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Fighting Frustration

You are on the brink of something big. You have put in the hours and practiced until you are blue in the face.  You have listened over and over to explanation after explanation of how to do what it is you are trying to accomplish. You are in the home stretch, or so you think… all to find that old familiar battle with frustration starting to bubble over. Before you know it, you feel like giving up and throwing in the towel. You say the words, “I can’t do this.” and you get off your horse.  Now you find you feel even more frustrated for quitting the task you were trying your hardest to make better. The all to familiar feeling of failure sets in.  You feel like you have let yourself down and your horse down. You walk back to the barn in disgust with yourself.  Are you ever going to get better and get closer to your goals? Does that scenario sound familiar? If it does, take a deep breath and relax.  You are no different from any other rider out there who struggles to learn something new. This too shall pass. I have come to find that I really invite those frustrating moments. Those moments are the calm before the storm so to speak. Not in a bad way however, in a good way. They are your learning blocks. They bring you one step closer to your end goal. You, as the rider, must make the decision to embrace those moments and muster up the strength to conquer it or quit and give up. I have come to find a few things over the years that help me when I feel those moments rearing their ugly head. The most important thing to remember is to never take it out on your horse. They are doing their best to help you as well. When you become frustrated, your signals become harder to decipher.  In that in one split second, you must make the decision whether it is your horse you are really mad at, or, are you mad at yourself for not being a better teacher or rider for your horse. The answer to that question is almost always that you are not using your mind to think through the situation logically. That is even more frustrating sometimes. You need to just STOP at that moment. When you feel like you can’t grasp a movement or you can’t connect with your horse to perform a maneuver, just stop!  Take a deep breath. Count to 20. Reach down and pet your horse. Your horse will more than likely take a deep breath and sigh too. Tell them ‘thank you’, stroke their neck and use a gentle tone in your voice. Ask them to show you how to become better. You will instantly feel a moment of sanity set in followed by a new thought process of what comes next. If all else fails, bend over in the saddle and embrace your horse’s neck with a great big hug. I can’t tell you the countless number of times this has worked for me. If you need to, step off your horse for a minute or two, walk around and gather your thoughts.  Then climb back on with a fresh thought process. You will feel much better after you have given yourself a few minutes to clear your head. Your horse will thank you as well for the break in momentum as things began to spiral in the wrong direction. They will also have a clean, fresh attitude. Set a new plan in motion immediately. This means that what you were doing was not working.  You need a different recipe. It doesn’t have to change much, but just think of one or two more steps that you can add in to make the difficult step easier for yourself and for your horse. Remember… you are the teacher and, if the teacher loses control of the situation, then the situation will spiral out of control. Become aware of what your frustration truly stems from. Sometimes, the frustration is fear of the situation or lack of confidence.  Most times, it’s lack of knowledge.  Lack of knowledge is simply not knowing how to deal with a specific situation. There is no harm in asking for help. Often a fresh set of eyes can pick out something very small that you may not have noticed you were doing. It doesn’t take long to learn a bad habit and habits are hard to break on your own without constant reminding. Ask a friend to watch over you or better yet take a video of you riding.  By watching the video, you can learn from your mistakes and see with your own eyes how your body may be triggering a system of events to occur.  Save the video so you can look back, after you have improved, and wonder how in the world you were ever worried about not being able to get past that in the first place. If your body position is giving you problems, sometimes off horse stretching, or strengthening exercises can help you drastically maintain a position under saddle. Sometimes riders are not strong enough to hold a position so they become frustrated because of strength maintenance. Remember good riders practice, practice, practice. Don’t be afraid of a little hard work. When you can’t get something, keep at it until you feel a small moment of improvement.  Then build on it. Stretching is necessary almost daily to keep your muscles from getting too tight. Often a rider’s seat is not the connected position because of the hip flexors getting too tight in the front of the thighs. The direct result is the hip angle closing and the seat slipping back. This causes such a big chain of events to happen throughout your body. You are left wondering how you could ride and keep your seat bones plugged in one day, and then, the next you are left wondering how in the world you are going to keep your seat from moving so much in the saddle. Keep yourself educated. This is the key!! Knowledge is powerful.  I have said it before, and I will continue to preach it. The more you know, the further you go. That is a rule I have with myself. It is a constant everyday occurrence for me to learn and educate myself. I educate myself about what is correct and also about what is incorrect. I study different trainers’ methods so I can become educated more for my clients. They always have questions about what a certain trainer is doing or why it is necessary. I sometimes don’t agree with that method, but it doesn’t make that method wrong.  It just makes that method different. It is my job to keep up with the different ways of training so I can re-route a horse and rider team to a system that works for both of them. Education always needs to be understood in order to work for someone. That is why it’s a constant battle to keep yourself sharp and focused. If you feel as though you don’t want to take on all that responsibility, then send that horse to a trainer so they can work through the issue that frustrates you the most.  This will help get you and your horse up and over that hump. Next time you feel that frustration fighting it’s way back, take a second to think about your options. It will not seem so bad after all when you treat it as a stepping-stone to get to where you want to be. Invite that frustration and learn to conquer it. This will make you the better trainer, and the better partner for your horse. Set your frustration free and move on with a new plan, and a better frame of mind. Your horse will learn to follow your lead.

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