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.

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We Got It Coming: Jump lesson!

Back to the indoor doesn’t have to be boring or draggy- in fact, it’s quickly becoming an opportunity to sharpen/refine our skills. Of particular importance, my bad habits of letting Oats motorbike around turns when we are jumping and kind of just ‘give up’. No longer!! This time I am GOING to fix that problem (five years in the making, but who’s counting?!).

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Man!

But yes, we worked on a particularly challenging course last night. Jump height-wise…Nothing impressive. But, we had a circle jump (hard for us), a skinny, some small barrels, a two-stride, and straightness!! to work on.

And it wasn’t easy, or very neat. But, we did improve throughout the ride, which is kind of what I’m going for. Things I am learning and hoping to work on this winter:

  • Fixing my corners, no more motorbiking/forgetting to ride/sitting up!
  • No pulling his head to the left over the jump!
  • No nagging with my leg. Let him relax, then GO for the jump, then relax.
  • Leg stays still.
  • Upper body stays still. Elbows are in shoulders are up.
  • Hands release, shoulders don’t release.
  • Adjustability in the canter.
  • No sitting back when I don’t see a distance and pulling up with my hands. Go with the flow.
  • Both reins used, with contact. This is a tough one for me, as I tend to want to only use one rein with the other flopping uselessly. I get afraid that too much contact will slow him down!

Sooo yeah, lots to work on. But, I did quite enjoy my ride 🙂

Cross-country schooling at High Point!

Sadly I have no real photos but trust me- we did it on Saturday and it went really well! The last time Oats and I were X-C schooling was oh, two years ago? The course was set up at Avalon, but I figured it was time to give it another try since Avalon has since sold their course to High Point, who are very enthusiastic about starting up their own venue. Thank god, is all I can say! I appreciate new blood in the equine field, particularly when they seem like pretty cool people 🙂

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A few girls went up last Monday and I was so jealous. Getting the day off to go up was NOT going to happen though, so I let it go…Until another girl on Thursday mentioned she was looking for a partner to head up on Saturday. A weekend? Sold!!

Ugh it was early though, yikes. Freezing out too. Nevertheless, we packed up the horses, our gear and took them up island to Duncan/Glenora, and my first time at High Point. We met with the trainer (Jane Stone) who was running the x-c lesson for us, and two other riders (all much  more competent than Oats and me, ohhh well).

We started in the smaller field that was jam-packed with jumps! So many jumps! And a big hill too. Oats was jazzed and a little frazzled, he couldn’t figure out wtf was going on. He was game for a few logs, but then when we turned to jump the small green house from the other direction, he quit – HARD. He couldn’t figure out what was going on?!

We just turned and re-approached from the direction he was comfortable with, no biggie.

Went up and down the hill and worked a small course of logs (me) big jumps (everyone else). And then it was time to tackle the big field! Oats was hot to trot on the path out to the big field, but settled really nicely and finally figured out the game- no refusals here for this guy!

Bad news- our path and precision need a TON of work. We drifted, hardcore, and it was bad. Good news- no refusals and Oats jumped really nicely! He really got the game by this point and was really game. 🙂

I was so proud of him, it made up for him being kind of a dink about going into the water (he wouldn’t, and then he did, and then when I wanted to go back in he started getting light, threatening to rear. Oh Oats!).

A great day, and a very good experience courtesy of my hauling buddy (who had a fantastic session on her horse, VERY impressive) and trainer Jane Stone, who made it very doable and approachable even for Oats when he was confuzzled.

Progress, like life, is not linear

Had an interesting equine counseling session last night. We focus on a few aspects of my life during each session. I usually bring up what I want to focus on or what I am struggling with (my parents, riding, performance anxiety, race performance). We are focusing on my race performance right now, and I have been struggling mightily at races. Mad, disappointed, angry at my body for letting me down, bummed about my slower times, expecting better…You name it, I am feeling it!

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Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

My last race was good, but the time was not good. It was good because I ran within my ability and I could breathe the whole race. I was quite pleased with that, and I didn’t burn my lungs out like I have been doing.

What’s the difference? For a long time, I have been relying on the cheap fast energy of adrenaline during races. I don’t have a lot of long-term power to back that up, at all. And it burns out too fast, leaving me gasping, heaving, ready to puke, with legs that burn with lactic acid and feel weak within 1km.

This worked really well for me last year. This year, not so much.

My training has been going great, but like last year, it’s pretty much the same (though my long runs are LONGER now, ha). If I keep doing what I’m doing, my body gets used to it, and I adapt very quickly. Problem is…That doesn’t get me faster or more powerful. It gets me very complacent.

So to get better results, and power that I can rely on more, I have to change my training (and my mindset, which is making me slower this season, ha).

This means getting into the uncomfortable zone. Aka faster.

Funny enough, my equine counselor brought up a comment I got from a dressage judge years ago about Oats. “His trot looks very comfortable and easy. I bet you could trot like that all day. It’s not work though, and it’s not the power you need.” She was right! I could cruise on Oats alllllllll day with that lovely, easy trot of his. Problem is, when I wanted ‘more’ trot or collected trot, things fell apart.

She pointed out that my running is remarkably similar. My long runs? Could cruise alllllll day at my little jog-trot. Want more ‘go’ and more power? Falls apart.  Ha, I am Oats. Weird eh?

Life mirrors us in more ways than we think. And for me? I am experimenting with more power moves. 500 metre pick-ups in pace during my long runs, which are killer and I hate them, but I have to do them. Oh and running hills after my rides on Sunday. We’ll see!

Big things

Oats and I went to a clinic this weekend–we went alone, and I can’t even say how big this is for us- it went FINE.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

More older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright. This was from our disaster clinic- happy to say things got much better!

We’ve had a very rocky road when it comes to clinics- stemming from a 2-day intro to eventing clinic that we attended a few years ago (that’s right, it took me literally YEARS to get over it) that blasted our confidence into powder, and caused a several-months setback that even turned into years later with regards to training with other instructors.

My goal for the clinic this weekend was simple: Walk Oats to the neighbouring barn. Warm him up. Ride in the clinic with as little drama as possible. Walk him home safely.

The instructor- Norah Ross- was one I had heard good things about, and I reviewed with her and the host of the clinic that I wanted this to be technical, and not to be challenged with regards to boundary-pushing. I’m not at the stage yet where that won’t cause a meltdown for me (we are WAY better at horse shows, ha).

Older Oats pix from Avalon

Older Oats pix from Avalon: photo courtesy of Jodie Wright.

And I was assured that this was not the plan for the clinic, and she was right!

We did a LOT of flatwork, haha. Drop outside stirrup, no-stirrups, bending, circling, change directions, a lot. I was sweaty! Oats was a very good sport. A couple things Norah had me pegged for: Bad elbows, ie- chicken wing. Hands too far apart and too low. She really got on me about them, hahahah.

Also she dropped my stirrups 1 hole, and wow it felt weird! But good?

We moved on to jumping, and the wheels fell of briefly. We warmed up great over some x-rails, and then approaching a vertical on the diagonal, he threw one buck and I got immediately derailed…I ‘saw’ a bad distance, and tossed my upper body at him. He stopped. UGH!

Norah had me pegged straight away. She said my anxiety is causing that, and that my ride on the flat was great, so why is it falling apart jumping? Why so different? It’s like I am ‘abandoning’ my horse when things change so drastically from a calm, competent ride on the flat to somewhat panic-stricken over fences. The jumping ahead is something I had conquered, until it came creeping back when I was feeling a bit anxious…SIGH.

She asked us to change a few things- sit to the fences, no two-point. Counting- 1-2-1-2…all the way. And stay in the MOMENT! Breathe! Stay. This worked out really well, and I was very pleased with Oats’ effort when I made these changes. Clearly…I have some deep-seated issues, ughh.

Oats jumped around lovely. It was all very ‘baby steps’ and easy, but as we clearly demonstrated, we needed the baby steps…

We learned a lot, worked hard and walked home successfully without any drama. A good clinic and a big step forward for us. I even had some hot chocolate, and was able to visit with some old barn friends at the host stable too! Yeah!!

The best version of myself

Had a dressage lesson last night, and it was not easy. It was actually really tough. It was hard on Oats emotionally, and he tried some drama in his horse language “This is HARD” and “I don’t want to DO this” but you know what? Since my journey with Oats, I have been trying to not buy into any horse-drama.

And it has been working. I wants Oats to see the best version of myself, all the time.

We worked on developing some lateral techniques (renvers or travers? This is not my area of expertise, obviously hahah) and it was very challenging. The key here was to TRY. Keep trying. It is not perfect, and it will not be perfect. Keep going.

And since I am on a random video rampage, enjoy this video of Oats and I doing some coursework outdoors in 2015 (this is the same day he spooked while I was leadlining my mom and she fell off and broke her arm!).

Karen likened it to the horse ‘hokey pokey’ haha.

“You put your right bend in, you bring you left shoulder out, you keep the hip on the rail…” A big horse pretzel!

Oats had some hissy fit moments, where he got very bottled up and hopped into canter, and then started rooting. I kind of wanted to get fussy with him, but Karen reminded me that he’s just expressing himself, which he is allowed to do, and all I have to do is keep working on the exercise. It will work itself out! And it sort of did? ha.

Oats did find the work very emotionally challenging, poor pony. I am working on rewarding the ‘try’ in this type of work, rather than the success of the movement.

It’s funny- a year ago, we wanted forward, forward forward! And now, all he wants to offer is forward and we’re like no, how about we slow it down, and collect it, rather than flying or charging through the exercise? And Oats is like, whaa?

Poor pony, the rules are changing and developing and making life a bit tougher for him.

He got wormed last night too, before he even knew what was going on it was in his mouth and he was like gackkkkkk! Awww….

A very solid jump lesson

Last night we were back in the indoor, this time for good. It’s too dark for me to jump outdoors in my lessons, and Oats got his shoes off and immediately began to pussyfoot everywhere. Ah, well.

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Just a cute pic of Oats this summer with his buddy Joey.

I was still in my trainer’s saddle as my friend is picking mine up for me today (yesss!).

I always start off my ride by feeling awkward and slow. I wonder how I can possibly jump, and feel like it’s just not going to happen–I wish this wasn’t the case, but it’s true–I seem to start off with some negative self-talk and doubting.

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In this case, I had to be ok with this feeling and really let myself ‘feel’ uncomfortable. It was fine, things were going well, I just had to sit with it, and work through it. And you know what? My lesson worked out super!

We started by trotting a x-rail, focusing on straightness. Oats literally trotted it, w/o actually jumping. A spank for him then and he got with the the program. The small ‘x’ was then cantered, and then made into a small oxer- which we cantered a few times. I managed to hit a very awkward distance every time to the oxer, so Nicole asked me to change my approach to it–so instead of going straight to the wall for a long distance, I chose to leave the wall early and curve the approach. This worked out really well! I decided to stick with that decision for our coursework.

He was jumping VERY nicely. Actually using himself (they were small jumps) and felt far more engaged than when we were jumping outdoors.

I had to spank him pretty hard when we started the course, as he started off with a very sluggish ‘make me’ kind of attitude. One big whack and he bucked, and then ‘Yes ma’am!!’ and away we went, with a much more forward ride. Good pony!

The course itself was not exciting- the usual diagonal-outside-diagonal-diagonal-diagonal-outside-outside, ha. But, it rode really well, I was being proactive about things like pace, my approach, straightness (except for a wicked right drift on the outside line..whoops) and things worked out awesome.

Good pony! A fun, very focused ride. And I managed to overcome that weird awkwardness we felt initially. Hmm…a good learning opportunity for me, trying to manage my feelings and just be fine with how I am feeling.