Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Patience

Do you remember reading The Children's Book of Virtues when you were a kid? I had a great illustrated copy when I was younger, and I still remember many of the stories and pictures fondly. And, being the earnest and generally well-meaning child I was, I went straight to work in trying to apply as many of the virtues as I could to my own life.

Somewhere in those many readings, however, I'm pretty sure I must have skipped clean over the chapter on "Patience"... because I have none. Or, very little anyway. I think I could fairly describe myself as dogged, tenacious, focused, persistent--but I'm also a prototypical red-blooded American, and I want things to happen NOW. I always thought that my tenacity would make up for my nascent impatience, and for the most part it has, since my stubbornness has kept me going even when my cool even-headedness was WAY out the window.

But then I met Ky. This little pony, more than probably any i've ever ridden before (except maybe Kiki), truly tests my patience on the flat. He's not naughty or bad, but he is suffering from some rather massive craters in his formative dressage education (especially in regard to contact) and is not finding the process of filling those craters in particularly smooth or easy. These weaknesses of his also happen to overlap with some of my biggest insecurities as a rider, as I've really only begun to develop a feeling for what real, good contact is in the past year or so after a decade plus of muddling along.

With the help of Kim's instruction and eyes on the ground I definitely possess the basic tools to solve both his problems and my own... but it is not a quick fix. At all. At all at all. We are sort of a blind leading the blind combo in this situation, as I mess up probably just as often as he does. Sigh. But even if the process is slow, you've got to at least get started, right?

So that's what we did today in our lesson. I had assiduously worked on my homework from last time with fairly good success, and Kim agreed that he was quite improved from a month ago:


But then, to my minor dismay, she made it clear that my month of work had really only been the tip of the iceberg, and that there were many more miles of foundational work left to go. D'oh! I admit I was a little deflated right at that moment. The impatient MustGetThisPerfectNOW side of myself threw quite the little pity party, in fact, right in the middle of the lesson, and though I kept riding, I was definitely more flustered than I wanted to admit for the first half of my ride.

I finally reached a sort of breaking point, and had a small breakdown. I was very frustrated with my inability to process Kim's instructions into anything productive, and I was even more frustrated that I had allowed myself to get wound up two lessons in a row. Gahh!! This is the part of myself that I hate the most: the side of me that flusters easily and makes me look and act like a total wuss/idiot/ass in the presence of people that I respect and generally would like to keep my shit together in front of (ie Kim).

Kim responded, in a word, incredibly. I wouldn't have really blamed her if she had written me off at that point as an unteachable headcase (it's happened before, unfortunately). But instead she buckled down, changed her teaching approach, and found a way for the lesson to end on a good note. I was deeply, deeply impressed with her professionalism and ability.

And best of all, the change of approach was hugely helpful! We realized that my low and stiff hands (which in turn exacerbate Ky's inconsistent acceptance of the contact) are often caused by imbalance and lack of stability in my core, so Kim had me drop my stirrups to build strength and hold a whip in each hand for stability. When I felt my hands starting to fall in, I could use the whip against my thigh as a lever to push myself back into the correct position. It was hard, and I made a lot of mistakes, but when I got it right I could actually FEEL the positive change it made on the way Ky went. It's a start.

Obviously there's still a long way to go, but it felt really great to end on a positive note. Kim was so supportive and positive; I'm very, very lucky to have her as my instructor. She reminded me that solving this problem with Ky now might be frustrating, but that I will look back on my experience with him someday and be thankful for all the things he taught me. Wise words, and definitely ones to keep in mind next time he has me wanting to tear my hair out on the flat (which, knowing the little squirtlet, might be sooner rather than later!)

8 comments:

Carrot Top said...

Sounds like a good lesson :)
And I just have to say - what a beautiful indoor!

Hillary said...

Sounds like you are very lucky to have Kim!

Niamh said...

It's amazing to have an instructor that is both sensitive and firm. Having someone who can gently push you past your limit without losing you completely is a real gift. I consider myself quite a sensitive student and I can personally get wrapped up in my own thoughts and criticism so much that I feel like I can't hear anything. It's great to have someone who can bring you back, even in the space of an hour! For what it's worth, Ky has come a long way in the short time you've been back in the saddle!

Katherine Erickson said...

Niamh, you and I are kindred spirits in that respect! And thanks :) it's easy to lose perspective, but I do have to remind myself that we have come a long way in a few months.

Karley said...

Sounds like Kim is a great instructor and what a great match for you!

AmberRose- Girl With a Dream said...

Kim sounds like a really good instructor and that shes changed her style to help you in the best way she can thats really nice. Sounds like your lucky to have her!

Tori said...

Oh I know exactly how you feel. I have a constant make progress - then regress with my horse William and I just need the patience to keep working at it. It's so hard to have patience when you know they are something special. Definitely an important skill for riding...

Checkmark115 said...

I feel like this ALL the time. Frustrating huh?

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