The life pursuit

Yep, listening to Belle and Sebastian again!


Want this again…

I worked on a very challenging exercise with my jump trainer Nicole yesterday. It was my fault- I suggested it in an online post on Facebook and bingo- we are doing it! We…failed kind of hardcore.

It was this: a zig-zag with looped circles that we desperately could NOT maintain for the life of us in the canter. I got lost sooo many times. Ha. I had fun though! Oats found it fairly challenging, and then got jumping super ‘blahhhh’ and almost killed us by rapping the back rail of an oxer really hard and tripping because of it. YIKES!


This is more our reality…ha.

It was pretty crazy! I enjoyed the challenge though, and felt like I was really working on ‘letting go’ my anxiety-brain when I jump. When the jumps come up this fast (and you get lost this often) it’s impossible to think too hard about what you’re jumping, hahah. Plus we kept the jumps teeny-tiny anyways, so no biggie.

Oats did start getting tired and sloppy with his feet, so having the close call with the oxer really woke him up a bit! Scared the bejesus out of me though.

I feel like we did a zillion turns and jumped 10’s of jumps, hahah.

A fun exercise and a real challenge that showed us we have significant weaknesses…It’s easy to get cocky when things are going well (as they were last week) and then have this week take you down a peg or three. Ha.


The cure for anything is salt water — sweat, tears, or the sea.

I’m reading Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa right now due to my Kobo being seriously out commission and found this quote by her that really appealed to me.

Had my private dressage lesson last night with Karen Brain and Oats, and we got a chance to re-visit the rather challenging ‘simple’ exercise of Sunday, of cantering down in a straight line off the track.


No dressage media, so here is a photo of my husband cuddling Gidget like a baby.

I warmed Oats up and he was coughing a lot with the dust in the arena…It’s weird because it has gotten flooded in the close end of the arena, and then it’s so dusty in the far end. I know it gives Oats trouble, particularly now as allergy season/dust season rears its ugly head. So our warm-up consisted of a lot of coughing from him, until he cleared it and was ready to work. He was fairly stiff, and not moving great at the walk and canter. His trot felt ok though. His canter was heavy and kind of draggy, on the forehand, and I felt like he was kind of dragging me down.

I was telling Karen this and we decided to work on some lateral movements at the walk, as I said his walk felt really sucky. So, we went straight into head-to-wall leg yielding, transitioning straight, and then haunches in, and then transitioned back to the leg yield. Oats was GREAT! So compliant! It was amazing!

He usually fusses and fights a bit, but I was able to lighten the reins and really work with him. Quite pleased.

We then worked on walk-canter transitions (they also sucked at first, wow…) that was fairly tricky because Oats was like…blahhhhhh at first. From the canter transition, we worked on lightening his shoulders by not getting me dragged down in the tack. It felt weird to keep my hands so high, and my hips/shoulders pulled tall and back, but it worked. His canter was more uphill and forward, and we took it to the ‘off the track’ exercise at the canter with a LOT more success than I had on Sunday when I tried it.

He still broke to trot one time when he fell behind my leg, and we got 1 swap as well, but overall it was a higher quality attempt and his canter was really nice.

I was very happy with Oats’ attitude towards our dressage work- it does NOT come easy to him, like jumping does. Good boy!

May all your war stories be old stories

I was saying last night that whenever people ask me these days how Oats is, I don’t really have anything to say! He’s…fine? Good? Good ol’ Oats?


This was three years ago! I miss summer- even if I was wearing a sweater during July…

It was kind of a funny lament, because really, he’s been so good, drama-free for ages now. I’m happy with how our jumping is coming along, our two horse shows in the fall went fine, and so?

So, I have to share my old war stories instead! I say well, this pony you see me riding with no reins? WELL he used to….hahah. And my trainer and friend laughed, and said be glad your war stories are OLD war stories and still not happening! It’s true! 🙂


Another blast from the past.

We had a good lesson last night, and it was a very interesting exercise. Two diagonal lines, an x-rail then 3 strides to a small vertical. Then on the other diagonal, a bounce to three strides to a bounce.

The trick was getting Oats FORWARD during the first 3-stride line, and then maintaining that through the corner to the first bounce, and then GO! to the second bounce. I was kind of concerned how it was going to go- was I going to eat it through the bounce? Wibble-wobble through the first line?

It sure wasn’t perfect, and wow I lost my reins more than once through the two bounces set three strides apart, but Oats was golden!! He started getting more engaged through the exercise, and was powering himself through the bounce line really nicely. He just took care of me through it, I didn’t even have to steer, or really have reins at all.

Good pony!

It was quite a tiring exercise for me, but I was quite proud of how Oats was handling it. He was eating up those strides (for him this will always be a challenge).

The jumps were teeny-tiny but it’s more how the exercise really made us focus on a few things- forward, not pulling to a spot, no chipping in, straightness, going through a corner straight/forward. Yes!

Me, a non-genius

Did a jump exercise last night that involved VERY tiny jumps but extremely challenging patterns. And wow….I was just…out to lunch on it! Luckily it also made me laugh a lot, but yeeesh, I was so clueless!


It was a bunch of jumps in a diagonal pattern, with idea that you’d jump one, immediately turn in a tiny, 10-metre circle right, to head to the next one, immediately turn in a 10-metre circle left for the next one, and so on.

The reality? HA. A hot mess!

We trotted and Oats stopped, and walked over the fence. So, it’s going to be this way, will it?

He lack of enthusiasm for small x-rail trot fences was palpable. Oh boy, this was going to be exciting!

Our ’10-metre circles’ were….Not so much. Once we actually started cantering, and Oats starting getting more into the game, we flew by the circle…My fault! I got caught up in ‘jumping the jump’ and forgot to a. look where I was going, and b. actually turn my horse…

GAK. I was just in a super goofy mood I guess?

We re-did it, and I managed to trot the next fence from the circle. Good some progress. We moved up and worked it into a small course, where I immediately flew past the second jump again (seriously, where is my mind??). Had to go back and re-do it, and it was pretty good. And then I immediately flew past the third fence (seriously?? I was directionally challenged last night for some reason!?), and had to re-do it, for the fourth fence.  HAHA.

By the fourth fence, I went a little bit rogue and just started jumping jumps.

I was laughing the whole time! Sometimes, you’re really serious, and sometimes, just a total non-genius airhead the whole time. I don’t know what was going on, but mannn it was funny last night! Glad my trainer was only mildly exasperated with me (particularly when I went rogue and kind of started jumping not-straight…ooops! I was laughing too much to focus).

Things that I want to focus on- collecting the canter via technique of spiralling in and out at the canter. I think I will try this on Saturday, though Nicole did caution me about ‘overdoing it’ on my own, as I am wont to do…(it’s true, I don’t know when to stop the drilling sometimes!).

Things to practice though! It was a very hilarious lesson. Mannnnn…


Lock it away in your heart under unfinished business

Jump lesson last night, and I was quite unsure how exactly we would set up a jump course or gymnastic exercise given half the ring is kind of flooded right now…And we are supposed to stay out of it! It’s super mushy and gross.


No fear, apparently. Nicole set up some jumps in a ‘circle of death’ variation, oh joy of joys…As pictured above, but it was 3 jumps on a circle with 4 strides between jumps.

Oats and I tend to really struggle with jumps on a circle- see our recent challenges with the green box on a circle, ha. So, this was going to be a very challenging lesson for us, not in jump heights or nerves, but in sheer frustration.

Oats from 2012-think we've progressed?

We worked over it from the left, trot over x-rail, canter the two other jumps set just as poles on the ground. Then we gradually brought them up to x-rails and it went quite smoothly, some bobbles when I lost my track or forgot to look where I was going, but overall quite nice.


The right lead, dun dun dunnnnnnn….

It was not the success that the left lead was, at all. Oh man, we struggled. Jump the pole to the x-rail too long, miss my turn for the x-rail. Rinse, repeat. Swap leads, fumble to the x-rail. Swap leads, miss the last pole. It was struggle-bus time, by like a million.

My eye kept getting ‘stuck’ when I was looking to the right, so instead of looking right, I’d kind of keep wanting to look straight, or even sort of left? ARGH why? We set up guiding poles on the front and back of the x-rail to help us even further, because it was pretty clear that we were noooot winning this exercise.

Newsflash- Oats is better on the left, haha. We never even got to put the rest of the x-rails up on the right, because I just could NOT get it sorted out! Finally we did it 1 last time, Nicole asked if I wanted to stop or could do it again, and I was fine with doing it again, and we finally got it. I left it on that, I mean, we could start bringing the x-rails all up, so there are 3 of them, but I didn’t want to over-frustrate Oats and tax his already dwindling patience with me.

Nicole said that Oats smelled nice when she came over to give him a hug. Cute eh?

Oats is under the weather

After our lesson on Thursday, I came out to ride Saturday and Oats met me with an unpleasant surprise: Snot smeared all over his nose.


And it was greeny snot too- not just white booger type things that he gets when he’s coughing from the dust or feeling sneezy. I cleaned up his face, and decided to see how he was doing from the warmup to the work. He was a bit coughy when we started working, but it didn’t last and he seemed more energetic than before (Thurs).

We worked over some teeeny xrails (like poles) so that was kind of fun and it wasn’t the hardest he had to work.

Sunday I came out and his nose was even snottier 😦 uh oh…I cleaned him up, and we worked over a few jumps- his energy was still good but the coughing seemed more persistent and deeper. Shit! I called the vet, and it looks like Oats has picked up a bug of some sort- he is now sulfa pills that I have to pick up from the vet after work today (10 pills twice a day) for five days.

And no riding. OH man…That is a bummer too! Oats is taking a few days off to recover and until he is symptom-free, no riding for me. So, after the five days of pills fingers crossed he is back in pony action. And until then, it’s a few days off and some cancelled lessons for me. C’est la vie, I suppose…

Poor Oaty-pony!

Is this love? Or the love of the chase

Funny, two songs I’ve been hearing lately have this refrain in them:

“You never loved me, you love the chase.” From ‘The Stars’ newest album, ‘No one is lost’


“Is this love? Or the love of the chase…” From ‘Future Islands’ newest album as well.

So, there is obviously a theme. Why are they resonating with me so strongly?

I’ve been struggling with connections lately. Last year’s showing season with Oats had a lot of ups and downs (I fell off almost every show! what the heck!) and I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. I know how to ride, Oats knows how to jump so…???

I have been making progress on this by committing to dressage lessons and that has been good but tough. I want to make even more progress, want to go into jump lessons and horse shows ‘eager’ not backpedalling and wanting to get off, or freezing when we step foot in the show ring.

I even decided not to show at the Appy club shows this year because I wasn’t looking forward to it!  Showing costs way too much $$$ to not have fun with it. At all.

So, my trainer Karen set me up with an equine wellness facilitator, to figure out what is going on in my head. And as it turns out, a lot of anxiety.


Anxiety- So, this seems appropriate.

The rushing, too-fast, speedy feeling I have all the time is my brain not connecting well with my body. I tend to have ‘out of body’ feelings when I step into the show ring, and I feel like I am ‘watching myself’ instead of doing it- riding, experiencing, anything. I don’t hear my trainer when I am like this, I hold my breath and end up gasping, and I rush rush rush through a course- my brain is moving too fast for me to keep up!

It’s funny- the facilitator ran me through a meditation exercise, and all I could think was how much I wanted it to speed up!!? That’s NOT the point, silly me!

Taking the time to align my poor brain with my body is a process. I am going to try and see how it goes. I’m trying to manage my anxiety, something I most likely have been cultivating for years through work, family issues, horse issues, etc.

And I felt like, last year at this time, I was ready to try dressage lessons. Oats and I could take that next step.

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

This year, I am ready to manage my anxiety, and work to strengthen my relationship with Oats.

So, this is a positive progression (even if the other side of my brain is like horses aren’t rocket science, why are you so worried? Anxious? What are you so afraid of?). I guess I’m not always sure- I’m afraid of getting hurt (see- the recent accident with my mom), and I’m afraid of looking stupid and screwing up my horse.

I’m not sure how I got to this point, but I do feel like it is manageable, and the next logical step I can take to have a more positive relationship with my horse, and my trainers (maybe my husband, family, and my work? Better not get too greeeeedy)…

Runing wild

Run wild

I am still doing positive jump course visualizations every day while I walk to work- I pick my most recent jumping lesson and try to ‘see’ how I rode it. I think it is helping as well.

My rides on Oats this weekend were fine, Saturday was better than Sunday (was a bit distracted Sunday, had friends visiting so was chatting instead of paying attention! bad me!).

Other than that, this week started with a real BANG of bad vibes. Sick bunny (he is doing better already, pheww) Work flying off the handle……eeeek!

Race day recap: My first half-marathon with the Comox Valley RV half marathon!

Yes I was certainly leery about this one. A half-marathon? Even with the wimpy ‘half’ in front of it, it seemed quite intimidating. Because I am an excuse machine, I had a zillion excuses ready for why I shouldn’t, and only 1 reason for why I should.

Because I can.

A successful finish!

A successful finish!

Soooo we did it! Sunday my husband and I trekked all the way to Courtenay for the race. We had already paid for it by signing up for the entire race series, so we figured- why not?

I was anxious. I let the race take up a TON of mental space and energy all week. My knees and everything felt horrible last week- creaky, achy, like I was having terrible growing pains. Clearly, this was a recipe for success (or failure, I figured!).

And how did the race go? Really well! We raced to the best of our ability, and I was happy with my performance. We even had a very strong finish, which made me super happy and kind of feel like puking at the end.

I smiled a lot for the volunteers and photographers (you guys are the best, you’re so dedicated!!) and I had a lot of people to look at and the scenery was all rural farms, so that was nice. The weather, thank GOD, held out mostly right until the end when another storm front blew in, and it started raining and getting windy, pretty much our last km/km and a half.

Run run run!

Run run run! Photo courtesy of Amber Piercy

I felt for a few of the runners- I just wasn’t sure what their motivation was because this was a bit out of their range- the girl who was walk/running who could do a pretty good 10k but was clearly suffering at the halfway point, gasping so loudly during her run parts that I was worried! And then there was the girl in booty shorts, with blood on her thighs from the chafing. EEEEK! What made that seem like a good idea man? This is 21.1km…

There was music man, the guy with music blasting off his arm pretty loudly, and then there was beeping lady, who had some sort of tracker (heart monitor?) going BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP like…every second. I was glad when we passed her! How she didn’t find that annoying is beyond me…I also saw one woman pulled off to the side, furiously stabbing at her iPod being like, ‘I hate this song!’ ‘I hate this one too!’??????? Seriously? Don’t let a song derail your run. At some point, it has to be internal, all you. Pulled over to mess with your tunes is a BAD IDEA.

Oh yeah really going for it!

Oh yeah really going for it! Photo courtesy of Amber Piercy.

We even saw a girl riding a grey pony down the street, and they were both watching the runners. The pony was older, and so cute. Totally unfazed by music man and the rest of us gasping and heaving our way down the street. Haha.

I learned that I am terrible at grabbing race drinks. Terrible. I splashed pink gatorade all over my face at the first attempt and was coughing and choking, and in my next attempt- even at a walk, still managed to splash water on my face and cough! Boo me! I also learned that roads are…slanted…and if I wanted any hope of saving my knees/legs, I had to really make an effort to run in the middle or on the soft shoulder. Hard lesson to learn but it made a huge difference in my knees.

We blasted (well, it felt like it but it was probably really slow) through the 100m sprint to the finish and we WERE DONE! Woo!! We finished it up with a great chili and some awesome snacks. Yum yum. The food, volunteers and everyone were so great, and really cheerful. Thanks to those guys, we had a lovely run, good food and a fabulous atmosphere!

And my time? Spectacularly mediocre: 2:05 haha. BUT my sprint was good- 5th in my age group! Woo hoo for a strong finish.

We then went and got a beer at Gladstone, which is a pretty cool little brewery and bonus points for literally being across the street from the race. Go us!

Pick one: Make complaints or ask for favours. You don’t get both.

In today’s blog entry, I will do both: It’s a good ride/bad ride scenario.

How Oats feels about me

How Oats feels about me

Ask for favours: Good lesson on Saturday! I started off by feeling anxious again. I’m struggling with performance anxiety right now, a lot of it. Everything seems to trigger it- thinking about past horse shows, looking at my old jumping photos, old videos from horse shows, watching a jumping lesson go before mine…It makes me feel anxious about my jumping, soooo anxious.

And I hate it. I voiced my concerns to Nicole and I was saying that I’m really having a tough time right now- I know I’m riding better, not jumping ahead, but I get SO ANXIOUS thinking about jumping- even just ‘thinking’ about it! Yikes.

She is very understanding, and we went right to it- and worked on gridwork, which by the way I tend to hate! hahah.

Oats flopped through it, and I felt like it kind of sucked, but when we got his ‘on fire’ motion started, the grid started getting easier. I guess we get too ‘blah blah blah’ and humdrum about jumping, and he kind of just flops through a line. BUT when I get him revved up and his energy up, we GO GO GO! And he meets the gymnastic perfectly. (Note: We had very few times actually like this).

This is interesting to me, mainly because I hate riding gymnastics, and I never knew why. Well, the why is because we go into it without enough ‘oomph’ and sometimes I let him canter in, and we flub the whole shebang.

Also straightness- still an issue. We jumped with guide poles, haha.

And now we move on to Sunday’s ride, which is make complaints: It sucked sucked sucked. Sucked so hard I was like WTF we had a good lesson on Saturday? Could have fooled me!

We were just blah, I got too into Oats at the canter and he was blowing past my aids, being rude, and I was getting rude back…UGH.

Jumping, he had a wicked right drift that I somehow DID NOT NOTICE until I took out the entire jump with my right foot. ARHG.

Hopped off, put it back up, hopped back on, jumped it (shittily) and managed to get 1. pop up jump, 1 left-behind jump, and 1 knock-down the whole jump for my jumping of the day. Wonderful. I decided to stop, before I really screwed up any more.


So….The show I have coming up, in October? Yeah, not so sure it is a good idea right now. How do I keep getting worse?

Needs a drink

Needs a drink

In other news, I also went for a nice run with husband, helped the barn girls rake down the new footing for the indoor arena, made applesauce with apples from the barn, visited ‘The Drake’ for a drink in the evening (All Souls Chocolate/Pumpkin Porter from Parallel 49) and made a rhubarb ‘fool’ this weekend.

A productive weekend if I do say so myself even if I was in a BAD Mood after my interesting ‘ride’ on Sunday. Hmm…Needing perspective is a daily, if not hourly, thing for me I guess!


Mom, Oats and ILesson update time! * This is a continuation of yesterday’s post on weaknesses- in a way*

I’m going to take today off riding because I am unbelievably sore from going nuts with the electric hedge-trimmer the other day, and Oats got worked Sun-Mon-Tues. He and I both deserve a day off!

(and my blisters, ouch, need some time to themselves)

I had my lesson with Karen yesterday, and my trainer Nicole (who is also Karen’s student) stayed to watch for a bit too. It was funny! I actually got pretty frustrated at an exercise. I felt trapped? Like, I was going to be stuck working on this exercise that we were pretty horrible at?

We worked on walking around a sharp turn to a straight diagonal line, to a halt. Walk to trot, then walk- canter.

First off, none of us were even remotely straight. So Karen set up parallel poles for us to guide us to the halt. It looked quite narrow…

Oats wiggle-waggled all over it, I started getting frustrated, until Karen gave me an ‘out’- if I felt like we were going to run out or go all over, I could halt in front of it, and then go through them. And voila! All of a sudden, we were trotting straight through, and then she said by 2 or so goes, we would be cantering through no prob. And then we were!

I was pretty surprised!

And then she started getting picky about our leads. Right turns mean you get right lead, left turn you get left lead. I was NOT sure we would get the right lead. And then we were getting them! (Not without some fussy/fighting on Oats’ part. He was not interested in bending, and wanted to do more giraffe-style head straight in the air, not bending). (She said I needed to get more proactive in my frustration, and use that energy to get him bending) SOooo…. We trotted large a few times- BIG steps- bending right, Short steps sit trot- bending right, and then go to the exercise.

And wouldn’t you know, each time improved more and more.

We can do it!!

(photo courtesy of my dad, of my mom, Oats and I)