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Sunday, 28 February 2016

The Cost of Improvement

I appreciate all the kind words on my recent downer post, thank you all for cheering me on!  It was really cathartic to have a big whine and I’m feeling a lot better now.  I had a lazy weekend last weekend and had a fun family visit this weekend.





I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the cost of improvement.  

I haven’t really taken my riding seriously until very recently (like the last six months to a year).   When it occurred to me that I wanted to be the best rider possible for my young horses... I got my butt in gear.  I also knew that I wanted to show and didn’t want to completely embarrass myself.  Now that I’ve been taking lessons with Coach D for 6 months, dressage lessons on and off for 8 months, and lessoning with Mystic’s trainer for 3 months I feel like I have a much better understanding of what it costs to improve as a rider.  I will say that without a doubt that I have improved my riding in the last year of my life more than I have in over 10 years.  But it was really hard work! 





Here's a quick re-cap of what's changed in the past year or so:


A Year Ago

I was comfortable at a walk/trot in the arena with Apollo.  He was crowhopping and sketchy at the canter.  He was coming back from soundness issues and I didn’t want to push him (and I was also a big scaredy).  I would very occasionally ride outside (by the end of last summer I was feeling pretty confident on the trail).   I was almost always alone at the barn.  After some negative instructors and judgmental barnmates I was really happy to do what I wanted, without anyone watching.  I’ve always had a bit of stage fright when it came to riding in front of anyone but last year I would have delayed my ride or not ridden if other people were around (if possible).  

Last Few Weeks
I did W/T/C and jumped fences on Apollo, a lesson horse and Mystic.  I have no qualms about riding outside or riding in front of anyone (save the odd moment of stagefright).  My confidence is the best it’s ever been.  I am not the keenest jumper (would prefer tiny things only pls) but I think as I jump more it will get easier. 

We jumped a tiny jump! 
 
 


Apollo jumps a tiny jump! (pre-splint)

 




Now that’s a pretty huge improvement, right?  Here is what this improvement has cost me...

1)      Well…a lot of money for lessons.  I don’t really want to calculate how much. Please don’t make me.

2)      Being uncomfortable.  A lot.  Riding in front of people.  Sucking at things.  Sucking at things while riding in front of people.  You actually can’t die from being super uncomfortable... I would know.



Apollo says "I will take this bit and prance the f**k outta here!"

 

3)      Time.  I have spent like 80% of my free time doing horsey things (as opposed to like 50% of my free time as I did before).  Usually this is a good thing. But I have missed out on more  family/husband/friend time than I used to.  Which sometimes makes me a bit sad.

4)   Changing old ideas/habits.  I feel like I’m generally open-minded to new ideas about riding and training.  But I had two ideas stuck in my head that I struggled to let go of.  I sort of always had the idea that if I was completely perfect in my posture that everything else would just happen.  If Apollo ever misbehaved or couldn’t do what I was asking I blamed my position.  Turns out my position is actually not horrible.  But I realized that I actually have to ride and be effective, not just pretty.  It’s been eye-opening to think about the results I’m trying to achieve rather than holding my position perfectly all the time.  To ride well you actually have to ride, who knew.  (…probably everyone)  I also held a lot of tension in my elbows and shoulders.  When I watched good riders it seemed like they moved through their hips but there arms were very static.  Okay… yeah no.  Throw another weird idea in the fire.  I have seen such huge changes in my horses (relaxed, less giraffe-y) by having more elastic elbows and shoulders. This had been a very challenging habit to break.

5) Driving.  So much driving.  I have never spent so much time my car in my whole life.  I think I’m part Corolla by now. 

6) Sleep.  From the 7:30am lessons to the late night rides at Coach D’s barn… Let’s just say I’m not getting the recommended 8 hours. 







I have to be honest; I thought improving my riding would come a bit easier.  It has been challenging mentally, financially, physically and sometimes emotionally.  But the cost has been absolutely worth it. 






I am especially grateful for Coach D.  I have been having a lot of fun with Mystic and I owe a lot of to that to her.  She kind of swooped into my life and believed in me so much that I actually started to believe in myself too.  I have felt confident and competent for all my rides on Mystic, and that’s pretty wonderful.  
          
I’m looking forward to riding Henry and continuing to improve myself. :)



So cute in her jammies!

 

27 comments:

  1. It is hard to see the progress because you are so close to it. Each day you chip away, and things seem so minor. But when you do compare to s year ago, you begin to see the big differences.

    As I have been reading your blog, it seems that you are a bit happier. Yes you are putting in more time, money, emotion, and it is costly. But you've been getting a lot out too it seems. I like to read how affirmed you are in your horses. Apollo is adorable (despite mean trainer saying he wasn't!) Your babies are growing up with someone who cats about them, so important. It sounds like you are developing s great support network. I hope for the best for your husband's job prospects. I know that has to be a GREAT source of stress. The rest will be smoother after that. ****Hugs***

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    1. I do feel a lot happier for sure. It's pretty cool to be riding one of my youngsters and to be getting somewhere with my riding. Just a little overwhelming at times for a former barn hermit :P I sure hope my husband finds something soon too :)

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  2. One of the hardest things about riding is the fact that the better you are the easier it looks. It is so deceptive, because it looks easy but is actually really really freaking hard. You guys are looking good and don't scrimp on the sleep too much. :)

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    1. Very true! It is so freaking hard! Yes more sleep is required I think, don't want to completely fry my brain haha :)

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  3. Improving does take all of those things but as you said - so so worth it. I don't know how you manage having more than 1-2 horses financially. I feel like I'm in a good place but I would not be able to comfortably afford more than Annie if I wanted to lesson and compete.

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    1. Definitely worth it! It's a challenge for sure (having multiple horses). Apollo and Mystic share a saddle and did chores at the barn to pay for most of Mystic's training. It's not easy and I'm not sure how realistic it is long term, but for now I'm making it work :)

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  4. I totally get it. Progress is hard. Like thousands of hours hard.....

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    1. Yep! I think it's more like a million hours for me hahah :)

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  5. Cool post - I can relate to #4. I have had to let go of ideas that I didn't even realise I was holding on to! Funnily enough they also included releasing tension in my upper body which had come about due to trying to ram my body into a notion of good position... which came at the expense of lightness in my aids & thus created problems with the communication with the horse.
    Ah well, we live & learn.

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    1. I'm glad someone feels my pain! I have spent so many hours riding thinking about holding my position "just so" only to have missed out on learning about connection to the bit/actual riding...oops. Oh well!

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  6. Nice post, I hate riding in front of other people...which is why I never do it :) props to you for expanding your comfort zone!

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    1. I still don't love it, but I try not to think about it ;)

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  7. This is a great post! And I'm so glad that things are looking up for you and all the ponies! I've had some similar moments this week on my green horse. I was having the hardest time CANTERING A POLE ON THE GROUND! I mean, I used to show 4'3". And I was struggling with a pole on the ground. I had to take a moment to remember that my horse is greener than most species of grass, I have hardly ridden in 3 or 4 weeks, and well, I've always thought cantering poles was hard.
    Like you, I had some questionable trainers in my past. I was told as a kid that all the mistakes I made would ruin my horse. So I think I have to be perfect all the time or I'm going to have a useless horse with no confidence. Thankfully, my current trainer tells me all the time that it's perfectly fine to make mistakes. The horses really don't mind helping you learn. And as long as you make an effort to not make the same mistakes over and over, they really aren't a big deal. She also pointed out that with a green horse, it's GOOD to make mistakes. They need to learn how to look out for themselves a little bit, and what their job is. If we set them up perfectly all the time, they don't learn how to carry themselves, how to find a distance, how to keep a steady pace. And those are all things a "made" horse would need to learn. It's a partnership after all.
    Sorry for rambling.... I just felt like I could commiserate with you :)
    www.amateuratlarge.blogspot.com

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    1. That's so spooky - I was told exactly the same thing at one point! (That my mistakes would ruin my horse) Makes you kind of afraid to try anything hey? That makes good sense about making a "made" horse. My horses are going to be so made when I'm done with them hahahah

      P.S. Cantering ground poles is the freaking devil!

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  8. Aww, this is awesome! And I get it- what we do to be better equestrians can be a bit overwhelming!!

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    1. Overwhelming is the perfect word! It's worth it but definitely not easy :)

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  9. Ugh me too.. spend sooo much time driving!

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    1. I need to download some upbeat podcasts or something, I get so sick of it I'm afraid I'm going to road rage on someone one day!

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  10. When it comes down to a choice between sleep and improvement, I usually pick sleep. Congrats on picking improvement. If I had to calculate how much riding costs me, it'd be bad. So I don't.

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    1. In March I will be picking sleep! February really kicked my ass haha

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  11. I was mentally thanking you for this post as I sat waiting for my turn at the show this weekend, particularly your reminder that no one can literally die of embarrassment ;) So, thank you again in person!

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    1. I have yet to die from embarrassment, which is lucky because I embarrass myself a lot hahah!
      Glad to be on the show day reading list ;)

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  12. i LOVE this post and am so happy for you! your transformation has been super apparent through the blog too - pushing for more, dreaming bigger, placing more hope and faith in your partnership with your horses now and into the future. and i'm so happy to see it paying off!!! and so happy you have such a supportive and encouraging trainer! that's really helped make all the difference with me and my mare too :)

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    1. Thanks! It's been a huge year for me. I owe so much to my wonderful coach. We are both lucky to have such great people on our team :)

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  13. I can relate to this so much. I've always been one to be in a program, but lately I've had to really step up, taking more lessons, riding more horses and being comfortable with... Well... Not feeling comfortable. But it's SO worth it and the improvement is tremendous.

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    1. It's so hard but so worth it! I'm excited to see where I'll be in a year :)

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