I rode Val in the "new" arena on Sunday. A milestone. The not fenced arena surrounded by woods at the back of the property. The scary, scary woods. The arena that so far we're only ever grazed (sometimes nervously) in.
We worked in our "real" ring for about an hour... focusing on leg yields, circles and energy. Also breathing. In fact I did a bit of singing for Val. If his swiveling ears were any indication, he enjoyed my Sunday songs. I enjoyed how singing regulated my breath. It was a very productive ride, and my seat felt great.
I had asked my friend to come to the barn and stand by for me when I made the switch to the other arena... thinking I'd be more confident with someone else there, but at the last minute she called to say she couldn't make it. I said f*#@ it and off we went. My plan was to mount and just stand, which would have been enough for me. However Val was falling asleep with his lip hanging down - no nervous blow up in the works - so we spent 10 or 15 minutes walking around in both directions. Success!
When I brought Val home last fall, he was the mellowest, calmest horse. Very steady. Our first week together we rode through the woods and straight out to the beach. It was blowing 25 mph, he'd never seen the ocean before, yet he behaved beautifully.
Fast forward a few months. Due to my bad judgment, Val and I had a disastrous trail ride. I shouldn't have ridden that day at all... there were people hunting all around us in the woods and my companions were not supportive of or patient with us. Plus Val was high as a kite due to indiscriminate supplement use.
There was bolting - the others cantered off leaving us behind while we were fertilizing - then an emergency dismount - so not popular with Val. Things went further downhill, culminating in a sky high buck and me hitting the dirt. Hard. My insides felt disconnected. And I didn't have a helmet on. In the matter of a few minutes I had done serious damage to our relationship...
Ever since then, I've been struggling with fear and confidence issues. And trying to earn Val's trust back. The difficult thing about fear is that it can create the thing you are afraid of. Kind of a which came first, the chicken or the egg situation. Also, you can't really pretend you aren't afraid.
My goal is to gradually spend more time in the new arena, until we're working there exclusively. I also have plans to make our way off the property and down the road to the trail, incrementally, until we're back trail riding again. When I got Val, I wanted to spend as much time trail riding as riding in the arena, and eventually to trail ride solo to the beach. Our setbacks have been disappointing, but character building as well. That's the thing about horsemanship. If you stick with it, you must face up to your shortcomings. If you want to become a better horseman, you have to become a better human.