Clocks and Hearts Keep Going

With a busy few weeks, you’d think that my riding has taken a hit, but it hasn’t! I am happy to say I have had some great jump lessons lately, taking advantage of the outdoor arena while it is still open for the season. AND I had a dressage lesson this past Friday with a new trainer! Yeah! I have been dressage-trainerless for quite some time since our previous trainer Karen Brain moved to Vancouver.

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Doesn’t this look just like Oats? An artist in our community does animal portraits, and while this isn’t mine, I love it! 

Cue sad face, arghhh now what?

I worked with another trainer who was just lovely, but she too moved! Man!

So on Friday I rode with Samantha, who owns a really amazing facility in the Saanich Peninsula. It’s gorgeous! I was a bit nervous, I had a stressful day at work, was planning to go to my family’s place for dinner (stressful on its own right), and a new trainer? Plus was feeling anxious about the level (First Level test 3) that I signed up for next, and quite frankly a bit overwhelmed?

Yeah…Not the recipe for success. At this point, I wanted to cancel all of my plans and toss it up and go for a glass of wine at happy hour after work!

But, I sucked it up, and you know what? Things went well. The lesson went super, I was happy with the techniques and tips offered to us, the trainer listened nicely and was very encouraging and positive about Oats and I and our partnership. It felt really cool, and the exercise (a movement in the test I was freaking out about) turned out to work really well! No problems! And the dinner meet-up didn’t have drama, thank god.

Now, I just have to replicate it on the day. But if I don’t? There’s always another show, another day and another ride.

I was fussing about time last night (had a chiropractic appointment, my first ever) and was running late to get to the barn, and trying to figure out when I’d be home, when my husband said to me, instead of my fussing about time: How about you just go and have fun?

He was right. Early, late, middle ground= all that matters is fun. And so, I had my relaxing walk-trot ride around the field last night, in the fading light. The long shadows took over the grass, and for 30 minutes, I didn’t think about anything at all.

And that, friends, is true luxury.

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The one to wait: Sooke Saddle Club Dressage Show and Tell #2

Going into this show (only a mere month since the last one) I had a goal of riding a cleaner, more competent test. I wanted Oats to be more through his back, balanced and listening. I didn’t want his tense, head-flaily test of last month.

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From the last show- photo courtesy of Lois Burton.

And the scores? Yeah, well those can wait. We have other fish to fry.

I had a dressage lesson on Thursday instead of jumping, so I could prep our mindset for the show- and it went quite nicely. I was very pleased with how Oats was responding and felt like maybe this was a good omen for the show? A softer, listening and more responsive horse? Could be!

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Also from last show- happy to say there was improvement this time! Photo by Lois Burton.

Saturday the show was hot hot hot! I, in my infinite wisdom (thank god, b/c it usually only goes one way with me, ha) had decided to only sign up for 1 test. Good idea, me! Oats warmed up okay…But his canter was resistant, high-headed and draggy. I wasn’t super impressed with it, and quickly got annoyed. I asked Christina, who hauls us and is an experienced dressage rider at third level, for some advice.

She suggested I throw in some shoulder-fore at the canter to really work on more straightness and solidify the half-halts. So that’s what we did, and wouldn’t you know…it worked! Got him off my hands, listening better and more engaged. (Note- he sometimes flails into a flying trot while doing this exercise, but hey, baby steps).

We went into the test and wouldn’t you know, it was awesome!! Things we mucked up- my 15-metre circles were WAY too big, and my lengthens did not show enough differences…But otherwise, a really solid test and an improvement for both Oats and I, markedly, from last time. I could feel it!

The judge was very complimentary- she said didn’t I tell you to move up last year? And I said, but I did! This is my move-up! And we had a laugh at that. She ran us through the circles a few more times to work on my geometry, and we did a few lengthens in the canter- very exciting!

And then get this- she ran us through a Level 2 test! Just for fun, to play around with what is being asked at a higher level. It was hilariously bad, but super enjoyable to play with it, and see what happened! It made me feel fired-up and excited 🙂 Even though we kind of sucked at it. And our score for the level 1 test? A very generous 70%!!

A few good rides

I rode Oats Sat/Sun/Mon/Tues but you know since I took Monday off (and spent EIGHT HOURS at the barn…) it didn’t feel like that many days in a row?

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In the big field last year.

We schooled flatwork primarily, but I also did a big-field ride on Sunday for a quicki ride (30 minutes of transitions up and down the hill) and then I rode in the smaller field last night for a dressage-type ride. Oats was really good!

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In the small field last year.

I love that the fields are opened up again, a lot of really fond memories are of us just cruising around in the field, year after year.

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Oats jumps an imaginary jump (aka a ditch, haha). Last year.

My friend and I also set aside some time and set up the new jump course in the outdoor arena. Wow, I am SO not good at it and it is a lot of work. I’m glad our trainer is so interested in setting up and maintaining the riding arena, lots of new jump courses to try out for fun! The weather is finally turning around, after a really blah and lousy weekend (rain on Monday, chilly and windy, on and off clouds). C’mon summer!!

Wild’n’Wooly show recap: SUCCESS!

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Braid job and photo thanks to the lovely Sarah C!

After having to cancel two dressage shows with Oats this past year, I was understandably concerned about this one–I REALLY wanted to take him. The Wild’n’Wooly shows are new to us, I wanted to support them, and last time I took Blaze and had a great time. I thought maybe I could do even better with Oats~

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Photo thanks to John.

We were at Training Level, because of our rustiness. In September I was planning on moving him up to First Level, but after he almost died, we had to cancel. Which was fine, I would rather enjoy lots more years with my boy! And then this past spring he had the plague that all the horses picked up, so I couldn’t bring him and NO WAY was I feeling prepared enough to jump straight to First Level this spring. So, Training it is!

And it went sooo well! He warmed up really nicely, listening, not overbent, not bucky- though he did feel QUITE jazzed in the show arena, which made me feel a bit concerned, but when I ‘gave’ him my hands in the canter he responded really nicely and stretched instead of getting ‘up’ and bottled up and balky. Sooo that’s a win!

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Braids by Sarah C. Awesome job eh?

He was a total dink to get into the arena though- running backwards, gate sour. We had to get a running start from Christina every time. SIGH. Oats you are way too mature and experienced to be a crank about going in the in-gate. That was the only big bobble from our day though, so as one of my friends also riding put it ‘I’d rather the horse be a dink about going into the ring rather than have them be a dink IN the ring!’ Ha, ok that’s so true.

So the tests had some minor mistakes- my halt sucked at my first Training Level 2 test, but otherwise was ok. I came into my Training 3 test way ‘wowing’ out at the centreline approach (whoops!) but my halts were better and my circles were better. My stretchy trot wasn’t great either time, and my long-rein walk Oats was rooting. Ah!

I was rewarded well though, and came out of my Training 3 test feeling good about it, like I had improved on my Training 2 test. I NEVER feel that way normally. So that was awesome. Our final test was Prix Caprilli Training and I had a BLAST!! I was smiling, felt awesome, and loving it! Oats was super engaged too, and he was locked in on the fences hahah. Finally something we can both agree on. We did have one major bobble- our ‘stretchy trot’ ended up like, trot-walk-balk- square instead of circle. Whoops!

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All my friends. What could be better?? Photo thanks to John.

But that was pretty much our only big mistake. I came out smiling, and feeling really good.

A great day even before I checked the scores. I knew at that point they didn’t matter– I rode tests I was proud of, happy with. I had a great time with my horsey friends, I was a bit bummed for them that their tests did not go as smoothly. Horses can be heartbreakers. They work so hard and deserve to see that work provide some results!

My results: Training 2: 68% for a second place, Training 3: 71% for a first place, Prix Caprilli (?) not sure, I didn’t pick it up yet.

We were the Training Champs with 70% avg. and we also received the Judge’s Choice award. I am over the moon with his comment: “Lovely rider, I would have her ride my horses anytime!” WOWWWW! 🙂

And that friends, is an awesome day. I do not expect that kind of feedback normally, so I am floating on air with it now.

 

The countdown is ON!

T-3 days and counting…Oh man am I ever counting down the hours/days.

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My Reese’s Advent Calendar. I LOVE IT.

Anyways, dressage lesson last night with Karen and my friend Lindsey joined us, as I usually do a semi-private vs private because privates are $$$$ and my other regular lesson partner is injured, so I asked Lindsey if she was interested. She was! Win win.

I think she got a lot out of the lesson, at least from what I saw!

My takeaways for my ride: Practice transitioning from posting trot to sitting trot. Wow, this was way harder than I originally anticipated. I go from smooth posting to WHAM WHAM WHAM bucket of bolts sitting trot jarring my everything. Gag. It was hard, and my abs hurt? WTF?

We worked on that for awhile, making sure I didn’t tip forward and get all bunched up holding my breath (told you it was hard). We then went up into canter, and worked on getting a ‘jump’ from Oats in the canter. We were close but my timing was off in the ‘release’ part of the ride- I wasn’t releasing fast enough or near enough. Ah, well.

I need to practice posting trot to sitting trot though. Ouch!

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I am also eating a LOT of holiday candy. Man, I love Christmas candy. Mmmmmm even grabbed some treats at the Dr’s office this morning! 🙂

Quite like you: Bad ideas

So, where to start with this weekend? Maybe with the fact that I had a horrendous head cold, and was staring down the barrel of a majorly overscheduled weekend…With some dread/trepidation.

What was on tap? Saturday: Sooke Saddle Club Show and Tell in dressage (Training Level 2 and an attempt at Training Level 3) and then the MEC Race #3, The Pace Setter half marathon on Sunday (gulp!!). Did I mention I had a really nasty head cold that I am still trying to get over, combined with exercise-induced asthma that flares up badly when I have a cold/run hills/run long, and oh the hottest days Victoria will see this month?

What are you talking about, all I see is success….?? Right? Right?

Um, yeah no.

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Sooke Saddle Club Dressage Show ‘n’ Tell

But the Sooke Saddle Club show and tell went fairly well, Oats was being a bit of a dingus so we had some issues with contact…spooking and consistency (mine on this point). Oh and get this, I had gotten back from Nakusp on Tuesday, ran a track race Wednesday, had my lesson on Thursday where I printed out and ran through the WRONG TRAINING LEVEL TEST?! For Saturday. Shit!! I did print out the correct one in a big rush on Saturday morning but yes, my  head was definitely not in the game for anything, haha. And that was why we went off course in our first Training 3 test, and thankfully corrected that for the second one. I am a genius. (More on that later, like during the longest half marathon of my life).

So anyways, the judge was great and gave the feedback we needed. And I even made a goal for myself and Oats- try for First Level! I know it’s a reach goal, but I figure we can dream eh?

The scores were tough but VERY fair given what I was riding (sort of poorly, and got a MASSIVE charley horse in my leg, yay…mid-test) and how Oats was responding (not well). Great learning experience, and we even were lucky enough to have a friend swing by the ring and give me an Iced Capp!! Made my afternoon 🙂 🙂

It was a hot day, and I sweated through my belt. Phew. Foreshadowing for the race the next day…I got home at like 6pm. EEEK!

Stay tuned for the events of the next day….

Honey Bunches of Oats does dressage!

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I saw this quote in another blog (Medal Slut), and I loved it so much I had to use it~

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – Charles Bukowski

And here’s the shocker-for a reluctant dressage-er, we did REALLY WELL!! Got our personal best scores of all time?! 68.47% in Training Level 1, and 69% in Training Level 2~ can you believe it! I can’t!

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The whole gang with their ribbons!!

Rewinding a bit, I had originally wanted to go to the Cowichan District Riding Club’s jumper show on the Saturday, when everyone was going but as I mentioned yesterday we had a packed schedule and no hauler to go up with, soooooo dressage it was!

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I had avoided the dressage ring for a few years, because it was hard, we were’t good at it, and it tripped all of my high-anxiety issues for showing and Oats did not respond well to my nerves, at all. So, jumping it was. But then, my husband got me some fancy white dressage boots for Christmas, so I wanted to show them off…and well, I had a ride to the showgrounds with my friend and her horse, sooooo…

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

It was fated! We were doing dressage for the first time in like 3 years!

As you will note, we practiced a LOT in the two weeks leading up the show. Four dressage lessons, even? I was ready. I was still very nervous, but luckily we didn’t have a lot of time to fuss around at the show, as we were running kind of late, haha. I hopped on, did a pretty perfunctory warm-up (Oats was ok, but swapping his left lead for his right CONSTANTLY in the warm up and it as driving me nuts). Anyway, off we went for Training Level 1 and you know what? It went fine. I felt pretty ok about it, despite him spooking a bit in the warm up and getting a little silly.

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

Funny enough usually at horse shows, I can’t wait to BE DONE and get off. This time? I finished my test 1, and said I want to get back in their and have more opportunities to ride the test! Who is this girl? I was still anxious, but I felt like I could have more time in the ring and really focus on riding.

Cue super long hiatus where Oats got loose and ran over one of the girl’s finance’s foot. Whoops!! He did catch Oats for me though, with Oats pinning his foot into the ground. Yikes! Oats and I hung out for ages..My first test was at 9:50am, and my second one was at 1:50pm!!

I got ready at around 1:10pm and warmed Oats up for the second time. He was TERRIBLE in the warm up. Thundering around, swapping leads like crazy, kind of acting nuts. I had this awful sinking feeling in my stomach.

Nicole was like, hey leave it in the warm- up, and just go and ride your test!

Easier said than done…

But, we entered the ring, started the first half of the test, got whistled out (judge thought we were doing Training 3 mistakenly, so I got to go back out, re-enter and start the test over.) Despite the miserable warm-up, the whistling out, we DID IT. We entered the groove, where I was focused on my test, on my horse, and on my body.

Each moment was there for me, and I wasn’t thinking too far ahead. (I did worry about the canter, ha).

When we came up to the final halt, I just KNEW we had a rocking test. We aced it!! The judge called me over and asked what breed Oats was (a mutt, I said. haha) and she said she really liked him and he was a good size and a very nice mover! WOW!!!!! 🙂

That test? Highest score ever for me- 69%. Good enough for second place for us! YESSS. A great end to a good day. I was very proud of how we pulled it together, and you should have seen how great everyone else was riding yesterday- I wasn’t the only one coming away with some good scores!!

Kudos to my friends for their great efforts, and to the Cowichan District Riding Club for a friendly, welcoming and fun atmosphere.

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.