It doesn’t get better. You get better.

Yeah, my race recap was a little self-pitying. Three weeks down, and the countdown is ON!

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To break up the gloominess, here is baby Oats! Photo courtesy of his former owner Jennifer.

To recap for riding, Mr. Oats has been super awesome and I have been…hanging on? Ha. I didn’t have a dressage lesson last week, and kind of couldn’t deal with life either, so my jump lesson was …less jumps, more angst. But, I’m ok with that. I knew going in that my head cold was making me feel absolutely miserable and so was work and just..just just couldn’t handle the pressure.

I made the decision to tone it down in my riding (ie- not jumping) and lessen the anxiety I have on myself. It worked, I really enjoyed my lesson with some jumps, just not ALL the jumps, and enjoyed my rides on the weekend too.

The only thing that was a thorn in my side was how scatter-brained, clueless, tired and sick I was feeling. Ha, only. I rode Oats, had a good ride (honestly, I can’t remember one ride from the next right now, my life is a blur), and groomed him, put tack away, cleaned up, made grain bags, packed up my purse and left…

…Went through the gate, looked back, and saw Oats. Still in the crossties, looking at me.

SHit!

Forgot the horse!

Wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but I also forgot that I had Buster Bunny out to play and brushed my teeth and went to bed, with him hopping up and down the stairs. Whoops! My husband came up for bed and saw rogue rabbit, scooped him up and took him back to his cage. Hahaha.

And then I locked my keys in my car on Monday at the barn.

Except I had also forgot to lock my car, so …SAVED~

And my weekend was spent riding, and sleeping/laying around on the couch cursing the head cold I have. I still sort of have it too, my ears are going nuts with pressure and I have been blowing my nose unsuccessfully to try and relieve the pressure. Still have tons of nose running too. SIGH.

Throwback Thursday: That one time in Vancouver…

Throwback Thursday to when I remember having a lot of fun riding a silly little pony- Starr!

A million years ago.

A million years ago.

I goofed off on her, ponied her off other horses, jumped bareback, rode in a horse show (??) raced another girl – on foot- and just had a all-around blast. I always said if I had two horses, one would be a show horse and one would be a tiny goof-off pony like Starr to bomb around on and just have FUN!

Go pony!

Go pony!

And how about my current pony? Well yesterday I did another equine counseling session and I relayed some things I have been struggling with (still). Fear of falling off due to a big spook in the outdoor, defensive riding, making better choices for both of us, having productive and GOOD dressage lesson and have fun galloping out in the field!

Pony jumpers with Starr

Pony jumpers with Starr

So, we took Oats to the outdoor and she demonstrated how to work him through the ‘spooky spots’ on the longe first, to establish a connection- this is key to what I feel I’ve been missing with him whenever he misbehaves or gets silly in the ‘spooky corners.’ He did fuss and fight a bit, but that got shut down really fast and the good, honest work began.

It was great to see, and productive for my poor overwrought brain to watch him behave in the scary corner. Now, to fix me and how I ride in the outdoor…A bigger challenge, perhaps?

Let’s not go there = We’re definitely going there!

Had an interesting dressage lesson last night that kind of resurfaced some of my fears (specifically, the fears I have that Oats is going to be a twit and start bucking/getting humpy on me again).

Looks can be deceiving!

Looks can be deceiving!

Note- he hasn’t really pulled this stuff in months- since that one bad time in October?

But the fear is apparently always there, albeit not as close-to-the surface as it used to be.

We worked on engaging/pressuring ‘intensity’ at the walk and trot. BIG walk, tiny trot, BIG trot. It was starting to melt Oat’s brain, and I got kind of pushy with my hands when HE got pushy with his head. When his head came up, my hands defensively came up! I can’t seem to help it! When he started tossing his head and getting balky, I got anxious. I started remembering what he was like before, when we started increasing the pressure on him.

But then, Karen said (while I was frustrated and it felt like he was messing with my head!!) if his head goes up, your hands don’t go up! Think about your contact/hands like guard rails. They are there to guide. They don’t go sideways, up, down, anything. They are guiding.

Oats the giraffe

Look at my horse: My horse is amazing

And you know what? The super annoying messing around slowly started going away. My anxiety about his behaviour still existed, but it felt like I was more secure. I could do this! I could be solid, guiding, and push with my legs- it didn’t matter if his head went up, down, all around.

We did get some fab canter- and I sat the canter/gallop the whole way! Whee!! Go us!

And I felt a lot more secure, and my anxiety was starting to melt away. It’s funny, how deep the roots of stress and anxiety lay though. We’ve been having some amazing breakthroughs in lateral work, like every week, and then this week, some more ‘intense’ work at the trot and I have a melt down? Silly!

Of course my friend came to watch and this is the show we put on for her. SIGH! Hahaha, oh well. Horses- can’t live with them, can’t live without ’em sometimes.

It did make me want to start jumping even more though. I sure like that feeling more than wrestling through dressage some days, even if the cross-training we are doing is definitely helping us progress. It is hard-won, some days.

Throwback Thursday: I love Lucy

Yeah, sentimental old me- lately I feel like I’ve been saying to people- hey stop with the mare-bashing, some of the NICEST horses I’ve had have been mares! (ok, so maybe I just leased them, but man, i loved those girls!).

One such mare was Lucy, who is now a school horse with her owner Cathy Harrison, with the Harrison School of Horsemanship. I rode her when I was getting back into riding during university, after having take a year or so off.

I started riding at Bear Hill with Cathy when it was still operating. Lucy was very good to me, as an adult coming back after a year or more off, and we took to jumping together really well. I would have loved to buy her- I recall she was going for $4,500 but I couldn’t afford a horse at the time (broke university student!) and felt really glad that she was going with her current trainer to be her school horse.

I remember snowy days, misty days, cold days, rainy days. All good days when I was getting back in the saddle.

Without further ado- photos of Lucy- loved that girl!

Go girl!

Go girl!

Misty day- hard to believe this was almost 10 years ago?

Misty day- hard to believe this was almost 10 years ago?

I have a painting of this one!

I have a painting of this one!

Lucy at Bear Hill

Lucy at Bear Hill

Friday Flashback: Lucy

I have this done up as an oil painting too!

I have this done up as an oil painting too!

Loved this girl, wanted to dedicate some more photos to her!

Bear Hill- over the barrels

Bear Hill- over the barrels

She was such a lovely little horse, very game and very engaging. I also fell off her while riding hungover- she spooked at a pylon, and she did sometimes have a buck (but not compared with what Oats had! hah!)

Oops short spot!

Oops short spot!

Really liked her jump, and she helped take me back into riding after a few long months off for school…Well, more like maybe a year even? Now she is a riding school pony (still) with my former trainer, who has had her for years now. Man, I so wanted to buy her when I left school (she was $4,500) but I could’t afford to! Well, I’m glad she is still around and doing well as a school pony!

whee!

whee!

Flasback Friday: Burnaby edition!

Time for some flashbacks! Enjoy these blasts from the past, from my time at Burnaby Horsemen’s Association.

Ardie 'The old man'

Ardie ‘The old man’

I know I usually do these on Thursdays, but I did get a bit distracted writing about my husband so today will have to do!

Ardie 'Last Round'

Ardie ‘Last Round’

I know I’ve mentioned before that I rode for awhile in Burnaby- Burnaby Lake to be specific. They run the Burnaby Horsemen’s Association out of the park, and it’s a fantastic place. Close to the city, reasonably well-run, nice people (I stayed the heck out of any drama) and good horses. A small riding program is run there by through a small satellite program from another stable.

Before I leased Ardie...Mickey

Before I leased Ardie…Mickey

There is a BIG indoor arena (the only downside is that you can’t keep jumps up in it, so lots of putting up/taking down) and two riding rings and trails. We rode a ton outdoors, even in the winter wet sloppy weather because it was pretty decent! We even did some night trails, which were pretty cool. I saw an owl one time, near the swampy area by the small bridge.

Riding Mickey in the winter

Riding Mickey in the winter

They even hosted some horse shows! I rode in one- the ‘spring fling’ and took both Ardie and Starr. They were super cheap and super fun. I think I did like 10 classes total, I was totally exhausted by the end of the day, haha but did win a hack high point for that!

I really enjoyed my time riding at Burnaby, and wouldn’t hesitate to ride there again if I ended up back on the mainland (NOT planning to, by any stretch~).

Pony jumpers with Starr

Pony jumpers with Starr- I think we even placed in this class??

It was a far sight better than the first lease situation I ended up in, during my stay in Vancouver. A kind of pathetic Standardbred mare (she was nice, but clueless…Her owner, well-meaning but afraid of the horse and kind of ditzy) at a stable pretty far out that other horse owners dubbed ‘Creepy Hollow’ hahah…Concrete flooring for the indoor arena, so it wasn’t the best situation and I got really tired of the kind of clueless horse, even more clueless owner, and showing up to ride only to see someone’s kid riding the horse that *I* had paid to lease? Yeah, NO. Oh and no real photos of that one either, haha.

Ardie at the show

Ardie at the show

I dropped that lease like a hot potato, after I think 2 months.

And promptly moved on to better at Burnaby! At first I leased that cute pinto, Mickey- but his owner moved him, so I moved on to Ardie pretty quickly, I think within a month?

Whee! Pony jumpers with Starr

Whee! Pony jumpers with Starr

Throwback Thursday, Ontario edition: C’est la Vie

Growing up, I never owned my own pony or horse, but I was lucky enough to lease quite a few and experience a ton of different horses.

I rode at so many stables, now in so many provinces and cities, it’s almost hard to remember them all now!

Started at a now-defunct stable- can’t for the life of me remember what it was called now, but I rode a tiny pony called ‘Pags’ and my sister rode a little white pony called ‘Spirit’.

We liked that barn, but moved on to another- Greenbelt, which wasn’t the greatest. From Greenbelt, we moved to the Nepean National Equestrian Park, and spent quite a few years there. I learned so much from them, and only moved on when I wanted to horse show- something they didn’t do there, despite having fantastic grounds that they rented out to large horse show managers.

I then moved on to Wynbrook, which was a decent experience and a very high-quality program, but a bit too heavy on the $$$ side for our liking. During the move around from these stables, I leased horses on and off for years at smaller private barns.

When we moved on from Wynbrook, we leased a lovely black Appendix mare named ‘Hope’ and her show name was C’est la Vie. She was such a darling, we rode together in a show and did super well there. Great jumper, very forgiving. I only remember her stopping at fences when they got to around 2’9 or 3′.

Hope showing at  Huntleigh

Hope showing at Huntleigh

She passed away from colic about 7 years ago, maybe more. She had bouts of it on and off over the years, and was sensitive.

Miss that girl, she was lovely!

Hope’s owner also owned an adorable small pony named ‘Bubblegum’ at one point, so my sister and I both rode Bubbles too! We normally rode her bareback- and sometimes w/o a bridle either, eek- because there was only the 1 saddle to fit Hope. We made do, and she was SO FUN to ride/jump bareback.

Bubblegum in the Ottawa Valley

Bubblegum in the Ottawa Valley- I wasn’t kidding about the bareback/bridle-less

Loved mucking around, nothing in particular to train for haha and we still managed to do really well. Funny that the more training I do, the more struggles I seem to have. How does that happen??

Comparison is the thief of joy- Theodore Roosevelt

I saw this today, and it struck a chord with me. It’s true.

I find myself comparing my activities to my friends, my job to other people’s jobs who are BETTER and my riding to others who are doing better- heck, even to myself in the summer, or in the past. Why am I not like that now? I can’t help but compare, and it makes me jealous, mean and petty.

Blast from the past: Wynbrook Denver

Blast from the past: Me and Wynbrook Denver. Funny, he looks like Oats!

I get bummed out about my knee bothering me so I can’t finish the runs I start. I would like to be hampered by my own lack of ability- not by an injury.

I get annoyed at my pony, because we’re going over ground I SWEAR we’ve been over before. So, where is the improvement?

Funny enough, job-wise, I sometimes dislike work (let’s face it- if it wasn’t work it would be called fun!) but I can acknowledge that I am LUCKY to have a job that at least sometimes feels fulfilling, and that lets me use some of my skills. That is valuable, even if I do feel overworked and cranky about it some/most days.

Discontentment- maybe this is the winter of my discontent?

Riding-wise, Oats was okay…Pissy and rude on Sat/Sun (he got a trail ride on Friday by the young girl, so WTF suck it up pissy pants!!) and you know what? I just rode. I ignored, and I kicked on and on and on. And he dealt with it with some bucking/kicking out but then let it go.

My jumping was beyond terrible on Sunday (didn’t really do any on Saturday as there were only poles set up) and I practiced my eye exercises and some no-stirrup work. I also realized that was where the giant bruise on my foot came from…The stirrup banging against my foot because I wasn’t willing to fully commit to crossing it over the front of the pommel. Serves me right I guess?!! haha.

Canter work did seem to be getting better (more on the left rein, duhhh), and we did a lot of 3 trot strides- 4 canter- 4 trot- 5 canter, etc etc. to keep him getting sharp!

So, in conclusion, riding in the winter still doesn’t seem a lot more desirable than chain-watching the X-files, but I’m trying. And I am going to keep trying.

The running part is still a big disappointment. I feel like I am never going to be able to run as freely as I used to. Sighhhhh.

Throwback Thursday: Marking progress (even if it is tiny!)

I don’t have a ton of Oats jumping photos, but the ones I had before I cringed looking at them. Mainly because I jumped ahead, bigtime. Every photo. Every jump. EUGH!

Jumping ahead: Exhibit A

Jumping ahead: Exhibit A. Photo from last year, courtesy of Jodie.

Horse shows were the worst! I always wanted to see pics but goddamn, if it wasn’t hard to see my position faults at their finest. Oats was always pretty game, but the jumping ahead bit was a really hard flaw to fix.

And we have been fixing it- it literally took years! But, I am happy to say, this year’s and last winter’s photos (the few there are) look quite different. I have mostly conquered this beast!

Not jumping ahead: Exhibit B. Photo courtesy of Christi.

Not jumping ahead: Exhibit B. Photo courtesy of Christi.

And now we just have to focus on getting a better canter, and me not falling off jumping, and we are golden. I rode Oats last night in the field, because it was a lovely evening. He was good!

Oh and I would like to be braver about jumping higher, too. Too much to ask? Why do you say that? I rode Oats last night in the field, because it was a lovely evening. He was good! We trotted up and down the hill, cantered up the hill, cantered in the field, jumped the little line of cavalettis twice, and trotted over the ditch once. A nice and fun ride, for the bratty pony who was very unenthused about being ridden- he actually didn’t want to open his mouth for the bit- hasn’t pulled that move for awhile, jerk!