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! 

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. 🙂 Love him.

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

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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Put the days away

Had a dressage lesson last Friday and I was feeling sooooooooo tired, low energy, blah, you know the draggy fatigue I’ve been complaining about for oh, 3+ weeks now? It was kind of a hard sell, particularly on a Friday night (hello hang out on my couch time!) PLUS I was dog-sitting my friend’s dog, so he came over just before my lesson.

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Mr. Oats learns some fancy moves! I wish I was sitting up more…

But anyways, despite the myriad excuses of why I didn’t want to, I did. And it was great!! Not perfect, ha are they ever? But just genuinely good. I learned some really interesting exercises and have since practiced them on my own with Oats.

I have been wanting to improve his counter-canter and work towards flying lead changes- clean and proper ones, not grab-and-leap ones. So on that note we worked on canter-walk transitions, which have historically been a challenge for us. Walk-canter? Sure! Canter- walk? Nope!

We developed the canter-walk by coming in on a circle, using a touch of shoulder-fore and then spiraling in to the walk. Like, circle, coming in using shoulder-fore and 1-2-3 WALK.

It was cool! On the left he was super! On the right= struggle bus. Ahhh well.

We used the basis of that exercise to then go large and focus on walk- pick up counter canter- go straight along the long side in counter canter and then walk, pick up true canter for the short side, back to walk, counter canter and rinse, repeat.

It was really neat! We were getting it!! 🙂

So pleased with how Oats is really learning his stuff through these exercises. And we’re not like, drilling him to death on it- a few run-throughs, he gets the idea, more importantly ‘I’ get the idea, and we’re good!

I even practiced it a bit yesterday and was quite happy with how our amateur fumbling went. Whee!

Always Forever: Jump/ride/life

Man, things got busy and I got into a few solid days of coughing my lungs out and feeling exhausted. I’m seeing the other side now but it was a few very unpleasant days.

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Plus it was GORGEOUS this weekend. What’s not to like??

Thursday was my jump lesson and I was interested in continuing the work on the automatic release that we had started the previous week. So we developed my automatic release by setting up a grid of tiny (like step-poles and 6′ x-rails) bounces, so Oats had go canter-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-out and I had no choice but to close my hip angle and have my hands low, following in the driving rein position.

It was really neat! It took a LOT of repetitions to develop the feel (for my hands and hips), so we went up and down, off the right, off the left, over and over. It did end up being quite aerobic work for Oats, who was huffing and puffing after. Poor guy! Hahha. We then set it up as part of a mini course. Go over the grid, across the diagonal over a small vertical (focusing on maintaining the auto release over it), over a small oxer (ditto) and then back over the grid the other direction.

I was pretty impressed and really felt like I was learning something! Cool hey?
Oats has been really good these past few days. I rode Saturday/Sunday and noticed he had a big lump on his spine though, ugggh. What now?! Horses!! Fortunately he doesn’t seem bothered by it. Hmm. He does have a chiropractic session in a few weeks, see if we can get to the bottom of it…

Anyways, he’s been moving fantastic and just so so good these days. Yes!!

Be the one you love: A good lesson update

Last jumping lesson, I was kind of bemoaning the fact that Oats just didn’t have any ‘oomph’ and consequently was grinding slowly to a halt at some pretty easy fences. I just didn’t have it in me to make a change in those last few strides, even though I knew I had to. So how do I manage this? What can I do to help?

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Nancy took this photo of Oats sharing a moment with her daughter’s pony and Oats’ twin. So cute! 

A few things actually- I had an equine counseling session to determine why my anxiety was stopping me from being more proactive on Monday.

And in my riding lesson last night, I came armed with something a little more – a pair of my ‘motivator’ spurs (they are pretty long). Now a note about Oats and spurs: I could NOT use them on him for years. He would basically send me to the freaking moon. He had a very hard buck and was not afraid to use it! So, I couldn’t use my ‘motivators’ on him, heck I couldn’t even use my regular small spurs on him.

But now, he is at the ripe old age of 17 and more mature. It was time.

So I came into the ride with some backup to my leg – the long spurs. We warmed up in the arena, and I kind of wanted to have a freakout when he got silly about going through the gate to the outdoor field (where we spent time on Wednesday setting up x-c style jumps…so fun!!) but Oats gets weird about the gate, so he was rearing/hopping up, etc.

With that, I wanted to spiral. Shit!!

But Nicole talked me through it, haha and soon we were happily walking and trotting in and out of the arena to the field with no drama. Phew!! Now on to jumping. We warmed up in canter over a small x-rail to a 6-or 7- stride line. The normal Oats would get 7…and that would be a stretch. The new and improved motivated Oats? 6 bang on. Wow!!

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Our ‘x-c’ jumps in the field.

I didn’t realize how much of an impact the spurs would have on our ‘forward to the jump’ at all. It was crazy- my legs got tired because instead of squeezing or kicking, I was having to steer with them, and hold them still! They were burning? Oats also had a few ‘squeal!!’ moments when he realized I was using my spurs to get some forward- a few sassy kick outs but nothing bad.

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This one looked weird but rode fine!

And I realized that I was definitely going to have to get used to this ‘new Oats’…He was very forward, but when I was not careful and kicked or squeezed with my spurs too much, he ‘spurted’ forward and would get flat over the fence= rails down. I had to be more careful about maintaining the pace, rather than trying to get ‘more’ pace as I am used to.

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We jumped the other hay bales, not these ones.

All in all, it felt crazy, exciting and kind of thrilling. Who is this new thoroughbred I am riding? It’s Oats! We also went into the field and schooled some of the small x-c jumps and he was awesome, but we also faced the forward =/ flat jump issue and he hardcore ignored some half halts and just slammed a rail. SIGH! Oh well. He was very responsive and I was very impressed. Wow.

As with any new power, comes responsibility. I will only use these for jump lessons under supervision.

Horse goals: Go get it

Had actually very few rides last week (rode Tuesday and Thursday) took Monday/Wed/Fri off because I wasn’t feeling well on Monday (exhaustion is a thing??) and had a physiotherapy appt Wednesday after work for my back, and had a work thing Fri night that ended up kind of not happening…

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But in the end, I felt like riding fewer days worked well for Oats and myself? He had more time off, and I had time to recover from the busy horse show weekend. Win-win! It’s hard to convince my brain of this though. My busy brain likes to remind me that I need to keep going, keep grinding, keep working. But I don’t have to listen to it.

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In fact, my jump lesson on Thursday was far from perfect. So far. Ha. But it was pretty fun and by the end I was saying Oats needs to have the jumps up higher because he’s not respecting them! One jump he was just cantering over and I was like wha, where is the jump?? Pfft.

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But my dressage lesson on Saturday was really good! He felt pretty nice, very cooperative and I felt much less tense than I have been. Even the awkward moments (breaking stride, trying to drag me out of a circle, some swapping, it was like hey, ok you can just sit and be ok with this awkwardness. Just sit with it for a moment, instead of reacting, or scrambling, or whatever.) And you know what? It went just fine! 

A lesson to me- sometimes you don’t have to react, do, be, whatever. You just have to maintain and be ok with whatever is happening.

So I think my goals for the summer are:

  • Ride a 2’6” course at home – ideally comfortably. Maybe try for a 2’9” fence in a grid? I’m not going to push this too much. Feeling good and not stressed about it is key.
  • Ride a competent first level test- I don’t much care about the scoring, but I do want it to feel more cohesive, round through the back, less struggle. I will know it when I feel it. Be present in my body doing it.
  • Show at 2’3” comfortably- maybe a course at 2’6” if I am feeling confident and good about it. I’m not pushing this goal too hard- I want to feel present, confident and comfortable.
  • Practice what I preach- less tension, less stress. Ride a 5-day week, and then ride a 4-day week. Let things go with Oats, let him have more time off.