I really do try to keep the crazy amateur meltdowns to a minimum. Key word here being try.
It’s not like I stomp around with a routine of high maintenance fits (at least I hope not, dear god, that’s not a good look). But a few things trigger me into meltdown territory: when I worry about my horse, and when I feel like I’m letting everyone down. Last week, it was the second.
Since moving to the new barn and riding consistently in a similar-but-different way, I’ve been working a lot on my fitness and endurance. Private lessons means eyes are on you the entire time. I knew I was out of shape, but had no idea how much until I was asked to get my horse moving for more than 30 seconds. My trainer has been super patient and supportive, and slowly the fitness improved. It’s not where it needs to be yet, not at all. Am I still huffing and puffing after several laps of trot? Yes. Does my core get weak and flop towards the end of the lesson? Absolutely yes. But I see, and more importantly feel, an improvement.
So why a meltdown?
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but my right leg is a bit of a disaster. It’s the knee I had surgery on a few years ago, and I’ve spent a lot of time protecting it. As recently as last summer, my right knee hurt every time I rode. Even though I worked out of the pain, I’d limp around my house the evening and next day after. The good news is almost four months of PT made a dramatic difference. Since I carry myself differently now walking around and keep my feet a bit straight in the stirrup, my knee pain is close to go. It’s still weak, I still protect it out of muscle memory, but again–getting better.
What’s trickier is actually my ankle. I didn’t know this until PT, but the knee and the ankle work together and influence each other. My physical therapist noticed how locked up my right ankle is compared to my left. I don’t really get doctor speak, but she said the bone doesn’t roll through the joint like it should and does in my left. And, fun fact, every time I rode it got worse. She gave me some exercises to do, and I chocked it up to another one of my growing list of physical frustrations.
This is where the meltdown comes in. When I ride, and especially when I ride with a more proper leg/dropped heel, my ankle likes to lock up sometimes. It’s fine when I’m flopping around loosey goosey, but the more I start to really drop my heel and properly use my leg the weaker that ankle feels. On Tuesday when I went to hack on my own, and my ankle gave out halfway through my ride. It essentially rolls over, and I can’t put any weight in that heel. When it gets to that point, I can try to take it out of the stirrup and stretch and try again, but it immediately rolls over and collapses within seconds of riding properly. It’s frustrating, because I feel physically strong enough to do more but without a properly working lower right leg I end up quitting early.
When I came back for my lesson on Thursday, the same thing happened again. This time, frustration and work stress and the feeling of constantly being behind everyone else compounded into a full blown meltdown. Poet was being great, my trainer wasn’t upset at all, but I fell apart. Trying to figure out how to salvage my rapidly dwindling ankle strength turned into a comedy of errors.
Me, cantering around towards a single crossrail. “I’m not upset at my horse or at you BUT I AM SO FRUSTRATED.”
Trainer, trying to stop the new client spazzing out. “IT’S FINE YOU NEED TO CALM DOWNNNNNNNN.”
Sometimes, especially when I’m tired and burned out as I am often these days, I get to the point of tears when I’m frustrated, stressed, angry or any kind of emotion that really doesn’t have anything to do with sadness. I definitely reached that point in the meltdown lesson. At one point I’m trying to push it aside, listening to trainer trying to get me off the ledge, and I canter again at a single fence (because my ankle gives out before I can turn to try another) and start to cry because I’m just so frustrated with the entire situation. But crying, while out of shape, and cantering is a bad combo. The crying starts to be more like a wheeze, and I realize I’m wheezing and cantering and trying to keep my right leg still and some weight in that leg when I’m rapidly approaching a jump. Despite how upset I am, I am more scared of trainer than I am upset. So I suck it all in, take a breath, and manage to get over the jump (quite lovely, really) before we all call it a day.
The meltdown left me with a lot of hangover feelings, which maybe I’ll dive into more on the blog this week. I’ve armed myself with an ankle brace and more PT exercises. With those, I managed to have a great ride on Saturday with no ankle issues and made it through my hack on Sunday knowing it was getting weak towards the end but not completely giving out. But here is something that stuck with me.
Mid-meltdown, I sighed and ranted to my trainer about my frustrations. “It’s just that it’s been beautiful out, and my horse is being such a good boy and trying. But then I can’t accomplish what I set out to do, because my body falls apart.”
“But what part of that changes that it’s a beautiful day? Or that you have a beautiful horse?” she responded.