Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Sports Psychology’ Category

Milton & Me

Still waiting. So, a thoughty post.

All the physical parts are in place: trailer, truck, Coggins. Now we need to have all the people in town at the same time. Our most recent random gesture [Sand Colic?] seems to be working. Milton seems to be settling. I would almost … almost … be willing to try him in the enclosed ring myself. But we’ve waited this long for someone else to get on him first. Might as well stick with the plan.

I can’t envision riding Milton on a regular basis. Seriously, my imagination fails. Is he not the horse for me? Proof that one has to ultimately pick one’s own horses? Or am I so discouraged that I am unwilling to hope? Or am I grouchy bitch who enjoys wallowing in negativity? No idea.

Last weekend, Milton got away from Greg on the long lines. On his way back to the barn, Milton neatly jumped the ring tape [Spooked]. Not what you want to see in a driving horse, but encouraging for a jumping horse. (A storm blew. Greg halted so they could quit. Not fast enough. When we got to the barn, Milton was waiting for us in the aisle, giving us a look that said, ‘Didn’t you people realize it was raining?’)

Although Milton jumped 3′ with his front feet, the trailing lines took the tape down mid-body. Unknown whether his hinds would have gone clear.

What happens if Milton turns in a riding horse and a driving horse? How’s that going to work?

Despite living together for almost 30 (!) years, Greg and I don’t actually share that well. HIS dogs; MY cats. He helps me with MY riding; I help him with HIS driving. Mathilda was HIS horse; Caesar (aka Previous Horse) was MY horse.

What happens when we both have an equal claim on the same horse?

How do we settle show conflicts? Lesson conflicts? How does the level of the show/lesson factor in?

If we haul to Stepping Stone, does Milton drive or ride?

If Greg has a lesson, does he get the days beforehand to prepare? No point in wasting lesson money.

What if driving requires different shoes? Can one jump in those?

What if driving/riding training develops the horse in a way not suitable for riding/driving?

Or do I think too much? This has been mentioned in the past.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Rodney Recap

Some positives, one major negative.

Strolling – Rodney and I went for a mounted stroll in the pasture. Although we only went as far as the water trough, it was a wonderful, relaxed beginning.

The single stress came from me. When we turned to go back, he swung his head a little too near our no-climb mesh fence. I had just read a cautionary post, Saddle Seeks Horse: Avoid This Dangerous Donut in the Saddle. Horses getting entangled was on my mind. I thought ‘Eeek, he’s going to get his bit caught and freak’. He didn’t. I eventually calmed down.

Later we went for a group hand-walk all the way around the field, twice: me, Rodney, Milton, and the dog. It was chaotic. I told him to deal. He did.

Standing – I got on near the barn (another new trick) walked to the middle of the ring and stood. Like a statue. Compare this to our less successful attempt in May [It Takes A Village]. He was so completely locked into park that I quit after a few minutes. Nothing more to prove.

Shipping – Rodney took a drive to Stepping Stone Farm. His first time off the property since he arrived. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. WHAT’S THAT? Oh, okay. And so on. He’s the sort of horse who would like to show at the same facility several times a season, year after year. Fortunately, this seems to be the paradigm these days.

Rodney at SSF

Jumping – I got cocky and trotted a jump. It. Was. Awful. He zoomed. I grabbed. He hurtled over. We landed in a heap. He bucked. All of these are fixable, except the last. Bucking after jumps is where the rot set in 7 years ago. First a tiny hop after a jump. Then, bigger crow-hops after smaller jumps. Then bucking and spinning without jumps. That one tiny buck tells me that, despite the small victories, nothing has changed.

Full disclosure. My groundcrew, i.e. Greg, thinks my horrendous riding made Rodney feel restricted. Could be. Being the optimistic ray of sunshine that I am about my horse career, I have to take it further. What if all this work amounts to nothing? What if there is no miracle ending? What if buying Rodney was just stupid mistake?

So, I’m back in a funk.

This version lacks toxic self-hate of Snit the First [Anatomy]. Instead I have creeping discouragement & disappointment. I have a horse that didn’t work out. Oh, well. Dreams die every day. My mood is not as deep, but is proving harder to shake. The beige plane is back.

“… the future stretches in front of me as a comfortable, featureless, beige plane filled with an endless repetition of ‘petty tasks and worthless jobs’*, occasionally to be interrupted by tragedy, and gradually descending into terminal rot.”
[For the Record] 2013
(*Terrible Trivium, demon of petty tasks and worthless jobs, ogre of wasted effort, and monster of habit, from the Phantom Tollbooth by Norman Juster)

I know I should be grateful for beige. In many life siutations, beige would be a vast improvement. But it’s so … beige.

In the time between the up of the dressage lesson and the down of the jump, I had a handful of great days. The work-both-horses, get-to-the-gym, cross-everything-off-my-to-do-list kind of days. I felt as if I had taken the motivation pill from Limitless, only without the morally questionable side effects.

I’m trying to model that behavior even though I no longer feel energized.

When you are so excited by the new place that you forget to chew.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Anatomy of a Snit

The Short Version

Had a meltdown. Decided to stomp away from riding and blogging.
Had a great lesson. Decided not to.
I meant it at the time.

The Rest of the Story

Descent into Despair
My first lesson after Mid-South was terrible. The bridle was set up in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Because I was concerned that it would go wrong, it did go wrong. I managed to upset an absolute beginner horse. Seriously, people who have never ridden a horse ride Bingo. At one point, I was so bent out of shape I was shaking.

That was one meltdown too many.

I was done.

Since I would not be riding, I would not be blogging [Breaking Radio Silence, 2nd para]. I drafted the post, scheduled for today. That gave me a week. If I still felt the same way, off I went. Maybe not forever, but for now.

Wallowing in the Deep End
Since I was upset, I treated myself with care and respect and sensitivity. HA. Things I said to myself in a 24-hour period.

I thought I found an answer at Mid-South. Apparently not. Turns out there are two horses* in the world I can ride, and one of them is dead.

Rodney is 18. I’m kidding myself.
Milton bucks whenever he is asked to canter.
The only ASB I can ride is Sam. I upset the rest, including Bingo. Bingo!?!

Forty years is enough time to hit one’s head against a wall.

I recalled every meltdown and bad show I’d had this year. In drafting the departure post, I looked up previous rants and realized nothing had changed [Que Pasa?].

(*Caesar, aka Previous Horse, & Sam.)

Wallowing in the Shallow End
Greg did not believe. Part of me admitted that he was probably right. I knew I was being over-dramatic, but it felt real to me.

Strangely, I was going to miss the blog more than the horses.

Somewhere in there, I realized that, at the very least, I would continue to sit on Rodney. We’d never go anywhere, nor amount to anything, but he was here and we could at least go stand in the ring.

Riding Out of the Miasma
After a fun-filled day of this, Mr. E. Came for our third lesson [Dressage 1, 2]. It went great, on an absolute scale not just grading on a curve for Rodney.

Well, okay then.

I guess I’ll stay with Rodney.
… and Milton.
We’ll figure out something with the Saddlebreds.

Looking Back, Looking Forward
I seem to flirt with quitting every so often, either riding or blogging or both [2012 Where Do We Go From Here?, 2013 Hiatus/I’m Baaaaaack, 2014 Sine Die … Or Not, 2015 Whither Now?. Not to be confused with non-quiting meltdowns, 2016 A Look Inside My Head/Headspace Update].

Although I have elected to plod forward, all of this remains bubbling below the surface. It will probably continue until I achieve whatever my psyche considers a success [Nerves Update].

Onwards. For the moment.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Where The Rot Sets In

Saddle Seat Wednesday

I had another long ponderment planned to build on last week’s discussion of my deteriorating saddle seat position [Back To Kindergarten]. I find myself without enthusiasm for the thinking. Short version.

1) The position is unfamiliar, which makes me insecure.

When things go well, I can cope. When things do not go well, I revert. I do not revert to hunter/jumper. I do not revert to bad saddle seat. I pick a third option. I revert to bad hunter/jumper. That looks all kinds of lovely in a saddle seat show ring.

2) I don’t like being in a car without steering and brakes.

Alvin canters off. Big refuses to come back from the extended trot. Sam bolts. Or rears. Or spooks. Robert hops into the air to protest too much leg.

Oh well.

In these cases, the horse and I are still connected. The horse is saying No!, but we are still conversing, after a fashion.

What I don’t handle is a horse – or the possibility of a horse – not in touch with reality. By this, I mean a horse so scared, or so mad, that they no longer know where they are, nor care where they are going. (Bill Walsh on the subject of ‘they’ as a gender-neutral third-person singular, scroll down. But I digress.) If I even think the horse is going to lose their shit, my cute equitation position is the first thing to go.

The latter is not uncommon. Folks who spend their lives schooling green horses, retraining problem horses, or tuning up client horses adopt positions that prioritize safety over style. My reaction is technically valid, just hypersensitive and extreme. Moi?

Both tendencies have been present as long as I have been riding saddle seat. Lately, they have been exacerbated by my New Tank Syndrome, i.e. riding saddle seat while reestablishing dressage/hunter/jumper [Kindergarten].

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Back To Kindergarten

TLDR: Saddle seat deteriorating. Trying to fix.

Saddle Seat Wednesday

Back where I belong.
Photo by Courtney Huguley

Confidence is not doing well when things go right, or it is not just that. Confidence is knowing you’ve got it covered when things go wrong. I have this with Sam. I never managed to get there with Desi or Mr. Whizbang. Which is a long way of saying that I am back riding Sam [Sultan’s Miracle Man].

How do I feel about the demotion? First off, it is a demotion. Sam is a beginner’s horse. If I have any hope of saddle seat progress, I need to ride other ASBs better than I have been lately [Graduating From Sam]. Which leads to, secondly, the demotion is legitimate. I’ve been a hot mess for a while. The shows were simply the culmination [Report Pro-Am, Report Dixie Cup]. So, third, if you have a problem, go back to the point that you know it was working and go forward from there.

How was the first ride back on Sam? Awesome. The beginning was weird. It was as if I had never ridden saddle seat. I automatically slid to the middle of the saddle and put my put my leg on. When I sat back on the cantle and put my knee in, my entire body screamed ‘Why? Why are you doing this? It is so wrong.’

Since I was on Sam, I felt able to experiment. Legs were out as an anchor point. So, I put a hunter curve in my back for stability. This had the added advantage of bringing my shoulders back. I had let the reins, and therefore the horse, get long. Not long as in on the buckle, or even long for hunters/dressage. More of a working trot length. However, that is still too long for saddle seat. They want a short, short rein with a soft, light hand. AFAIK.

I shortened my reins, asked Sam to be more compact, and everything snapped together. Suddenly I remembered how to saddle seat. A few of our passes were the best I am capable of. Seriously. As good as anything I have done.

I’m going with the conflict of styles theory. The better Rodney goes, the worse my saddle seat has gotten. The more I ride hunter/jumper/dressage, the more that feels familiar. At the moment, I can’t cope with changing from one to the other on a new-to-me horse.

In Lads Before the Wind, Karen Pryor calls the problem the New Tank Syndrome. When adding a new feature (Rodney), the solution is to relax the other variables (saddle seat) for a while.

I called this “going back to kindergarten,” and it became an accepted practice in all our training. When a new and difficult criterion was introduced–working in a strange tank, for example–all the rules about perfection that had been established would have to be set aside temporarily (perhaps for a day or two, perhaps for no more than half a training session) while the animal learned to accommodate to the new circumstances.

The strict trainer who cannot tolerate “going back to kindergarten” simply wastes time and causes stress, trying to force perfection from the beginning in a new circumstance when it will come back anyway once the new circumstance has been accepted. I have seen this happen dozens of times in a human situation. Here’s an example: singers and musicians who perform splendidly in a rehearsal room then get yelled at for making gross errors with the music in the first on-stage rehearsals; yet they may be, for the first time, scattered in new groupings, standing on ladders; wearing huge costumes, and staring into spotlights. People or porpoises, it’s the same problem. It’s the “new tank syndrome,” and you can lick it by relaxing criteria temporarily, by “going back to kindergarten,” In the long run it is not time wasted, but time saved.

Pryor quoted in Stale Cheerios: Going Back to Kindergarten

Sam is my back-to-kindergarten. Of course, Pryor also says that it should be a short period. I am ignoring that part. Perhaps my summer will be comfort rides on Sam until I get used to swimming in the hunter/jumper/dressage tank again.

Eventually, I think I will be able to ride Rodney and stay with saddle seat. Eventually being the key word here. There is no logical reason why I can’t ride both ways. I’m not asking to be Michael Jung and ride at the highest levels of three Olympic equestrian sports. I’m looking for some jumping, a little eventing, the occasional spin around an Academy class.

The two styles may even complement each other. During my lesson, I widened my hands – a Mr. E maneuver [Dressage Lesson] – for a moment to smooth out Sam’s shoulder around a circle.

New outlook. This it is not a conflict. It is an opportunity to look at the same activity from two perspectives.

Then there is Coach Courtney’s summation of the situation, “You’re a head case and we love you for it.”

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Styling, Or Not

Saddle Seat Wednesday

Over the years, I have compared saddle seat to dressage [In A Nutshell]. Probably because they are both on the flat. Now I’m thinking that saddle seat has more in common with hunters. And that’s not a good thing for me.

In jumpers, cross-country, and show jumping (phase 3 of eventing), the goal is to get ‘er done. Go fast. Jump high. Make it to the finish line. Style is important in that a classic rider and a horse with a classical way of going are more effective and more efficient. Michael Jung and FischerRocana FST on the Rolex XC are outstanding examples of this. However, in classes scored for faults &/or time, artistic interpretation is a non-starter.

I’m told that there is room for expressiveness in dressage. But that comes after one has mastered the maneuvers. I have enough to do executing the right figure in the right place.

Hunters (saddle seat) is all about style. For the rider in hunter (saddle seat) equitation. For the horse the rest of the time. Simply getting around is not enough. One is assumed to be able to meet the basic requirements of the class, i.e. jump the jumps (execute the correct gaits). The heights are low, or relatively low, with jumps that are well-built and inviting (3 or 5 gaits in a flat, enclosed ring with good footing). Rounds are judged on smoothness, on flow, on panache and pizazz. It’s all about art.

I don’t do art.

Museums bore me. I listen to music just about never. When artists talk, I understand the words but the sentences don’t register. I have many sterling virtues. An aesthetic soul is not one of them.

This may be why I feel so at sea out in the ASB ring. I keep trying to find something mechanical to fix. I master the 40% that is the technical side but have no clue about the performing aspects that make up the remaining 60%. There are no metrics for my hyper-analytic mind to grab onto. More hand? More speed? More leg? A different line? It depends.

Oh well. A learning opportunity. If I survive the frustration.

Counterpoint: I ran this all past Coach Courtney. She agreed about the importance of style in saddleseat. She agreed that it’s about game-time decisions. Then she pointed out that I’m already plenty stylish in a cart. She said I just need to ride like I drive.


Counterpoint II: Coach Husband points out that my driving style has been mentioned before, “Sent into the ring with the injunction to ride like I drive, i.e. More Alvin!” [Show Report].

Yeah, looking back, I’ve talked about the need for artistic merit. 2015: “My presentation veers toward intense and scary rather than toward relaxed and pleasant.” [Boot Camp 2]. 2016: “I try to improve by even tighter attention to detail … And it’s making me nuts … I can do the riding. I need to work on the overall picture, the pizzazz, the pleasant. [Put Down the Hammer, Pick up The Paintbrush].

Well, the hunter part is new.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Young At Heart

Y is for Young at Heart. If you are joining me from Blogging A To Z, welcome! Since the blog is already daily, with topics for each day [About: Schedule], there is no specific A To Z theme. I may even skip a few letters. Gasp. Clutch the pearls. The goal for this year is less crazy, more visiting. [Ze State of Ze Blog 2014]

Five women who will put the joie back in your vivre.

Lorna Johnstone, Dressage Rider

At the Munich Olympic Games in 1972, British rider Lorna Johnstone became the oldest female Olympian: She was 70 years old when she entered the dressage competition. Johnstone is also the second oldest female Olympian, competing in the 1968 games at age 66.
National Geographic: Meet the Olympians Who Prove Age Really Is Just a Number

Dara Torres, Swimmer

Dara Torres is arguably the fastest female swimmer in America. She entered her first international swimming competition at age 14 and competed in her first Olympic Games a few years later in 1984.

At the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, Dara became the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympic Games.

Dara Torres Official Site: Her Story

Wiki says she was 41 in 2008, Dara Torres. Torres has be a lifestyle idol of mine for a while [Quote, Cover].

Katherine Switzer, Runner

The 121st Boston Marathon included the first woman to officially run the race 50 years ago, ABC News, By Kaelyn Forde.
Katherine Switzer Marathon Woman: Latest News

In 1967, Switzer finished in 4 hours, 20 minutes. On Monday, at 70 years old, Switzer finished in 4:44:31, wearing the same bib number — 261.

Boston Globe: Kathrine Switzer finishes Boston Marathon again, 50 years later

Dahlov Ipcar, Artist
(emphasis mine)

It’s with great sadness that we announce Dahlov’s passing, yesterday, February 10th, 2017.

She spent the morning at her easel; fielded a few calls with her son Bob pertaining to a sit down interview for a publication; worked with her son Charlie on any number of projects related to upcoming exhibits. In the late afternoon she bid good day to her home health aide but early in the evening she was gone.

At age 99 she worked right up to the end, doing what she loved. We should all be so lucky – but it hurts just the same. May she forever be with the wondrous beasts of her imagination, that magical realm that knows no beginning or end. She left us a remarkable world to remember her by.
The World Of Dahlov Ipcar

Barbara Harmon, Traveler & Blogger

Across Country with a Horse, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Minimal Income: Enjoying the ride! Living in the moment; coping with obstacles; on and off a horse. (

A few days ago, Barbara Harmon (I’m guessing the name from the contact address) packed up her horse and took off for a cross-country trip.

I am now leaving in two days for a solo drive across the US to the Bay Area in CA, a four-month stay at my friend’s horse ranch, a return drive to Florida by very roundabout way of another few months visiting Cape Cod and New England. I will be pulling a horse trailer with horse and belongings for 2-3 stops in the earlier portions of the trip.

My friend jests: “must be nice to be independently wealthy”… but I am not. I am 56 years old, single, female, have had RA for 20 years, and am financially …”challenged”.

This is gonna be awesome!!

I hope you’ll tune in!

Across Country with a Horse, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Minimal Income

As of Thursday, she’d written nine posts and had gotten as far as North Carolina. There’s a lot of the US to go. Who knows what kind of correspondent she will turn out to be. If she stays with the blog, we will get to watch the trip unfold in real time.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott