Nothing Feels Natural

Finally we had some sun! In fact, we are now on THREE whole days of sun! Can you believe it?! I can’t. We honestly had close to 3 months of straight rain, or wind and rain, or wind/rain/snow combo. Not a single clear day for months, and boy does that drain a person…

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Daisy is at another stable now, but Oats loves his friends! 

Friday I had my dressage lesson and it was really good! I wasn’t expecting much, given it was basically a tornado with pouring rain, the arena was super flooded and Oats was feeling okay but not amazing. However he really rallied and we worked on straightness in the canter on the diagonal fences, and then some head-to-the-wall leg yielding. Success! He was quite good and sweet. Love my boy ūüôā

Saturday the ring was still nuts and the vibe a bit off but not too bad, it was a bit quieter which is nice, and so Oats and I worked on transitions, and his leg yields. The canter to the left is still..eh. We will call that a ‘work in progress’ shall we?

Sunday I had a race (Cedar 12K recap coming soon!), and then managed to finagle a bareback 20 minute ride on Oats after- you know I can’t resist getting a ride in, any way, or anytime I can! He was very sweet, and apparently had spend the entire night running amok outside of his paddock, going horse to horse to play bite-face with the ones who would oblige him! He then was exhausted and spent the afternoon flat on his side, sacked out. Phew!

Monday I was tired from the race, but also determined to do my ‘homework’ which I do try to do once per week- straightness on the diagonal jumps AND trot fences. It was good! I did find that when I posted trot in, I was able to control the take-off spot a bit better, rather than coming in two-point using the ‘hope and pray’ method…! Good to know. I think I ride Oats better when I am more ‘connected’ through my seat, vs straight-up butt out of the saddle 2point.

Things you learn eh? 25 years in and I’m still learning.

Anyways, day off for me, Oats teaches a beginner tonight, and I am off to dinner with friends to the new place: Boom & Batten. I hope it is good, it is very pricey.

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! ūüôā

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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.

Right Place Right Time: Dressage recap!

Had a semi-private dressage lesson last night, and after taking two weeks off from our lessons (but definitely not from riding) it went pretty well! We worked on developing a collected canter via lateral work, specifically leg-yielding off the wall at the trot and then trying to hold it through the canter.

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Oats gets a haircut…And it has already grown out. WTF?!!!

Oats did NOT find it easy and showed this through two ways- breaking into trot from the canter, or giving me a big flying lead change! Haha

I was very pleased with his work and his attention span. He didn’t really have any big hissy-fits, which is unusual as he kind of gets worked up with this sort of disciplined lesson. He got very sweaty, despite the fact that he IS clipped. He grew a really thick coat this year, more so than previous years, and sadly the clip is not lasting…Gah.

His attitude has been very good, he almost wins for ‘most improved horse’ in that region. I know, crazy eh? Our short leg-yields were really good (for us, ha) and I was feeling very ‘flowy’ and ‘smooth’ which can be a bit of a rarity for us.

He gets a day off today, and a day off for me too before our jump lesson on Thursday.

Riding blahs?

Actually not a bad thing- just a ‘meh’ thing! Rode this weekend, Fri- Oats was actually great. His spookiness from Wednesday was not a thing anymore, and we rode with my trainer. I whooped it up over two very small jumps and had a blast! I even shouted to my trainer- that was FUN! Why isn’t it like that all the time?!!

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It was beachtime this weekend! And this is what I look like off a horse ūüôā

She shouted back that it’s because of the pressure I put on myself in lessons- that’s why. HA!

I did even try to grab back from Oats on the approach to the small x-rail and he completely disregarded me and kept going, like a saint. Phew!

Saturday, not quite so fun–we schooled the same small jumps and this time,¬†nailed it to the x-rail, and flubbed it to every other jump. Oats though, is back to his saintly-if-awkward jump style and saved my bacon by doing his chip-jump..every time. Harurumph!

We then schooled a bit of leg-yield and he was having NONE OF IT by the time we got to the right rein. Cue running backwards, temper tantrums, hissy fits, threatening to rear…yeahhh. It was hot, he was pissy, and I kind of had to give up on that. Sweat was running down my face from my helmet into my eyes!

Ahhh well. It was hot, he was tired. Chalk that up to a lesson learned.

Sunday, it was extremely hot. My upper lip was sweating just tacking up. Wow..We are not used to this hot weather on the West Coast. I rode Oats indoors and worked on finding our distance to a very tiny x-rail. We did well to the left, and then absolutely clobbered it- poles flying, etc- on the first attempt to the right. Whoops! I hopped off, and immediately felt like dying…So hot. I was covered in sweat, and felt dizzy.

Fixed the jump up, got back on, and walked. And walked. Finally, I worked back up to canter and we conquered our distance to the tiny x. Did it a few more times both directions, looping across the diagonal, and called it quits…So hot. I even made Oats carry me back up the hill, and he got a good hosing when we finished. PHewwww.

Beachtime after, of course!

All in all, a good weekend.

 

The good, the bad, the terrifying

Had my dressage semi-private lesson last night, as per usual, and I was kind of riding on a high from my one last week–it was so cool and Oats was being great, and just..ahhh…

fancy dressage Oats

fancy dressage Oats

And was last night the same floating-on-air feeling?

Well, not quite. But not in the ways you’re thinking- Oats was a little snippier about following direction, in his usual ways: wanting to pull down/yank the reins, hopping and anticipating, having a bit of ‘energy’ when I was asking for a good contact trot and he was trying to strike off in canter…

That’s all fine and good, not a problem. But the anticipating was kiiiind of wigging me out. We sorted it out fine enough and I was pleased with his attempt to try.

So what went so wrong in the lesson? At first, nothing~

We got a pretty reasonable haunches in, and then haunches out, for Oats. I mean, he was still trying to go horizontal, and then too vertical, but hey, he is TRYING! YAY!

We then worked on some deep bend, and then deep contact, and leg yielding at the walk, then trot- going back to walk when he got fussy about contact. He did get pretty fussy, and a bit hoppy. This made me anxious, and I kind of started reverting back to my ancient fears…

And then…

My riding partner was having a heck of a time with her mare. Things just didn’t seem to be going well, and they stayed on a circle to work while Oats and I were doing the leg-yields, etc. Oats and I were at one end of the ring, when her horse, Chanel REARED STRAIGHT UP!

It was horrifying.

She jumped off the back of the horse and kind of landed on her butt/back. She was ok. The horse just stood there.

I was just in shock.

That is probably the most dangerous thing I have ever seen- other than when Jim lost his shit and galloped/bolted and bucked super high.

I immediately wanted to get off, to not ride, and to scrape that image off my retinas, where they were permanently seared- to say nothing of what kind of fantastical disaster-scenarios have been running in my brain lately!

They got back on, and the rest of their lesson was conducted with a longe whip in Karen’s hand- appropriately so.

My lesson also continued, and it was very non-dramatic. We worked up to canter transitions from our leg yields with less hissy fits from Oats, and then got a fairly nice, forward on-the-contact trot to end. It was nice, and he was a good partner.

So, alls well that ends well, right?

Well, for me- I am having problems letting these incidents go in my head. When I ride, I replay potential disaster scenarios- I can barely manage to stop from envisioning them! When I run through my jump sessions, I am VERY careful to make sure they are good, nice scenarios. But when I’m actually riding, other things creep in…

Because lately it seems to me like there are a lot of accidents:

  • My mom breaking her arm on Oats- a freak thing
  • Older lady at the barn falling off a horse she probably shouldn’t have been on and breaking her collarbone and rib- in Aug.
  • Nov- same older lady then falls off her horse and lands on her feet, and breaks her leg so severely it will be next year-this time- before she can do anything!
  • A young mother get seriously injured on a hack with her horse this summer- and she’s been on the news a lot lately, in an sad insurance fight. I tangentially know her.
  • Nicole got bucked off last week and broke a rib and got a concussion
  • And now, Chanel¬†rears so high it looks like she could have flipped over in my lesson last night.

Just, these things are starting to add up in my head, and NOT in a good way. In a very anxiety- making way…

Always simple, never easy

So, I was reminded yesterday about the basics: the things you take for granted once you have achieved them, but they never really diminish in importance.

Yes.

Yes.

(sidenote: was in a TERRIBLE mood yesterday. Work was driving me up the wall – still kind of is- and I pulled a muscle in my calf in a treadmill accident. Was it to be a recipe for success for my dressage lesson? Read more and you’ll find out…)

Calm

Calm

Warmed Oats up for my lesson and he was in a rare mood-¬†extremely forward, and still very grabby and snatchy with the reins and rooting. So, an interesting combination. Overall I was actually¬†surprised¬†about well he was taking this whole ‘back into dressage lesson’s business. But in general, the lesson made me feel annoyed about him not giving me as much as I wanted or expected.

That leads me back to the basics part. Things I now take for granted (some bend, very forward pony when I used to have to kick and pummel him forward, knows how to leg yield mostly?) I kind of forget about when I’m like, why can’t you get with the program, horse??

Bend- some success, some struggle. I had to stay with the struggle and we figured it out 50% of the time.

Lateral work- this was kind of a huge fail. Felt like we were charging drunkenly around the arena, and I felt out of control. Not worried, just…Like I wasn’t the one managing the situation? This was somewhat remedied by altering the exercise to focus first on leg yield, then straight, then back to leg yield with *just a hint* of bend in the direction we were going. Jury’s still out on if we achieved this at all, but at least I felt like I was gaining more control over the situation.

Trot- extremely forward, go go go go. Even when I was wanting him to stretch down, he just kept powering off- I was like ARGH why are you fighting me on this Oats, just stretch for crying out loud! Chalk this one up to Oats winning.

Canter- ehh. Got it, and then he was very resistant, wouldn’t bend, tried to fall in, etc.

So, I was reminded that while we were kind of flailing and lousy at some of these exercises, the fact that he was doing them without having a major mental breakdown was also a win, and showed significant progress from last year.

Sometimes with each ride there is no real ‘win’ in the ride, but an acknowledgement of achievement- a bigger picture story, per se. So, as I’m seeing it in perspective from last year to this year, I’m not quite as grouchy about our lateral fails or our resistant canter/trot.

Also- man, I should take a week off Oats before every dressage or jump lesson. He had SO MUCH GO and this is a pony who’s fav gait is stop.????? My calf muscle hurt a lot after that ride, yeeeeesh, but is feeling more like just a very hard knot today and I can walk on it more.

Winning the battle = winning the war

So after my aforementioned war with Oats on Sunday about lateral work, and moving off my right leg with out a major hissy fit, I was …concerned about how Tuesday’s semi-private dressage lesson would go.

Good or bad?

Well, it actually went pretty well! Turns out that having ‘it out’ with Oats on Sunday and making him do his homework actually made our lesson on Tuesday much smoother. He was moving off my right leg (finally!) with minor disagreements, he was a bit locked up on the right throughout the whole ride but nothing terrible, he was just better on the left, haha.

So, we warmed up with head-to-the wall leg yields left first and then right, and then worked on some trot work with a big bend and a leg yield (we kind of sucked at this to be honest), and then canter work that loosened Oats up and let him move forward (much better at this). He was starting to get kind of balky and rude at the trot, and the looser canter sort of let him ‘let go’ of his attitude.

We ended on the left, with a squeezy trot and big deep low neck, to a canter transition, back to the squeezy trot. I was pretty impressed with his attitude towards this work, and as Karen noticed, his endurance is improving. Ie- his hissy fits and temper tantrums are more minimal, and start happening much later in the ride, rather than halfway through, which was more typical.

So, progress people! I’ll take it!

Good pony Oats.

Yeeeeehaawwww~ Happy Canada Day and other shenanigans

Where was I?

Right! Here’s an Oats update from the weekend, my dressage lesson, yesterday and beyond!

Had a great jump lesson last Thursday, then my friend took Oats out on Friday to do some ringwork and a walk around the block and he was good for her! Another friend worked him in the ring for me on Saturday so I could watch and see what kind of issues cropped up (it was super informative and I enjoyed watching), and then we had our counselling session.

Indian Summer

Indian Summer

It was allll good!

Didn’t ride Sunday, because by that point Oats had been going for a solid 5 days straight! I rode in the field Monday and he was pretty good, fought a bit about contact on the right but nothing big.

Dressage lesson indoors on Tuesday and it was a bit of a rollercoaster, haha. The good: his leg-yielding has gotten LEAPS AND BOUNDS better! Wow. From the push-pull-tug of our miserable lateral movement to the ‘yes ma’am’ of sideways…I’m very impressed. It was great.

The not so good: I’m not going to call this bad, because it’s a step in the learning process…His dolphin leaping/plunging that he does when he finds getting the contact at the trot difficult. I did get frustrated and shouted out ‘Feels like I’m riding a freaking carousel horse!!’ but I¬†never¬†got to the fear stage that I was at last week. It just felt…Well kind of silly! And we just kept at it, and we did get past some of it. It is a process.

Anyways, I was sweating buckets but felt pretty decent about the lesson. Some good, some things to work on.

I fight you!

I fight you!

Flash forward to Canada Day and we spent the whole day relaxing at Cowichan River, just me, the dog and husband (and an assortment of crayfish, frogs and toads). What a lovely day, and wonderful memories. To top off the day spent swimming at the river, we got huge ice creams at Ice Cream Mountain! Yum! They were melting insanely fast.

Mr. Toad

Mr. Toad

I then was going to reschedule a jump lesson for Wed (Canada Day) because I’m going out for dinner with friends visiting from Whitehorse on my lesson day, but my trainer wasn’t feeling well, so instead we…GALLOPED in the big field!!! Yeeeeehawww.

Not enough to eat

Not enough to eat

Of course looking at the video later is hilarious, because Oats is barely doing a bigger canter…But it FELT big! hahahah. It was exhilarating, my friend and her thoroughbred were galloping, and so was pony and I!

Good days, good days.

Triggering?

Had an interesting dressage ride last night- it was not just tough, but more like very mentally difficult.

Judge Melanie Houston

Random pics of Oats doing dressage: Photo courtesy of Eila

We worked on quick steps, and then moved up to sitting trot to leg yield, and then leg yield to canter on the short side of the arena. And MAN this fired up my defensiveness in a hurry! I felt anxious! Oats started ‘hopping’ and I felt very worried, and it showed through my hands raising, my leaning forward and taking my leg off. The hopping and his anticipation of the canter made the bugaboos in my head run wild- all I could think of was this is it, this is when he leaps up and turfs me! (I’m no stranger to getting dumped by my pony!).

BUT

When I started blanking out and getting nervous, Karen was like just focus on what *you* want out of this- a trot. Not canter (at this point) nothing else…Keep your hands low and stop raising them defensively, don’t stop riding and freeze up…Just…keep going with what you want!

It was very challenging. Him rising up and hopping triggers all of my anxiety and brings bad bad memories, not even in my head but in my body too! I SOoooo did not want to continue, in the worst way I wanted to stop, call it quits!

STILL…

We kept going! I put my leg on, ignored the hopping into canter, focused on low hands and sitting very still, and asked for bend bend bend bend. Oats got with the program. and started to acquiesce to my demands. We noticed a pattern- when he got to the far side of the ring- the open side- he would try to either spook, or hop into a canter, because it was easier than what I was asking- for more trot, and more bend through his right side. This was clearly an evasive tactic.

Once I could see it for what it was, I started thinking and riding more effectively and clearly. ¬† The anxiety fog in my brain lifted, and as Karen said, Oats wasn’t even being naughty or anything- he was honestly having trouble with what I was asking, and he was trying to find ways to deal with it. He CAN be a little shit, but this isn’t it. Not at all. And the rising up/hopping behaviour is him lifting off his forehand (a positive sign) that I am actually having a hard time learning how to ride! I want to pull back and pull him to a stop.

So, I learned a lot but it was learning that was hard-won.

Oats learned a lot too, and I need to be more open and flexible in my approach when he struggles to do what I’m asking. He doesn’t¬†want to be bad at this point- he is learning and having a tough time with it sometimes.

Oh and he was really good to the left. Ha.

Reaching new heights- in dressage!

I know, it’s actually laughable given how rough our past few engagements with lateral work were in my¬†recent few blog entries, but even after his weekend of feeling under the weather Oats was GOOD!

Each week, we start off lateral work with more than a little angst…It’s sometimes like 10 minutes of pushing and shoving and just ‘arghhhh’ and then Oats softens, and agrees, and everything is beautiful…Until we take a break and try again and then it’s like WWIII.

This week, I wasn’t expecting anything of beauty. He had a hard weekend with a reaction from a vaccine, was stiff, unbalanced and generally feeling kind of lousy. He couldn’t bend, couldn’t hold the canter, nothing. Apparently a few other horses who got the same vaccine had a similar reaction, particularly at the canter. Poor buddy!

Anyways, we went into leg yield and he was – yielding-? Soft? Only a little bit argumentative? We changed rein, we tried it at the trot and oh man, he was GETTING IT! I know I say each week ‘best leg yield yet!!’ or haunches-in or whatever- and it’s¬†true. We are getting more of Oats’ best work yet, each week. This people, is what learning feels like. Mostly ugly and then these awesome breakthrough moments.

So, we are going to try for some more advanced movements (not perfecting them by any means), just playing around with them so nobody feels frustrated or out of their depth. He is getting more and more confirmed with the haunches-in movements, I am so happy with that!

Go Oats Go!!!

As a treat for him, after a fairly intensive walk/trot haunches in/leg yielding lesson we trotted on a loose rein and he gave me a great, big trot and then I did some loose canter with wide reins, and just encouraged him to flow freely. His gaits felt really good, he felt floaty and awesome. I like this new pony.