Let’s not go there = We’re definitely going there!

Had an interesting dressage lesson last night that kind of resurfaced some of my fears (specifically, the fears I have that Oats is going to be a twit and start bucking/getting humpy on me again).

Looks can be deceiving!

Looks can be deceiving!

Note- he hasn’t really pulled this stuff in months- since that one bad time in October?

But the fear is apparently always there, albeit not as close-to-the surface as it used to be.

We worked on engaging/pressuring ‘intensity’ at the walk and trot. BIG walk, tiny trot, BIG trot. It was starting to melt Oat’s brain, and I got kind of pushy with my hands when HE got pushy with his head. When his head came up, my hands defensively came up! I can’t seem to help it! When he started tossing his head and getting balky, I got anxious. I started remembering what he was like before, when we started increasing the pressure on him.

But then, Karen said (while I was frustrated and it felt like he was messing with my head!!) if his head goes up, your hands don’t go up! Think about your contact/hands like guard rails. They are there to guide. They don’t go sideways, up, down, anything. They are guiding.

Oats the giraffe

Look at my horse: My horse is amazing

And you know what? The super annoying messing around slowly started going away. My anxiety about his behaviour still existed, but it felt like I was more secure. I could do this! I could be solid, guiding, and push with my legs- it didn’t matter if his head went up, down, all around.

We did get some fab canter- and I sat the canter/gallop the whole way! Whee!! Go us!

And I felt a lot more secure, and my anxiety was starting to melt away. It’s funny, how deep the roots of stress and anxiety lay though. We’ve been having some amazing breakthroughs in lateral work, like every week, and then this week, some more ‘intense’ work at the trot and I have a melt down? Silly!

Of course my friend came to watch and this is the show we put on for her. SIGH! Hahaha, oh well. Horses- can’t live with them, can’t live without ’em sometimes.

It did make me want to start jumping even more though. I sure like that feeling more than wrestling through dressage some days, even if the cross-training we are doing is definitely helping us progress. It is hard-won, some days.

A busy and tumultuous week & weekend

Feels nice to be outside!

Feels nice to be outside!

This past week, and weekend, had many ups and downs.

Good: Oats went really nicely for my non-lesson ride on Thursday (trainer had a sick child) and I was quite pleased with his leg yielding.

We also had a GREAT weekend of riding, we were playing around in the outdoor ring both days, it was hot and sunny, I had no real expectations, and had a blast! We even saw the cutest bunny hopping across the path back up to the stables.

Bad: Family and husband drama rears it’s ugly head again. UGH. It made me very unhappy, and I had to go for a run with my husband to clear my head. Things are still unresolved, and I still have a lot of cognitive dissonance that I live with every day.

Good: Had the opportunity to go to the beach on Sunday and LOVED it!

Bad: Too many families with horrible screaming babies. The WORST! I ended up moving my beach blanket to a quieter area, and that made a huge difference.

Good: Tried the new s’mores Frappucchino from Starbucks. Delicious! A calorie bomb!

Bad: Tried the new Bacon Clamato Caesar in a can and did not really like it. Flavour is too strange and fakey. Also salty as all hell.

Good: Made no-bake chocolate-oatmeal cookies AND chocolate granola! Tasty!

Bad: I think someone was messing with MY Oats this weekend! The barn owner thought she saw me going in to his pen late at night, and his gate was left unlocked overnight. This was most definitely NOT me, as I rode at around 11am and left the stables before noon (had to get back  in time to check out an open house, the unit was exceedingly strange and made me feel like a hunched-over giant…).!!!! Someone was in with my horse? Or at least his gate?

Don't mess with Mr. Oats!

Don’t mess with Mr. Oats!

Reaching new heights- in dressage!

I know, it’s actually laughable given how rough our past few engagements with lateral work were in my recent few blog entries, but even after his weekend of feeling under the weather Oats was GOOD!

Each week, we start off lateral work with more than a little angst…It’s sometimes like 10 minutes of pushing and shoving and just ‘arghhhh’ and then Oats softens, and agrees, and everything is beautiful…Until we take a break and try again and then it’s like WWIII.

This week, I wasn’t expecting anything of beauty. He had a hard weekend with a reaction from a vaccine, was stiff, unbalanced and generally feeling kind of lousy. He couldn’t bend, couldn’t hold the canter, nothing. Apparently a few other horses who got the same vaccine had a similar reaction, particularly at the canter. Poor buddy!

Anyways, we went into leg yield and he was – yielding-? Soft? Only a little bit argumentative? We changed rein, we tried it at the trot and oh man, he was GETTING IT! I know I say each week ‘best leg yield yet!!’ or haunches-in or whatever- and it’s true. We are getting more of Oats’ best work yet, each week. This people, is what learning feels like. Mostly ugly and then these awesome breakthrough moments.

So, we are going to try for some more advanced movements (not perfecting them by any means), just playing around with them so nobody feels frustrated or out of their depth. He is getting more and more confirmed with the haunches-in movements, I am so happy with that!

Go Oats Go!!!

As a treat for him, after a fairly intensive walk/trot haunches in/leg yielding lesson we trotted on a loose rein and he gave me a great, big trot and then I did some loose canter with wide reins, and just encouraged him to flow freely. His gaits felt really good, he felt floaty and awesome. I like this new pony.

A not-so-progress weekend

We all have these I guess. The grey days, in a funk, blah rides. Though check out this pic- even on his most blah days, Oats is a cutie! Taken on Saturday:

Mr. Handsome- photo credit to Hannah R.

Mr. Handsome- photo credit to Hannah R.

Also, Oats got his vaccinations on Friday and he felt really ‘off’ on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday, his canter felt terrible. He was scrambling, couldn’t keep the gait, felt like he had about 10 legs going at once, and was very unbalanced. I was like WTF? After our fabulous rides this past week, I was quite disappointed to have such a lousy ride…

Then I clued in that he most likely was feeling sore and out of it. Fair enough, Oats.

I let him graze for about an hour in the outdoor arena while I worked on it, digging up grass clumps. I do think he had the better part of the deal though!

I went for a fairly good 15k run with my husband on Saturday after I finished riding and working in the outdoor. In retrospect  I was running on legs that were already feeling tired. I was complaining on Friday that I felt tired, really tired. Like, I came home and lay down- on a Friday?! I was THAT tired, I guess.

So, running on Saturday after riding and digging in the arena was probably a bit much but it felt pretty good. AND I saw a seagull fish a crab out of the ocean and start smacking it around. The poor crab didn’t stand a chance, even when the seagull dropped it a few times!

Sunday, I tried again with Oats and he still felt very ‘eh’. His canter was improved, but his trot got worse. He could.not.bend.right. for the life of him! I tried everything, and he cranked his leaning to the left.

It was frustrating…And yet again, I figured it was stiffness due to the vaccination. I guess it was just hitting him harder than usual? So, two days of me feeling like I don’t know how to ride my pony, and don’t know how to run anymore either. Positive progress? It’s a bit of a game of snakes and ladders, haha!

Oats had Monday off, and so I did I. We normally take that day off to decompress, and give he and I, a fresh start to the week. We have our dressage lesson today and after the weekend, I am not sure what I’m going to be getting from him…

Adding to the confidence bucket

Last week I mentioned that I was starting to jump a bit higher (2’3”-2’6”) and it  both scared and excited me.

From the summer- yes we can!

Every week I go through the same internal struggle. I get to my lesson and start dragging my feet about jumping. I say I don’t want to jump that high (height seems to always be determined by how high the lesson before me was jumping, ha).

And then, before I know it, we’re jumping that high and doing COMPLETELY fine!

Yesterday, we even worked over the dreaded gymnastics, x-rail bounce to a one-stride big x-rail, and he was perfect! I HATE gymnastics- normally! Ha, and even the last one-stride x-rail was on the larger side, I didn’t even really notice. It’s funny, as soon as it’s an x-rail, the height doesn’t matter to me. It’s *just* an x-rail, blahhhh, nothing exciting happening here. Turn it into a vertical and oh boy, heart attack time! Even if they are the same height! I am a strange jumper sometimes, I’m sure Oats feels that way.

Not jumping ahead: Exhibit B. Photo courtesy of Christi.

Not jumping ahead: Exhibit B. Photo courtesy of Christi.

So, I proclaimed my desire to only jump small fences, and slowly they crept up, and…Nothing happened. He was perfect, the course rode well, the gymnastics remained standing and we aced all of it.

Do I think every lesson will go this smoothly? Nope! But we’re starting to really get somewhere I think. I am feeling a bit ‘bored’ even by smaller fences (which is a great thing, I’d rather be a bit bored than feel like my heart is in my throat), and I’m really enjoying this feeling of ‘I’ve got this’ rather than a worry/panic sensation heading to my first fence.

Despite the fact that every week is a struggle, mentally, to ‘want’ to jump- when I do get out there, it’s not a big deal. In fact, I didn’t even really have a big adrenaline rush yesterday. I felt good, but not like …OHMIGOSH I survived! It just felt good, competent, smooth.

(though I do sometimes miss that adrenaline rush, I think that’s why I could never hang up my boots for jumping altogether. Dressage just isn’t the same. I need/crave/desire that rush).

I’m very pleased with Oats’ and his pleasant, ‘can-do’ attitude these days. Maybe one day I’ll even get it together enough to oh, actually ride him through a flying lead change instead of getting drawn to his neck? Hmm….I’m trying!

With great challenge comes great rewards

That’s what I am telling myself when I practice lateral work with Mr. Oats these days…

A few weeks ago we had a tough lateral work session that I blogged about- he was extremely resistant, difficult and rude going to the left (the rein we started out on) and softened and was as beautiful as a fairy pony on the right! Floaty, soft, just overall lovely.

So yesterday I told Karen that I remembered what rein we started out on, and we went forward to our experiment. Was it the rein that mattered, or just the order of what side we start on?

And I learned what it really was pretty much instantly.

It doesn’t matter what rein. It is the beginning of the lateral work that is the issue.

We started off on the right, doing a sort of leg-yield off a circle and MAN it was ROUGH ROUGH ROUGH. Oats was in fine jackass form, pushing, shoving, throwing his head up, resistant, rude, pushy, ohhhh man it was ugly. 

I was panting and basically cursing and was like WTF? Pony?! Can’t we be friends here?? He was in rare form, his eyes were rolling, his ears were pinned, he was primed for a fight and pissed off!! We grudgingly worked through it, lots of stops and starts, moving sideways, backwards, into the wall, into the corner, backwards again…

And I had to have it out with him. And boy, did I.

Until…He started softening, we moved on the other rein, and he was so much better! He had a walk break that he really appreciated, and we moved it up to the trot. I did not expect much at the trot, and he surprised me- he was even trying some steps at the trot! Even after his little temper tantrum at the walk.

After all that ‘sturm und drang’ he was getting it. We moved up to a bit of canter (no lateral work, just canter) and it was pretty good!

It was a ‘two beer’ night, as Karen said. Hahah and man, was it ever!

It can be very difficult to measure progress, but with each lesson (and struggle) we’re getting some of the best steps we’ve ever gotten- and this is EACH lesson. So, while it feels horrendously ugly and a battle in the beginning, we are really starting to break through his mental resistance and get somewhere.

Good Oats. He is not an easy pony to ride, but with great challenge comes great reward.

Race Recap: Sooke River 10k- and series finale!

This one came hot off the heels of the Merville 15k that I wrote about last week, so I spent a lot of the past week cooling off and not really training. I was hoping to save my poor legs and my wonky knee and just see how Sooke went. We aren’t used to running back-to-backs so I wasn’t sure how things were going to go…

Series finale Sooke 10k

Series finale Sooke 10k

I bought new run shorts (Underarmour) and a summer shirt to race in and boy I am glad I did…it was HOT! A side note about shorts here: I hate them. Hate them! Even when I asked for the best shorts that DO NOT ride up, I ended up getting some crotch chafing that made riding Oats later in the day a mildly unpleasant experience..gRRRRRR…back to the drawing board of maybe running in basketball shorts again!

Friends run together!

Friends run together!

We got to park close to the venue, which is awesome and I really liked. The start was good, and the turnout a bit smaller, as it turns out the Vancouver Sun Run was the same day, so a lot of the better runners were trying their luck out there. I parked myself close to the start because I was darned if I was going to get beat by 1 second bib timing AGAIN!  There is a method to my madness…I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t have a good feeling about the race…

It was NOT an easy run.

I started out fast. I usually start pretty slowly, and to me it felt like I was tearing it up! At a dead run! (not really, but you know, fast). I kept it up and had the dawning realization that to get the time I wanted- the vaunted, unheard of speedy time of oh, 47:50 or so, I was going to have to run gasping for breath pretty much the whole time. That pace leaves you breathless, basically. It was an uncomfortable realization.

So, I ran and ran, feeling like I was out of breath the entire time. I coughed up pghlegm most horribly, and coughed it out on my arm, that ended up smeared across my dratted shorts.

My friend and I ran together, and he was running even faster than me! It was crazy. We got to the turnaround point (it was an out-and-back course) and he was ahead of me by a bit.

On the way back, all I could think about was the hills. Oh, the mild (when you’re not dying and gasping for breath) hills…That looked so innocent from the way down them, suddenly felt like I was crawling up Mt. Everest. My pace died down, I was still gasping and muttering and cursing. My friend opted to walk the hills due to a nagging injury (wise move).

The group that I was catching up with started rapidly being in the distance. They were way outpacing me and I could not keep up. I was all alone, all of a sudden. I was waving at spectators in hopes they would cheer me on a bit more (I needed the encouragement!!!). It was hot, I wanted to stop for water but instead gunned myself on a bit more. Every step felt like I was pulling myself along. All I could think about was stopping. Maybe walking. Maybe never having to run a 10k ever again even??

Finally, after a feeble wave at some spectators who dutifully cheered me on (god, I must have looked like I needed it), the course volunteers were waving me on to the final turn where I ran blindly looking for that 100-m sprint lined with flags. FINALLY!!!

I think the spectators really got me going at this point. Some guy who looked like a coach was shouting at me ‘Go girl, get it!!!’ So I (feebly again) cranked it up and went for it!! I saw Ian on the sidelines and gave him a panicked, worried look, haha. I sprint-crawled through the finish line and saw the finish time- 46:52– ME? I got that time? Wha?

My previous best time for the 10k was also this year- at the Cobble Hill race. I was gunning for a sub-50 minute 10k and I got it (49:something) and was totally overjoyed!! And now I was beating my previous PR time out of the water???

After I caught my breath, basically reeling around thinking about grabbing onto a tree or maybe a fence to stop myself from falling over, I was SO GLAD. I really pushed myself, harder than I ever had- and I did it! I was exhausted, my lungs hurt and I was covered, head to toe, in sweat.

Great work VIRA- You run good races, fabulous volunteers and the best part? The food! The sandwiches at Sooke were so awesome, and they had my favourite protein drinks, cookies and yogurts. I’m glad to be taking a break for a bit, but I know I’m going to really  miss that rush of racing.

Sixth place! Yeah!

Sixth place! Yeah!

And to cap it all off- I was 6th out of 25 in my age group, Ian was 3 out of 10 and Jared was 8th. A lovely way to finish, AND I won the draw prize for a free entry to the Oceanside Mother’s Day 10k in May. Which I have already registered for! (I guess that promise to myself of never running another 10k was kind of a lie to keep myself going…!).