Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Making Schooling Sessions More Productive

We've all been told to have a plan in mind for each time we take our horse to the arena for a schooling session. Personally, I've never been able to do that because every time I think about what I want from the horse that day and how I'm going to achieve it, its like he reads my mind and says "LOL! That's what you think..." and its always a horrid session from start to finish.

Whilst I'd been having some difficulties in training overall, I started to think about how I should approach my sessions on a daily basis to achieve more consistent success. What are just one or two things I can do with every horse that can help make each session productive?


Firstly I found that we can't tell the horse to feel like this or that on any particular day, we need to listen to how he tells us he's feeling and that will determine what kind of session it will be. Where I went wrong is where one day the horse would be fab, and I finish the session super happy and excited. The next day, I go out there and do exactly the same thing with them so I can achieve another good session. Seems logical, right? Wrong. A horse can wake up on the wrong side of his stable just as we can our bed so he may be feeling particularly uncooperative or distracted. He may be sore from working so hard the previous day so will feel stiff and needs to do a lot of stretching. He might not have gone to the field the day before so he will feel fiesty and spook a lot. We just don't know. And so we need to listen and adjust.

This horse Seb can feel awful in a test
if you push for too much. Aiming for no
mistakes is what gets this horse marks!
Secondly I've been told recently by my trainer Emile to ride for the horse we have, not the horse we want. Obviously in the cases of the talented young horse we can make them feel like that amazing Ferrari and push them further, but with our older or more ordinary horses, there is only so much they can give us. I have two older horses at PSG/Inter 1 level, and I so often make the mistake of thinking "oh they need to be more supple in the body, take longer strides, need more cadence..." etc. While it's good to aim higher, these horses are never going to feel like my ideal small tour horse and the more I try to change their way of going at this late stage, the further backwards I'm going to get. Emile has taught me to focus on just riding for points in the test. They can get no less than a 7 if they do the movement correctly and harmoniously so then I'll have a +70% test. 

It reminds me of a recent time I got over 68% in a PSG with Seb. I was extremely late to a competition after finding out my grandad had died just before we left the yard, so as well as only getting 10 mins to warm up I was also feeling pretty despondent. I just thought "well, not much I can do here, lets at least make it look pretty" and to be honest the test felt awful - he wasn't taking me forward enough and was slow to react to my leg, yet he did all the movements made no mistakes and it looked harmonious. Therefore, 68%. I wasn't complaining so much about how gluey he felt after I saw the score!


Julius, as an older horse, is very set in his way of going -
i.e not very supple! However working on engagement and the
uphill balance is productive training for him and allows
us to execute all the high-level movements.
Even yesterday I had a pretty unproductive session on Julius my other small tour horse, because I decided he needs to bend more through his body. Well, Julius manages to move sideways easily without putting much bend in and still gets a 7 or 8 in his half-passes, so he couldn't understand why I wanted such unnecessary suppleness. Sure I got him more supple, but he still does his movements the way he's always done them, and thats something I probably won't ever change, so it was pretty pointless really. What I should really concentrate on him is keeping him swinging over the back and engaged, because he has a tendency to lean on the hand and bounce his bum up. That is something I can work on to improve him. The bend through his body? Not as important. But for another horse, maybe very important. It's all about priorities!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Fear of Failure

I've been in a bit of a hole lately. As we all know, motivation peaks and troughs and when its high we find it hard to believe we were worried about anything beforehand, but when it is low it feels like the world is ending and we don't know how we will get through... Well, at least in my case it does. But I'm just a bit extreme like that.

I've become fed up of my periods of low motivation getting me down. Horses and my career is all I have, there is no plan B, nothing to fall back on, because I once read that if you have a plan B, you'll need it. If you don't, then you'll just have to be successful, won't you?

The downside of that is that I can get too emotionally attached, so a bad day of riding can affect everything else, which snowballs the low mood. So firstly I decided I need some other interest that can help me clear my head... Still trying to think of something. Secondly I thought to lessen the troughs of low motivation by understanding what causes it, and what is different when I feel high in motivation.

After a lot of thinking, it seems that a fear of failure is holding me back from achieving anything. As a typical perfectionist and high achiever, I'd rather stick my head in the muck heap than fail at something. However what I'm seeing now is that by holding myself back from so much, I'm not high-achieving at all - I'm achieving nothing, hence the crappy mood and feeling of getting nowhere. I'm not fuelling myself with the thing makes me truly happy and motivated by nature: Success.

I stopped writing because I was scared to write down the truth for fear of being judged, and since the essence of my writing is my honesty and blatancy, I felt no point in it if I had to write about boring stuff no one could really take an opinion on. If I look back to my better, most successful days (personally), I was smashing out blog posts full of raw feelings and material people could relate to, which was what made it worth reading. That was back when I didn't fear much. When I was a teenager I felt the world was at my feet and anything was possible, so a bit of judgement wasn't going to stop me. I would love to get back to that place, so I need to not be afraid of writing. It petrifies me to even put up this post because its showing my vulnerability, but really I know that a lot of people go through this and at the end of the day, I want people to see they aren't alone and even the people that appear to have so much going for them can feel worthless inside, so never judge a book by its cover.

I haven't done much teaching lately because I lost my confidence and felt I didn't know how to teach and felt bad taking people's money. I stopped putting myself out there, as if I didn't teach then I couldn't disappoint anyone. Then I started teaching a couple of lovely ladies because they approached me for a lesson. I started a new slate, stopped overthinking if I was "teaching right", forgot what I was told in my UKCC training, and just HELPED them have a positive ride. They absolutely loved their first lesson, and I saw that that's all it is - helping people. I mean seriously, I have had SO much training in different countries and have a lot of knowledge, so all I had to do was pass it on. They come away from their lessons feeling uplifted and confident in what they are doing with their horse, and I get inspired by these people that love their horses so much and truly do it for fun - something that can get lost in all the pressure of being a professional. I captured that feeling of content after teaching them and made a mental note that it was a feeling that motivated me, so before I could hide away again I put up a few teaching ads on some Facebook groups. The response was certainly unexpected. I had put up ads before in tack shops, feed stores, tried to spread the word on Facebook, but wasn't getting anywhere. But for some reason, this time, it worked. I have now booked 6 lessons in for this week. Normally, this would petrify me, thinking that I had to satisfy all these people to get their money's worth. But instead, I'm excited to meet these new people that live around me and can't wait to help them with their horses. I guess it's all about perspective - how you look at these situations  determines how you feel about them.

So obviously competing is a nightmare for me. Strangely, once I leave the gates for the competition, I'm fine. The horse is plaited and on the lorry, everything is organised at home, and I can just focus on riding my tests. It's the days before that are the hardest. The training sessions in the lead up to the day, where I put so much pressure on myself and the horse to get things right at home first because I think if I can't do it at home then I won't get anywhere near doing it right at a comp. Sure, a lot of the time the horse isn't ready, but people still go out anyway and do it. But again, you'll sooner find me with my head in the muck heap than going out there in front of people feeling like I have no idea what I'm doing. The only solution to this is just to push myself out of my comfort zone and go to the damn competition. Sure it could all fall apart and I would fail, but my success would be the fact that I actually went. And just as there's a chance of failing, there is also a chance of winning, and it's up to me which one I focus on.

If I can carry on sorting these little (?!) issues out, day-to-day motivation will be a lot higher I'm sure!