Nine months ago, I suggested to Kathy that we consider entering her in some young pony qualifiers, since she is small enough to be classed as a dressage pony, and I thought she had the temperament. It would be beneficial for Charm as it would further her education, and we could see how she fared with the pressure of competition. So we entered her for some qualifiers.
Interestingly enough, our two best scores, including our qualifying score, happened the same weekend, and the following weekend, that my horse Millie, got a blockage in her bowel and was put to sleep. Funny how the greatest things happen when one is faced with adversity. It is true, the old adage of mind over matter. I was crying when I mounted Charm and warmed her up, but I had a job to do, I had to block out everything else, leave it outside the competition arena, and focus only on riding Charm.
Next Tuesday, Charm and I will be riding in the same draw as one of my instructors, and another rider who is well respected and known, both are FEI riders. However, once again. I have a job to do. Charm and I have been training consistently to improve her movement and carriage. I have a plan of how I am going to ride her, and I will focus only on that plan. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter who else is riding in the ring with us. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what sort of fancy ponies they might be riding. Charm and I have qualified, we have as much right to be there, we have a plan, and we will stick to it. We will ride the test as we have trained it at home.
In the same way, when I have riders come to lessons with me, sometimes they come with their "stories", their baggage, their negative thoughts that they are not good enough. I tell them that their stories have to stay at the front gate. That they are good enough, and they must tell themselves that as well. Interestingly enough, I had a student come for a lesson with me, and her whole body language was submissive, she spoke with low self esteem. She told me she was nervous, and I watched her shake as she mounted "Gypsy" for her first lesson.
The mind is an amazing tool. I told this student, in her first lesson, to yawn, and tell me how boring riding was. I am sure she thought I was crazy. But the action of yawning causes the body to relax, and telling yourself that something is boring also causes the body to relax. She was so busy laughing at the thought of having a lesson on yawning and dying of boredom that she forgot about being nervous.
She brought her "stories" to her next lesson, full of "I'm not worthy" about herself and her riding ability. In this lesson, I told her from now on, she was to turn off the negative tapes and leave them at the front gate. We talked about body language, and how important a tool it is when working with horses, as they are experts in body language, and that she needed to bring more energy to her body, and learn to proclaim to the world "I am a great rider". Naturally, she struggled with this, because she didn't believe it, and if she didn't believe it, then the horse would never believe her. She mounted Gypsy. I made her proclaim to, with conviction, "I am a great rider". The difference in Gypsy, was amazing.
Naturally quiet, Gypsy will only work as hard as the rider asks her to. In the first lesson, Gypsy plodded. She was going nowhere in hurry. In the second lesson, with my student proclaiming, with life and energy, "I am a great rider", Gypsy took notice, started going forward with a marching walk and forward trot. Gypsy believed her rider.
Next week, I will leave my own negative tapes at home. They will not be welcome on the truck when we leave for Werribee. I will tell myself, I am a great rider, and I have a great horse. I do have a great horse. She is honest. She tries. When and if I get anxious, I will remind myself of how boring competing in dressage really is, and I will remember to yawn. And we will ride and present to the best of our abilities, exactly as we have trained at home.