Oh, always killin’ it

I had my dressage lesson back (and on Thursdays, what the heck? Thursdays are usually jump lessons) and it was REALLY good. After COVID-19, all of our schedules got all jumbled up and mixed around. I had to move my jump lesson to Saturdays so that we could try and get our dressage trainer on 1 day, since she was not available on Fridays anymore. Couple that with my weird tension-building anxiety and I really felt like I was in need of some really basic building blocks, ridewise.

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See, this is NOT the frame I want- I want him to be ‘stretching’ down more, not so compressed with his head and neck. So, always more to do! And this is from last summer.

I wanted to be able to work with contact without getting rigid with my hands and arms. Easier said than done, haha. BUT I feel like we are really getting somewhere, a better place where I can ride and maintain contact without turning into stone, hahah.

So it felt very positive. It is a challenge, but given Oats’ advanced age, I need to start working him in a more responsible, and responsive way. I really appreciate the opportunity to modify my ride, and I have the time and headspace to make it happen. Oh, and a supportive trainer too! Can’t forget that. It’s kind of nice to not focus on horse shows right now, because I feel like this foundational work is really important and something I want to develop further for my personal riding education. ūüôā Go Oats!

Except that rotten pony rolled in my saddle AGAIN!! I was raking on Wednesday and Boom!!! He went down so fast he wrenched my damn arm and neck pretty hard. ARGHH he is sooo cheeky.

Like riding a broke horse

Had a TOUGH dressage lesson last night. Wow. I went into it feeling tired, and came out feeling exhausted! I was even talking in my sleep last night, I was so tired. Ha. But, it was the good physical tired, rather than the insane stress insomnia I was suffering from for months.

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Me this whole freaking week. Also Oats after last night..

To recap- I ran-commuted yesterday (roughly 4k to work and 4k home), went out for a fabulous breakfast with my colleagues to The Ruby (where I enjoyed an absolutely obscene breakfast of fried chicken breast on waffles, highly recommend), and I then I worked on some mild sprint intervals on the treadmill- tried to fight off puking, ugh breakfast was too soon and too big, and then I jogged home, got ready for my lesson and rode in a sweaty, exhausting, tough, challenging dressage lesson.

Whoa. That is a lot even for me!

I guess part of me felt a bit constrained by racing so much, because I was trying desperately to not get injured, overtired, too sick (failed on that) and trying to recover from the one race in time to race the next weekend.

That is no joke and quite frankly takes its toll.

So how did I cure pounding my body into the ground for six weeks? OH, by doing it in one day of course! (ha, but not really. Jogging is much easier than racing and a lot more friendly on the body).

But yes, going into my lesson I was tired.

But no rest for the righteous, eh?

We worked on getting the horses to accept the contact and be ‘over the back’ without using bend as a quicki shortcut. We did a LOT of canter at first, and then broke it down to the walk, then trot, (and a lot of halting since Oats DID NOT LIKE THIS WORK and was making life difficult)…

It was rough man! Wow. I was dripping with sweat, so was Oats. My poor fingies were cramping up. Oats kind of hated the work, having small hissyfits and dancing around, throwing his head up/around, protesting, etc.

We did achieve some really nice steps, and Karen said something that made me feel totally stunned- that you can achieve that level of work ‘the automatic’ contact where the horse goes into-and-stays-in contact the whole time?! But HOW?

Simple but never easy.

Also time.

Of course….

A challenge

So I went into my dressage semi-private last night feeling prettttyyy good about things. Got my saddle, had some good rides the other day, and was on a PLAN! (work on lead changes).

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What? You were expecting greatness?

Yeah, no.

I was feeling cocky, and horses are very talented at bringing you down a peg or ten.

Short story- no lead change work, in fact I couldn’t even manage trot work….When asking for a forward -connected- trot, Oats would only canter. And canter. And canter. And canter. It was exhausting, we spent most of the lesson in canter.

Why was this happening? A few reasons.

He was losing his balance at the big trot, looked for me to fix it, I see-sawed both with my hands AND my body (great move, me. Not!) and he would hop into canter to fix it. Sighhhh…When that happened, I would shift forward ever so slightly and raise my hands= go horse, go!

Except, no.

It was quite a challenge and really brought my good vibes down. But I didn’t let it get to me, it was just a of work on a night when I thought things were starting to come together for us. Sighhhhhh indeed.

Small victory: When we did this work last week, my lesson mate and I both had trouble ‘telling’ when the horses were backing off the contact at a slower trot. This week, I could tell instantly when Oats was getting too fluffy in the contact, and backing off. I couldn’t exactly ‘fix’ it very well or quickly, but I could tell!

Small wins, I guess. Story of our life, hahaha.

Oats desperately needs to be clipped. He was SOAKED in sweat after. I had to cool him out for hours!! UGH..

Christmas recap: The horse edition

Actual Christmas update to come later- this one is all about the horses over the holidays!

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Merry Christmas from our family!

As mentioned earlier, we had our barn party on the Saturday Dec. 19th and it was a blast! It was super nice to chat with everyone, and we opened our Secret Santa gifts. I loved mine- saddle soap that I truly needed, and some really fun extras like a small bottle of Baileys (that is done already, ha), chocolate covered spoons, and a mug with blackboard paint and chalk, that you can write on. Cute!

Sunday Ian and I went to the barn and he kindly agreed to¬†take videos of me jumping! I had to include italics here because this is a rare event, people! Oats and I were jumping so-so (our trot fences were not bad, some lousy blips where we ground to a chip, and then crawled over the fence…trying to get away from doing that!) and some really nice fences! Oats was quite sassy, threw a small buck in at the trot too!

 

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We also had an opportunity to take our annual Christmas photo with the family (aka Gidget and Mr. Oats).

And then I rode Monday¬†and think we did some flatwork? I do recall that my energy lately for flatwork has been ‘high’ and Oats is certainly feeding off it…When I wanted some contact, Oats wanted to canter. Rinse, repeat.

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Hm…

 

And then Oats got some time off! I’m sure he appreciated it. He was off while I was taking a small Xmas holiday in Ucluelet and then at Christmas with family up-Island. When I got back into riding him on Saturday, he was not so full of beans…The opposite actually.

Saturday’s ride was fine, popped over a cross-rail, a lot of half-seat canter. Nothing demanding.

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then jumped…Awkardly.

Sunday’s ride- now I wanted a bit more- popped over a small course a couple times, trot fence, and some bending/contact work at the trot.

Monday– a bigger (oooh) few fences set up and we jumped them! Only once each, but hey…My diagonal fence suuuucked so hard I almost saw my trainer yelling at me from the shadows. I have to get that one figured out. The one on the quarter line was great! Also some curving fence x-rails, and those were super fun!

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Contact work at the walk, which was harder than Oats and I thought it had any right to be….

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And dressage lesson tonight! Can only anticipate what it will be like….And I am back to work this week, which is totally and utterly non-awesome.

Are you gonna whine, or win?

Had a solo dressage lesson yesterday due to my lesson mate having to take some time off- I don’t normally welcome privates for dressage because of a few factors…

a. they cost more- $35 for a semi-private and $50 for a private

b. I have to work my freaking ass off in them, and nobody else is around to deflect the laserbeam of intensity off me!

So…Not always thrilled to do privates but yesterday I faced it head on. As I mention in my header (stolen from watching Wet Hot American Summer last night, ha), it’s one way or the other. Excuses or results.

Not so relaxed

Not so relaxed

And I, after bravely conquering a mountain this weekend, am ready for results! A win! Except maybe my attitude was the biggest win, and the lesson itself maybe wasn’t quite the win I was looking for. We rode in the outdoor, and the lesson objective became painfully clear: Break the concrete pattern that Oats and I have so lovingly developed over the years.

Easy, right?

Well remember that bit about concrete?

I worked him large for a bit, getting his attention and his ‘forward’ through the spooky side of the arena. It was actually fairly successful, and I was feeling like hey I can do this. We then worked on a circle at the far end of the arena on getting a few simple (note I keep saying simple, not easy) items:

  1. Forward
  2. Bend
  3. Direction
  4. Supple

And proceeded to not get any of those for literally¬†minutes at a time. Yeah it sounds dramatic but sheesh I was working my ass off and Oats was going- NOPE! I’d get forward and then some bend, and then he’d root rudely or throw his head up. Or he’d offer to canter, and he would try literally anything to get me to pull him back and get him to stop.

What was particularly telling was when Karen was saying in a few I could walk…I didn’t even ask for it yet, and Oats reverted from his actually pretty nice work to being a total jackass immediately. Head tossing, hopping, throwing his shoulder out, rooting…ARGH.

So, yeah the walk part didn’t get to happen for another, oh, 20 minutes of sweaty torture? I was like seriously horse? I was done 20 minutes ago? Give ME a break! But this part, was the important part- the ‘not giving up’ part. Oats was frustrated that he thought we could go into our ‘normal’ pattern, where I would walk, and we would take a break. So he took it upon himself to try to ‘force’ me into walking before I even asked.

And to that I say- Good day sir, I don’t think so!

We went back to canter, then trot, then more canter, then trot…It was exhausting. I was sweating from my ears, literally. Oats had rivulets of sweat running down his forehead, flanks, back. He was literally trying to endure me out, and see if I gave in first! Well, two can play at this game, and I wasn’t worried, just kind of annoyed…So we kept going and going, until we got some nice, honest and good work from Oats.

Then I immediately came down to walk, and we left it on that note. I was still in awe of his lasting power- who knew that when he was really trying to force the issue, he could go- and GO very strongly- for that long? Not me?!!

Long held patterns are sure hard to break. I am chipping a tiny corner off with yesterday’s lesson.

Go for the gallop? When Oats learns it’s easier to trot instead of canter…

Dressage lesson last night and I faced it with a biiiittt of trepidation.

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Was he going to be a looney-tunes?

Was he going to cooperate?

Was he going to put up a stink?

Who knows!

After a week off in horsey paradise, one rough ride in the ring, one good ride in the field, I wasn’t sure ‘which horse’ I’d have under me yesterday. We warmed up outside and he was actually fine, our right lead was kind of non-existent, but as I would find out later, that was an isolated incident…

We moved indoors to combat the dust but that wasn’t really a better solution either (my dirt tan was WAY better than my real tan by the end of the ride…). We worked on lateral work, where he was a bit fussy but fairly cooperative. Sometimes when he ‘gives’ it’s like ok HERE I’m GIVING YOU WHAT YOU WANT…And he tries to sort of snatch the reins out of my hands and bring his head down. And I have to be fine with him, somewhat rudely, ‘giving’ to me and to not punish him for it- it’s¬†compliance,¬†albeit¬†with a bit of ‘tude.

We then worked on forward with contact. The -with contact- part of the ride wasn’t really happening, so I let that go and worked on forward. That meant that¬†every time¬†he got fussy and wanted to kind of hop into a canter, I …let him. And I¬†galloped him like I meant it. Every time.

No getting off easy this ride, holy god it was a cardio workout and a half.

So, our ride consisted of GALLOP…working trot, can’t stick the working trot, back to GALLOP…back down to trot, still can’t keep the trot, GALLOP…On and on and on. Karen did explain that with this exercise, you have to mean it, and mean it consistently enough for the entire ride. The idea is to make the thing you want- the forward, contact trot, the easy game, and the thing the horse keeps offering (canter) the really hard work.

It also meant a lot of hard work for me!

He got the picture by the end of the right on both reins at the trot, still a bit of an uneasy truce with the contact and forward pieces, but we did make progress. I think with the week off, he was kind of like, wellll…..

She did say that his canter is looking much better (we only spent like, half our entire lesson in canter…ugh! So tired.) and his lateral work is really sharpening up!

Back in the saddle (much to Oats chagrin!)

That’s right, my holiday and Oats’ holiday came to an abrupt end.

Wish I was back at the beach

Wish I was back at the beach

Well, sort of abrupt. I had an inkling that Oats would be flying high on life when I got back, having sat around loafing for a week…And boy, was I RIGHT~

I let him rip around the sand ring, and couldn’t even maintain a¬†pretense¬†of behaviour. He galloped, snorting and rip-roaring, for at least 15 minutes. He kicked the gate! Jeeze! I stayed the hell out of the way, until he managed to calm down after a good few minutes of insane hair-raising moves.

He was pretty sweaty and huffing and puffing, so I didn’t ride for that long, but it didn’t matter anyways- he was COATED in sweat. White sweat up by his ears! We, inspired by my visit to the William Fox-Pitt clinic in Chilliwack the past weekend (yes that’s right, not only did I go to Kauai but I flew back on the red-eye and went straight to Chilliwack via Greyhound to go to the clinic all weekend! Nuts! I know!), decided to try some basic trot fences, focusing on keeping a rhythm and Oats’ clued into the fences.

Mixed success on that one, he was very amenable, but I let the ball drop in front of the green box and he stopped- curious about it, as it was at an awkward angle. I re-approached and he figured it out!

Good boy, and then we had our lesson with Karen on Tuesday (yesterday) and he was GOOD! He didn’t always want to be, he was literally shocked when we changed direction and worked on the same exercise¬†to the left?!! He thought we were done?! He got kind of huffy and annoyed, ears back, head shaking but figured it out eventually, good pony haha.

He was working hard, so we took more breaks than we normally do- see, I can be lenient to a pony who has had a whole week off! (and me too, ugh I was exhausted!). Oats even had sweat running down his forehead, which reminds me, he needs to be clipped again bigtime, he is getting WAY TOO SWEATY doing normal work. Yeeeesh.

So, I noticed I have a habit of tipping forward...

So, I noticed I have a habit of tipping forward…

So, we worked on me not leaning forward during transitions- any of them, eek bad idea. Not losing my track during transitions. Maintaining a solid ‘contact’ during transitions on the circle- big walk-small trot-big trot- canter. It was tough! But good.

I think Oats will get a day off today, so he doesn’t completely hate me on my return. I want him to be fresh and good to go for my jumping lesson on Thursday, and to be honest, I want to be energized too! Ah…Feels like a bit of a long week.

Next up- recap of the William Fox-Pitt clinic!~

Holiday Countdown: T-3 days (struggling!!)

Gah, my cold has definitely made it’s¬†presence¬†known. Work is a struggle, my cold is a struggle, I didn’t feel well enough to go to the gym today (so tired and stuffed up, and coughing up gross stuff, yes I didn’t want to be¬†that person at the gym!!).

Me right now

Me right now

I went to this new sandwich shop ‘Meat and Bread’ for lunch and got a porchetta sandwich and Fentiman’s ‘Curious Cola’…It was good, but the porchetta was super fatty. I really dislike fatty bits of meat, so I was a bit blah on that. Sauce- salsa verde, was good. Overall…Not sure if I would go again, just because I’m a bit ‘blah’ on sandwiches.

Riding lesson last night? Oh man, I was not feeling super optimistic as I was going through the ‘blahs’ with work/cold/tired and true to my predictions…It was a challenging ride. QUITE challenging.

We were trying to get more contact at the trot, and through his right rein, he FOUGHT. He struggled! He was tired! He hopped up and down! He balked!

It was pretty tough. Not gonna lie, it was really mentally exhausting for me. I was constantly worried- is this enough? Too much? Am I headed for the big EFF YOU of an Oats mega-buck??? (seriously, that is what it felt like, oh jesus, it was difficult).

His hops up and down didn’t lead to the mega-buck though. I got clutchy and anxious, and raised my hands up when he did that…Even though his reactions didn’t go to a buck, I started reacting like he MIGHT buck. Every time!

Apparently what we are asking is tough- really hard for Oats. He was having a tough time reaching forward with his right hind, so he reacted by ‘hopping’ into the canter, and pulling his head forward, saying ‘I need more length! My neck can’t move!’ and of course the hops.

So, while it was very difficult and mentally tiring, he never got to the BIG TEMPER TANTRUM point that he has *often* done with me. True he got fussy and jumped up in the air about three times, but we more or less ‘overcame’ those and worked through it…And he didn’t get to do the BIG EXPLOSION at all!

Apparently this is a positive direction, what he is offering isn’t correct, but it’s not his nasty ‘eff you!’ either…

I do recall reaching this point earlier a few weeks ago, and then we kind of plateaued, and then he got nasty, and then he plateaued…So I don’t think this is ‘nasty’ it’s more like this is tough, tricky!

I got off, and felt fried! But, also like I still managed to accomplish something, which definitely does NOT happen every lesson. Also, I didn’t fall off so that is accomplishing something in my mind as well ūüôā

Oats got a new rain sheet for his Christmas present, and also he is enjoying candy canes after each ride. No ride tonight- I’m exhausted and am going to see a movie, but we do have a lesson tomorrow.