Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Sports Psychology’ Category

The Other Parts of My Life

A reader who has know me IRL for a long time pointed out that I have been letting my life get consumed by horses lately.

Practically, I can’t stop horsing. They live here. We have plans. In the next five weekends, one or both of us has a lesson or show (Awesome!). That doesn’t take into account Winter Tournament starting on weekend #6. Plus, I’m not gonna stop blogging (see Sane, Keeping me) and horses are what I have to talk about.


Maybe it’s time to stop pondering my problems, at least for a while. If wrestling with my issues was going to be successful, I would have pinned them to the mat by now. I could take a mental break. Look around. See what else is out in the wide world. Maybe find out what has been happening with the local LEGO folks. That’s as opposite to horses as I get (Of course I have a blog post on the subject, LEGO v. Horses). While I will always want to know why, leaving everything to simmer on the back burner may bring clarity. Stranger things have happened.

This is the reason one has friends. To point out when one has wandered into the weeds.

Confession Time
Her actual quote concerns driving in specific not horses in general.

I’ve seen you ride. Lots of times. I’ve never seen you look weak. You’ve been concentrating on the driving so much lately, you’ve simply forgotten what a good rider you really are. debandtoby [And We’re Back]

When I saw the comment the first time, I read it as “concentrating on RIDING.” I was struck coup de foudre. I really have been obsessing to an unhealthy, certainly unsuccessful, degree on horses and my riding lately. Hence the new mental direction and a post that wrote itself by that evening.

I didn’t see the correct version until I copied the quote here. Equally valid. Perhaps I saw what I needed to see. I don’t usually get words that wrong.

The statement on friendship is still true.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

And We’re Back

Saddle Seat Wednesday

I’m going to Nationals.

What? I didn’t catch that.

I said, I’m going to Nationals.

Hey, that’s great. Good luck. I’m sure you’ll do …

Shh! Shh! Shh! I’m trying to keep it low-key. The tentative plan is Murfreesboro in November, but I reserve the right to bail at any point. With no disrespect to the folks at AA, One ride at a time.

The last day for entries was one of the Saturdays Milton was at SSF. The deadline had been extended due to Irma. I brought the subject up just to confirm that it wasn’t happening this year. I hadn’t had a lesson in months. Nationals had fallen off the radar and wandered out of the control tower.

Not necessarily. One of the new horses is Dottie, an 18-year old ASB who has spent her life being a champion kid’s horse. She’s won in the big-time at the 13&Under level. She is talented enough to be fancy, yet old enough to be steady. She’s great at taking care of her young riders. Since my mental age around the barn at the moment is 12 or less, she’s a wonderful horse for me right now.

I don’t like that I need an emotional support horse. But I do & she’s here. So, I’m trying to be okay with my good fortune. I will try not to get caught in the tailspin that is the inside of my head.

Thoughts Not To Have
(Obviously, I can’t let go of them completely. I feel the need to include them here. Maybe pinning them down will help me purge them.)

Why do I get on better with the older ASBs – Dottie, Sam, Willie, Alvin, Big – rather than the younger – Desi, Lola? Why is that? What does it say about me as a rider? Am I such a weak rider that I can only ride well-educated school horses?

Why am I a such hot mess about riding? Why am I like this? How can I fix it?

Riding Dottie does not address, much less answer, my underlying issues. I’ve simply lucked into a very nice horse who fits within the narrow parameters of what I can cope with.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept when things go well. Why is that?

Thought To Put In Place Of The Above
Go Dottie!

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

The Old Grey Mare

Recently, someone asked if my meltdown with saddle seat riding [Sine Die, Pondering] might be related to menopause. I know one reader has had this issue (waves hi), wherein doubt takes over from certainty. A legitimate question. I’m gonna say no.

I’ve always been a weenie about riding. Some days, with some horses, when the planets align, I can gallop my fool head off. After one Academy Driving class with Big [Show Photos], Miss Courtney had to remind me, ‘This is not a chariot race.’ Other days, not so much brio.

I’ve never been much of a hormone storm. Of course, I can get cranky and bitchy and unpleasant, but it tends to be in reaction to what I think rather than what is happening physically. Either I have a low hormone level or am so emotionally repressed that the hormonal response is squashed along with everything else. I’ve always lived too much in my head.

Or I could be deluded. I’ve known more than one person to say, “I am X.”, to which my unspoken response is ‘Really? Seriously? That’s how you see yourself? Yowzah.’

Or I could simply be alone too much. No deep psychological problems; rather a lack of contact with the outside world. (Which is one reason I talk to you every day.) Work at home. Horses at home. Surrounded by neighbors who see the world differently than I do. In absence of external data, my over-active brain feeds on itself.

If there is a problem, I think it is more mid-life crisis than menopause. I’m almost 55. What do I have to show for it? Even if I spot myself the first 20+ years, that’s three decades of adulthood: frantic activity, good times, but no big-ticket milestones. No one thing that I can point to and say, There, that’s what I did with my life so far.

I chose not to raise a family. My career never took off. Ditto my hobby. I don’t have an advanced degree. I have not immersed myself in art or charity. Yes, I have a long, wonderful marriage, but that speaks more to my winning the husband stakes than to my stellar qualifications as a wife. My life has been a string of amazing opportunities. My follow-through has been less impressive.

Yes, I should look forward to the next 20 years (1? 40? Who knows?) instead of looking back over the last 40. When I figure out how to do this, I’ll let you know.

What does this have to do with horses? The realization that you are not the person you though you were. You still feel as you did, but results do not support your inflated opinion of yourself.

And then, of course, the guilt [A Look Inside My Head]. Always the guilt.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Pondering the Hiatus

Saddle Seat Wednesday

All along, I’ve been saying that I will stay with saddle seat. So why did I feel the need to wander off [Sine Die]?

Proximate Cause
At my most recent lesson, I was offered a choice of two horses to ride, both new to me. I had no desire to ride either one. This is normal for me. I warm up slowly to new horses. Always have.

Once I got on, I just wanted it to be over. This is not normal for me, nor is it a good way to be on a horse. That’s when I decide a break was called for.

Short-Term Causes
At Mid-South this year, I had my best saddle seat show ever [Show Report]. Although I missed sweeping my classes, it was still my best show in terms of attitude and showmanship. I’ve had some great lessons. The good show and the good rides were all on Sam.

My lessons and shows with everyone else have been horrid. I’m not talking, ‘Poor me, I didn’t ride as well as I wanted.’ At ProAm [Show Report], my problems were so obvious that one of the adult novices wondered what had happened to me.

I have no explanation for that degree of difference.

Long-Term Causes
New horses. Always a weakness for me.
Mares. Ditto.
Reconciling dressage and saddle seat lessons.
Not the 6-week break over the summer. That would be logical but my terrible ride on Bingo was before and my wonderful lesson on Sam was after.

When I look back, I see this was not sudden. My saddle seat has been disintegrating since the end of Winter Tournament.
[Graduating From Sam] Riding Desi
[Show Report: Riding at ProAm 2017, or Showing Without My Security Blanket I] Showing Desi
[Styling, Or Not] Wondering Why
[Show Report: Dixie Cup 2017] Showing Mr. Whizbang
[Back To Kindergarten] Regrouping on Sam
[Where The Rot Sets In]
[Show Report: Mid-South Spring Premiere 2107, Riding] Showing Sam
[Anatomy of a Snit] Riding Bingo
[Getting a Grip, or Not] Wonder Why, again
[Getting a Grip, Proof of Concept] It works … on Sam
[Sine Die Saddle Seat] It doesn’t work

Coach Courtney thinks I am getting myself in a state about the show bridle [Different Versions of the Same Thing]. Correct, but a symptom rather than a cause.

Underlying Cause
My summer problems come from Rodney breaking my heart yet again [Recap]. To suffer disappointment, one has to have hope. I would have said I had no hope left. I would have said that any spark had been throughly stomped after all these years. Then, I look past the confusion to my gorgeous, kind, talented horse, and a small voice whispers ‘… maybe … ‘

This is an acute manifestation of a chronic situation. I’ve said it before [Nerves Update, April 2016], my problems with saddle seat won’t get fixed until I come to terms with the home team, one way or another.

I’m not gone forever, or even for now. Miss Courtney is being a huge help with Milton’s driving. I’ll start riding the new horses, and the mares, and Bingo when I get self sorted out and am safe to ride.

Bottom Line
I’ll be back. Once I get my head screwed on right.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Why Watching Milton Drive Makes Me Cranky

Enough about them [Maiden Voyage!, Milton Drives On], what about me? When we get home from a drive, I am exhausted; partly physical, mostly mental. I said as much after Kentucky [Repercussions]. Here’s why.

Base Emotions
I have never gotten clear on the difference between envy & jealousy. Maybe it’s neither. I don’t want what he has. I don’t want him not to have it. It’s more along the lines of seeing someone eat a candy bar and thinking, ‘That’s looks yummy. Can I have some?’

They Also Serve
Running around being Wonder Groom reminds me that I’m good at what I don’t want, and not good at what I do want. As a career, I should have been a barn manager, or an operating room nurse, or a theatrical dresser. You know, the person working quietly behind the scenes to make sure the rider/doctor/star has what they need to perform. Unfortunately, I have too much ego. I don’t want to be unsung support staff. I want to be center stage, whether or not I have the talent.

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
Milton is a big, gray reminder of my failure. I want to be happy that he likes driving, but he was supposed to be my riding horse, d*mm*t.

Bottom Line
So that’s me. Perky on the outside. Petty on the inside.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Sine Die Saddle Seat

Saddle Seat Wednesday

I’m taking a break from saddle seat. Yes, I do have a tendency to stomp off.

Maybe because my brilliant idea [Getting a Grip I, II] wasn’t so brilliant. My last two rides were awful.
Maybe because I’m too grumpy about my own riding. My bad temper from this spreads to everything else.
Maybe because I’m an unappreciative, lazy cow. Who knows.

All I know is that I am making myself miserable. I have to do something, even if it’s the wrong something.

I may have changed my mind by next week.

Who knows.

Now I have to figure out what to post on Wednesdays.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott

Getting a Grip, or Not

Saddle Seat Wednesday

Originally I had planned to hold off pontificating on this subject. I’ve had so many theories; I wanted to see if this had any bearing in reality first. Unfortunately, recent show schedules have sent Coach Courtney and us out of town on alternating weeks over the last month & a half. No lessons means no current saddle seat news. So, here we go.

I have no idea how to use my reins.

I’m clever. I can make it look good. Hands generally where they are supposed to be. No slack in the reins, most of the time. However, it is all facade. There is no true communication with the horse’s mouth.

My default rein mode is non-existent. Even with reins at the proper length, my fingers hang at the end of my hands like dead worms. I decide that I should pick up a contact, so I do. Then I don’t let go. Once you pick something up, you are supposed to hold onto it, right? It would be as if I picked up a telephone but either stood there doing nothing, or pushed one button continuously. Neither leads to a successful phone call.

I go a long way by compensating with my seat, legs, and weight. My legs are so reliable that I sold my previous saddle seat saddle because I couldn’t get my legs to behave. That never happens. I’ve had a judge compliment my leg position, while placing me last in the class. (BTW, current owner of saddle is doing fabulously with it. Go figure.)

I am not without good points. I don’t balance myself off the horse’s mouth. My hands are stiff rather than heavy, think cardboard instead of brick. Light but inflexible. When I’m doing anything with them at all.

It works most of the time. The horse goes where I want, when I want. The problem is that when it doesn’t work, I don’t know why. Therefore I can’t fix it. Nor can I predict problems. This allows for a certain amount of uncertainly to creep in.

Of course, no one cares what a rider does with the reins, per se. It’s all about organizing and influencing the horse. The legs of the rider motivate the legs of the horse. Got that. The horse pushes off from his hind legs delivering energy forward. Yeah, okay. The rider then gathers the energy so that the horse is ready to jump, half-pass, or do a flashy show trot down the long side. This is where it breaks down for me. What do with the front end of a horse remains a complete mystery.

How The Horses Feel About It
This is why I am able to hit myself over the head with the thought that

Turns out there are two horses* in the world I can ride, and one of them is dead. [Anatomy of a Snit]

To some extent this is true.

Horses who are islands unto themselves, such as Sam & Previous Horse, don’t care if they are suddenly bereft of rider support. ‘You saying anything I can use? Okay, I’m listening. You got nothing? Okay, fine. I’ll toodle along until you sort yourself out.’

Horses of a more sensitive disposition – Trump [Show Report] and Desi [Show Report] – stress when the rider does not offer sufficient guidance.

School horses who have to deal with heavy-handed beginners – Bingo [Snit] and Annie (But the kids ride her!) – get pissed when I hang on their face.

Pushy horses – Robert [Show Report] and Iggie [Lengthen Your Reins, Show Report] – use my stiff reins to pull me around, or my loose reins as an excuse to cavort – Robert [Show Report, Show Photo].

What It Explains
Why I get so nervous. Imagine you were driving a car. Most of the time, everything is fine. Then 1%, or even 0.1%, of the time, the steering goes wonky. Things are out of your control. You have no idea why. Most importantly, you have no tools to address the problem. Even if it doesn’t happen very often, the thought that it might would make you jittery whenever you go to sit behind the wheel.

Why I can’t drag my ass out of the basement. I can pick up lower-level anything: beginner hunter/jumper, beginner dressage, beginner eventing (back in the day I could kick just about any horse around baby novice), and beginner saddle seat. I suspect I would have done beginner western if I had ended up there [Checklist]. Yet, historically, I’ve had no luck getting past intro level: three-foot hunter/jumper, Training-level dressage, Novice eventing. At some point, one has to stop thundering around on the forehand.

Why it’s harder on Saddlebreds, One. I can’t compensate with my lower leg. The saddle seat position takes away the strongest weapon in my arsenal.

Why it’s harder on Saddlebreds, Two. I’m doing okay when my butt is in the saddle: at home at a walk, in dressage lessons at a sitting trot, and in saddle seat at a canter. My saddle seat canter is poetry. Alas, no one cares. Saddle seat is all about the posting trot. The movement of posting means your hands must have a mind of their own. They can’t simply be an extension of what you do with your upper body.

Why It’s a Good Thing
I’m excited. It explains so much. I’m more able to cope if I know WHY.

If I can get my hands to match my legs, watch out world.

Thank you for reading,
Katherine Walcott