Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Gaining Perspective

Over the last couple of weeks rides with Katai have not been going well. I’ve blamed it on inconsistency, her being in heat, and possibly some body issues since one week she got adjusted and the next week she got the rest of her spring shots. I’ve been trying to ride consistently but because of the weather and giving her time off to recover from her chiro appointment and shots we’ve been averaging less than three rides per week which is just not acceptable at this point.


Because of that, I’ll admit that at first I was dreading my lesson. You see, for the majority of my life (20 years) I’ve taken weekly or twice weekly music lessons from some of the most amazing musicians in the world.  I started with the piano when I was five and the cello when I was twelve and received my bachelors degree in music. It was enforced from a really young age by both my parents and my teachers that I needed to be at my best for lessons and that if I hadn’t worked extremely hard over the week to bring my best I was failing. 


You have to remember that I was on a path to become a professional musician which only about 2%-5% of people who play music are able to be successful at. Because of that there was a lot of pressure to be at excellent all the time and I spent A LOT of time every day (something like 3-5 hours) practicing my butt off. In school I decided that I just didn’t want to give up everything else to pursue that life and went into a business field as well so that I could afford horses and to have a life outside of my career.


Of course my perspective of riding lessons really was the same as it was with my music lessons. I have always felt, even though I’ve realized from the beginning that I’m doing this for fun, that I need to be at my absolute best in a riding lesson, and that I need to be prepared and great at everything the trainer gave me as homework at the last lesson. Because of this I’ve put a TON of pressure on myself and Katai and that’s not something that Katai takes well. Like me she is an over achiever and as soon as we try something that she doesn’t quite get she gets really frustrated. It was only in the last week or so that I was finally able to start letting that go. On my drive home from the barn one night last week I realized that I’m an adult, I’m choosing to pay someone who is an expert to help me, not to judge me and while I would never want to “waste her time” there’s a big gap between wasting her time and trying to only ever bring my best to every lesson.


Instead of needing to be successful before the lesson I’ve started to change my mindset to trying to do my best during the week but bring the things I’m having issues with to my lesson in a humble way so that I can be successful by the end of the lesson. Even if that success is small and not complete I’m starting to feel like I’ll have won if I’m able to use those lesson to help me and Katai. L is a big part of the solution to this mindset since she is more like a yoga coach than the disciplinarians that I’ve worked within the past. She is so calm and so wonderful at seeing what I’m doing and knowing how and what and when to give me advice.


For example, I warned her at the beginning of my lesson on Sunday that Katai was blowing off my aids and being really rushy and tense. She had been tight and hollow through her back and wouldn’t stop trying to canter all of the time. L told me to go ahead and see what we had and luckily Katai started out just as tense and unhappy as she has been. However, within about 5 minutes L had us right back to where we were a few weeks ago with a nice, slow, pushy trot by just changing a few things I was doing. Beyond that L taught me some more exercises and by the end of our lesson, despite Katai being quite tired thanks to her owner not following a strict enough conditioning program, my pony was using herself amazingly well! We had steady even contact, she was pushing into the bit, asking to stretch down, swinging through her back and on and on with the amazing things.


My main take homes from this lesson were;


-          Use walk/trot transitions when she is blowing through my aids to slow her trot. It’s ok to pull on the reins a bit to reinforce the transition if she isn’t listening to my seat.


-          I need to take up a better contact with my left hand all the time otherwise to the right she pops her shoulder out and to the left she doesn’t take enough of a bend.


-          I need to “lean off the inside of my horse” and step in the inside stirrup to actually be straight and to get Katai to straighten out. This is much tougher for me to the left since it is my weak side.


-          To NOT let Katai get rushy, she needs to listen to my aids and maintain a slow but forward trot.



  1. Love your new perspective on what lessons are for... I actually like it when my pony is a horrendous snot in lessons because then my trainer can help give me the tools to deal with his tantrums at home! It's so exciting that you and Katai have moved to a place with such a good trainer. I can't wait to see where it takes you!

  2. I get really down on myself when I feel like I haven't ridden my best during a lesson. But then I remind myself that I'm getting my money's worth those times because my trainer can see the problems I'm having and help me fix them.