Sunday morning was cross country day and we were headed off to Brookleigh, where we trained last time.
Henry came out feeling hyper alert and fresh, he warmed up ok though and we headed out to the course as a group. My main aim was to master the mound complex we had a few issues with last time and practice a course.
Henry led the group out into the course and as we approached the water jump there was a flock of sheep hiding in the shade. They saw us and thought we had food so started to come towards us and Henry was convinced they were devil sheep. He walked towards them, still leading the group and was on high alert. I could feel his heart beating, but he did exactly as I asked.
We started trying to jump jumps, and Henry was being very reactive when the sheep were behind him. We jumped down a bank and he was running after the jump, which meant I was pulling him up too hard and it was a bit of a mess.
On Jonnas advice I chased the sheep around a bit to increase Henrys confidence. He was very worried when the sheep ran away from him but we worked at it and he started to get the idea that he was boss horse and the sheep were scared of him. It took some time, and we pushed the sheep onto a different patch of shade away from where we were working and finally we got to work.
We also jumped a short course and while our rhythm wasn’t great we got it done and Henry mostly listened.
I came away from this session really disappointed. I had felt like I was making a lot of mistakes that I should know better than to make, and that we hadn’t achieved anything much at all. After a few weeks of crappy to average at best rides, I had been looking forward to this session in a hope it would relight my fire. Instead I felt deflated and pretty shit about my skills.
A bit of distance from the session has allowed me to see it in a more positive light. Right after the session I was basically all for giving up, didn’t feel like I deserved to ride, and felt like I had completely failed because I didn’t have an amazing ride.
However, I realised that less than a year ago if those sheep had been there I probably wouldn’t have jumped anything. I would have been too scared to push Henry, and nervous to do much more than walk and trot. Instead I chased those sheep with confidence, and jumped jumps, and wished I was jumping more, bigger jumps. I rode the horse I had on the day and I was effective, even if it wasn’t pretty. I kept Henry’s attention even when he really didn’t want to listen to me and not once did I feel like I couldn’t do something. I just wished that Henry would relax so we could be more productive.
I think realising this is a huge step forward for me. Anxiety and lack of confidence have given me a lot of issues during my journey with Henry and it’s been a pretty big deal for me to push through and keep going. Yesterday that paid off and I maintained my confidence even though I was frustrated. It was a tough ride but we got it done and next time Henry will be more confident, plus if something like that happens at a comp I know while it might not be pretty we will still get it all done.
Next time I am sure conditions will be better and I’ll have a more productive ride. I was pretty upset about it, and then upset about how I was reacting to it. I know that horse riding is not linear but I have been getting so frustrated with myself recently I was hoping to use these lessons to get out of my funk. Luckily I know what has been going on at home a bit clearer, I have been too harsh with my aides, similar to what happened on xc yesterday. So I need to smooth things out at home.
For now we will keep plodding forward and I am going to make a big effort to take only positive thoughts from my rides. I can do this, I am good at this, and Henry and I are doing just fine as we are.