating a bit on some of that list but, seriously, I don't want to take my frustration out on Gem or my classmates. I am not the type to wimp out (I think I was a terrier in another life); it would have to be pretty bad for me not to ride. But, after my chat with LA, I know I can say "No" to riding under the influence, guilt-free. I am actually OK with sitting a lesson out if I am under the influence and not fit to ride....I can just groom my boy, watch the others ride and let the insanity leave my mind... at least, for a short while. You know, perhaps chilling out in this manner will be a lesson in itself. :-)
What was I thinking....?