As you can see, there is a huge gap between my last post and this one...a lot has happened, and a lot of good things are happening!
Last summer, I decided to take Diam to some local shows, just for fun, and to have some good experiences.
Well, the first one was neither.
I trailered in with my BO and fellow barnmates, and the screaming began. Not mine, but Diam's. He went into full-blown meltdown...pacing in circles, trying to walk through me,generally being a moron. Now, I'm grateful that on the ground I am more confident than I am in the tack, so I did my best to work around him. We hobbled our way through halter and showmanship, got our first ribbon (incredible!!) - a second place in halter - and made our way back to the trailer.
My BO helped me tack up, as tying to the trailer didn't seem like the best option. Saddle on, check. Reaching for the bridle, and airborne. Now, his rearing as a protest if he is jacked up while being tacked has happened before...but this time, with him REALLY wound up ended up with him upside down underneath the tailgate of my friend's mini van. NOT a scenario I expected or liked.
Now, my BO has far more experience and courage than I do, so after checking horse and tack over, he trundled off to explore the show grounds (which is a lovely, quiet environment, treed, big open spaces). Long and short of it, I had a wet saddle blanket and somewhat tired horse back at the trailer half an hour later. He was quiet in the quiet areas, but near the show ring, resistant and anxious.What I did learn was that the trailer was his safe place, so after scratching out of my classes for the afternoon, the rest of the day wasw spent chilling on a shank or in the trailer in the shade.
Our next two shows followed the same pattern minus tacking up...in-hand classes (where a strong lack of manners was an issue) and then relaxing at the trailer. Each trip was a bit better...no more hysterics at the trailer, actually grazing with a relaxed eye. Ended up high point showmanship at the club level - our first trophy together! Totally unexpected, but delightful for me...we had something tangible to represent our hard work!
Thing is, though...all of this developed its own real estate in my head...I had a couple of good rides (including a lovely play in Lake Erie), and then managed to partly sever a tendon in my foot, which kept me out of the tack for several months.
Cue the anxiety.
I kept returning to Diam being stressed at the grounds...and that became my own stress. So, of course, instead of remembering the many good rides, I began to think that any ride was going to be difficult. Being an unfit rider (and not ready to sit out a tough ride) just magnified it.
And here we are.
I had to confront this....I know what a talented, solid horse he is...and giving up is something I just can't do. I had to try again. I had a lot of long talks with my BO, and he understood. It felt wonderful to have someone who was willing to listen and help. One thing he said was that he could be there for me, but he couldn't do it for me.
First ride...tacked up, and worked on breathing - apparently it is evident when I don't breathe! Just poking around in a third of the arena, paying attention to my body language, my reactions.
Second and third rides - more of the same. I keep thinking of the movie What About Bob? where the character's mantra is baby steps...baby steps!!
Fourth ride...a bit bigger and a bit bolder. My BO pushes me a little farther each time...enough that I reach for it, but not so much that I get overwhelmed.
Friday - far end of the arena, where the bigscaryspot usually has horses gearing up - there is turnout associated with that end, with a lot of distractions. And the big move - first time out in the big pasture! Diam was a class act, and though he got silly back in the arena (Big Horse Coming in!) I actually found it funny and rode through it till he settled and I ended our ride at that point.
Tonight's ride - I'm working on him not moving off as I mount (a leftover from race training); used the whole arena (as I explained it after, my fishbowl got bigger!), and tried to sit it out as the torrential rain hit. We were good for a while til it really started coming down, and Ron felt it best that we end on a really positive note rather than me having to deal with a horse getting increasingly anxious in the noise.
I realize that it sounds like I've gone back to kindergarten...in a way I have. But I'm also working hard to regain the ground I used to have...I'm choosing to be positive about finding my footing instead of being frustrated about having to make the ground back up.
Either way...it feels wonderful. I am grateful to have someone (two someones! - including my DSO who encourages me and doesn't begrudge the late suppers and long hours) willing to understand, to share time with me, and to encourage me. A beautiful gift.