Overwhelm

It’s been…a lot lately. The return to the workplace is making me realize a whole bunch of truths, namely that I need a big change and my sabbatical won’t be coming soon enough.

Just want nice sunny weather again- is that too much to ask?

Things only change if you change them.

Also, I hate working in the workplace and I find it very distracting. And the time? Oh lord. My time management has gone to hell and back, namely I spend all of it sitting at work and then rushing around at home trying to get all of my life stuff done, like my animals, showering, preparing lunches, etc. Fun times.

Oats had a difficult week last week- he was spooky as hell, seeing things in every single corner of the arena, slamming on the brakes, half rearing, etc. I know him well enough now that this behaviour is seasonal (unfortunately or fortunately…) and it too will pass, but damn, I just wanted a fun pony to ride? Likely there is a big tie-in to his disease and the medication, as this only became a bigger issue the past two years he was diagnosed. ūüė¶ blows either way.

And then he was foot-perfect at my Thursday lesson! Such a lovely little dude, we jumped cross rails one-handed and had the funnest time, which was great b/c mentally I was NOT in a good place (thanks, work). And then I free longed him on Friday and he came up lame. GREEATTT

But no swelling, heat, etc so I chalked it up to stiffness, and his leasor longed him on Sunday and he looked fine. I rode him last night, and while he was still stiff and moving quite ‘flat’ going to the right, he did improve and worked out of it, leading me to believe that it is indeed stiffness?

His leasor is going to ride tonight.

I don’t think the weather has been helping though- it’s been miserable. Freezing cold, unseasonably cold, raining, snowing, wind at 100km/hr almost every day? WTF? Just such a shit spring. No day is a respite. Our allergies also went completely bananas, and poor Gidget had the worst weekend with her ‘reverse sneezing’- honking and gasping allllllll day and the nasal spray we use didn’t work ūüė¶ WTF life. Thanks guys…

Just the usual spring- I hate everything- blahs…

Is it too much to ask? Dressage recap!

So my dressage semi-private lessons with Oats have been pretty good,¬†suspiciously good lately in fact. So it was only a matter of time before Oats had a big throw-down hissyfit ‘I don’t wanna’ lesson, and last night was kind of it!

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Oats gets a haircut…

Luckily, he is also 17 and can’t buck as hard as he used to! Phew!

We worked a fairly difficult exercise- turn off the short end, and leg-yield at the trot. This will eventually turn into leg-yield and transition within the leg yield, and back to the gait. So we did trot-walk-trot (HARD), and then trot-canter and then canter-trot. Oats was fairly amenable on one rein- left rein to right leg yield and was kind of a disaster on the other!

Oh Oats!

He was like, umm…no. Instead of our regularly scheduled transition, he would LEAP instead of moving sideways. Like, actually just jumping in the air. Greeeat….

This escalated a bit into a leap-buck, but like I said he is getting older so his bucks didn’t really unseat me, thank god. Ha.

This lesson is one that we had done last year, but without the transitions. And the leg-yield was enough of a brain-melter for both horses! We could barely even get the leg-yielding so being able to ask just a ‘little bit more’ was a stretch for Oats, and he was learning (slowly and kind of nastily) but learning.

So there is progress, albeit very slow and kind of unpleasant for me when Oats really gets going. Oh well, I can manage! And it is nice to see how the exercise develops from one year to the next. Oats is also clipped, so I didn’t have to spend forever and a day cooling him out. YESSSS!

Persistence

So, this comes up often in my life:

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And yesterday, Oats and I did not have a harmonious warm up to our dressage lesson. He was being an absolute dingbat in the outdoor ring, spooky, snorty, sucking back, getting light in front and stalling out and wanting to run backwards.

It pissed me off¬†mightily and I was near tears, frustrated and angry. WHAT about this summer is making him act like an idiot? Seriously, I have not had this level of terrible rides with him in like, forever. And now he’s spooky and a twit.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

I was also still a bit sore, though not bad, from getting dumped – yes in the outdoor- from his big ‘spin and spook’ maneuver on Saturday so I was NOT in a forgiving mood.

I gave up, huffed and fluffed and we had our dressage lesson in the indoor. He was a bit feisty in the indoor, and made me ‘work for it’ to get to the real meat of the lesson, but you know what? That connection that I seriously was missing started coming back.

I even said it felt like before, when I lose all my ‘power’ in the outdoor ring, that I don’t feel like I have any connection with him. I also know that when I am frustrated and mad at him, I do not give him a fair ride, or the benefit of the doubt. So, it’s a partners problem…

But anyways, the lesson went quite well. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps in the road, but you know what? We persevere, and I did get some great, honest work from Oats. I finally felt like our connection was coming back! He was over his back, listening to me and really giving to me. I like those rides, and sometimes give too much power to my shitty bad and frustrating rides. Now, to gain some perspective…

I was quite pleased with his effort and the level of work he is starting to give me. He might make a dressage pony yet!

Is it true, we only get the horse we deserve?

Quiet Nights- A better ride & perspective

So- Jurassic World was fun! Not as good or as ground-breaking as the original, but hey, these days what is? I quite enjoyed it. Pizza, a beer and a movie- what’s not to like? I just wish I could have my pizza and beer with my movie, but that is a rant for another day, ha.

I had my jump lesson last night and it turned out to not be about jumping! I told Nicole about my frustrations with Oats- how we have been struggling with him being weird and spooky in the outdoor, and how I felt like I didn’t know how to RIDE anymore. How it was escalating, and I needed someone to run me through a ride there to just ‘deal with it’ and not let things get out of hand.

Because if there’s anything I know how to do, is escalate with Oats…UGH!

So, we promptly left the indoor and headed outdoors- it was drizzly but hey we’re not gonna melt. We dealt with the weird behaviours (I think what was rattling me so much was that this was SO unlike Oats?! It felt like someone replaced my normally unflappable pony with another, more terrible one?) And I did NOT like that feeling!

And we manged just fine. In fact, that issue very quickly turned into a non issue and then we were on to another issue (yes me trying to get Oats into a canter using only my hands…which is EXACTLY what I was dealing with in my dressage lesson on Tuesday..eeek!) We were also dealing with him breaking down to trot the long side on the right rein and this is chiefly due to him being unbalanced and wanting to break. Greeeat…

But, at least it felt nice to know I DO know to ride, I WAS riding, and these things pop up.

Phew! It felt like an alien had taken over my pony’s brain?!!

Triggering?

Had an interesting dressage ride last night- it was not just tough, but more like very mentally difficult.

Judge Melanie Houston

Random pics of Oats doing dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

We worked on quick steps, and then moved up to sitting trot to leg yield, and then leg yield to canter on the short side of the arena. And MAN this fired up my defensiveness in a hurry! I felt anxious! Oats started ‘hopping’ and I felt very worried, and it showed through my hands raising, my leaning forward and taking my leg off. The hopping and his anticipation of the canter made the bugaboos in my head run wild- all I could think of was this is it, this is when he leaps up and turfs me! (I’m no stranger to getting dumped by my pony!).

BUT

When I started blanking out and getting nervous, Karen was like just focus on what *you* want out of this- a trot. Not canter (at this point) nothing else…Keep your hands low and stop raising them defensively, don’t stop riding and freeze up…Just…keep going with what you want!

It was very challenging. Him rising up and hopping triggers all of my anxiety and brings bad bad memories, not even in my head but in my body too! I SOoooo did not want to continue, in the worst way I wanted to stop, call it quits!

STILL…

We kept going! I put my leg on, ignored the hopping into canter, focused on low hands and sitting very still, and asked for bend bend bend bend. Oats got with the program. and started to acquiesce to my demands. We noticed a pattern- when he got to the far side of the ring- the open side- he would try to either spook, or hop into a canter, because it was easier than what I was asking- for more trot, and more bend through his right side. This was clearly an evasive tactic.

Once I could see it for what it was, I started thinking and riding more effectively and clearly. ¬† The anxiety fog in my brain lifted, and as Karen said, Oats wasn’t even being naughty or anything- he was honestly having trouble with what I was asking, and he was trying to find ways to deal with it. He CAN be a little shit, but this isn’t it. Not at all. And the rising up/hopping behaviour is him lifting off his forehand (a positive sign) that I am actually having a hard time learning how to ride! I want to pull back and pull him to a stop.

So, I learned a lot but it was learning that was hard-won.

Oats learned a lot too, and I need to be more open and flexible in my approach when he struggles to do what I’m asking. He doesn’t¬†want to be bad at this point- he is learning and having a tough time with it sometimes.

Oh and he was really good to the left. Ha.

There and back again

So, I’m back from my holidays. They were much-needed, not necessarily that relaxing (are holidays with family EVER relaxing?) and ended with some car drama, but I’m glad I had the time away from work.

Christmas with the family

Christmas with the family

I needed the perspective, quite frankly.

I also needed some time away from my ‘real life,’ an area that bogs me down in the details so much so that I become enveloped from what is ‘important’ and get stuck on the routine. And I can get obsessive about ‘the routine’ to an unhealthy point.

Colossal gingerbread house

Colossal gingerbread house

But, family was stressful. We did a lot of great things, and I enjoyed good company, great food, and other fun activities. However, I also felt the strain of ‘try hard’ and a bit fakey, ‘let’s cover it up with fun and ignore the festering sadness underneath’ that I can be sensitive to…

Oh well, it’s over. Holidays aren’t always Hallmark-worthy, are they?

Buster shares a moment

Buster shares a moment

And when I flew back, my car was making a weird stuttering on the highway and stalled out in a parking lot. I was like, how long has THIS been going on?

The remains of the gingerbread house

The remains of the gingerbread house

An entire week, $1,115 later and I think it’s pretty much back to being road-worthy, but jesus. Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to me! (GAHHHH!!!!)

And my darling pony has been alternately good and bad my week back. Pissy and kicking out some days, relatively forward and willing others. Pissy yesterday in my lesson with 1 kick out briefly, but was nice to jump (tiny x-rails) and we did some interesting work on straightness and coursework. Felt nice to get back in the saddle, even if my old insecurities came rearing back at me!

Now I am kind of dreading my dressage lessons…If he is pissy and bucky doing my regular work, how on earth will the more-demanding¬†work of dressage go for us?????? I am also trying to break in new boots, ouch they are not feeling super great either.

EEK!!!

To be continued next week….

And I am back at work. Not so glorious either…

Danger

Saw the scariest thing last night- it was accidental, as many horse-related incidents are, but my GOD it was incredibly dangerous and SO frightening.

I normally lesson on Tuesdays with another adult rider, we take a semi-private dressage lesson together with Karen Brain. Since I hurt my shoulder at the show (and it was feeling much better, but didn’t want to push it) I came and told my riding partner I wouldn’t be in the lesson, to please tell Karen that I was coming to hack today only.

So, I came down a bit later, and a lesson had just finished up. The adult rider was in the ring with Karen, and Nicole, our other trainer, and another student rider with her leased horse ‘Tim’.

I was at the gate of the indoor when I saw the student longing Tim, and watched for a moment- and then he went PSYCHO! Bucking, galloping, kicking out as high as the 6-ft jump standards?! I have NEVER seen him act like that and I was shocked!

The student lost her grip on the longe line and Tim bolted around the arena, that had the poor adult rider on her horse, Nicole, and Karen in it! It was sooooo scary! He was bucking, kicking out, going at top-speed. I was sure he was going to run into something and break his neck or crash into the poor adult rider.

I also thanked my LUCKY STARS that I had paused outside the arena for a moment. Good lord, I’m not even sure why I did but my intuition was bang-on right there. We were safe.

Tim galloped around like a dangerous lunatic for awhile, finally coming to a frantic stop near the adult rider and her horse, who also thank god, took all of this in stride and behaved perfectly.

Nicole caught Tim, and then the student leasor brought him up to the outdoor longe ring to get the ‘sillies’ out, and he was much calmer, from what she told me. We were both stunned. Just STUNNED by this nutso behaviour. SO dangerous, and scary as hell!

I got on Oats once Tim left the ring and I was freaked out. Nervous and anxious.

Oats was a total gem, willing, quite forward (for him, in the indoor at night= snooze-fest) and nice to ride. I kept it VERY short and just hacked him lightly, as my shoulder still felt a bit sore. Also, frig I was shaken. So shaken.

That was one of the scariest moments I have witnessed lately in horses.

The general¬†consensus¬†was that Tim was excited by the new horse in the barn, ‘Java’ and he¬†basically¬†just lost his mind at her, as she was there for his first-time freakout. ???? Oh and apparently the first time he lost it, he kicked out and got his leasor- the student- on the forearm. I’m going to check and see how her arm is feeling today…

Yikes.

Love/Hate

Yep that’s me and Oats most days~

Rode him on Saturday and he was a twit! I was super annoyed, because I was still kind of riding off a pretty good high of him being really good in my lessons last week- decent lesson on Tues and great lesson on Thurs and then Saturday rolls around….And he’s cow-kicking when I mount up again, acting pissy and bucking at the TROT even, and dicking me around like crazy.

Me: Trot please. More forward!

Him: No! Eff you!!! I’m going to hop! Hop! Hop! Instead of trotting, how about a canter instead?!!’

Me: No, I asked for trotting.

Him: Pop! Canter! Up!

Me: Oh okay..fine then, canter.

Him: Wait…Cantering is hard. Balk hard. Return to slow trot.

Me: Cluck cluck! Kick kick!

Him: Did I hear you thinking of using your crop? *Threatens to buck*

YEAH….so…

Not very broke to my leg these days, still, again.

He did get to go for a walk with a young lady who will be hacking him for me and he was good for her! I was glad for that, it’s been a good year or longer since he’s been out on the trails…And his behaviour in the ring indicates more than a good amount of ring sour pissyness.

Sunday, I warmed him up outside and he was way more interested in life. Forward, happy, ears pricked forward and didn’t feel balky, poppy or draggy. Good! Moved him indoors for more work and he lost a bit of his ‘pep…Bad.

Monday he had off, and the temperatures have dramatically plummeted!

Tuesday I had off, so I rode early- no lesson for us yesterday. He was surprisingly good! Got some really nice trot, didn’t push the canter too much as I wanted to work more on my ‘eye’ exercises (3,2,1- jump!) over poles. Good news is that they are getting much better, phew! Maybe I’ll develop an ‘eye’ for jumping yet. I’m trying to stay a bit more consistent with my eye-counting exercise, at least 1X a week.

Also did two laps of 2-point w/no stirrups at the trot and almost died.

And thank the saints that Oats is not a reactive type of pony…His quarter sheet, to keep him warm, flew off his butt when I was leading him to the arena, fell off his behind when I was RIDING him (had to get off and pick it up off the rail!) and then fell off him for a third time when I was leading him to the stables, where it got stuck under his foot. JESUS.

I have to figure out a better way to stick it on him, or it will cause a major disaster for me one day…Luckily Oats literally didn’t even notice it once!! Even when it slid off his butt in the arena.

Happy Halloween!

Yep it’s that big day again- and it’s on a Friday! Yeah~

Jack O'lanterns

Jack O’lanterns

In honour of Halloween, we are making caramel apples. Yumm…I’m really looking forward to them. We did that awhile ago- probably like 7 years ago with friends, so it’s kind of a fun re-enactment.

I also love spooky movies if you hadn’t guessed, so we have been watching some good ones on Canadian Netflix- recent standouts include We Are What We Are, Resolution (it was ok, still not completely sure how I feel about it) and the Den– which was excellent.

I also highly recommend VHS, which is not available on Netflix but worth the search- Netflix has VHS 2 for some reason…It’s not as good.

Oh and I enjoyed¬†The Sacrament by Eli Roth and Ti West. It isn’t as good as it could have been, but pretty well done nonetheless.

So yay Halloween! It’s rainy and pretty miserable here, makes me sort of glad I’m too old to trick or treat haha,

Oh and an Oats update from my lesson with Nicole yesterday- Wow. It was a toughie.

I got pretty worked up, he actually cow-kicked out when I first got on for some reason?? And he felt pissy, AGAIN.

Pissy, rude, balky and bucky. Wonderful…We were NOT CLICKING at all. I was getting madder and madder, ready to spit nails. I was frustrated, and annoyed and like- I can’t be doing all this work to keep GOING BACKWARDS?!!!

Our run through the gymnastic was sloppy, we weren’t in sync for anything, and I was just so.pissed.off.at.him.

So….What did we do? Well, as I recall very recently- ”When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Encouraged by Nicole, I took a few (a lot) of deep breaths and just keep plugging away. And did it get better? Yes. Did it get great? Nope! Not at all! Was it the lesson I *thought* I was going to have? A big NO to that one too!

So…A few good takeaways (even though the bitter, curmudgeonly part of me is still a bit incredulous about Oats. WTF pony? I hate you sometimes!!). It felt like I was trying to literally push him up a hill the entire lesson. He was so resistant, and fussy and balky. And the rude kind of balky, that makes me worried that he’s going to start bucking and NOT STOP until I’m on the ground.

But, before I get dragged into the bad, here is the good!

– I didn’t let my anger at Oats take over my whole lesson. True we had a few hissy fit moments, but we didn’t let it go overboard.

-I continued the exercises and completed them and they DID get better.

-I managed to trot a circle jump even after we blew it at the canter. Baby steps?

-We got more in-sync as we progressed.

-He didn’t buck! He had a few hiccupy, hissyfit moments. But no big EFF YOU bucks.

Curious…very curious progress(?????????) I use that word skeptically and with MUCH questioning it.

Oh and my dog was sick all night- luckily my long-suffering husband dealt with her but jeeeeesus. So gross. So annoying. Poor Gidget!

Installing the ‘go’ button NOT the ‘eject’ button??

Today’s recap is going to be about the clinics I watched with Jan Ebeling and my lesson yesterday on Oats (hence the ‘go’ button not ‘eject’ button. He gets those confused, apparently. Or maybe I do?).

Jan is funny, erudite and very nice. His clinics were forward-focused (funny it was definitely the theme of the entire weekend- how do you fix riding/horse problems? MORE LEG LEG LEG! (as per every clinician, all weekend.)

I am starting to see that a BIG problem in my riding is that Oats is not forward off my leg, and let’s face it- not at all broke to the leg very well.

Hm…definitely something I have either caused, or let happen through laziness/attrition/ not wanting to rock the boat too much.

Jan was very interesting to watch- he schooled riders to ‘push’ and then ‘let go’ when they got what they wanted from the horse. He believes strongly in warming up and transitions through the gaits- big trot, small trot, then walk, then trot. If your transitions are unschooled, your other work will suffer.

He also was a big believer in FORWARD to the downward transition, rather than letting them ‘schlump’ through it.

Check him out here

He is fair and very kind to the horse/riders combos. His big takeaway is to be flexible, and be fun about what you’re doing- it’s not ALL bad. Ha.

(He should have seen Oats yesterday!)

So that take me to Oats, naturally. He felt sucked-back and pissy on our first ride on Monday, that I sort of solved by cantering immediately over poles and working over crossrails instead of doing the usual walk-trot-canter warmups. That worked pretty well actually.

Except on Tuesday, our challenging lessons with Karen Brain, his sucked-back pissyness was definitely on display.

It was interesting (and frankly scared me and wigged me out) we are in a BIG grey area. Oats is finding other behaviours- rather than straight out bucking- to get around what I’m asking. So…instead of forward trot with bend, he’s trying to canter. Sometimes throws a buck- in all fairness, he only did that one yesterday to the left. It’s not all ‘bad’ but it’s also not all ‘good’…It’s just…there.

He’s trying these other behaviours, and Karen felt like he’s slowly getting ‘there’ but bringing up these other attempts to see what he can sort of get away with. So, I guess I can’t punish him for trying??

It was funny though and SO EXHAUSTING when I was like, forward-trot-bend and he’s like…canter-suckback- neck in air. He does this funny ‘prop’ up when he was trying to canter and it felt like when he tries to launch me, so I got kind of grabby…which is the wrong response. I had to ‘fix’ it by either circling, or letting him canter but really¬†working the canter- left bend right bend left bend right bend. He doesn’t just get to cruise.

Over and over and over and over…

We did circles, oh, did we ever do circles. I felt dizzy!

Then our circles weren’t forward enough (jesus lady, I was getting tired at that point haha) so Oats thought a circle meant a chance to suck back again. ARGH.

My butt and leg cramped up. We were soaked in sweat. It was frustrating, I got annoyed and kind of mad, and Oats was just barely, grudgingly, giving me what I wanted. PHEWWW.

(oh and you should have seen our ‘discussion’ about picking out his hooves nicely before my ride. Apparently Oats feels like he should be allowed to snatch his hind hoofies away from me, rudely. I had another idea about that !!! Nothing pisses me off more than that. Frig!)

I am feeling sore today and think I will give him a day to think things over (and I need a break to go for a run maybe).

Horses. Why does it always feel like 1 step forward and then 3 steps back???