Hard but worth it

I had a sports psychologist session with the great Dave Freeze yesterday, right before my riding lesson and it was really insightful. Weirdly I cried on and off the entire time, but I didn’t feel sad- I felt pretty good. And my face didn’t get all red and hot like real tears, I felt fine, no puffy swollen eyes, nothing. It was just emotion, coming out like how it wanted to!

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Whee! Jump jump. From a lesson a few weeks ago.

(As a non-crier, it felt weird).

Anyways, it was a lot to go through and I felt kind of wrung out by the end, but I have some valuable tools to work with and the best part- I was able to head straight over to my lesson after and put it into practice!

Basically to sum it up all I have to do for riding:

  1. Show up
  2. Give it my best
  3. Manage my mistakes
  4. Learn
  5. Look for high powered FUN!

Easy right? Ha! But yes some good things to work on.

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Go Oats go!

I went into my lesson feeling pretty good! Almost immediately I had some ‘external bubble’ things to deal with- it was freezing, so I was shivering and had to grab my gross old barn jacket to wear. No problem, addressed.

Then, Oats was really draggy and non-interested in my warmup. High headed, kind of frustrating, slow off the leg, reins not there, spooky and generally not paying attention. Spooks? Over and done with. Letting it go.

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Funny thing, this was a very awkward jump. Looks fine in a still eh?

Lazy? Deal, don’t dwell.

I was actually pretty good at managing my emotions well in the warm-up, whereas I know I wanted to get frustrated. But you know what? Regardless of how he warms up, I can manage MY emotions- I can’t manage his. So, I will do that!

Anyways, the warm up for the course was good for the first half, and then the second half I got left behind a few times, Oats was hesitant and backed off. No problem. I will go around and try it again! See how that goes. (better).

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Jumping the coop. It is so pretty!

Course time- I was a bit nervous- see the backed-off part…But I thought, hey let’s just see how this goes? I make a mistake, I manage it. No biggie. And you know what? It rode really nicely! Not perfect (HAH) but pretty darn good.

We did the course once, and I had some fleeting thoughts of doing it again, but decided against it. I have to minds of this. Sarah A and Sarah B.

Sarah A: You are a chicken! Why didn’t you ride it again? It went so well, what are you afraid of, screwing it up??

Sarah B: The course went well and you managed all your minor errors. Nice work. Why don’t we take that good feeling home and know that you can be kinder to yourself on a day that you already did a lot of personal work? There is always a next time to ride a good course.

See where I am going with this? It’s tough. I want to be Sarah B all the time 🙂 And if I was, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this! Moving on…ha.

Every night you’ve got to save me

So, polo not happening tonight- can’t get off early enough for it. Luckily there is a Sunday opportunity that I will be taking advantage of 🙂

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Had a challenging but fairly decent dressage lesson last night, where we worked on transitions and MAN it was hard. HARD. Transitions upwards were great, but our collection sucked out loud and my transitions downward were…special. To the point that we are going to have to devote a good ride to only downward transitions. Oh well! Kind of does burst my ‘we’re moving up!’ bubble by feeling fairly incompetent during a basic ride. HA.

And I had an excellent equine counseling session on Monday- I had been trying to manage some strange emotions/feelings of anger, angst and disappointment when Buster passed away. I wanted my family to acknowledge my loss and my grief, and they didn’t. It made me very angry and I wanted to explore why, and why that was coming up so strongly in the wake of his passing. It was a good session that made me experience/feel the need for acknowledgement and be able to *mostly* let it go. (I say mostly, because I need the emotional peace it brings, but know myself too well to let things go entirely, ahh).

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I’m a natural (wallaby) mother!

Anyways, it just made me realize that the only communication I need to have with family can be talking about my own very lovely family, which consists of (GASP) animals! My horse! My dog! (and the other animal, my husband, hahaha). And since they don’t care, I don’t have to care either= a natural limitation on our communication. It’s a relief.

They have made it very clear that once I came out (they forced my hand in the most ridiculous, emotionally abusive way) as childfree by choice, they could also choose to hate my animals.

So, feel free! I am living the life I always wanted- or close to it, I could always have a guinea pig farm with a mini donkey, and a mini horse to pull a cart; some riding horses, maybe chickens for my husband…Yeeps!

A life well lived requires no apologies.

Progress, like life, is not linear

Had an interesting equine counseling session last night. We focus on a few aspects of my life during each session. I usually bring up what I want to focus on or what I am struggling with (my parents, riding, performance anxiety, race performance). We are focusing on my race performance right now, and I have been struggling mightily at races. Mad, disappointed, angry at my body for letting me down, bummed about my slower times, expecting better…You name it, I am feeling it!

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Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My last race was good, but the time was not good. It was good because I ran within my ability and I could breathe the whole race. I was quite pleased with that, and I didn’t burn my lungs out like I have been doing.

What’s the difference? For a long time, I have been relying on the cheap fast energy of adrenaline during races. I don’t have a lot of long-term power to back that up, at all. And it burns out too fast, leaving me gasping, heaving, ready to puke, with legs that burn with lactic acid and feel weak within 1km.

This worked really well for me last year. This year, not so much.

My training has been going great, but like last year, it’s pretty much the same (though my long runs are LONGER now, ha). If I keep doing what I’m doing, my body gets used to it, and I adapt very quickly. Problem is…That doesn’t get me faster or more powerful. It gets me very complacent.

So to get better results, and power that I can rely on more, I have to change my training (and my mindset, which is making me slower this season, ha).

This means getting into the uncomfortable zone. Aka faster.

Funny enough, my equine counselor brought up a comment I got from a dressage judge years ago about Oats. “His trot looks very comfortable and easy. I bet you could trot like that all day. It’s not work though, and it’s not the power you need.” She was right! I could cruise on Oats alllllllll day with that lovely, easy trot of his. Problem is, when I wanted ‘more’ trot or collected trot, things fell apart.

She pointed out that my running is remarkably similar. My long runs? Could cruise alllllll day at my little jog-trot. Want more ‘go’ and more power? Falls apart.  Ha, I am Oats. Weird eh?

Life mirrors us in more ways than we think. And for me? I am experimenting with more power moves. 500 metre pick-ups in pace during my long runs, which are killer and I hate them, but I have to do them. Oh and running hills after my rides on Sunday. We’ll see!

Foxstone show recap: November show!

On paper (well, in ribbons) this show looked pretty darn good- and to be honest, my complains and frustration comes from a place of progress not fear. So that IS a good thing.

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My new show jacket! I love it. A big thanks to my trainer for taking me this day.

Let’s break it down: I placed 2nd in the equitation over fences, two thirds in the hunter o/f classes and a fourth in the flat.Not too shabby eh? Well, I made some BIG mistakes in the jump classes, to the tune of not enough leg at all, and a big add in the the line with some chips, and then a lovely round in my second class to a huge fail at the…last fence…shit! We basically stopped, and climbed over it. Nothing but a total failure to ride the last fence on my part, which was very disappointing.

I lit a fire under my butt for the last jump class- I told myself NO MORE CHIPPING and NO MORE ADDING and oh, no more forgetting to ride the last fence and start congratulating myself too early, ha.

And you know what? It was our best round! I was moving.

Except then I didn’t know how to take that ‘BIG’ energy down enough for our flat class and I totallllllly bombed it. Oats was tense and anxious, and I was handsy and clutching, feeling afraid that he was bottled up and bucky, but not really knowing how, at the moment, to deal with it. Shoooot…

So, I kind of flopped, pulled, got anxious and failed my way through the flat class- we picked up the wrong lead on the right (TWICE! kill me now…) and generally I was kind of frustrated and miserable. Our last flat class was a dream so what in hell was going on?

Well heck, it’s all a learning experience! It is actually nice to take what I’ve consciously learned from the first show, and apply it to the second show.

We didn’t get a fabulous warmup- the outside ring was frozen solid- and so was I, by the way! So we had to just slowly walk around, freezing our asses off, until we could get into the indoor to warm up over fences. The scene there was total chaos, some riders seemed to have a warm up technique of repeatedly falling off…I felt disjointed and a bit disorganized, but Oats was a dream to warm up. The only thing I was annoyed about was his throwing his head around, but that’s just a warm up thing, I’m sure.

We then sat…and sat…and sat…freezing our butts off, while we waited for the final rotation to go- and we were last in the final rotation. Lovely.

I think the issues were clear- not enough energy for our over fences classes until the last one, when I finally mustered up enough ‘go’ for the course, and then WAY too much ‘go’ for my flat.

The sitting really killed our impulsion for sure, and then when I needed to be ‘sitting’…well, we were already in the ring for the flat class and didn’t have that necessary ‘decompression’ time Oats and I apparently need to not kill anyone in a flat class. I couldn’t moderate myself enough. It was 0-60 all the time.

Hm, interesting.

I had a dream that night that I was galloping Oats and I felt a bit out of control, but that I also liked it…It was strange. I felt like that dream was telling me that was what I needed at the show, but was blocked from achieving it.

So, last night I did my equine counseling session with Vicki, and kind of actually ended up re-enacting some gallops from my dreams? Weird eh? I guess that was what I needed to get…that big gallop, the good canter, and the ‘free, floaty, smooth’ trot that I could NOT get at the show.

It had to come up somewhere. So it did. I liked it!

I like seeing the progression, and I’m liking the process. So what if I am frustrated–at least it’s taking me places to see new things about myself and my horse.

It’s funny- when I said I was half pleased, half disappointed about the show, Vicki asked what would make me 100% happy about the show. What if I came home with all first places?

I instantly knew I what I would say–that the competition was weak, so I was the best out of the worst.

That surprised me. I need to be happy with what I am achieving right now.

“All acts of nostalgia are expressions of longing for a past that never was”

Didn’t have my dressage lesson yesterday- as board increases are starting to eat into my regular ‘horse budget’ I’m having to cut back a bit- and so my dressage lessons are going to every other week, and I didn’t show this summer (by choice but also by $$$).

Instead, I did another horse counseling session and we focused on setting SMART goals. This was hard for me, because I can see the goal part, and I have my start, but what about the middle stuff? How does that go?

Well, it goes something like this…

I want to ride in the 2′ and 2’3” divisions at a local show series.

I want to compete in the whole series.

I want to finish each division without skipping any classes.

Easy eh?

Well, I also want to do it without having a meltdown, feeling anxious, feeling ‘out of body’ and actually enjoying feeling competent in the situation.

Not so easy.

How do I do it?

Continue with my private jump lesson once a week.

Add in separate schooling sessions over fences focusing on relaxation- now this is going to be the tough part.

Continue doing my counseling sessions once a week until my first show, and then probably moving it to once every other week.

So…That’s my action plan moving forward. I hope I can make progress this way!

Oats was a lovey to ride yesterday, I didn’t end up riding for that long as the counseling session took about an hour. We had some GREAT forward canter in the outdoor, and some fairly reasonable trot. Overall, a fun ride.

Today I am taking off, and having drinks! Yeah! Tomorrow is the jump lesson- where I get to put my money where my brain/mouth/body is…AH.

An addiction to power?

Had another equine counseling session last night (and moved my jump lesson to Saturday, as Oats was feeling tired during my friend’s lesson on him on Wed. – probably due to the strenuous dressage lesson we had on Tues).

And, it came out that maybe I ride because I like being powerful, having power, and being able to exercise that power.

And I say- yes that is definitely something that resonates strongly with me.

It is addictive to feel like you can control a 1,000 lb animal- and I get really wrapped up in trying to ‘muscle’ Oats sometimes, which by the way, I NEVER win, hello he weighs like 900 lbs~

I reiterated that I feel like maybe I’m not making progress, but apparently my jumping lessons are saying otherwise. Can progress feel faked or false? Maybe. I still go into my lessons amped up and anxious, but I am noticing that I can bring it down much faster, and the jumps themselves…Well, they are all a learning process. Some ugly, some ‘meh’ and some great, and some good. It all comes out in the wash. Just because they aren’t 100% perfect or flawless rounds doesn’t mean the entire session was a bust!

So, watching my friend ride gave me some of that perspective- her ride was good, but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. Sure they kind of took down some fences in the gymnastic, but you know what it showed me? That other people can have that type of ride on Oats, it’s not all my fault, and they survive and go on to have great jumps too! It’s not a disaster like I always think.

They did have some ugly fences, and they also had really good ones. The last course was lovely! I was very pleased to see him work in a ‘grown up’ mind frame, and his attitude towards other riders and actually working is sooooooo much better now.

So, I hope to go into my next jump lesson with more of an open mind, and not let my brain/anxiety get ahead of me and start anticipating bad things happening- and also not tell my coach immediately that I only want to jump small jumps, hah.

We’ll see!

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?

Slightly derailed

HA. True!

HA. True!

After my last post ‘a good stretch’ I was rudely reminded about how being smug about your horse can immediately lead to an abrupt comeuppance!

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

Oats was good in my dressage lesson- that’s true.

But…My jump lesson yesterday had more than a few bumps in the road. In fact, I kind of got off track entirely and the wheels fell off. Bummer! This was the lesson I had planned to do a counseling session before it, so I could feel more ‘in tune’ and ready to accomplish things during my lesson. So, not so much this time. Oh, horses. They have a real way of getting you out of dreamland and abruptly on your feet, unfortunately.

Oats was great for the counselling session- he was quiet and calm and we worked on some great relaxation. I was so sleepy feeling! It was really nice.

We then tacked up, and my facilitator stayed to watch my lesson. I’m glad she did, because when the train went off the track, if I hadn’t had a ‘witness’ haha, I very well may have wanted to bail on the lesson entirely. That being said, I definitely do NOT regret staying with the lesson and sticking with it- it was just kind of a discombobulating experience.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

We warmed up fairly well, but I kept saying that Oats felt different- a bit head-bobby. It wasn’t noticeable really when we moved forward in the trot, and nothing at the canter so we kept going. Nobody on the ground could feel it at all. BUT..

We went to trot over our warm-up x and he was immediately head bobbing, dragging his feet?! Nicole went to check his feet for rocks, and he did have a few big ones wedged in there. OUCH!!

So, rocks picked out, we kept going and Oats got really dramatic and head bobbing. We pulled up, checked for stones again and he was a-ok. So…We made the decision to push through it, and get him trotting forward on both reins, and then moving to the jump. He felt better – got past the really obvious head bobbing- but he still felt…funny to me.

We moved on to the coursework, and I had lost my groove. He was moving ok but still felt weird to me, and I was complaining that he felt strangely. Nicole and my facilitator said he looked fine, but it was just one of those things, you know?

That unsure feeling led to me basically bombing my coursework and I just felt like I wasn’t clicking at all. I know it all started when he picked up the rocks, but I couldn’t get my head back in the game. We had some SUPER awkward chips, some I pulled to, some Oats generously ‘gave’ to me…My bad habits were back in full force: Pumping my upper body to the fence, sitting too much, crop on the neck, pulling for a distance, motorcycling around corners, leaning up his neck too, arghhh…

Some were ok, but I’ve just been so spoiled lately with really nice, relatively flawless jump rounds, so this unsettled me a lot, and I felt quite out of sorts. We did the course twice, the second being better than the first, but I couldn’t let go of that nagging feeling.

Oh well! I did notice Oats holding his right front hoof up in the cross-ties and he was also shifting a lot more than he normally does. So, maybe he did get a bang on his hoof or a bruise from the rocks. He is a very sensitive-hoofed horse (god, you should see him on gravel…mincing) despite having rock-hard and very good feet. That does baffle my farrier!

Being ok with riding ok?

So, not a ton to report on the riding front. As I mentioned my jump lesson on Thursday was more of a ‘deal with the weird issue that is cropping up’ and that was dealt with…

Saturday he was ok, not great, just ok. My rides have certainly been feeling ‘blah’ lately so I rode, and we worked through some stuff and it was fine but I never really got that ‘ YES ‘ feeling that I am looking for. We also worked on some therapy- anxiety training after my ride, with Oats wearing a bareback pad and me getting led around on him, working on my breathing. It was good, and he was very cooperative. Bit by bit, I suppose.

I do still wonder if I am making progress with my anxiety? But it just isn’t something you can really ‘measure’ you know…

Sunday was a quickie ride, as we had a full day planned that consisted of floating at Thetis Lake (yeah summer is HERE!) and then going downtown for ‘Car-Free Day’ which was a blast! Oats was good, again not ‘great’ or anything to write home about. We worked on lumpy bumpy transitions, some awkward, some ok, nothing wonderful.

UGH though on our way back up to the barn, a pony was snoozing in the field (Elmo), and I laughed and was like oh cute Elmo, he look dead! Well, apparently Oats thought so too, and when Elmo got up, Oats LOST HIS SHIT I guess assuming Elmo had since risen from the dead…I was on a runaway who was losing his mind, and couldn’t decide if he should bolt up the hill, run sideways and jump over the fence, or c. what he actually did, which was run backwards into the blackberry bushes, snorting and freaking out. I leapt off, my water bottle went flying, and I managed to grab the reins back.

Jesus.

He was still snorting and freaking out, and we walked calmly back up to the barn.

Horses….

I do have a lesson tonight, dressage, so we SHALL SEE!