Burn your fires for no witness

Jump lesson update!

I didn’t update after my schooling hack on Tuesday because it was non-remarkable–Oats was being a good pony, we did some lateral work to limited success, and well, it was fine. Yesterday I had my jump lesson and something interesting is starting to dawn on me…

As I get better about my anxiety, and am learning to manage it and appropriately stretch my boundaries, I’m coming up against something my equine counselor warned me about: frustration. She said with learning comes frustration or being mad about something and that is just the way it is expressed, as part of the process.

I’m coming in to my lesson with Oats, not being frustrated at him, but being frustrated by our ‘pace’?!! And it never really bothered me before, and I think it is close to 100% in my head? For example…

We worked over a small gymnastic and then moved on to a little course. The gymnastic was a two-stride x-rail to vertical. Nicole moved it in because quite often Oats is backed off and not super forward through the lines, and if horses were jumping it before us, then it’s set too long.

Well! We worked through it, I complained that he felt too slow and she said he was eating up the lines, and she had to move the jumps back??? He was making the horse strides through the gymnastic, which pretty much never happens, and I was complaining that he felt too slow? What is going on in my brain??

Very interesting. The course itself went well and funny enough so did the gymnastic. Oats did have a few moments of extreme befuddlement over green box (which he has jumped a million times before) but now it was on a circle, in a shadowy part of the arena…So he jumped it like it was 3ft high and 4ft wide? WOAH! He did that every time too! I think he was having trouble ‘seeing’ what he was jumping, so figured that overjumping was the best/safest policy…Poor pony, it was kind of hilarious how confused he was by the box?

Proof Oats has jumped the green box with no drama.

Proof Oats has jumped the green box with no drama.

I did have moments where I was very close to my comfort zone and I let Nicole know, but I think it’s just a phase in my learning process right now. I never felt scared or super worried, just kind of…oomph, let’s GO Oats!

Also- Oats would like to wish everyone a happy Halloween! I think he looks better as a bunny than as the devil, don’t you think?

Oats as 'himself' last year...

Oats as ‘himself’ last year…

Bunny Oats

Bunny Oats

Back to the stacks (I mean, grind…)

After the thrill of Mane Event, I’m stuck with the humdrum of ordinary life, meaning the routine of work-riding-dog walking-errands-workouts…

I was lucky enough to grab a quick run this weekeend (at 8am, ouchhh, I was hoping to see if the girls wanted to run with me but honestly, it felt cruel to pry them up and out early on the wknd, so I went alone!). But, one run doesn’t really equal a half-marathon, does it? Note: not a rhetorical question, one I am going to have to answer very shortly this week…So maybe it’s not really back to the grind quite yet!

Rode Oats last night and still thought he’d have a bit more energy, having three whole days off to himself! I longed him very quickly to see where he was- and nope, not giving me a lot of ‘buzz’ at all? Sigh…I think back to last fall and I remember struggling with the same problem of Oats=/= go button. Though, it did get resolved with a good clip, and some horse shows that perked him right up.

So, I’m going to clip and then see how he’s feeling. In the meantime, maybe bring out the spurs and prepare myself for a rodeo (god, I hope not. He’s been SO GOOD lately, like an angel, but a really slow one).

He was good as gold last night, a little pushy and a little rude to handle on the ground, and slow off my leg, but still, good as gold. We warmed up, and then cruised over a small x-rail and the green box that I set up with pylons on top of it again. He was quite keen to the green box!

Since he was such a good pony, he got rewarded with some of the fancy new treats I got at Mane Event–and so far he loves them! He tried the Apple Crunchies.

Today, I am proud to say I am wearing my newest aquisition from Mane Event- my brown, snazzy Spooks show coat! I couldn’t resist…

Definitely not me...But hey, isn't the jacket cool? Picture me in it!

Definitely not me…But hey, isn’t the jacket cool? Picture me in it!

Making it at the MANE EVENT!!

Finally, it was the weekend. We left fairly early on Friday to catch the Jim Wofford clinic at Chilliwack’s Mane Event and boy, he did not disappoint!

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Fresh off my lesson Thurs- quick recap, I can’t quite remember exactly what we did, but we did have a 2’3” oxer and it kind of scared me, we jumped it very nicely once, then I under-rode to a gentle stop by Oats, and then rode it well again…And a small bounce exercise, a green box skinny, and an x-rail on a circle that rode very nicely – historically a struggle point for me and Oats. Overall, quite nice, but I did have some nerves…

So, I was primed to learn something from the famous Jim Wofford himself. And what did I learn, from his gymnastic exercises with the upper-level group?

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

  • Look at the top rail of the fence until it disappears under you. This includes parallel oxers too!
  • For bounce exercises, ignore the placing rail. Focus on the top rail of the first jump.
  • Don’t start looking ‘through’ the exercises. One jump at a time! Riders and horses get into trouble when they start ignoring the first jump and stare through the exercises.
  • Let the horse make the mistake, you don’t need to make it for them.
  • Hitting a rail generally punishes the horse, you don’t need to punish. Reward them for a good effort on the next go-around, you will find they have fixed it! (sidenote- I’m bad for rewarding in the moment, need to get better about this).
  • He had a lot of riders riding with fairly loose contact, some with driving rein hands to correct hand use/placement. Let the horse be independent, thinking.
  • For drifters- take off your left leg if he drifts right. Then make your right leg stronger. Doesn’t work? You can add in guide poles.
  • The key is usually less is more. Ie- don’t use a martingale at home, fix what is wrong at home first. Don’t be the first to rush to more aids, artificial aids.
  • Only the elbows move for bounces.
  • Shoulders back, sitting up, no ‘posting’ at the canter.
  • Hands lower.

We watched a lot of his sessions, and I came away slightly intimidated – these were seriously good riders- and inspired as well. I want to try some of those exercises with Oats, the corner jump (we have done this before and he was fine with it), the ‘squeeze’ jump- now that looks interesting, and maybe a mini triple-bar or hogsback? So many good options to make jumping exciting and challenging.

I also took the opportunity to do some shopping…Too much shopping! Highlights included getting Grand Prix Vegas breeches for $50, Spooks stretch jacket for $150, Tailored Sportsman ‘Anaconda’ belt for $5, and a Toggi Equestrian long-sleeved t-shirt for $5 too. A steal!

I also got a lot of samples for Oats for treats- nutritional supplements, alfalfa cubes, treats, and some hay for Buster Bunny in a freezer ziploc bag. Score!

We also enjoyed a dressage session taught by Kristen Wysocki, and the Trainer’s Challenge featuring Sonny Gargulio, David Simons, and Glen Stewart. Glen Stewart in particular was a real class act, lovely to watch and a true horseman. Not sure who ended up winning- we were at the Jim Wofford Q&A session- but it was a real treat to watch.

The ‘equine experience’ at night was stunning as always, with fabulous performances by the Coastal Cowgirls on Vancouver Island – maybe I am a bit biased but I think their drill team performances were the slickest! They even had spins, and everything! One accident happened- not like last year when horses collided, but this time a horse spooked, the rider fell off and dislodged the flag she was carrying. It got caught in the horse’s breastplate! We  all gasped and held our breath…But it was ok, it got removed and the horse/rider were fine to mount and continue.

Guess it’s not the genuine experience if there isn’t at least one hair-raising moment! On that note there were these young girls- the ‘Young Gunz’ and their performances were genuinely terrifying but very well done. My heart was in my throat!

As always, Mane Event is something we look forward to every year. I’m inspired to go try some new fun things with Oats and I can’t wait to show off my new awesome riding gear!

Countdown is on…

Today is my Thursday. That is what I have been repeating to myself all day/night as I was particularly dreading today (3X mtgs, last minute scrambles for events, = extremely stressful day and week).

And it’s been a rough week, just a lot of work, and found out my sister lost her job due to downsizing in a tough economy. I do feel badly for her, that really sucks and nobody wants to be in that position.

From my (relatively privileged) position of just dealing with work stress, it seems like, well what am I complaining about? It’s true. It does give me a moment of pause, of perspective, that I was missing earlier. It’s just too bad that it comes with a flavour of schadenfreude.

But on the bright side, my dear Mr. Oats was in great form yesterday for my dressage lesson. I wasn’t sure how was going to be feeling- looong ass day Sunday, kind of a strenuous ride Saturday, very light ride Monday, and then a tough dressage lesson Tuesday? What’s a pony to do!

Sleepy clipped Oats

Oats after our lesson (not actually, this was him tranqed for a clip)

My dressage trainer did say she thought Oats was getting a bit fat–I protested, saying I’m pretty sure it’s just his hair right now! Though his barrel does look larger than I remember in photos…I’m riding a pony people, not a horse! HAHa.

Oats taking care of me.

Oats taking care of me.

We practiced an interesting use of high-indirect rein aids, to isolate the outside shoulder. At first I was like, why are we doing this? I don’t get this direction? And Karen said to wait it out, keep trying and see how it felt.

So, it was kind of on-and-off, and we did some of it in the canter, and I did NOT like it to the right. I said it triggered my anxiety of Oats preparing to be a shithead, even though absolutely nothing in his demeanor said he was ready to pull anything…It just felt bunchy and jumpy and weird.

We then tried it to the left, cantering, and wow…Now I understand. His canter felt lovely.

His attitude was excellent, he never fussed or argued or got upset with me. Yeah!! We ended with trying it in the walk, and then straightening the horses out with the lightest touch of the reins. It felt like a hummingbird was keeping Oats in the bridle, so light, soft and beautiful. I was really glad Oats was being so awesome!

Dave Freeze clinic #2: Be willing to be a bozo occasionally.

Went to my second Dave Freeze talk this weekend, curiously the day before my Foxstone show- auspicious timing eh?

Last time I attended his talk, I came away with some good information, but also felt like I didn’t go deep enough, and I was struggling with anxiety. Now that I have been doing a lot of hard work on managing my physical stress and trying to take that next step to actually putting it into practice, like at the horse show. So, the talk that Dave hosted, combined with the work that I have been doing weekly with Vicki, put me in a good mindset for the show.

Dave went through the steps with us on how anxiety/fear presents itself, and how to get an optimal performance. We ‘borrow’ from the stupid list (fear, jealousy, anger, sad, worry, frustration, nerves, stress) when our performance outcome does not match our perception of ourselves, our image.

So, our image has to change a bit, to allow for mistakes and mistake management (this was a big one). That way, we won’t have to ‘borrow’ from the stupid list when we make mistakes and screw up–that’s just part of life, and a part of YOUR life. Most of the time, you are ideal. Occasionally, you are amazing. And sometimes, you are a bozo.

You have to be willing to tell yourself the truth about who you really are.

Accept that occasionally screwing up exists as a part of yourself. Don’t always protect your image, change your image. If you are on a spectrum of performance, being too careful will limit your performance–thinking about the ‘wrong things’ will do it too, ie- caring too much, thinking too much about distances, other riders, mistakes, prize money, etc.

At a horse show, keep in mind The Big Eight

  • calm mind
  • relaxed body
  • grounded
  • centred- the ability to change your mind if you need to
  • positive
  • patient- time isn’t rushing by, it slows down
  • effort- put out the appropriate amount
  • focus

When you have these things, you will be in a zen state. This is ‘carefree’ but carefree still means focused. Riding carefree is great but you’ll always have to manage mistakes.

Keep in mind that attributes (mistake management, the Big Eight, bravery) + Process (rhythm, pace, distance, balance, position, connection) = Outcome (a great ride, fun, smooth, enjoyable, connected, proud). Let the outcomes go.

Focus on the attributes and process. Then the outcome will take care of itself.

Tell yourself the truth about who you really are: Foxstone horse show report!

What a crazy weekend- it was jam packed with horsey activities!

Yeah Oats! Photo courtesy of Nicole.

Yeah Oats! Photo courtesy of Nicole.

I also felt a bit run off my feet (I’m still trying to get over my weird on-again-off-again malaise that just keeps hanging on, not actively sick enough but just not feeling great either. Sigh…).

I had the Dave Freeze clinic on Saturday night, and then the Foxstone horse show on Sunday. Seamless, right? Well, I’ll be doing a separate blog post about Dave Freeze, as I took lots of notes, but today we will focus on Foxstone. I was in a big rush Saturday, trying to ride Oats, clean my tack, pack up my stuff, fill grain bags and hay nets for the show, and  not be late for the Dave Freeze clinic in the evening.

Everything got done but man…It was busy. And I was out late at the clinic, slept fairly well but intermittently before getting up at 7am for the show, and was back home that night at 7pm. EEK!~ Crazy eh?

It was…But it was also (to borrow from Dave’s Big Eight)- an opportunity to practice being calm, patient, focused, grounded, centered, positive, exert appropriate effort, and relaxed. Kind of a big deal for me.

My goal on this started way back, with my equine counselling–I wanted to sleep well the night before (I tried SO hard at this) and feel appropriately hungry the morning of- which I actually ate almost all of my breakfast w/o my stomach turning into knots! And then actually ‘feel’ my body as I was warming up, instead of this weird muscle weakness, numb out of body feeling (50% achieved on that…I did start wanting to drift, but managed to pull myself back together!).

The warm-up was ok- I got a bit distracted as one girl was having a tough time with her horse and fell off a few times…Oats was slow. Very quiet, suspiciously quiet. We bungled up a line a few times due to this sort of distraction, and then pulled ourselves together and went very quietly to the arena. There, I was almost thrown off my game when they said we didn’t have time to do any warm-up in the arena. WHAT?

I wanted to start worrying.

And then they said we could do our first jump as a warm-up if we wished, which was very gracious of them, and I decided, you know what? We were going to be fine without it. I was doing ok.

So, we set off on our rounds, and you know what? Wonder of wonders, they were fine, consistent, and boring. The jump height was ‘eh’ and the trouble spots I encountered were 100% because Oats was a bit backed off and slow off the leg, so we got a few ugly chips unfortunately. But, I did kind of feel like that was due to him perhaps being a bit ouchy, not like lame ouchy but a bit unsure on his feet due to having no front shoes…A bit sensitive  maybe not as willing to be energetically ‘forward’?

Even though the jump height was not an issue for us, the forward yesterday was. Also, I noticed I was still gasping a bit after my rounds. So, I’m making the executive decision to keep myself and Oats at the boring height of 2′ divisions for this season. Keep it boring until I’m bored to tears and begging to move up???

And my other goal was to be 100% comfortable just ‘being’ on Oats. That was definitely achieved…We cruised around, hacked all the way around the stable yard, up and down the road, everywhere. Oats was so cool he was comatose?!! This did lend him well to being SO GOOD in my flat class–I have never had him so chill in a hack class, usually he is the psycho pony who is scaring people, racing other horses, bucking or rearing.

He was like an old hunter pony pro. And was generously rewarded with a first place! Go OATS!! I  have to thank my trainer for sticking by me for all my long, panicky horse shows in the past, and maybe in the future–there is a reason Oats now has a better reputation.

One goal I’m still not there yet with is weirdly…Not super interested in watching and analyzing the videos my friend took (which was amazing of her to take them, so appreciative!!). This is one area I can improve on–I need to accept that this division is where I am right now. I am a 2′ division rider, this is my truth. I think that’s why I like having video, but am reluctant to take a deeper look at them. I almost think “this is me, jumping such low jumps?”

A brief monkey bar break...Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

A brief monkey bar break…Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

But if I am honest with myself, yes that IS me, and yes, I actually rode well, had a very enjoyable, consistent show with Oats, and I should be happy to critique myself after.

Oh and I need to spray-paint my jointed stirrups- I got non-judged/DQ’d in the equitation over fences class because of my black stirrups. Curses!!! Well I also seriously bungled the trot fence so if there was a class to blow, and also get disqualified in, well…I’m not crying over it, hahah.

Ripoff report: Horse show edition

Now, I’m typically a hard one to surprise, cost-wise with horses (newsflash: everything they do, wear, eat, train for or participate in is insanely expensive.).

But, I’ve recently come across a new one that really bugs me. The ripoff horse show.

I do a few local- emphasis on local schooling shows hosted by great organizations or stables, and am proud and happy to share their names so that others can experience them at a more or less reasonable cost. They’re not cheap, nothing in horses is, but again, fairly reasonable.

These are:

  • Vancouver Island Appaloosa Club horse shows– don’t let the name fool you, they’re open to all breeds, friendly and nice. Good way to get into showing, offer very soft jump heights (for the wimps like me!!) and hack classes. Avg. $10 a class for non-members and I think $7/class for members? Cheapest game in town.
  • Sooke Saddle Club: They offer normally two ‘Show and Tell’ dressage days that are, quite frankly, a steal at the price. For $35/test, you get to ride your test, have the judge come out and put you through the wringer in the best possible way, and then you ride it again and they judge it again. I normally do two tests, so I have 4X opportunity for learning. It’s amazing!
  • Westside–I kind of hesitate with these guys–they are kind of the only game in town sometimes for shows in the off-season, and they aren’t really very cheap- think $20/class, and a $20/admin fee, but the venue is good, the courses are designed well and they have pretty good judges, from what I remember.
  • Foxstone–They only do 3 winter series shows, $45/div and a $20 admin fee- they are very reasonable and the facilities and course design are top-notch.
  • QMS–Offer both H/J and Dressage schooling shows, quite reasonable, good course design and seem to normally run on time. No quibble with these folks.
  • CDRC– SO cheap! Love them! Jumper classes are no-frills run at $10/a class, and their dressage is similarly no-frills but mega affordable.

And now to the rant part…

Westside has decided to offer a dressage show and tell, similar in format and the same judges that Sooke Saddle Club offers. I give them kudos for recognizing a need in the off-season, as Sooke doesn’t have an indoor arena and isn’t able to offer Show and Tell in the  winter. BUT…

The prices are ludicrous. A total money grab from my view (remember, this is my personal opinion) at $50/test and the nerve to tack on a $20/ring fee. Plus, you only get to ride the test once, instead of like Sooke where you sign up, ride, get your ass handed to you by the judge in a mini lesson, and then immediately ride again. So, double the cost, minus the test. No way José.

So, there’s that. Interesting chutzpah on their end but I will not be parting with my $$$ for that. For others, fair enough, it’s their dime.

Also- I saw a poster for a Halloween jumper schooling show at a local stable – Echo Ridge, which used to be called Oak Meadows, (local, like I could walk to it with Oats…) and was VERY interested. Until, I saw how much they were charging for what amounted to:

  • No real course designer
  • Tiny indoor arena to host the course- that also appears to be the only arena, no warmup ring??
  • Who is the judge?
  • No prizes/ribbons???
  • Oh wait, it’s a jackpot style class, so first place gets $8 and it goes down from there. So you can’t even make half of what the class costs back in prize money?
  • Charging for warm-up? Westside, of the ultimate money-grabber places, doesn’t even have the balls to do that. Jeeeesh.

So, for a tiny in-house jumper show hosted at their farm they were charging $20/class or 3Xclasses for $50. That’s even more than the really fancy-pants Foxstone?? Plus, they were charging $5/3 minute warm-up in the ring. I mean, really?

And you know what the worst part is? I am super disappointed. I actually wanted to take Oats in this show because it’s local, (support local!) I could walk there, it sounded really fun and offered silly classes like Gamblers Choice and some other ones.

I kind of want to write a review to them, and be like…You are pricing yourself wayyyy out of the market here. If it’s a fun in-house show, don’t charge SSITS or A-level prices. Do they know this? How could they not? I’m honestly surprised and was super taken aback by the extreme gouging level.

I think $10/class is a very reasonable price and I would be happy to pay that for this level and type of show. I do understand that the nicer venues have higher costs and nicer decorated jumps, finery, judges and prizes, not to mention course design…But it begs the question- why are their shows cheaper, have great prizes AND offer free in-ring schooling?

Just, help me out here!