I’ve been thinking a lot about my confidence–how it’s created, how it sometimes gets crushed, and how I take certain steps to rebuild it. Just when I think I’ve reached a peak in my riding, some new challenge creeps in and seems to test my commitment to Gugi. I suppose it’s part of the cycle of highs and lows, peaks and valleys, pride and humility, laughter and tears…

My last posts in March point to a recent peak / accomplishment: being able to canter Gugi. As much as I’d love to say that the past few months have been spent developing a softer canter than the previous videos I posted, I can’t even say that I have cantered intentionally at all. I’ve actually been dreading this post for about two months because there’s no way I can write without mentioning my first fall off Gugi. And I can’t not write about it because I think it’s part of the reason why I’ve been struggling to gain back my confidence. By not writing about the fall, I haven’t fully reflected on what happened and how I can move past it with deeper understanding. Sure, I’ve replayed the whole scene in my mind a thousand times, but that just feeds the reactive, emotional side of me. It’s like my mind’s eye has sensationalized it and labeled it with some exaggerated headline: “Malicious Mare’s Rear.” Yes, that’s exactly what I saw flashing at the bottom of my TV screen mind! So rather than re-casting the event as some huge tragedy, I’ll give basic details of my fall and then focus more on what major take-aways or lessons I’ve learned.

I was in a lesson with trainer Kim and we were working on my less balanced, and therefore more difficult, direction at the canter: the left. I got Gugi into the canter, but then started clutching with my legs and not allowing her to move forward. Hands and arms locked and got tight on her mouth. Her canter felt stiff and short-stepped, almost spiraling in towards the center of the ring. Instead of allowing her to move out and forward, I kept bracing myself against her, never finding her rhythm. She rightfully got upset with me and started tossing her head a bit and crow-hopping. What I should have done at this point was an emergency turn in a tight circle, disengaging the hindquarters, but I just kept pulling back causing her to rear up and flip to the side. Luckily we were both uninjured–unless, of course, we count my crumbled confidence as injured.

Confidence. It really is a complex and fragile thing. On the day of the accident, I thought I’d never get to the point where I could try cantering again. I was completely defeated. But, with careful attention to details, I spent a good two weeks really feeling her again at the walk. I became very interested in all the finer footwork (especially disengaging the hindquarters) that could help me in future emergency situations. Overall, though, it’s my feel on her mouth and finding the rhythm through my arms, core, and seat that I’ve been forced to pay closer attention to now. I’ve learned that some falls need to happen to force you to learn something louder and clearer, so to speak.

Peaks and Valleys.

To end this post I’ve been actually dreading to write, I’ll close with two clips that I would call peaks.

Both videos are of us trotting again for the first time after the fall. I think it was only 4-5 days later. These are from a lesson with visiting dressage trainer Bridget.