Harlan and I are in the process of rebuilding. Rebuilding our partnership, rebuilding individual confidence, rebuilding trust.
Hooboy is it hard. It was really surprising and discouraging to discover how fearful I've become as a rider. I know it shouldn't be surprising, considering the amount I've hit the ground and the injuries I've gotten (broken rib, bruised tailbone), but nevertheless. It's the ol' immortality complex: it happens to other people, not me. And yet it has happened to me.
Harlan will always be a sensitive pony and I knew that when I bought him. I knew that I would have to be a more "present" rider with him than with Tanner. My new trainer asked me why I bought him if I had known that he had dumped people before, especially since I was used to bombproof Steady Eddy quarter horses (aka Tanner). I got Harlan because I *wanted* something a little more "up", a little faster, a little more fun.
And for the first couple months we had a blast together! He was alert but relaxed on the trails. I trusted him to keep me safe, he trusted me to keep him safe.
Then I switched saddles and things changed, and it took me a while to connect those dots. Harlan started shying more and more often, throwing in a buck or two on occasion.
Once I figured out it was the saddle I went through quite a few saddles trying to find one that would fit him. The one that he liked the best was a Bob Marshall treeless saddle and it was very comfy. It was not, however, very stable. Which meant that when shit went south, the saddle was no help to keeping me on top.
Add a fall almost every ride and a couple of super painful landings, and something broke. Harlan no longer trusted me to be the confident leader he so desperately needs and I no longer trusted him to behave.
I really don't blame him nor am I angry at him. When things got scary for him and I "bailed" (read: fell off) he probably felt abandoned to deal with the monsters by himself. I didn't have the tools to figure out how to reassure him.
We both lost confidence in ourselves and in each other.
If I didn't have the opportunity to board him this winter and be able to work with a trainer, it probably would have been the end of our partnership.
I still don't have a good saddle that fits both him and me, but I have something that works in the meantime. We're working a lot on the ground establishing boundaries and increasing confidence. In the saddle we're working on a one-rein stop so that when things get scary we have a go-to maneuver that reassures both of us.
Even with this solid progress in a short time, when I'm in the saddle now I constantly have to remind myself to breathe and to relax. I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful. I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.
I have a pretty strong fear of failure so sometimes when things start looking like I might fail, I bail instead. I also tend to subscribe to the Disney Prince Ideology, which normally applies to romantic relationships but can also be applied here.
The Disney Prince Ideology is the belief that if there is any sort of conflict between two people, it is obviously not meant to be.
For example: If he really was my Prince Charming, we wouldn't argue. We would understand one another and seamlessly get along forever and ever AND EVER. Which translates to: If he really was the right horse for me, we would understand one another and seamlessly get along forever and ever AND EVER.
But when I'm feeling like maybe Harlan isn't the right horse, I have another voice inside my head asking therapist-y questions. Where are these feelings coming from? Could this be related to your fear of failure? Let's talk about your childhood.
And then the second voice chimes in (it's busy in my head, guys). Yes, but should you force something that isn't right? Don't waste your time, yo! Cut your losses and move on.
Isn't that a little premature? Are you perhaps shying away from hard work? Are you SURE it's "not right"? Don't make a rash decision.
Well...maybe....but are you trying to force a square peg into a round hole because you think you owe it to Harlan or because that's what you feel like you're supposed to do?
WHERE'S MY GODDAMN PRINCE CHARMING?!
I am not a patient person (shut up, those of you thinking Thank you Captain Obvious). I don't like not making a decision, I don't like sitting with indecision. I know that I don't need to make a decision right now and I shouldn't make one. I know that no matter what, working with him now will make me a better rider and him a better horse.
And yet that circus keeps on yelling in my head. Arglebargle.
So I'll end this schizophrenic post with a reminder to myselves to just take baby steps. Baby steps to the elevator, Bob, baby steps to the saddle. Rome wasn't built in a day, decisions don't have to be made right this very second, etc etc.
Eventually I'll be a sailor. Baby steps.
|I'm sailing! I sail! I'm a sailor, Dr. Marvin!|
I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful.