End of the month

My unspoken goals for this month were to have three posts and to ride at least once a week. I wrote twice in both January and February, and thought some consistent riding would help the aforementioned sort itself out. While it didn’t feel like that happened after missing a week, I ended up with four rides this month, which technically rounds out to what I wanted.

And that is enough. Even though I easily could say “but… I could have done more. If I would have done x, it would be better.” What is “better” anyway? To whom? Why am I focusing on how I could have been better in the past, instead of how I can just try my best as it comes? It brings me back to my original idea for the year, the whole mindset thing, which I haven’t actually written out before (though I’ve discussed with several people). My modus operandi (one of many) has been to set a goal and either smash it (i.e. do too much) or wiggle around avoiding it so that I can then beat myself up over having not met it.

I’m trying to change these little mind patterns I’ve got going on because they don’t serve me anymore. So, the mindset could be described as:

  1. holding space for myself by setting boundaries
  2. practicing gratitude
  3. aspiring to curiosity regarding feelings/emotions (both of which I suck at)
  4. including my body in my sense of self
  5. learning my authenticity, connecting with others as I continue to find pieces of it
  6. practicing seeing people as doing the best they can (includes me)

And ya know, I’ve actually made some decent progress on it. I’m purposely excluding a deadline because I’ve lived and died by the “due date” for years and this is more about building long-term habits (and dismantling equally lived-in routines).

So while I did manage to achieve both of the number-related goals at the beginning of this post, I think it’s more important for me to note that I read a ton of blogs this month – more accurately, I read peoples stories – and then put myself out there a bit and engaged with some of the stories I’m reading. This is significant because I went through the phase of horse RPG and SIM games that seemed to be EVERYWHERE in the early to mid 2000s; the kind of community that was contained and everyone knew the rules and goals of (and drama. there was always drama), but when I started reading blogs around high school, I stopped participating. I thought people had to come to me. Of course, over the next 8 years I just plain busied myself until I didn’t have time to sleep, let alone keep up with my own or anyone else’s writing.

While I’ve now had the time to participate for almost two years, I find it interesting that I’m starting to engage more or differently – in this undefined community, in other positive groups I’ve stumbled upon, and in real life – just as I’m starting to really buy into more positive cognitive habits. I don’t think one is responsible for the other either; it’s more like a wave where I put some effort into an area and the benefits swing elsewhere, then I feel encouraged to invest there and the benefits show up where I wouldn’t expect, and so on.

I think right at this point that’s more helpful for me than numbers-related goals (both in horses and work, relationships, money, whatever), especially as April’s going to bring challenges like surgeries, time off, work changes, and travel. Right now I’m in a good place with all of those, but that’s sure to change (and change again), which according to my whole mindset thing is a-ok (really!). I’m trying to keep doing what I’m doing, because so far I’m handling the curve balls better than I ever have (acknowledging them, for starters) and am more consistently content.

I’d be curious to know what others’ mind traps were, with horses or otherwise. Am I the only one learning how to be content with where I’m at or spending a lot of time just trying to figure myself out?


Lunge Lessons


the weather was weird the other day, even for Indiana. more backyard to follow…

The Thursday before the clinic- so, three weeks ago now – I had a lesson on Jillie and was discussing current goals with trainer. Recent instructors have focused on how the horse underneath me is going, so if I ride better –> horse goes better.  This is well and good, but I don’t know what I’m doing, body wise, when I get that result.  When I’m riding something where I don’t stumble upon what makes them happy/willing, this obviously creates issues. We’ll get through a ride, but I’ll get off wondering where my miscommunication was. General endurance? Hands? Legs or seat? Shoulders and back?


it then started hailing…

What I really want is an independent seat – improving my position and using that to be more effective/efficient with the aids.  Following this, trainer asked if I wanted to do a lunge lesson, which I enthusiastically agreed to. Letting someone take control of your horse is great for getting an idea of where each of your parts are at, and of the few I’ve had, the last was 10 years ago now. One with my very first instructor, and then a handful during my Arabian days. While initially writing this, I wondered why that trainer hadn’t worked more on details with those sessions, but I’m realizing it’s not because we weren’t going to, it’s simply because I wasn’t there yet. And what better way to instill balance than putting a sheepskin bareback pad on a barely-broke squirrely Arab mare? Because if I slipped, that pad was going with me.

That melts, sun comes out, sister and I run an errand and not long after getting home we have near-whiteout conditions. This was ten minutes or so after it stopped

For this lesson, trainer had me start off trotting with my arms out to the side, then at my hips. No problems there. Then I dropped my stirrups and continued to post, first with my arms out and then on my hips. Then she had me sit the trot, which really, did not go well at all. I know what it feels like when I get it right (or close to right?), but I’ve never been able to do it more than a few strides either because I don’t have the strength, or the stability (or both). After a walk break she had us canter a bit and then remarked that “no wonder you don’t fall off, your leg is solid!” which I was happy to hear. Except, I still lose my stirrups way more than I’d like. I can pick them up, but I’d rather not lose them in the first place. I told her this and asked if it was because I was pinching from my knee for stability.

literally 6 minutes after the last picture. You’re drunk Indiana

She said it could be, and that after this next walk break we’d do an exercise that would help with a few things. It’d tell if I was relying on my legs to keep me in the saddle, help me get a better awareness of my seat bones, and also put me in the right position for the sitting trot. So I put both my legs in front of the saddle flaps, which was definitely a weird feeling at first, but once we got walking I quickly adjusted. Before we started trotting trainer told me I might want to start out holding the front of the saddle. I did so and once we were going I was immediately more aware of where my seat bones were and how I was (or wasn’t) absorbing the momentum. Trainer told me to think about my hips going side to side rather than up and down, and I was (again) able to get a few strides, but not much beyond that. She also had me try cantering with my legs ‘up front’, just to see and I ended up finding that more do-able, to where I was able to take my hands off the saddle. Trainer noted that where my back was in this exercise (which did feel like leaning way back) was more where I need to be on a regular basis. Overall, it seems like I have a decent awareness and center of balance, but I really like how I had this lesson, which exposed the weaknesses in my core and knee, and then had the clinic a few days later where I ended up getting more feedback on my upper-half.

Of course, now going on a week since last riding (and pretty much zero other exercise) doesn’t do much for setting this stuff in. I was going to try today but little sister, who is home from college for spring break this week, wanted to get lunch and make a day out of going to the fashion mall an hour away. Seeing as she’s a senior and her post-grad plans may have her moving away (although who am I kidding, ‘planning’ for her rarely goes farther than the next day), I’m trying to make the most of having her home.