Tips for visualization: Equestrian style

Now, I’m not the strongest believer in this, but it’s been hammered over and over again in my head that positive visualization is a GOOD THING TO DO.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

Yeah yeah yeah I get it…So why does it feel so uncomfortable and awkward?

Why do I never think about doing it until someone reminds me?

I think it’s hard to do and awkward feeling because it feels forced, like you’re being asked to ‘imagine’ something without any boundaries of ‘what’ to imagine, or ‘where’ to imagine? We as adults, do not have that skill as easily as children anymore.

But, it is something I need to practice- like my knee exercises, which also feel kind of gross and uncomfortable, but something I do NEED to do.

So, where to begin? I felt like was bad at visualizing because I felt adrift…Like, what? How? If you let your mind go free, it usually starts thinking of all the BAD things that can happen- particularly riding. Falls, chips, long-spots, refusals, run-outs, ugly ugly ugly.

So, I thought long and hard about my recent jumping lessons (which obviously, since I’m going to the crossrail olympics, are excellent…)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

Winter Oats (a few years back)

And voila! The hard part of visualizing positively started getting easier.

Here are my tips:

1. Make time. I make a point of visualizing while I am walking to work, takes me about 3-5 minutes during my 20 minute walk. My mind can ‘go blank’ for a bit during this.

2. Pick your most recent lesson and ‘see’ the course or gymnastic you were riding. See it in your mind, and go over it as if you are picking up the trot, transitioning (cleanly) to canter, and the heading to the first jump. ‘Ride’ each fence in your lesson in that course in your mind. ’3, 2, 1, jump’ all the way to the final closing circle. You only need to do the 1 course per visualization session, because it’s kind of tiring for your mind.

3. Try to ride this course – from your most recent lesson- until your next lesson. Then you can ‘ride’ that course in your mind until the next lesson, and so on. I also try to think things like sitting up, elbows in, shoulders open while I ‘ride’ these in my mind.

4. Being repetitive really helps. By going over and over in my ‘minds-eye’ my most recent lesson, I can ‘see’ distances in my mind easier, and I have less ‘crash and burn’ visualization moments. It’s funny, but I actually found it quite difficult to even see my distances in my mind. When I thought about them I always got them wrong.

5. I even sort of make the motions of canter, jump, release while I’m walking and thinking. For me, it’s easier to be in motion while I’m thinking about the ride/visualizing, as it makes it a bit more active for me and feels more real and less forced/awkward.

Not that I’m an expert- I’ve only really started being more focused about making the effort for positive visualization when I realized I had a lot of ‘blank mind’ time while I was walking to work, so I might as well try to focus my ‘minds-eye’ a bit harder for a least 5 minutes of that walk!

And my jumping lesson (x-rails, yess) last night went very smoothly. So…It’s easy to get really discouraged and forget about visualization when you have a lousy lesson, or can’t stop running a loop of disasters in your mind, but ride those lesson that WORK in your mind, over and over.

Get fresh material without stressing your brain- use your lessons! They’re easy to think about (I think obsessively about them, so might as well use them as material for visualizing).

Throwback Thursday, Ontario edition: C’est la Vie

Growing up, I never owned my own pony or horse, but I was lucky enough to lease quite a few and experience a ton of different horses.

I rode at so many stables, now in so many provinces and cities, it’s almost hard to remember them all now!

Started at a now-defunct stable- can’t for the life of me remember what it was called now, but I rode a tiny pony called ‘Pags’ and my sister rode a little white pony called ‘Spirit’.

We liked that barn, but moved on to another- Greenbelt, which wasn’t the greatest. From Greenbelt, we moved to the Nepean National Equestrian Park, and spent quite a few years there. I learned so much from them, and only moved on when I wanted to horse show- something they didn’t do there, despite having fantastic grounds that they rented out to large horse show managers.

I then moved on to Wynbrook, which was a decent experience and a very high-quality program, but a bit too heavy on the $$$ side for our liking. During the move around from these stables, I leased horses on and off for years at smaller private barns.

When we moved on from Wynbrook, we leased a lovely black Appendix mare named ‘Hope’ and her show name was C’est la Vie. She was such a darling, we rode together in a show and did super well there. Great jumper, very forgiving. I only remember her stopping at fences when they got to around 2’9 or 3′.

Hope showing at  Huntleigh

Hope showing at Huntleigh

She passed away from colic about 7 years ago, maybe more. She had bouts of it on and off over the years, and was sensitive.

Miss that girl, she was lovely!

Hope’s owner also owned an adorable small pony named ‘Bubblegum’ at one point, so my sister and I both rode Bubbles too! We normally rode her bareback- and sometimes w/o a bridle either, eek- because there was only the 1 saddle to fit Hope. We made do, and she was SO FUN to ride/jump bareback.

Bubblegum in the Ottawa Valley

Bubblegum in the Ottawa Valley- I wasn’t kidding about the bareback/bridle-less

Loved mucking around, nothing in particular to train for haha and we still managed to do really well. Funny that the more training I do, the more struggles I seem to have. How does that happen??

A ‘hare-y’ tale

Love this story- about a man and his Irish hare. A hare is not like a rabbit!

Lovely and heartfelt, thanks to my sister for sharing it with me:

A hare about the house, by Cecil S. Webb

Adorable!

Here is my rabbit a few years ago, exploring in the snow in Whitehorse, YT.

Buster exploring in the snow

Buster exploring in the snow

I have long had an affinity for rabbits…Grew up with a pretty wild dwarf rabbit named Nitchka, who had a guinea pig friend named Earl. They were pretty hilarious those two!

Buster digs deep

Buster digs deep

We had several other rabbits, but none lived as long as Nitchka, who was 10 years old when we put him to sleep- as he was declining rapidly, and blind.

Coming up for air

Coming up for air

Now I have a surly little dwarf named Buster Bunny, who is not a very friendly rabbit and kind of a jerk to strangers and my husband- but he likes me, and will eat Goldfish crackers out of my hand when I’m holding him!

He likes to hop around the house, he sometimes gets chased around by Gidget, our little dog, but he likes to sniff Gidget and will sometimes see if she wants to play too! We do have to watch them closely, as Buster is older than Gidget and gets tired easily. He needs his downtime more than she does.

Buster is like my hare about the house, though he would chew the house to splinters if he was allowed to live free-range in it!

Comparison is the thief of joy- Theodore Roosevelt

I saw this today, and it struck a chord with me. It’s true.

I find myself comparing my activities to my friends, my job to other people’s jobs who are BETTER and my riding to others who are doing better- heck, even to myself in the summer, or in the past. Why am I not like that now? I can’t help but compare, and it makes me jealous, mean and petty.

Blast from the past: Wynbrook Denver

Blast from the past: Me and Wynbrook Denver. Funny, he looks like Oats!

I get bummed out about my knee bothering me so I can’t finish the runs I start. I would like to be hampered by my own lack of ability- not by an injury.

I get annoyed at my pony, because we’re going over ground I SWEAR we’ve been over before. So, where is the improvement?

Funny enough, job-wise, I sometimes dislike work (let’s face it- if it wasn’t work it would be called fun!) but I can acknowledge that I am LUCKY to have a job that at least sometimes feels fulfilling, and that lets me use some of my skills. That is valuable, even if I do feel overworked and cranky about it some/most days.

Discontentment- maybe this is the winter of my discontent?

Riding-wise, Oats was okay…Pissy and rude on Sat/Sun (he got a trail ride on Friday by the young girl, so WTF suck it up pissy pants!!) and you know what? I just rode. I ignored, and I kicked on and on and on. And he dealt with it with some bucking/kicking out but then let it go.

My jumping was beyond terrible on Sunday (didn’t really do any on Saturday as there were only poles set up) and I practiced my eye exercises and some no-stirrup work. I also realized that was where the giant bruise on my foot came from…The stirrup banging against my foot because I wasn’t willing to fully commit to crossing it over the front of the pommel. Serves me right I guess?!! haha.

Canter work did seem to be getting better (more on the left rein, duhhh), and we did a lot of 3 trot strides- 4 canter- 4 trot- 5 canter, etc etc. to keep him getting sharp!

So, in conclusion, riding in the winter still doesn’t seem a lot more desirable than chain-watching the X-files, but I’m trying. And I am going to keep trying.

The running part is still a big disappointment. I feel like I am never going to be able to run as freely as I used to. Sighhhhh.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

A quote I’ve always loved, partially because I kind of hate winter, partially because it exemplifies that ‘never give up’ ethos that I try hard to live!

Frost

Frosty days

It has been FREEZING here. Yeah yeah I’m sure people who live in actually cold climates are laughing their butts off, but yeeesh, I am not used to it.

These below-seasonal temps have made riding kind of a pain, my hands and toes are freezing, my breath catches in my throat and my eyes water. My quarter sheet does not want to stay on my dear pony’s butt! It flies off him at every opportunity, and it makes me laugh so hard when that happens! Thank GOD he is pretty bombproof and couldn’t care less about a blanket sliding off his butt when we’re cantering! HAHA though I think it has happened enough now that he is used to it.

And how has dear Oaty pony been? Pretty good actually (part of me wants to say I’m surprised! ha). Good ride on him on Tuesday, and Wednesday actually. I tried some no-stirrup work at the trot (two point again, for my pathetic 2-laps of the ring) and was dying. Just dying. Canter two-point no stirrups was MUCH easier, though a bit of a slacker’s move.

I was still freezing though, despite the ‘intensive’ two point no-stirrups work.

Thursday was my lesson with Nicole and I always start off feeling very apprehensive. But you know what? It went really well! True- not perfect- but I’m getting glimmerings of what I normally ride like back…And I like it! We worked on bounce gymnastics (HATE!) but they were riding better than they normally do, so yeah!! And then we worked up to a small course- bounce gymnastics, small x-rail liverpool, x-rail one-stride combination (that we didn’t make at first, but then did!), to a x-rail on the diagonal.

I know, I know- what’s with all these x-rails? Truth is, I haven’t really felt like jumping higher lately?!

I feel like I am beginning to master something (eyes? better jumping position?) and I want to stay at a height (well, lack of height really), where I feel safer.

Though I do think Oats would sometimes like to jump higher! He gets bored sometimes, haha.

Love/Hate

Yep that’s me and Oats most days~

Rode him on Saturday and he was a twit! I was super annoyed, because I was still kind of riding off a pretty good high of him being really good in my lessons last week- decent lesson on Tues and great lesson on Thurs and then Saturday rolls around….And he’s cow-kicking when I mount up again, acting pissy and bucking at the TROT even, and dicking me around like crazy.

Me: Trot please. More forward!

Him: No! Eff you!!! I’m going to hop! Hop! Hop! Instead of trotting, how about a canter instead?!!’

Me: No, I asked for trotting.

Him: Pop! Canter! Up!

Me: Oh okay..fine then, canter.

Him: Wait…Cantering is hard. Balk hard. Return to slow trot.

Me: Cluck cluck! Kick kick!

Him: Did I hear you thinking of using your crop? *Threatens to buck*

YEAH….so…

Not very broke to my leg these days, still, again.

He did get to go for a walk with a young lady who will be hacking him for me and he was good for her! I was glad for that, it’s been a good year or longer since he’s been out on the trails…And his behaviour in the ring indicates more than a good amount of ring sour pissyness.

Sunday, I warmed him up outside and he was way more interested in life. Forward, happy, ears pricked forward and didn’t feel balky, poppy or draggy. Good! Moved him indoors for more work and he lost a bit of his ‘pep…Bad.

Monday he had off, and the temperatures have dramatically plummeted!

Tuesday I had off, so I rode early- no lesson for us yesterday. He was surprisingly good! Got some really nice trot, didn’t push the canter too much as I wanted to work more on my ‘eye’ exercises (3,2,1- jump!) over poles. Good news is that they are getting much better, phew! Maybe I’ll develop an ‘eye’ for jumping yet. I’m trying to stay a bit more consistent with my eye-counting exercise, at least 1X a week.

Also did two laps of 2-point w/no stirrups at the trot and almost died.

And thank the saints that Oats is not a reactive type of pony…His quarter sheet, to keep him warm, flew off his butt when I was leading him to the arena, fell off his behind when I was RIDING him (had to get off and pick it up off the rail!) and then fell off him for a third time when I was leading him to the stables, where it got stuck under his foot. JESUS.

I have to figure out a better way to stick it on him, or it will cause a major disaster for me one day…Luckily Oats literally didn’t even notice it once!! Even when it slid off his butt in the arena.

Bath & Body- Crafty time~

Not only do I love riding, like running and being active, but I love crafts. Normally my crafts involve glue guns but I have been maturing in my skills…

So, earlier in the season I experimented with lip balms. I made peppermint ones and they were a success!

Now I’m combining my lip balm skills and adding in a lip scrub, so now people (friends, family, loved ones) can not only have a nice pepperminty lip balm but also a smoothing scrub to start things off!

Bubblegum lip scrubs and lip balms

Bubblegum lip scrubs and lip balms

This makes great little gifty things for Christmas.

I call my lip scrubs ‘Bubblegum’ lip scrubs and dyed them pink!

It’s so easy:

  • I used 1/2 cup white sugar,
  • 1 drop pink food dye,
  • 1 tsp vanilla (white),
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil, and
  • 1 tsp cocoa butter (melted).

Mix the whole shebang together, add your pink food dye, and voila! Bubblegum lip scrub. Parcel it out into cute little containers. I used jam jars, with the labels removed and the lids spray-painted blue. Just boil them first!

Gifts

Gifts

This also feels super nice on your hands, if you want to make a bigger batch to use as a really nice gelato-type of hand scrub.

Next up- I am going to try my hand at making a peppermint foot scrub with salts. Should be good!