Beginning holiday traditions

I’m usually a hold out for Christmas stuff until after Dec 1. It just doesn’t feel right until then, but I do make one exception…Making and decorating Christmas cookies with my friend. We’ve done this two years in a row now, and maybe it’s the start of something?

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A yummy Christmas tradition!

I have a TON of sprinkles and I love using them. Love love love it! I even found a recipe for sugar cookies this year that worked to make them softer, and less ‘rock hard’ than last year (yeah they kind of sucked…). So, I was even happy to eat them this year too! Score!

We drank lots of cider, decorated cookies, and laughed a ton. What a great way to spend a Friday night.

Saturday I was up and at the barn, and Oats was good, I can’t remember specifics but he was amenable to whatever I was working on, anyways. I came home later and we went on a bit of a longer run, 14k or so, on the Galloping Goose. It went fairly well, can’t complain as my legs were tired but workable.

Saturday night my husband and I got a hot chocolate from Starbucks (salted caramel for me, yes I’m sure the 1,000++calories that I gained drinking it was so worth it!) and then we went to the Oak Bay Rec centre for a late-night splash around in the pool and hot tub. Overall, a very nice and relaxing weekend.

Sunday I wasn’t going to be riding Oats-he was going on an adventure! A girl at the barn asked if her friend, a very experienced event rider, could borrow Oats to ride on the trails with them. I do like him to get out and have some fun, so I said sure, as long as it was safety-first. Sadly, the friend cancelled so no adventure for Oats…And also meant that our plans had to shift a bit for Sunday, but no worries.

We enjoyed lunch at my husband’s parents farm in Cobble Hill and wow…It was freezing out there in the country. Brr. So cold. We went on a short walk, freezing the whole way, and visited and then hot-tubbed it up!

Then we stopped by the barn on the way home and I rode Oats–my long-suffering husband was quite gracious about this change in plans. I hopped Oats over a few jumps I lowered in the ring and he was really great about it. A short, but good ride. The ring was still very deep and mushy in places, and Oats stumbled a few times going near those spots. A bit disappointing.

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More fun with arrows & haybales

Jump lesson last night, I was quite pleased with how Oats was in my dressage lesson, so I was hoping he’d continue his winning ways last night!

And, I was not disappointed. He came in with a good attitude, warmed up fairly nicely and we started working over…gymnastics. (insert face falling here). It’s no secret that gymnastics and I are not always on good terms- except for a brief fling this summer where I was actually rocking them…We tend to struggle greatly with them when everyone else is like, hey I love gymnastics, they do all the work for you, you just have to sit there?!

Yeah, except for me!

I even said I’d do them as canter-in, and to this moment, am not sure if that was a wise choice or a bad choice? Oh well!

They went ok for the most part but was having a difficult time with the placing pole. We came in short a whole bunch of times, Oats was good on his feet and figured it out, until we added a very small oxer and then I was like, whaa…I felt like we were leaving long to it, a lot. Turns out maybe that’s just how oxers are ridden? Who knew?

We had a two fumble throughs, a stop that was my fault, and then a very strong ride through, and then on to my more favourite activity–coursework!

We rode the gymnastic to a diagonal fence, to the point of an arrowhead-so, two poles resting on the haybale and we rode against the point of the arrowhead, then around to a fence on the long side, the diagonal fence again, and then back to the arrow- this time riding with the arrow, a very inviting fence.

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Picture this with a more inviting haybale. ‘Against the arrowhead’ style of jump.

I got some bad distances as Oats was starting to suck back- but, I managed to put my leg on- finally! And we figured it out, and it was really fun! I love riding courses, the jumps were tiny and non-threatening to me hahah and well, it was just normal and cool to ride. I’m really getting better about acknowledging where I am in my ride- I don’t ignore fear, I recognize it, accept it, and move on from it.

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The more inviting side- picture this with a haybale.

I still majorly need to work on getting more leg when I feel him sucking back- that is a continued issue for us.

Nicole said we need to do gymnastics EVERY jump lesson. UGH.

When I was recounting this to my husband, he said pommel horse, paralell bars or vaulting? Hahahahha. Yeah.

Guilt and horses

Coming into the holiday season, I’m often confronted by lots of charities, organizations and others looking for donations. I’m using the term ‘confronted’ because honestly, it feels like a real barrage sometimes and because it is the holiday season, it’s all coming in one huge rush. Last weekend when I was grocery shopping (a task that I approach grimly on the best of days) I was approached by both the Sally Ann bell-ringers and some boy scouts selling something…ARGH.

Buster

And it’s too much sometimes.

And that makes me feel guilty.

I’m lucky enough to be able to work a good job, I work hard at it, and I have enough support and finances to be able to afford a good but cheaper boarding situation, lessons and training, grain for my horse, the occasional splurge item like a horse show or a road race (ok a lot of road races, they are cheap as anything compared with horse showing).

 

But that’s also where the guilt comes in even more…Because there are fellow horse people – friends, boarders, trainers, etc., who are not as fortunate as myself and it makes me feel vaguely strange about the relative small luxuries I allow myself.

We all make choices in the world, and because I understand others may not be facing the kind of life I have, I do try to give back, but I mean, I’m comfortable but not exactly a Rockefeller here either…

But I made my choice- to have a horse instead of a kid (like that was ever a competition though, haha), to travel and run races, to have lessons and the occasional horse show.

So, it all kind of comes to a head during Christmas, when we’re reminded daily that others are not so fortunate – not that it matters more this time, but that it’s kind of in your face a lot more over the winter.

Also, my sister recently lost her job and I emphathize strongly with that. It’s tough, and demoralizing, and not something I would really wish on anyone.

So, while I greatly enjoy my horse, my progress and my competitions, it’s important to keep all these fun activities in perspective and doing so may help me manage my ‘comfortable guilt’ for this season. Also, I’m making sure I’m not too ‘wanty’ or grabby hands for things at Christmas. Honestly, what do I really need? Nothing!

I am also trying to make sure I give small tokens of my appreciation to the people that ride with me, have fun with me, coach me and do other things. Maybe I can make their day a little bit brighter too!

It’s the little things, not the big things, that can make a difference.

Try-hard

Private dressage lesson last night due to my regular riding partner feeling ill, so that was good–I had a chance to really ‘work’ what I had been developing with my equine counselor on Monday.

Progress can be hard to measure

Progress can be hard to measure

So, the hopping…

It came back, and this time, we really worked it. Our entire ride last night was focused on a very deep inside bend, to release, to deep bend, to release until Oats started giving down, and pushing down instead of holding, bracing or ‘floating’ on contact.

It was quite challenging, he did ‘hop’ a LOT on the right- hop into canter, keep the bend until he gave up the hopping, then back to tot, hop into canter…Man!

On the left, he felt more ‘sprawly’ and like he couldn’t find his legs or his balance as well as on the right. Because he is left-sided, he doesn’t have to try as hard as on the right, so it feels actually worse?! Weird.

Winter Oats- canter

Winter riding- Oats canters. So, have we gotten better than this?

We did a lot of trotting- big trotting, stretchy trotting, so much trotting. I was quite pleased with Oats’ progression through the exercise. He isn’t really confirmed at this type of work, but that’s not a biggie for me, he’s trying and that’s what counts for me. I appreciate the ‘try’ here.

Ended on a good note, and we had a good discussion earlier about my horse show this weekend, and the good/bad aspects of it. It brought home to me how my ‘mindful’ work is making me more aware of myself, me in my body, and how I’m going about things…Airy-fairy for sure, and ridiculously hard to explain, but it’s slowly, very slowly, making sense to me.

I am able to feel more focused, less drifting (wanting to leave my body) and trying to stay in the moment- still a work in progress for sure, but I’m ok with that.

Glad I was able to make my dressage lesson this week! It has been an inconsistent lesson for me to catch this fall for some reason (Oats got sick, I had to work late, Oats was too drugged one time?!!).

Foxstone show recap: November show!

On paper (well, in ribbons) this show looked pretty darn good- and to be honest, my complains and frustration comes from a place of progress not fear. So that IS a good thing.

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My new show jacket! I love it. A big thanks to my trainer for taking me this day.

Let’s break it down: I placed 2nd in the equitation over fences, two thirds in the hunter o/f classes and a fourth in the flat.Not too shabby eh? Well, I made some BIG mistakes in the jump classes, to the tune of not enough leg at all, and a big add in the the line with some chips, and then a lovely round in my second class to a huge fail at the…last fence…shit! We basically stopped, and climbed over it. Nothing but a total failure to ride the last fence on my part, which was very disappointing.

I lit a fire under my butt for the last jump class- I told myself NO MORE CHIPPING and NO MORE ADDING and oh, no more forgetting to ride the last fence and start congratulating myself too early, ha.

And you know what? It was our best round! I was moving.

Except then I didn’t know how to take that ‘BIG’ energy down enough for our flat class and I totallllllly bombed it. Oats was tense and anxious, and I was handsy and clutching, feeling afraid that he was bottled up and bucky, but not really knowing how, at the moment, to deal with it. Shoooot…

So, I kind of flopped, pulled, got anxious and failed my way through the flat class- we picked up the wrong lead on the right (TWICE! kill me now…) and generally I was kind of frustrated and miserable. Our last flat class was a dream so what in hell was going on?

Well heck, it’s all a learning experience! It is actually nice to take what I’ve consciously learned from the first show, and apply it to the second show.

We didn’t get a fabulous warmup- the outside ring was frozen solid- and so was I, by the way! So we had to just slowly walk around, freezing our asses off, until we could get into the indoor to warm up over fences. The scene there was total chaos, some riders seemed to have a warm up technique of repeatedly falling off…I felt disjointed and a bit disorganized, but Oats was a dream to warm up. The only thing I was annoyed about was his throwing his head around, but that’s just a warm up thing, I’m sure.

We then sat…and sat…and sat…freezing our butts off, while we waited for the final rotation to go- and we were last in the final rotation. Lovely.

I think the issues were clear- not enough energy for our over fences classes until the last one, when I finally mustered up enough ‘go’ for the course, and then WAY too much ‘go’ for my flat.

The sitting really killed our impulsion for sure, and then when I needed to be ‘sitting’…well, we were already in the ring for the flat class and didn’t have that necessary ‘decompression’ time Oats and I apparently need to not kill anyone in a flat class. I couldn’t moderate myself enough. It was 0-60 all the time.

Hm, interesting.

I had a dream that night that I was galloping Oats and I felt a bit out of control, but that I also liked it…It was strange. I felt like that dream was telling me that was what I needed at the show, but was blocked from achieving it.

So, last night I did my equine counseling session with Vicki, and kind of actually ended up re-enacting some gallops from my dreams? Weird eh? I guess that was what I needed to get…that big gallop, the good canter, and the ‘free, floaty, smooth’ trot that I could NOT get at the show.

It had to come up somewhere. So it did. I liked it!

I like seeing the progression, and I’m liking the process. So what if I am frustrated–at least it’s taking me places to see new things about myself and my horse.

It’s funny- when I said I was half pleased, half disappointed about the show, Vicki asked what would make me 100% happy about the show. What if I came home with all first places?

I instantly knew I what I would say–that the competition was weak, so I was the best out of the worst.

That surprised me. I need to be happy with what I am achieving right now.

Lock it away in your heart under unfinished business

Jump lesson last night, and I was quite unsure how exactly we would set up a jump course or gymnastic exercise given half the ring is kind of flooded right now…And we are supposed to stay out of it! It’s super mushy and gross.

BalanceTrackWork

No fear, apparently. Nicole set up some jumps in a ‘circle of death’ variation, oh joy of joys…As pictured above, but it was 3 jumps on a circle with 4 strides between jumps.

Oats and I tend to really struggle with jumps on a circle- see our recent challenges with the green box on a circle, ha. So, this was going to be a very challenging lesson for us, not in jump heights or nerves, but in sheer frustration.

Oats from 2012-think we've progressed?

We worked over it from the left, trot over x-rail, canter the two other jumps set just as poles on the ground. Then we gradually brought them up to x-rails and it went quite smoothly, some bobbles when I lost my track or forgot to look where I was going, but overall quite nice.

THEN…

The right lead, dun dun dunnnnnnn….

It was not the success that the left lead was, at all. Oh man, we struggled. Jump the pole to the x-rail too long, miss my turn for the x-rail. Rinse, repeat. Swap leads, fumble to the x-rail. Swap leads, miss the last pole. It was struggle-bus time, by like a million.

My eye kept getting ‘stuck’ when I was looking to the right, so instead of looking right, I’d kind of keep wanting to look straight, or even sort of left? ARGH why? We set up guiding poles on the front and back of the x-rail to help us even further, because it was pretty clear that we were noooot winning this exercise.

Newsflash- Oats is better on the left, haha. We never even got to put the rest of the x-rails up on the right, because I just could NOT get it sorted out! Finally we did it 1 last time, Nicole asked if I wanted to stop or could do it again, and I was fine with doing it again, and we finally got it. I left it on that, I mean, we could start bringing the x-rails all up, so there are 3 of them, but I didn’t want to over-frustrate Oats and tax his already dwindling patience with me.

Nicole said that Oats smelled nice when she came over to give him a hug. Cute eh?

Half Way Home

No dressage lesson – or any riding actually – for me and Oats on Tuesday. I was stressed beyond belief at work, had to work a bit late, had to run an errand after work, and the weather was channeling the ‘storm of the century’ complete with gale- force winds, sideways rain and trees bringing down power.

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I, wisely, elected to not even try to rush to make my lesson. Having made that decision, I didn’t even go to to the barn. I was in a terrible mood, I yelled at my dog, I was surly to my husband and worse to my coworkers. It was not a good day to ride my horse, and bring all that negative energy to him, on a lousy weather day.

So, I ran my errand, got home around 6:30 and took the night off.

I’m glad I did–I was in no shape to ride, and I think part of being more aware of this makes me a more thinking, compassionte horse-owner.

I was bummed to miss my dressage ride but in the grand scheme of my relationship with Oaty pony, it was a good choice. I rode my dressage plan last night, and he was in turn good and bad, haha. He warmed up LOVELY…Can’t say enough good things about how he is moving right now. We then worked on some very focused lateral work, after doing the spiral-in-spiral-out at the trot (he spirals out great, in not so great).

Oats at Foxstone

Oats at Foxstone

The lateral work was a mixed bag. I need to do it more, that’s quite clear…Oats banged his head against the wall, the mirror, and the final thing–a giant iron post that really smartened him up and made him stop, in shock, about how much that one hurt! He would rather bang his head into the wall than, say, go sideways? Yes, off the right leg, that is DEFINITELY his preference.

To the left, beauty…soft, sideways movements. Floating, butterfly-like…Ah…

To the right- ARGH. But, he did learn. It just took a long. frustrating.time. Haha. I still feel ok about it, just need to be smarter about practicing the less-fun stuff on my rides! Rather than, say, jumping…