Lollygagging

Had my dressage semi-private last night and it was HARD. The hardest part? Turning!

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Feeling sorry.

I know, weird eh? Stopping at jumps, can’t turn properly…Bring on the training wheels, Oats and I are apparently regressing to kindergarten.

We warmed up well, though I could feel his tension/anxiety in the ring looking for things to spook at and be distracted by. We then moved to leg-yield all the way around the ring with walk/trot transitions up and down and up and down…It was challenging. Oats thought he could blow through my aids, and when that didn’t work, bluff me by moving his neck in but not his haunches. He was also staring around the ring like his eyes were on stalks, argh.

I am on to you, rotten pony!

I love you this much!

Sometimes, I hate you!

He had a few ‘I don’t wanna!’ moments, throwing his head around, swinging his butt in, hopping, kicking out angrily when I was like, no actually, you ARE doing this and you WILL do what I say. We worked through it, and I was fairly pleased with the end results (not perfect but still not terrible). Until…

We went to turn left and he blew through my turn-signal and dragged me through the turn. Oh no he didn’t!

That ended the more formal part of our dressage education. What followed was just freaking strength and making a decision, on my part- this was hard. My trainer Karen yelled at us to turn left! HARD! Then GO and release! Then turn again! And turn right, and go!

Oats – and I- were getting an education in turning. He has to turn (move front feet) when I say so, and I have to pick a direction and stick with it. No wishy washing, no lollygagging, no shitty little attitude trot from him. Nothing. Drag me through the long side? Sudden HARD LEFT.

Be spooky about the right corner? HARD RIGHT.

Literally all we did was turn- and go- and release- and hard turn- and go- and release.

I was dizzy!

I lost my balance a few times even!

Trainer says he was having trouble connecting his front half with his body and his hind part. So, he’s like oh sure turn my neck and swing butt out…Middle section???!!? = profit?!

It does feel strange to ride, that’s for sure. But by the end, I was freaking exhausted and he was trotting and turning nicely.

It felt very strange to have an lesson where I literally spun in turns, and trotted out so fast I got left behind. It improved, for sure, but woah. My riding definitely feels like it is in the training wheels stage right now.

You can’t lie to yourself

Dressage lesson semi-private last night, and we had a long chat about courage and progress. I have done a lot – a LOT – of work on this particular subject matter this past year, to manage my anxiety. So, I had some things to say on this matter for sure!

 

I still have trouble managing my anxiety on occasion- and when this happens, I have to breathe, accept and recognize how I’m feeling, acknowledge it, and let myself ‘feel’ that discomfort. The more I do this, the better I get at it. It’s a journey, for sure, and we live a long life!

In our lesson, we worked on haunches-in against the wall, quickening to trot steps, then back to walk, all in the haunches-in. We struggled a bit with maintaining the angle of the haunches-in during the transition, and actually during the trot as well, but when we changed reins and tried it again on the other rein, and then went back to the original side, things actually improved!

Oats did give one sassy buck/kick out in protest, but in the general scheme of things, he was very good and getting WAY better at lateral work without big hissyfits. Ha, never thought I’d see the day when Oats isn’t the lesson’s problem child!

Instead, my lesson partner had to manage some issues with her horse that cropped up during the canter. Her horse is very good at lateral work, better than Oats, but is managing some behavioural issues right now…

And one thing struck me- you can say ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I would definitely canter, it’s just that my back hurts’ or whatever, but in the end, you are lying to yourself and your horse. It’s ok to be afraid. Hell, I spent a good, long while being afraid of various canter transitions with Oats because I got turfed off him more than once–more than I can recall actually!

When you say ”I’m fine” ”I can do this” and etc., but you ARE AFRAID you are doing yourself, and your horse a real disservice. Be honest. Accept it. Live it! Just don’t try to bluff or bravado your way through it. I can see you are afraid. When you canter, you hunch into a fetal position and your stirrups are literally rattling around instead of firmly planted under your feet! This is not the position of a confident and forward-thinking rider! How do you FEEL?

Very telling, and interestingly, our trainer asked my lesson partner how she felt when she was longing her horse, and the horse was starting to ‘come down’ from being a total jerk. The answer? ”Oh she’s starting to be submissive to me,” and my trainer said yes, that’s good–but how do you feel? That’s not a feeling! There is a mind/body connect that is clearly missing.

Don’t say ”oh that was great” when you are really, truly, genuinely afraid. Your riding gives it away BIGTIME. Horses don’t do well with this type of cognitive dissonance.

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Yes.

How did I get over my fear? Well here’s a big one–I still feel it. I now acknowledge it, and I understand how I am feeling on any given day, and it gives me the tools to manage it, and ride well with it. I don’t push it away, shove it under, or gloss over it. It exists.

The motivation has to come from inside. I don’t think my lesson partner gets it, at all right now.

It has taken me a long time to get it. Sometimes, I don’t have it even! That’s fine, it is a part of the journey and a good part of that is recognizing how far we have come even now.

Countdown is on…

Today is my Thursday. That is what I have been repeating to myself all day/night as I was particularly dreading today (3X mtgs, last minute scrambles for events, = extremely stressful day and week).

And it’s been a rough week, just a lot of work, and found out my sister lost her job due to downsizing in a tough economy. I do feel badly for her, that really sucks and nobody wants to be in that position.

From my (relatively privileged) position of just dealing with work stress, it seems like, well what am I complaining about? It’s true. It does give me a moment of pause, of perspective, that I was missing earlier. It’s just too bad that it comes with a flavour of schadenfreude.

But on the bright side, my dear Mr. Oats was in great form yesterday for my dressage lesson. I wasn’t sure how was going to be feeling- looong ass day Sunday, kind of a strenuous ride Saturday, very light ride Monday, and then a tough dressage lesson Tuesday? What’s a pony to do!

Sleepy clipped Oats

Oats after our lesson (not actually, this was him tranqed for a clip)

My dressage trainer did say she thought Oats was getting a bit fat–I protested, saying I’m pretty sure it’s just his hair right now! Though his barrel does look larger than I remember in photos…I’m riding a pony people, not a horse! HAHa.

Oats taking care of me.

Oats taking care of me.

We practiced an interesting use of high-indirect rein aids, to isolate the outside shoulder. At first I was like, why are we doing this? I don’t get this direction? And Karen said to wait it out, keep trying and see how it felt.

So, it was kind of on-and-off, and we did some of it in the canter, and I did NOT like it to the right. I said it triggered my anxiety of Oats preparing to be a shithead, even though absolutely nothing in his demeanor said he was ready to pull anything…It just felt bunchy and jumpy and weird.

We then tried it to the left, cantering, and wow…Now I understand. His canter felt lovely.

His attitude was excellent, he never fussed or argued or got upset with me. Yeah!! We ended with trying it in the walk, and then straightening the horses out with the lightest touch of the reins. It felt like a hummingbird was keeping Oats in the bridle, so light, soft and beautiful. I was really glad Oats was being so awesome!

You owe each other nothing

I said to my trainer yesterday that I felt so thankful that I was able to have a great cross-country experience with Oats. And it’s true- I was so grateful!

And in the same lesson yesterday, I also said I still felt backed off, anxious and this weird ‘I don’t know how to jump’ mind-blank when I go into a lesson, or are warming up for one, or are watching someone else have a jump lesson. It’s like my brain goes into a blank state where I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing anymore.

And the thing is that it always passes.

And I DO know what I’m doing!

So why the brain- body disconnect? Damned if I know, but I do know it is mostly stress related, haha. And we worked with it, and I got over it. We cruised over a tiny cross-rail until it felt good (sneaky note here- it felt good every time actually). And then a small x-rail over the liverpool, and then the two x-rails to a small vertical. Over and over.

Then, a small line consisting of an oxer to the ‘road closed’ jump.

Pic from last year of the 'road closed' jump- yes my tongue is sticking out! Photo courtesy of Christi.

Pic from last year of the ‘road closed’ jump- yes my tongue is sticking out! Photo courtesy of Christi.

And that went flawlessly too (well, we jumped very nicely but wobbled through it BIGTIME the second time, because Oats somehow thought that since we skipped the second jump in the line the first time, that he should start doing that again on autopilot…) so we had to go around and do it again, straighter, haha.

And it felt perfect.

We then worked over a course, and yes it definitely wasn’t flawless like some of my warm-up lines, it was very good and very smooth. I did get left behind (twice?? oops!!) but Oats was meeting his strides well, even a bit too eager in the 5-stride outside line and we got in to the last jump too short! HA.

More pics from last year- the panel jump. Photo courtesy of Christi.

More pics from last year- the panel jump. Photo courtesy of Christi.

Oh and the ‘Oats on autopilot’ issue came back when he was locked onto a jump in a line we were doing…Except we were doing a broken line, not the regular line! I had to physically pull him away and focus on the jump to the left, not the jump directly in front of us, haha.

I always end feeling like yeah no problem man, and always start like I’m staring down at the fences at Spruce Meadows.

As always, a work in progress. But Oats was jumping very nicely and was a super game little ponykins for me. Good boy–and I appreciate his ‘can-do’ attitude! He was so chill.

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?

Sleeping lessons: Oats update

So, Wednesday and Thursday I rode Oats. Because we didn’t do our dressage lesson on Tuesday, I decided that Wed. would have more of a dressage focus, and we’d save the jumping for Thursday.

Blast from the past- 2011

Blast from the past- 2011

Because we did a TON of BIG STRONG canter on Tuesday, I focused on getting a bigger trot on Wednesday, with more connection, more ‘go’. We were able to ride with a friend, which was really nice- she’s lovely to ride with, super respectful of ring space and very arena-savvy. Oats was interested, but still responsive. I noticed he’s kind of clanking on his bit when I ask for more contact, so I think it might be time to get his teeth done!

Flashback to 2011

Flashback to 2011

Thursday, we did our jumping lesson. I’ve been having kind of a tough week, emotion-wise. Family problems are bubbling up, and it has been DIFFICULT. Work was also kind of insane this week, and I kind of felt like I was on the verge of a meltdown yesterday. I just felt sad, helpless, hopeless, depressed and anxious. Yeah, a perfect combination, eh?

Actually, Oats was a star for my lesson! Despite me feeling out of control emotionally and kind of a wreck the whole week, he has been solid as a rock. Good pony.

We worked over a two-stride x-rail to a small oxer, and then built it up to a small course. I only did the course once, after we schooled the two-stride a bunch of times (I was feeling overwrought but VERY pleased with his performance and decided to end it at one, before I fell apart.) The two-stride rode fairly ugly for a few times, then we took a break, and ACED it! It was sooo perfect.

We then worked over the course- the two-stride line, to a big x-rail on the diagonal, to a 5-stride line, rollback to the first jump in the line, back to the big x-rail, and then over a small oxer on the diagonal. Eight jumps total, and I was really happy with how cooperative Oats was. Go us!

It helped shake me out of my intense funk for the week, although I do have a bad habit of using riding, and running, to ‘escape’ from the overwhelming sadness I feel. If I’m busy, I don’t have to ‘feel’ quite as much.