Over on the blog Behind the Bit, she posted a video about a horse having a bad day in the ring. It happens. It happens to ALL of us. It happens to our horses. It happens in ALL levels and it happens in ALL events. None of us are immune.
Some days in driving, for me or my pony- it all goes to total and complete crap! Hunters/jumpers or eventers- same, cutting- same, barrel racing- same, roping- same, gyhmkanna- same, trail riding- same, green horse- same, seasoned horses- same and the list goes on... It doesn't seem to matter what you are doing, what you are practicing for, what you set out to work on that day, you, your horse or both of you, just can't seem to get it right for whatever reason.
When this happens you just have to stop for a moment, shake it off, take a deep breath and let it all go. It's tough to do sometimes though. We get caught up in the moment of IT not coming together, we feel pressured at a show or event to do well, impress people and show off what we have learned or taught the horse and it all. falls. miserably. apart.
Feelings of failure? check
Feel like you want to cry? check
Pissed off? check
Have I listed the range of emotions we have all gone through at one time or another? If I missed any, feel free to add them in the comments.
There are times when all we can do is swear like a sailor under our breath, fake a smile, hope nobody could read our lips and laugh it off, when we would really like to scream and knock the holy living snot out of something. Boy have I been there! When Kat had an almost absent halt at the end of our dressage test at the CDE, got fidgety, stopped on an angle and offered to rear before asking him to back up... I wasn't happy with him at all. He is soooo not like that at home.
What could I really do though? I quietly swore at him, laughed at his bs and just sucked it up as best I could. I asked for the 3-5 steps back, walked him forward, halted and saluted the judge while smiling (thinking my pony was a rotten [insert liberal swearing] for pulling that stunt) and left the arena.
When you think it is all going horribly wrong- the horse is shying, trying to bolt, crowhopping, offering to rear or any of the zillion other things they can do, while it FEELS like it was a huge buck, feels like they bolted and ran laps around the arena or feels like they did any number of things in a big way- what it LOOKS like to spectators, the judge, your coach or trainer is often not nearly as bad as what we as a rider, driver or handler thinks.
When Aruba wasn't listening to my leg, not responding and I spurred her one to 'wake her ass up" and "get her attention", the resulting leap up and forward felt like an arched back/crowhop almost bucked and she was not happy. Hubby happened to get it on video. It was a leap up and forward, but in reality it was only a couple strides of canter before she stopped and put her head up. That was her little tantrum. When Kat had his meltdown at the horsepark, I remember him taking two nose dives in the dirt, him rearing, leaping, jumping and bucking and I swear it felt like we made at least two laps around the arena. Hubby watching said we made a lap and a half if not less. I wish he had gotten that on video.
In our minds we tend to feel it happening so much bigger, so much worse and so different than it often does in reality. We may remember it differently too. What others see it as, may be a half step to the inside, a crowhop not a full on buck or a buck, but not a horse going NFR on us. Now I'm not saying the horse never has a total meltdown on loses it on us, because sometimes they really, really do. But a lot of times we imagine or feel it being so much worse.
In the video, you can see a few times when the horse has a 'moment' the rider stops, reaches down and pats the horse to reassure him and they try again to move on. The best thing we can do is stop for a second (or ten), take a deep breath, give the horse a break and try to start over. Start with something simple, something they can do without issue, let that be our happy note and quit there. If you are in the arena, you might get ding'ed on your score, might slip a placing or two in the lineup, but if you can stop, correct things and go on with a quieter horse, sometimes you will be moved up a placing or two for how you handled it. Instead of an all out war, you had a slight 'bobble'. It's ok, because life will go on and you can improve on things from here. It happens to all of us.