It seems to be that there is a theme over the blog-sphere at the moment where people are taking a step back – admitting defeat and stating an update, a change of their ways or a new blog completely.
Is March the new January?
Today, I come to you humbled, a little scared and vulnerable. Be kind.
On Monday, what I thought would be a relaxed, fun jumping clinic turned out to be a game changer – a freak out zone – a test of my own superglue abilities. It all went a bit cray cray.
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start – in the words of Julie Andrews – if you don’t know the film, you need to up your game!)… I am a hunter by nature, by life, by instincts and by gut – by hunter I am referring to a Fox Hunter. It has been my life since I started riding, jumping post and rails, hedges, ditches – to be at the front of the field (term used to describe the group of other people also hunting). My dad would always say ‘today’s aim is to not leave the field master’s tail’. And it was my aim, every time.
As you can probably guess, jumping was not a threat, not a thought and definitely not something that sparked fear. Don’t get me wrong, the adrenaline rush was there, it was real and 9 times out of 10 it carried me over the next 4 hedges. But the fear was not there. One by one, everyone would jump the hedge, you would be following the person in front and to be quite honest – it was jumping blind because no one knows what is going to happen on the other side. That is part of the thrill.
So all my life jumping is a good thing – jumping is fun.
I have had a few rodeos in my time – horses that cannot jump or would not jump. I remember one Arab mare that we had that would never jump, every jump you sent her at she would refuse, rear and then keep rearing until you moved away. Aged 14, I was determined to conquer her and her fear. It is safe to say that I never did manage it, she was too set in her ways and I, being stubborn, decided ‘bye then’, and promptly jumped on my sister’s horse which could only jump if its head was practically between its legs. You learn to be adaptable when you’re young, don’t care and just want to jump everything and anything. Even up to 4 foot – which I boldly claimed I could do to my instructor.
My current stead is the same – he jumps everything, he jumps without even thinking about it, he jumps in front, he jumps behind, he just sideways, he jumps out of electric tape… you name it, he’ll probably jump it. The Hunting Machine is a common name for him – I even led the field master over a hedge (a little claim to fame!)
Monday was different – Monday was weird. Monday was a reality check.
Jumping was fine, and when we got to the jump – if we were both thinking ‘yes, over it we will go’, we got over it. We would have lost style points but you win some, you lose some.
Monday came as shock to me – my instructor told me to jump the course, and without thinking, I went into hunting mode, unstylish and fast. No dressage/collection/attention at all. All I wanted to do was to get around the course, but we didn’t. There was no one else going in front of my horse, no one leading the way for him to follow, no one being the leader that I was meant to be. No one telling him yes or no.
We faltered, at one fence, which then became the source of all the problems for the rest of the lesson. I got worried, thought it was the end of the dream, thought it was the wall that came between me and what I thought I’d wanted to do all my life. I suddenly started doubting my horse, my riding abilities and my belief that I was OK at this.
It all went to pot.
I came away feeling nervous, worried and like an idiot.
When I had put my emotional, melodramatic reaction aside, I worked out that actually you’ve got to break before you can get better. They say that it always gets worse before it gets better and I think this is yet another example about how I am learning so much. How everything has got to be broken down to be brought back up again.
I can’t just sit and wait for my horse to be led over the jump. I can’t just let the adrenaline keep me upright and I most certainly cannot just expect it all to work. For some reason it does in the hunting field and it sure as hell is great fun, but actually in the arena – in the professional world – my horse needs me as a leader, and I need my horse as the jumper. It is a team project, and without each other we are just objects.
Today was a successful day – leagues from where I aim to be, but what is life without a project?
With attention, aids and responsiveness of my horse, and allowing him to take responsibility of the jump itself, we managed to make it – we managed to look OK and we managed to look like we enjoyed it. The fear was gone – the fear was in fact transferred into positive energy – energy that was rooting inside for more, to give me the confidence to persevere and to rebuild the knowledge and jumping ability – but this time, for the professional arena and world.
This week has been a reminder that actually breaking is a good thing, and a huge learning curve. I will keep to the relaxed jumping mode that I know though – we can’t expect miracles…
Next step – style points…