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!!

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Never Worked So Hard: Jump lesson update~

Actually the title isn’t so true. I wasn’t working THAT hard, it just felt…difficult. I have admittedly been struggling a bit with my two-point, specifically the part of the jump where I fade out on approach and we grind to a slow halt. Ha.

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The face of a 32-year-old with her 17-year-old pony.

I am having trouble with the difference between ‘soft’ and ‘frozen’ rides….I want to be a soft rider, but still effective- not frozen in place. I want my arm to come up, use the crop to encourage Oats when I need it…Not spend most of the approach thinking about using my crop and then NOT doing it.

Ugh.

Arm paralysis? Mind paralysis?

This is something that I am going to have to work with my equine counselor about. I set up a session for the upcoming week unsure of what I needed, but knowing I needed something. Well now I know at least!

The lesson itself actually wasn’t bad- had some really fun moments and some good jumps, and the gridwork (which I was dreading) went quite well except for some very awkward bobbles, haha. No biggie.

It made me think- how lucky am I to have Oats, who I can ride one-handed, without hands and he won’t try to kill me. He is literally the safest pony to ride like this and jump too. So why do I have the hardest time?

Ah, well.

As I reflect on our relationship, and how much work it has taken me to get to this stage in our game, I see another horse/rider pair that are NOT working. And it scares me, because it has resulted in serious injury- more than a few times- for the rider. Don’t lie to yourself, because that’s when you get hurt. And this rider, despite more than a few quite serious wrecks, just isn’t getting the message and I fear for her safety.

You can’t tell someone a relationship is bad. They have to figure it out themselves. But what about when they seem bound and determined NOT to? Ugh.

The World is a Loud Place: Jump lesson recap!

Thursday was just miserable here. It was hammering down rain, windy, cold and just so very blah. I walked home and was frozen by the time I got home, and just not feeling it. After a fairly mild week that began with the horrible weather at the race, I was so over it!

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I am a good boy!

But…Jump lessons are calling.

So I bucked up, grudgingly pulled on my breeches and left for my lesson. I was assuming Oats was going to feel as ‘enthusiastic’ as I was (ie- not) so yeah, good times. Rained on and off on the way to the barn, dark as anything, and I learned that most of the horses on Thursday night jump lessons were total psychos. Greeeatttt…

Needless to say, I was a tad apprehensive. My trainer even said that close to none of her lessons went according to plan that night. Lovely. However, I was on Oats- who is a very consistent pony now, and if he acted up, it would be 1000% out of character for him. He’s a laid-back dude.

(Though he was a total turd and a half for many years!)

We worked over canter poles that eventually went up to a grid-type consisting of one small vertical pole, canter poles to a small oxer. The name of the game here was to COMMIT.

Then we worked up to a small course, a vertical on the long side (kept small the whole time), to a vertical on the diagonal, to an oxer on the other diagonal, to the grid, back to the diagonal vertical, oxer, and finish up with the vertical on the long side that we began with.

We had some awkward jumps BUT we noticed that every time I kept my butt out of the saddle, Oats felt empowered to take those leaps! We finished up with some really nice efforts from him, and I was very happy with how the canter pole grid line went, each time.

Good pony. And I was SO glad he wasn’t a nutbar like the other horses last night. Winter fever???

Taste is…a matter of taste

Another quote from Bright Lights Big City.

Started off well

Started off well

And, I’m happy to say, Oats and I are back being good together (at least for now?!!) ha. We had a jump lesson last night and while the jumps were teeny-weenie, we have fun and it felt pretty good. It was HOT for me, I felt like I was absolutely sweating buckets and gulping down water. Working in a sedentary air-conditioned office job does not prepare you well for working out in warmer weather, there’s no acclimatization period, nothing.

We worked first over a small gymnastic and Oats was in noooooo hurry…We got a lazy six in the gymnastic, which was ok I guess. At least we were consistent?

Leaving looooooong!

Leaving looooooong!

And things I need to work on: Actually getting my butt off my pony in two point in grids and on-course. Watching the video (which was great to get, thanks to a friend who stuck around to capture it!!) made that VERY clear.

Actually the ‘not sitting’ through a line or course is two-fold- helps me free up Oats’ back, AND might encourage me to use my crop behind my leg to GET HIS PONY BUTT MOVING! I see this as another fairly large issue- leg leg leg leg leg! Enough leg. More whip!

Now when I actually let go of my fear and DID crop him behind my leg, we had some super jumps! yay!!! Not that the course was like, 100% lovely- definitely not- but I’m feeling pretty positive about it.

I even volunteered to do the gymnastic line again instead of jump the course again (gymnastic lines are my nemesis…I would typically do anything to avoid them) and did it twice! We had one big spook and consequently took down 1 rail, but we regrouped and did it again and were even tight into the six…I could have tried for the 5 strides but I wasn’t feeling like it….I did feel like we can get the six no problem, so let’s stay with that for now?

So, go us! Go Oats!

Mr. Oats conquers!

To get better at something, you have to do a lot of it.

At least, in theory… So, either intentionally or unintentionally, we have been focusing a lot on gymnastic/gridwork in my jumping lessons on Thursdays. Last week, it kind of sucked but got better. This week I saw the grid was set up again and was like…noo…..

Also there is a lesson before mine, and the funniest thing, but whenever I watch another jumping lesson before I jump, I get all nervous and am like well now I don’t WANT to jump. Or, I anxiously declare that no way are we jumping at that height (and trust me it is NOT high…). And the funny part? We always do end up back at that height eventually!

Ah, nerves. Why do I do this again? Oh right, because I love it.

Also sometimes when I watch a rider having slight issues- stopping, bad distances, or whatever it makes me anxious too. I think, well if they can’t make it look great, how will I do it? Do I even know what I’m doing or how to ride? It’s silly, but definitely psychological.

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

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

We worked over the grid, building it up from poles, to x-rails, to an x-rail oxer. Kept it at two jumps only, and then built in a small course. Oats was very blahhhhhh about the grid at first, so we’d jump the x-rail or whatever, and then GALLOP around the arena, bring him back, and go through the grid again.

Anything to keep that engine firing!!

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

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

As much as I hate grids (and boy, do I!) they are teaching me some very valuable lessons about pace, not chasing (still do it though) and keeping the engine going and making corrections WELL ahead of the first x-rail.

So we worked over the course, and funny enough we got short distances, one or two long distances and some of my patented crank-his-head-sideways to make a distance on a diagonal line (ooops…thought I’d gotten over most of that) but you know what? It was ALLLL good. It went really fast too, holy.

And slowly, bit by bit, those jumps that I deemed no way became the jumps we were doing with no problems. I was a bit surprised by his ‘jump’ stupidly-because hello- if you jump higher than x-rails, you get more of an effort…And these are not high jumps by any stretch of the imagination, we’re talking like 2’3” or close to it here, hahahah. We even did this crazy rollback type thingy to a skinny *that I literally NEVER got in straight to* was nooo problem.

And even the small oxer in the grid got higher too- I didn’t even notice but it was a hole higher than what the previous rider had! Haha.

Good: Pace was good, rhythm was improving, gridwork better. Staying in a comfort zone is probably the healthiest mentally I have ever jumped at. Better at letting hands go forward instead of throwing upper body. He was staying more interested and focused on the jumps when I got the pace nailed down.

Bad: Still making him go in crooked. Grabbing back at the reins interrupts the rhythm, have to learn to trust him and just grab mane (he was perfect when I did). Need to land more on feet, when getting used to more of a ‘jump’ feeling. Need to focus on keeping a better track and not getting bumped out of my track when I get a surprise jump. Still had feelings of anxiety mixed with ‘no biggie’ feelings.

Continue doing: Visualizing the jump lesson from Thursdays on my walk to work. Really focus on riding the correct ‘feel’ and if you get distracted, go back in your mind and do it again!

I can’t be the only one who has trouble with gridwork?

AKA gymnastics…Like this here as demonstrated by evention trainers Dom and Jimmie Schramm.

Wow, I do NOT like them. But we tackle them anyways in lessons (grudgingly sometimes, hahah). My issues are- snapping forward too much with my upper body, not knowing what to do with my hands- hold back? not enough release? Release with my upper body instead of my hands? And worrying about Oats dying halfway through the grid line and us stuck in the middle! (this actually did happen yesterday) Oh and that causes me to ‘chase’ him through the grid.

So, issues run rampant with a presumably ‘easy’ exercise. Jeeze?!

Just sit and let the horse do all the work eh? Well if I do that, I fear we’ll end up sitting in the middle of the grid!!

Always start with trot poles in a grid

Give me some single fences in a course and phew, we’re on easy street (minus my paralyzing fear of jumps sometimes, ha and my need to chase to a spot…). So how do we fix these issues?

Well, by doing a lot of them, duh. We also did some…dun dun dun..ONE-handed jumping! We have done some no-hands stuff on and off, but I don’t think I have done a lot of one-handed jumping or gymnastics.

We warmed up by cantering a circle one-handed and Oats was pretty good at it, we ran through the gymnastic one-handed (well, there were definitely a few failed attempts where I grabbed my contact back with both hands…!!! survival here!!) and then off the three-jump gymnastic, we cantered to a single tiny vertical on the long side- it rode well sometimes, long sometimes, and one short distance. The long distances really surprised me! If I am being honest, I am more comfortable with the short distances but want to encourage Oats to feel okay with ‘going with it’ for a longer one. And he is! Progress?!!!

And then gradually add in the fences

And then gradually add in the fences- photos from summer 2012

I felt like a cowboy! Yeehaw! Haha.

I really liked doing that exercise- there were definitely some ‘uglier’parts in the gymnastic, eek, but we survived, were totally fine, and accomplished the work.

Go Oats go!