I think everyone has experienced those times where you sit back and just realize that life as you know it has completely changed, and you just aren't sure if it's for the better or worse. I think my turning point in my riding was really after I went through a breakup about a month ago and started to reassess my life. I'm a good student, a good friend, and I pride myself in being an independent person, but I just. wasn't. happy. When I realized that, I felt almost selfish for not feeling "okay" and excited about life; I've been blessed with a very supportive (especially financially) father who has always encouraged my passions. I have two wonderful dogs and an incredibly athletic horse. I am in school and don't have student loans. I live at the beach! I just didn't understand why I felt like my life was so lacking. Then it hit me. I wasn't experiencing the one thing that was always my sanctuary in life when things got rough. I wasn't feeling like myself because I wasn't doing the things that meant the most to me at my very core. That's why I've decided to throw myself back into riding because, frankly, right now the only time I feel true, pure joy is when I'm at the barn. At the barn I feel at peace with life. At the barn, anything can happen and I feel like it will all be okay. If you haven't yet read the article "The Souls the Barn Builds", you should. I'm not sure how the author did it, but she touched the very essence of me and elicited memories that I haven't thought of in far too long. This article reminded me of WHY I love horses, riding, competing, but really why I love the atmosphere of a barn. Just sitting on my tack trunk with Jerry's head hanging out of the stall is enough. I may not have everything, but in that instant I am complete.
So far I've spent the last 6 days at the barn, 5 of them riding. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but for me it's a huge step in the right direction. I have decided to stick to walk/trot work for at least a month to start building both Jerry's and my muscles back up before we even attempt to canter. We are working particularly on not letting any of our old bad habits come into play. Jerry's bad habits tend to be being overly bendy through his shoulders and neck to avoid really engaging his body and also he tends to get heavy on the forehand, get strung out, and heavy in the bridle. My bad habits are numerous, but my main ones are rolling my shoulders forward instead of opening my chest, using less leg than I should, and dropping my inside hand too much (particularly the right). Can I also put it out there that OH MY WORD I AM SO OUT OF SHAPE! I have been so sore it is ridiculous. Like I said, I have only done walk/trot work and I know several of my weak spots have gotten worse. I really need to strengthen my core and my ankles outside of just riding. So yoga and pilates, here comes one extremely uncoordinated, inflexible, out of shape girl.
Well, I'm off to the barn (today marks a week straight!) to do some dressage work. We get to focus on keeping it slow, a steady tempo, light in the bridle, and working on movements like shoulder ins, quarter turns, and turns on the forehand. Until next time!