Monday, May 3, 2010

RIDE the spook!

Every now and again something will happen that shows me how far my riding has come. Yesterday was one of those days. Eli had two days off. He was not cooperative. Travis’ (the stall cleaner) fianc√© was there with his 3 year old son, Noah. They were watching me ride on and off. I don’t like being watched by someone new, especially if they ride, and she used to. The volume of the radio was loud. That gives me a headache sometimes (it did yesterday) and worries Eli. He gets worried when there is a lot of action at the barn and he can’t “hear” it. This was the case yesterday. The shit shaker makes a lot of noise, as does stall cleaning in general. Other boarders had arrived and people were talking, but you couldn’t really hear them. Noah was sitting in the chair the last time I looked. . . I came down the long side in counter canter and was riding through the short side. I looked up at Travis’ fianc√© (I cannot remember her name to save my life) and made eye contact, for some reason. At that time, Noah flung a matchbox car across the concrete and Eli freaked. I don’t know if it was the sound of the car or the fact that he couldn’t really see the kid or the car well due to the rails of the fence. Being in counter canter during a spook is interesting when the horse wants to go away from the “inside”. It’s hard for to put into words what I’m thinking, but everything gets messed up quickly as you lose the outside rein as the horse changes the bend on you. Maybe he changed leads too. I don’t know. I’m not sure what he did, but we ended up halfway down the next long side before we got our act together. Here is where the light bulb comes in. When a horse spooks what do you think? I think “oh shit!” I think “stop”, “hang on”, “damn I lost my stirrups” . . . any number of things. Yesterday I didn’t want my new helmet to get dirty already! In anycase, I tend to think about what to do to stop the situation. And of course I always lose my stirrups. That is a given. It is probably due to the lack of weight in my feet overall when I ride. I tend to start leaning forward in an attempt to regain my balance and that is when someone yells “sit back!” We’ve all been there right? Yesterday as I lost my stirrups and assessed the situation, I suddenly thought “ride!” I thought “this is no different than riding without stirrups.” I don’t do that often enough, but I’ve had my fair share of lunge lessons and rides without stirrups. I also thought “use your seat”. So I sat deep and I just rode whatever we had at the moment, which was some off balance canter I think . . . who knows. There weren’t too many bucks involved in the whole situation I don’t think. Unless I’m just so use to bucks now that they don’t phase me. Maybe I should have had this light bulb moment earlier. I think this is what makes a good rider be able to ride the spooks. They ride what they are given rather than fight it. I have a very athletic spooking horse. When he’s scared he can look like he belongs at the rodeo in the bucking bronco show! He can leap, buck and twist all at once. Those that have seen his antics can back me up. It can be impressive and difficult to sit. Last year when he was scared to death of whatever the hell was outside the big door, I got to experience his athleticism in all its glory as I crashed into the sand. That has made me more defensive during spooks than I use to be. However, in the last couple years of working with my trainer, my seat has gotten better. I have a LONG way to go. (Who doesn’t?) But it’s way better than it use to be. What use to unseat me, now unseats me less and I can get my act back together quicker. Two years ago I’d have probably hit the dirt during the spook I had yesterday. That’s embarrassing to admit. Even with our current problems I’ve come a long way in regards of my seat and balance. Last year’s spook-fest over that big door might have helped! The summary is that I’m ready for the next spook. I’m going to “ride” rather than fight it and try to stop it. Maybe if I had this thought process last year the door situation wouldn’t have gotten the best of me mentally. It is moments like this that make me feel like I’m making some progress. It’s probably small to some of you. You might be saying “duh”, but I’m glad that the light bulb came on. Let’s hope my brain doesn’t turn it off the next time this situation arises.

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