Victoria Day long weekend in Port Renfrew!

And now for something entirely different- we went camping in Port Renfrew for Victoria Day. I desperately needed to get away from my personal horse drama (that continued the week after, no thank you rotten Oats), and what better place to reconnect than the quietness of Port Renfrew.

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Ripe salmonberries

Unfortunately, everyone else on the entire island had the same idea. Port Renfrew is a hidden gem no longer. It was very busy on the campsite at Pacheedat, and we practically had a party/disco going on full blast around a km up the beach. I’m NOT kidding- it was nuts! They had generators powering huge speakers on stands, disco lights, about 50 tents in the area, and more than 100 people.

Sheeeeeesh.

Well, we tried hard not to let that ruin our weekend away. We had a good campfire going, and it was just me, my husband and our dog. A nice time. We even picked salmon berries and those were ripe already and totally awesome, if you can believe it. We roasted weenies, drank beers and just had a nice time.

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Camp-style

Do I kind of wish we’d done more? Maybe. But I was kind of fried and burned out, so it came at a great time. The next day we checked out Botanical Beach, got stuck on some rocks that led to us clambering around on them for wayyy too long (ha) and then wrapped up the day by grabbing burgers in Lake Cowichan.

A good long weekend and well-deserved break from reality.

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Dog-eye view of the campsite

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A challenge

I went quiet last week, partly due to a large amount of stress at work, but also due to horse stress.  Yep, they both happened on the same day…Don’t you just love it? After all the shenanigans Oats has gone through lately (stopping at fences, being a dick at horse shows, stopping again at fences, me falling off in a bad 7-day period…) things got even worse. Not for riding–that’s been fine.

He banged into the stable manager when she was taking him out of the field, and she fell into a stump. On her back. Cue a hospital visit and now she’s off horses/stable work for a good two weeks, maybe up to six now. I felt terrible when I heard about this.

Jesus. First, my horse is an asshole to jump. Now he is an asshole to handle?

I was SO OVER THE HORSE THING. All of it. All of it was putting me in a really bad mood. I felt so sorry for her, and like, just…GAHHH. Last week and hell, most of the ENTIRE month of May, my horse had no redeeming qualities. NONE.

I was furious at him, angry and so pissed off.

I rode Thursday and it was actually a fairly productive ride, but I found myself chasing him to the pole exercise I was working on…So maybe I wasn’t good at letting things go. By Saturday, I had a good long time to stew in my misery and unhappiness. When my lesson time finally rolled around, I had worked myself into a frenzy of tension. Full of ‘I don’t wannas.’

So yeah, perfect to have a lesson, right?

WRONG.

This time I verbalized what was going on in my head to my instructor, who totally got it. I’m going through some stuff right now with Oats, and I’m not feeling comfortable at all. I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate and see where things are.

And I am pleased to say I did not lose my temper at Oats in my lesson, we didn’t push my boundaries with jumps- we did a small ‘x’ and a small vertical that I quite frankly could jump in my sleep- and worked on jumping those in combination with a leg-yielding pattern. It was interesting, I was very sweaty when we finished, and I didn’t at all feel keyed up, nervous, anxious or anything.

Ending on a good note. I was pleased with how it went.

Sunday, I set up the pole exercise in the outdoor and went to practice my ‘eye’- short distance, long distance, right distance. I deliberately pushed for the long distance and actually was able to ride it- wow! And I ‘collected’ sort of held for a short distance, and was able to make it.

It was a good ride, very comprehensive. I had a small jump set up, but it wasn’t calling to me yesterday, so I left it alone. Our lateral work sucked, but what else is new? Haha. Oh and Oats had a hissy fit about a car parked behind the arena- something NEW?! Gasp! But we managed just fine.

I finished feeling pretty calm and competent. I need the practice, apparently, on making decisions. I will keep on it until I feel like I can make the right decision!

I also felt awful about the stable manager so I sent her a Starbucks gift card as a ‘get well’ gesture. That made me feel a tiny bit better.

Lollygagging

Had my dressage semi-private last night and it was HARD. The hardest part? Turning!

no-more

Feeling sorry.

I know, weird eh? Stopping at jumps, can’t turn properly…Bring on the training wheels, Oats and I are apparently regressing to kindergarten.

We warmed up well, though I could feel his tension/anxiety in the ring looking for things to spook at and be distracted by. We then moved to leg-yield all the way around the ring with walk/trot transitions up and down and up and down…It was challenging. Oats thought he could blow through my aids, and when that didn’t work, bluff me by moving his neck in but not his haunches. He was also staring around the ring like his eyes were on stalks, argh.

I am on to you, rotten pony!

I love you this much!

Sometimes, I hate you!

He had a few ‘I don’t wanna!’ moments, throwing his head around, swinging his butt in, hopping, kicking out angrily when I was like, no actually, you ARE doing this and you WILL do what I say. We worked through it, and I was fairly pleased with the end results (not perfect but still not terrible). Until…

We went to turn left and he blew through my turn-signal and dragged me through the turn. Oh no he didn’t!

That ended the more formal part of our dressage education. What followed was just freaking strength and making a decision, on my part- this was hard. My trainer Karen yelled at us to turn left! HARD! Then GO and release! Then turn again! And turn right, and go!

Oats – and I- were getting an education in turning. He has to turn (move front feet) when I say so, and I have to pick a direction and stick with it. No wishy washing, no lollygagging, no shitty little attitude trot from him. Nothing. Drag me through the long side? Sudden HARD LEFT.

Be spooky about the right corner? HARD RIGHT.

Literally all we did was turn- and go- and release- and hard turn- and go- and release.

I was dizzy!

I lost my balance a few times even!

Trainer says he was having trouble connecting his front half with his body and his hind part. So, he’s like oh sure turn my neck and swing butt out…Middle section???!!? = profit?!

It does feel strange to ride, that’s for sure. But by the end, I was freaking exhausted and he was trotting and turning nicely.

It felt very strange to have an lesson where I literally spun in turns, and trotted out so fast I got left behind. It improved, for sure, but woah. My riding definitely feels like it is in the training wheels stage right now.

We learn nothing.

Got this book back from my in-laws and it made me laugh. Oh Tim Kreider, you are the best!

So do we learn?

Hard to say. I emailed my equine wellness counselor in a big hissy fit last week. Coming off a really bad 7 days, a record-breaking bout of falling off, and another trainwreck of a jump lesson, I was spiraling and it was BAD BAD BAD.

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Oats and his new obsession- Corona.

I took some time off from riding Oats (rode Fri and he was good! We worked on some dressage stuff, it was a very intense and thorough ride, but I felt like we got a lot of really solid work done), Sat-Sun I went  camping and Oats went on a trail ride with my friends without me, haha.

Monday I arranged the session. I was building already when we met, in a big huff, upset and convinced I was flying backwards with Oats. I could barely describe the problem without tears. It was rough.

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Best buddies.

She laughed and assured me that this is a stage, and like any stage, coming to me at a point in time when I can handle it. I just need to work through it. I described my bad jumping efforts and she said a year ago, Oats made all the decisions. Now, you’re making a lot more of the decisions- you no longer have to convince him. Except, when you make the decisions for him, you can’t abandon him when you are unsure. It’s like jumping out of the car on the highway, and you leave the car suddenly driving itself.

Interesting!

So, there is still a fear/panic element when I approach a jump and I feel ‘blank’ about where the takeoff is. I’m like, what do I do? My legs come off, my mind ‘goes somewhere’ and boom! Oats slams on the brakes.

He needs me to ‘be there’ the whole way, not just when I’m 100% confident about the takeoff spot.

You get this through focus, and let me tell you: that laser-like intensity is EXHAUSTING. We worked on free-longing Oats in the round pen, getting him to come in and go out just through my watching/observing and directing him with my body language and look. It worked, too! Oats responded really nicely.

This lack of focus and ‘me leaving my body’ was a big issue last year. I stopped showing because of it–I couldn’t make myself go in the ring without disassociating. So, obviously this is not a new issue for me, but it’s one that I can come back to and begin to manage appropriately.

So we worked on the round pen to build my focus  (mine more so than Oats’) and then worked on an emotional freedom technique that made me laugh out loud. It works apparently, so I will start doing it once a day this week.

I then rode Oats outdoors and he was freaking out about the back corner (we have a bad history there, and it got cleaned up so GASP it looked different~) but you know what? It’s fine, we can manage. And we did. I eventually got him going around, and then we cantered over poles and then I got brave and jumped a jump! Whoop! He was great, super forward and interested the whole ride- a little spooky/jittery, but very forward.

So, yeah. Ups and downs. I am trying to keep calm and progress.

 

A mountain with no ending: My first track race!

So, this weekend wasn’t all gloom and doom- despite what my previous blog post was griping about. My running was actually really neat! This year, adding to the theme of ‘getting outside my comfort zone’ I decided to be brave and sign up for a local amateur-friendly track series. This race ended up being on Saturday, the same day as my horrible horse show. Bad timing or what?

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My version of hauling ass at the track.

I did it anyways!

This is the track series: The Christie-Phoenix Victoria Run Series– super bare-bones, but really well run!  I was very intimidated when I got to the track–all these people looked super intense, elite athletes, and there’s me…the running schlub.

I bought the series run package- a steal of a deal at $65 for the season. That gets me three track events, and some local x-c running too. That meant that at the track, I can sign up for any or all of the track races. Saturday offered three distances: 1,500m, 800m, and 3,000m. I hemmed and hawed about trying the distances and decided on entering two: 1,500m and 3,000m.

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The 3,000m.

If there are enough elite athletes, they offer two or more heats per event. That meant the 3,000m and 800m races had two heats- actually the 800m had three! (Not that I was running in it). This is primarily due to safety on the track. I overheard the race officials talking about it and they said something about 14 racers being ok but not more than that.

My 1,500m race had 1 elite racer and the rest of us amateurs- about 14 runners total. I was sooooo nervous…there was a start gun and everything!! I lined up far away from the other runners, and I think there was even a false start when the gun went off (it was fine though). I was running soooo fast, my arms felt numb! I was blasting away and man it was tough!~

Turns out my ‘fastest km ever’ is not really that fast, but wow it was hard for me. I ran it at 3:48/km. Running 1,500m means going around the track 4 times. Running 3,000m means going around the track EIGHT times. That is a lot of time around the track!

I even got second female in my 1,500m race–whoop!!!! (there were not a lot of women racing in ‘amateur slow people’ category, trust me on this.) Still, I was very excited and proud. I’m doing it- running on a track! I was soooo out of breath too, holy shit, it is HARD on your lungs. I immediately wanted to quit, but Ian suggested I take a break and catch my breath, and then think about keeping going in the 3,000m.

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Two second places!

And I’m glad I did–because it went really well too! I was able to ‘settle’ much faster, and get comfortable for my eight laps around the track. They ring a bell when you are on your last lap and it is a very inspiring sound. 🙂 I even got second in my 3,000m race too! What a way to end a seriously disappointing horse show day, by getting some redemption in a race.

Track racing is wildly out of my comfort zone but you know what? I went out and gave it my all–and I’m glad I did! Well run, inspiring to watch the elites (they are stunning!), and just plain ballsy to run on a track.

I give up

“It’s no use to go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

So yeah, another whiny post in a long stream of whiny posts. I am losing the plot, horse-wise, and I can’t seem to get it back.

I fell off 3 times in 7 days. The horse show was a disaster, Oats warmed up really nicely, and then immediately wouldn’t play in the ring. He was distracted and stopped repeatedly, and I fell into an oxer- making that my third fall.

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A bad jumper show.

I had a lesson last night that had many opportunities for me to fall off – with Oats ungenerously slamming on the brakes repeatedly- about five times. I didn’t fall though, so I can consider that a success?

Now, my horse is a stopper. Lovely.

I’m bummed, frustrated, mad at myself and at Oats, and hurt. I don’t trust him to jump now, and I don’t trust myself.

How did this backslide happen so suddenly??? How do I get ‘me’ and Oats back?

I honestly felt like crying after my lesson. I just can’t seem to get a break. I haven’t really felt like blogging, mostly because I’m so unhappy with how things are right now. How hard do I have to work at this? I’m not jumping high, the jumps I’ve been falling off at are the lowest ones I’ve been jumping recently. So WTF?

I’m just so confused and upset.

My show schedule as of now is kaput. I don’t feel like even trying right now.

And the hits keep coming?

Aka I fell off in my jumping lesson AGAIN. Hilariously, it was at the easiest fence on course…One that I was rocking last week at a higher height even?

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Jumping two years ago- photo courtesy of Christi.Funny I thought this was really high back then.

So, the good news is that my jumping ahead and falling off isn’t fence-dependent at all, or  dependent on going up or down the hill either.

The bad news is…Why does it keep happening? I felt overconfident, turned for the jump, thought I saw my distance and…WENT FOR IT! Without the horse, basically. I used to have a terrible jump-ahead habit that I thought I’d cured. Turns out, I haven’t.

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More good news- my mindset seems ok with this failure. It’s ok to fail, it was even kind of funny last night because I didn’t re-injure my shoulder, I just sort of rolled off Oats and onto the ground, taking the jump down with me. Oats stepped politely over it. I got back on, and I didn’t even have a BIG adrenaline rush like last time. I just felt like, whaa?? And that was silly! I was even kind of laughing?

So, yeah got back on and rode it just fine. And then we did the entire course again- I will admit to a few mild butterflies, but it was fine. We were just rockin’ the gymnastic this week too, something that gave me a hard time last week (hint: this week we got to canter in to them, and that was sooooo much better!!).

So why the falls? I don’t even feel particularly insecure!

Oats was jumping fine last night, he gave some boxes a hard look but went over them anyways, the outside line that kind of gives me trouble rode fine- if a bit crooked…as per ususal- our two-stride line that I fell off at last week first rode in 3 (eek) but then rode in two with some big clucking from Nicole. She checked the line after and saw it was set a tad long for Oats, so that may have been it. And yeah, we were rocking and rolling through the gymnastic, even with some big blue barrels set under it to give the horses something interesting to look at!

And then yeah, the easiest single fence on course and I blew it. HA?!

Oh well, this is another valley in the learning process I suppose. One day I’ll get it.