Just Give In/Never Going Home

Dressage semi-private (I know, what am I doing stacking them back-to-back?) last night. I’m stacking them because I have a dressage show up in Cowichan on Sunday, and need the practice (hah) and also because I have two events on upcoming Tuesdays and will be missing both riding and lessons.

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Totally us right now. So, where are the next Olympics?

Yesterday was actually a really good, solid and enjoyable lesson. Typically my Tuesdays are grinding, tough, sweaty and incredibly physical lessons- I have gotten serious Charley horses in my legs/hips in them the past two weeks! But this week, we focused on getting the horses listening, straight, and then reaching down and ‘calm’ through the walk, trot and canter, and a touch of counter-canter.

It was really nice! Oats enjoys this type of work and finds it very easy, for him. I think stretching down really speaks to his way of going normally, and he could dig in and really get it going last night.

Counter-canter was funny- I didn’t expect it to happen, and it did perfectly. And then I thought too hard about it, and it didn’t. How does that work? Well, I was trying to ‘manufacture’ it and trying too hard, obviously! When I let my expectations and effort -go- I was able to let it happen.

It was a really nice, calm and thorough lesson.

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Every sport involves packaging energy

I weirdly came to this realization yesterday, when I was riding Oats. We were just hacking around, my trainer was riding her horse. I was tired, not feeling super energized and just kind of ‘blahh’ but my ride was quite lovely- Oats is a fun ride no matter how I am feeling!

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Working on energy!

We hopped over some x-rails and then I did some more work over the 1 pole- packaging his canter so it is ‘tight’ and ‘bouncy’ so I can control the take-off spot to the pole. I started noticing that with this ‘bouncy’ canter, his take off for the pole was far more ‘up’ and explosive than his usual blahhhhhh canter, where he launches from a long spot, very flat and strung out.

Packaging his canter= gathering up energy. Who would have thought?

Ha, it’s so obvious to everyone BUT me! The work I did with him over raised poles last week has cemented in my brain that Oats needs more than one type of canter. I never knew how to achieve that, or capture that feeling, until we did that exercise and now…Now I know what I am going for.

I am planning on working up to that tight ‘packaged’ canter to fences. It is hard work for Oats, so I don’t want to burn him out on it. That’s why when I have been playing around with the exercise, we do a few jumps at a regular ‘easy’ canter, and then collect it for the pole, then let it out again.

And I was talking about this with my husband, who was saying that essentially every sport involves directing energy- and the way you do this is through becoming more efficient, technically and mechanically. Without technique, you can’t just raw-power through it. This reminds me of when I am asking Oats to go forward, he just gets flat and strung out- and we get poles down- when I package the canter, we get a much more powerful ‘up’ jump.

Hmm…

Mr. Oats jumps again!

Oats and I have not been the most consistent jumpers as of late…I was away in Brazil for a few weeks, got back and then had to take more time off after two lessons to move! So, yesterday was our third jump lesson back after not being very regular with it.

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This is literally Oats now.

We have, however, been riding a lot!

I was feeling kind of blah about my lesson yesterday- I wanted it, but also felt rather ambivalent. Jumping is kind of emotional for me, and I was tired (from my dressage lesson the day before, running races on the weekend, moving and just not sleeping well). But I also still really want to jump, so I had to buck up and do it! It didn’t help that I was late for my lesson because my darling pony was absolutely filthy and covered, head-to-toe, in dried mud. ARGH.

Oats was kind of on my brain-wave though, and wow if I felt ‘blah’ then he felt super ‘blah’. We cantered in to the grid for gridwork, because if we had to trot in, I don’t think he would have made it!! Lazy pony!

As it is, we had 1 stop through the grid when he got distracted, I got flustered and we just didn’t have enough ‘oomph’ to get through it. He was not super generous with me last night- fairly willing, but I had to ASK ASK ASK for it. And be quite firm about what I wanted. Fair enough, horse, fair enough.

We then worked through 1 course, and while it was not pretty – hello, slow pony- we did it and I had to really ‘ride’ through the whole thing. We had 1 more stop when I was kind of gunning Oats to a jump, but he got strung out to a strange distance and was like, nope!!! Try again!! And we did, and with some encouragement from Nicole (clucking!) hopped over. None of the jumps were big or even remotely ambitious, it was more of a ‘get GOING’ coursework. The grid was included in the course and rode really well.

The emphasis was on landing, and GO BUTTON and then balance the canter, rather than landing, letting him peter out through the turn and then trying to get a better canter to the next fence. It was definitely a learning curve for me, as I tend to get very passive on courses and kind of let Oats go as he pleases, or let it go a bit as I approach the fence. No chances on this one, as he wasn’t particularly energized so yes, I had to work for it.

So, a lot of work but also a good learning lesson. While I really like the lessons that go smoothly and easily, I know sometimes I have to learn these lessons the hard way. Plus, it still ended great anyways! Win-win.

A recipe for a crazy weekend: Track racing, birthday dinner, the beach, horseback riding & Rock the Shores!!

Yep, that’s my weekend right there! Nobody ever accused me of wasting my weekends, that’s for damn sure 🙂

We started the weekend with dinner (steaks! yum) at my parents new house, and a walk to the beach from their place. It’s so close to the water, it’s lovely. They are really happy with the move they’ve made – from boring, blah old Ottawa- to a beautiful new place and unimpeded access to the beach.

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My parent’s card to me…

Saturday I rode Oats first in the ring, to hop over a few jumps, and then moseyed around the field for awhile watching some other riders have a lesson in the field. I’m taking advantage of the field access as much as I can these days. I zipped home after buying grain (ugh, had to drive out to Saanich right after riding to get it) and the weather was SO nice, that we headed straight to the beach at Dallas Rd, with Gidget in tow.

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Back to the field!

We chilled out at the beach for awhile and it was lovely. I couldn’t get too relaxed though, as I had to get home to gear up for my last track race of the season. Meet #3~ I wasn’t sure how things were going to go, as I’ve been battling muscle/leg fatigue on and off for a couple of weeks now, and been struggling on my runs to just complete them. General consensus seems to be: overtraining/overwork. Maybe, maybe…

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At the beach! 

Anyways, we hit the track and I signed up to do a mile, and the 3km. Maybe I got too greedy, because after my mile race (which went..okay I guess…) I was seriously lagging. My 3k felt like I was running in slo-mo, I was falling behind on the track and getting passed. It was kind of a piss-off, because I know I am capable of faster and of running a more competent race, sooo what gives??!!

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Hauling ass? Well, not so much!

I was kind of bummed to fall behind so much in my run, that I lost perspective of what was really the point here: Learn to sprint race without killing my lungs (actually that was a success, as I was coughing much less last night than I ever have!) and learn about pace.

I checked my results this morning, and my mile wasn’t even too shabby: 6:35, and my 3k was lame (13:12- I have run it under 12:30 …) but hey, in the grand scheme it is all a progression and not terrible.

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Sunday I went riding and jumped Oats over the small x-rails in the field= loved it!!! And then immediately felt tired, so walked up and down hills for awhile to build his muscles and give me a break.

I didn’t ride for long because we had Rock the Shores to get to! It was hot hot hot! Things that bugged me- drinks got INSANELY expensive- $8 for a beer? Eff right off with that!

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Rock the Shores from three years ago!

Crowds were good and very manageable, no line-ups, ice cream was lovely, poutine was sooo good and the standout bands were The Arkells and The Eagles of Death Metal. WOW!! Amazing performances, and class acts, both of them. Great sound, excellent vibes. One bummer- Metric really sucked. The sound was lousy, tinny and too high reverb. Also Emily Haines seemed to be doing this thing where she’s play 1 song, and then riff for 10 or more minutes on it…Combined with the lousy sound, it was so.boring. I really like Metric, but this was just…ugh. No thanks. We left early and I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing! Booooooo.

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My buddy and me from three years ago at Rock the Shores.

Got home pretty seamlessly and back to work today. I am tired! 🙂

Don’t give up on your dreams, Buddy!

A busy weekend when I wasn’t really expecting it! My folks moved officially to the Island, so we spent a lot of time with them. Then the time we weren’t eating/visiting, I was riding good ol’ Oats and running (track with my husband for practice, and the trails at Thetis Lake for fun!).

Oats was great this weekend, my rides seemed fairly forgettable in a good way so yesss! Saturday I worked over a pole, and did some straightness work. Easier said than done…

We did something funny on Sunday–I jumped him around a little bit in the ring and he was a bit sassy/tired/balky, so I cut it out after a few jumps and took him to the big field, and we did…Trot sets! To me and Oats, trot sets= my sprinting track work. He was huffing and puffing, ha. Still had enough energy to s

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Running in the field is my favourite says Oats! The dressage part…not so much.

pook right at the end though, going up a hill. What a goof!

This is what we did:

Walk in field. Pick up trot for 3 minutes, and then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 4 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 5 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Back down!

Trot for 4 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 3 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for a few minutes (he spooked then, so clearly he had a lot of energy and I lost track of my time…) and then cool-down walk.

This took me to noon, and time to hop off and go home.

Monday I did an equine counselling session and we discussed the show (good at managing challenges, kind of bad at my fall/trying to hold myself together to compete); and Oats’ mystery behaviour on Wednesday- her conclusion was that he was tired. And you know? He was acting so strangely that I totally buy it. Interesting!

Tuesday was my dressage lesson with Karen Brain. We were back out in the field and it was hard work! It was also really cool. We worked on picking up the canter on the ‘up’ side of a hill, incorporating a circle, and then managing the circle to the down-part of the hill. Hilariously, we sucked at it for awhile- I couldn’t seem to manage to keep going on a circle, keep his canter ‘bouncy’ and up instead of sprawling and flat, and make my hands do what I wanted them to!

It got better though, phew. A very neat ride.

SSITS Avalon Derby-Cross: Show recap!

I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying. –Michael Jordan.

So, my show recap is mixed. It was at once a great success and good memories, overcoming challenges, and at the same time kind of a bummer and a disappointment. So, with my quote from the great MJ, I’ll start with the recap.

We trucked up-Island on a rainy Saturday, leaving late from the barn. I had butterflies in my stomach ALL day- ones that barely abated even when I ran 14km with my husband in the morning. Too much time= a problem for me. Oats loaded up great, we packed everything up and headed out. The Malahat was rough going and absolutely pouring rain. It looked pretty grim…

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Soon I hope to have photos of the Derby!

There was kind of a negative energy rolling around, some people had some personal things on the go that were troubling them. I feel like I can be quite sensitive to that, particularly when I’m feeling on-edge as it is. Nevertheless, we got there fine despite the hard rain.

We tacked up, it was a monumentally confusing warm-up for us–we had a newcomer to the grounds with us, it was raining, wet, late, and we were very confuddled. Finally, things started to resolve and we headed out to the field. Oats was up up up! But, he settled pretty nicely, the rain started abating a bit, and we jumped. He was fabulous up until the log jump, when he slammed on the brakes. Ok, so that surprised him. We worked back up to it and he was lovely!

We then moved to the other field- it was a loooong course for me at 12 jumps and long flowing approaches- and I had some more trouble with him stopping at a brightly coloured fence with flowers. Not gonna lie, it really rattled me. We worked through it and after hanging out for a bit, Nicole encouraged me to go try again to really ‘cement’ the jumps in my brain and Oats was 100%- which made me feel way better. I felt like effing Ian Millar!! Whoop!!!

And then we were camping, and there was some sad horse drama….Oats was being a dink to the other horses penned nearby, which was irritating…But the really bad news? My fellow rider’s mount (my trainer’s horse) had a cut on her leg that developed back into her chronic lymphangitis…She was pawing at night, and we didn’t realize how bad things had gotten. Shit!!! In the morning, her leg was blown up, she was exhausted and not sound. My fellow camper/rider had to scratch. How terrible, given her lovely and very competent warm-up. I was sure her first Derby experience would be a great one, and then this happens? UGHHH.

So, the morning sure did not start off well…But the show must go on.

Sunday our first course at .70m- I was really nervous, eek- was fantastic! It wasn’t perfect but Oats was totally honest, I was feeling good and for awhile we even held the high score (at 78) for the round! It was a real thrill to hear my name as the leader for a few rounds. The classes were really big- over 16 riders? So I eventually got bumped down to 4th and finished in that place. I was beyond thrilled! I believe the winner had a good 10 points or more on me at 88 I think. I did miss an opportunity to get a score of 80…sigh.

Here is the link to the photographers: I LOVE the ones of Oats and I will be ordering some prints!! Maybe this one? 

Of course then I kind of started not wanting to ride my second and third courses, and mentally started backpedaling a bit. My second round, I started out pushing Oats quite hard- one of my biggest struggles with him is getting more forward, and I lost the plot at the 9th fence- the smallest one on course, and jumped up his neck- he refused the jump and I fell over his head (again!! ugh!). I was totally fine, but really bummed…

I knew that I wasn’t feeling mentally prepared to go out and make it happen with Oats – for some reason it was taking a lot of energy from me to be focused and ride well enough to get him going. So, Nicole suggested my friend, who was just there to watch, handle my 3rd class and get Oats really revved up and through to the jump-off. She put on our fellow rider (who’s horse scratched) breeches, boots, helmet and my number and was ready to rock!!

They did so well too! They achieved the jump-off goal- with Oats, who is NOT fast, a feat in itself! Sadly they had a stop in the jump off so out of the ribbons, but I was so happy to see Oats end on that note too.

So there we have it–a day of many mixed emotions. I have to give great kudos to the young rider who had to scratch. She handled it with great maturity, when I would have pouted like crazy. Even after I fell off and was feeling sorry for myself, she said hey, at least you get to ride! And that made me realize how lucky I truly was. She was 100% right.

🙂

Forever Today

Yes I’m on a real I’m from Barcelona kick right now, apparently. Anyways, I had my jump lesson in the pouring rain last night, and I did my dressage semi-private also in the rain on Tuesday. This is a recap of Tuesday!

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Back to the field!

We worked in the big field – ooh- exciting! As it turns out, I need to be better about not ‘Yahoo-ing’ around the field only, because when I go to do work in it, it gets exponentially…harder….when your pony is used to kind of just screwing around in it.

Nevertheless, it was fun! And hard! But fun! We used the angles and the elevation- small hills, going sideways across the field, terrain changes, to our advantage and as exercises.

My lesson partner and I warmed up, and then we worked on straightness with Karen. Easier said than done in a field, wow. I wobbled my

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Dressage like this, except it was grey and rainy.

way across, was not straight pretty much anytime…Even with picking a focal point (trees). We trotted across the field, walked, halted, did a turn on the forehand 3X (I got seasick doing this?? He was spinning too fast and I was getting dizzy. Karen said to look up instead of at his neck if I was feeling sick), and then trot or canter back in a straight line, trot, walk, halt and more turns on the forehand in the opposite direction.

Next, we cantered up a hill, trotted the turn and did sitting trot (VERY collected/controlled) down. Wow. My abs!

A few reps of this, and we worked to an even more steep hill and attempted canter down it. Key word here: Attempted. Yeah it kind of went oh, big trot, canter, SPLAT!

A big farm machine started rattling across the field next door, and you could just hear what the horses were thinking…BOOM! So we trotted to the top of the field to continue/wrap up our lesson. It was more trot-canter transitions, and in the attempt on the downhill, be totally ok with not getting the transition. It was more important to make the attempt, and be able to control the trot immediately afterwards. It was pretty hard! Oats got excited on the downhill and wanted to start shaking his head, etc.

It rained on and off the whole time. Yay…Our summer weather has been SO BAD. UGH. What shitty weather! If it’s not raining/drizzly/grey/foreboding, it’s sunny, cold and soooo freaking windy. Blah.

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Good rides, bad weather.