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No Stirrups November & Gaining Confidence Through Training

Posted on 13 November 2015

For years now I’ve had a dream of riding in top hat and tails (and yes top hat, I know I had a nasty fall and picked up a nasty head injury but I’m a traditionalist), and I always assumed that it would be through a CCI* that I made that dream come true.  When I had my fall and completely shattered mine and Theo’s confidence jumping I thought that dream was over.  If you know me or read my earlier, probably even more honest, blog you’d know that to recover my confidence I found dressage.  Now at the start it was quite hard to hear lots of the eventing hierarchy (family friends) say ‘We’re all so thankful you aren’t eventing anymore and are turning to dressage’, it made me feel inadequate and like they thought I wasn’t good enough to jump.  But as I’ve listened more and sat back and hear what they have to say I’ve heard that its because they think we are a really good, there was even a ‘pleasure to watch in there’.  So as I lay in bed, whimpering to myself that ever muscle in my body hurts, after a dressage torture session I start to think just maybe we can achieve the dream through Dressage.


Now why did I call it a torture session?  Well because last night as I was being tortured by ‘No Stirrups November’ I as honestly thinking my trainer is a sadist and is purposely trying to get me to fall off.  Anyone who has ever met Theo will know just how sharp he is (we fell off last weekend thanks to a pigeon!) and just how hard he can buck (his boots has flown off in the past!) so the thought of no stirrups terrified me.  Combine this with the fact that because work is a bit pressured at the moment and the fact that it was torrential rain last night I hadn’t ridden him since Sunday, and it was fireworks night Friday and it was windy, then for good measure add your trainer running round behind you with a lunge whip to get the horse to surge forward and for me to now use my legs, and sheer terror was going through my mind.


But there was a point to this - through all the shouting at me to move from my elbows and keep them back, and keep a firm and consistent contact, my hips ahead of me, my knees soft and my toes turned up, when I glanced in the mirror I thought ‘Well *@*! me I look good’.  And then there was the feeling from under me.  I may be biased but Theo is one of the nicest and most talented horses I’ve ever had the privilege of riding, let alone owning, and his paces have always wowed me, but he is a lazy little monkey!  The point of last nights torture was to bring him in front of the leg, to harness his immense power and raise the game. And WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW the feeling of bringing his hocks underneath him, the straightness and the jump and lift in front was something that I had never felt before.  The power was there, but channeled and we were as one. A glance to the mirrors and I hardly recognised us.  Then the piaffe and passage steps, and OMG just thinking about it makes me well up.


I get told now not to put pressure on myself competing - I’ve very competitive and want to do well.  I suppose I feel I have to for those that support me and those that have come to watch.  My late father always wanted to win and a small part of me wants to win because I know it would make him proud.  What I’m slowly starting to come to realise that he’d be proud no matter what and to go out and deliver a polished and perfected routine, riding the best of my ability is so much more important. So will that I’ve promptly torn up next weekends entry and booked another training session instead.  We can go out and score 70%+ without practicing but to hear negative comments from friends and family that I didn’t ride as well as I could hurts and I need to change something.  So practice and preparation and fingers crossed we can wow at the championships (because oh yer we qualified again with a 73% and 71% score!).


My moral of the story?  When you thinking your trainer is trying to kill you off, go with it!  Magic may happen and…


Dare to dream, because the journey of turing dreams into reality may just surprise you.


Sarah Skillin xx

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