Working Equitation clinic with Darcy Henckel

This past weekend for a change in gears- we took part in a 2 day clinic with Darcy Henckel!

I think Oats liked her too!

She was very friendly, agreeable and horsemanship-focused, something Oats and I really appreciated. It was a very focused weekend that reviewed how we approach each obstacle, and obstacle work in general, through a relaxed, calm and horse-forward approach.

Bridge was no problem for all the horses! Photos courtesy of Stella French.

Oats was a gem but I WAS prepared lol. I rode the absolute snot out of him on Friday, after not really wanting to ride on Friday (freaking tired man) but I knew I kind of had to, to prepare him to behave for the weekend. He was pretty lazy on Friday, so I was going to call it a day, until I lost his shit spooking and spinning violently at a pony that he sees every single day, soooooo I figured he had a LOT more to give. And boy, did he! We hand galloped for 35 minutes, and he STILL had energy to do another huge spook after that. Face palm.

I swear I was trying to smile, ha.

I called it after his second spook and we cooled him out outdoors. He was so sweaty he was lathered white with sweat. Gee, thanks Oats… I gave him a calming paste the night before, and then Saturday came to the barn to longe the sillies out of him before our session in the AM. Meant a very early morning for me, but you know what? 100% worth it. He was very well behaved for both days, and I was NOT taking any chances of him being nuts or too silly.

Ok now I am trying to smile better ๐Ÿ™‚ Through the figure-eight with is more like double-D’s!

He was calm, quiet and cantered nicely in a group. He approached the obstacles with focus and attentiveness, only really losing it at the gate on the second day when he spotted some horses unloading near the entrance of the arena and wanting to look at them instead. Can’t blame him for that!

I really liked how calm, quiet and attentive the trainer was. We weren’t pushed, nobody was, for anything that was too much. A good focused day was had by all ๐Ÿ™‚ And I learned more about the obstacles- so many things to recall, ha. A lot of pitfalls you can fall into.

Some really lovely counter-canter

After a lot of strenuous trying, haha. Dressage lesson last night, and in the theme of our dressage lessons- I get SO much out of them! I feel like while I am spending a lot of $$$$$$$ on lessons, they have really strengthened my relationship with Oats. This can only be a good thing, right? ๐Ÿ˜‰

No dressage media so from an older horse show- we were probably schooling First here?

Last week we worked on me at the canter, not twisting. This week my lesson partner and I first tackled the infamous 3-loop serpentine from the First Level Tests. No joke, this serpentine was the BANE of my existence when I was showing in First Level (now haven’t shown dressage in like 2 years, thanks COVID and injury) soooo I wasn’t super thrilled to start off the bat with that challenging exercise.

BUT, ye of little faith it went super well!

We first schooled the exercise in the trot, because you can really work the angles here if you do it right. You don’t need to make it super round, you can sort of ‘straighten’ and then leg-yield casually back to the wall. When you get good, THEN you can make it round. But it can be tricky to hold that lead!

And you know what? Oats nailed it!! Right off the bat?! I was stunned. Then I was like, ok fine, that was his good lead (right), it’ll be worse on his left. But then he did it so perfectly to the left that we repeated the exercise twice and called it good. Who is this horse?!! I love it!

So then we upped the ante: Real counter-canter work. And this, friends was NOT easy for me- my brain felt like a tangle of spaghetti, it was confuzzling haha. But we persevered, worked through some things in a nice and challenging, but doable way, and we got it! We got it on the right, and then went back to the left, which was the harder lead to hold counter-canter in.

Go Oats!! Really loving our rides. ๐Ÿ™‚

The future and the past

We had our fifth dressage lesson back! Oats was quite good for it, really he is a pony that just shows up and nails lessons, isn’t he? Funny considering he had another meltdown the day earlier about…The corner of the arena? Ha. As he ages, he seems to be very reactive/spooky about the strangest things. Noises don’t really bother him, like geese crash-landing on the tin roof, but the corners of the arena, that never change? OMGGGG! He does seem to be developing a warmblood-like spook in his older years…

From last fall or so, but this is what I face every day- filth!!

Anyways, he was super! Funny that his canter coming back into work has been 100% better than his canter BEFORE his serious injury? Like what are the odds?

We also did some trot leg yield, which we were…Not great at. We haven’t done them in 8 months, so it clearly is a work in progress. Not quite so fun as his dreamy, dreamy canter….Where I even got him to trot in a downward transition using only my body/seat. I was so surprised when it actually worked that I lost the contact in that moment, shoot! But wow it felt so good!! ๐Ÿ™‚

From last summer but this is what we’re working on! Sooooo smooth

I am very pleased with his return back to work in dressage-land. Very consistent, even if we do have to kind of work on some resistance/bending in the warm ups (I guess some things never change haha) but his work is holding for longer, and getting more consistent. I am particularly in love with the canter we are getting.

And Oats has now been on Equi-Cal for almost a week, and he gets two pumps of Camellina oil, as he lost weight coming back into work and I don’t want him to lose any more! It was quite the shock for me to see him lose weight, as he has always been a very easy keeper. My guess is coming back into work + Prascend + low sugar hay = struggling to maintain, poor dude. I hope to see progress on his weight soon, and also his darned shedding. My god, he is FILTHY every single day!

I figure I will keep him on Equi Cal for the rest of the bag, and then by summer transition him back to oats. I just don’t want to transition him to them too early, as he is still gaining back muscle and power from his many months off.

Tough love

I have to give it to myself, because clearly I don’t know how to be disciplined! But with Oats, ha. My trainer had to laugh yesterday when I was talking about how I fucked up my leg (AGAIN). She said, you were so meticulous and dedicated to your horse, and then you go and trash your leg??

I don’t learn, apparently…From 2019 and now again. Shit!!

Yeah unfortunately the same kind of drive and dedication that makes me commit to a lengthy and extremely long rehab program also makes me run myself straight into the ground. Two sides of the same coin…

BUT we had our second dressage lesson last night and it was really good!! He has been a bit resistant, I guess coming back into ‘real’ work that involves not going in a straight line and then walking for 45 minutes has been a bit of a learning curve for old Oats. We worked on that resistance with some very small, quiet and slow sitting-trot circles. He was really good for that. We then worked on sitting trot- big posting trot- sitting trot, trying to maintain a deeper frame, coming down rather than up. Tough for us, as Oats did want to bring his head up with each transition. We then moved on to canter (we take a LOT of walk breaks currently for his safety) and we started with the right lead.

I dream of this canter again…

It’s his nominally better lead, and I was pretty pleased with it. True, still a bit tough to maintain the nice ‘low’ frame in the canter, particularly while going large (wheeeeeee and we’re off!!) but I was quite happy with Oats attempts. I kind of figured the left would be worse, naturally.

Well, he surprised me! Left was really nice! The transitions were a little bit rougher (head got high), but we stuck with it and were rewarded with a lovely downward transition to sitting trot from the left lead canter on a circle. Good job Oats! I was very impressed with his ability to come back into work so well. Phew! ๐Ÿ™‚ Feels SO good. My lesson mate also had a really nice ride on her boy, and was thrilled to see the progress to date. All in all, a great lesson to be coming back to.

Future me hates me

Ha, why do I overschedule myself! (sort of?!). Had a fairly busy horse weekend, with rescheduled lessons on Saturday with Faith, rehabbing Oats, and then a long run! Takes me well into 5pm, apparently. The lesson was…Kind of a big dud. We started off really nicely, with some of the nicest trot I think we have achieved together! And then, the wheels kind of fell off. She tripped big time at the canter when we were heading to canter poles, and then did 1 little bolt, and then started getting balky/stopping at the gate side of the arena- AGAIN.

Wish this was this year. Why can’t I ride better?

She hasn’t been that bad since our last daytime lesson (what IS IT with those??) so who knows wtf was going on in little horsey’s head on Saturday? A shame, because we had a genuinely lovely lesson the past Tuesday!

Oh well, something to work on. It’s interesting, riding someone else’s horse, because I never know what I’m going to get- and it’s kind of a day-by-day adventure, ha. Sometimes good, sometimes pretttty bad.

And Oats? The past week he was a moron to rehab. Afraid of the corners, almost got me off in a big spook on Thur night, wouldn’t go into the corner, running backwards, slamming on the brakes, being super dramatic. I think he’s definitely getting fitter and all that energy has nowhere to go… I had to cancel his Friday rider because I was a bit worried she might get scared off, or spooked off. Can’t have that! He was amazingly good on Fri/Sat, and then back to being a total butthead on Sunday. Go figure?? He also was in a big snit about his hay (ok, it’s honestly terrible low-sugar hay this time. SO coarse) and he was refusing to eat it, poor guy. I can’t have him eating barn hay though, so it’s a no win ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I get why he hates his new low sugar hay, and I am really hoping the next shipment isn’t so awful. ARGH.

I had a LOT of tension from my bad rides on Oats last week, bad lesson on Faith, bad ride on Oats, and it just felt like…Shit. What am I DOING messing around with these miserable animals????

So, I did a yoga video on Sunday night and yawned 100 times. Seriously, my eyes were watering, tears running down my face. Apparently I *was* holding tension, who knew??? Ha. It felt good though to let it allll go. Now, to remember that in my daily ride (wanted to write Battle) with Oats every night!! Be good you little jerk.

The heart of a dark star: Jump lesson update

Ok, you know how I was saying how amazing my dressage lesson was, and how we were killing it? Picture that, but like..the total opposite in my jump lessons. ARGH. My release was all over the place, wicked right drift, you name it, we were doing it.

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Miss this- the sun, having this outdoor, jumps, everything. This year is turning out to be the worst yet!ย 

Oats tripped over the grid we were working on and almost face-planted through it. He couldn’t trot or canter a single pole without hitting it, HARD.

It didn’t feel that harmonious and I wanted to fix it, but you know what? It also didn’t feel scary or intimidating, just kind of frustrating. I want to be back where I was, you know? Confidently cantering 2’6-2’9” courses, instead of…face-planting through a tiny grid. HAH.

Oh well, I guess by lesson 3 back, I have not yet gotten it all figured out, that’s for darned sure. SO humbling and painful, ha.

Lessons we learn…not always the ones we intend on.

Also another gripe about the weather: It sucks. It always sucks here. We don’t get summer, apparently…Just wind, rain, sun, wind, rain and more wind. I’m freezing!!

Oh and I had the farrier out (love his new farrier) and Oats was TERRIBLE for her. Sheesh. What a jerkface. AND he tried to run over one of the girls at the barn in a bid to escape his paddock. He can be the biggest brat ever!

Until tomorrow goes away

And another dressage lesson in the books, and man, I am getting blown away by how soft, forgiving and good Oats and I can be! It’s an excellent revelation ๐Ÿ™‚ I want to be that rider, who has a horse with a soft mouth, who has forgiving hands…And we are getting it! Now I wish I had it years ago, but to be honest, I don’t think I could have.

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Something more like this…ย 

This is just part of the journey I guess?

We added canter to our building blocks of progress, and while the canter does require much more ‘maintenance,’ it also felt way better than it normally does. Also, with the idea of contact as a ‘living’ thing to be constantly worked on, rather than a ‘set it and forget it,’ I am actually having toย ride more. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? What am I doing on a horse if not riding?

Well, the truth is I like to get statue-still and mistake that for perfection. It really isn’t. A horse is a living, breathing, flowing, reacting thing, and so am I. So, no room for turning into stone, ha. Or having a grip on my contact. Ebb and flow, take and give. And my legs need to actually be used rather than just ‘there’. It’s funny it has take me until now to ride like this, but hey- progress?!!

It is humbling but I’m really enjoying how excellent Oats feels!! Yes!

Now if only our TERRIBLE weather would freaking shake out of it. Every day is either cold, or rainy, or cold, rainy and windy. I had to go back to wearing jeans, sweaters and vests and jackets. Efff…. So much for this miserable summer.

It’s only a matter of time before I ruin his life: Happy Valentine’s Day!

Ha, the title seems grim but totally isn’t- I found it and found it amusing! I don’t think I am out to ruin anyone’s life, unless they are really not into horses, rabbits, dogs or running. Then maybe I would be ruining their life!

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My friend Sarah made cupcakes- she is a professional eh??ย 

Anyways, this Valentine’s Day sees me taking the day off the barn, to enjoy a movie with my husband. I was treated to a LOVELY Valentine’s day cupcake at work (yesss!). We had protestors outside this morning, which was fine. I respect the right to representation, and they were polite and calm.

Though it may not seem like it, I have also been doing a TON of riding. The vibe is still…Challenging…right now, and I was in full rant mode about some things I learned about my fellow riders (not my stablemates, other folks who I know), and the theme for this week is twofold:

  1. People do not learn.
  2. People do not change.

At least four people I know this week (god, if not MORE), are stuck in this weird hamster-wheel of logic. If you do the same thing all the time with the same people who are treating you badly, or it’s a negative environment, or whatever…You are going get the same results. Over and over. Rinse, repeat. And then complain/whine/etc loudly and repeatedly how you are the wronged party. HAH!

I would honestly laugh if I wasn’t also concerned about the animals involved. Jeesus.

Otherwise? Oats has been good, if a bit unremarkable this week. Last week felt pretty good, accomplished, this week…not so much. Not bad, he’s still my best baby, but just kind of lacklustre. His jumps last night- we moved our jump lesson to next Wed as my trainer was sick- was just ‘eh’ all around. Obviously I need lessons! Stat!!

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A red velvet cupcake at work. YUMMM

Long weekend coming up, and boy, I think I need it, and a lot of others too!

Happy V-Day ๐Ÿ™‚

What is it they say about the heart? That itโ€™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 wasย 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 wasย 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!ย 

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.

I will spite survive

A few weekends ago I went horse camping with friends! It was for a local trainer’s ‘Wine, Women and Working Equitation’ camping and clinic weekend and it was 100% what I needed! Jane Stone offered the course (limited entry), I had a great time, and Oats is SO GOOD at working equitation! His keenness and flexibility to learn makes me feel just overjoyed!

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You can’t fake a smile like that! Photos are courtesy of photographer Christi Kay.ย 

I took the Friday off work and we hauled the horses and a metric ton of camping gear, hay, grain, water (there is a drought right now) up island for our camping weekend. We settled in and I was happy to see that I could camp right next to my boy!ย  How awesome is that? I think we bonded even more because we got to camp next to each other for two nights ๐Ÿ™‚

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The fixed gate obstacle was no problem for Oats!

Friday was an in-hand session, where we learned how to get the horse to yield and bend based off equitation science principles, specifically to work on aspects of the working equitation obstacles that we would be tackling. I’m not that great at in-hand… But hey low pressure and no fuss!

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Oats is so brave over the bridge!

Dinner that night was pizza from Prima Strada, and it was soooooo good. Yum! I sure ate well that weekend, no doubt. Saturday was our introduction to the obstacles, and we were all in different sessions. Oats was very cooperative about learning more about them (we have done a working equitation clinic before and loved it!) and he’s super good with the obstacles. Some of the other horses were not so sure about the obstacles…My friends each had their own hands full!

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I was…not great at the garrocha pole

Dinner was a potluck and we had a TON of food. I ate too much! hahah. My dear husband dropped off meatballs for me to bring AND cinnamon buns from the Ladysmith bakery (my absolute fav..ever!). It was just nice to relax and talk horses with my buddies.

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Around the ‘cattle pen’

Sunday was the ‘speed round’ and run-throughs of the course. Oats was a superstar~ I had trouble with the garrocha pole (felt like I was going soooooo fast, and had trouble timing it enough to grab it correctly), but man it was so fun.

It was exactly the weekend I needed, as I came home on Sunday night to pack for my flight out the next morning to work on my deployment to Lillooet. Busy busy!