Some really lovely counter-canter

After a lot of strenuous trying, haha. Dressage lesson last night, and in the theme of our dressage lessons- I get SO much out of them! I feel like while I am spending a lot of $$$$$$$ on lessons, they have really strengthened my relationship with Oats. This can only be a good thing, right? πŸ˜‰

No dressage media so from an older horse show- we were probably schooling First here?

Last week we worked on me at the canter, not twisting. This week my lesson partner and I first tackled the infamous 3-loop serpentine from the First Level Tests. No joke, this serpentine was the BANE of my existence when I was showing in First Level (now haven’t shown dressage in like 2 years, thanks COVID and injury) soooo I wasn’t super thrilled to start off the bat with that challenging exercise.

BUT, ye of little faith it went super well!

We first schooled the exercise in the trot, because you can really work the angles here if you do it right. You don’t need to make it super round, you can sort of ‘straighten’ and then leg-yield casually back to the wall. When you get good, THEN you can make it round. But it can be tricky to hold that lead!

And you know what? Oats nailed it!! Right off the bat?! I was stunned. Then I was like, ok fine, that was his good lead (right), it’ll be worse on his left. But then he did it so perfectly to the left that we repeated the exercise twice and called it good. Who is this horse?!! I love it!

So then we upped the ante: Real counter-canter work. And this, friends was NOT easy for me- my brain felt like a tangle of spaghetti, it was confuzzling haha. But we persevered, worked through some things in a nice and challenging, but doable way, and we got it! We got it on the right, and then went back to the left, which was the harder lead to hold counter-canter in.

Go Oats!! Really loving our rides. πŸ™‚

Some really nice rides

Had a dressage lesson last night and it was just so good! Not perfect but man, I feel like Oats and I are really reaching a deeper understanding via how I am twisting my body?! So the problem is ME! hahah.

Who can resist this handsome fellow?

We worked over trot poles, looping around them and then cantering them and trotting juuuust at the last second- which, whoops, Oats jumped over the row of poles one time when I didn’t transition in time, hahah. Good boy πŸ˜‰

We worked on leg yielding into the poles which was cool and then we took away all the poles but one, and then worked on cantering up to them STRAIGHT and managing the turns without my body twisting in the air. It was much harder to do than I realized?!

Just loving our rides! (from a jump lesson a few months ago, no recent clips from last week sadly)

Oats was very steady and very focused on this exercise. His canter felt really awesome! While we were certainly not perfect, it felt like a very thorough and excellent learning exercise. Now to actually do this when we ARE jumping….Is the real challenge!

And last week we had a really cool ‘zen’ lesson as I call it, where my lesson partner and I were pretzeled into many different shapes, hands off the reins, legs off the saddles, in an effort to find our real centre and straightness- and wow, the horses LOVED this. They were so relaxed, and we focused on deep ‘square’ or diaphragm breathing. I could even see Oat’s ears relax when I was going into the canter transition. He got a bit tense, I sat straight (which still feels like scissoring, ha) and breatheeeed…And he relaxed immediately and we got the nicest left lead canter we’ve gotten in forever!

And I think this intensive bodywork is paying off- he felt fantastic last night, and we had a really fun jump lesson the previous Saturday as well. Just loving all of these lessons, it costs mega $$$$$$ but wow I am getting so much horse and so much physically out of them πŸ™‚ it is awesome! Plus, I want to do ALLLL the things this year. I know how fleeting horses are, and how fragile the situation can be. I just want to do this forever!!!

How we left

Ha, I had some kind of disappointing rides on Oats the past week that led me to not being thrilled about writing about them. In a nutshell, he’s suddenly feeling good. REALLY good. So he’s been a little hot rod to ride, spicy and bouncing (literally) hot to trot and I hated it!! I felt out of control, unsure and unused to it.

From a few weeks ago. He’s on fire now!

It’s not a bad thing, but after 8 months of rehab, and 10 months total post-rehab I felt completely out of my league with my new, fast, alert Superpony who was jazzed up beyond belief and NOT settling to his old, sedate Oats of past.

I didn’t know what to do? We hand galloped for 45 minutes last Saturday because he was so jazzed up and wasn’t settling, at all. GO GO GO like the Energizer Bunny?! I almost wished we HAD our jump lesson b/c I could really use that power and energy, but on my own hacking? Sheesh man, this is a lot to work with.

Sunday he was a touch calmer but still had a real undercurrent of BIG energy. We worked over some cross rails, and it was fine. Monday we did some quieter work- most at the walk/trot, and focused on lateral work at the walk and a touch at the trot.

Tuesday he was on fire again, and damn, we had a long, hard ride. Sort of a ‘Come to Jesus’ ride I guess? He was MOVING though and by the end, going incredibly nicely. It was just exhausting- physically and emotionally- to ride out the little pocket rocket first!

Wednesday I didn’t ride, man I was tired! So I put Oats’ halter on and we took a walk to a local park to watch the tennis players. People loved seeing him going down the sidewalk- ”Look, a horsie!!!” and I told them his name was Mr. Oats and the kids shouted ”I love you Mr. Oats!!’…so that was cute!

Thursday we finally had a lesson- I also chalk his bigtime energy to us not having jump lessons for three weeks, and no dressage lesson last week either. We need some help to harness this!! (and supervision, I guess!) ha. It went really well! I started off tense and wanting to get in a fight with Oats, but we did a big power warm -up that was basically hand galloping around over some teeny cavalettis with my lesson mate, and then settled and focused and this is funny, for the wild man Oats, our lesson was mostly done later without stirrups πŸ˜‰ so, I guess not so wild after all??

It’s a matter of perspective. I’m beyond fortunate to have a zippy, SOUND hot to trot pony after so many years and if he’s feeling GOOD GOOD GOOD right now and wants to GO, well, I go with him and enjoy that ride! I have a real feeling it won’t last, and he’ll be back to little old draggy Oats, but until then…Hang on and gooooo!

(Ok so it will take a bit of convincing on my behalf to really enjoy that feeling of ‘too much’ but damn, he is looking and moving amazingly well right now).

Horsey updates!

Oats had two lessons this week AND a trail ride around the block- what a great week for us!

Tuesday was our jump lesson, and I had done a few trot fences the day before and kind of failed at them, sooooo it was homework time: Trot all the fences! Truth be told, I am the weakest at trot fences. Man, I just do not like them. So it was a good opportunity to really get deep in the discomfort zone, hahah.

Miss the good old days when we jumped in the outdoor. Maybe again??

We did a little course of the trot fences, a few canter circles and he was really good. I was…Less good, ha but learning. Go pony!

Wednesday I remembered that I don’t want to get into a fight with Oats, like at all and we had a bad track record of just really crummy rides on Wednesday. Spooky, stiff resistant, angsty, just argh. So I let all that go and put on my ‘Please Pass Wide and Slow’ vest and we hit the streets.

Oats was great! I NEVER trail ride him, and he has not been off property since last August, two days before his serious injury sidelined him for 7-8 months! The spookiest part of the ride was leaving the property actually- we go through the owner of the farm’s driveway, past their house and barn, and dump trucks, surveyors who were clearing property, sheds, machinery, long haul trucks and a dump truck drove right up to as as we were heading out- non stop excitement!

Oats kept his hair on THANK GOD and was a gem about it, and we both breathed a sigh of relief when we got to the road. The roads were very busy but people were relatively careful and I rode in the middle of my lane to ensure nobody tried to buzz us.

And then on Thursday for our dressage lesson, I was a tad apprehensive, because last Thursday Oats was very stiff and uncooperative. Not bad, just…not very good, and our canters had been deeply crappy since. So, not thinking great things. BUT I did ride in my silly fitted saddle pad, like I did for my hack, to see if he needed more padding since he lost weight. Anything works, right?

He was great! He warmed up nicely, and the name of the game was, how little of a ‘hint’ of an outside rein can you use to keep him straighter? My inclination is to straight-up bend to the outside and as I am learning…It’s too much. Be more subtle, less cueing, easier.

He was so lovely, it was the nicest canter again. We were back, baby!! Yeah Oats!

Now all he has to do is gain some weight and we’re golden. I guess going out on a hack and NOT engaging in a fight with him really worked out for us, phew πŸ™‚

A stiff dressage lesson

Oats was just not there yesterday unfortunately. We had a private due to our other lesson partner’s horse with a cough, and Oats warmed up stiff and resistant and kind of…Stayed that way. It was definitely a bummer, but we ended up breaking down the steps to get the lovely, soft bending horse that I am used to having!

Is this too much to ask for? Right now, YES! hahah

Step 1: Leave the trot alone and go back to sitting trot quietly bending in a big bend in small circles.

Step 2: Trot/walk from the sitting trot to walk transitions. The key here is to keep a very deep headsets and relax over the back.

Step 3: Canter is from sit trot, deep bend, and when it falls apart, then ask for a trot transition BEFORE it goes. Sit the trot down, and bend deeply. Keep riding through the transition.

Our right lead was actually not bad, but the left certainly didn’t improve that much. We had a few moments of ‘yes thats it, that is the canter I wanted!!’ but we couldn’t keep it at all. And our downward transitions on the left were…Not good.

And I am trying to figure out how to get more weight on Oats. Time for new hay I think, after discussing it with both trainers this week. I upped his Equi-Cal to the max last night (after weighing it on Becky’s food scale) and I have a phone number for a new hay guy with better hay. I will call him today!

And we go through a LOT of Equi-Cal now. Like…a bag a week! it’s nuts! Have to go and get more next week even. I have, of course, like three freaking bags of All Phase still and none left of Equi-Cal, because that is all Oats was fed for the past 12 years! ARGH.

I miss my chubbier Oats, and I want him back πŸ™‚ He was never really chubby but he was at a healthy weight and I didn’t feel his poor spine bones all the time when I rode him bareback.

Between the breaths

I had my dressage lesson on Thursday, and I was feeling apprehensive. Why is it that my rides are SO GOOD in my lessons, and then so….underwhelming, disappointing, frustrating on my own?

I mean look at this handsome boy, who wouldn’t love him?

So I did it. I owned up to my trainer and told her that I had been struggling, and how do I change it?

Well, firstly, she called me on my BS and said I needed to change my attitude and expectations first. I had a bad attitude about progress- wanting too much and accepting too little, ha. And that my rides previously were great chiefly because I had no expectations about them- they just ‘were’ and it was great!

From last summer- so nice! We’ll get there πŸ™‚

It’s all true, isn’t it?

So we worked on developing a good, solid canter, one that I can take to a jump, or to a circle or anywhere. It felt really nice! And we also worked on a better mental state, one that accepts fluctuations in my ride and in my day. Can I accept that the day I come with a plan could get derailed? And be positive and kind about my ride? Yes, I definitely can.

And now I need to start!

My rides this weekend were great actually- not amazing, but solid, no-drama rides. Getting me and Oats where I needed to go. I only wanted to start the tension yesterday, and ended up letting it go, phew. Saturday I was actually in a pretty bad, amped up mood: I locked my keys and phone in the car at the feed store, fun fun. Ended up cooling my heels for awhile after I borrowed a phone to call the tow truck, and then a cool $70 to get it opened up! Shoot!

I was at the feed store to buy a fattening product for Oats, as he has been losing weight as an oldster who is getting back into work regularly now (four weeks, can you believe it??). He needs more help to address his weight, as I noticed in the past two weeks I had to put my girth up two extra holes on each side! Funny that I was so worried about him blowing up and getting chubby only a few months ago….Well, the work is good for him, and soon he will be back at his regular weight with a little extra help. Poor guy is getting skinny!

We also had our farrier appointment on Friday and he was well behaved, which is always a treat. πŸ™‚

And me? My leg injuries are still giving me a lot of stress and trouble. Had another shockwave session on my left leg last week, which was excruciating, and had my hip tendon worked on (crunched the hell out of it squatting down at the barn and pulled it out, and it never went back in for weeks= pain and discomfort). So, hoping something works out for once?!!! Been now two months. Yay.

Argh!! Life!!

Things have actually settled a bit, but for some reason the horse ‘issues’ just seem to keep freaking rolling! In the past month, every single damned week, I am getting texts or phone calls that something has gone wrong. Fortunately most of them are pretty minor or resolved within a week or so (abscess) but DAMN can this stop happening?

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Oats drugged out of his mind last Friday for an ‘extra special cleaning’ courtesy of my friend πŸ˜‰

Ha, my husband said that’s life- you get major issues every week. You are just waiting for a new thing to go wrong this week. I guess it’s true…

This week, it was Oaty’s bridle that was the victim! He has a 1 day a week leasor who takes lessons with my trainer. I got a phone call from his leasor that Oats had charged out of the cross ties when she was bridling him, and ran through his damned bridle AND was hard to catch, to boot.

EFFFFFFFF

This is NOT the first time that has happened- though it’s not really a normal thing for Oats to do, at all. This happened last summer, coincidentally while I was out on a TEAMS deployment for 8 days in Lillooet. So, two bridles busted to hell in the span of a year.

Not enough to think it’s a pattern, but still. I can’t really afford to replace bridles that much…This is number 3. I was pretty steamed. Accidents do happen, and this is random enough but..ya know?

Sheesh.

Luckily for them I have a spare bridle, so I told them to take the bit off the broken bridle, replace it in the new bridle, and use that one. Which is fine.

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A palate cleanser- cupcakes with gummy unicorns I made last week when I had a few friends visit (within our appropriate bubbles, safely!)

But damn. I’m just SO OVER IT. Maybe leasing…Isn’t Oats’ thing.

I also had a dressage lesson (after two weeks!!) and it was pretty good, not as ‘fun’ or as ‘flashy’ as my past few, but after two weeks off, I knew I was going to have to take a big step back, ha.

So, I texted the leasor’s mother to pay for my new bridle, see what her schedule is like next week (I offered a few extra practice ride days, and obviously I offered this BEFORE they broke my second bridle….So i’m not thrilled but I also don’t want to renege on this..).

We shall see!

 

 

Jump to it!

So I had my jump lesson on Saturday (like, real jumping, not dressage jumping) and it went pretty well! We worked over a small course, and the jumps were teeny-tiny, ha. I, on the other, hand, was feeling like total crap. We had gotten rudely woken up by movers wanting us to move our car so they could get into out neighbour’s house, which is fine, but they were here before 8am!

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I want this…

I had a terrible sinus headache, staggeringly bad allergies, and felt fuzzy, muzzy and really exhausted and weak all day. Great for a riding lesson eh? My head felt like an effing balloon. I couldn’t remember a damned thing and my head/sinuses were going to explode.

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When I am doing this! How?

So yeah the lesson was fine, I just felt like absolute garbage for the entire day. I couldn’t wait to get home and sleep on the damned couch. Which I basically did as soon as I finished my lesson, ha. My allergies have taken over my damned life.

Also I am having trouble trying to get the right ‘feel’ from my Thursday lessons to translate to my jump lesson days on Saturday. I LOVE the feeling I have on Thursday, and then I get to Saturday and it feels… wimpy? I can’t get him off my leg, or get any connection. He breaks gait, slows to the fences, etc. Just not the same. How do I reconcile this?

Something to work on!

New adventure in dressage-jumping!

So we revisited the lesson from last Thursday, with a focus on ‘building’ the canter up to be a bigger, more energetic and ‘jumpy’ canter rather than a very tightly controlled ‘small’ canter.

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Some choice screengrabs πŸ˜‰

Dressage with speedbumps!

I now tend to think of dressage for me as a process of going through stages. First we developed his ‘stretchy’ frame, next we bump the frame up a bit for his ‘jump’ frame and then kind of toggle through both. But you need the first one to get the second, if that makes sense?

It’s a sort of transitional phase.

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But so uphill! I love it!Β 

And yesterday had some very rocky moments (his right rein was not a thing, apparently) and he had 1 BIG spook that almost got me off, hahah. Stupid pony! But no matter, I enjoyed the end process and I think I am getting a better idea of how to manage his canter, both on the flat and through the jumps. Both trainers are right- his jump/my jump issues stem from a weakness in managing the canter.

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Heading to a small jump and he still looks good!Β 

If I’m not connected to him at the canter, how WILL I know where the takeoff spot is? I am too disconnected to know or figure it out! And I can feel that, I just didn’t know how to fix it.

This time I am happy to say he nailed every single distance, ha. We didn’t really jump (ok, they were cavaletti size, ha super small) much, but it was higher quality and the canter improved. We did get a little shakier and flat as we wrapped up, but I was able to watch the video and damn…His canter is looking FANCY. I also am reaching the point of jumping where this little stuff is…Not hard. Taking the spectre of ‘jumping’ out of jumping is working well for me.

My hands suck and I sit behind the motion, soooo ignore me. But Oats! Wow! Loving this. I also appreciate that in the 10 years I have owned him, I am still learning so much with him. It’s a journey, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Until tomorrow goes away

And another dressage lesson in the books, and man, I am getting blown away by how soft, forgiving and good Oats and I can be! It’s an excellent revelation πŸ™‚ I want to be that rider, who has a horse with a soft mouth, who has forgiving hands…And we are getting it! Now I wish I had it years ago, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have.

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Something more like this…Β 

This is just part of the journey I guess?

We added canter to our building blocks of progress, and while the canter does require much more ‘maintenance,’ it also felt way better than it normally does. Also, with the idea of contact as a ‘living’ thing to be constantly worked on, rather than a ‘set it and forget it,’ I am actually having toΒ ride more. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? What am I doing on a horse if not riding?

Well, the truth is I like to get statue-still and mistake that for perfection. It really isn’t. A horse is a living, breathing, flowing, reacting thing, and so am I. So, no room for turning into stone, ha. Or having a grip on my contact. Ebb and flow, take and give. And my legs need to actually be used rather than just ‘there’. It’s funny it has take me until now to ride like this, but hey- progress?!!

It is humbling but I’m really enjoying how excellent Oats feels!! Yes!

Now if only our TERRIBLE weather would freaking shake out of it. Every day is either cold, or rainy, or cold, rainy and windy. I had to go back to wearing jeans, sweaters and vests and jackets. Efff…. So much for this miserable summer.