Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's Not You, It's Me....

We actually had a "snow day" last Friday....that's where offices close for the day due to a snow storm and people work from home so that the roads are clear of traffic.  Can you believe it?  April!  It was a bit of a "lunch bag let down" though because the storm was not as bad as everyone thought it would be.  Talk about media fear-mongering!   Anyway, the cooler temps prevailed and the mud around the barn froze up, making it quite difficult to walk on.  This week the temperatures have steadily gotten warmer and warmer and the mud has returned in boot-sucking depth and thickness.

Mud.  Gem's most hated thing out on the trails.  I decided to be proactive in getting him acclimatized to spring trail riding by asking LA if she could take him out a few times and work him through his anxiety.  We had to wait until today for the thaw to be complete and the mud and the water around the swamp to be at their most scary.  :-)

LA texted me this morning:

LA:  Morning.  I am gonna take him out today.
Me:  Yipee!  I want him ready for me to go out on the trails.

A bit later....

LA:  We are standing in the pond.
Me:  No kidding!
LA:  Ya.  He must be sick.
Me:  What?!
LA:  He didn't spook at a partridge.  It scared me! :-)

Later....

LA:  Went through the creek.  His belly is wet.  We walked all through the swamp.  What the hell?  :-)
Me:  Yay!  Keep up the good work! :-)
Me:  Was he OK with the squishy mud?
LA:  Yep.
Me:  Are you sure you are riding the right horse???  :-)
LA:  Maybe not.  lol  Next time it's you and me out on the trails. I didn't do anything except sit on him.
Me:  OK. Yes, I know it's mostly me, not him.  You want to give him another ride before we go out together in case it's a fluke?
 LA:  Yup.

In the past, Gem has tried to jump over mud, tippy-toe through it, even climb on the back of the horse in front of him (that was interesting!) in his attempt to get through a swampy part of the trails.  His mud antics have come close to unseating me a number of times.  But, LA's texts have brought it front and center;  it IS me not Gem that is really the problem.   The fact that a confident rider like LA  can take him through the swamp without Gem batting an eye shows that Gem is really not a scaredy-cat.  When I think of the mud meltdowns I have experienced, I am more convinced that I was the initiator.   My nervousness about his POTENTIAL reaction to mud percolates the moment we start out, to the point that I start to feel anxious way before we even get to the swampy bits of the trails.  Obviously, he feeds off of my anxiety.  And that can lead to a mud meltdown.   Not a good combo and not very relaxing for him or me.


I have experienced "two steps forward, one back" on a regular basis when it comes to riding Gem.  It doesn't bother me as much as it did.  This riding thing is a lot harder than it looks!  However, I think (and I am knocking on wood as I write this) we have turned a corner the last 6 months.  Honestly, the most basic training (doing squares, straight lines, turns) have helped immensely in building my confidence and improving our communication.  Having a better understanding on how and when to correct has been a god-send also and I can tell Gem respects me more.  I am hoping that now that I have more confidence in the arena, I will be able to translate that out in the fields and we can avoid mud meltdowns.  Trail riding is a big part of my riding experience, so it's time to face my fear and get on with it.


Hope you are having a good week!


24 comments:

  1. It's almost always us, isn't it? Just realizing that is so important and leads to great progress.

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    1. You are so right, Kate. And, yes, now that I acknowledge it, I can work towards fixing it.

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  2. I've found the same thing when it comes to riding. Years ago when I had the spookiest horse on earth I never trusted him on trails or out of the ring for that matter. As I aged and he aged I learned to relax more and when I started to take him out he didn't spook at all. It was me really tensing up thinking, hey, he's going to spook at that log or puddle or whatever. So I think you and Gem will be fine on the trails this year now that you know you just need to relax and go with the flow. Hope your weather cooperates soon and you have no more snow events.

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    1. It never ceases to amaze me how sensitive these creatures are. I have to learn to hum more to calm myself down. :-) It's warming up here, but it's raining. :-(

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  3. Snow day?? In April??? Flipping 'eck!! Glad it turned out not to be too bad; that media scare-mongering sounds like what we get here in the UK all the time with regards to the weather.

    But that's good news, isn't it ... sort of ... knowing that Gem is fine in the mud & wet ... and you are definitely so much more confident now, that's been coming across clearly in your posts these past few months. So let the trail rides commence!! xx

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    1. I know! Friggin April!! Yes, you are right. It's good to know that Gem is OK in the mud and water. Now I just have to concentrate on me. :-)

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  4. If only there was a switch we could turn off/on for when we need to and don't need to worry about something!

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    1. Lauren, I would pay a lot of money for that switch! :-)

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  5. It is usually us, isn't it? It's like Cassie not wanting to go through the gate, not because she was worried about the gate, but because I was so worried about what Minnie might do!
    And a while back I rode out with a friend on a new horse. She didn't want to take a certain route through the forestry. I asked her why not. She said he was already getting worked up because it was the gallop lane and she didn't feel she could cope. That horse had never been in the forestry before, but he was feeling her anxiety...

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    1. Excellent examples. I am guilty of putting the blame on Gem for my hesitation to take a new route, etc. Now that I am aware, I will be working on my deep breathing. :-)

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  6. I agree with what everyone here else has said.
    Oh by the way, Hi, my name is Cindy.
    But I would like to add one more thing. Something I have learned recently with 2 of my horses. Sometimes it isn't that they feel our anxiety, it is that they have learned to use feigned fear as a way to get out of things they would rather not do.
    I have a horse who has really been around the block and done pretty much everything. I have yet to find anything that he is truly afraid of. But if he feels any trepidation from his rider what so ever, he will suddenly be seeing ghosts and monsters everywhere, to get out of doing any kind of real work. That may not be the case with your horse, but it is something to watch out for. Especially if he is a pretty smart guy.

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    1. Hi Cindy! I see examples of what you describe re feigned fear in some of the school horses. Sometimes they are spooky and sometimes they are ready for the show ring. It's like night and day, how the horse performs depending on the confidence of the rider.

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  7. I'd like to add something I learned with my L. When I'm relaxed I'm more likely to move with her and my balance is much better than when I'm stiff and anxious. She's more secure and willing to go through uncertain footing when we're moving together.

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    1. I hear ya and I am trying! :-) I understand exactly what you are saying. My seat is getting much better and we are much more in synch now.

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  8. If their leader is stiff, anxious and afraid, our horses are justified in worrying and being reactive. It's their nature as herd animals. It's not malice or planning. They are not out to get us. They just want to save their own skin.

    Happy to read this post. Watching you and Gem overcome your riding obstacles has been such an inspiration to me. :D

    My partnership with Val improved tremendously once I started to take responsibility for my emotions / anxiety. It is super hard for me - I envy folks who are naturally very even keeled. When I can achieve calm and relaxation in the saddle, it feels like we can do anything.

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    1. Absolutely agree with you; it is the nature of the herd. I guess in a way I should be flattered that Gem is taking my anxiety to heart....that would make me a leader then. :-) I have to learn to roll with it and not over think everything. Humming may be my new best friend for the next little while. :-)

      BTW, I have always admired your dedication to your work and relationship with Val.

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  9. Haha, in my twenty-two years of life we've had one snow day. It doesn't matter how cold it gets (even -50) or how much snow, our town never shuts down. Our April has sucked so far, it's been snowing, we just had a hail storm and the wind has been crazy, but that's normal.

    I can't tell you how many times I've thought one of our horses was absolutely terrified of something, only to realize later on that the only way they were reacting that way was because of my own nervousness. But at least now you know what the issue is and you can work on it. Your confidence already grew so much lately, it shouldn't be too difficult for that spill over onto your trail riding.

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    1. I don't envy you your weather! Glad to see that I am not alone when it comes to transferring nervousness to my horse. :-)

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  10. I love this post! I do this regularly with my gelding...and it totally sucks for him! I don't give him enough credit...I recently realized that I think it has negatively affected our relationship a bit...you know, he doubts me as a leader. But like you, I now know it's something I need to actively work on. He's been incredibly forgiving in the past so I can't imagine this time would be any different.

    I've been wanting to hack around the property after work just the two of us but I have created this worst case scenario of what's going to happen when we venture out. I've done this once and he was super in tune and happy. I need to get the eff on and trust him a little more! :)

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    1. Sounds like your guy has a lot of patience. :-) Forgiving is an excellent way to put it. Like you, I always seem to create the worst case scenarios. It really boils down to trust, doesn't it?

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  11. Oh my gosh, been there, done that!
    Give yourself a big pat on the back. So many would never address the terrors of the trail.

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