After grappling with a nasty bout of the flu that left me in bed for a week, and then recovering for another, I am back at it again. Coming off the high of our successful first show, things kept getting better. I had a great jumping lesson on Eddie where the jumps went up and my confidence soared. Then the next day a lesson on Gage where we worked on developing his canter to improve his jumping. By the end of the lesson I had him cantering to the cavaleti on a circle and picking up the correct lead over the jump. I laughed in the beginning and said it was just good luck, then Hilda corrected me saying no, it is good riding! Another boost of confidence.
Here is a short video of my ride on Eddie:
Next day I woke with a terrible flu, could hardly get out of bed and then spent the rest of the week in fitful sleep on a diet of wonderfully fresh Florida Oranges. I guess if one is going to fall prey to a nasty flu, best to do so at the source of such excellent Vitamin C!
My recovery has been slow but steady. I can’t remember the last time I was this ill. It’s been at least a couple of years, and it has been humbling to go from feeling incredibly strong and vital to weak and ineffective. Each day I am stronger and I can now report that I’m running at what feels like maybe 92%. A lingering cough keeps me from complete recovery, but that too is abating. Soon I’ll be back to 100%, and with any luck even 110%.
During all this downtime I’ve had the chance to take an introspective look at where I am and what I’m doing. I’ve been able to dissect a few confidence issues and look at them honestly. With riding there will always be tests of bravery and confidence, and opportunities to either face them to move forward, or ignore them until they surface again. They always resurface if not dealt with entirely, don’t I know that to be true! In between fitful sleep, I found myself playing back all the riding I’ve done here in Florida and pulling it apart. The moments of brilliance and the ugly all together. The theme I found was a tendency for tension to creep in and take over when I least expect. That, more than anything is my Achille’s Heel in riding and needs to be addressed. (More on that in a moment). The other theme was focus. I wouldn’t say I lack focus, but I could definitely have more, especially when riding Gage and needing to be the leader.
Back in the tack this week, I knew I had to address both these issues. The focus is relatively easy. All I have to do is ride every stride. I put it to the test pulling Gage out of his paddock and tacking him up. He hadn’t done anything in over a week and was a bit energetic to say the least. When Gage is like this he tends to be a handful and benefits from a fair amount of lunging before any ridden work. This week I decided to not lunge him however, and to instead use focus to channel all that pent up energy into work. It worked! I mounted up and kept my focus on Gage the entire ride. Every step he took, I was with him. My concentration became his concentration and before I knew it he was locked on to me and we were creating some really nice results. The big key in this way of working is to keep it short – for both of us! – as it allows for a lot of progress in a short amount of time without burning out and losing the plot. So far so good. Gage is super obedient and appears to really enjoy his job. We are now ready to move forward again in our lesson tomorrow. I, for one, am looking forward to it.
Working through tension in my riding is not as easy, so I enlisted help. I try to get in a weekly lunge line lesson to work solely on my position. It’s a tough 30 minutes, but the results are tenfold. Yesterday I asked Caroline (my lunge instructor) if we could dissect things a little deeper. She asked what I meant, and I was able to explain I needed to trust my balance and position more because I’m holding tension when I should be relaxed. We got started and quite quickly she pinpointed the problem. I thought I was just holding tension in my hips, but what she saw was it was coming from my core and that in turn was also causing my hips to tense. She got me belly breathing and relaxing into my core so I could then allow my body to work independently as needed. What does that mean? It means stretching up through the upper body whilst deepening further into my seat by letting my middle relax. It’s a bit like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time, and comes finally when you just allow instead of trying to control it. As soon as I relaxed my core everything fell into place. My leg solidified, by thighs relaxed and I started to stretch up as well. What an awesome feeling!
It now makes sense why I got sick. I needed the downtime to go deeper and address these issues so I can again start moving forward again. I’m looking forward to the coming week and all the riding. I have a feeling come next weekend, I won’t recognise the rider I was before the flu. How exciting is that! Stay tuned for more…..
And for a little humour: Gage, in his despair of waiting for me to recover has considered a career change to the Major Leagues. He quite likes the ‘uniform’. I think he might consider sticking with his day job!