I know some of you have been concerned about the way things have been going here.
You never realise quite how pernicious a force anxiety can be until you find yourself deep in a worrisome hole and there seems to be no way to think yourself out. Whichever way you turn, your own anxieties seem to be enthusiastically digging the ground out from under you. And then there’s that feeling as if someone laced you into a Victorian corset whilst you were sleeping and you have his lump in your chest so leaden you can hardly breathe. I think it’s called Fear.
In my last post I recounted how a session of groundwork and lungeing had gone horribly wrong and left Pom and I at teeth-grinding odds with one another.
It wasn’t something that I could mull over endlessly with the other half – there’s no way I could have paid it back in rugby analysis – and, honestly, the more I got stressed, the more I knew I was losing his sympathy as a rational, capable woman (or such is the rôle I pretend to play!).
So what did I do with my dark and shameful worry? Blurted it out, I’m afraid. Posted about it here, asked questions on equestrian forums, consulted with my more knowledgeable horsey friends and, generally, opened my eyes and ears to all good advice from many quarters.
But it did send me round in ever decreasing circles, because, of course, everyone has a different angle.
And as my knowledge of the possible causes for Pom’s sudden outburst of aggression increased exponentially, the more overwhelmed I felt by my own implication in the causes and doubtless inadequacy to redress the situation. And the Fear started to bubble up repeatedly, like acid indigestion. (This metaphor springs readily to mind as the possibility of ulcers was one of the first suggestions and lines of enquiry.)
To all of you whose advice and help I appreciate and respect, I’d like to thank you and let you know I’ve been looking into many of the avenues recommended (funds permitting) and there are still more I want to go into in the next few days and weeks. All learning is good learning. And if that isn’t a quote by some famous sage, I’ll claim it for my own.
But I also have a very sensible friend on the spot, who fixed me with a knowing eye and said, “He just needs riding”.
And, in a nutshell, she’s right.
We were taking up again after almost a four month layoff and the last two years has been an unfortunate series of stops and starts. So it’s more of a wonder that I haven’t had more problems or just thrown in the towel, found Pom and the Pie a nice new home, and spent more time reclaiming the garden, finishing the gîte and planning a few foreign trips to ease me into my dotage.
But then I’m a stubborn cuss. Maybe I’m crazy for carrying on the challenge, but then I shouldn’t baulk at the first fence. Just because I still consider Pom and I to be a partnership, doesn’t mean he’s been longing to play all those loopy games the humans make up. It’s been a cushy billet here after all. Generally speaking, cantering over to the fence and whickering is all it takes to score a juicy carrot.
And it’s perilously easy to lose the work ethic; there are so many excuses and it’s hard to know whether you’re being hard on yourself or easy on yourself when normal routines are interrupted by illness or injury. But we all know the game is up if you let the Fear win.
So I’ve been trying to notice when the anxiety shallows my breathing. And count slow deep breaths. To step back out of Pom’s face. Ask him little and reward generously. Do things I know we both enjoy. Ride the byways in the sunshine (when it shows its face) and laugh into the breeze. And gallop when we can.
Loosen the reins, loosen the inhibitions, slacken that deadening, serious grip. And enjoy.
The fitness, the schooling, the necessary hard work will come when we’re ready, I hope.
So welcome back, Dr. Jekyll. We’ve had a few good rides together now and we’re feeling more like a team.
I think Mr. Hyde is that turbulent temper that erupts out of nowhere when Pom loses patience with human footling. It’s up to me to keep him sweet and keep us safe.
Little example. On our last ride out, we were cantering up a long steady incline when we found our path blocked by a fallen hazel sapling, too high to jump, too low to pass under. Problem – and a long trek to go round another way. So, after a bit of thought, I rode Pom right up beside it, leaned down and backed him up as we tried to drag the sapling aside, then I broke off the branches so we might be able to step over it. It remained an obdurate obstacle, so, reluctantly, I dismounted, dragged the rest of the tree aside, led Pom round it then remounted.
It doesn’t sound like much, but when he’s agitated, standing still to mount is not a given. With my left leg still not 100%, I’m always afeared of that split second when you’ve left the ground, but you’re not yet astride, when, if the horse decides to take off, you’re all too vulnerable. (That was how I broke my leg in the first place.)
But he didn’t, we were fine and the boy was exceptionally pleased with himself for looking after me. And the more experiences like that we share, the better our mutual understanding.
Thinking about his mercurial, but rare changes of temperament, it struck me that someone else very close to me had also been subject to sudden flights of temper. Forgive the leap – my lovely but occasionally irascible father! I thought I’d share this sudden insight with my husband.
“When Pom loses his temper, do you know who he reminds me of?” I asked.
“As it happens, I do,” he said. “You.”