Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Sport Psyc 101

Ok much as I *despise* being cold, I have to give winter one thing -- the sky, on a really cold, clear, winter night, is beyond amazing. N yes I might've *almost* crashed the hay-cart into a tree cause I was star-gazing in the most literal sense of the word *g* But I realized it in time so it's all good :)

Sorry things've been a little sporadic lately -- BOTH jobs are absolutely insane at the moment; this means I get home from the barn late and then have several hours of office type work to do -- I'm afraid blogging time is what gets cut... Blah. But such is life eh?

*we now interrupt your usually scheduled program*

So I'm not doing Nanowrimo (that'd be National Novel Writers Month: :) this year - SOMEthing had to give - and am somewhat disappointed about it, but (as I was writing today's post) a nano-friend of mine suggested the blog version which now exists -- and THAT I think I can do :) Soooo IF I pull it off, there will be posts every day this month. Don't know if that's a GOOD thing or not -- may not even be technically possible over the two days we're moving, but I'll figure something out :) hahaha

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program...

As you know, we're moving soon. This is proving to be a somewhat entertaining process -- esp as for reasons I really don't understand they move a bunch of stuff back and forth that doesn't get used at the other location. For instance -- buckets. Today they took down dozens of buckets from the storage shed and packed them... Now the fact that they were IN the storage shed shows that they *never* get used (@ least not here, which leads one to wonder why they got packed and BROUGHT here in the first place!)... N really, how hard would it be to have a set of buckets at each barn? There's TONS of these sorts of things that just leave me shaking my head... But hey, to each their own right?

Today's theory was sport/horse-psyc... "When you're riding, you have to be a trainer, not a competitor". If you think this one through, it makes a lot of sense. Goes along w/ the whole "ride the horse you're sitting on" concept. And of course, it's absolutely true -- if you get on your horse saying "we absolutely have to do X now" there's no way it's going to happen. In fact, it's a pretty safe way to guarantee it won't happen. And I'd be willing to bet anybody who's ridden for any length of time in any discipline will have tried it at some point, and failed miserably. hahaha I can SEE you nodding :) Of course we know I have a rather vivid imagination *g* N yes I'm guilty too -- Zel drilled that into me far better than any other horse I've ever sat on. But I eventually listened... And learned...

Ok so it's not that you just never have a plan, but more that you stick w/ the training scale and if you don't make it TO your plan you accept that and work on what needs to be done. So in dressage, if the temp has dropped 10 deg and the wind has picked up and your horse is a *little* fresh (read: "running around like a giraffe on crack" - to borrow a $700 Pony phrase), it is perhaps *not* the appropriate time to introduce piaffe. hahaha That day (esp if you are NOT a fan of the go-gallop-your-horse-before-dressage school of training) you may very well spend the whole ride finding and installing his brain. Also known as step one of said scale: relaxation. Or in jumping when your horse has SUDDENLY REALIZED there are MONSTERS living under the 2' log that he's seen a million times b4, it is, perhaps, not the day to introduce ditches. Even though there's a ditch on the course you're running next wknd.

As competitors we get very focused on what needs to be done to win the next event, reach the next level, etc etc... But as trainers we need to focus on the horse as an athlete, and what does that athlete need to work on, or even is ABLE to work on, in any given day -- w/o the "I want" in there. The horse really couldn't care less that champs are in a week. Or that your upgrade is next Sat. He sees monsters today and that's that. It's only AFTER you get rid of the monsters that you can perhaps negotiate your way to the competitor's goals -- and the only way you'll do that is to put aside the competitor and bring in the trainer.

Then to follow along w/ that is the two ways of convincing your horse to do something: persuasion and coercion... We all aim for the first (obviously :) but it's all too give in to the 2nd... You WILL do it and you'll do it NOW! Which, admittedly, is *occasionally* required. But most of the time we slide into that mode almost w/o knowing it -- the leg gets a little stronger, the hands get busy, the mind starts going "would you just DO it." N once the mind kicks in you're toast. Cause then you'll be tense and try to force it, and once the horse feels that he'll be tense. N last time I checked tense was the opposite of relaxed... Which puts you BELOW step one. Not a good place to be to fix things. (see above competitor vs trainer paragraph :) hahaha

In most sports, training the athlete psyc is how to get "into-the-zone" or remain focused or push through the wall or whatever. Riding is the *only* sport that requires this level of mental agility. To both be determined, focused, and competitive enough to make it to the top (as required for all sports); and at the same time be able to entirely turn that off to train the horse (who most definitely is not determined, focused, or competitive -- except maybe about food!) to take you there. Can you imagine if the tennis racket suddenly decided to be afraid of the ball? Would make that sport a WHOLE lot more fun to watch. Or if the soccer ball decided it'd rather eat grass than go into the net? Or if the gymnast's bar decided it didn't want to stay straight? We'd have some VERY entertaining sports :) And, more importantly, how many of those athletes would be able to deal w/ it?

So that's an awful lot extrapolated from one sentence -- see I really DID get an English degree *g* -- but I know it's something I'm guilty of so I guess it struck home... Can't count how many times my coaches have told me "you KNOW how to ride, everything now is mental." (well except for my foray into dressage -- there I DON'T know how to ride so there's still lots to fix! hahaha) anyways -- this is the first one I've ridden w/ who attempts to train the mental aspect as much, if not more, than the physical. He just expects that the physical skills to be there. Which I guess is fair enough given the level of most of his students.

Ok, I think it's time to stop now :)


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