Honey Bunches of Oats does dressage!

19059340_10154798159558175_8409420220892993734_n

Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I saw this quote in another blog (Medal Slut), and I loved it so much I had to use it~

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – Charles Bukowski

And here’s the shocker-for a reluctant dressage-er, we did REALLY WELL!! Got our personal best scores of all time?! 68.47% in Training Level 1, and 69% in Training Level 2~ can you believe it! I can’t!

19093012_10158823802515191_5384198401653107968_o

The whole gang with their ribbons!!

Rewinding a bit, I had originally wanted to go to the Cowichan District Riding Club’s jumper show on the Saturday, when everyone was going but as I mentioned yesterday we had a packed schedule and no hauler to go up with, soooooo dressage it was!

19149150_10154798159498175_1065007598500670367_n

Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I had avoided the dressage ring for a few years, because it was hard, we were’t good at it, and it tripped all of my high-anxiety issues for showing and Oats did not respond well to my nerves, at all. So, jumping it was. But then, my husband got me some fancy white dressage boots for Christmas, so I wanted to show them off…and well, I had a ride to the showgrounds with my friend and her horse, sooooo…

19059994_10154798159623175_4863484652932653702_n

Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

It was fated! We were doing dressage for the first time in like 3 years!

As you will note, we practiced a LOT in the two weeks leading up the show. Four dressage lessons, even? I was ready. I was still very nervous, but luckily we didn’t have a lot of time to fuss around at the show, as we were running kind of late, haha. I hopped on, did a pretty perfunctory warm-up (Oats was ok, but swapping his left lead for his right CONSTANTLY in the warm up and it as driving me nuts). Anyway, off we went for Training Level 1 and you know what? It went fine. I felt pretty ok about it, despite him spooking a bit in the warm up and getting a little silly.

19148945_10154798159493175_8663459613689102970_n

Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

Funny enough usually at horse shows, I can’t wait to BE DONE and get off. This time? I finished my test 1, and said I want to get back in their and have more opportunities to ride the test! Who is this girl? I was still anxious, but I felt like I could have more time in the ring and really focus on riding.

Cue super long hiatus where Oats got loose and ran over one of the girl’s finance’s foot. Whoops!! He did catch Oats for me though, with Oats pinning his foot into the ground. Yikes! Oats and I hung out for ages..My first test was at 9:50am, and my second one was at 1:50pm!!

I got ready at around 1:10pm and warmed Oats up for the second time. He was TERRIBLE in the warm up. Thundering around, swapping leads like crazy, kind of acting nuts. I had this awful sinking feeling in my stomach.

Nicole was like, hey leave it in the warm- up, and just go and ride your test!

Easier said than done…

But, we entered the ring, started the first half of the test, got whistled out (judge thought we were doing Training 3 mistakenly, so I got to go back out, re-enter and start the test over.) Despite the miserable warm-up, the whistling out, we DID IT. We entered the groove, where I was focused on my test, on my horse, and on my body.

Each moment was there for me, and I wasn’t thinking too far ahead. (I did worry about the canter, ha).

When we came up to the final halt, I just KNEW we had a rocking test. We aced it!! The judge called me over and asked what breed Oats was (a mutt, I said. haha) and she said she really liked him and he was a good size and a very nice mover! WOW!!!!! 🙂

That test? Highest score ever for me- 69%. Good enough for second place for us! YESSS. A great end to a good day. I was very proud of how we pulled it together, and you should have seen how great everyone else was riding yesterday- I wasn’t the only one coming away with some good scores!!

Kudos to my friends for their great efforts, and to the Cowichan District Riding Club for a friendly, welcoming and fun atmosphere.

19029641_10154798159643175_6586725092620216044_n

Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

Foxstone show recap: November show!

On paper (well, in ribbons) this show looked pretty darn good- and to be honest, my complains and frustration comes from a place of progress not fear. So that IS a good thing.

12274697_10156264034065191_3274767242254193105_n

My new show jacket! I love it. A big thanks to my trainer for taking me this day.

Let’s break it down: I placed 2nd in the equitation over fences, two thirds in the hunter o/f classes and a fourth in the flat.Not too shabby eh? Well, I made some BIG mistakes in the jump classes, to the tune of not enough leg at all, and a big add in the the line with some chips, and then a lovely round in my second class to a huge fail at the…last fence…shit! We basically stopped, and climbed over it. Nothing but a total failure to ride the last fence on my part, which was very disappointing.

I lit a fire under my butt for the last jump class- I told myself NO MORE CHIPPING and NO MORE ADDING and oh, no more forgetting to ride the last fence and start congratulating myself too early, ha.

And you know what? It was our best round! I was moving.

Except then I didn’t know how to take that ‘BIG’ energy down enough for our flat class and I totallllllly bombed it. Oats was tense and anxious, and I was handsy and clutching, feeling afraid that he was bottled up and bucky, but not really knowing how, at the moment, to deal with it. Shoooot…

So, I kind of flopped, pulled, got anxious and failed my way through the flat class- we picked up the wrong lead on the right (TWICE! kill me now…) and generally I was kind of frustrated and miserable. Our last flat class was a dream so what in hell was going on?

Well heck, it’s all a learning experience! It is actually nice to take what I’ve consciously learned from the first show, and apply it to the second show.

We didn’t get a fabulous warmup- the outside ring was frozen solid- and so was I, by the way! So we had to just slowly walk around, freezing our asses off, until we could get into the indoor to warm up over fences. The scene there was total chaos, some riders seemed to have a warm up technique of repeatedly falling off…I felt disjointed and a bit disorganized, but Oats was a dream to warm up. The only thing I was annoyed about was his throwing his head around, but that’s just a warm up thing, I’m sure.

We then sat…and sat…and sat…freezing our butts off, while we waited for the final rotation to go- and we were last in the final rotation. Lovely.

I think the issues were clear- not enough energy for our over fences classes until the last one, when I finally mustered up enough ‘go’ for the course, and then WAY too much ‘go’ for my flat.

The sitting really killed our impulsion for sure, and then when I needed to be ‘sitting’…well, we were already in the ring for the flat class and didn’t have that necessary ‘decompression’ time Oats and I apparently need to not kill anyone in a flat class. I couldn’t moderate myself enough. It was 0-60 all the time.

Hm, interesting.

I had a dream that night that I was galloping Oats and I felt a bit out of control, but that I also liked it…It was strange. I felt like that dream was telling me that was what I needed at the show, but was blocked from achieving it.

So, last night I did my equine counseling session with Vicki, and kind of actually ended up re-enacting some gallops from my dreams? Weird eh? I guess that was what I needed to get…that big gallop, the good canter, and the ‘free, floaty, smooth’ trot that I could NOT get at the show.

It had to come up somewhere. So it did. I liked it!

I like seeing the progression, and I’m liking the process. So what if I am frustrated–at least it’s taking me places to see new things about myself and my horse.

It’s funny- when I said I was half pleased, half disappointed about the show, Vicki asked what would make me 100% happy about the show. What if I came home with all first places?

I instantly knew I what I would say–that the competition was weak, so I was the best out of the worst.

That surprised me. I need to be happy with what I am achieving right now.

Foxstone hunter show: Winter series finale recap!

This Sunday we attended the final show in the Foxstone hunter winter series. They offer three horse shows over the winter as a way to tune up a bit and get some exposure. The stable is fabulous, and the people are really friendly and fun to talk to. I highly recommend attending the series- and it doesn’t hurt that the prizes they offer are SO GOOD!

I have now attended two of their shows. Last time I went to this show, I was primarily focused on gaining back confidence. I suffer from performance anxiety, and in general, extreme tension when I’m showing and jumping. I had kind of a tough summer, (lots of falls, just silly ones but they really build up) and I wanted to go out, and just…Have fun. So, I rode in the crossrails division and was the division champion! I like to joke that I am now heading to the crossrails Olympics.

So. Serious.

So. Serious.

This show, I decided I could do the 2′ feet hunter division. And when we rode it, it really wasn’t about the jumps- it was about the canter in between the jumps! Oats was a tad ‘wired for sound’ so he kind of felt edgy, like maybe he was going to pull some SERIOUS shenanigans. That led to the first jump on-course being, well, interesting for a lack of better terms. He kind of lunged forward, like he was going to do his patented ‘leap-buck-buck’ until I go flying off!

[I’m going to add here that my husband joined me and was able to take these pics! Thanks to him 🙂 even though I like to joke that he is bad luck, because I always seem to fall off when he’s at a horse show!!]

I managed to circle him, approach the first fence, and the rest of the course rode beautifully. And then the same with the second, and third, courses. So, I was like, ARGH what is with this horse? The bucking, snorty head-tossing? And then we’re like..so ON when we get rolling?

A step up from the crossrails Olympics?

A step up from the crossrails Olympics?

But, I’m proud about one thing- I did NOT let it derail me. We rode the rest of the courses (and, gulp, managed to survive the flat class) without zoning out, disassociating and falling off! AND a personal Oats victory- managed to get into the ring without him balking at the in-gate and we didn’t even have to take laps outside, he managed just fine in the little area at the in-gate.

In the past, this would have completely destroyed my entire course, and division. I didn’t let it get to that point this time. And, I love Foxstone- I won the draw for my entries for the day, so my division was free! I paid for the office fees and the stall rental but other than that, made out like a bandit. What a nice idea eh?

And to top it off, we are going to the small year-end awards dinner this Wednesday AND my friend, who shows at a much higher height than me (think a foot higher!) is also getting an award. What a nice way to cap off the winter series, don’t you think?!

Great horse show prizes!

Great horse show prizes!

YAY!

“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”

And here is a big horse show report for you:

Foxstone Stables (with Oats photobomb)

Foxstone Stables (with Oats photobombing)

Winner!

Winner!

I went to a horse show this weekend (Cowichan Winter series at the amazing Foxstone Stables) and entered a division MUCH lower than I usually show at.

Yes, think cross rail olympics here.

Why the big drop down? Well, a lot of reasons. Oats’ behaviour, my jumping fears, my extreme performance anxiety, my ‘normal’ jumping anxiety, you name it, I have it.

(Fears, that is. Not a plethora of skills.)

So, I swallowed my ‘sort-of’ pride and entered the low division. And the funny thing- I STILL had a ton of anxiety the night before the show- was awake all night tossing and turning, feeling worried, the rain was absolutely hammering down all night, we had to get up super early, what if, etc etc. I was kind of a wreck.

It was pouring rain when we packed up the car, drove to the barn and loaded up the horses. Just POURING! I was sooooooo ready to cancel. Wanted to badly.

But, I was already there, and loading Oats on the trailer. I guess it was happening!

I felt kind of distracted on the drive up (it’s a good hour or so away from our barn) and when we got to the stables, still felt worried.

But we warmed up, had a nice interaction with the show office staff (who were WELL aware of Oats, and his little ‘reputation’ eek) and the rain stopped. A good omen! During our warmup outdoors, of which were were absolutely spoiled by the lovely outdoor ring with two banks to play with, Oats felt very forward. This is new to me, and he is so rarely this eager.

Gorgeous outdoor

Gorgeous outdoor

I was a bit intimidated, to be honest! I never feel him go like that! But, he was eager and game, and it made our warm-up pretty smooth- and he kept that ‘forward’ pace well into the ring, for our brief ring warm-up.

Two banks to play on in the outdoor!

Two banks to play on in the outdoor!

Then, the rounds started. I still felt SO nervous, but it was nice to not have to worry about the jumps- they were there, but it wasn’t so desperate- like my past rounds have been. They just ‘happened’ you know? I made all the usual mistakes but it was alllllllright.

Oats does not like to stand still, so in between the rounds, we walked up and down, all over the grounds. He loved that, he was very relaxed and cruised around looking interested.

'We are the champions...'

‘We are the champions…’

Then, for the flat class, I was feeling like maybe doing a flat class was a mistake….He was a bit too eager, and kind of felt like he was running down the other riders. And canter in a group? Oats’ biggest nemesis.

Luckily- since this was a low-level division- they let us canter once at a time! Lucky me! So we did it, and my transitions, and actual riding in the canter was spectacularly shitty- but hey, we stuck it out and DID NOT get excused! Or bucked off!

Success!!!

And when the ribbons were announced, Oats and I were champion! YES!  You know, I just needed some sort of ‘win’…Some sort of ego boost that could prop up my failing courage. And this show was just it. Thankful I was able to attend!

We won (and this is big folks, I never win anything!!)

  • A champion ribbon
  • First place
  • Two second places
  • Third (in the flat)
  • An engraved stirrup cup!
  • $20 gift certificate to Victoria Saddlery
  • Candy canes!
  • A lovely scrapbooking card making set

***************************************************

And we waited around ALL day due to hauling up with a friend, who was showing her hot TB in the hunters (for the first time!) – it sucked for her, because she was there at the asscrack of before-dawn, and it sucked for me and Oats, because we left in the dark, and got home in the dark!!! HAHAH.

They did fabulously actually- I was very impressed at how well Willie calmed down in the indoor arena and did his job. They placed well too- 2nd, 3rd, 4th and I think another 2nd? Very close to reserve champion for their 2’9” division.

Nice work!!

******************

But because Oats is still Oats, he still managed to kind of piss me off- I went to put him in the stall my friend and I shared, he tried to RUN out and smushed me against the stall wall- crunching my bad left shoulder AGAIN. That’s the third time this year I’ve injured my bum left shoulder- one time lifting jumps, one time lifting a TV, and now, horse-related. OUCHHHHHHHH.

AH, well…That’s life I guess!

Before/After: The way I was/the way I want to be?

Before: Oats and I in the indoor arena. We had our fair share of struggles at the canter- getting it was hard, maintaining it was hard, bend was hard, not bucking was hard…

Winter Oats- canter

Winter riding- Oats canters: photo credit to Jodie Wright

After: August 2014 at the Sooke Saddle Club. So, we’ve got the impulsion down pat, but we still need a bit of help directing it. His enthusiasm is growing at least, for flat work! It was a fun and successful show (after loudly proclaiming I was NEVER going to show dressage again after our disastrous first few shows this season, wtf?) haha I guess I am back at it!

Sooke Saddle Club

Sooke Saddle Club: photo credit to Ian

AND of course, to be as humble as I can…We have rides that look like this: Oats the Giraffe-horse. Dressage is hard, guys!

Oats the giraffe

Oats the giraffe: Photo credit to Daytona

Following up on this, we had a lesson with Karen Brain yesterday. I am not sure what is going on, but apparently I need lessons to keep me honest, out of Oats’ face, and a better person. Yes that’s right, accountability keeps me nicer, and a nicer rider to Oats (not a pushover, but more solid and asking the right questions). I am NOT a pushover anymore! But I also don’t need to pick unnecessary fights either… I had a blah week, where my rides felt like..eh. Just ‘eh’ …

The last straw was Monday, where I felt unenthusiastic, Oats felt really blah, and he was a spooky, argumentative little punk.

Ding ding ding..Time for a lesson!

And so it was. And, pretty good! Not pretty, but not as ugly as before. We worked on picking up a canter lead on a straight line, no ‘cheat’ bending to get it. And it was very tough but more ‘rewarding tough’ than ‘what is this BS-tough’ that I felt before. Hah. So, we did it! Once! Ahhh the slide into mediocrity sure feels gooooood…(ok we are maybe sort of mediocre but I can at least TRY dressage sometimes!)

But I felt more ‘me’ and Oats felt more ‘him’ with the lesson. We need them, for our relationship building.

Hey this before/after thing is fun. I’ll dig up some (god awful) jumping pix for showcasing sometime!

The Good/Bad/Ugly

10534652_769107759776075_3609139574774172762_n

Oh man, where do I start?

I couldn’t have written this post yesterday or Sunday. I was too pissed off, confused, steaming!

Even now…ARGH.

Let’s start with the good: Had a really nice week with Oats. He did some pony riders for my mom, went in a jumping lesson with me and was GREAT! And we got some great shots out of it! And then we had a fun ride in the rain on Saturday, and then..dun dun dun…horse show on Sunday.

Just a small Appy show, but this is where the Bad/Ugly started:

We warmed up fine, he was moving out nicely until we hit the ring. He refused a warm up oxer TWICE! That is already unusual. He was slacking off behind my leg and lulled me in…

There were like 20 riders in my division, and so we sat, and sat, and sat and got bored and sleepy in the holding pen. Our round came up, and it went okay…I tried for a solid 5 in a line and blew it…got a chip to an ugly 6. Oh well, shit happens eh?

Boy, does it EVER.

My next round, I felt anxious…Underpowered. I didn’t feel like I had him WITH me, you know? He slid to a stop at the FIRST FENCE and I fell off over the jump, and pretty much landed on it.

Yes, I fell off AGAIN at a horse show. That makes two in a row, and my fourth fall off Oats since March. WTF>>>

I felt airheaded, fluffy and out of it. I couldn’t focus? It was so weird. I just kept saying I felt strange.

It’s true, I did. Couldn’t get my head in the game, you know? And boy did Oats feel it. 

We went in for our last round and he stopped AGAIN at the second fence in the line. This time? I got ANGRY. That is ENOUGH of you (and lets me honest, me too) sleepwalking through the rounds and taking me down the freaking daisy path here.

I spanked him, HARD.

Turned around in quick circle, and blasted him over the silly little jump he neatly ‘declined’ to jump over. Then I kicked his ass all around the course. Hesitate? BLAM! Slow around the corners? KICK! I rode him like I was on fire, and damn, if it didn’t go MUCH BETTER.

He is not a stopper, so I have no idea why he was riding like shit.

JESUS.

Let’s not have a repeat like that ever again. SHit! How does it feel like I’m getting better (more effective rider, my position is improving-you should see the pics!!) and getting worse at the same time? WTF is all I can say right now. 

I might take a break from showing for awhile. Clearly, I have some issues that need fixin’

Photo credit to the talented Kourtney Anne.

Image

Oats Oats and more Oats!

Oats Oats and more Oats!

So, you may have guessed I didn’t do a lot of riding this weekend…Due to my being so hungover on Sunday I couldn’t move off the couch. I did get out Saturday, and it was cold and windy and I rode in the indoor. Oats was kind of pissy, bucking during the canter and a bit balky, sucking back, and alternately going too fast to chase after the lesson horses.

He topped it off by clanking me in the face with his head when I took his bridle off. Yeah, thanks Oats! Frick!

Rode yesterday in the outdoor and he was very good. Nice and forward, I’m actually SUPER impressed at the trot we’re getting in the outdoors now with his new shoes. We schooled over a cross-rail line to these lovely tiki jumps (set very low- like 1ft) and he was a superstar about the strange jumps!

Both the tiki jumps and the photos are courtesy of my friend, who is quite imaginative about what fillers/styles of jumps we now have in the riding arena. Silly ponies never knew what hit them!

I am taking part in a group lesson tonight with a different trainer, to broaden my perspective a bit and get me out of my lazy ‘slacker’ rides that I seem to develop when I ride on my own….Well, Oats still gets worked hard-ish, but I don’t feel like I am *accomplishing* enough on my own, you know?

Plus there’s that small matter of falling off at horse shows…Must nip that in the bud soon! Jeeze!

So I am prepared to hopefully work hard and have a positive lesson. And then my next lesson with my normal trainer (private lesson) is on Thursday like usual.