Saturday, October 11, 2008

Funk Begone

If I am really honest with myself, I would admit that my confidence took a pretty significant hit last weekend when Brego fell and then hung his knee. I spent the week if full doubt, as any good neurotic horse owner would.

Am I asking too much of Brego? Can he really jump 3' consistently? Should I even be riding first field? Is my riding causing Brego to fall and hang his knee? Is my riding dangerous? Is Brego's jumping dangerous? Is this the reason people don't jump drafts? Am I being unfair to ask him to jump when he is obviously untalented?

Yea, I've been a lot of fun to hang around recently. I am definitely in a horse funk. Whenever Brego or I make a mistake, I read too much into it, taking it as a "sign" that we are in way over our heads. Real horses, you see, never blow a distance, or take a rail, or hang a knee. Real riders never blow a distance, or get ahead, or fall off. It's times like this that the doubters and the naysayers get very loud in my head and I start to believe them.

I had a pretty terrible jumping session on Thursday. My form is improving, and I jumped nothing but low spreads to help Brego with his knees. But I felt like he was terrible. When I watched the video, he was a star, getting me out of some serious mistakes. I don't know why he felt so bad when he was obviously jumping well. My eye is way off these days. Brego's stride varies from 9 feet to 14 feet depending on his own energy level, or the stars, or whatever. And I know I am supposed to package him up into a perfect canter and then not stress the distance. But when you are sneaking up on his maximum spread, you need to be more accurate than that. And the perfect canter? Sometimes I wonder if I would even know it if I felt it.

So of course, more doubting. More questioning.

So when I arrived at the hunt today, I felt dread. The grass was very slick from dew (flashbacks to last week's fall). The crazy rider who cut me off was there (flashbacks to last week's blown oxer). I was actually afraid and doubting Brego's ability to not kill me. Would he fall again? Would I finally learn that he is not supposed to be doing these things? Would he hang his knees and this time fall on me?

The members divided into three fields and I fell in behind my trusted field master in second field. No first field for me. We set off and Brego came alive. He was strong and willing and obviously not traumatized from last week's debacles. He tore off after the hounds like he'd been doing it all his life, ears perked, completely ignoring the quaking rider on his back.

The first fence was a coop. A big coop, almost exactly like the one where he hung his leg. I forced myself not to panic, made sure he saw it, and willed myself not to think about falling. He jumped it perfect, perfect distance, perfect speed, just doing his job. He continued to be perfect the rest of the ride, getting the correct lead I asked for, jumping everything cleanly and easily, stopping in balance, on his butt when needed quickly and without a fuss, crossing rivers, slogging up muddy fields, galloping steady again and again.

Brego does what he does because he loves it, and he loves to please me. He tries his best, but even in all his brilliance, he is a green horse and he WILL make mistakes. And I have to convince myself that it is ok. It is not some cosmic sign that I am screwing him up. He will tell me when he doesn't want to do it anymore. Right now, he wants to do it and it is easy for him.

Brego gave me a gift today: a perfect ride. I CAN ride this horse, and I do it just fine. I have lots of time to perfect my form. Lots of time to improve in every way. But it's also ok for me to go out and ride hard for fun because he loves it, too. So he forgives my mistakes, and I will forgive his and we will keep going on together.

So I hope my funk is on its way out. I want to enjoy the rest of the hunting season without overthinking anything. Brego is performing better than most of the horses out there and he's a favorite among the members. However, it IS good to have a little reality check so I have decided to definitely NOT ride in the New England Hunter Trials. Twenty-five training level fences is not something either of us are ready for. I am going to go and jump judge so I know what I am getting myself into... next year.


Ashlee said...

I just wanted to say that you're not alone in that. My horse and I are so incredibly connected, but whenever something goes wrong I always second-guess everything. In my case, it's not being a draft, it's being older. My guy is supposedly 17-20 years old (and that was two years ago) but he acts like a 5 year old. And every time he gets sick or hurt, which he is very prone to, I question if I'm doing the right thing for him, if it's worth it. But almost the day after these thoughts start to overwhelm my head, he gives me such an amazing ride. Breathtaking. Each and every time. Its like he can tell that I'm questioning things and hes telling me that he loves this, he wants this, that this is what makes him happy. And I can tell Brego is trying to tell you the same thing. He wants this. He loves this. You can tell.

I absolutely love following your blog, by the way. Its helped me in many many ways. And I just wanted you to know that I've gone through that many times and I bet I still will, but Patrick, my guy, he will always tell me differently until its time to let it go - when he tells me his age is effecting him. And then I will, because he has given me so much already.

Anonymous said...

I too went through a week of self-doubt. some of of it brought on by your fall, and some of it brought on by another instructors questions...what are your goals with this horse? (some derision implied). If I really think objectively about this horse she is smaller than the warmblood I used to ride, but everybody else is conditioned to NOT think objectively about draft horses. I admit I am struggling with this.

I live vicariously through you. I am so proud that you stayed with the hunt last week, (for four hours) ...and went out again this week. Put all self-doubt aside. You and Brego are AWESOME. Only stupid people have no moments of doubt.

Beckz said...

Brego hanging his knee last week was the BEST thing that could have happened. You didn't have a rotationl fall and I would guarantee that he will never hang a knee to a solid fence again. All green horses do dorky things and hit things. With her old owner Rascal flipped over a (small) fence (Showjump) and she sure is careful now.

Brego will tell you when he is over his head. Even if he doesn't stop, you will feel his insecurity. He isn't bothered by either of the things that worry you, just keep up the good work.

manymisadventures said...

You are definitely not alone in the funk. I am still working my way out of it with McKinna -- last time we were cantering outside, she slipped and I fell and broke my ankle. Can I trust her to stay upright on a XC course? Do I need to shoe and stud all four when she's 100% sound and happy barefoot? Should I just stick to hunter/jumper, even though XC and Dressage are a blast?

But, good for you for working through this. I am so glad for you that you had an awesome ride! What a way to put your trust in your horse and let him tell you what he's capable of. He has a great heart.

Meaghan said...

I wanted to let you know "been there Done that" nd to give you a quote that I like to live by, in both my riding and when training and teaching others.
"Fear almost always arises --in horses as well as people--from concern about what might happen, and much more rarely from what is happening."

---Mary Wanless, For The Good Of The Horse

I read that everyday, and try to remind myself of it whenever I feel the Funk hovering. I hope it helps you as much as it does me!

dp said...

Glad you chose second field this time.

Bev said...

Isn't it wonderful how the not so great rides make the really great ones mean so much? You and Brego are truly a team. You know in your heart he will give his best effort to take care of you as will you do for him. Difficult times may lead us to self doubt but getting through them makes us even stronger.

Knowing the hearts and minds of these horses is an amazing experience. Thank you for all the time you give to share this experience with the rest of the world.

Daun said...

Thank you for all the kind comments, everyone. Writing this blog is a very humbling experience, especially when the going gets tough. I appreciate the graciousness coming through from "complete strangers".

For all of you going through the same, I wish you godspeed. As Churchill said: When you are going through hell, keep going.

Tina said...

If you're in a funk, just think about people like me, who are just happy to be RIDING, much less hunting! My mantra is "someday, someday, someday" for everything lately! Remember...there's always a bright side, and it could be worse!

Daun said...

Tina, You are very correct and it is important to realize how blessed I am to have such a wonderful horse and a healthy body and a good job (for now) to pay for it. It can ALWAYS be worse.

I am on step 3 of my 12 steps to "Enjoy Your Horse, Despite Imperfections in Both Horse and Rider" and your comment resonated with me completely. Thanks for taking the time to post!