Riding with feel

Had a lesson last night, and because I am leaving very shortly on a big trip, I kept it quiet and low-key, ie- no jumping, just flatwork. Which, to be honest, can always use more work, ha.


Ian with a strange tree in our neighbourhood.

Oats was really good, and it was a chill lesson where we worked more on riding with ‘feel’ and I found myself very able to be ‘focused on the feel’ rather than trying to force it or move on to the next best thing. One issue I have with anxiety and horseback riding is always looking for the next moment, movement, jump, turn, etc. Never on what is happening ‘now’. And you can imagine how this makes my body contort around corners, turns, etc., because I am not present in the moment.

So, this lesson was very nice because it was not an exhilarating thrill-ride of adrenaline, which for me jumping usually is. I was much more present and ‘feeling’ my way through the ride. No drama and I couldn’t even quantify it as ‘good or bad’ it was just a better way to be present through my body and my horse.

Unfortunately I tweaked something in my leg/hamstring yesterday running and so that was bugging me greatly. SIGH. I am on a hair-trigger for injuries right now and this is NOT helping. And the weather just sucks right now too- rainy, cold, windy. Rinse, repeat.

Love spring? Haaa. C’mon warm weather, I am coming for you soon!

Big things

Oats and I went to a clinic this weekend–we went alone, and I can’t even say how big this is for us- it went FINE.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright. This was from our disaster clinic- happy to say things got much better!

We’ve had a very rocky road when it comes to clinics- stemming from a 2-day intro to eventing clinic that we attended a few years ago (that’s right, it took me literally YEARS to get over it) that blasted our confidence into powder, and caused a several-months setback that even turned into years later with regards to training with other instructors.

My goal for the clinic this weekend was simple: Walk Oats to the neighbouring barn. Warm him up. Ride in the clinic with as little drama as possible. Walk him home safely.

The instructor- Norah Ross- was one I had heard good things about, and I reviewed with her and the host of the clinic that I wanted this to be technical, and not to be challenged with regards to boundary-pushing. I’m not at the stage yet where that won’t cause a meltdown for me (we are WAY better at horse shows, ha).

Older Oats pix from Avalon

Older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

And I was assured that this was not the plan for the clinic, and she was right!

We did a LOT of flatwork, haha. Drop outside stirrup, no-stirrups, bending, circling, change directions, a lot. I was sweaty! Oats was a very good sport. A couple things Norah had me pegged for: Bad elbows, ie- chicken wing. Hands too far apart and too low. She really got on me about them, hahahah.

Also she dropped my stirrups 1 hole, and wow it felt weird! But good?

We moved on to jumping, and the wheels fell of briefly. We warmed up great over some x-rails, and then approaching a vertical on the diagonal, he threw one buck and I got immediately derailed…I ‘saw’ a bad distance, and tossed my upper body at him. He stopped. UGH!

Norah had me pegged straight away. She said my anxiety is causing that, and that my ride on the flat was great, so why is it falling apart jumping? Why so different? It’s like I am ‘abandoning’ my horse when things change so drastically from a calm, competent ride on the flat to somewhat panic-stricken over fences. The jumping ahead is something I had conquered, until it came creeping back when I was feeling a bit anxious…SIGH.

She asked us to change a few things- sit to the fences, no two-point. Counting- 1-2-1-2…all the way. And stay in the MOMENT! Breathe! Stay. This worked out really well, and I was very pleased with Oats’ effort when I made these changes. Clearly…I have some deep-seated issues, ughh.

Oats jumped around lovely. It was all very ‘baby steps’ and easy, but as we clearly demonstrated, we needed the baby steps…

We learned a lot, worked hard and walked home successfully without any drama. A good clinic and a big step forward for us. I even had some hot chocolate, and was able to visit with some old barn friends at the host stable too! Yeah!!

A good horse is hard to find

Had another two very successful riding lessons- my semi-private dressage lesson on Tuesday with Karen Brain, and my private jump lesson with Nicole on Wednesday.


Last year, ha no -hands! 

The lesson on Tuesday was all about improving the quality of the canter, via the trot. It was a lot of work, not gonna lie. Oats and I were covered in sweat, I was coughing my lungs out (for some reason, ughhh) and it was definitely a tough lesson focused on power. The good news is that Oats is developing a GREAT big lofty trot, with suspension?! Oats?!! The bad news is that I do not have enough feel to know how/when to ask for a smaller trot that is keeping the level of engagement.

Oh well, something to work on, and in the canter too.

Wednesday was my jump lesson, and we started off pretty easy- trot-through an x-rail, loop back around to a canter x-rail, back to the trot x-rail. We then moved it to a trot-through 1-stride gymnastic, and then a canter- through one stride, then a course! Oats was super, I bobbled once on course when I stared down at the one-stride from the opposite direction and Oats politely said ‘no thanks’ but went for it when I remembered to sit up and not look down. Sorry Oats! That was on me, ha.

He was a bit distracted when another horse was going up the hill in the pitch black, but he is an honest pony so he kept jumping– I could just tell that he was looking outside the ring and not at the jump!

His nicest jump? The small x-rail oxer on course. I’m beginning to really love the efforts he is giving me over those, and I think we should incorporate more of them. He was also very honest through the one-stride, though sucking back when we began, he clued in and rode it very nice through the opposite direction.

Go Oats!

We are both having today off, I am going to the opera! Whoop! And tomorrow off too, because I have plans after work as well. Busy busy.

It’s GO time!

Didn’t have my regularly scheduled jump lesson yesterday, as my trainer bumped it to Saturday- which is fine, because as it turns out, I managed to majorly wrench something in my back= back on fire for a few days…


Photo courtesy of Nicole G. I love it so much! Big D and his mini-me.

Nevertheless, I gingerly made it out to the barn, feeling like a total hunchback with a raging headache that was creeping up from my sore back.

Every single vertebra hurt…I swear I could feel them all moving dis-harmoniously. Ouch…

Still, I rode Oats in the outdoor and actually had some fun. I was going to do some jumping, but I could NOT get in the groove at all. The jumps were small, but I just couldn’t seem to jump like a normal person. Stare at the jump until we are on it? Yep! Miss my distance every time? Yup! Crooked? Sure!

I knew I was riding poorly to protect my sore back, so I gave up on the jumping part (a wise decision) and went to do some flatwork without stirrups. Two-point, canter, trot, grab the pommel with one hand to situate myself…It was actually pretty good! My legs- inner thigh- were killing me. I ended the ride when I felt this huge knot in my thigh and thought to myself ‘If Oats makes one sudden move, you are definitely on the ground when you can’t hold yourself on.”

He didn’t though, he was a total saint.

He did have one BIG spook when a rider came out of the indoor and he didn’t hear them until they were behind him. Whoops!

I still have a bit of a sore back and lingering neck/headache today, but it’s not quite as terrible as it was yesterday. I’m sure being at work, sitting in front of a computer doesn’t help. Ow….

Busy weekend coming up, and busy next week too!


Hot days hacking

It’s been unusually warm here- like 20+ degrees for April! It’s crazy! While it didn’t feel too warm at the show, it has been warming up steadily this week. I rode Oats on Monday for some very light hacking- I ran hills after work before going to the barn and it was so horrible that I was just exhausted by the time I got to ride. My ride was quite lackluster, Oats was draggy and tired, I was sleepwalking practically.


Not quite in the outdoor yet, but an example of Oats charging…

I walked him around in the outdoor- it’s not quite open yet- so he could catch the sights early. That felt like all I was capable of after our walk-trot-canter warm-up indoors.

Tuesday I typically have my dressage lesson but I do it every other week now due to finances (it’s NOT cheap to do lessons twice a week..it’s awesome but so much money). This was my week off. Which is totally fine!

I used the time to have a very tough and moderately productive dressage school. I worked on balance at the canter – Oats was hot and kind of tired, which equals CHARGE at the canter and drag me around the corners…Not what I was expecting or wanting, but hey…We can work with it.

He was literally ramping up through the long side and buffaloing me around the corners. Interesting for old Oats! We got a great forward trot and then canter, well, it was a work in progress. I ended the canter work when we got a lovely right lead transition, and I felt like I could really ‘sit’ in him and go with it.

It was SO dusty in the indoor though. I still have black stuff coming out of my nose today! YUCK. Oats was coughing and sneezing and my eyes felt so gritty. Ick. Oats was very sweaty, and a combination of sweaty+shedding= gross hairy mess of a pony.

We wrapped up with some pretty reasonable leg-yielding, which Oats fussed a little but but got over very quickly. A good, challenging workout for us.

Enjoying this beautiful weather!!

January River

So, nothing much this weekend–my legs were aching so much on Friday, it felt like my bones were stretching! Ouch. I was looking forward to giving them a bit of a therapeutic rest on the weekend, and so I did, pretty much…nothing.

I had half a mind to try this small clinic that I could walk Oats over to on Saturday but decided against it–it was too late in the day, and my enthusiasm for seeing certain other horse people there was just ‘eh’ so I didn’t bother.

Instead, I wiggled my way through a lesson on Saturday (Saturday is suddenly THE busiest day the barn? Go figure!) and I honestly tried my best to stay the heck out of the way from their lesson. I really hate when people interfere with my lesson, and so I really don’t want to interfere or get in the way during theirs. Moderate success, ha. It’s tough!

Sunday I ended up riding during a lesson AGAIN! WTF? I didn’t see it written on the board so I thought I was in the clear…not so. Oh well,  Oats can always manage another forward-flat day. Though I was kind of hoping to do some small jumps. Jumps= fun, flatwork= work.

It’s true.

Oats was a bit pissy during my ride Saturday, which I would chalk it up to his tail back in the braid (until I can get a tail bag) and just kind of attitude in general. He perked up on Sunday and was a good little pony. I can tell his enthusiasm for flatwork really wanes in the winter….

Mine too though, so I guess he comes by it honestly?

Run updates- took it way back this weekend and only did hill runs on Sunday (in the freaking pouring rain and driving wind…yuck!!). 40 minutes in and I was done!! Legs felt pretty reasonable, iced my knee on and off for the rest of the day on Sunday and had my husband roll my calves.

A very quiet weekend that had me not so looking forward to the week ahead….5 days until a long weekend!!!

NYE- Taking the pressure off

So, I didn’t do that much for New Year’s Eve- quite frankly because I really dislike the amount of expectation and pressure that exists behind the scenes for it- ugh.


A white Christmas?

So, we did what I prefer- buy seafood, some sparkling wine, and have a fab time at home, gorging ourselves on lobsters, mussels and having a nice time. I did wish I had bought fireworks though, they sounded so fun going off!


Fun holiday times!

I had my lesson early on the Thursday because I was generously allowed to leave work early if my work was finished- yess! So, I shared the love and brought some Fireball whiskey and hot chocolate to share with my trainer and friend, and boy did they love it!

Oaty was great during my lesson, we worked on low-wide oxers again and a small course or two, and I really enjoyed it! It was the perfect day.

Friday, I already felt this creeping anxiety that I had to ‘do everything’ on my weekend, forgetting that it was a super-long weekend. I rode Oats and had a flat ride (and it kind of sucked, forgot how much less fun flatwork is than jumping…) and now I can’t even remember what else I did on Friday?!

Saturday more riding- we were supposed to go to a fun clinic up-Island as a fundraiser for a local event venue, but the truck that was hauling us had an emergency brake line bust and that was that! No trip for us! I’m glad the horses were NOT in the trailer, jesus.

So, Oats got stuck with boring old me in the boring old indoor. We did some pole work and it was more fun than our Friday ride, that’s for sure! I was disappointed about our trip not panning out, but overall I can deal with being a bit disappointed–I couldn’t deal with a hurt horse or a trailer accident!

Went and ran some hills on Sat too, 30 mins worth, and my new Garmin suuuuuucks ass. Gah. Oh and a fun thing- board game cafe with my horse buddies Saturday night, and then a drink downtown with my husband- best of both worlds, really!

Sunday more riding, and my legs felt tired. So, why not some trot jumps w/o stirrups? Yeah! That didn’t last too long, ahha. A quicki 30 minute ride, and BRRR it was chilly…Oats was very good to me though. Then, a later afternoon 8k with my husband, and it was slower than we wanted, though my lungs still hurt plenty after…yeesh. And some mental preparation for work on Monday, and I slept horribly (translation: awake all night) and here we take us to today!

Oh and I still think my Garmin is an unreliable piece of junk. Grumble.


Storm watching.

A non-jump lesson

I had moved my lesson time up yesterday as I am on a bit of a different schedule Thur/Fri, and was kind of surprised by the amount of machinery on the ground in the outdoor arena…

Yeah, so not riding in the outdoor and not jumping I guess?

There were dumptrucks, trucks, backhoe and everything- working to clear out blackberries from the paddocks. I’m all for regular maintenance so that was good to see but MAN was it distracting to ride with (even in the indoor?!).

So I told my coach I was ok if we did flatwork but I needed a tune-up so I could work it without stirrups! And I did! For pretty much the whole ride, hahah. We had to sharpen him up with lots of walk-canter transitions (with stirrups) and then moved on to running through a dressage test twice without stirrups, hahaha.

The tests themselves- well, they were ok not great but not terrible. At least I had an excuse- hell-o, riding without stirrups here, voluntarily!

Oats was fine, and we had a very reasonable ride. Enjoying my days.

Heart: Oaty Pony

I’m back to appreciating my little bratty pony, Oaty Pony. I was feeling kind of bummed out yesterday and a little wrung out (I am feeling some guilt over my grandfather’s passing, I guess) and I was tempted to cancel my lesson.

Judge Melanie Houston

Random pics of Oats doing dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

I didn’t though. I had to last week, to drop off my Saanich Fair entries, and you know what? I need lessons. They keep me accountable, nicer to Oats and less likely to pick fights and get too intense with him. I had kind of an iffy weekend of riding with him because I didn’t have as many lessons. ARGH. Also, I think I was under some personal stress, and that allowed some of my more unpleasant behaviours to surface (getting too intense about exercises with Oats, not being as nice or as forgiving a rider as I should be, picking fights I know I won’t win…).

Sooke Saddle Club show: photo courtesy of Eila

Sooke Saddle Club show: photo courtesy of Eila

So we worked on a fairly easy exercise- a few single small fences, and some circle jumps- and I learned a new way of ‘energizing’ Oats via the Dr. Andrew Maclean technique of tap-tap-tapping the crop against Oats’s side but very close to my boot instead of one big THWACK! Which we as equestrians are more used to as ‘motivating’ techniques. And boy it worked! Oats even threw a crow-hop buck haha. Well better than his big-time bronco bucks he used to pull!

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

Oats at Sooke Saddle Club dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

I’m glad. Glad that we’re on the same page right now.

Friday Fun-Day!

Had a lesson yesterday and MANNNnn I wanted to bail out of it soo badly. I was tired, a bit run-down from a bit of a crazy week at work, and just tired tired tired.

I also kind of stupidly went on a run before my lesson with my dog, feeling that maybe physical exercise would help me out of my stupor, but I just felt more tired! Fatigued!


OH well, the lesson went really well actually! We got right down to it, instead of mucking about with intense flatwork (she says, scoffing at the weeks and weeks of intense flatwork done this month, haha) but seriously, I just wasn’t in the mood for it, you know?

And having a lesson here and there where you get down to jumps right away is helpful- keeps Oats fresh, keeps me from getting too wobbly.

We worked over a small grid (and I wimped out of doing the grid to the course, I just went straight to the course hahahahah) and then worked over a small course of x-rails to an outside line.

Oats lesson

He was good! We had our bobbles- of course- and lately I have been getting left behind over jumps. Wha? Left behind? From the queen of jumping ahead?

I know! It’s crazy. Not really ‘better’ per se, but you know…I’m still on my journey of learning.

So there we have it, a good lesson day even though I was tired and didn’t want to ride. Sometimes, you just gotta do it!