I used to be able to gallop up to a 1.20m jump like it was a cross-rail. I was fearless. I would ride anything and everything, and I would ride all day without missing a beat. An hour in a jumping lesson was nothing. Riding two lessons in one day with no stirrups was nothing. I never got winded. I never stopped to think about “danger”, and I loved every ounce of this sport. I dreamed of becoming a professional. I knew I was going to be a trainer and have a lesson barn full of kids on ponies, killing it at all the big shows.
Then I aged out. I started going to college, and I began riding less. I moved on from my barn job in favor of a real job. I sold my jumper and let go of my catch ride. I began drinking more alcohol, and I got fatter and much more out of shape. I moved out of the area of my trainer and into a different state. I began riding on my own and attempting to train a horse with so many problems and no help. I began to hate riding, and I became disheartened. I have been in an amateur rut.
There comes a point in life when you have to look back at your accomplishments as a child and cut them away. They were great memories for me, but I kept holding myself to THAT standard. I kept telling myself “I should be able to canter three circles without getting winded! I should be able to ride anything without feeling scared! I should be able to jump a 2’6 vertical at a canter without wanting to vomit!” I have to cut that out of my head, because if I keep beating myself up, I will never get better. It is so hard not to be your own worst critique, but I found that videoing myself helps somewhat. I will have a ride or a jump that feels AWFUL, but I will watch the video and it actually wasn’t that bad. I watch the videos and try to help myself pick apart the small, easy things that I could change (example: shoulders back and not hunched). I watch videos, clinics, and tips of professionals and big name riders. Anything to give me the visual of correct!
I have also began trying to eat healthier (but I cheat), drink less, and exercise more. I can’t go to any workout classes because of time, but I can do some core exercises and beginners yoga in my room. It’s easy enough to take 30 minutes out of my day to try and make a little progress, even if it means going to bed later or not getting a between work and school nap. Finally, I need to maximize ride time. If I don’t get to canter because I feel tired, I need to do more exercises during my hacks to help both of us. Once I can perform better, CW can also perform better. BioRider Fitness has some great tips and training packages! I highly suggest checking them out.
I am not out of my rut, however I am working hard to overcome the negativity I put myself through. It’s hard when you can only get to the barn twice a week or so, but I have a will and there is a way. I just have to make myself work hard and not overthink what I do. I need to channel my inner child and move soft with my horse. The elusive soft, forward seat will come back to me one day. Until then, I will work hard and retrain my body to think like the “young me”, and I won’t dwell on my past accomplishments as a security blanket for bad riding.