Forever & Ever: Jump lesson recap!

So, due to the success of last week with my ‘motivator’ spurs I decided to try that one again- conditions were ripe for a very non responsive zombie pony. Hot, draggy, lazy and full sun (even in the evening, when our lesson is).

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Oats’ mood yesterday: No.

Oats’ head was literally dragging on the ground. He was NOT having it yesterday.

I had my big spurs on and boy, he did not want to respond to them. He remembered from last week I suppose and was distinctly crankier and surlier about them. He responded well for the first few jumps and then a big F-U! Cranky, bucking, fussing and sucking back. Ahh…shit.

Well, the key to that is to get over with it! Sorry Oats, you are just going to have to deal.

He was very much cranky when I started using a crop for motivation as well, so this newest ‘tool’ is also eliciting a very ‘NO!’ response from him. Ah well, riding is always simple and never easy, eh?

We worked over the course and he was…not great but not horrible. It took a few jumps (like, 4) from the beginning of the course for him to let his drama-llama tendencies go and just get with the program. Of course with his drama-rama on the loose, my fear tendencies also tend to rear their ugly heads when he gets silly like this too…So it turned into a bit of me not wanting to let him have his head, him getting cranky and silly, and blahhhh…

But, progress is progress and I know this is something we can work together on.

It just feel so ugly right now! Gah!

 

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Be the one you love: A good lesson update

Last jumping lesson, I was kind of bemoaning the fact that Oats just didn’t have any ‘oomph’ and consequently was grinding slowly to a halt at some pretty easy fences. I just didn’t have it in me to make a change in those last few strides, even though I knew I had to. So how do I manage this? What can I do to help?

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Nancy took this photo of Oats sharing a moment with her daughter’s pony and Oats’ twin. So cute! 

A few things actually- I had an equine counseling session to determine why my anxiety was stopping me from being more proactive on Monday.

And in my riding lesson last night, I came armed with something a little more – a pair of my ‘motivator’ spurs (they are pretty long). Now a note about Oats and spurs: I could NOT use them on him for years. He would basically send me to the freaking moon. He had a very hard buck and was not afraid to use it! So, I couldn’t use my ‘motivators’ on him, heck I couldn’t even use my regular small spurs on him.

But now, he is at the ripe old age of 17 and more mature. It was time.

So I came into the ride with some backup to my leg – the long spurs. We warmed up in the arena, and I kind of wanted to have a freakout when he got silly about going through the gate to the outdoor field (where we spent time on Wednesday setting up x-c style jumps…so fun!!) but Oats gets weird about the gate, so he was rearing/hopping up, etc.

With that, I wanted to spiral. Shit!!

But Nicole talked me through it, haha and soon we were happily walking and trotting in and out of the arena to the field with no drama. Phew!! Now on to jumping. We warmed up in canter over a small x-rail to a 6-or 7- stride line. The normal Oats would get 7…and that would be a stretch. The new and improved motivated Oats? 6 bang on. Wow!!

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Our ‘x-c’ jumps in the field.

I didn’t realize how much of an impact the spurs would have on our ‘forward to the jump’ at all. It was crazy- my legs got tired because instead of squeezing or kicking, I was having to steer with them, and hold them still! They were burning? Oats also had a few ‘squeal!!’ moments when he realized I was using my spurs to get some forward- a few sassy kick outs but nothing bad.

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This one looked weird but rode fine!

And I realized that I was definitely going to have to get used to this ‘new Oats’…He was very forward, but when I was not careful and kicked or squeezed with my spurs too much, he ‘spurted’ forward and would get flat over the fence= rails down. I had to be more careful about maintaining the pace, rather than trying to get ‘more’ pace as I am used to.

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We jumped the other hay bales, not these ones.

All in all, it felt crazy, exciting and kind of thrilling. Who is this new thoroughbred I am riding? It’s Oats! We also went into the field and schooled some of the small x-c jumps and he was awesome, but we also faced the forward =/ flat jump issue and he hardcore ignored some half halts and just slammed a rail. SIGH! Oh well. He was very responsive and I was very impressed. Wow.

As with any new power, comes responsibility. I will only use these for jump lessons under supervision.

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%!!

Canada Day long weekend horse camp/cross-country weekend!

Oh man, this weekend was insane. I am now feeling not great, probably coming down with something…Argh. So Canada day long weekend, Oats and I ventured up to Hi Point and rode in a Jane Stone x-c clinic and camp out. With horse games! It was nuts! Hahah.

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Fun with friends at horse camp!

Friday I had plans after work so I couldn’t pack up the trailer but the family I was hauling with generously packed up my gear from my locker. That was great, because we had to get up at 5-freaking-am to load the horses and drive up island to Hi Point in time for our 8:30 am x-c lesson.

It was pouring rain during the lesson, and woooow it was kind of a drag to have that, but you know what? Oats kept his hair on and things went really well- much improved from the first time we went x-c schooling at this venue in October. I was well pleased with Oats. No bucking, a bit sassy in the beginning but let it go quickly. He was spooky about going up on the hill, but oh well…

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All photos courtesy of Nancy.

We schooled logs, a small coop, a bunch of houses, and stacks of logs. It was great!

By the time we finished, it was time for lunch (at 10:45am). I was tired man. But no rest for the wicked! We put up the tent by the small lake – so cute- and a great location, and took the horses for a little walk-around up near the Trans Canada Trail. By evening, it was time to prepare for the horse relay games- whoop!

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My team had a swimmer, a wagon-puller (who had to pull the wagon blindfolded), the horse in-hand person (me) and the rider (who rode Oats actually, so funny!!). The person rode Oats because with the riders had to assemble the horses’s bridle (from pieces!) while the in-hand person was completing the obstacle course. Yikes…yeah no. So we got a different bridle that my team member knew how to put back together quickly and she did it and rode Oats. Success!

It was hilarious!!

We won too! Yesss..I won a small bottle of gin. Hahahha.

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We had a very nice potluck dinner by the lake, and I stayed up for awhile having some wine with the other riders. I actually slept really well (surprising) and then it was time for x-c lesson number two!

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This one was…Not so great. We started off quite well and I was happy with the warm-up course we did, but then it was time to tacked ‘the church’ up on the hill, and Oats was NOT having it. UGH! He slammed on the brakes and kind of reared-spun away…More than once. Yikes.

We wound up not being able to get over it, and so we got a lead from Oats’ best friend Joey, who boldly galloped up the hill, and over the church jump wit Oats following close on his heels. Oats would then only jump the church with Joey leading- SIGH! But at least we ended with him jumping it??

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Photo thanks to Rebecca. No photos of our church disaster though!

We then moved in to jumping a show jump with a small boat as a filler- very cute- and Oats was fine with it. We jumped a lovely course with that jump, and then moved on to the next field. The next one we had a few more stops- Oats was kind of getting backed off and was surprised by the jump. He did go over it no problem the next time though!

And then we had the opportunity to watch Joey with his young rider tackle some BIG fences in a neighbouring field- woooooow so big! And then they jumped the infamous ‘boat’ in the original field. Exciting!! And a great note to end on.

The sun came out, we packed up and it was still only Sunday!

Horse goals: Go get it

Had actually very few rides last week (rode Tuesday and Thursday) took Monday/Wed/Fri off because I wasn’t feeling well on Monday (exhaustion is a thing??) and had a physiotherapy appt Wednesday after work for my back, and had a work thing Fri night that ended up kind of not happening…

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But in the end, I felt like riding fewer days worked well for Oats and myself? He had more time off, and I had time to recover from the busy horse show weekend. Win-win! It’s hard to convince my brain of this though. My busy brain likes to remind me that I need to keep going, keep grinding, keep working. But I don’t have to listen to it.

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In fact, my jump lesson on Thursday was far from perfect. So far. Ha. But it was pretty fun and by the end I was saying Oats needs to have the jumps up higher because he’s not respecting them! One jump he was just cantering over and I was like wha, where is the jump?? Pfft.

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But my dressage lesson on Saturday was really good! He felt pretty nice, very cooperative and I felt much less tense than I have been. Even the awkward moments (breaking stride, trying to drag me out of a circle, some swapping, it was like hey, ok you can just sit and be ok with this awkwardness. Just sit with it for a moment, instead of reacting, or scrambling, or whatever.) And you know what? It went just fine! 

A lesson to me- sometimes you don’t have to react, do, be, whatever. You just have to maintain and be ok with whatever is happening.

So I think my goals for the summer are:

  • Ride a 2’6” course at home – ideally comfortably. Maybe try for a 2’9” fence in a grid? I’m not going to push this too much. Feeling good and not stressed about it is key.
  • Ride a competent first level test- I don’t much care about the scoring, but I do want it to feel more cohesive, round through the back, less struggle. I will know it when I feel it. Be present in my body doing it.
  • Show at 2’3” comfortably- maybe a course at 2’6” if I am feeling confident and good about it. I’m not pushing this goal too hard- I want to feel present, confident and comfortable.
  • Practice what I preach- less tension, less stress. Ride a 5-day week, and then ride a 4-day week. Let things go with Oats, let him have more time off.

Everything at the end of everything: Sooke Saddle Club Dressage Show’n’ Tell recap

I feel like each year I do these, my first show is very ‘blah’ and I’m not overly thrilled with my test riding/Oats’ performance. This year was no exception. It’s like we need an outing to kind of be crummy/not exceptional to figure out what needs to be fixed.

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Last year. 

This season we made our first ‘First Level test 1’ debut though! And I was happy with how the test rode generally, I wasn’t pleased with the level of cooperation and roundness I got from Oats in it. He was quite resistant, balancing off my hands, his canter was quite high-headed (to say nothing of his canter lengthenings..ha.) All in all NOT our best work.

We also rode our Training Level Test 3- and a brush fire had started in the Metchosin hills, so in the middle of my test a fire siren started BLARING from the fire hall! WHA? Oats is apparently a saint, because he didn’t blink an eye at it…It freaked me right out, and shattered my concentration. Soooo yeah, that test. Ha.

Oats however did spook VERY hard twice at ‘A’. Silly pony! In my first test he also stopped to poop at A and then spooked at it later. ARGH!

I really liked judge Melanie Houston’s take on Oats and agreed with her on the points that needed to be addressed.

So like, yeah it was fine. A nice day, tests rode ok, but I’m honestly at the point now where ‘ok’ doesn’t cut it? Our next show and tell is in July and I have higher expectations for us by that point!

 

MEC Race #3- Royal Roads- a half marathon with a reputation!

Not gonna lie, I was less than enthused about running this race. Last year it went really horribly for me- I was struggling with mystery asthma symptoms (struggling to breathe, felt like something was crushing my chest and I was gasping) on and off that whole year and hill running made it worse… So that race was hot, horrible and I thought I was going to collapse during it. I walked, a lot which psychologically is kind of tough.

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At the start. Brrrr. Can you see me? Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

My time last year? 2:10 or so. Ha. It’s a hilly and quite technical half, with very steep uphill climbs and downhill ‘jaunts’ that are just murder on your legs. My first time running it (it’s a quite new race, only three years now) I ran it in 1:50 and was kind of shell-shocked, haha.

It’s not a true trail race but there are lots of trail sections, and a loooong flat section (2km) along the Lagoon that is good on paper but a total mental dead zone when you’re running, complete with a pace-killing headwind the whole way.

Soooo yeah, I was not thrilled about this race, particularly since I was wrapped up in a crazy busy weekend with absolutely no downtime. But we picked up our bibs on our way to Hopoxia and it was ON! The race started at 8:30am and it was freezing at Royal Roads. I was shivering and wearing my jacket zipped up to my neck and didn’t want to take it off until we actually started. Ian took it from me (his race started at 9am).

And we were off! Started a bit late due to technical difficulties. I saw some people jump around and generally just waste energy (in my cranky opinion) do a quick fade out at 1km. Oh yeah and the start goes pretty much straight uphill, ha. It’s a pace-killer for sure.

Still, I thought let’s just see how this goes… I ran conservatively, but with the hills, you pretty much only have 1 choice- run conservatively or die.

I cruised up on a few women runners, saw one on the out-and-back at like 2-3km that I thought looked strong (she passed me shortly before the out and back) but I figured if I ran well I could catch her.

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Finishing strong. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

After that, I just didn’t worry about it. I spent a lot of time worrying about the really steep hill climb after the Lagoon though… I paced with this one runner for close to the entire race, haha. And he was a big guy! We’d play a bit of leapfrog up and down, but I lost him at the second loop at the big hill. Too bad, because I was impressed at his stamina.

I generally just kept running and didn’t think too much about anything. It was cold and windy, we had to jump over a downed telephone pole, the hills made my legs feel weird (like, they were kicking out wildly when I was going downhill and I wanted to shout at my legs ‘hey get with the program!!’) and I think that was just because going from uphill-downhill was straining the leg muscles.

I passed the other girl at like 5-6km? And then it was just a run where I had to keep my legs and my head in the game, haha. I didn’t let myself walk up the big hill- BOTH times I kept running (so slowly it was like walking, ha). My right knee this time was bugging me BIGTIME. I was worried going into the second loop, no lie. The downhills in particular were bad.

At the finish I felt quite strong, though my legs hurt quite a bit and felt super stiff and sore. We did it! My redemption race, in full colour.

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The winners! It was freezing though. Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

With a respectable time of 1:41 I placed second woman out of a small field (this half doesn’t tend to attract the numbers the other MEC races do, and particularly not for a half this nasty). 38? Women I believe finished the race. But it’s not really the placing that matters to me–it’s that I managed to do it, and ran a strong race for me. That’s the biggest joy of all! 🙂