Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday 31st January 2011 - I am NOT Taking a Step Backwards!!!!!

Feeling a little unsettled this morning.....

Went out this morning to turn my mare out and it took me 5 minutes to get her headcollar on in the stable!!! She was trying to bite like crazy and kept walking off and turning around..... Anyway, I eventually got it on and took her out to tie her up in the yard with a hay net whilst I mucked out.

The water was frozen in the buckets and the ground rock solid, and for a moment I felt relieved that I would not be able to ride this morning......No!!!!!!! Why am I feeling like this??????? I have let the old negative thoughts creep in over the last few days unconsciously whilst I haven't been riding and so I'd better get it sorted out pronto, especially as we have had such good riding!!! Stupid brain! Off to train it, and read through my course notes and goals, and previous blog posts, after all, I'm keeping a blog to remind myself of all of my achievements and what I can do!

Will report back later....

Oh, also going to catch my mare in a bit and bring her in for a groom and a treat, and then I'll turn her back out. Think I need to spend some time with her.....

Friday 28th Jan 2011 - Sun 30th Jan 2011 - Poorly Toddler

My daughter, who is 3, has had d & v for the last 3 days and so I've hardly seen my mare, as my lovely husband has left me to lie in after being up in the night looking after her. Also, the ground is rock solid so riding has been out of the question.

I have been out to her tonight though and skipped out and fed and we've had a lovely cuddle for 5 mins.....

Thursday 27th Jan 2011 - Learning to Lunge

Well, today has been really interesting as my instructor has been teaching me how to lunge. The part that I found the biggest challenge was using my body language to back up my voice to ask her to move forward/slow down. My instructor demonstrated to me how he could aske her to walk, trot, walk and halt without using his voice at all but by thinking what he wanted her to do and using his body language and energy to convey that message to her.

My dream/goal that I set myself on the confidence course was to become the owner my horse would choose, a phrase coined by Kelly Marks, and one that I aspire to. Bearing this in mind, lungeing seems like a pretty good skill to acquire to help me achieve this goal as it is making me look at another way to communicate with my horse.

I started to get the hang of it after half an hour or so, and then rode her whilst my instructor lunged, and practised all the technical basics like hand and leg positions, shoulders, etc, and she was good as gold.

Tuesday 25th Jan - Longest Hack Ever!!!

This riding lark is getting more fun by the minute!!!

I've been out on the most amazing hack this morning with my instructor all the way around the Bowood riding route. I have been desperate to do this since first getting my horse and today I achieved it!!! What an amazing feeling. We were out for two hours and rode through woods, big stubble fields, up hills, down muddy tracks, and saw a buzzard, a few pheasants and about 40 deer.

I think my mare thought the deer were lions at first, as she stopped dead in her tracks the moment the first one appeared in front of us. She seemed quite on edge as the next 20 ran across our track, and was abit joggy and on her toes for a few minutes afterwards. I knew that if I let myself get scared then she would be too, and so remembered back to the course about what it felt like to be ridden by a nervous tense rider and what it felt to be ridden by a relaxed confident rider, and did my best to imitate the latter. My instructor gave her a polo to help take her mind off things and we walked on, and I praised and encouraged her al the way, keeping my legs in a light contact with her sides and chatting merrily away.

When the next group of 20 charged across the track in front of us she stopped again, but walked on, all be it a little warily, had a small spook at a bird that flew through the trees and then settled back down again.

On the homeward straight we had a really lovely steady trot and she she came back to me as soon as I asked her too.


Monday, 24 January 2011

Successfully Sat!!!!!!!!! Mon 24.01.11

Well, I have just got in from the ride that happened against all of the odds!!!!

My husband said he'd come home for an hour at lunchtime so that I could ride my mare in the paddock and he could be with me. I started trying to get my mare in at 12.30 and 4 attempts later at 1.15 I still hadn't managed to catch her. She was pulling faces, runnign off, coming up to me and then turning to put her bum in my face...what a performance!

I eventually managed to catch her on my 5th attempt just as my husband returned home. I brought her in and gave her a quick groom, eventually picked out her feet after 7 attempts to do the first one!!!! Jumped on and rode out into the paddock.

Sshe hadn't given up there.....she napped 6 times at the gate before I could even get her to go in! So, eventually I rode her in and decided to walk her around the edge of the paddock doing 10m circles along the way, in the hope that she would start to listen to me.....

That went well, so I asked her to trot and she trotted around on the right rein very steadily and calmly and we did a few laps of the paddock. I then changed reins onto the left rein and the napping begain again. She was determined to get back to the gate and we kept ending up in that corner and then she would turn back round to the left just at the last minute. I was trying really hard to remember everything my instructor has taught me, but clearly I wasn't putting it into action!!! Anyway, remaining calm I asked her to trot and we had two less steady trots around the paddock with napping each time at the gate. The third time round at the other end of the paddock from the gate she obviously decided she had had enough, so dropped her right shoulder and launched herself to the left!!!!

My left foot came out of the stirrup and I could feel myself starting to go, but I was determined I was not going to fall. She kept trying to run off, but I still had my right stirrup, so I put all my weight in it, sat up tall, and sat it out, managing to bring her back to half and getting my left stirrup back. RESULT!!!!! YES!!!!

Normally I would have wanted to cry at this point and get off, but I just decided to walk her round and calm her down, and then ask for the trot again. This time we trotted all the way round, in a slightly un-balanced fashion I'll admit, but nevertheless we did it, and she didn't nap, and then we came in......

Is this really me writing this??????????? Can't wait to tell my instructor tomorrow.....

Lungeing....Thurs 20th Jan 2011

My mare is so quick to respond to voice commands it is just fantastic! It makes me feel so safe as as soon as you ask her to, she will come back to you almost immediately. It is her real strength.

Today my instructor lunged with me on and we practised using voice commands to ask her to move forward and come back which was great. She worked really hard and was really willing for the duration of the session. I also worked on my balance, leaning right forward and right back, which she seemed a little confused about at first but then carried on regardless after a few minutes.

It took 3 attempt to bring her in from the field to ride, so was expecting the same in the evening when I went to catch her, but holy moly, what did she go and do but just stand at the gate, let me put her headcollar on without biting once, and walked in like a dream! What a buzz!!! I felt on top of the world, as anyone walking by would have noticed as they would have seen a very  excited lady jumping up and down and punching the air on the way back from the stable!!!!!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tuesday 17th January

Wow! Another great riding lesson schooling in the paddock with my instructor.....Although my mare was napping like crazy I didn't feel anxious or nervous at all which made such a difference as I could actually concentrate on my riding.

We got there in the end and all walked in feeling happy and relaxed. I turned her out straight after untacking her and enjoyed watching her roll around in the mud. I wanted to give her a little something extra to thank her for listening to me so I dug up a few parsnips from the veg bed and took them out to her. She was definitely smiling at me as she scoffed them, gave me a little rub when she'd finished and then plodded off to graze.

When it was time to bring her in late afternoon she did not want to come in. Even after our shetland had gone in and she was on her own she kept walking away from me, ears pinned back, tail swishing, and when I did get anywhere near her head she kept threatening to bite! It felt pretty awaful but I managed to think calmly about the situation. I decided that if she didn't want to come in then that was fine. I was pretty sure she would change her mind once she'd been on her own for 15 mins so decided to play with the children for a bit and try again later. As I walked away from her she whinnied like mad and cantered up and down the fence line, but I decided not to look back and keep focused on my plan.

I went out 15 mins later and she did the same again. I didn't get cross with her or myself like I would normally do, I just thought 'fair enough, it doesn't matter to me whether you come in or not'.  So went and played with the children for another 15 mins.

When I went out again she was stood at the gate, and was pretty hot, so I guess she had been cantering up and down again. Anyway, this she stood still enough for me to put the headcollar on, still trying to bite though, but seemed to accept that if she wanted to come in she would have to come with me. She walked in like an angel, stopping immeditately every time I did. And she waited on her shavings before being told she could go to her food. Things felt pretty good.
It came to me this morning that the best way I can describe what I learnt on the course was that sometimes self preservation can sometimes lead to self destruction. Constantly worrying about whether you and the people around you are safe is very very hard work. Worrying is soooo draining and you just end up going round in circles and possibly even a bit mad!!!!

Don't get me wrong, I have learnt that safety is paramount if you are going to be a confident rider. But the fine line between worry and self destruction is planning for safety and then going and doing the thing you want to do as safely as possible.

We were taught over the weekend to take very very small positive steps towards achieving our dreams, so that each step, no matter how small, was then going to have a positive result, and therefore build confidence each time.

My plan for this morning was just to mount my horse with confidence and without anxiety, however, after I found out about my husbands fall yesterday on the way home from the course, I decided to ask my riding instructor to come out and ride my horse around the same route instead so that my mare could have a positive ride in the same place.

Whilst tacking up my mare was being really nippy so I thought I had better start working on one of my main goals right away: to be the owner my horse would choose. As such I stood by her side and started to stroke her neck and shoulder. The nipping decreased and then stopped completely after about 5 minutes. I stayed in that same spot for another half an hour. My mare's head was right down and her eyes were closed. It was heaven for both of us.....

I then groomed her and tacked her up and just as I was finishing my instructor arrived. He put his hat on as if about to mount, and I found myself saying "Actually, I'd like to ride her for the first half of the hack, and then you can take over when its time to take her round the big field where Charlie fell off". We got going and we were chatting away and before I knew it we were in the big field. My instructor said that he'd be happy to get on whenever I was ready to which I replied " That's fine, I'll trot her round it and then perhaps you can canter her round afterwards. Now, this is a big field, and I mean really big ...approximately 30 acres. I giggled with happiness all the way round as I remembered that it had felt this good the day I had first ridden my mare at the sales livery yard where we bought her from. I felt, happy, safe, exhilarated, and whats the word?????.....confident! Yeeha!

Now, some of you might be expecting and willing the next bit of the story to describe how I then decided to canter her around the field and not ask my instructor to do it. Well, sorry to disappoint, but as I mentioned earlier, one of the key strategies to gaining confidence that I learnt during the weekend was to take very very very small steps at a time, and to keep repeating those small steps successfully before moving onto the next step. So, I halted my mare and then handed her over to my instructor who cantered her around the big field for me and I sat on the gate and watched that amazing sight feeling very inspired indeed.....

Later that day the saddler came to check my mare's tack and he asked me to trot her down the road to have a look at her saddle. Well, in my 'this is my first horse' naivity, I thought he meant in hand and so I brought back a headcollar and lead rope from the tack room. "No, I meant with you riding her", the saddler said. "Oh", I said, thinking what an idiot I must be!!!! Now, if the saddler had asked me to do this on Friday before the course, the fear would have been coursing through my veins. I would have done it, but I would have been very very nervous. I can't say that my brain didn't ask me if I should be nervous, because it did, but my immediate reaction was that no, everything would be fine. So off I rode down the road and trotted all the way home. The people on my course will know what a massive moment this was for me as it was the primary goal that I had listed out within the first hour of the course starting. Alleluia - mission accomplished. Not planned by me but as a twist of fate brought about by a request from my saddler - weird or what?????

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday 16th January 2011

Well, day two of the confidence course has been amazing. I have reassessed my goals/dreams and started to put together a plan for how to achieve them. I have loved every minute of the course, from meeting the people that run it, to getting to know my fellow course mates, the feeling of us all starting a journey together, the fact that I'm not alone... The list goes on .... I had another epiphany today....I remembered the moment I fell in love with my horse and the fantastic feeling I had when I first rode her. Somehow I had managed to totally forget that experience and bury it with negative affirmations. On the journey home the first thing I wanted to do was apologise to my horse for always expecting the worst of her.

On the way home i had a phonecall from my husband to say he had fallen off our horse and torn the ligaments in his ankle. They were cantering along when a hare jumped out in front of them and the mare had jumped to the side and my husband fell off.

Amazingly all I felt was that it was just one of those things. It hasn't made me feel worried about riding my horse tomorrow. In fact my first reaction was that she ought to be ridden out tomorrow along the exact same route to show her that there's nothing to be scared about along that stretch of field. I could never have imagined before attending the course that I would be feeling like this!!!!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Today I have been on a confidence clinic run by Lisa Venables of Holistic Horses. I have owned my horse for 4 months but as yet have been too nervous to ride her out on my own. Although my mare has behaved a little wildly on the ground she had always been very good being ridden. So I haven't been able to work out why I have always anticipated that she us going to behave badly, spook at objects, bolt, buck etc. I got to a point at the clinic earlier today where I realised that I hated being out of control in all aspects of my life, and that my anticipation of bad things happening and always fearing the worst was meaning that I was in a pretty negative state a lot of the time. I was really shocked to come to this realisation as prior to today I had always imagined myself to be a 'glass half full' kind of a girl....

Anyway, sitting on the loo a few minutes ago, it struck me right between the eyes that the possible, in fact probable start of this negative speak, started the day my Dad dropped dead of a heart attack....

On the 23rd July 2007 my husband appeared home from work at 11am. He told me that something had happened and could we please sit down. I panicked thinking that maybe his boss had had a heart attack, as we knew he had some heart problems. He then told me that my Dad had collapsed at home and had been taken to hospital, but that he didn't know what was wrong with him or what state he was in. He had received a phone call from one of my uncles and told to bring me to the hospital... 'My Dad?' I questioned, 'what, my Dad?'.... I couldn't believe it.... My Dad was only 62 and I wasn't at all prepared to receive any news like that...

We jumped in the car and I started to feel that it was odd that Mum hadn't phoned me by now tk give ms some more information or an update. Another half an hour of the journey passed with no phonecall from any family members and I started to feel very sick and nervous. My instant fear was that he was dead and they didn't want my to find out until I had got to hospital. The family had done the same for my Auntie and Uncle when their Son was killed at 21, and I had driven my Cousin 9 months earlier from Bristol airport to his Mums house knowing that she was dead but not telling him so that he would find out in the security and comfort of home...

So, What did I start to do? I started to tell myself, and mh husband, that Dad was obviously dead. I simply could not bear the idea of hearing the news from someone and it coming as a shock, so I very quickly accepted that he was dead by repeating it to myself over and over again. At least this way I wouldn't be completely vulnerable when I got to the hospital and I had built up some defences. I even made my husband stop at the services so that I could go to the loo and get a drink, to prove that I wasn't in a hurry and that I wasn't being fooled or tricked by anyone!!!!

To add to this, I was 6 months pregnant with my second child and I was damned if I was going to let myself be put in a position of shock or surprise that would cause any harm or stress yo my baby.....

When we arrived at the hospital I knew that I was right, as I could see the look of pity on the receptionists face when I told her I had come to see my Dad. Although I felt very dick and I was conscious that my body was shaking I felt quite relieved that I had prepared myself for the worst on the journey, as I felt relatively in control and knew that I wasn't going to lose it. Thank goodness I'd prepared myself....

The receptionist took me to a side room and there were my Aunties and Uncles and my poor gorgeous Mother. I cuddled her, told her I was sorry, and focussed on soothing and supporting her. After about 10 minutes I went into the kitchen area and started making tea for everyone, and started phoning my Dad's side of the family to break the news, all without shedding a tear. I could feel the adrenaline pumping and I was in project manager mode, my comfort zone, where I could feel most comfortable and in control in what was the most out of control experience of my whole life.

So, I guess, when getting back to the subject of riding, I've become so nervous because as far ahead as the night before a ride I am anticipating problems that might arise just to prepare myself for the worst. So I can at last understand why I'm
doing this now, and it doesn't feel so stupid anymore. It feels good to have the answer, as at least I can now work on how to make some changes.....