Time for a confessional to address a slightly taboo subject – falling in and out of love with riding.
Before I start, just to clarify, not a day has gone by where I haven’t loved Pea. Even in the early days when sometimes I couldn’t catch her for love nor treats. Even when her tankiness caused me to have plastered fingers for weeks. Even when she reared whilst being held by my ‘horses are dangerous’ boyfriend! I’ve never fallen out of love with Pea or horses.
There has also never been a point where I haven’t wanted to WANT to ride.. Just the achieving the wanting has been hard.. Have you got that?
ANYWAY, I have had my fair share of roller-coasters when it comes to how I have felt about riding (even having only started five years ago) and in the interests of honesty I thought I’d share my experiences and tips.
Unhappy Hacker –
If you’ve read Riding – How It All Started you will know that I had a major confidence wobble right at the beginning. There was a time when I didn’t want to leave the yard. I even walked miles and miles leading a horse when I was too scared to ride it after half a hack! And cantering our? Forget it!
There have been plenty of days when I have opted not to ride because I had no-one to hack out with. If I do go out alone, I never go far. I’m too worried about what might happen if something went wrong.
The confidence issues continued. Prime example being the time I managed to enter a hunter trial but turned into a complete nervous wreck/stranger and ended up falling off due to losing all control over my own limbs/ability to do anything!
A special mention also goes to the preparation and occasion of my Level 2 Diploma riding assessment – there were a LOT of tears. The utter fear of assessment is something that really affects me.
If you are reading this you are probably aware of my hip situation (if not, you’ve got a lot to catch up on.. My Hip Story). There have been many many occasions when I have forgone riding because I couldn’t face the pain and the after effects on my hip of having ridden.
The Summer Of Jumping –
There was a time when I did weekly clear round (small) jumping, jumped a yard horse 1m 15 in a ‘Chase Me Charlie’ and was happy to go to a friend’s house and jump their horse!
Happy Hacking –
Also, in what feels like a past life, I was hacking out three a day! Kilbeggan Blade/Brian (an ex National horse) and Bobby (a 4 year old driving pony just starting ridden work who I also competed at Intro dressage) alongside Pea.
Horse Confident –
As I’ve said, in the past I was jumping onto different horses left right and centre, even riding the yard’s most infamous team chaser AND I went to try horses and ponies for the yard owner.
Finding My Goal –
The catalyst to writing this post was that right now, with a new hip and a dressage ambition – I am SO in love with riding. I have a very long way to go before I get to where I want to be but I’m happy I’m on the right track.
What I’ve Learnt
– Identify the problem. Be honest with yourself. What is the reason you’re leaving your riding kit at home or using other avoidance tactics?
– Find what you enjoy and stick with it. If you don’t want to jump, don’t. If you never want to ride in an arena, don’t. If you don’t want to hack alone, don’t!
– If you want to make a change, don’t be an island – allow someone to help you. If you need to build your confidence, book a lesson. If you need a hacking buddy, find one! If you’re struggling with your horse, get someone else to ride it and see if they can help.
– Measure your success against yourself and be realistic with your expectations. Albert Einstein wrote ‘if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid’. If yesterday you wouldn’t walk over a coloured pole, don’t expect to be eventing any time soon.
– Celebrate your successes! Walking over that coloured pole may have been a massive achievement over your confidence issues! Celebrate that!
– Be aware of the Olivia Towers ‘stretch zone’ theory (read about it in Tips from HOYS). You’ve got to branch out of your comfort zone a bit but don’t tip yourself over the edge.
– If you don’t like something – change it. Are you avoiding going for lessons because you’re not keen on your instructor? Find a new one.
– Go with the flow. Accept that sometimes you will feel better than at other times. If you’re feeling good, roll with it.
There are some loves worth fighting for!