Nothing Feels Natural

Finally we had some sun! In fact, we are now on THREE whole days of sun! Can you believe it?! I can’t. We honestly had close to 3 months of straight rain, or wind and rain, or wind/rain/snow combo. Not a single clear day for months, and boy does that drain a person…

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Daisy is at another stable now, but Oats loves his friends! 

Friday I had my dressage lesson and it was really good! I wasn’t expecting much, given it was basically a tornado with pouring rain, the arena was super flooded and Oats was feeling okay but not amazing. However he really rallied and we worked on straightness in the canter on the diagonal fences, and then some head-to-the-wall leg yielding. Success! He was quite good and sweet. Love my boy 🙂

Saturday the ring was still nuts and the vibe a bit off but not too bad, it was a bit quieter which is nice, and so Oats and I worked on transitions, and his leg yields. The canter to the left is still..eh. We will call that a ‘work in progress’ shall we?

Sunday I had a race (Cedar 12K recap coming soon!), and then managed to finagle a bareback 20 minute ride on Oats after- you know I can’t resist getting a ride in, any way, or anytime I can! He was very sweet, and apparently had spend the entire night running amok outside of his paddock, going horse to horse to play bite-face with the ones who would oblige him! He then was exhausted and spent the afternoon flat on his side, sacked out. Phew!

Monday I was tired from the race, but also determined to do my ‘homework’ which I do try to do once per week- straightness on the diagonal jumps AND trot fences. It was good! I did find that when I posted trot in, I was able to control the take-off spot a bit better, rather than coming in two-point using the ‘hope and pray’ method…! Good to know. I think I ride Oats better when I am more ‘connected’ through my seat, vs straight-up butt out of the saddle 2point.

Things you learn eh? 25 years in and I’m still learning.

Anyways, day off for me, Oats teaches a beginner tonight, and I am off to dinner with friends to the new place: Boom & Batten. I hope it is good, it is very pricey.

What is it they say about the heart? That it’s a muscle?

Had my jump lesson last night and the temperatures dropped dramatically since earlier this week (when I was bragging about running in shorts!) so it was very cold in my lesson, unfortunately. Lucky for me, Oats is now on regular Previcox and I find that helps him a great deal with the cold/winter stiffness that he was starting to feel regularly, as an older pony.

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Seeking this good feeling- and I’ve got it! Hah no t-shirts last night, that’s for darned sure.

He was pretty bouncy and feeling good last night! I, on the other hand, felt stiff, cold and creaky. Hah. The horse was going better than the rider! I watched my friends ride in their lesson before mine, so I had an idea of what our lesson was going to consist of- though I was wrong, I had bending and broken lines up the wazoo, where theirs was a bit simpler due to a few technical issues early on (one horse had to bow out, he wasn’t feeling quite himself).

So we warmed up (ha, warm. I don’t think I ever felt warm), over a few small x-rails, then lead up to a line (5 strides), and then started working over bending lines still with the cross poles. And the funny thing? We were just nailing it! I don’t think I need to remind you how that pretty much never happens when I ride, ever. It was just so smooth, I didn’t need to think about working or trying or anything, it was was.

Nice eh?

We then moved up to work on the course, and there were so many twisty-turny bending lines, broken lines, it was so fun! Oats was a STAR!!! It was so cold that my eyes were watering the whole ride and I could barely see where I was going, hah.

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Oats is such a good pony. I love him! 

We did biff a few things (wicked drift on the first fence when I didn’t go in riding very well…) and the last fence was kind of a slump, but otherwise it was just BANG ON. Yeah!! Felt awesome! Maybe my trot fence homework is starting to pay off? I wanted to develop feel, agility, comfort and flexibility. I needed to build back my resilience- mine and Oats’- by working on the lowest-level, boring, but important work. No stakes, easy to mess up and easy to fix.

So, I guess the good news is that it is working! The bad news? I have to keep doing it! I used to have a bad habit of completely giving up when something was either working well, or not working at all. So, I keep going.

Stuck under the surface

Dude, this week…For a short week, it sure hasn’t felt short. Work was an absolute shitshow. Everyone working flat-out all hands on deck style. While not physically tiring, I was SO.TIRED. by yesterday…brain tired I guess? Just fried. I know I’m not the only one, pretty much everyone feels like this.

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Some days you ride better without hands. This remains true…To this day! 

I also had a dentist appointment, huge event, and riding lesson yesterday. I am mentally tired.

Dear god, this week!

Thankfully, Oats had his lessor resume lessons for November, so I was able to ride Monday, she rode Tuesday, and he had Wednesday off. That left me with time to stay later at work and not have to worry about trying to get to the barn. I had my lesson last night, and while my day/tacking up was clumsy (literally everything I touched fell into the dirt. EVERYTHING. Helmet, saddle pad, bridle, horse boots, my gloves…everything I touched fell on the ground)…The lesson itself was really good!!! 🙂

We worked on a series of x-poles in a bounce gymnastic and when that was going well, we moved it to NO HANDS people! I was terrified- even though Oats is a saint, I have a lot of trouble relinquishing control, particularly in front of the jump. I just want to grab! I ended up trying a few times and failing, until I finally managed to let go of the reins a good stride or two before the first x-pole and it went perfectly!

We then worked on a small course and all was well. What a little lovebug.

Dressage lesson tonight, and I hope it goes better than last week. He just felt really stiff and resistant on the left rein last week. UGH. It sucked, given our general rides/jump lessons have been so smooooth.

These are the days that must happen to you: Jumper day update!

A good Walt Whitman quote is always applicable, I think!

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A great weekend! What a good pony. 

Oats and I finally made our debut int he 2’6” ring, after YEARS at 2′, and 2’3” – some successful, a lot not. I normally feel a lot of anxiety, and I weirdly wanted to feel anxious about this show, and just…Didn’t? I felt like, yeah old hat. Weird for me. Weird for being at a horse show, even if it is a small schooling show. I expected to feel anxious, have show nerves, but all I could think is- I can do this. I can definitely do it. Oats is a great pony, and he’s my champion. Challenge me.

My friend was riding in the 2’3”, and I had 1 class in the 2’3” as a warm-up, and then my 2’6” division. She was anxious, and I told her- nobody is even looking at you! Nobody cares! Be challenged. Bring it!!

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That’s my mantra now. 🙂 Make me work for it. Make me focus. Make me try.

We warmed up ok, after Oats spent forever and a day at the (very hot again) trailer, screaming for his buddy and pacing, and it went on and on and on…

Anyways, I was learning from my lessons the day previous, so I did NOT get on Oats too early. I waited until the first 2’3” went, and then tacked Oats up and brought him over. We trotted, cantered and my trainer came over to run us over a few small jumps- just as the ring gate volunteer was like hey you’re in two. Wow! That was quick! But it’s how I like it. 🙂

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We went in and it was…eh. He bucked a little (feeling MUCH better today) and I could tell he was a bit bored. I left the ring saying he needs more. And we waited (awhile) for the 2’6” to be set. The course was not challenging, but it did have a small combination (2 small strides, 3 Oats-sized strides, quite compressed). I kind of wanted them to put the liverpool in, we could definitely do it no problem! Sadly that is for the 2’9” division, not ours. I did not feel scared or have the jumps suddenly ‘grow’ as I usually feel. In fact, even looking back, they look low. WTF?

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We warmed up ok for the 2’6”- it was getting quite hot. I had cleverly brought in a water bucket and asked my friend who finished her division (and placed!!) to fill it and put it in the warm-up. Oats drank! Twice! He was already doing better this day.

We hopped a few verticals, biffed the oxer a few times but it was fine and then we were in. And you know what? The course rode really well- almost perfectly!! I came out smiling. And I said, I want to ride my next round exactly the same way. And I DID!! Who is this girl, who can finish all of her classes, ride competently and well, being fair to her horse, and confidently say she wants to ride exactly the same way? This girl!

I look back and wished I was in this division 5 years ago. But you know what? It’s not really any use doing that. I was a different person then. We placed 3rd in our 2’3”, 3rd in our 2’6” and 5th in our 2’6”. Placing doesn’t really matter though- I felt happy, confident and loving my boy. Go Honey Bunches of Oats!

Popular Manipulations: Jump jump!

So I am feeling MUCH better this week. Halleleujah!!!! The nausea and sore throat, coughing, cramps and general miserable-ness finally abated on Wednesday. Now I just randomly cough up horribleness and my nose runs, but hey, I’ll take it!

While my immune system was attacking me, I had a lot of time to feel awful and stew about it. That stewing made me take action- and I am making lots of appointments now to get on top of my health!

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From last week, when I was actually riding worse, ha. 

And my riding felt soooo much better last night- I had more energy, even though I protested about jumping the course for a third time and instead opted to just jump the 1 line and diagonal that I botched during my second round. Hey, baby steps right? We discovered that I am still riding quite defensively while on the slight ‘downhill’ leading to me kind of hunching with my shoulders, instead of wide open shoulders and elbows in, instead of chicken wings.

This affects my release and makes me feel defensive!

So, I’m writing this down to make sure the plan next week is ride a whole bunch of smaller fences…All going downhill. I am happy to say that I didn’t get left behind as much this week (phew!) and my brain didn’t fall out when we raised a few of the jumps (though they still looked small, ha. Why is that?!).

So, I am getting more comfortable with ‘riding’ my jumps and line in the outdoor but I have the occasional defensive hunch that happens when we are going downhill. I think practice and time will fix that, in fact I feel pretty confident that it will!

Oats was a good boy as always, even when the wind picked up and it got really grey and rainy out! I was SO OVER riding in the rain by that time hahaha and just wanted to be done! 😉

Nothing really gets him excited, haha.

Putting the work in: CDRC dressage show recap!

I forgot that I was too busy to update on my  jump lesson (last Thursday) but it was a very good, solid and workmanlike lesson. Oats was stiff and sluggy for it when we were warming up, so I was reminded by my trainer to limit my expectations for the warm-up and deal with the horse I have, in the moment and on the day. So true! Fortunately he warmed up and was moving better after a slightly longer warm-up.

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All screenshots courtesy of Nicole G.

Dressage lesson was on Friday with Sam and it was very encouraging! One thing I wasn’t so sold on were re-visiting my canter loop F-X-M. We kept swapping in the past, and I felt very unsure about it. We worked on it, and nailed it! And then I promptly forgot how to ride the transition to trot at ‘x’ and then pick up the right lead…Yikes. These tests involve much more ‘riding’ than I am used to (I find the intro to dressage a lot more ‘sitting pretty’ which I and Oats are good at. The actual physical riding part? Not so good, and needs a lot more work).

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Anyways the day of the show, the weather was horrendous. In Victoria I heard it was sunny, gale-force winds, hailing, and raining. Up at the show in Cowichan, it was 1 weather- tornadoes. Small dust devils were whipping up in the ring, and it was just chaos. I had sand in my teeth, hair, eyes, ears. Everywhere. It was just so awful and distracting. I wanted to leave!!!

But hey the show must go on?

We warmed up and Oats was feeling good, pretty jazzy considering how miserable the wind was. His left bend wasn’t very good though, and he was leaning heavily on my hands in the trot. His canter felt a tad rushy and unbalanced, but no worries, we could work on that…It was just hard to canter left, because you got a face-full of sand every time. I couldn’t really see where I was going. Poor horse too, yikes… And my friends came to watch! I felt awful for them, dealing with the insane sand and wind in their faces for hours. Troopers, all of them!!

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I was feeling good about putting front shoes on him early though. Score one for me!

We went in to the test and we had a good centreline halt, and then botched the  pattern (First Level Test 1 has a 10-metre turn to the centreline), where I left early and just sort of turned…at will. I honestly couldn’t see, so I think that had a bit part of it.

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The test rode pretty well, I was happy with Oats’ canter, his turns and some of the transitions were a bit sucky as I let my reins get way tooo long at the end.

We finished, and then prepared for my bigger challenge- First Level Test 3. Counter-canter loops, here we come!

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I am VERY pleased to say that we conquered the canter loops! I rode them too conservatively, making the too shallow, but I think that is an easy fix for sure (again I couldn’t see very well at all), and Oats tripped over part of the dressage court fencing (it was on the ground because it kept getting blown over!). Whoops!

I also flat-out forgot to ride my transition to ‘x’…yes even though I knew that was a tricky one that I had to ride more strongly. I tuned out for it, and Oats broke. Damn! 100% my fault though.

Otherwise, the test flowed nicely, I kept my reins (mostly) shorter and we did what we came to do- conquer those canter loops! 🙂 Yay! We wrapped up and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out. Good god, the wind. I don’t know what my scores are, but I’m happy with the efforts and with how saint-like Oats was while dealing with challenging weather conditions. What a star!

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!