wobbleberrychallenge

Getting Schooled & Understanding Fear, Part 1

The anticipated cross-country schooling day was here. It was time to head to the Little Downham where I will eventually ride my test for the Wobbleberry Challenge.

It's been awhile since my last outing with my trainer and I wanted to show her how hard I've been to working to develop my legs and my seat. After 5 months of riding 5-6x a week, I finally felt like something was happening down there.  I can tell you my legs have been sore for MONTHS. 

Out of the phases in eventing, cross-country is the most thrilling and the one that gives me the most mental grief, but not for the obvious reasons. 

It's not the galloping nor the jumping nor the combo of the two. I've hunted on a strange horse with limited brakes in a 50+plus field with people I don't know and have jumped everything.   "Point horse, keep eyes up,  legs on either side of the horse" and go. I've been on cross country hacks where we jump everything in front of us. So I know I can do it but the question is...

Can I do it alone? 

This is the first time I will direct a galloping horse over a course of 20+jumps for at least 5 minutes.   Let's ponder that from the perspective of a first time eventer. 

Shit balls. 

Not only is it getting around safely or frankly, just getting around, it is being the leader. It is about the partnership with your horse, it is about some serious leg on and driving them forward. One a personal note, it's also trying not to vomit from nerves; I have been greatly heartened to hear many top event riders also suffer from this affliction. 

It is learning not to let the fear and anticipation over-ride the brave pants that you put on. It is about finding those brave pants and pulling them up to your eyeballs while also wearing the bra of courage so all areas are covered.   It's also knowing the types of fear so you can best prepare yourself. There are 2 types of fear.

                                                     Instinctual + fear of the unknown. 

Instinctual protects us from harm.  This originates from our caveman days when we had to protect our youngins and survive from serious threats,  you know, like dinosaurs. We honed our spider senses to ensure we kept alive, which is still within us today, for the most part.  Instinctual fear is what kept my daughters and me alive when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit us. On the approach, I sensed he was going too fast, I knew something wasn't right and because of that, I  was able to slam on the brakes and save lives. 

Fear of the unknown is exactly that, we fear the unknown. We have no idea what is going to happen.  We visualize, we analyze, we purpose, we discuss, we have an inkling but we can never predict what will happen. We just don't know. This is the mystery of life and since we can't predict when we are going to die, we have an obligation to ourselves and our families to live each day fully. 

I have seen fear show up when I teach handstands in a yoga class. In order to support someone's journey towards a handstand, we look at fear and work on the components to lessen those fears. It's not always quick, the progression to the goal can take some time, but knowing how to diminish some elements of what is causing the fear is the key to success. 

Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 

Whether it's doing a handstand or jumping a fence, fear can present the same way. How we deal with it is the key. 

 

Riding cross country has elements of both fears for me. As a Mother, self-preservation is high on my list of priorities. I have a family that I want to be around for. In order to lessen the instinctual fear we take preventative measures such as body protectors, proper helmets, we train and put preparations in place. We ride a good horse, we work with a trainer and we stay on top of our tack and equipment etc. These all help to lessen the instinctual fear so we are both protected and confident. Then we can deal with Fear of the Unknown. 

I have no frigging idea what is going to happen on the day but here are my two biggies.

1. I will pull up because I fear we are going slightly out of control and won't approach the jump correctly. This will lead to me being unseated and doing a tumble hurting all the bones in my body which do not bounce anymore. To clarify further, it is not the falling off rather it is the moment of complete uncertainty when you know something bad is happening and you have no idea how to stop it. Like those horrible dreams when you experience yourself falling and can't do anything about it?  It's THAT moment and you just pray you are alive on the other side.

2. The other is that I will pull up because I've over-worried myself into thinking I can't do it, that I don't have the balls to get around a course, that I will let everyone down. That I will then start a cycle of talk in my head of 'I'm not good enough' which will spiral into horrible icky feelings and into a bottle of whiskey.  This is old childhood stuff that has taken me years to look at and address.  It is my roller bag of 'stuff' that follows me everywhere and yes, you have one too that is unique to you. These roller bags, while often feel like a burden, are also a blessing when we learn they don't have to control our lives, rather we learn how to deal with it, flick the switch and engage qualities like perseverance, dedication, and our will to keep moving forward to our dreams. Trust me, the roller bag does decrease in size each time we TRY. 

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. It is a brutal sport and for some damn reason, I love it. 

This is why the Wobbleberry Challenge is good for me. I am doing something that I have loved for years and actually doing something about it. The best part is that I'm also raising money for seriously ill kids. Have you donated to my cause yet? Please support, we'd really appreciate any donation!

It is pushing me into the heaviest mental game of my life. Every time I ride, sorry let me re-phrase,  every time I ride or take a lesson with my trainer she pushes my mental game. My self-doubt game is strong but my love for eventing is stronger. It is what makes me show up, day after day with my shit, my insecurities, my frozen shoulder, the constant aches and pains and my limited budget( horses are expensive). My love for the sport, the desire to see what I'm capable of and the memory of Hannah forces me to face the jitters because I know the value of this journey far outweighs my meager complaints.  

We went off to our first session of Cross country schooling. 

Thank goodness Frog was so polite as my damn legs that I was so proud of basically went to shit.  It was rather embarrassing however my trainer put us through a lovely warm up with Frog jumping everything with ease and eagerness. Honestly, he was so good. 

After about 20mins my legs felt like they started to work again. My trainer continued with some through lovely combinations, included the dreaded ditch. We went through the water and we jumped stuff I've never faced. She linked jumps for us to build the effect of a course and Frog didn't put a foot wrong. I think he knows I'm still a little unsure and is still holding my hand over the jumps. 

 

It was a great first experience, Little Downham is a welcoming course and aside from riding the course like a show-jumper( must work on that) I loved it. Frog was so damn good and a testament to the owner's hard work and training with him. I would not be where I am as a rider without them both. Frog does have an engine that can go up a couple of gears but he stayed very steady giving me loads of confidence which is all this Wobbleberry can ask for.  We are getting there slowly but surely but not without the ups and downs. Some of my groom skills need developing and my horse handling may not always be the strongest but I don't give up.  The one thing I've learned from teaching handstands for so many years, this is key to putting fear back in the corner and not letting it lead the way. 

Thanks for reading!

Love, Tahnee

part 2: When you part ways, coming soon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Stressage to Dressage

The trainer had decided it was time to focus on dressage. Dressage being the first element of the 3 in eventing and on a side note, my least favorite. 

Dressage is often called the ballet of the equestrian world.  It is 'the highest expression of horse training'( so says FEI);  it is incredibly difficult, powerful and only interesting if you actually know what's going on.

I have never studied dressage nor used a dressage saddle, not practiced the movements and yet dressage is necessary to ensure your horse is moving right, effectively and with impulsion in all disciplines. Ideally the better at dressage, the better you are at riding.

With the intent on dressage, it means long painful and very frustrating lessons in the saddle with legs that ache for days.  I use parts of my legs I don't think my legs even know exist. 

To take a dressage test also means learning the test. At best I can barely remember what I did yesterday. 

My problem is not understanding what is being asked of me: more leg, more bend, more impulsion, MORE CONTACT. I get this.

My problem is execution. 

My seat in the saddle is still weak, my pelvis is slightly twisted, my left side collapses, I have a frozen shoulder and knee issues. Can you imagine if I didn't do yoga? I shudder to think. 

 

Dressage is the element that I find the most difficult. It requires absolute presence; you cannot let your mind wander.   The same applies when doing a headstand in yoga; alignment, presence, and awareness are key.  If you throw yourself up, you risk injuring the tiny vetabrea we like to call your neck.  A headstand without proper alignment is potentially dangerous; the same goes with eventing. It is imperative you have a responsive, willing and listening horse. With show jumping, I can get away with a certain amount of lack in my riding ability, mostly because the jumps are small.

Point horse and jump. I cannot fake dressage. 

I am ill prepared for what I've chosen to do in this Wobbleberry Challenge. I don't own a proper riding jacket, nor a stock( still trying to figure that one out) my one show shirt is over 7 years old, my pair of beige jodhpurs do not stretch and fit poorly inside my boots. *took me years to realize I'm a breeches only girl. I'm seriously lacking in the equestrian kit, however, if you need yoga leggings, let's just say I stopped count at +20. Fortunately, my trainer lent me a beautiful vintage Caldene jacket and a stock that may have needed some ironing. Just saying. 

After many session of working 'dressage', our test was booked. My trainer decided since we were making the drive, it made sense to do not one test, but TWO! Great. How is my memory to cope? 

I wasn't too nervous, mostly because in dressage there are no elements to jump. This causes much ease inside my stomach. And why did I pick eventing?!

My trainer works me in the warm-ups which is slightly sadistic that I am afraid to admit I both like and hate. She works me so hard that I want to get off and cry. She doesn't give me an inch, not one. It's work. every. stride, every damn one.  It gets the grey matter in my head focused and I dislike it because it's bloody hard work. I feel like I can never do what she is asking, all I do is turn more and more red in the face, not a look I like and probably why I stay away from hot yoga. *I'm only half kidding here. 

With my mantra being 'not to stay no',  this means I attempt everything she asks of me, even as I'm suffering and dying on the inside cursing myself for the immense love I have for this sport. 

Honestly, I'm becoming to think yoga is easier than dressage. 

There was no let-up, even on the way into the test.

Work. Every. Stride.  

Moments before the first test.

Moments before the first test.

Well, we didn't disgrace ourselves. I remembered the test and all the movements and I may not have saluted the judge properly but I think my big sloppy grin of relief hid that fact. 

Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

Starting to look the part but seriously, how handsome is the Ginger?!

During a short break, basically to find the toilet before back to the warm-up for round 2. After another short agonizing warm -up of  'will I ever get this?' we went into for our second test. 

The closest I have to smiling. 

The closest I have to smiling. 

We made a small mistake, which was totally my fault and spoke to the kind judge after. She gave me a few tips like saluting the judge without the whip in hand, which I thought was a valuable piece of information for the future. She also reminded me to breathe and after looking at the photos from the day, I pretty much grimaced the whole way round. 

Aside from that we did pretty good, in fact, we did bloody brilliant! We placed 1st in BOTH OF OUR CLASSES!  AND won a special prize for having the highest Wobbleberry score. *in fairness, there was only one other wobbleberry and she WON her class too! Win win for the Wobbleberries!

My first dressage experience was amazing. My hope was to do well, but I wasn't expecting to place first! Twice! The whole process is  completely addicting however I have realized I've set the bar quite high for myself now. 

The venue at Fenning Farm was lovely, the cake was gorgeous which I've realized is quite important when attending shows and everyone was so nice. 

 I cannot thank the Owner/Trainer enough for all the work she does with us. She was a brilliant groom who definitely inspired me to want to groom for her one day; I still have quite a bit to learn but I love it. Her coaching was the key to total success and because the Ginger is so wonderful I want to do a good job with him.  Those agonizing hours in the saddle were worth it and Frog was a superstar. I'm beginning to think as long as I can keep the vomit down in cross-country, we will be able to complete our goal of an 80T.

Time to prepare for cross country training. Even as I write this my hands are starting to sweat.  WIsh us luck, I'm gonna need it!

 

Some jumps, a buck and a little Yee-haw!

The Ginger Wonder Horse and I have a list of things that set us into a mad panic. The type of panic that makes the hands sweat, the tummy explode with butterflies and flight mode goes into over-drive.  That type of panic.  Actually, aside from the Ginger being an extremely good alien spotter, the nerves are entirely my own. The Ginger's first priority is food. Always. 

As we are progressing on our Wobbleberry Challenge, the owner decided it was time to cross country school at Keysoe Equestrian Center as one day soon,  I will have to ride a cross country course in a competition. Oh my nerves. 

A trip to the school requires a trip in the lorry. This means loading horses. I am claustrophobic.  This means more panic. 

The General( wanna-be boss) + the Ginger( the actual boss) were our equine companions for the day. The General is a class eventer also loves his job and is very good at it, even at the age of 18( hope for us all!) He and the Ginger are old buddies which made me feel better about travelling. 

I have zero experience with loading horses. Not only is this my first time loading, there is also my first time taking a horse to a schooling session and my first trip on a big lorry. I took calmers and didn't drink coffee before I left the house. I'm not kidding.

At least one of us is calm. 

At least one of us is calm. 

I have learned in previous loading clinics that you have to load like you mean it.  I marched up that ramp like I was marching for Britian keeping a calm demeanor outwardly while inwardly freaking out.   Frog is a superstar and didn't even blink. I think he may have even yawned. 

The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

The Ginger always cool, ready for action.

As we pulled in, my butterflies went into over-drive.    Oh god, it's happening.  

I'm supposed to jump these?

I'm supposed to jump these?

In our warm-up I held back, not putting enough leg on nor not getting Frog engaged. If I'm totally honest, I was so nervous as I've never been schooling for cross country. My experience with these type of jumps have been on hunts where you close your eyes, pray like hell, keep your legs on either side of the horse and hope you and your mount are still standing at the end of the day.

The reality sunk in, this is it. This is cross country training, this is real. Those are the jumps you will face. You are an eventer now. This ensued a little conversation with myself that went something like this.

Don't be an ass. Ride exactly as you would at home. Settle, exhale. Go. Move on. He's done this before. Be the leader. You won't die so settle the fuck down. Leg on. Work every stride. WORK EVERY STRIDE. Better. Nice. More. Ahhhhh. 

In no time, the owner, now officially in trainer mode had us popping over the jumps. 

Insert more freaking out here

The trainer does something which is quite helpful.  She says "Head over that piddly jump, then that other piddly little jump and that tinky little thing there. " Otherwise according to my brain, they are all are Burghley size.

As we got going around and popping over some piddly jumps,  I realised something very important. 

The Ginger has some power. 

Like the type of power that where the words 'holy shit' arise.  We started to sail around the course getting faster and faster which was both exhilarating and completely scary.  The trainer did not hold back or introduce this to me gently.  She wasted no time showing me what I would encounter on an actual course from the water element, the ledges going both up and down and the ditches. I'm not a fan of ditches and the Ginger is suspect of them too. 

The Ginger however, was a champ taking a lead off the General until he decided enough was enough. He was the actual leader and must demonstrate as such. Then the trainer had us taking jumps in combos and I was thinking 'I can handle this, this is kinda fun'. 'Progressing nicely', I thought, 'way to go!' down through the water 'easy' and up the ledge. 'Fine, no problems'. Back down the ledge, canter through the water element and over the tire jump

THEN HOLY SHIT, YEE-HAW!!!! WAS THAT A BUCK AND ANOTHER?  AND A RUN AWAY  RIGHT TO THE ACTUALLY C*3 SIZE JUMPS AND WOULD YOU FRIGGIN STOP?!?!?! AND ARE YOU REARING NOW WITH EXCITEMENT? OH LORDY.

We stopped. We exhaled, me particularly. We walked back to the Trainer whom I'm pretty sure was delighted that I a) didn't come off and b) didn't crash into the dressage competitions.  Once she saw we( me) calm-er she had us DO IT AGAIN.  And so we did and it was brilliant.  The owner can't remember the last time the Ginger had been out schooling so his excitement was to be expected. I was excited because I felt like I was evolving into an actual eventer rider. I didn't panic like I normally would have and I wanted to do more! This was huge for me. 

I came away from this experience with even more trust in the Ginger; he may be strong but he is also respectful. He goes from Yee-haw to Yawn within seconds. This is the greatest confidence booster a wobbleberry can have; he looks after me too.

The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

The palpable relief on my face compared to the total confidence of the General & the Trainer after the schooling session.

We crossed quite a few things off the nervy bucket list and I left feeling quietly accomplished.  The whole experience was super and I look forward to more trips out getting closer to achieving eventing success raising money in the Wobbleberry Challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony!

 

 

 

Staying grounded through the Full Moon

One aspect of the Wobbleberries that many of us hold in common is nerves; we come with a roller bag full of them. 

We also share the common love of horses and doing great things in the world; it is this love that drives us forward to over-coming our nerves to complete the Wobbleberry challenge for Willberry Wonder Pony.

Nerves happen. They arise from a variety of reasons. The experience of nerves are mostly the same no matter what makes you shake in your boots a little or alot.  

Cold sweat, butterflies in the tummy, negative self-talk & self-doubt which leads to questioning ability, sweaty palms, runs to the toilet, can't eat, can't stop eating etc. 

Nerves can be felt more deeply on the approach to the full moon, which is happening this Sunday.  The full moon can affect our sleep patterns and we can feel ungrounded, unsettled with bouts of anxiety added in. The thought of actually riding, let alone jumping is enough to send a person back to bed. 

I experienced the worst of my nerves recently in a lesson. It didn't help the night before I slept badly (full moon wake up calls at 4:32exactly) had an extra cup of strong coffee which gave me the jitters and a lunch that was light-weight at best. 

The full moon has a gravitational pull on the earth which causes big tides in the ocean. We can feel this gravitational effect on our emotions, thus the feeling of being 'not in body'. Full moons are great for contemplation and for solitude time. It's an opportunity to take a quiet step back to re-visit your intentions and goals. It's normal to feel slightly anti-social through a full moon; you may also feel more tired. What's key is listening to your body, your needs right now and not to take mishaps personally, like forgetting to turn the slow-cooker on in the morning of a big day. It helps to laugh it off and blame it on the moon. 

If you are sensitive to the full moon, here is a list of things to help keep you grounded until she wanes again. 

full moon fever got you mad?

full moon fever got you mad?

1. Turn off your social media 1hr at least before bed. The light of your screen can trigger awake responses in your brain. Turn it off, drink sleepy time tea, find a book and a blanket and let yourself actually settle down for sleep. Don't get wound up in other people's lives, let yourself digest your own day and experience. You will sleep better for it. Re-visit your goals and your intentions, chat with your beloved, do your gratitude list. This will prepare your mind for a good night rest and the next morning.

2. Rub your feet with oil. I use organic sesame oil with quite a few drops of rose aromatherapy oil, but any calming oil will do. Doing this right before bed helps to relax the whole body and also makes for happy feet. Having a bath first is also a lovely idea. I sometimes bring a sneaky wine in. 

3. Breath. When you are driving, riding, walking, sitting, waiting for tea, each and every time you can think of it, take a breath.  Allow it to be steady. Many times we aren't aware of our breathing patterns, start to focus on how you breathe allowing the inhale and exhale to be equal in length and depth. A few minutes of this and you will notice a sense of calm that follows.  I prefer this calm to the shouting at my kids in the morning when we need to GO!

4. Move your body. Go for a hack on your horse,  walk in nature,  go swimming, work in your garden. Movement without exertion. Try to avoid high energy impact places and people right now that will overwhelm the body and mind. The key is to move the body, but not over stimulate the adrenals and nervous system. You do want to release nervous energy by doing something, not jacking up your system into flight mode. Now is not the time to drink whiskey and head to a dance club, think long walks in nature followed by a visit to a quiet pub for conversation and chips.  You will thank yourself the next day, trust me I speak from experience. 

5. Listen to what you need. It may be rest. It may be a run. It may be a dance party in your kitchen. Tune into the deeper messages the full moon offers, it may mean you take a rare afternoon nap, or say no to a girl's night out. Anxiety rears its head leading up to the full moon so I cut back on coffee, increase my water intake,  unwind earlier, allow myself to feel tired, eat good chocolate if necessary( always necessary), write in my daily eventing journal and know that soon the moon will turn again.

The best way to unwind thoughts in the mind...Notebook from Stamford Notebooks. 

The best way to unwind thoughts in the mind...Notebook from Stamford Notebooks. 

 

Take heed of what is arising for you. Be patient with yourself and others( they may be feeling it too). Nourish yourself with good food and time in nature. Let yourself write it out. Be kind to yourself and don't take on more then you can handle. Most importantly, the moon will wane and we will back to 'normal' again soon! 

Happy Full Moon Fever!