Forever is a word

So this week I finally had a jump lesson where I felt pretty darn good! No horrible cough/cold, no rib injury (that is healing very well, phew) and I just could focus on riding, rather than feeling miserable.

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He is also a good husband babysitter!Ā 

And my jump lesson went really nicely- quite simple but focused, work over a few short courses and then strung together into a 9-jump course. I was able to work on holding my shoulders, even into a deeper spot. Success! This in turn helps Oats with his jump style in deeper spots as well. Plus we had the rocks back as fillers, in a circle jump. Oats was a bit surprised by it but he is such a good boy, he jumped it fine. šŸ™‚ Love him.

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Oats: Okay guys, let’s get this show on the road.Ā 

Even when we set the jumps up higher, he was surprised but just gave it a LOOK and jumped very willingly – ok he clanged it pretty darn hard with his hooves- but it stayed up and he was so good about it. My trainer laughed and said it’s the same with him and his giant doppelganger Donato- they just have exactly the same attitude, OH this got bigger! Well ok!

Love love love riding him. He’s just so willing these days, and well behaved and I feel like my riding/jumping position is getting much stronger. I do think the two weeks in a row focusing heavily on my release paid huge dividends, and it’s something I really should do more often!

Plus Oats now gets ridden on Tuesdays by a fellow adult amateur who has a horse recovering from an injury and I hear from her that he is such a good boy for her lessons too! Yay!

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The Dream is Over

Of jumping lessons in the outdoors at night for me, sadly. We attempted to finish up my last lesson in the outdoor last night, and it got too dark, plus the footing was quite deep and Oats was struggling a bit in it. He had his shoes removed, and his trot was good but his canter felt ‘mushy’ like I just didn’t have enough horse there for jumping.

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Back to blurry screengrabs instead of nice crisp shots. Ah well…Video thanks to Nicole.

Compared with our fab jump lesson last night, it was…disappointing. But, jumping can’t be fantastic every time, can it? And we still had a good focused warm-up, and went straight into a fairly decent course outdoors, where I was quite pleased with Oats’ effort. Jumps stayed small.

It got dark, and we zipped into the indoor to wrap up our jumps. We worked over a few small jumps, and then over a course. I even demanded Nicole raise the jumps! (ok, demanded is a strong word. I suggested it! Go me!). And it was…very sloppy. Ha. Yikes my eq was definitely sucking. My leg (right leg) was a windshield wiper. My upper body? Throw at the horse! Eeeghhh.

In my defense, I have been feeling like crap over past few weeks (on and off since last week). I feltĀ terrible yesterday, grinding fatigue, out of breath, sore throat, and my stomach was killing me with zero appetite. I literally had this feeling like if I stopped moving I would probably collapse and not be able to get back up again. So I kept running, moving, doing chores, getting dressed, going to riding and anytime I stopped moving, I was literally wavering on my feet. Lovely. Anyways, it sucked.

Add on to that my crushing insomnia and you have a recipe for a fabulous week…

But I rallied for my jump lesson! I had this sense that Oats was feeling similarly to me, ha. He was asleep on his feet in his shelter when I came to get him to tack up. Anyways, I am really hoping for some sleep tonight, and Oats is also getting the night off in preparation for my next dressage lesson on Friday. Fingers crossed we are all feeling better by then!!

So far no sore throat today, but stomach ache remains and my eyes are so watery from fatigue it looks like I have been crying. Ahhh.

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.

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Last year, ha no -hands!Ā 

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.

A good horse

Had my jump lesson last night, and we even took advantage of the tiniest bit of light left in the day to hold it in the outdoor arena- lucky eh?

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Jumping can be fun!

I borrowed my trainer’s saddle, she had generously lent it to me for my lesson and we checked the fit- and so far, so good at least until my saddle gets fixed (no word on that yet, how many times should I be calling the saddler until he comes out to my barn?!! I am at twice so far…argh).

We worked on quite a technical exercise–canter-in gymnastic, starting with a small x-rail, to a series of (6?) poles at 10-ft canter strides, working our way up to a small vertical to a half- x-rail bounce.

It was definitely a mind-challenge!

We worked our way up from the x-rail, to a few poles, to all the poles, to raising the poles, to adding in the vertical at the end, to making the vertical into a bounce with half an x- at the end. I was sweating! So was Oats! And huffing and puffing, haha.

The raised poles made every stride matter. I had to come in with a ‘very’ close, collected canter rather than letting Oats go SPLAT through the series of raised poles. We did have a few rounds that he kind of slammed through them, until I learned that at the first pole before the x-rail, I had to be holding him in, and keeping him very tightly between leg and hand…Rather than just pushing him over the gymnastic and leg leg leg, which is what I am used to doing.

It was very educational, and I feel like I learned a ton from it.

I hope Oats did too!

We ended by going through the gymnastic-canter pole, and then circling and heading through 1 line set up on the other side of the arena. The goal was to get five strides. We sure didn’t…The first go-around we jumped in well, and then…wha?? He got 6 strides and stopped and painstakingly climbed over the last fence. Eeeegh!

Time to go around again! This time, we nailed those strides. It almost felt like Oats was surprised by the jump? Haha oh well, at least he jumped it?

Good pony, and a good lesson.

And we’re back!

After that strange and disturbing blip on the radar, I’m pleased to say that apparently Oats and I were having an off-day together…And my ride last night was fine, no drama. Strange, isn’t it?

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Get this feeling back!!

Oh well, I will accept it for what it is, and move on. A new day is a new ride.

We didn’t even end up doing too much last night, worked over a small cross-rail a few times, and practiced my eye over a pole on a circle- with mixed results. We finished up by working on my ‘100 trot-canter transitions’ (ok so not even close to 100, but I’m honestly trying hard to incorporate that work into every ride, no matter how much I kind of hate it…).

Oats was fine, I had a bit of a feeling like if I let him have any leeway, he’s get silly and looky, but we stayed focused and had no issues. Back to good ol’ Oats, the horse who was literally sleeping in front of the loudspeaker at the horse show- and it was LOUD! ?!!

Ah, horses. They make you crazy!

This weekend I think might be quieter- I have my parents moving to the island officially, and sadly, my friend’s father’s memorial ceremony on Saturday.

Wild One

The weather this weekend was…wooly. Luckily it was so lovely on Saturday, just in time for our…18k run! We’re beginning/trying to make up some longer runs to prepare for our 4th half marathon (yikes!) that is coming up sooner than I would like. It’s tougher to schedule these runs in than you’d think…

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And something that surprised me. I was in a bad mood last week, just rotten, no-good, very-bad, miserable and grouchy. For pretty much the whole week. When Friday rolled around, I wasn’t even really looking forward to the weekend. Sure I like running, and I was glad I had rescheduled my jumping lesson for Saturday, but a few things were making me feelĀ quite edgy.

I am NOT GOOD at sitting around on weekend mornings (save sleeping in a bit- love that). It makes me incredibly anxious for some reason and just ruins the day for me. My lesson was at 3:15 and I wanted to fit in an 18km run. Whaa?? What to do, what to do.

We were planning on running late, but my husband, who knows me better than I know myself sometimes, suggested that instead of fussing and fidgeting all morning (it was going to be too much for my poor brain to handle), we do our long run first thing. That way I could get something super productive out of the way, and then have lunch, chill, and go to my lesson.

At first I wasn’t sure, because I was thinking my legs/body would be too tired for my jump lesson. And then I was like, hell yes let’s do it! And we did!!!

And you know what? It worked outĀ perfectly.

The run went really well, it took forever (1:44:??) but the weather was faaabulous, the sun was shining and all was right with the world. We finished and I had lunch and lay around on the couch before my lesson started. I zipped off to the barn for my ride, and wouldn’t you know it, Oats and I were BACK ON OUR GAME! YES!!!

You know how on Thursday I was saying I just love jumping for the heck of it? I think that really helped me get back in the groove for my lesson. Because my body was tired, I wasn’t an anxious and I seemed to feel a lot more like ‘me’ again. Back in action and down to businesses. It wasn’t even perfect!

We totally flubbed our way through the course the 1st time and knocked down a jump, etc. It was pretty ugly and blah, and I was like you know what? We’re doing that again, and I am getting ON Ā Oats about forward. No more of this wishy washy BS.

My coach looked surprised and was like, well if you feel up to it! (I did tell her I had run 18km in case I was riding stupidly, haha). I DID feel up to it!

So we went straight ahead and rocked it, and took a break, and rocked it again. It sure wasn’t perfect- had a few ugly jumps- but I felt good about my riding and my efforts, and about Oats too.

So, even though I was in a bad mood all week and crabby as all hell, the weekend really redeemed itself for me. YES! Also kudos to my husband for recognizing what I really needed to do before my ride, to make my weekend work out smoother.

Making it at the MANE EVENT!!

Finally, it was the weekend. We left fairly early on Friday to catch the Jim Wofford clinic at Chilliwack’s Mane Event and boy, he did not disappoint!

And they're off!

And they’re off!

Fresh off my lesson Thurs- quick recap, I can’t quite remember exactly what we did, but we did have a 2’3” oxer and it kind of scared me, we jumped it very nicely once, then I under-rode to a gentle stop by Oats, and then rode it well again…And a small bounce exercise, a green box skinny, and an x-rail on a circle that rode very nicely – historically a struggle point for me and Oats. Overall, quite nice, but I did have some nerves…

So, I was primed to learn something from the famous Jim Wofford himself. And what did I learn, from his gymnastic exercises with the upper-level group?

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

Rubbing shoulders with Jim Wofford- the man has a great sense of humour!

  • Look at the top rail of the fence until it disappears under you. This includes parallel oxers too!
  • For bounce exercises, ignore the placing rail. Focus on the top rail of the first jump.
  • Don’t start looking ‘through’ the exercises. One jump at a time! Riders and horses get into trouble when they start ignoring the first jump and stare through the exercises.
  • Let the horse make the mistake, you don’t need to make it for them.
  • Hitting a rail generally punishes the horse, you don’t need to punish. Reward them for a good effort on the next go-around, you will find they have fixed it! (sidenote- I’m bad for rewarding in the moment, need to get better about this).
  • He had a lot of riders riding with fairly loose contact, some with driving rein hands to correct hand use/placement. Let the horse be independent, thinking.
  • For drifters- take off your left leg if he drifts right.Ā ThenĀ make your right leg stronger. Doesn’t work? You can add in guide poles.
  • The key is usually less is more. Ie- don’t use a martingale at home, fix what is wrong at home first. Don’t be the first to rush to more aids, artificial aids.
  • Only the elbows move for bounces.
  • Shoulders back, sitting up, no ‘posting’ at the canter.
  • Hands lower.

We watched a lot of his sessions, and I came away slightly intimidated – these were seriously good riders- and inspired as well. I want to try some of those exercises with Oats, the corner jump (we have done this before and he was fine with it), the ‘squeeze’ jump- now that looks interesting, and maybe a mini triple-bar or hogsback? So many good options to make jumping exciting and challenging.

I also took the opportunity to do some shopping…Too much shopping! Highlights included getting Grand Prix Vegas breeches for $50, Spooks stretch jacket for $150, Tailored Sportsman ‘Anaconda’ belt for $5, and a Toggi Equestrian long-sleeved t-shirt for $5 too. A steal!

I also got a lot of samples for Oats for treats- nutritional supplements, alfalfa cubes, treats, and some hay for Buster Bunny in a freezer ziploc bag. Score!

We also enjoyed a dressage session taught by Kristen Wysocki, and the Trainer’s Challenge featuring Sonny Gargulio, David Simons, and Glen Stewart. Glen Stewart in particular was a real class act, lovely to watch and a true horseman. Not sure who ended up winning- we were at the Jim Wofford Q&A session- but it was a real treat to watch.

The ‘equine experience’ at night was stunning as always, with fabulous performances by the Coastal Cowgirls on Vancouver Island – maybe I am a bit biased but I think their drill team performances were the slickest! They even had spins, and everything! One accident happened- not like last year when horses collided, but this time a horse spooked, the rider fell off and dislodged the flag she was carrying. It got caught in the horse’s breastplate! We Ā all gasped and held our breath…But it was ok, it got removed and the horse/rider were fine to mount and continue.

Guess it’s not the genuine experience if there isn’t at least one hair-raising moment! On that note there were these young girls- the ‘Young Gunz’ and their performances were genuinely terrifying but very well done. My heart was in my throat!

As always, Mane Event is something we look forward to every year. I’m inspired to go try some new fun things with Oats and I can’t wait to show off my new awesome riding gear!