Still hope for the quiet heart

Had a casual hack on Oats yesterday, to stretch our legs and see how things are after our dressage lesson. I’m taking today’s jumping lesson off due to a work event at night, so an easier week for Oats.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

We warmed up pretty nicely, and cruised over some poles. I wanted to work on getting the canter (it was an ok canter) on the spooky side. We did drop it a few times when I forgot what I was doing…But he picked it up, and was fairly chillaxed and amenable to the pole work. I then trotted over an insultingly small x-rail to a pole (I think it was normally five strides, but the trot-in approach ended up with six) and he seemingly picked up the wrong lead on the landing EVERY time. Hargumph.

Official beginning of summer: Nemo makes a reappearance!

Official beginning of summer: Nemo makes a reappearance!

Also, he decided that because the x-rail was so small, he could stumble over it instead of jumping it. Sighhh…

But, overall a laid-back and casual ride. Maybe I’m starting to feel more like myself again? My legs were BURNING though. I actually pulled Oats to a stop after a canter because I literally couldn’t support myself in the saddle! I can’t remember the last time my legs hurt that much, just so so tired and aching and sore. It was crazy!

My legs were just so ridiculously tired. I felt like my bones were full of sand.

I kind of felt like I was trudging to work today- not sure why my legs are so full-on tired this week, ugh, but I hope they snap out of it by next week. C’mon body, work with me!

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

I’ve been sharing a lot with the other riders at my barn about my equine wellness approach, and it makes me think: Is it possible to change my mindset about jumping and showing? Can I change? It feels impossible to me, I’ve held this way of being for so long. Feeling¬†something else seems like it will never happen.

I’ve also been thinking- maybe taking the showing down a BIG step is helpful to me. Now I have like, 2 shows this summer instead of 10. Baby steps?

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Backwards love

Lesson recap! We had an audience yesterday ūüôā and I enjoy having folks around, because it helps me- I find when I am riding dressage I get distracted easily, and kind of start screwing up. I want to have an audience more often, so I learn how to handle ‘eyes’ even if they aren’t necessarily watching me- every little bit helps.

More cooperative over the poles- from last summer.

More cooperative over the poles- from last summer.

We worked on some lateral movements in a circle- figure eight; haunches in and then shoulder in. We struggled some with the shoulder-in movement, and then wonder of wonders, our haunches in was really nice. Go figure! The biggest thing I am seeing, is that his willingness to do lateral movement is REALLY improving. Every week we work on a little bit more, and every week I am seeing improvement.

Then, a bit rougher. Trot work was…ok. Not groundbreaking. He was moving forward nicely but heavy on my inside hand, and I felt him wanting to really lean, lean, lean on me. We did some counter-bend to counteract that.

And then…dun dun dun…the canter. Now this, a definite mixed bag. We really screwed up the canter down the long side, he was spooky and we basically fell out of canter, I had his head -cranked- to the inside defensively and I just couldn’t deal!

Oats protests bending at the canter- last summer.

Oats protests bending at the canter- last summer.

We then brought it back to a controlled circle at the top end and sorted it out better. The transition to the right was tricky- he would pop his head up, and I felt worried? Like maybe he was ramping up for naughty behaviour? But he wasn’t! I was just used to rising up to meet his head coming up, and instead, by sitting and staying low, his head came up and I was like…WTF?

Anyways, it was all right. The left was definitely better, ha. We ended the lesson with some over the back trot work through to the spooky side, and he was good. Not amazing, but generally trying for me. I can appreciate a good try!

Is this love? Or the love of the chase

Funny, two songs I’ve been hearing lately have this refrain in them:

“You never loved me, you love the chase.” From ‘The Stars’ newest album, ‘No one is lost’

-and-

“Is this love? Or the love of the chase…” From ‘Future Islands’ newest album as well.

So, there is obviously a theme. Why are they resonating with me so strongly?

I’ve been struggling with connections lately. Last year’s showing season with Oats had a lot of ups and downs (I fell off almost every show! what the heck!) and I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I know how to ride, Oats knows how to jump so…???

I have been making progress on this by committing to dressage lessons and that has been good but tough. I want to make even more progress, want to go into jump lessons and horse shows ‘eager’ not backpedalling and wanting to get off, or freezing when we step foot in the show ring.

I even decided not to show at the Appy club shows this year because¬†I wasn’t looking forward to it! ¬†Showing costs way too much $$$ to not have fun with it. At all.

So, my trainer Karen set me up with an equine wellness facilitator, to figure out what is going on in my head. And as it turns out, a lot of anxiety.

Anxiety

Anxiety- So, this seems appropriate.

The rushing, too-fast, speedy feeling I have all the time is my brain not connecting well with my body. I tend to have ‘out of body’ feelings when I step into the show ring, and I feel like I am ‘watching myself’ instead of doing it- riding, experiencing, anything. I don’t hear my trainer when I am like this, I hold my breath and end up gasping, and I rush rush rush through a course- my brain is moving too fast for me to keep up!

It’s funny- the facilitator¬†ran me through a meditation exercise, and all I could think was how much I wanted it to speed up!!? That’s NOT the point, silly me!

Taking the time to align my poor brain with my body is a process. I am going to try and see how it goes. I’m trying to manage my anxiety, something I most likely have been cultivating for¬†years through work, family issues, horse issues, etc.

And I felt like, last year at this time, I was ready to try dressage lessons. Oats and I could take that next step.

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

This year, I am ready to manage my anxiety, and work to strengthen my relationship with Oats.

So, this is a positive progression (even if the other side of my brain is like horses aren’t rocket science, why are you so worried? Anxious? What are you so afraid of?). I guess I’m not always sure- I’m afraid of getting hurt (see- the recent accident with my mom), and I’m afraid of looking stupid and screwing up my horse.

I’m not sure how I got to this point, but I do feel like it is manageable, and the next logical step I can take to have a more positive relationship with my horse, and my trainers (maybe my husband, family, and my work? Better not get too greeeeedy)…

Runing wild

Run wild

I am still doing positive jump course visualizations every day while I walk to work- I pick my most recent jumping lesson and try to ‘see’ how I rode it. I think it is helping as well.

My rides on Oats this weekend were fine, Saturday was better than Sunday (was a bit distracted Sunday, had friends visiting so was chatting instead of paying attention! bad me!).

Other than that, this week started with a real BANG of bad vibes. Sick bunny (he is doing better already, pheww) Work flying off the handle……eeeek!

Don’t tell me what you are going to do. Tell me what you’ve done.

In a nutshell, my blog.

There’s a reason this blog posts recaps, not ‘pre-event’ details. I don’t love sharing what I am planning to do, primarily because I haven’t¬†done it yet and it is not a guarantee I will do it!

I find there is an inherent risk in telling everyone your plans (want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans…or something like that, given I do not believe in any gods).

That’s why my horse shows are recaps, my races are recaps and my riding lessons are details after they happen. Because, there is always the risk they won’t. And I am not the type of person who makes grand plans, tells everyone about them, and then just…doesn’t follow through. I am the person who makes those plans, doesn’t necessarily need to share them, and then follows through – and provides a recap! ūüôā

I don’t like telling people what I am going to do. I tell them what I’ve done.

Obviously, I do plan things out (signing up for races and horse shows definitely requires advance notice with my trainer, husband, friends, etc). But, there is a difference between planning things out, and kind of staying on the down-low, and bragging. The bragging can happen after the fun event! Hahah and of course there is always bragging- I try to keep humble but hey we are only human. Usually I am no superstar at either horse shows OR running, so the bragging is limited to a ‘hey I completed this event! Yay!’.

I’m finding these days, that I’m even *gasp* looking forward to running? How odd! I feel twitchy and needy when I don’t do it. Last week, I was edgy and kind of wanting to get a longer run in (who is this person??) because it felt like ages since I had run. Ages eh?

I ran a 10k race on Mother’s Day! It hadn’t even been a week?!

Funny how that happens, eh?

No one is lost: Progress is a ever-changing target?

So I had my jumping lesson last night and I’m not going to lie. I was worried! I’ve been struggling with feelings of guilt, of fear and having this need to ‘prove something’ to myself. Newsflash: Proving something to yourself usually goes very poorly!

Yes, we even jumped this one without a second look!

Yes, we even jumped this one without a second look!

I even had the opportunity to back out…My friends were visiting from Vancouver and asked if I wanted to go out for dinner last-minute, and my trainer texted asking if this week was the week I had to take off? Argh! The struggle! I was *this close* to having a legitimate reason to wimp out…

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But I manned up, swallowed my fear and texted my friends back that I had a jumping lesson, and texted my coach that it was next week I had to take off.

There. One small step.

The next step was actually getting there, warming up on my own for 15 minutes in the outdoor full of -gulp- scary jumps and dealing with whatever happened.

And you know what? Oats was golden! He didn’t put a hoof wrong. I still felt wimpy, weak and lacking enthusiasm when Nicole came out for the lesson. I wanted to wimp out, I wanted to wallow in my feelings of inadequacy…Of fear.

But, Oats was too good to let me do that, and so was Nicole haha. We started slow- trot poles to a tiny gymnastic grid. We even had to put the last fence up to a vertical because Oats wasn’t really jumping them, he was kind of just flopping over them. That was ok.

Then, we moved on to a course and I started holding my breath…

But the jumps were small, I was actually RIDING Oats and things were just clicking nicely along! I didn’t have time to back off. My brain even kind of started drifting after the 8th fence and I kind of biffed the 9th (across the diagonal) but Oats is a forgiving pony and just kept trucking.

We did the course twice (11 jumps X 2!) 22 whole fences! And it was very good. We were not perfect, but like the scales of justice that tip one way or the other, my confidence scales are slowly tipping the other way- back to being in balance.

I have a hard time¬†acknowledging¬†that last week I was rocking a bigger course with the dreaded gymnastics up to 2’6” and this week am feeling faint over x-rails, but you know, who carresssss. Only me! Not Oats! Hahah. He was great, and I need more “great times” to build up my happy memory bank again.

Accidents, like what happened with my mom, deplete the happy memories in your memory bank, and confidence bank. Only good experiences (pretty much double the good to bad) can work to rebuild those banks.

Aftermath

A few days out from the accident, I’ve ridden four times. My first time, was rough and angry. The second time, I wisely pulled back and rode Oats in the indoor, to prevent any ¬†nerves or defensive riding on my part- and it was boring! The third time was my lesson with Karen Brain, and I started off fairly determinedly ‘relaxed’ but still nervous, and the lesson was great- tough, but very thorough.

Not so relaxed

Not so relaxed

And the fourth time? A very decided mix of bad and good. Oats was a bit edgy. I let him stand and look at the ‘spooky’ areas and he didn’t relax at all like he did in the warm-up before my lesson. He just stood there, with his head on a freaking swivel, staring as hard as he could. He felt like he was ‘looking’ for a reason to spook. He never brought his head down, never even attempted to graze. Just stood stock-still with his head up high.

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Throughout the ride, he did spook- many times. Luckily, none of them were biggies, and his spooks do tend to be no big deal anyways…Plus I was riding VERY defensively. Not a good point. I’m still not super pleased with how I deal with the ‘edgier’ days.

The canter was very good, it felt like the hard work we put in the day before in my lesson paid off! I was very pleased with him. The trot work kind of sucked (see head on a swivel…).

Anyways, the canter made me feel like I wanted to take him over jumps (a bad idea, since I was 100% alone) but trot made me feel like I wanted to jump off!

So, a combination of positive and negative, bad and good.

I’m taking today off, as I think Oats needs a day off too!

You don’t love me, you love the chase

Man oh man, how do I describe my ‘relaxing’ few days off while my mom visited?

The aftermath...

The aftermath…

Well, they were NOT relaxing, at all. Jesus.

Things started off well, with a nice visit to my in-laws farm, using up some grocery gift cards and a good hike through the woods. The fun vibes continued into the next day, when my mom and I went for a run at Thetis Lake with the dog. She accompanied me to my jumping lesson and then all hell broke loose.

Up to 2'6''

Up to 2’6”

We had a great jump lesson, and I had my mom on for a pony ride to cool Oats off. She was wearing a helmet, and we were half asleep…Just chatting, having a nice time. All of a sudden, Oats¬†spooked!¬†And BLAM! My mom fell right off, onto her arm.

Started off well

Started off well

She started shouting that her arm was broken right away. I ran Oats up the hill as fast as I could drag him, threw him to my friend and shouted for my coach to help us. Thank god they were still around. Nicole ran down to help my mom, I drove my car around the block and into the arena through the field to pick up my mom and drive her to the hospital. Nicole helped my mom into my car, and we slowly drove to the hospital (a 2-minute drive, luckily).

In the backseat!

In the backseat!

There, she got an x-ray and I zipped home to wait for her to call. It took a few hours and she called- a broken humerus. Apparently the most painful break you can get. No joke her. She spent a long night in pain, and then we regrouped in the morning. I helped her get dressed, have a shower and we picked up her pain med prescription, and also went for lunch. When she was having a nap, I wanted to leave the house quiet- so I went to the barn, and it was kind of a bad idea.

Leaving looooooong!

Leaving looooooong!

I went in a bad mood. I felt angry, upset, betrayed. I felt guilty and mad at my horse. Mad at the world, really. I fall off Oats all the time, and nothing happens. My mom goes for a pony ride and breaks her arm? And this is the SECOND time she has broken that arm with me, visiting me in Victoria? What gives???

I was also afraid. When I rode Oats the next day, I wasn’t riding because I wanted to. I was riding because I felt like I had something to prove- to myself, to my mom. It was definitely fear-based. My ride was very aggressive, and I was acting¬†defensively. Oats even got pissed off and threw in a baby buck at the canter, to show me he didn’t like how I was behaving (he hasn’t done that in aaaages).

It was hot, sweaty, hard. I felt rough, tired and unhappy.

I wasn’t happy with how I handled Oats then.

I hopped off, and let him graze for a bit, and then walked him back up the hill. I vowed to not let that happen again- losing my tempter, riding with fear like that.

The next day, I had a better game plan (I went riding while my mom was napping again, wanted to make sure the house was completely quiet for her). We rode in the indoor and it was quiet, calm. I had better control over my emotions and I didn’t feel afraid- but, I had scheduled a lesson for Monday, and I knew that would be a better test of how I was handling the trauma. My ride was very calm and quiet, boring even!

Monday- I had scheduled a private lesson with Karen Brain, as she couldn’t make our usual Tuesday ride. I immediately felt anxious.

But I wanted to push myself- I didn’t want to let my fear or anger rule the day. I felt nervous warming up by myself, but also like, oh you want to look at the corner? Sure, let’s stop for a bit, and look. Oats then started grazing and I was like…Hm…nope. Clearly, it wasn’t an issue for him- it was an issue for me, the ‘spooky side’.

We worked hard, and I told her what had happened. I deal with more fear in the outdoor, but I also like being in the outdoor- I have to be able to manage my fear, physically. And I am. Well, I am learning to. I still deal with fear, and I don’t like Oats lollygagging and staring outside the arena, but I am learning to deal with fear proactively.

So, we worked on lateral work and he was GREAT! And then we worked on picking up right- or -left lead canter through some cones (not quite as good) and then some seriously bone- jarring trot work (ouch ouch ouch). It really helped me work through some of my issues and allowed me to focus on the task at hand.

I needed it.