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. 

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!  How awesome is that? I think we bonded even more because we got to camp next to each other for two nights 🙂

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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!

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Forever is a long time: Jump lesson update

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Jump 2 in the combination.

And spoiler: It was probably the worst I’ve had all season- even worse than the one I almost fell off in? And here’s the other shocker- while I was annoyed it was going badly while I was riding, I also felt…Fine. It was like, ok this is how it is going to go. I can deal. I’m glad I got media because my friend has been coming to take videos and I LOVE seeing her! She is so cool. Just a blast to be around. 🙂

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We conquered the combination! One small win.

So what went down? It started pretty well actually! We schooled over a few x-rails (and I have to say, trotting bigger jumps really helps Oats and I to rock back, so maybe I should ask for that or practice it on my own next week…I hate it though!), and then schooled over the combination.

A few weeks ago, the combination was my BIGGEST bugaboo. HA. Now this week, we were crooked as all hell (coming out of the left is tough for us…the drift is real!) but we could buckle down and like, ride it? Rather than sitting and freezing up, ha.

So, the combination. Good! Check.

But when we went to ride the course, Oats got spooked by our friend in the field and slammed on the brakes at the first jump (the rocks) and then I looked down and stopped riding to the second jump (every time, as it turns out…the planks), and I started losing focus.

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This one rode fine for the most part- off a bending line (generous) plank jump.

The rest of the course rode pretty well at the lower height- no complaints there.

But then, I started losing touch of ‘soft’ and out of the saddle riding and basically every time I tried it, I disconnected and Oats stopped. Argh! So, that’s something to work on. He felt me disengage and he was like, nahhh…

Every time I buckled down and RODE he was like oh yeah no problem! So, clearly my ‘being soft’ is the issue here.

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This line was a yawn, but it’s also where I started losing my shit…Ha.

And then when we went to ride our second course, a few more people joined and were hanging outside the ring, with a few dogs in the shadows. Of course Oats could NOT handle it…And I mentally had a lot of trouble regrouping, and adjusting my ride and my mindset. I guess I couldn’t handle it either? He wasn’t even being that spooky, hahah. I was frazzled!!! Jumping is hard enough for me without added distractions, though in hindsight, I do value them. If i can maintain focus in the ring for my jumps, that can only be a good thing for horse shows eh?

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I love that we match this jump perfectly!!

But…Yesterday I let it get to me.

We got around, and funny enough it was at the most boring, non-interesting jumps that we had the stops at (because I thought I could stop riding at them, obviously). Hah!

Oats is a saint though, and while he will definitely call me on my bullshit, he’s very honest and forgiving. He’s like, oh ok let’s do it! Literally doesn’t really notice from jump to jump. And let’s face it- I need to be more like that myself.

Low maintenance (and yet I still wish to be maintained)

I  had a really interesting chat/session with a friend yesterday (in lieu of me going to the gym at lunch, which is my preferred routine). Because I am still recovering from some of my minor injuries (shoulder, the scrapes on my hands, knee and elbow, now with added bonus of shin splints), I figured I needed to take more time off from working out that I wanted to.

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Healing! This was on Friday.

So we met and had a great conversation! I was kind of struggling mentally with the (relatively minor) setback I had recently, so it was really nice to talk about this stuff with someone who can help me ‘reframe’ what is going on in my head, and help me make a plan for my future rides, and runs, where I’m not running through disaster scenarios in my head, or reliving tripping and falling. If I am being honest, I had falling nightmares after Thursday. All I could feel when I was trying to sleep was this scary ‘rocked’ feeling?

Ugh.

And this weirdly triggered some pretty intense riding anxiety. A ‘physical’ anxiety, if you will? When I went to ride Oats, and he was lame (and now sound), I just couldn’t deal. Physically I’m not even badly hurt, but for some reason it felt serious, like wow…I could get hurt doing this (riding, running, whatever) in a way that doesn’t feel real most days. Or at least, I don’t care.

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This one started healing really early!

Now I do. For now anyways!

I have to tone it WAY down this week. My shin splints hurt so badly this morning I limped to work. That was idiotic. I’m making the big step to walk home from work (can’t run), and get a lift in tomorrow, which is strangely difficult for me to swallow. I don’t WANT to get a lift in? I want to run.

I’m clearly still healing, and this is hard for me to take.

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this one remains the grossest. Not that painful, but it got stuck to my breeches. YUCK.

So my friend and I worked on a plan for my rides (mentally mostly) to make sure that when I go out to ride, I do not bring this negative, ‘triggering’ mentality with me. I’m looking for fun, easy, happy, positive rides. Productive? Sure, can be. But is it fun? That’s the most important.

I had to work on this mindset last night, I was back in the indoor (I am VERY afraid of bringing back his weird 2-week lameness???) so I have been riding in the indoor. Plus my shoulder is messed up, and I have on and off numbness in my foot from the freaking shin splints. You should see me dismount…It’s not pretty. Lots of cringing, and a slowwww slide off Oats.

It’s not as fun, but whatever. He was very good, nice floaty trot, but he was heavier on my hands, draggy through transitions, whatever. Typical Oats stuff. But if/when I’m having kind of a tougher day mentally, this sets me off into a ‘perfection’ spiral, if you know what that means?

Luckily I had JUST worked on defusing and moving on that morning. So I did that! I didn’t get tense, clench up on him, anxious or anything. If I felt like we were getting too ‘into’ it and intense, I moved on and did stretchy trot. I thought ‘calm’ and ‘moving on’ when it got too much. Plus I smiled! I miss riding. 😉

It’s weird that a physical pain (falling) translates into me being extra-anxious and hard on myself and my horse…But that’s kind of where I am. I’m working my way back, and I feel hopeful that we can do it! I want to be challenged, I want to have fun. I want to learn, try, fail, achieve and succeed again. I miss that (and honestly, it’s only been like 3 weeks. Hah!).

Popular Manipulations: Jump jump!

So I am feeling MUCH better this week. Halleleujah!!!! The nausea and sore throat, coughing, cramps and general miserable-ness finally abated on Wednesday. Now I just randomly cough up horribleness and my nose runs, but hey, I’ll take it!

While my immune system was attacking me, I had a lot of time to feel awful and stew about it. That stewing made me take action- and I am making lots of appointments now to get on top of my health!

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From last week, when I was actually riding worse, ha. 

And my riding felt soooo much better last night- I had more energy, even though I protested about jumping the course for a third time and instead opted to just jump the 1 line and diagonal that I botched during my second round. Hey, baby steps right? We discovered that I am still riding quite defensively while on the slight ‘downhill’ leading to me kind of hunching with my shoulders, instead of wide open shoulders and elbows in, instead of chicken wings.

This affects my release and makes me feel defensive!

So, I’m writing this down to make sure the plan next week is ride a whole bunch of smaller fences…All going downhill. I am happy to say that I didn’t get left behind as much this week (phew!) and my brain didn’t fall out when we raised a few of the jumps (though they still looked small, ha. Why is that?!).

So, I am getting more comfortable with ‘riding’ my jumps and line in the outdoor but I have the occasional defensive hunch that happens when we are going downhill. I think practice and time will fix that, in fact I feel pretty confident that it will!

Oats was a good boy as always, even when the wind picked up and it got really grey and rainy out! I was SO OVER riding in the rain by that time hahaha and just wanted to be done! 😉

Nothing really gets him excited, haha.

Putting the work in: CDRC dressage show recap!

I forgot that I was too busy to update on my  jump lesson (last Thursday) but it was a very good, solid and workmanlike lesson. Oats was stiff and sluggy for it when we were warming up, so I was reminded by my trainer to limit my expectations for the warm-up and deal with the horse I have, in the moment and on the day. So true! Fortunately he warmed up and was moving better after a slightly longer warm-up.

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All screenshots courtesy of Nicole G.

Dressage lesson was on Friday with Sam and it was very encouraging! One thing I wasn’t so sold on were re-visiting my canter loop F-X-M. We kept swapping in the past, and I felt very unsure about it. We worked on it, and nailed it! And then I promptly forgot how to ride the transition to trot at ‘x’ and then pick up the right lead…Yikes. These tests involve much more ‘riding’ than I am used to (I find the intro to dressage a lot more ‘sitting pretty’ which I and Oats are good at. The actual physical riding part? Not so good, and needs a lot more work).

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Anyways the day of the show, the weather was horrendous. In Victoria I heard it was sunny, gale-force winds, hailing, and raining. Up at the show in Cowichan, it was 1 weather- tornadoes. Small dust devils were whipping up in the ring, and it was just chaos. I had sand in my teeth, hair, eyes, ears. Everywhere. It was just so awful and distracting. I wanted to leave!!!

But hey the show must go on?

We warmed up and Oats was feeling good, pretty jazzy considering how miserable the wind was. His left bend wasn’t very good though, and he was leaning heavily on my hands in the trot. His canter felt a tad rushy and unbalanced, but no worries, we could work on that…It was just hard to canter left, because you got a face-full of sand every time. I couldn’t really see where I was going. Poor horse too, yikes… And my friends came to watch! I felt awful for them, dealing with the insane sand and wind in their faces for hours. Troopers, all of them!!

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I was feeling good about putting front shoes on him early though. Score one for me!

We went in to the test and we had a good centreline halt, and then botched the  pattern (First Level Test 1 has a 10-metre turn to the centreline), where I left early and just sort of turned…at will. I honestly couldn’t see, so I think that had a bit part of it.

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The test rode pretty well, I was happy with Oats’ canter, his turns and some of the transitions were a bit sucky as I let my reins get way tooo long at the end.

We finished, and then prepared for my bigger challenge- First Level Test 3. Counter-canter loops, here we come!

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I am VERY pleased to say that we conquered the canter loops! I rode them too conservatively, making the too shallow, but I think that is an easy fix for sure (again I couldn’t see very well at all), and Oats tripped over part of the dressage court fencing (it was on the ground because it kept getting blown over!). Whoops!

I also flat-out forgot to ride my transition to ‘x’…yes even though I knew that was a tricky one that I had to ride more strongly. I tuned out for it, and Oats broke. Damn! 100% my fault though.

Otherwise, the test flowed nicely, I kept my reins (mostly) shorter and we did what we came to do- conquer those canter loops! 🙂 Yay! We wrapped up and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out. Good god, the wind. I don’t know what my scores are, but I’m happy with the efforts and with how saint-like Oats was while dealing with challenging weather conditions. What a star!

Falling into pieces

I honestly haven’t been updating much because this week has just been incredibly stressful and drama-filled and it’s been too much to deal with. I think I am coming out the other end but yowza, what a shitty week. I don’t even really want to go over it on my blog because I feel slightly traumatized by it and it’s just…no. Ugh.

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This is actually a screengrab from a few weeks ago, when I had a rib injury. 

On happier news, I have been having some lovely jump lessons on old Oats! Had a great lesson last week, and this week- while still having some bobbles, ugly jumps and such, I’m coming out of my rides just feeling OK, smooth, calmer. You know? Feeling good, totally fine and leveled out. This is in stark contrast to my other, more anxiety-filled lessons that had such highs and lows that I came out of my lessons feeling like I’d escaped?! With what, my life? Hah. The jagged peaks and valley lows aren’t really there anymore. I am learning to ride leveled-out, calmer and just…with a lot less anxiety and emotion attached to the lesson.

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Go Oats! 

Are they perfect? HAH no. Are they good? Yes. Am I having fun and learning new things, re-learning old things, working on my position, enjoying what my pony is capable of, and appreciating it? YES!

Even yesterday, after leaving work crying, sick animals and just…fraught, I wasn’t in a good mood to ride. I was grouchy, tired, upset and stressed. I complained about it to my friend at the barn and she said- I know exactly how you’re feeling, I had that this week too. But you ride, have your lesson, and you’ll be smiling before you know it! You will always be glad you did.

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And you know what? She was 100% right.

(She is also taking lessons on old Oats on Tuesdays, and I’m LOVING the glowing updates she gives me on how much of a professional he is being for her, and a gentleman. YAY!)

I rode, screwed up, fixed it, made new mistakes, and kept going. And it was good!

We worked over a small trot-in grid, x-rail to a small oxer. We then built it into a small course, where we went off course a few times, haaah. Clearly my mind wasn’t really with it last night. But was that a big deal? Nope! Just regroup and keep going. 🙂

We are now coursing 2’6” fairly confidently and feeling good about it. Now that is priceless.

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!!