Petey and I cantered for the first time during our last cowboy dressage clinic! It was quite a milestone for both of us. And, it could have gone quite differently, if I allowed my obsessive thoughts to run the show. I’ll share (make myself vulnerable!), because this type of thing is so detrimental to confidence.
Since we first starting our riding journey, Petey and I have been focusing on his balance and comfort. Of course, working on my balance, position, and body control were included in this plan. We had been doing a lot of walking around, getting used to going in and out of the arena, and getting the big brown horse used to leaving the herd and going out on his own. It has been great for his muscles, my body awareness, and our partnership.
In our practice, I was starting to feel that including canter work would be helpful. From the ground, I asked him to canter while wearing the saddle a couple of times. There was usually some bucking and flailing involved. I had in mind that I would include some of that in our routine until the antics decreased and his balance increased. Then, it would be time to try cantering from up on his back.
Last Saturday, the structure of our clinic was different. We each got a private lesson with Phil rather than group rides. This was the perfect set up for what Petey and I needed. As we were trotting around, Phil instructed me to have Petey go faster. I was working on this, and was surprised to hear that he still wasn’t tracking up. (Educated eyes on the ground are so very important!)
Best that I could, I encourage Petey to trot bigger. Then, Phil asked me how much we cantered. I have a strong suspicion that he already knew we hadn’t done that yet. That was when my mind started. First, it started trying to remember the minutia of the aids required to set up my horse and ask for the canter. Then it jumped, to OMG, are we really ready for this? Keep in mind that I don’t think I’ve hardly cantered on a horse since my daughter was born. She turned 10 in July. For so many reasons, this was the perfect time, yet my mind was on the verge of causing me to panic or back down.
Fortunately, I was aware of my runaway thoughts. Sometimes, it can be tricky to catch them, or recognize that they aren’t always the truth of the situation. If we don’t catch them, they can cause havoc with our emotions, especially by bringing up doubt or fear.
I chose to focus on the trust I have in both my instructor and my horse. I feel in my heart that they will both take care of me to the best of their abilities. I stopped the thoughts by focusing on what Phil was telling me. My instructions were to canter when I turned the corner to head down the long side where Phil was standing. K. Got it. I trotted into the corner, thought “canter”…….and it happened! There was no bucking, there was no scrambling. We cantered and it was fun!! Petey broke into a trot a couple of times, and on his own picked the canter back up. We went around a couple of times, and then switched directions and did some more. Thank goodness I went with trust and released my doubt. I heard one of the auditors comment that I hadn’t stopped smiling the whole time. In fact, at times my eyes welled up because I was so full of gratitude and appreciation.
Is there room for improvement? Absolutely, with both Petey’s transitions and gaits and my riding. There always will be, however, and focusing on that can reduce the amount of joy and feeling of accomplishment. We will chalk that lesson up as a huge success.
For so many of us, our doubt can take away our successes. We have the right to own our successes, even if they might not qualify for anyone else. Catching our runaway thoughts can make all the difference. Thank you to Phil and Petey for one of the most memorable rides I have ever had. I am so lucky and thankful. Now, off to catch up a big brown horse…..