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.

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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!!

How did I get through the day? Weekend recap!

Wow, things were busy this weekend, and yet it felt like a pretty quiet weekend because we didn’t have any races, or horse shows, or concerts or music festivals! What we did have was…

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I was moving jumps around on Saturday and Oats had to help inspect.

Dressage lesson on Friday night: Very nice lesson, quite positive and we worked over walk and trot poles, focusing on the transition canter- trot through the poles, to keep the horses from dragging us downward in the transition. I quite enjoyed that and felt like it kept Oats focused too.

Saturday: Ian had a climbing competition, so I rode in the morning, went for a run in the afternoon and we went together to watch the pros compete in the Highball bouldering competition. It was very impressive! They also had $2 beer/cider, which I appreciated very much 😉

Sunday: Had the best of intentions to get up and run before my Sea Cider outing and that…Didn’t happen. I was dragging ass all week and generally feeling run down, so I slept in and when I woke up I thought it was about 8 a.m.- NOPE! It was 9:50 a.m.! Yikes and I was meeting the girls at the barn for Sea Cider at 11 a.m. Time to hustle!

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Gidget came to work today after my dentist appointment. She’s the boss!

We had a lovely time at Sea Cider- great food, awesome company and some delicious cider samples. What’s not to like?!

Afterwards I decided that even though I was stuffed full of good food and cider, I would not let it take over my whole Sunday. Oats and I went for a ride indoors and worked on some canter- leg yields, with moderate success. I decided to also try moving from leg yield to shoulder-fore in case he wanted to get ‘clever’ and start anticipating the movements…Good ride!

Home time and a run later, gagg was feeling full!

Monday: Chiropractic appointment after work and a ride on ol’ Oaty.

This time I wanted to ride outside but it was just too wet and sloppy. Sighhh, back to the indoors. We worked on the canter transitions- big canter- little canter- in the style that our new dressage trainer showed us (by using trot transitions to train the horse to anticipate a ‘lessening’ in the canter rather than you having to make the transition happen, you let them ‘learn it’ instead. It works by cantering, 1 step trot, back to canter, 1 step trot, back to canter…And then canter, think about trot, your body makes some of the same motions, but you don’t go to trot. Just… a smaller canter, and then back to bigger canter. Thinking TROT but not cuing for it really helps!

It was great but man Oats was steaming after! Clip time already? It has been very warm this fall.

Time to come home: Crazy horse show weekend! Dressage day.

This past weekend Oats and I participated in the Cowichan District Riding Club’s jumper and dressage days (Sat jumpers, Sun dressage). Wow, I am tired! And I bet Oats is too, ha.

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I really like doing these shows because they are very reasonable, cost-wise and the people running them  (all volunteers) are lovely people and offer a very relaxed atmosphere. That being said, I was a bit anxious for dressage day as I was trying my hand at a level above where I normally show (Level 1 test 3, as opposed to just trying Level 1 test 1). Actually I am pretty new to Level 1 in general! Not an expert here!

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We warmed up and Oats was okay…Kind of dragging me around a bit, and getting strong and kind of downhill. My hauler and friend was really helpful in getting me to find a way to fix it, instead of just getting annoyed, haha.

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We went in for Test 1 and it went okay but it was a little rougher, above the bit than I would have liked. Our first lengthen was pretty weak too. Oh well!

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Then it was time for Test 3 and before it, when we were hanging out in the warm up ring, I watched a horse literally rear its rider off. Scared the daylights out of me! I find that kind of behaviour really triggering, and rattles me to see it. The rider was fine, but landed pretty darn hard. It was very frightening, but they rode a nice test regardless.

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Anndd overbent…

Test 3 I felt physically ‘rode’ better than Test 1, but it did not score as well, the judge was definitely tougher and expecting more from us (which we kind of didn’t have at this point, but hey it was a fun experience!).  The canter loops went went well until Oats kind of had a minor hissy fit about it and broke the second loop. Shit!

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Our geometry was off, but that’s a work in progress too, and the judge was very kind and commented that if we fix that, our scores will be MUCH higher. There is hope for us after all! 🙂

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Leg yield- a bit resistant. 

So this is how we scored (and I am happy with it, I know we have lots to work on), but I feel grateful to have this experience with Oats.

First Level test 1: 65% for first place

First Level Test 3: 63% for third place.

None too shabby!

Thanks again to my dear husband for braving an entire weekend of horse showing, my hauler and friend, and my other friend who’s horse had to cancel because he hurt his eye. Shoot! Bad luck.

Never Have Enough

Had an equine counseling session, and we did it in the field! I love riding in the field and it’s been so warm lately, ahhhhh my favourite.

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A few years ago- riding in the field is my favourite! 

Some things we identified- using coping mechanisms like teeth clenching, hands in fists, and biting my tongue are older coping mechanisms (numbing actions) that became a part of me- without me really noticing or knowing. I still use these when I am managing stress, and they have a part to play- to a point. Now, knowing I use these coping mechanisms is important and also the fact that I have them isn’t bad or anything- I just have to recognize that I am using them, and be ok with it!

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Last year- wheee! 

It was a very interesting session, and I know that I will probably have a few more while I manage some anxiety that bubbles up. It’s funny, because things are actually really good right now- which is apparently the best time to manage these little ‘blips’ that come up on the surface.

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And in the meantime? Just be ok with it, and understand that it’s a process to work though. Ah, life! Like horses, like anything- something that requires effort, haha.