The Gelding Everyone Wanted

The Gelding Everyone Wanted

So Toby has moved on to pastures new. Turned out I went from the mare who no-one wanted, to the gelding who EVERYONE wanted. Everyone except me. As lovely as he was, he was just not suited to an eventing home. He was a bit cautious for XC, a bit clumsy for SJ and hated schooling. Having difficulties in all 3 phases was not really the best starting point. Rather than continuing to force a round peg into a square hole, I have sold him so he can be gloriously well suited to the job of happy hacker and pony adventurer. Which means I am horse hunting again. This is a problem as I have a bit of a horse viewing credibility issue….

A few years ago I was selling an outgrown pony whose competitive limit was about 80cm. I got a call from a woman asking if he would jump a metre. ‘A single metre fence or a metre track?’ I queried. Competing over a metre was the answer and I said no. As the ad pointed out, he was competitive to 80 and anything up from that was a bit much. ‘Oh well we might as well try’, she said and so they came to view. At the first canter the girl screamed, lost her stirrup and ended up round his neck. We parted company with me thinking, ‘not sure they really needed to worry about whether the pony could jump a metre’. Well, sadly, that is more or less me! While looking for Toby, I rode a lovely mare as my next potential BE90/100 horse and cried twice. Once because she looked at some cows. (Yes, looked.) The 2nd time was after a cross pole when she sped up a bit on landing. That slight acceleration, which felt to me like the wall of death, was not even visible on video. I cried, got off and went home thinking, ‘well that was embarrassing’. Luckily not even I could be scared on the chilled dude that is Toby (probably why I bought him, come to think of it). But now I am facing the same dilemma: How does a person who likes to take things slowly and steadily with unfamiliar horses, buy her next eventing partner?!

A possible solution is presenting itself though. A local horse has been advertised for loan. I could spend the summer schooling, hacking and, (dare I dream), even competing her. THEN perhaps buy one when I am less likely to cry, ride like a muppet, er, when I can try out the horse’s potential fully! I’ve applied for her and now the anxious wait begins…. Pick me, pick meeeeee!

Happy Retirement Sweet Girl

Happy Retirement Sweet Girl

This was not how our story was meant to end. Sadly, life is not a Hollywood movie and the triumph over adversity that the script clearly called for was not to be. Amber’s MRI shows significant damage to the navicular stuctures in her foot and I have been told that it is unrealistic to expect her to jump again. If we medicated the joint and used remedial shoeing, there is a possibility of light hacking, but she’s just not a ‘light hack’ kind of horse!

Luckily she is field sound so I don’t have to think the unthinkable. She can retire to a life of leisure while I work out what will come next for us both. I have plans and dreams that include her so I guess this is not the end of the story after all. Just one closing chapter. But what a chapter it has been!

She made me believe I could event. After all, if I was sat on the world’s most awesome XC horse, how could I doubt it?

Thank you for the memories, gorgeous girl.

The 50 Year Old Beginner

The 50 Year Old Beginner

4 months on and Amber remains lame, so I have missed the whole eventing season. The main idea behind getting Toby was to make sure that when Amber returns to work, I am ready to get cracking with her immediately. But she has other plans. And I have discovered that while I could just about ride Amber, I can’t really ride other horses. Well I can ride them but I can’t ride them. I am a passenger, or even a hindrance. Far from improving myself for Amber’s eventual return to fitness, I feel further away from being back in a start box, on her or any other horse, than ever.

I can’t work out if that is because my standards are higher now and I am more aware of what I don’t know. Or whether getting used to a new horse after several years learning to cope with Amber is a tricky adjustment for anyone. Or whether I am really just a bit rubbish and Amber filled in the gaps for me by being awesome. The bottom line though is:

  • Toby is a lovely, uncomplicated, sweet horse and I can’t yet ride him in a straight line, or in a decent rhythm or with much balance. So, not surprisingly, he rarely works over his back correctly or approaches fences straight or with a decent canter.
  • I am used to Amber towing me in so I am not positive enough with Toby. He therefore does not jump confidently as I faff about on top, not committing to the fences.
  • This is only an issue with me on him! He jumps fine with others on board.
  • I can’t ride Dolly effectively either even though she is in the form of her life at the moment with Katie.


It is sometimes tempting just to set my ambitions lower. Accept that I have no natural talent and just have FUN. Toby is so much fun. He is safe, forward, willing, kind, genuine. A true go anywhere, do anything horse. We have had a ball all Summer: farm rides, XC schooling, camps, clinics, hacks. I discovered that I actually do like hacking. I just don’t much like hacking AMBER. Toby, on the other hand, is a dream to hack. So why not forget about trying to ride well and just enjoy my lovely young horse.

But, above all else, I want to be a good rider. I don’t even care if I don’t compete. I want to be good for its own sake. I want to improve horses, not get in their way. I want to feel competent and skilled, not disorganized and unco-ordinated. I want to be able to produce a calm, happy, willing, well-schooled, confident horse.

So my plan C, (or are we on D, E, X now??), is to finally LEARN TO RIDE. I am having school master lessons at Ingestre. I am having biomechanics sessions on Toby. I am still plugging away at Dressage Rider Training and Noelle Floyd Masterclasses. And I am getting as much saddle time as possible to practice. It feels like I have taken about 100 steps backwards but hopefully this is going backwards to plug some gaps in my foundation in order to move forward again. One day. The saying goes: When the student is ready, the teacher appears. Whether Toby will be my future eventing partner remains to be seen. But for now he is my teacher and I am trying to be a good student. I’m certainly a committed one, if that counts for anything.

Anatomy Of Anxiety

Anatomy Of Anxiety

So turns out I have not come through the Amber-Chucking-Off experience unaffected. I thought I had because when I rode Amber again I felt relaxed. But it turns out that my brain is not logical! So rather than being afraid on my crazy orange beastie who actually did throw me off, I find I am afraid on all other horses instead. Including my rather lovely new one – Toby. A sale project and stop gap while Amber is out of action.

I am a Clinical Psychologist and I offer Rider Confidence Coaching to other people. So I really ought to be able to sort this out. So I have decided this blog is my homework….. To remind myself that I understand what is happening and I have the skills and the tools to deal with it.

So what is anxiety?

Well anxiety is the biological response to a perceived threat. Our clever neo-cortex  is the newest part of our brains and we like to think this logical, thinking brain is in charge. But it is overlaid on top of a much older emotional brain which includes the amygdala. The amygdala acts as a threat alert system. When it perceives threat it fires off warning signals all around the body: blood is diverted from the brain and gut to the major muscles so you can’t think straight and feel sick. Heart rate goes up to supply more oxygen to those muscles and hormones pour out to prepare you for fight or flight.

The problem with this emotional brain is that it has a mind of its own. You can’t tell it what is and is not a threat. And for whatever reason my amygdala is seeing threat EVERYWHERE. There is a bird in that tree – THREAT. There is a horse about to pass us – THREAT. There is a puddle across the path -THREAT. Toby looks at something -THREAT. Toby loses balance for a moment – THREAT. Toby jogs -THREAT. Etc etc.

You can’t change the fact that threat alerts will be triggered. But you CAN control how you respond to them. We are programmed to respond by fight or flight and my default is always Flight, AKA avoidance. So the process goes:

ME: I think maybe I will canter.

AMYGDALA:  Sees canter as a threat. Releases the THREAT alert.

ME: Just the thought of canter is making me feel sick and scared so I won’t canter after all

AMYGDALA- Good decision. Threat alert switched off.

ME: I feel much better and decide I am ‘not ready’ for canter yet.

In this scenario – which is repeated with lots of other horsey related activities, the amygdala fails to learn that canter is within my abilities, that nothing bad is going to happen, that Toby is a safe and willing horse. So next time I think of canter (or anything else that scares me) the same thing happens again.

So what can I do? Well that is simple enough. JUST DO IT! If you know that the problem is a faulty alert system and not that you are overfacing yourself or your horse, JUST DO IT. Take a deep breath, find some mantra that makes sense to you and bloody get on with it. Key bit though – you have to stay with it long enough for the anxiety to drop before you stop. Basically the process of your anxiety dropping WHILE you are doing something you find frightening rewires the amygdala. So next time you come to do that activity the intensity of the fear is much lower and drops much more quickly. Till eventually you no longer see the activity and threatening at all.

So today my lovely friend gave me a kick up the arse and I went to Somerford on Toby to do the farm ride. And spent a good  couple of hours rewiring my brain. Started the ride feeling sick with fear. Mid way through felt mildly tense. Then started feeling relaxed. And finished up feeling elated. Hurrah – Step 1 on the road back to confidence ticked off. Thanks Toby. You aren’t Amber but you are pretty cool too!

Corona and curve balls

Corona and curve balls

A Chinese curse goes: “May you live in interesting times”. Well these times are certainly interesting. Having horses has been a huge blessing at a time when life is so surreal. In a changed world, the horses offer reassuring continuity. Covid may be spreading and altering every other aspect of my life, but Dolly still drinks my coffee, covers herself head to toe in poo every night and hacks out like a 15 year old schoolmaster. Amber still nickers for treats, enjoys a scratch and pulls bitch-face expressions at me if I get too near her food!  Life at the farm feels more or less normal and is helping me stay sane inside insanity.

But sadly Amber is also lame. She had been going well on the flat, but I popped a cross pole and she landed then promptly decked me. Just like at Somerford. Amber may be challenging to ride at times but she is not a chucker-offer. So clearly something was wrong and a lameness work up and nerve blocks confirmed right foot pain. Same place as the injury in September when she twisted a shoe off in the field. Xrays suggest tendon damage and she needs an MRI to assss the extent of the damage  but with lockdown, that has not been possible. It seems likely that the September injury, the uncharacteristic behaviour in January and now lameness are all related to what may be a serious injury involving a long lay off. Or even a shift from jumping to ‘the dark side’ aka stressage.

Talking of which, just before she went lame we entered some E-Rider dressage tests. We scored a PB of 67.34  and had some lovely comments about her potential and our partnership. Getting the sheets through the post after she went lame was bittersweet. But is was lovely to see that we were finally shifting away from low 60s scores and heading nearer that 70% 30 pens barrier. I could just about imagine getting quite into dressage if I was not so utterly rubbish at it so we may yet make a dressage partnership! If not, then she has a home for life with me anyway. The mare who no-one wanted will never be unwanted again.


Brain Training

Brain Training

So Amber came back from the trainer wired and wild where jumps and poles were concerned, which wasn’t exactly my hoped for outcome …..  the basic conclusion was that she is not suited to an amateur and should either be competed by a pro to add some value before selling on as a more established horse competing at a higher level, or kept permanently on schooling livery on a pro’s yard to be ‘kept sweet’ so all the education that was put into her over the 8 weeks didn’t just unravel again.

That triggered a couple of days of sobbing, soul searching and a roaring return of my ‘I am not good enough for this horse’ confidence crises. But I have known for years that I am not good enough for her and have made my peace with that. She’d obviously do much better in a more experienced home and I’d probably do rather better with a more experienced horse. Green on green is never a great plan. But the bottom line is I adore her. She’s my partner and my pal. So I’m certainly not selling her. And I have horses in my life to have horses in my life. My every day life. Not just for weekends and holidays so having her on full schooling livery would not suit me either.

So she’s going nowwhere. And I am going back to the drawing board to try and find a way forward for us both.

The C word has obviously thrown all plans into chaos but thank God for horses because I can still see her and still ride. 

To fill the clinic, camp and lesson vacuum I have downloaded Noelle Floyd’s Equine Masterclasses and resurrected Nicola Smith’s Dressage Rider Training online programme. So each day sees rider workouts in the front room and Rideability 101 in the arena or the farm fields.

And if I do have to be confined to barracks well now is a good time, because I need to find a way (again) to ride. I can’t dominate her. I can’t boss her. I have to find another way at the same time as recognising that I DO need to be able to direct her. I personally react better at work when I understand what I have to do and am guided politely towards doing it than I would be if people just shouted at me or pressured me. I think Amber is the same. Plus, the fact is I am simply not a good enough rider to dominate her. I can’t cope with her tantrums and  I can’t hold her if she wants to go. So I have decided to keep trying to use my brain to influence hers. Mainly because my brain is better than my unskilled, wobbly body and Amber’s brain is more amenable to my control than her wayward, forward body!

And step one of ‘brain training’ is to go back to basics and make things very simple and obvious and then add complexity 1 small step at a time. So I have spent a few weeks going right back to Rideability 101 trying to re-embed her obedience chip. Endless poles in walk and trot till she stopped rushing and could pop through raised poles, on a bend and on the buckle without changing rhythm. This week I have been able to extend and collect the canter in a big open field with slight shift in weight and half halts. I can halt -canter- halt. I can canter 5 strides, trot 5 strides, canter 5 strides. So surely we were ready for canter poles?

Today I decided to find out:  During one of Amber’s early introductions to canter poles she attempted to jump them all in one go, landed in the middle of them and took off galloping for several laps of the arena. It was not the best learning experience for her. My fault totally of course but I was a guinea pig rider having a free assessed lesson by someone very experienced wanting their coaching qualification. When she put out the poles I thought ‘help that could go wrong’ but also felt that arguing with her might look bad to the assessor so I just decided to do as I was told. Which ironically then looked a hell of a lot worse to the assessor but hey ho.

I discovered then (and many times since then) that Amber’s default position to anything in life that she is either keen on or unsure of is to launch herself at it with total commitment. Either in a YIPPEE – LET’S GO way or sometimes in an ‘EEEEEK – CLOSE EYES, ENGAGE TAKE OFF GEAR, LAUNCH’ kind of way. The latter is what sees her taking out strides and jumping 3 times the height she needs to. (Which was fun (not) when we were first learning to jump into water!!)



We have done countless hours over the past 3 years getting her comfortable and confident around poles so that even though I still have Amberish Yeehaa moments, we have not had anxiety driven launch moments for a long time. Until I tried to pop her over a X-pole just before she came home and she grabbed the bit and accelerated. Again and again. Sigh. Since getting home I have discovered that she launches at trotting poles too, never mind canter poles.

But with my weeks of rideability 101 work in the bag I felt ready to try again. So today I put out 2 poles 72 feet or 8 strides apart. Popped up to canter on a small circle from walk then approached pole one. WHOOSH she took off. She did the ‘8’ strides in 6 and that was trying to collect! The words of various trainers ran through my head – move the bit, body back, half halt, make her listen, she needs to wait. Tried all that. 6 strides. Circled before to get a good rhythm and then tried to lock that rhythm in– but she launched the instant she saw the first pole until she was over the 2nd. So I came to halt, and sat in defeat staring at her beautiful neck and thought WHY? If I can collect and extend when the poles are not there, then why won’t she do it when they are. Why do the poles make so much difference?

I decided it’s not an obedience or communication thing. She undertands the aids to collect and listens to them. But learning is situational. Horses don’t generalise very well so for whatever reason she thinks poles = acceleration and speed. So was it a fear thing? Well no because she could happily walk over, trot over and stand astride the poles. But maybe it started as a fear thing and has become a learned behaviour? Basically a habit that she now thinks is the ‘right way’ to canter over poles or approach jumps.

Who knows how horses  and process stuff or how she could believe that despite me hauling on her reins she is supposed to be tanking through the poles like a loon. But I swear the more I tried to slow her down the more annoyed she got with me. She was more or less shouting ‘what! I’m doing exactly what I am supposed to do. What’s your problem’.

So how to tell her that I did not want that? That I wanted her to be calm, slow and responsive? I decided to walk over the first pole and halt. Then trot and halt. Then canter and halt. Repeat 3 times and on time 4 I just allowed the canter to continue. 4,5,6,7, 8!! Hurrah – lovely, calm, pingy canter. 8 rhythmic 12 foot strides. And no arguing. Repeated the canter – halt a couple of times so she was never sure if she was carrying on or not. Pinged through one more time and ended there with a huge grin and a tearful cuddle. (Yes I’m pathetic.)

Such a small achievement. But in the context of our 3 year struggle I feel like it’s HUGE! So we might hit dead ends, take detours and we will certainly be limited to my pace not hers, but we will get there. ‘There’ being where-ever we end up which will be a lot further on than ‘here’. And we will have a lot of fun on the way.

Back On Board

Back On Board

22829732_1988473947835060_5121713589702021186_oOk so I got chucked off Amber twice in the warm up at Somerford and broke my ankle. Turned out her saddle air bag had deflated and the saddle was jabbing her in the back, so fair enough. But in the meantime I have had 7 weeks of not riding her while she was sent to bootcamp.

I spent a fair chunk of those 7 weeks replaying the falls – or more to the point the ‘what the hell is happening’ moments before the falls when Amber behaved totally out of character. I have had her for 3 years and logic would dictate that 3 years of non-bronccing Amber would outweigh a few seconds of bronccing Amber – especially as there was a reason. But there was an unavoidable psychological phenomenon at play called the recency effect. Which basically means that the most recent thing to happen is given more weight and importance in our minds than older information/experiences. A reason why ‘finishing on a good note’ is just as important for riders as it is for horses and why the ‘good note’ should be a good FEELING not just a correct response.

Anyway the recency effect has meant that everytime I have thought about riding Amber I have experienced anxiety which has led to another unavoidable psychological phenomenon of ‘mood congruent memory’. Basically when we are sad we remember other sad things, when we are angry we remember all the other things that have wound us up. And when we are anxious about riding our horses we remember all the other times we have felt anxious on a horse.

So anxious feelings lead to anxiety provoking memories which lead to more anxious feelings etc etc. And far too much time for that all to play out.

Into this unhelpful mix was added the feedback from the trainer which was essentially that Amber is very difficult to ride, headstrong, overly brave, opinionated, very sensitive and really not suited to an amateur at all.

Now this is not really news. I realized a long time ago that Amber is talented, brave, strong, opinionated and ginger! So I needed to seriously up my game if I was going to keep her. And a long time ago I made the choice that for better or for worse, she is my horse, I love her and I am going to stick with her. I just need to learn to ride her.

But that conversation in that frame of mind left me 90% convinced that it was time to sell on. For both our sakes. Only every time I considered actually putting her up for sale I’d start crying! Plus I was aware of the recency effect and realised that now is not the time to make decisions. I needed to get back on her and see how things felt once we were back out there having fun together.

And today I rode! I used an old Mark Rashid mantra: turn your fear into gratitude. I focused on how incredible it is that strong, athletic, powerful horses let us climb up onto them and ask them to do things for us that are of no benefit to them. And that mostly they co-operate. I also used Tik Maynard’s philosophy of approaching your horse with softness and politeness, always ask nicely and saying thank-you. Mental approaches that – along with mindfulness and breathing – allowed me to feel confident getting on her. And once I was up there it was like I’d never been away. She was relaxed, she was listening, she was obedient. For flatwork anyway. Jumping was another matter…… But we have sorted that out before and can again.

The most important thing is I now have a new ‘most recent ride’ and it was one that left me happy. And brought back all those other happy memories of happy times on my amazing horse. Onwards and upwards…..

Boot for me = Boot Camp for Amber

Boot for me = Boot Camp for Amber

Well every day is a learning day. Recently I have learnt that:

  • If you ride Amber in a saddle with a broken tree she will chuck you off. Rapidly.
  • Improve-Your-Seat rider training exercises are no match for a cross chestnut mare.
  • You can walk on a broken ankle. Ish.
  • I am a numpty *

*Well I knew that one already but the particular brand of numptiness-of-the-month was the failure to notice that my saddle was broken. Properly, painfully, jab her in the back when she canters or jumps, broken. Poor Amber. The saddle looks and feels fine the right way up but that is absolutely no excuse and I feel dreadful about it. The pony club drill of checking tack EVERY TIME YOU RIDE has a point after all.

But Amber is now enjoying a temporary spell in a borrowed (gorgeous, beautiful) Equipe I am in a fetching and restrictive boot for a few weeks. Amber has gone on schooling livery with a pro who is giving her the education she isn’t getting from me. I went to see her today and it was inspiring and deflating all at the same time. She moves very well but the feedback was just exactly the same as I have heard over and over again:

She is a talented mare…. BUT

She won’t wait for jumps

She resists the contact

She runs on the forehand

She does not work leg into hand

She is a stroppy madam when put in her box!

But all that can – apparently – be resolved within the 6 weeks the pro will have her. Which I’m sure it can. But then she has to come back to me…. And it is clear that I just don’t have the skill to ride her correctly. God knows I’ve tried to address all those issues: Lessons, clinics, camps and having others ride her. I know what she needs but I am just not good enough to teach her. Or good enough YET anyway.

It was incredible how sweaty she was after 45 minutes today. All her veins were popped out. She was KNACKERED. Not because she us unfit – she is very fit – but because she was being made to use herself properly and she isn’t used to it. I can ride her for hours and she does not break a sweat at all.

Still I need to focus on the positives: She has been checked by a physio and she does not have a bad back. It is easier to resolve a broken saddle than a broken horse. Her uncharacteristically explosive behaviour has an explanation. She is at a fab yard with a fab pro and will – I am assured – be entirely easier when she comes back to me. The pro can teach me too.

And to be fair, if I am going to break bones, January is not a bad time to choose: I get to binge-watch Netflix while someone else rides in the wind and the rain.

Things can only get better……


3rd Amberversary

3rd Amberversary

82800552_2757091527704244_1228212994270298112_n3 Years…. Time to take stock.

So after 3 years of Amber, where are we?


Well this is the area I still feel I struggle most with. And I can’t really see much progress at all really. I can choose a gait but she still dictates the pace on hacks. She hates being left behind. She can take over and launch at jumps. She can rush and be silly. I am better at managing her but I have not changed that part of her and am as far away as ever from the holy grail of ‘complete control of all 4 feet, over all terrains in all gaits at all speeds!’ I think I just ride her better when she is being Amberish and so I can do things I used to not be able to do. But she is no easier to ride than she was when we first started out together. She is probably worse because she is so much fitter and because I have introduced her to XC which she loves and now anticipates.


She feels like a completely different horse to the gangly, unco-ordinated beast I first rode but after figuring out where her legs were and gaining some condition in her first 6 months with me, not much seems to have changed since.  She showed flashes of promise at our first camp in September 2017 and intermittently since then but we have never managed to get any consistency. We have also never reproduced work at home in a competition environment. Amber has had dressage lessons where we literally get nothing done at all as she is just not co-operating in any way. And we have had dressage lessons – like the one at camp in 2017 – where she just for some reason relaxed and listened to me and produced lovely work. Like the rideability – dressage is where I feel we are most stuck. Videos from 2 years ago look great. Videos from last week look bloody awful! From an objective point of view, I’ve been scoring 60-65% or 35-40 pens forever. Comments are always the same too: capable horse with nice/correct paces who needs to relax and submit/engage /work over her back/ accept the hand for higher marks. I feel things have been getting better in the past 6 months but not tested that hope out in competition yet!


Now for some better news. 2 years ago I was trotting round 70s. The SJ in my BE80 year was always pretty wild. And my first BE90 a year ago was a car crash. But over the season she settled and I felt like I was actually riding her more and being towed around less.  Her jumping in clinics can still be a bit yeehaa but I am better at getting her back and reacting to her surges of acceleration more quickly. I know a decent rider would have been riding her like that 2.5 years ago and been jumping 90s back then and be onto goodness knows where by now. But there is no point thinking like that. I am the rider I am and she is the horse she is and we can only progress as fast as this particular partnership allows. A better rider would be in a totally different place with her. But then I also might have progressed quicker on an easier horse. But we are where we are and progress – though slow – is very definitely there.


I first jumped a 90cm XC fence on a Gemma Tatersall camp in September 2017. Over 2 years ago. But that was 1 fence at a time. And they were easy fences. I am still jumping 90 but I am jumping full BE90 courses with very generous use of the brush rule, technical lines, skinnies,  combinations. I am also less of a passenger and more of a rider. So another place where progress is definitely happening. Having said that, I jumped lines last winter I would not want to jump now. So how XC will pan out over winter and into next season remains to be seen. BE90 was such a big step up for me that I may be there for quite a while!


It is hard not to be frustrated by this review. I don’t feel I have got very far in the 3 years I have had her. But I guess we are learning together so things will inevitably be slower. I can imagine getting another horse and starting out pretty much where me and Amber already are because 80/90 courses look manageable now. With Amber I had to start at 50/60 because I had never jumped higher than 70 and that was on a pony I had taken up to 70 from cross poles. I was basically a very novice jumper when I first got Amber. And she had never show jumped either. Green on green was never going to be the quickest way of making progress.

It depends what point of view I take: As a rider, I have gone from 70cm unaffiliated on an easy pony to BE90 on a challenging horse.  I have gone from being towed around to actually influencing my horse. I have started riding in an outline for the first time ever. So I as a rider have improved a lot over the 3 years. Amber, on the other hand, is still only using a fraction of her ability. So I have done a pretty rubbish job pf producing her. But I am not really trying to produce her, I am trying to get as good as we can be together. I will always be the limiting factor in our partnership and I guess that does not really matter.

Groundhog Day?

Groundhog Day?

Gosh where has the rest of this year gone? I only post when I feel I have something to say  and over the last 4 months, every time I have thought about blogging I have just felt like nothing has changed, nothing has happened so there is nothing to blog about. This reflects how I feel about my riding in general  – I feel like I am stuck in old familiar patterns and I am just going round and round hearing the same things again and again, struggling with the same issues and, despite trying my best, still making the same mistakes over and over. Every time I considered writing about something like – say – Amber being too forward, lack of consistency in dressage, my fears of jumping and hacking, Amber not  being ride-able and adjustable enough, me over-relying on my hands, my need for better balance and an independent seat etc etc, I realised I had already written about that. Often more than once. So the blogs themselves reinforce that sense of stuckness – Blogs 2 years ago are about the same issues that I had last week!

So why am I bothering writing at all? Well I use blogging to track progress over time. I use it to get my head round issues and to identify things that are either blocking my progress or helping me. And this feeling of stuckness is the thing that is most on my mind right now, so I decided to blog no matter what. To just start writing about how things are feeling and see if anything useful emerged from forcing myself to reflect.

So what are the issues? Well, Amber locks on and launches and does not jump out of a nice canter rhythm. Except sometimes she does. And each time she does it is a bit better than the last time she did. And each time she locks on and launches it it is less bad than it used to be. I am scared of jumping  and hacking, and those fears re-surface every so often. But the things I’ll jump when scared are bigger than they used to be and the things I’ll jump when confident are much, much bigger than they used to be. Amber is inconsistent in dressage. But her good work is better than it used to be and her poor work is less bad than it used to be.  I am too handsy and lack balance. Well yes I am and I do. (I suspect those things just may be linked!) But I know I need a better seat and I am working on it. And 3 out of 4 ‘aint bad!

I guess what feels like a circle is more like a spiral. We are both orbiting the same set of problems because her character is her character and my limitations are my limitations. She will always be enthusiastic, onward bound and ginger! (Photo evidence above!!) I will always be slightly nervous, wonky with deeply ingrained riding faults that are  improving slowly but won’t just vanish entirely. Each time I am on the riding badly/going badly side of the spiral I feel like I am getting nowhere, but each time I spin round to going well/riding well we have moved on from before. The highs are higher and the lows are less low. So in that sense I am not actually stuck at all. I just need to keep doing the work, keep aiming to improve and not lose heart.