Lesson #12 – anxiety

Being off from full-time riding these last two years (Dear One’s illness, our moves, the Job From Hell etc…) has clearly done a number on my head. I can see where I was, where I am today and how the gap widened the more time I took off.

I don’t feel particularly guilty or upset about the time taken off because really I did the best that I could do considering where life was taking me. However, it could become frustrating if I let it so I just am not going to dwell on it. Focus on where I am today and deal with that.

One thing to deal with is the anxiety that comes and goes. It seems to be keyed to certain things, but not rational things. I know disrupting my routine, environmental changes (i.e. weather, different arena etc…) , or riding a horse I have not built a trust with increases my anxiety.

I think the only solution is MORE riding… and this is where people with confidence or riding fears give up. They get frustrated or worried or simply afraid to continue. To a certain point the old Wives Tale of riding to get rid of your fear is correct (but where it fails is when people continue to ride dangerous horses instead of finding a mount that is more compatible).

If I can work through the anxiety – just continue pushing through whatever it is, I find that it just vanishes. One minute it’s there and the next it is not. It’s irksome that it happens, but it also is an opportunity to work through it and come out the other side.

This anxiety is really screwing with my seat; I am thinking I may need to work out a little short Yoga stretching plan to relax my back and hips before I mount up.

I’ve taken to calling the place where my seat is correct, the Sweet Spot, because it makes the horse happy when I get there. It is going to be terribly hard to explain it all to you readers because of several reasons:

1.) We have in our mind where we think our body is and then there is what  the body is actually doing. Depending on how Body Aware you are, this gap between thinking and doing may be quite wide. For example, those who are very involved in dance, martial arts, or Yoga would probably be very Body Aware; out of shape, middle-aged women like myself… well not so aware. 🙂

Videotaping can really, really help you in understanding this and start closing the gap between reality and assumptions. However, it’s also important not to be horribly critical when watching yourself. Remember, to get rid of the personal emotion and just watch to assess and improve.

Taking up some sort of sport/exercise which is very balance-oriented (i.e. Yoga, Martial Arts, and even simple isometric exercises) can also help.

2.) Your feeling of “correctiveness” may be way wrong because of #1. Riding in your habitual seat will feel “correct” just because it’s a habit and is a nice comfy spot.

This is where you will need to rely heavily upon your horse to tell you that you have indeed reached the Sweet Spot. Getting feedback by listening to how your horse responds to your experiments is invaluable.

3.) Once you get a pretty decent seat, to really develop that independence you start dealing with miniscule changes. Because these changes are physically small but powerful to your horse, your instructor or grounds person may not really see what you are doing at this point.

That’s why it’s really important to get an instructor AND horse who you can develop a looping feedback during your experiments.

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