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!

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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.

A Halloween riding lesson

The horse knows when you know, and knows when you don’t know. Ray Hunt.

And boy, ain’t it the truth!

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So much candy…Aftermath

Last night was our semi-private dressage lesson with Karen Brain, and we worked on a VERY deceptively challenging exercise- a diamond pattern, using the dressage letters in the ring as a guide for the diamond.

The goal: Straightness to each letter, horse forehead lands on the letter, and then a mild pivot – front legs only- to the next letter in the diamond shape.

The reality? A muddle of lateral movement, extreme wiggling, fussy behaviour, sucking back behind the leg, throwing hips around, front legs move too laterally again…Oh it went on!

Also the reality: Riding lessons during Halloween night= nonstop fireworks. Constantly! UGH it felt like we were riding during some sort of war. The horses were as good as gold though and saved our butts. I think it also helped that the exercise was very technically challenging and required a lot of focus, so not a lot of ‘fluffing around’ time for them to start getting silly.

The exercise was at the walk, and then we’d go walk- canter-walk from each letter in the diamond shape. It became QUITE evident that the pieces would fall apart quickly here- and we, as riders, didn’t really know what we were doing…And the horses picked up on it fast.

Oats expressed his concern at the exercise by ‘dolphin-leaping’ instead of say, picking up a nice canter. HA. He did it a few times and luckily I didn’t get unseated, but I sure did lose my reins and had to collect them up in a hurry!

We got say, 2-3 nice transitions out of oh..100. And that is progress! It was a very tough and technical lesson, but everytime I got frustrated or annoyed, Karen was like this is hard, it’s hard for the horses and hard for you so just keep trying and something will work out. It did!

Lots of learning last night for sure.

Honey Bunches of Oats does dressage!

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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!

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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.

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

Back in the show ring

I sort of on a whim entered the local schooling show series hosted by Cedar Vista with Oats on Sunday. I had a lot of reasons: read excuses- about why I shouldn’t, and only one why should- because I want to!

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Thanks to the Cedar Vista stables hosting a friendly show series. It was also freezing yesterday!

I missed the season opener in April because I was in Mexico *SO WORTH IT so this one was my first show in many months- since July of last year, actually. I down-scaled what I entered (from 2’3” to 2’0) to minimize my horrible show nerves. Funny enough, when I made that decision I instantly felt a weight (nerves) lift off my shoulders. Phew! It felt a bit strange to be entering that height when I just jumped some really decent 2’6” oxers in my lesson on Thursday, but I have a very challenging time managing both my show nerves and Mr. Oats himself that this was truly the best idea.

And Sunday dawned wayyyyy too early (ughh) and I was up and at’em with Oats at 6:30 a.m.  We loaded up at 6:45 and were at the show grounds to start warming up, get our numbers and registration, learn our courses and start the show at 8 a.m.

Oats was a bit strange- tender footed, not very forward, quite ‘sticky’ and rude/balky. When I sharply reminded him about forward, he threw a big buck! And when we worked over the warm-up course, he was balky, head-tossing and ready to start fussing and bucking! Uh oh, first show back issues? I SO didn’t want to get bucked off!

But..the silver lining? Because the jump height is only 2’0”, I was able to school Oats without having a care in the world about the jumps. They were just ‘there’ and I could do what I needed with his drama-rama and it wasn’t a biggie.

He also didn’t look at a single thing, and wasn’t spooky the whole day! Just sticky, balky and throwing some sassy bucks here and there. HA, good thing it was a jumper day and not hunters…

We rode our classes, some jumps better than others, I had to work SO HARD to get him ‘going’ and he was sluggy, slow and sticky. But, jumped all the jumps, and didn’t buck me off, haha. That meant our time sucked (for match the clock) but others went off course, had horses that stopped or ran out, or had a few rails. That meant we still placed in all of our three classes- and not too bad either actually.

Finished the division with a 2nd, 3rd and 5th place. And Oats is getting shoes for the next show. A good season opener for us, as I have a devil of a time managing nerves typically and stop riding. Yesterday (longest day ever) I could’t stop riding!

Kudos to my fellow riders, who all came home with championships and reserve championships- I was practically the odd man out without one!

Being appreciative

Rode Oats a lot this past week/weekend (Thur/Fri/Sat/Sun/Tues) and while I can’t even really remember how my rides went, with the exception of a fun jump lesson and some small jumps/polework on Saturday, I remember one thing:

I love riding him! I feel very appreciative to have him in my life, eating $$ and all.

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Photo courtesy of Nicole G. I love it so much! Big D and his mini-me.

I saw a photo my trainer took of Oats and his buddy Donato (Big D) being reuinted in the field and it made my heart sing with joy. He was so happy! The photo was sooo cute! I don’t always have these feelings and to be honest mostly take old Oats for granted (it’s like I’m afraid to acknowledge how much of an influence he is in my life, just in case). But, I heard some tragic news this past week about one of my trainer’s horses passing suddenly with a twisted-gut colic, and wow…I would be heartbroken if that happened to Oats.

So, my rides were unremarkable but you know, unremarkable is a good thing these days. I didn’t have my lesson yesterday b/c I skip every other week now for $$$-saving purposes (HA yeah right), and I will have it next week. But, we had a very solid ride focused on circles and straightness down the quarter-line. Easier said than done!

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I am learning how to take screenshots! Still in the indoor though. Proof that we jump oxers, haha.

Also, with more daylight and warmer temps, I’m wanting to actually BE at the barn more now, and my barn friends have moved back so it’s a win-win for all of us here.

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More screenshots- jumping the weird jump!

 

Stay gone

So, after my spectacularly grouchy rage-flounce on Friday, how did the weekend go?

Well, fine I guess.

I spent Friday in a determined angry funk. Saturday was ok, nothing amazing happened and all of the events that got cancelled on Friday stayed cancelled, so I didn’t really do too much anyways.

I did go on a short run with my husband in the late afternoon Saturday- we did some hill work, which was pretty good, cold but good. Oats was fun to ride, though my shin took a beating when we misjudged a turn and took out a jump with my leg…Ouch! Have a bruise on there now, hahah.

Some light jumping, nothing too fancy, also some no-stirrup work which has me feeling pretty righteous actually!

Missing tail!

Missing tail!

Sunday- I came to the barn and to my ultimate dismay…Oats IS MISSING half his tail??!! ARGH. His neighbour horse-friend, Jim, is eating his freaking tail. ARGHHHHHHHH. It looks so goofy now. I talked it over with Jim’s owner and we will be addressing this with fencing when she has the $$ to put into more fencing. In the meantime…She braided his tail to keep it away from hungry hungry Jim, and I had my friend Emma braid it last night when I saw it had come loose again. Maybe move to keep it in a tail bag next? SIGH.

Close up of tail.

Close up of tail.

Oats also got a bit of jump torture on Sunday as well. I had a wild desire to jump the mounting block, so I set it up like a big arrow, and jumped him both ways–with the arrow, and against the arrow-head. He was quite amenable to jumping it with the arrow, but against it? WELL. He was very perplexed! He wiggled, wobbled, stopped. Was quite sure that this was wrong! This is not a jump!

Jump the mounting block? Sure!

Jump the mounting block? Sure!

I coaxed him over the arrow-head at a trot twice, and let him canter it in the direction he was most comfortable with–I wanted to leave it on a good note for a good pony. He did try hard, even though he was very confused with what I was asking him, haha.

Um, no.

Um, no.

Last night I had another session with my equine counselor, and we confirmed that I am on the right track. She said I’m at maybe 50% right now, and with time will gain my confidence back, slowly. I am developing a level of body awareness that feels really cool though, and I’m giving myself chances to make the right choice for me. Sometimes that means bowing out of jumping the course a second time, or maybe I do it, but I acknowledge how it makes me feel.

More and more, I feel like I can make things happen when I am riding, I have agency. They do not just ‘happen’ to me anymore. The great distances I’ve been getting? Making that happen by allowing Oats to move forward more freely. Basically, managing will be the name of the game and I will have to work on maintenance with this issue.

I love it, weirdly. I am creating my reality, rather than letting it steamroll over me as a victim.