Learning When to Push It

Learning When Not to Push It
It has been 6 days since my tumble off of Joe. The first three days, I was so sore that I was taking at least 3 Advil every promptly every 4 hours, taking extra vitamin C, and alternating heat and ice on my back, neck and shoulders. At one point I even resorted to drinking extra coffee because caffeine is an active ingredient in painkillers.

Thankfully, the stiff muscles are mostly gone, and my elbow is healing up pretty well. The bruise on my back has turned yellow so I know that’s fading, too. All that’s left is a deep stiffness/twinging under where that bruise is fading when I move in the wrong way (i.e. standing from a sitting position, walking with too big of strides, twisting, lifting…you know, just regular living). I’ve decided not to ride in my usual lesson tomorrow, to give myself enough time to heal and not end up with a long-term issue.

Okay, confession: I did ride on Friday. We had our first show team ride in the evening and I figured I could manage some sore muscles. And it was okay during the ride, but after I was in a lot of pain. So, even though I’m itching to ride and I can see the show season on the horizon, I know I need to wait a bit longer. This is not the time to push it.

Pushing It vs. Not Pushing It
On Friday I rode Husky for the first time in months and it was wonderful to be back on him! It took awhile for him to remember who was on his back, and that when I ask for a working trot, I mean working trot now, not a sort-of-working-trot-kind-of-more-like-a-jog. We had to have a bit of a…discussion about this point. He started getting fussy about having to actually work hard, and I told him to get over it. He did. After that, he was much more forward, light in my hands, and not as heavy on the forehand. Lovely. Sometimes it’s necessary to push your horse through an argument to reassert that your aids have meaning.

Husky has a habit of sucking back and slowing down on the approach to fences. I could even feel him doing it over ground poles on Friday so I focused on staying steady and forward on the approach. It took a lot of pushing at first but he did become more consistent. We then started doing some gridwork, and made our way up to a line of 3 – a ground pole, a small vertical and then a slightly larger (but still small) vertical. Keeping in mind Husky’s tendency to suck back, I asked him to lengthen all the way up to the ground pole. Thankfully (in this case), he ignored me, because that was the wrong thing to do. Had Husky lengthened when I asked, we would have landed too far from the middle jump for a good takeoff and we’d have been in trouble.

This started a conversation with Leanne about when to push and when not to push. Ideally, of course, you should be set up and locked in at 4 strides out. Unfortunately, counting strides and judging distances is not one of my strong suits – and not just in riding, this is true in life, too. When someone tells me something is 100 feet away or 25 yards away, I literally have no idea how to judge that. I’ll learn. I’ll probably start telling people distances in horse strides: “So, after the light, drive about 6 strides and it’s on the left.”

Essentially, I have to figure out how to live in the space between pushing it and not pushing it. I have to figure out how to push Husky to be more forward instead of sucking back, but I have to be careful not to push him so much that I mess up his striding. I foresee a lot of counting strides in my future. Which is good, because I like becoming a better equestrian, and I will be more equipped to support my horse in the way that he needs at any given time. Sometimes it baffles me how much riders have to do unconsciously. Learning to do something on autopilot – like counting strides, or posting on the correct diagonal, or supporting with the appropriate aid, or anything really – takes so much practice. And starting on a new skill feels weird and uncomfortable, but I just have to remember that pretty soon it’ll be as natural as posting is now.

That being said, the whole push-but-don’t-push scenario reminds me of this scene from Forgetting Sarah Marshall:

Hee! Gets me every time.

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8 thoughts on “Learning When to Push It

  1. I love your comment about directions in stride length. Cody and I were looking for trees to set up our hammock between, and I jokingly pointed at two far apart trees. He said, “Nah, that’s at least 25 feet.” In my mind, it was 10 feet. I reevaluated it and determined it to be 2 looong strides away, roughly 22-24 feet; then it made perfect sense haha!

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    1. Haha that’s too funny! Although maybe I should start doing that – guessing distances and then walking them off. Then I might become the crazy lady in the neighborhood though!

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      1. Haha…do you own lots of cats? Cuz then you definitely would be the crazy lady down the street. Especially if you mutter to yourself while you walk the distances.

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  2. So true. I am getting over a severe back injury that I aggravated by riding the entire show weekend drugged so I couldn’t feel my back. Rest…you’ll love yourself later!

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    1. I am trying. I was really tempted to go do ground work last night but I told myself that if the horse spooked or pulled too hard to something, I would still need fully-functioning back muscles.

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