Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harder than I ever imagined....

This is probably going to be one of those slightly rambling posts, but I need to work out all that is flying around in my head, and I always try to remind myself when I hit this place others are probably there here goes.

I am a relatively intelligent person. I have been incredibly blessed in life that I find it very easy to learn new things, especially if it is something that interests me. I have taught myself most of my careers with little to no specific education or guidance, I self taught myself Hebrew in a couple months, heck in the last few weeks I have taught myself how to cook like a gourmet chef. My brain just works well at breaking something down and grasping it fast when I want to. I am also very good at seeing the big picture and being able to dissect it apart and figuring out the steps to get to where I want to be. However when it comes to riding, not only is none of that seeming to work, I actually think in some ways it is working against me. It is certainly raising the level of pressure I feel to "get it". I am not used to feeling this stupid no matter how hard I try.

I can say without a doubt...I have never tried so hard, mentally, physically and emotionally, to learn something as I have with riding and showing. And I can also say nothing has ever left me as excited and proud of myself or as drained and frustrated as this has. It seems to just depend on the day which side of that coin I am on, and that is the hardest part of this for me, the constant roller coaster.

Anything else I have ever tried to do or learn the learning and accomplishments followed a predicable study, you practice, you struggle but once you get it you're there. It's then a skill you have and you can count on it. Riding is nothing like that.

One day I can get on Joker and do everything right, the next day I can get on and try the same things and have a totally different outcome. The number of variables that come into play are overwhelming...the weather, the time of day (I have a totally different horse depending on how long ago the last meal was or how soon the next one is), what other horses are in the arena with us or if we are alone, whether the doors are open or closed. Its a type of variable I have never had to work with before.

And for me on top of those that just naturally come from working with a partner you can't have a rational conversation with, I also find my body plays a huge role in how the day is going to go. If I am tired or sore I struggle much more to feel the things I need to to ride well. I sit differently. I have more or less flexibility to turn the way I need to, some days I can feel if I am holding my feet right or not, other days I cant. Most days because of the nerve damage in my right side I cant even feel if I am doing what my riding coach asks me to and I just work to try to get there and hope my body will accidentally do what I need it to. Consistency of seat is so important in riding, and my body is anything but.

Don't get me wrong, I know I have made immense progress in the last 14 months. I remember that every time I get on Joker. But at the same time I have to admit I really stress that I don't feel like I am where I would want to be, where I expect myself to be, and most of all where I feel like others expect me to be by now. I don't handle feeling dumb well, and many days lately that is how I feel when I get off my horse. I don't yet know how to make peace with having a skill that works great one day and next day falling apart at the exact same thing. This is such a different world for me, and I cant say I feel like I fit yet. I don't know how to not put all this pressure on myself, and I know it is coming from me and no one else.

I also am coming to realize that some of my personality quirks work against me as a rider too. I am an introvert, big time, I have many of those social insecurities us geeks are made fun of for. I tend to walk looking down, I tend to have a hard time holding eye contact with people, I tend to want to minimize my "footprint" and so I slouch and curl into myself. Not one of those things works well riding. I have to work hard to look up when I ride, to focus on where I want to go, to sit back, to stretch up, to put my shoulders back. None of this is coming naturally to me and when I am riding my head is spinning to try remember to do it all, on top of also trying to make my body do what it needs to and to give the proper cues to Joker.

And all of that combined brings out probably my worst habit (one that bites me in the gym, the arena and lots of other places). When my brain is going 100 miles an hour I lose focus on what is around me and where I am going. I can look like I am looking somewhere or at someone and yet in reality I couldn't tell you what I just was looking at. That sounds weird but how many times have you driven somewhere and realized you didn't remember half the trip. I do that all the time. I get so focused on all that I am trying to process and do that I kind of go on auto pilot related to what is around me. Not a good thing when where you are looking has so much to do with cueing your horse.

I am not sure where to go with this post now, I guess I really didn't have a point. I think more than anything I am just saying all this to try to make peace with the fact that I am not unique in anything I wrote. That everyone who rides and especially those who compete all struggle with this. That this is the first time I am learning at a normal pace. But for me learning at a normal pace is so unnatural and I don't know how to be ok with it. Man being human sucks!

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