Horses, Life, A Touch of Geek

Archive for the ‘Sports Psychology’ Category

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

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/Iā€™m Baaaaaack, 2014 Sine Die ā€¦ 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