I hope they get it right this time

Apparently pain is a great teacher. I hope it is, because lately all I feel is pain (emotional and physical?).
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My leg feels like a throbbing mass of pain basically everyday. I HATE IT. 

I had an amazing spring and early summer, it felt great! Things were falling into place (I won a small half marathon! Oats and I made our 2’6” debut and it was fantastic!) and was really in this ‘challenge me’ type of mentality that I was getting a lot out of and feeling strong and confident!
Now, it feels like everything that I worked hard for kind of went off the tracks. Oats went suddenly lame before a big horse show I was really looking forward to, and we had to pull out. That same week I tripped running home over a small hose leading to a construction site and face-planted quite dramatically on the pavement. I was ok with no serious injuries, but it scared me, was painful, and took a week or so to heal.
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The last show that went well. I see a lot of things to fix, but I remember having a really fun time and smiling. How do I capture that joy again? 

At the same time I tripped and fell, I unknowingly had developed an overuse injury in my leg and couldn’t run at all. I have now been off for a month, and while I am getting treatment for it, it is a slow process and can expect to be injured for another month at least. I am (or was..) in the middle of training for a fall marathon and now I feel like giving up.
Oats came sound after a few weeks- longer than I thought he would be off, which was anxiety inducing to say the least- (after I healed from my fall) and things just haven’t been very smooth. I feel frustrated and things just don’t feel happy and easy, like they were before everything happened. Our rides are full of tension and while I am taking lessons regularly, we have good moments but on the whole it feels rough, awkward and makes me feel unhappy.
This came to a head this weekend when I had him at a small, no-stress schooling show and he felt AWFUL. Tense, unhappy, distracted and very anxious. We were at the same show a month ago and it was night and day! I have such happy memories of how thrilled I was at the show and I was saying I loved riding him so much I wanted to canter forever, it felt so amazing!! We were actually worried he had an episode of gas colic, he was so out of sorts and acting strangely. Not like Oats at all!
I can’t really ascribe all of his behaviour to me and what I am feeling (mostly frustrated and in pain) he could just be having an off day too, but he does mirror me closely sometimes. Too closely.
I am taking a step back this week and having my friend and competent rider take over my jump lesson so I can watch. All I feel like doing these days is griping and crying about what I can’t do?! I feel like I can’t trust myself or my body to do or know the right things anymore.
When is the next step the right move? Where do I go from here?
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“You are the kind of guy who always hopes for a miracle at the last minute.”

I did it!! I still have shoulder pain, and it was pretty bad last night AND freaking shin splints (that is bothering me the most right now. Funny timing, that.) BUT I was able to have and enjoy a jumping lesson last night.

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Christi came and took these amazing photos. So good! 

That’s right- one week out after my accident Oats and I are a team together, flying over (small) fences and kicking butt!! He was such a saint, too. We had a few weeks off with his sudden lameness, cancelled the show, and he was off last week when I had my accident. July was kind of a perfect storm for us, I am realizing.

I am hopeful that August will be better, and you know what? It already is. My scrapes are healing, I think my shin splints should clear up soon-ish (still, ouch.) and Oats is BACK baby!!!

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Photos courtesy of Christi.

I did feel anxious about the lesson. It’s been a few weeks, Oats hasn’t jumped in…Three weeks? Me either? I’m recovering from an accident? I have a hard time being kind to myself. It seems like pushing myself too hard, due to some deep lurking insecurity is my default mode. Not now. Not this time. I’m not interested in wallowing. For me, pushing too hard was a way of wallowing!

Being mentally stronger means I am ok with taking time off (god this is almost impossible for me). So I am scaling things back for a few weeks. I have also enjoyed the emotional and other type of support from my husband, my horse friends and colleagues. they get it…It’s hard. Plus my friends bought me the fancy new pink boots featured in photos today- I have been waiting WEEKS to debut his pink outfit! 😉 I LOVE Oats in pink.

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Liverpool? What liverpool? Oats is the most casual pony on the planet.

I am still just riding a high. I’m jumping my best pony again. Things are gooooood. He was great last night, just basically, ”Snooze…I got this mom. You sit tight and I’m fine.” Love that he’s so low-key. Phew! What a golden boy. I wanted to jump higher, but I was afraid too. I was feeling a bit anxious and worried about jarring my injured shoulder. So, I was careful with myself, and didn’t let my ego dictate. There will always be more days to jump high, you know?

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I got this mom. It’s easy. 

When you start at the beginning, you have to go slow. You have to learn how to do it all over again (something like the quote from ‘Bright Lights Big City’….) And you can’t rush that process.

Keep me honest

Had another jump lesson, and I was very pleased with how it went! Again, it was not perfect, but I felt good, confident and was really riding very forward. Oats was good as gold (a minor bulge issue and some lead/changing lead awkwardness around changing directions) but SUCH a little star!

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This rode well all night.

I am enjoying doing semi-private lessons right now, and the funny thing is that having another rider, and people watching, helps keep me honest. Focused. Riding instead of getting overfaced and backing off. It’s like I’ve reached a point in my own confidence that I need to have an audience to keep me there. Otherwise, I back off, big time. And I know right now that I don’t need to. I am going there! I am doing it! I am being challenged and meeting that challenge.

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It’s a bummer it’s so dark, darn light changing. BUT this is the first time we’ve jumped the coop as a oxer! So wide, even if it doesn’t look like it! 

I think my motto now is: Challenge me. Make me.

And we are so there! Yeah! Go Oaty pony. I’m so proud of him, bobbles, silliness and all. I have things I want to fix (elbows, the straightness problem going into the uphill line AGAIN, the difficulty in changing leads, stalling out to a chip…) But on the whole? I am enjoying what I am doing, and getting a lot out of my boy.

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This is a two-stride that I rode conservatively (read: chicken) for a three, until the last course when I was like, fuck it! I go in two! And we DID.

This week we celebrated 9 years together. Each year he gets better and better! I guess we all do? How I love this. I really appreciate, cherish and find joy in our rides. He’s my prince, my pony, my boy.

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I love this picture, because we almost match the jump! How cute is that? Plus it rode just perfectly. The best line on course. 

Whenever people are frustrated with their current horse, I just think to myself- yep been there, done that, sometimes am still there. It takes the time it takes. YEARS even (in my case). Being mad about how slow progress is doesn’t help, it never does. Your ego doesn’t trump reality.

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And the ‘out’ of the same lattice-line. It rode really nicely. 

I have had to learn some really bruising lessons about ego (life, running and horses) and I had to learn them the hard way. However, I think it’s helped shape what I do now.

Sadly, there is no footage of us finishing on the triple bar jump (first one I have gathered up the feeble shreds of my courage to jump with Oats!) because we were too close to the videographer and it is close up and dark. Ah, well. It was such a good ride that I forgot that the main reason I was excited about it was to jump the triple bar?! Ha.

“There is no god any more divine than yourself”

I’m in another Walt Whitman mood again!

I had another jump lesson last night, and while it was by no means a ‘breakthrough’ or super amazing lesson, it was just good quality, and that’s good for me. Except my little bratty pony sucked back on my second round and we found out why…A poop emergency!! Gotta go!

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The course- the gymnastic is the one we worked on (obviously it was set MUCH lower for me!). Doesn’t it look beautiful?

ARGH! Oats!

We started with a gymnastic (SO not my favourite…) and I kind of flubbed it a few times, haha. But then we picked it up, and I got to work on my next-favourite thing, not sitting in the gymnastic and grinding my butt. Staying in two-point, off his back, is surprisingly difficult for me. Even more so in a gymnastic? Why, world, why?

Next we strung together a course, and I’m not saying ‘small course’ because we have the luxury in the outdoor right now of making those suckers LONG! 13 fences total, including the gymnastic (it was a canter-in gymnastic for me, trot-in for George).

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From a few weeks ago. This week, this turned into an oxer and I think the best jump for us on course! 

And I had a good time! Not perfect, jesus god not at all, but not so bad that my ego took a beating. And that friends, is what success looks like to me. Sure I let him drift horribly, his leads again were a work in progress (dammit!!) and we got a very awkward short spot more than once, but we also nailed a few jumps and they rode forward and lovely.

I think it’s all a matter of not letting your ego take the ride. You ride. Each fence. Good? GREAT! Bad? Ok moving on! Either way, my goal when I am jumping is to ‘feel’ each fence. Not drifting outside of myself, not feeling the horse. I’m done with disassociating.

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This week we jumped the oxer going the other direction, slightly downhill. 

It’s funny to me to ride with another person in my lesson, because I do it so rarely, but when I do it’s also a lesson to me- everyone deals with anxiety. And people see me ride, and think I never have to deal with it. Ha, how little they know! Anxiety used to rule my life, rule my ride and my lessons. I am still managing it, day-to-day. I just worked extremely hard to manage it, not make it go away forever- that’s not going to happen.

Resist much, obey little

My husband clued me into Walt Whitman last night and darned if I’m not really enjoying delving deeper! This has been a difficult week, not for work reasons but just for life/physical reasons. I’m still holding out some hope for a better conclusion, but in the meantime, the sage words of Walt Whitman hold some consolation.

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I have an excellent weekend to look forward to at least!

And I had a good (but definitely challenging and not great) riding lesson last night. My physical struggles this week manifested in my ride- I could hold things together for a bit, and then BOOM! Forget how to ride. I rode a very good first course, and then when the jumps went up, my brain fell out. Sorry Oats!

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Why do the jumps look big when you’re jumping and then small in video??

This meant we had some stops, about 3-4 jumps where Oats rode magnificently and I just…Didn’t ride and got left behind, spectacularly.  I was having a brain-body disconnect.

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Oh well, you can’t win them all and this week? I got out alive so I’m winning. I was fortunate enough to have my friend use her Pixio, and she let me borrow it to videotape my rides. It is SO COOL!!! Like having a robot film you the whole round! I am very impressed- how neat is that technology? It’s amazing!! And the quality/picture quality is so good, considering how bad the light is at that time of night (sun glare all the time).

 

Burn you up: Mr. Oats is a great pony

Had my regular jump lesson last night, and wowza it was warm at the barn, particularly in the outdoor arena. The sun was going down, but not near quick enough so it was quite hot for horses, riders and our trainer. Still, it was a lovely night and there’s no place I would rather be….Basking in the warm (sweaty) glow of working hard in partnership with my best pony, Oats.

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From last fall. When you ride it well, it goes well. 

Again I felt kind of complainy, that I didn’t know how to ride properly. I get strangely backed off and tentative/hesitant in the outdoor and get too conservative with my release with my body. It’s ok body, you know what to do! So do it! I told Nicole that I wanted to stop ‘letting the jumps happen’ and actively RIDE to each jump, and make them happen. Basically change from passive to active. Easier said than done, but heyyy it was a good ride regardless.

Oats was moving well but his -super bad and half changes- were not even a thing. I was feeling like I kind of had to really muscle him to switch leads, again, strange but I’m going to chalk it up to the harder footing and maybe him feeling a tad stiff.

On course we had some really nice fences, and some not-so-nice ones, but on the whole I focused on riding more boldly, changing things that needed to be changed, and riding TO and OVER each jump, rather than sitting, waiting and hoping. I need to feel more connected to my horse, rather than just floating on top of him, waiting.

Of course, the first fence we rode to on-course he…Stopped. Ha. It was a balance between ‘sitting’ and ‘riding’ and I just kind of…didn’t? Oats is a very honest pony, and not a stopper. I think he kind of just needed input from me, and I wasn’t there to provide it.

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From last summer- I hope to be feeling this confident again in the outdoor! 

No worries though, I circled, re-presented and he was fine. The rest of the course rode pretty well, with a few uglier jumps going downhill (the swapping lead thing kind of hit us hard), but we finished with a really lovely ride over the roll-top. YES! Go pony go!!!

We were wild

I had a really decent long weekend, and jump-started it by having a really solid dressage lesson on Friday. It was TOUGH! But excellent. You know that feeling of having worked hard, really hard, and gotten exactly what you wanted? That feeling!

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Not to say it was perfect, but after the sort of angst on Thursday, I told my trainer that we didn’t have a good ride, that my expectations of ‘perfection’ were ruining my ride and I wanted to get past it, over it. These weirdness spells sort of come and go, and I was ready to focus and not dwell!

We spent basically the whole lesson in canter (with plenty of walk breaks) focusing on building Oats’ lateral flexibility in the canter, leading to canter haunches-in. It was really good! And very much highlighted the difficulties I have in ‘riding’ his canter, rather than being ‘taken for a ride’ in the canter. Can I influence his canter? Or do I just sit there, like a passengers, helplessly?

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It was an important lesson for me to realize just HOW much I am needing to do and ride. I’m at the point where I can’t just sit and tune out, and expect Oats to read my mind and do ‘something’…I have to influence it, ride it, and ride every stride.

Good to know! It was a very cool lesson. Eye opening!