Deconstructing a Bad Lesson

Deconstructing a Bad Lesson

Well, I’ve learned my lesson – don’t brag about my horse! The day after I posted about my magical trust unicorn, we had the worst lesson we’ve had in a long time. I’m not upset over this, because we were super overdue for a bad lesson. However, I wish the bad lesson timing did not happen right before a horse show that’s a little bit of a step up for me. Goodbye new found confidence. I will miss you!

The short story is that Simon stopped, I almost came off but we improved in the end. Here’s the longer version:

My group lesson was timed a little earlier than I can usually get out from work, so my friend pulled Simon in and tacked him up for me (thanks friend – you rock). Simon is a horse with a lot of “feelings” (this is going to be a trend for this post…) and perhaps was thrown off by someone-other-than-mom-or-trainer pulling him out. When I walked into the barn, he had a very offended look on his face that said, “I have been left ALL BY MYSELF standing UNATTENDED!”

Photo by Heather F
Photo by Heather F

Since I was running late, I warmed up extremely quickly. Instead of our usual few laps of strolling walk around the arena, I picked up trotting almost immediately. For a creature of habit, this was perhaps not the best idea.

It was super overcast and spitting gray mist the entire lesson. My horse hates rain more than he hates anything else in life. Ever want to see Simon get light on the front end or backup across the ring? Ride him in the rain.

I was lessoning with awesome friend who tacked up Simon for me, and said friend has an awesome horse. Said horse is pretty much my dream horse, but I don’t say this because I am jealous or bitter about friend’s horse. She has been through the ringer with him, and I happily wish her all the success she can get in the show ring this year. That being said, sometimes I watch this pair go around and I think, “I need to ride amazingly so I can hold my own with them.” If you’ve read this blog for more than a month, you know I don’t always ride amazing. You also probably know that I’m a mental case and psych myself up in the most unnecessary ways. Plus, putting my dear nerd horse up to my friend’s amazing hunter is kind of like pulling a Fiat up to a Ferrari and saying, “Wanna race?” Yeah, they’re both cars… but that’s about where the similarities end.

Photo by Heather F
Photo by Heather F

Okay, we’re all caught up now and can unanimously decide that I’m completely setting Simon and I up for a successful lesson.

My first course was lackluster in every way. I had a not-so-great distance to a few jumps, so Simon put his feet down and added. That wouldn’t be a huge problem, only he decided to do it on every fence regardless whether I had a good distance or not. It was infuriating not in a “My horse is being bad so now I must beat him way”, but rather in a “I thought we were past this annoying habit I’m so over this” kind of way.

Which leads me to my second problem of the lesson (besides the bad prep) – I got mad.

People who have known me before Simon and before this blog will know that I have a temper with horses. It’s something I’ve been working on since adulthood and Simon has been the best horse to teach me to be patient and non-emotional with my riding. He’s emotional, so I can’t be… but I forgot that on Tuesday evening.

Photo by Heather F
Photo by Heather F

Now don’t think that I grabbed a crop and started beating my creature, but on my second course I started off a bit peeved and was DETERMINED to get down the lines. Therefore, I chased him down every line way more than I needed and ended up with too much pace. Here is a Simon commentary of that course:

Yay we canter and jump again! It is oh so misty out and I should probably be super caref- OH MY GOD MY MOM IS KICKING ME! SHE GROWLED AT ME! SHE WANTS ME TO GO FASTER! OKAY I WILL GO FAST. I WILL GO THE FASTEST. I’m going fast!

[[ This is where I asked for a lead change and did not get one (shocking) ]]

NOW WE’RE IN THE CORNER AND SHE SAYS I HAVE TO STOP! WHY AM I STOPPING? WHAT ARE MY LEGS DOING? Okay I’ve stopped. Okay I’m moving my butt over. I hate this, but I am doing it. OH SHE SAYS I HAVE TO GO FAST AGAIN. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WE JUST STOPPED AND NOW WE ARE GALLOPING? OKAY I WILL GALLOP. OH MY GOD THERE ARE SO MANY FENCES HERE WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING I CAAAAAAAAAAAN’T.

And that’s where he stopped – on the 2nd fence of a combination. It was supposed to be a two to a one, but his brain was just fried by that point. I didn’t come off, but it was pretty close. As I pushed myself off of his neck I could hear my trainer thinking, Oh thank god she didn’t come off because that would have put us back at least six months.

In case you aren’t fluent in Simon, basically I got angry at him which made him think he was in trouble. A Simon “in trouble” is not a happy horse, because he has a lot of feelings. Instead of being relaxed and encouraged to do challenging things, he was too frazzled to make sense of it all and stopped. It took him stopping to realize that I was being an asshole, and to start giving my horse a more sympathetic ride again.

Photo by Heather F
Photo by Heather F

After our stop, we got back down the line with the oxer taken off the 3rd jump. He put four in a two stride… but we made it.

We finished the lesson with some singles and roll backs, but it definitely took some spark out of my step. At the horse show this afternoon my job is to be encouraging yet firm with my requests. My horse will try to do almost everything I ask, but only if I ask fairly.

Hopefully at the end of this weekend, not only will I be bragging about him again but he’ll be also be bragging about me being a fun and nice mom versus a scary and demanding one.

21 thoughts on “Deconstructing a Bad Lesson

  1. I think it takes a very mature person to realize when you are being a complete jerk to your horse… and I’ve TOTALLY been there, done that, many many times. Good luck this weekend, have fun!!

  2. I hate when I get mad at Cosmo while riding. It never works out anyway, but I don’t realize I am doing it until after I have done it. Move past this and have a great show this weekend!

  3. Don’t beat yourself up over it — we’ve all been there. But the good news is that you got better once we realized what the issue was and you’ll have tons of time to make it up to him at your show this weekend! Have fun!

  4. Oh, I totally feel you with getting mad while riding. It used to be a big issue for me. I’ve gotten a lot better as I have gotten older, but it occasionally pops up.

    Boca has the EXACT OPPOSITE reaction as Simon. His inner monologue is “OH SO YOU WANT TO JUMP? I WILL SHOW YOU A JUMP, LADY” Cue us jumping a 4 stride line in 2 strides. Launching is our specialty 🙂

    Hey, sometimes we all need a little reminder.

    PS – Your top is fabulous and you look like a rockstar. Also, I envy your heels. And your balance. You’re looking pretty damn good, lady!

  5. I hate getting emotional when I ride, and I too struggle to keep it in check. This year, I think I have been a lot better because I am actually thinking through the problem or not worrying about it at all. Just shake it off, it’s all good, that kind of attitude. It is so hard, especially with an emotional horse. But they teach us so much!

  6. I think we’ve all been there! It’s so hard to try and be diplomatic and encouraging after working all day BEFORE riding. Being human is so frustrating! Kudos to you for seeing it for what it was. I’m sure you’ll be a-ok at the horse show! Good luck and have fun!

  7. The Simon commentary almost made me spit my tea all over my computer because it is so accurate. Riding a creature with a mind of its own can be really awesome and make you feel great about yourself, and sometimes it doesn’t. Fortunately Simon will forgive most things with enough banana cookies.

  8. I’ve had a few rides like that. I am the same as you, sometimes I have a temper with horses. Certainly never beating them, but when I ask my mare to stand still five times in a row so I can swing a giant western saddle up on to her and she keeps moving…occasionally I lose my cool because I know she is capable of standing still.

  9. I think it’s tradition to have a lousy lesson before a show! I have had to teach myself not to be so emotional in the saddle, glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂

  10. At least you’re aware of your riding and emotions! Not everyone can admit to those things or realize they’re being an asshole to their horse lol. Best of luck in the show though!!

  11. You know, we know, we’ve all had these days. Regardless which Equine Discipline is our Joy! What happened at the Show?? 🙂

    You mentioned Simon has “lots of feelings”….you appear to know him pretty darn well….however, if you’d like an extra leg up & you’re not averse to what I have to offer, let me know! And….apparently this is a few years late, but I’ve just now arrived at BlogLovin….Warm Welcome to Texas!

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