Trust

There’s a puddle on the corner of the outdoor arena that I’ve been trying to get Max to walk through. He turns around it in circles. He stops at the edge. He puts his head down and swishes his top lip in the water. That’s me and riding. The unknown is terrifying. As I push myself closer to stepping into that puddle, I gain a little more trust.

I’ve been reveling in my newfound capability to trust Max. I’ve even been practicing my sitting trot while letting him just trot. He’s living up to my trust, giving me his gentle and honest best effort to stay steady while I bounce and slide around his back. I’m facing the truth that I don’t have to be in his face, telling him with my voice that it’s okay to go forward, while my hands yell at him that I actually want him to somehow give me the joy of movement while providing the security of being completely still.

I’m having a harder time trusting myself. The more closely I realize just how much I trust Max, the more I realize that my lack of self-trust is the actual problem. He’s a horse, a prey animal that lives in a reactive mindset. I’m a human, and my brain is an overthought and tangled web of what if’s.

I’ve been working on trotting Max over poles. I point him at a pole and immediately start over-reacting in anticipation of the possibility that he might over-react. What if he doesn’t just step over the pole? What if he jumps over the pole? What if he darts off to the side? What if he breaks into a canter, which turns into a gallop, which turns into me in the dirt?

He steps over the pole, and I praise him. Am I telling him that he is a good boy, or am I really patting myself on the back for having worked through my fear? Maybe both.

Besides working through my fear of what-ifs, what did I really learn from that exercise? Did I learn to anticipate that Max will more often than not just step over the pole? Did I come one pole closer to complacency?

Riding is an ever-evolving exercise in pushing boundaries. Trotting becomes cantering. Cantering becomes galloping. Poles become jumps. Arenas become open fields and winding trails. The training wheels come off and are replaced by jet packs.

I’m going to put us in situations where the odds swing against Max’s reaction being predictable. That’s the goal. I won’t do it because I want to be dangerous. I’ll do it because I want to grow as a human. I want him to grow as a horse.

How do I learn to compliment his reactive instinct? Say we go over a pole, but instead of stepping over it, he jumps and takes off running? What am I going to do? Will I be stunned and have no skills at the ready to be his rock that he can turn to for guidance and confidence? Right now, that’s where I see myself. That’s what I’m scared of. When he needs me, I’m going to let him down. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and bail out of the saddle while he is left to race around with flapping reins and figure out what to do on his own.

Because I’m a thinking person, I can only trust the skillset that I have developed. To trust me more, I need a higher skill set. I need more fitness. I need more experience. I need to expand my boundaries to include riding faster, jumping higher (at all), losing and regaining balance in the saddle, and accepting that I could fall off and have to get back on.

Ultimately, I’m learning that the feeling of trust is complicated. It takes experience and hard work to develop. I have to do things that I don’t trust to gain mastery that I can trust. I have to be uncomfortable until it’s comfortable. Even after all that, trust won’t guarantee safety.

I want to trust myself to be a rider that Max can trust. Breaking down that goal — I want to trust myself. I want Max to be able to trust me. When Max doesn’t just take an obstacle in stride, I want to trust myself to adjust and keep riding.

Now I just have to actually do all of that.

Kissing Noises

I learned to trust my horse a little more today. My coach had us focus on two exercises.

She had us trot a figure eight through some empty jump standards and over poles. (Today, I learned that they are called standards)

She also had us trot around the arena and do a twenty-meter circle in each corner. Something about that last exercise — or it could have been the four hours of YouTube that I binged on before our lesson — gave me a huge aha moment. I developed the trust that his body was going where I told it. I felt his shoulders leading, and the tension that I’ve kept in his neck finally release. We did circles, and that’s a big deal! Once I had that moment, I felt so much tension slough away.

My coach asked if I was ready to canter him yet.

I told her that I wanted to canter him on the longe line first and develop a strong voice command, so I didn’t have the half an arena super trot while he tries to figure out what I want (while I’m scared out of my mind and not really wanting it, especially the more super his trot becomes). I told her how I’ve been trying to get him to canter, but he just speeds up his trot. A smart coach, she gets out the longe line and sees if she can get him to canter.

Guess who cantered with one little kiss sound? Today I learned you’re supposed to ask for a canter with a kiss. Shouting “CANTER” means absolutely nothing, but a tiny little kiss sound means CANTER. I didn’t make the rules! I’m not sure how I never learned the kiss command before, but at least I know it now.

When will I be ready to canter him? Probably soon. My priorities this week are to:

  1. Practice riding with a crop under my thumbs to keep my hands from waving around like an idiot.
  2. Trot over poles until I get over it. (haha)
  3. Trot between standards until they become less scary. (Yea, they scare me.)
  4. Learn how to make amazing kissing noises at Max while he’s on the longe line.

A day in the wagon

There’s something compelling about writing at least one entry a day in my blog. Blogs should have topics, and topics should be fleshed out before being blogged. I really wanted to write an entry this morning, but I hadn’t had a chance to do anything worth writing the internet about. The suspense of being one accomplishment away from a post fueled my day.

I initially tried to fill a post with a writing prompt. The prompt I chose resonated so perfectly with my tastes in literature that it caught fire and exploded into an unstoppable inferno of creativity. I couldn’t stop fleshing out the universe for my story. It just kept expanding. One train of thought turned into the plot for a book series. On the bright side, I know this will be my first published work. It will be a long while before it’s transcribed from my head to a document, but it’s going to get there.

Before I lay the topic of writing prompts to rest, I have to express my astonishment at the traffic my last prompt has brought to my blog. There really seems to be a market for short prompt responses.

I ended my day in the wagon with a horseback ride. I’ve been putting the stable off because of the miserably freezing and wet weather. Max let me know that I had been gone too long. It took him a long time in the cross ties before he stopped trying to nip me while disapprovingly pinning his ears. I enjoyed actually being able to brush all the mud off of his lower legs.

As is my constant luck with timing, I had Max tacked up just as everyone in the arena dismounted. It’s intimidating to be the only rider in the arena when I haven’t ridden properly in a couple weeks. Fortunately, I have an intelligent horse who understands that he stands still while I heft myself into the saddle. Even so, I still am gripped with unease in that moment of vulnerability where I’ve got one foot in the stirrup and am pushed into the air with the other. It’s up to my partner to stay steady while I get my balance. When I ride every day — or at least every other day — like I should, I become acclimated to and comfortable with mounting.

Max was great. He gave me his honest truth. We were both on edge and raw, but we spent a fair amount of time just walking and feeling each others’ rhythm. We were able to settle into a light trot without much tension. That’s been the accomplishment of our every ride for years. It’s something that I keep coming close to, and then taking time off from riding. Thankfully this last hiatus was just a couple weeks.

Tomorrow’s riding goal is to calm my flipping hands. I have this weird habit of extending one or both arms out to the side, like I’m trying to shake up a container of pasta so it settles evenly. I don’t know how I got into that rut, but I need to climb out of it and run far away. My restless arms and hands need to stay in the box. When I can make myself stay in one position, Max will stay in one position.

I’m so happy to have spent a day in the wagon. I’m bedding down for the night. I’m going to wake up tomorrow in the wagon and see where it takes me.

The Call

Clinging to the receiver,
All my hopes in one hand,
Listening for an answer,
Listening for an answer.

Click.
A moment of silence.
Listening,
Listening.

“Can’t you stop calling?”
A rush of blood;
Leaving you in suspense,
Living on your fear.

Writing Prompt #197

Falling off the Wagon

I fell off the wagon a few weeks ago, and I’ve been trying to climb back on ever since.

It’s been a cycle of excuses. “It’s too cold outside, I’m trying to do XYZ to be more healthy instead, I’m expending my energy to get XYZ, so I have better tools, so-and-so needs my help, so I’ll just take today off from my goals and devote it to them.”

All of those things that I’ve done, obtained, or accomplished have been positive. Unfortunately, me letting them hinder my No Zero Year has been cripplingly negative. My mental and physical expression is so backed up that it feels constipated.

There’s also been a growing mood of shame that has kept me away from my blog. It’s hard to blog about failure when the topic is self-help/motivation. Writing about my inaction cements it into the record. It doesn’t just fade from memory any longer.

I’ve always been one of those “everything happens exactly the way it should” kinds of people. It messes with my worldview to start questioning that basic mindset. Maybe it’s time to mess with my worldview. Most positivity doesn’t just happen. People have to get off their butts and get uncomfortable. Positivity takes effort. It comes from going against the grain of inaction and negativity with stubborn persistence until the tides change.

Striving towards my No Zero Year is always possible, no matter how much energy the rest of my day consumes. It’s not just possible; it’s necessary.

Part of the No Zero process is self-forgiveness. Jennifer Lim once said, “Mistakes mean you are trying.” Well, here I am, still trying. I officially forgive myself. I’ve done an awkward self-handshake, and I’m ready to recommit to spend this year in pursuit of my goals.

Body Project: Fun, Low Impact Workout for Total Beginners

In a world of $3500 workout machines whose main selling point is a subscription-based workout video coach, have we all forgotten about YouTube? YouTube makes working out so easy. You can find any kind of expert-led workout in a few minutes and get moving!

I like this workout because it’s low impact and it’s for beginners. I haven’t done cardio videos in a couple years. I followed along with another Body Project video a couple weeks ago, but it was a little much for me. I want to pause a maximum of 5 times and actually enjoy the workout in general. I feel like this is a workout I can do for a couple of weeks and then add in some hand weights. The hunky instructor was even covered in sweat when he was finished.

The Promise

[WP] To stave off mass starvation, humans have managed to capture and cage a phoenix. They kill it and eat it. A few days later, it would be reborn, only to be butchered again.

We gathered in The Clearing of Redemption and waited for Father. I held Gaia tightly in my arms as the Family finished shuffling into place. Her eyes seemed too large for her tiny face. She looked up at me with them, the constant edge of her starvation piercing into my heart. Mama had made me promise to look after her until we could be together again. “Cold,” Gaia whimpered. I shrugged off my sweater and covered her skeletal frame. Gaia snuggled into the soft cotton, momentarily comforted. I wished that I could somehow fill her with the fibers instead of just wrapping her inside of them.

Her fingers stretched up with those around us, and a smile stretched over the sharp points of her cheekbones. “Father!” we all breathed as one as he finally approached us.

Father returned our smiles as he took the time to greet each one of his children. I cried openly when His holy hand rested on my shoulder. The touch washed away my doubt and filled me with rapture. Father leaned into me and kissed my tears. “You are forgiven.” I basked in His forgiveness. I had doubted Him, He had seen my doubt, and He had forgiven me. “Glory be to Us, Father,” I murmured, the intimacy of our conversation sending the hairs on the back of my neck on edge.

Father let his hand linger on my shoulder a moment longer before He went to the very center of the clearing. A platform had been erected in preparation for His announcement. Besides Father, there was a large crate.

“My beloved Children,” he began, “God called me away from you to wander the Earth so that he could show me the devastation brought about by mankind. I am sorry to tell you, with absolute certainty, there are no other humans left.”

“Mama?”, Gaia whimpered into my ear. I stared at Father in numb horror. Surely God had saved Mama. She had been away doing His work on the Day of Reckoning. As Father’s voice rolled over us, I felt my hope slipping away. I couldn’t do this without Mama. I was too young; God was asking too much of me. Gaia pulled my hair impatiently. “Mama???”, she insisted, as if I could bring her back, somehow. “Shut up!”, I hissed, and immediately regretted it.

Harmony, my best friend, appeared beside me. “Let me take her, Sister.” she offered. I thrust Gaia into her arms and fought the urge to run away. God couldn’t have taken Mama. Father must be mistaken. He didn’t have enough faith.

“Charity?” Father stood before me. I was startled out of my sacrilegious thoughts, and shame burned my cheeks. The Family had closed in around us. Harmony was standing amongst them; she and Gaia were looking at me with expectation. My mouth had gone dry. I gaped and searched their faces for instructions. What did Father want of me? Why couldn’t I just pay attention and keep the faith?

“Charity, you have been chosen for a great honor. What do you have to say to The Family?” Father’s soothing voice gave me courage. I forced a bright smile from my trembling lips. “I’m honored, Father. I wish only to serve Our Glory before God.” I felt Father’s faith galvanize me as I was able to stand a little taller.

The trembling in my hand stopped as Father took it in his and folded my fingers over a dagger. I looked down at the sharp blade and wondered what I had been chosen to do. The Family parted before us as Father led me to the wooden crate. It was taller than Father, crafted of yellow wood, and bore biblical runes along its edges. Father had stepped before me and unfastened one of the panels.

My heart caught in my throat as a beautiful bird stepped out of the darkened container. Crimson feathers ruffled gently in the afternoon breeze. Each gust revealed the spectrum of fiery colors beneath. It towered above us. I wondered how it had fit in such a small space. I felt Father’s hands close my fingers around the dagger again. I looked at my hand and blinked dumbly.

“You have been chosen to feed us. God has given us eternal sustenance. You are the chosen one. Do God’s will, Charity!”

Gaia’s shrunken face floated before me. I felt her hunger — I felt the hunger of the entire Family. I saw our suffering stretch out behind us. The Phoenix’s beak parted and I heard a heavenly song. It held redemption before me. The creature’s eyes softened to me as we somehow came closer to each other. I felt my hand plunge the dagger into its heart and I screamed as its life leaked down my face and its face and its chest and my soul. Everything went black.

Mother held me in her arms as I sobbed. “Forgive me, Mama, please forgive me!” I felt the warmth of her vitality through her soft skin.

“You are chosen,” she murmured. “Only you can save The Family.”

“I don’t care about them!”, I screamed into her face, “I want you! I need you! You can’t leave me!”

She smiled at me, but there was only sadness in her expression. Her form grew cold in my grasp. “NO!” I choked. “COME BACK!” It was to no avail. She crumbled in my arms and left me covered in the mud of my tears and her ashes.

My eyes fluttered open. I lay by the crate, forgotten, as The Family feasted at last. Their Holy robes were stained crimson from the rivulets of raw blood running down their faces. I stared in horror as they tore chunks of meat from Her with their bare hands and teeth.

Father appeared beside me. He held out her still-beating heart. I cringed and tried to draw away. The mania in his eyes repulsed me. This couldn’t be Holy. I shook my head no and sucked my lips between my teeth. Father became insistent. He pushed me to the ground and forced the meat between my lips. I tried to kick out and roll away, but the taste of blood betrayed my humanity. I felt my body crave its nourishment. I hated myself as I grabbed her heart with my fists and swallowed it whole.

Father smiled eerily. His approval sent waves of euphoria through me. I looked around and saw our miracle. The Family had transformed from sickly walking skeletons to demigods and demi goddesses. Memories stirred in my mind as I swung between elation and despair. Gaia’s face cycling between sickness and health, thousands of times, spinning around me until I couldn’t hold in my food any longer. I retched as they celebrated. I birthed her from my lips. The egg laid in my hand, wet with my bile. Father studied me with a look of smug triumph as he took it and left us.

I watched him go with hatred. I hated myself. I crawled to my cabin and fell into a fevered sleep, knowing that I would forget everything and do it again and again, for Gaia. I had promised Mama.

I can’t stop looking at my horse

I’m getting better about giving with the reins instead of pulling; however, if I’m not looking at my horse’s face and giving him a trillion neck pats, I get insecure and my hands start creeping backward again. I’m especially insecure when we are going over a pole. How can I look at a tree on the horizon when the most threatening thing in the ring is underneath me? Yea, that was brutally honest. Should I edit it out? Probably. I’m going to leave it because think it’s what a lot of people are thinking and struggling to overcome.

Max schooled me on looking at obstacles during our last ride. I was zeroed in on the cone right in front of us and we ended up stopped with it directly under his nose and me leaning over his neck, with my nose pointed at it, too.

I’ve always had a focus issue; I’m either looking at a tree on the horizon or I’m looking at my horse’s face and neck. I know it’s possible to see both, but I zone in on one or the other. It’s just another checkmark on the sit tall, soft hands, heels down list that doesn’t seem to have an end.

This was all going through my head while I was riding today. That and my kid who really wanted to go to the barn with me and then suddenly couldn’t wait to go home as soon as Max and I managed one nice 10m circle at a slow trot. It was a 10m circle because I’ll take a general “somewhere that wayish” direction with Max’s head down over a specific one with it up in the air.

I’m hoping that the confidence we gained from trotting over poles today will become more confidence tomorrow, and I’ll sit up and look where we’re going.

It’s hard to be the girl that’s dealing with all of this while everyone else in the arena makes going straight at a specific pace look like the easiest thing in the world. It’s not that I want to compete against them and do better, it’s just that I wonder if there’s something basic that I’m doing wrong. You know — something other than sitting up straight, having soft hands, maintaining a correct leg position, and looking up.

I just want to shove them in my saddle and see what happens. Does Max relax and go straight or does he toss his head around, try and pull the reins out of their hands, and start tracing modern art in the arena sand? AKA – Is it just me?

Hopefully, I’ll find clarity through this whole process and eventually help Max be his best self.

Guitars Scare Me

I never anticipated sharp little metal strings snapping in my face as a result of wanting to play guitar. Besides being scary, it’s made practicing too annoying for me to enjoy. I don’t enjoy restringing my guitar every couple weeks. I just want to sit down and lose myself in music.

I’ve made the decision to change my Guitar goal to more general Music. I can still pursue guitar if it becomes less annoying. My classical guitar idea fizzled out when the second-hand guitar I found in storage turned out to be completely dead.

I have an electric keyboard that isn’t ideal, but it kind of works. I’m going to switch my music goals over to piano. If piano keys start flying out and hitting me in the face, there’s going to be another post.

We Just Need to Learn to Relax

Is this becoming too much of a horse blog?

I made it out to the stable. Max and I toodled around with a bunch of pint-sized kids while they took a group lesson. My brain doesn’t want to give me any credit for it being a chill ride. I just fed a vampire yesterday, and Aunt Flo showed up this morning, so I was about as slow as I could go. Max had some weird pink thing going on in the corner of his eye, and he was squinting a little bit, so he might have been in a slow frame of mind, too.

I made up a mantra for us and repeated it the entire ride.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Max; We just need to learn to relax. 

I kept him going in circles, over poles, and around cones. I didn’t let us get into any pulling matches. If he started charging ahead, I just told him “and walk.” I’ve been told by more than a few people that making him walk instead of trot is a reward, a way to get out of work, but this horse wants to zoom! It’s worth a shot. 

Time flew by; that’s how you know it’s a great ride. I wanted to stay on forever! I had to be fair to Max since he was chill and stayed with me so well. He looked proud of himself and more confident. He didn’t give me any of his little nervous nibbles.

He had Twizzlers for the first time today. Maybe it was just Twizzlers magic?

A good ride is a good ride. I’ll take it!