Forget Me

And as we start getting back to normal, I started my lessons back up! Of course after 2 months of no lessons…I desperately needed them. My jump lesson was good and to the point, and Oats got back to it like he had never been away! Small tiny little cross poles, but it felt good to get back to the groove again with my honest as the day is long pony. A good feeling for sure 🙂

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Hard to believe this was in March, and like one of our last jump lessons?!

I then had my first dressage lesson back on Saturday at the freaking crack of dawn, and you know what? I wanted to really take me and Oats back to basics. My hands are too rough, I feel like he is shortening through his neck because of that in the warm-up, and our transitions are now non-existent and tough and leaning. I know a lot of this is because of the weird anxiety I had over the past two months, but that is no excuse for BAD hands and terrible warm-ups and transitions.

So, our entire dressage lesson was a rework on soft hands through the warm-up to start things off on the right foot. And you know what? It felt great! I was able to warm up with soft hands and then incrementally work them up into the contact. Oats was then more responsive off my seat!

Of course, he was still a spooky goof yesterday, so I spanked him pretty hard and then we revisited what we learned on Saturday about warming up nicely, stretching rather than compressing his neck and spent the whole ride yesterday just doing that- and it was good! He was pretty sweaty, but it wasn’t difficult work- it was just comprehensive and warming up with ‘reach’ rather than some sort of weird giraffe-neck.

He spooks because he can get bored, and I’m like, enough of that!!

But then he got down to business, and was reaching quite nicely. I’m so glad to be able to get guidance again. I definitely need it to keep both of us honest, nice to each other, and back on track!! Oats likes it too 🙂

Oats and I then got to explore one of the unused pastures to see if it ok for turn-out, and it was. Oats was in hog heaven, with knee-high grass and weeds everywhere!

Hard but worth it

I had a sports psychologist session with the great Dave Freeze yesterday, right before my riding lesson and it was really insightful. Weirdly I cried on and off the entire time, but I didn’t feel sad- I felt pretty good. And my face didn’t get all red and hot like real tears, I felt fine, no puffy swollen eyes, nothing. It was just emotion, coming out like how it wanted to!

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Whee! Jump jump. From a lesson a few weeks ago.

(As a non-crier, it felt weird).

Anyways, it was a lot to go through and I felt kind of wrung out by the end, but I have some valuable tools to work with and the best part- I was able to head straight over to my lesson after and put it into practice!

Basically to sum it up all I have to do for riding:

  1. Show up
  2. Give it my best
  3. Manage my mistakes
  4. Learn
  5. Look for high powered FUN!

Easy right? Ha! But yes some good things to work on.

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Go Oats go!

I went into my lesson feeling pretty good! Almost immediately I had some ‘external bubble’ things to deal with- it was freezing, so I was shivering and had to grab my gross old barn jacket to wear. No problem, addressed.

Then, Oats was really draggy and non-interested in my warmup. High headed, kind of frustrating, slow off the leg, reins not there, spooky and generally not paying attention. Spooks? Over and done with. Letting it go.

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Funny thing, this was a very awkward jump. Looks fine in a still eh?

Lazy? Deal, don’t dwell.

I was actually pretty good at managing my emotions well in the warm-up, whereas I know I wanted to get frustrated. But you know what? Regardless of how he warms up, I can manage MY emotions- I can’t manage his. So, I will do that!

Anyways, the warm up for the course was good for the first half, and then the second half I got left behind a few times, Oats was hesitant and backed off. No problem. I will go around and try it again! See how that goes. (better).

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Jumping the coop. It is so pretty!

Course time- I was a bit nervous- see the backed-off part…But I thought, hey let’s just see how this goes? I make a mistake, I manage it. No biggie. And you know what? It rode really nicely! Not perfect (HAH) but pretty darn good.

We did the course once, and I had some fleeting thoughts of doing it again, but decided against it. I have to minds of this. Sarah A and Sarah B.

Sarah A: You are a chicken! Why didn’t you ride it again? It went so well, what are you afraid of, screwing it up??

Sarah B: The course went well and you managed all your minor errors. Nice work. Why don’t we take that good feeling home and know that you can be kinder to yourself on a day that you already did a lot of personal work? There is always a next time to ride a good course.

See where I am going with this? It’s tough. I want to be Sarah B all the time 🙂 And if I was, I probably wouldn’t even be writing this! Moving on…ha.

I Hate Canada Geese!

They shit over everything, are just so gross and loud and annoying, AND they are a real safety at the risk. They have been out of control at the stables recently and it’s getting frightening. Last night they were crash landing on the roof, scrabbling wildly on the roof, taking off, crash landing again, and then walking up and down the roof to launch off the front of the arena. This of course was scaring the shit out of the horses in the arena, who thought they were under attack!

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Oats would prefer ‘Pony Parking Only’ but Dressage Queen is ok too!

Not Oats of course, but he is basically a saint. And also there is a limit to how perfect he will be while horses are losing their minds while 30lb birds are crash landing on a tin roof, over and over and over again. It was nerve-shattering for ME!

I knew I couldn’t be the best, most focused rider during these circumstances. I tried a few transitions (meh) and some lateral work, which was ‘ok’ but I just couldn’t be the rider who could ignore how LOUD and distracting something crashing above my head constantly was. Just absolutely destroyed my focus. ARGH.

I did appreciate how great Oats was about it all, though. Man, he is a saint.

I also have a really hard time with loud noises. I can’t handle them- they scare me and I find myself constantly on edge. So yeah, this wasn’t really idea then either…Oh well.

We did have quite a few fun rides this weekend, and on Monday we worked on some x-rails at the trot and it went quite nicely, no big ‘launches’ or anything. Foot-perfect for those even though he literally face-planted over a pole that day. Hah!

The countdown is ON for my trip though, and no Canada Goose is going to ruin that for me!

The best version of myself

Had a dressage lesson last night, and it was not easy. It was actually really tough. It was hard on Oats emotionally, and he tried some drama in his horse language “This is HARD” and “I don’t want to DO this” but you know what? Since my journey with Oats, I have been trying to not buy into any horse-drama.

And it has been working. I wants Oats to see the best version of myself, all the time.

We worked on developing some lateral techniques (renvers or travers? This is not my area of expertise, obviously hahah) and it was very challenging. The key here was to TRY. Keep trying. It is not perfect, and it will not be perfect. Keep going.

And since I am on a random video rampage, enjoy this video of Oats and I doing some coursework outdoors in 2015 (this is the same day he spooked while I was leadlining my mom and she fell off and broke her arm!).

Karen likened it to the horse ‘hokey pokey’ haha.

“You put your right bend in, you bring you left shoulder out, you keep the hip on the rail…” A big horse pretzel!

Oats had some hissy fit moments, where he got very bottled up and hopped into canter, and then started rooting. I kind of wanted to get fussy with him, but Karen reminded me that he’s just expressing himself, which he is allowed to do, and all I have to do is keep working on the exercise. It will work itself out! And it sort of did? ha.

Oats did find the work very emotionally challenging, poor pony. I am working on rewarding the ‘try’ in this type of work, rather than the success of the movement.

It’s funny- a year ago, we wanted forward, forward forward! And now, all he wants to offer is forward and we’re like no, how about we slow it down, and collect it, rather than flying or charging through the exercise? And Oats is like, whaa?

Poor pony, the rules are changing and developing and making life a bit tougher for him.

He got wormed last night too, before he even knew what was going on it was in his mouth and he was like gackkkkkk! Awww….

Rain, rain go away

As I am far behind in my recaps…I did a jump lesson in the pouring rain on Thursday and I did it pretttttyyyy grudgingly- hello, it was pouring!!

Nicole however, insisted we do it to practice for the upcoming SSITS Avalon Derby Cross that we had signed up for and I guess she was right, we needed the experience jumping and toughing it out in all weathers, as it poured rain on our warm-up day Saturday at Avalon as well! Hm..good thing I had Thursday under my belt.

I was feeling weird before my lesson. Kind of angsty- thinking about the show, bummed about the weather, just kind of strange. We came down to the arena and Nicole was bundled up in a tarp like this:

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Photo courtesy of Sarah C. Horses didn’t even blink!

Ha! And Oats, good pony, got a good look at her but then didn’t bat an eye when she was rustling around moving jumps, even when we were like behind her and the tarp was louder. Good pony! The jump course was the same as last week, which I was thankful for, as it gave us another opportunity to work on some aspects that kind of bungled for me–the turns, and forward, and bravery.

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Trainers have to stay dry somehow! Desensitizing horses=win/win! Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

Not that I didn’t still make mistakes- in fact, the final jump (10) I bungled so we looped around and just jumped it on it’s own, and it rode really well! Also the jumps that had oxers went up to oxers- which did make me nervous, and they didn’t ride well for me- I kind of tried to chase Oats past his distance, so they were weirdly chippy.

I was much happier with most of tracks I chose, and we didn’t have any stops or anything. He was a good and honest pony in the pouring rain- I was soaked- and didn’t put a hoof wrong, even with a bunch of new stuff piled behind the indoor arena, his favorite spooky zone.

I did notice that I was much more comfortable with a closer stride and distance, and so was Oats, funny enough. It wasn’t lovely, but it was pretty darn good. Considering the strange nerves I had going in, I was pleased with the ride and looking forward (with more than a little trepidation) to my first-ever Derby Cross event on the weekend.

That recap is to come!

“I’d rather have a horse. A horse is at least human, for God’s sake.”

A quote by J.D. Salinger that made me laugh!

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I ended up riding on Tuesday (my dressage lessons are now every other week instead of each week due to $$$ saving on my end) and I also feel like the progress I’m making required the efforts of two lessons a week, and now I can take a step back to less-often dressage though still often jumping.

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I was feeling kind of tired on Tuesday, but was determined to make a good go of it. Even though the jumps have been tempting me in the arena (ok, so i’ve jumped almost every day I rode..ha) I said to myself – no, today is flat work exercise.

And luckily Oats pretty much agreed with me, though I think he was just glad I wasn’t doing  a full dressage lesson-those are TOUGH! My knee was starting to hurt, and that sucked…But our transitions were not terrible, he was quite forward which was great! Our lateral work, well, as always a work in progress but I was pleased with his efforts at the trot and minimal hissy-fit behaviour. Look at Oats, doing mild lateral work with a relatively pleasant attitude.

He’ll never be a dressage superstar, but he can do it–it’s only in his mind that he holds himself back.

I rode briefly with another young girl at the barn, and I was glad I was there–her leased horse, a younger TB, spooked rather violently when he was mounting and there she was–hanging off the side of the horse while he bolted! He made it like 3-4 steps and she was clinging to his neck, and then she stepped down and he stopped. PHEW! Scary eh?

Because Oats is a saint, he just stopped and watched.

I think the horse was just fresh, feeling his oats and gave her a bit of a jump. Still, when I was heading up to the barn after riding, I asked her if she was feeling comfortable, and if not, to come up with us. She said she was fine, but the horse’s energy rose the minute we were leaving, so elected to join us. Better safe than sorry, and there is always another day to ride!

I was glad she made that decision. Smart one.

Jump lesson tonight–and I’ve been feeling not-great lately, was even glad to not ride yesterday and ended up napping in the evening, feeling crummy. So, whooo knows?!

Persistence

So, this comes up often in my life:

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And yesterday, Oats and I did not have a harmonious warm up to our dressage lesson. He was being an absolute dingbat in the outdoor ring, spooky, snorty, sucking back, getting light in front and stalling out and wanting to run backwards.

It pissed me off mightily and I was near tears, frustrated and angry. WHAT about this summer is making him act like an idiot? Seriously, I have not had this level of terrible rides with him in like, forever. And now he’s spooky and a twit.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

I was also still a bit sore, though not bad, from getting dumped – yes in the outdoor- from his big ‘spin and spook’ maneuver on Saturday so I was NOT in a forgiving mood.

I gave up, huffed and fluffed and we had our dressage lesson in the indoor. He was a bit feisty in the indoor, and made me ‘work for it’ to get to the real meat of the lesson, but you know what? That connection that I seriously was missing started coming back.

I even said it felt like before, when I lose all my ‘power’ in the outdoor ring, that I don’t feel like I have any connection with him. I also know that when I am frustrated and mad at him, I do not give him a fair ride, or the benefit of the doubt. So, it’s a partners problem…

But anyways, the lesson went quite well. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps in the road, but you know what? We persevere, and I did get some great, honest work from Oats. I finally felt like our connection was coming back! He was over his back, listening to me and really giving to me. I like those rides, and sometimes give too much power to my shitty bad and frustrating rides. Now, to gain some perspective…

I was quite pleased with his effort and the level of work he is starting to give me. He might make a dressage pony yet!

Is it true, we only get the horse we deserve?

Resistance only recognizes power: Jump update!

I found this quote, from the War of Art, and found it very interesting, profound and quite applicable to basically anyone’s life.

Most of us have two lives, the lives we live and the unlived lives within us. What stands between the two is Resistance. Resistance is invisible. Resistance is from within. Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from your work. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.  Resistance is not out to get you personally no more than the weather. The more Resistance we feel towards something, the more important it is that we do it. Resistance doesn’t go away. Resistance only obstructs from a lower path to a higher path. Procrastination is the most common way Resistance manifests. This second, we can sit down and do our work. Creating drama is a symptom of Resistance. Resistance feels like unhappiness. A low-grade misery pervades everything. We’re bored, we’re restless. Resistance only recognizes power.

Mine in part too. Why do I want to do something, and am very good at self-motivating, and so bad at doing other things? To take that a bit further- I have goals in my recreational life (horses/running) that require MORE of me. Why am I reluctant to give that?

Mr. Oats is sadly not an Antares halter model...yet!

Mr. Oats is sadly not an Antares halter model…yet!

I had a good jump lesson last night that took me a bit further, and yes my heart was kind of in my throat. I had dry mouth, and felt anxious. But this was what I wanted, more than anything! So why do I try anything in my power to avoid it, at the same time?

We worked over a small cross-rail, to another cross-rail. We built that up to a 3-stride line made up of a cross-rail to a small oxer. Then, a course! Then…The course got built up, and in my brain, that’s where the wheels start falling off.

The first course? No sweat! The second course? *gulp* Start chipping!!! Don’t release as well as you were! Second guess yourself!!

But you know what? Oats remained steadfast throughout. I was very impressed at his ability to keep going, and ignoring whatever was going on in my brain. Yes, this was the first solid 2’3”-2’6” course we’ve done in, oh, forever, but it doesn’t have to be dramatic!

We finished on a very good approach to the 2’6” jump, and jumped it perfectly. To me, that was the biggest success of all- I managed to hold it together, and we did it! It sure wasn’t pretty, or very nice at times, and I did get flustered, and for some reason had a hard time sitting up around the corners (I swear to god, it felt like my upper body was being magnetically drawn to Oat’s neck?!!) and we kind of went off course a few times due to my flustered behaviour, but it was a good. solid.learning.experience. And I’ll take it!

And if I have to circle, or gallop the long side to re-approach a fence I kind of blew at, that’s ok too. Horses are forgiving, and Oats is more talented than I give him credit for.