New adventure in dressage-jumping!

So we revisited the lesson from last Thursday, with a focus on ‘building’ the canter up to be a bigger, more energetic and ‘jumpy’ canter rather than a very tightly controlled ‘small’ canter.

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Some choice screengrabs 😉

Dressage with speedbumps!

I now tend to think of dressage for me as a process of going through stages. First we developed his ‘stretchy’ frame, next we bump the frame up a bit for his ‘jump’ frame and then kind of toggle through both. But you need the first one to get the second, if that makes sense?

It’s a sort of transitional phase.

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But so uphill! I love it! 

And yesterday had some very rocky moments (his right rein was not a thing, apparently) and he had 1 BIG spook that almost got me off, hahah. Stupid pony! But no matter, I enjoyed the end process and I think I am getting a better idea of how to manage his canter, both on the flat and through the jumps. Both trainers are right- his jump/my jump issues stem from a weakness in managing the canter.

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Heading to a small jump and he still looks good! 

If I’m not connected to him at the canter, how WILL I know where the takeoff spot is? I am too disconnected to know or figure it out! And I can feel that, I just didn’t know how to fix it.

This time I am happy to say he nailed every single distance, ha. We didn’t really jump (ok, they were cavaletti size, ha super small) much, but it was higher quality and the canter improved. We did get a little shakier and flat as we wrapped up, but I was able to watch the video and damn…His canter is looking FANCY. I also am reaching the point of jumping where this little stuff is…Not hard. Taking the spectre of ‘jumping’ out of jumping is working well for me.

My hands suck and I sit behind the motion, soooo ignore me. But Oats! Wow! Loving this. I also appreciate that in the 10 years I have owned him, I am still learning so much with him. It’s a journey, isn’t it?

 

 

 

Oats gets a lesson in dressage-jumping

I had my dressage lesson (I am doing them each Thursday, instead of every other Thursday) because I wanted to really get ‘back on track’, you know?

And we did…Little jumps! In a dressage lesson!

It was actually really cool, and built upon the principles of the work we have been doing for the past couple of weeks (stretching, asking for stretch and contact through my ring fingers and ‘letting go’ with my arms, instead of statue arms) and bumped it up to start jumping!

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The jumps were tiny, like this one. Miss riding outside though, arghhh.

This means a higher frame, but a more responsive contact and not flinging his head up in the approach. These were tiny little x poles, cavaletti type things, not real jumps, BUT it could give me the feeling of jumping, while still being focused on the dressage exercise, rather than on ‘the jump’ dun dun dunnnnnnnnn

Oats did really well actually! It was tricky, and I struggled a bit but it was really cool and by the end, we were getting every single distance. We did still have his head fly up in the 3 strides before, but it was getting better each time.

What we did was a type of ‘circle to the left’ exercise…So, jump the jump, and then immediately circle left, to the next circle and then left to another jump, and another circle…Just constantly going left, over a jump, circle, go large, left over the jump, left… Phew! Of course I forgot where I was going a few times, circled right, but it was actually better than I thought.

I’m sure it looked like hell but felt darned good- it was taking what we did last week (small circles in the canter, getting him off my legs instead of ‘statue-riding’ frozen in place) and just adding in small jumps to sharpen him to the ‘turn, stay off my right rein, jump’ process.

All good work and I felt pretty excited to be doing it! Yay Oats!!

 

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 🙂 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… 

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 to 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.

Done with those days

And as I mentioned, Oats was indeed feeling the effects of playing too hard! He didn’t feel good on Friday, but by Saturday he was working out of his stiffness and did feel much better. I didn’t push it, but instead did some light walk/trot on a loose rein. I then gave him Sunday off (so Ian and I could do another mega run out in Sooke/Metchosin on the Goose) and I rode him last night and he was back in action! yes!

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Oats looking oh so innocent

So what to do about an elderly pony who thinks he is invincible? If you know, let me know, ugh. I see his age affecting him more these days when he runs and gallops and fights with his turnout buddies. He just can’t keep up like when he was 9 years old. Try telling him that, though! Ugh!!!

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Oats on house arrest until he can be normal in the fields and not ruin himself! 

So he is on limited turnout until Sunday because I WANT to have a jumping lesson!! Silly pony can’t keep it to himself, so he gets limited turnout until I know he won’t overdo it in the field. What a goof.

Speaking of goof, after I rode last night I worked raking down the new hogfuel in the arena, and guess what my rotten little pony did? ROLLED ON MY SADDLE. For the fourth goddamned time. I was leading him and boom! Down he goes and he did NOT want to get up. Just lay there like, naaaaahhh I’m gonna roll. Eff….

At least my saddle was ok, but yeesh. What a little jerk! And yeah this is not the first time he rolled on my danged saddle. Poor saddle… Taken a lot of abuse.

 

Forget Me

And as we start getting back to normal, I started my lessons back up! Of course after 2 months of no lessons…I desperately needed them. My jump lesson was good and to the point, and Oats got back to it like he had never been away! Small tiny little cross poles, but it felt good to get back to the groove again with my honest as the day is long pony. A good feeling for sure 🙂

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Hard to believe this was in March, and like one of our last jump lessons?!

I then had my first dressage lesson back on Saturday at the freaking crack of dawn, and you know what? I wanted to really take me and Oats back to basics. My hands are too rough, I feel like he is shortening through his neck because of that in the warm-up, and our transitions are now non-existent and tough and leaning. I know a lot of this is because of the weird anxiety I had over the past two months, but that is no excuse for BAD hands and terrible warm-ups and transitions.

So, our entire dressage lesson was a rework on soft hands through the warm-up to start things off on the right foot. And you know what? It felt great! I was able to warm up with soft hands and then incrementally work them up into the contact. Oats was then more responsive off my seat!

Of course, he was still a spooky goof yesterday, so I spanked him pretty hard and then we revisited what we learned on Saturday about warming up nicely, stretching rather than compressing his neck and spent the whole ride yesterday just doing that- and it was good! He was pretty sweaty, but it wasn’t difficult work- it was just comprehensive and warming up with ‘reach’ rather than some sort of weird giraffe-neck.

He spooks because he can get bored, and I’m like, enough of that!!

But then he got down to business, and was reaching quite nicely. I’m so glad to be able to get guidance again. I definitely need it to keep both of us honest, nice to each other, and back on track!! Oats likes it too 🙂

Oats and I then got to explore one of the unused pastures to see if it ok for turn-out, and it was. Oats was in hog heaven, with knee-high grass and weeds everywhere!

When your life resumes (sort of)

At least my riding lessons are back on! Yes!

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I ran my shoulder into a telephone pole a few weeks ago. Totally an accident but ouch! 

But with the resuming of some ‘normal’ activities comes roaring back all of my previous concerns/issues. Footing in the indoor.  Horses not being turned out enough. The outdoor is kaput, at least for this season? UGH.

I told my husband that I want to just buy a farm and deal with all this myself, dammit!

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Ian made bagels and they were great! 

Otherwise…Address what I can, and then see what I can manage or not manage. Oats has been great otherwise, we had a return to lessons last week (jumping and dressage!) and I was really able to address our warm-up issues in a way that felt both calming, and productive. Go us! Phew!

I felt rusty as all hell but otherwise? Pretty darned good. Oats is moving great, I’m very pleased with that. I missed my trainers like crazy too. All the drama, angst, moving, rude and horrible boarders and COVID 19 and just…Man. My trip to Argentina  (haaaaaaaaa) not a thing anymore, summer holidays..?? Just. ARGH.

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Oats has enjoyed lots of hand grazing, now that I work from home during this time and I have no commute! 

It still feels like some of my life is on hold, and will remain so.

Ian and I are able to get a lot of cool runs done throughout areas locally, and in the Cowichan Valley and I feel extremely grateful that we are able to do so with ease. Same with riding- at least I can do it? Despite all the ‘should I stay or go’ angst that continues to plague us?

I miss horse shows, friends, races, travel…Happy hours are coming back, and so are hair cuts, but the other stuff? Nope.

Ian and I are forced to be creative with our time, so we do a lot of running, food projects, and some creative projects too- like water colours.

This is a long and strange time, and I didn’t want to blog about it because all I felt was gloom and doom. I don’t really feel that anymore, but I do feel like I’m in this strange limbo where everyone is acting like normal, but behind the act is a lot of anxiety and uncertainty.

But since it’s going to be awhile, I might as well come back for now.

My own personal pain journal

So, things are going but also going sideways, haywire, etc. My work is nuts (I am directly involved in public information), and also we are seeing a lot of things shake down, as part of the pandemic.

It’s so stressful- for all. I am not a frontline worker, but I see the effects of this day by day. I am writing a list of fun things I want to do when this blows over/winds down (go travel, go out for a team breakfast! Run! Do a race!), but in the meantime, I vacillate between extreme self-pity,  fear and paranoia, to ‘it’s all okay’. UGH.

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Welcome darkness, my old friend… I REALLY don’t want to do this again. But I might. I guess when you’re going through hell, keep going. 

I also have a recurring stress fracture, so I can’t even run right now. Man, when it rains, it freaking pours eh? I guess the timing is (good? I disbelieve that word even as I write it) now that I can’t race anyways.

Just…Fuck me.

I did have a nice weekend though, believe it or not! I had a riding lesson on Saturday and Oats was great! He was my little superstar~ I rode on Sunday and let too much angst out, and I know I shouldn’t have. I am easily triggered right now, and I want to make it up to Oaty! He is being the best boy he knows how.

It was also like, gale-force windy this weekend, ALLLLLLL weekend. It finally lessened up on Sunday, so I rode and then my husband and I hiked up Mt. Finlayson. There I learned I am a huge chicken, and I was afraid of the steep, rocky bluff ascent. Yikes!

I refused to go back down that way (jesus, no.) in part because I was afraid of it, and also it was smoking busy! I didn’t feel comfortable hiking with so many people swarming around.

We went the long way down, got a bit turned around (thanks to the signs closing the one pathway that actually links back to the parking lot…sheesh), and then we made it home. And we shared a hotdog! Yum! 🙂

I then drank wine, sat in the sun with a blanket – yes it was still chilly- but the sun had some strength that day.

So where does that leave us? Uncertain. Out of my control- even my body is out of my control. My mind? Yeah, that’s gone too. I don’t know anymore. But I can ride, so I will do that now and just …Keep on.

To quote Charles Dickens:

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Letting the dust settle

Ah, opportune as it is SO dusty in the indoor arena right now! As a follow-up to my extreme ambivalence this week…I did have my jump lesson! And I am not switching lesson days! Even better 🙂

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From two weeks ago. Oats not even really bothering with his feet… Low I guess? 

This week has it’s fair share of challenges (see- people freaking out about COVID-19 and trying to tell me it is literally the end of the world, worse than the Spanish Flu as per Wikipedia…) It’s not, and I work in the HEALTH SYSTEM on THIS VERY TOPIC so…yeah. I don’t recommend trying to scare me, this is what I am doing each day, every day. Cite BCCDC or CDC or gtfo.

I of course, struggled mightily with allergies and boom! Horrible sore throat on Wed, so swollen I could not swallow anymore. I felt miserable. Didn’t ride (though I wanted to..) and went home and took meds and lay on the couch.

Thursday felt better actually! Rode, and while my warm up was not good- Oats was really pissy and balky, and off my leg. I had to tune him up under the watchful eye of my trainer, as I want to get really pully and pushy with him when he is like this. But on course, he was great! I think this is a symptom of me not riding much this week (sick..) and his beginner lesson on Tues= No, I don’t WANNA!!

My throat hurt again today (so like, one day on, one day off???). UGH. Work is bananas (See COVID-19), the weather has been absolutely bone-chilling and just wet and windy and really raw, and I’m just over it all this week. I have engaged in the pettiest, most irritating little bunfights even.

Riding tonight though! Easy day for us both 🙂 I do love my boy.

Why do I always feel this way?

Kind of a mixed week- I am not complaining because nothing bad is happening to ME, per se, just…Everyone around me?

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Oats’ favourite game. RIP Willie, Oats misses you! 

On Monday Oats was playing bite face with his neighbour horse, Joey. He then proceeded to rip a chunk of Joey’s face off, with blood splattering everywhere! Jesus christ. His owner had the emergency vet out, who did about six inches of stitches. It turns out Oats had ripped some of Joey’s face muscles, along with the skin.

My other friend’s horse is now on stall rest, after 3 weeks of lameness and a vet visit on Tuesday. Diagnosis is still TBD but maybe something with the DDFT tendon? Either way, it blows.

On Thursday morning, my trainer’s father died. It was not unexpected, as he was suffering with a terminal illness, but still- so very hard for their family.

Add these recent incidents on to a winter scarred with tragedies (my friend’s horse breaking his leg and getting put down, my trainer’s dog getting put down due to a terminal illness…) and wow, it’s just.. a lot.

My parents and my in-laws both moved away in Feb.

Can we just…like say bye to February? Maybe to all of 2020? I’m not sure yet. Jeesh.

Anyways, despite Oats turning into freaking Hannibal Lecter, he was a good boy this week. My trainer cancelled lessons on Tuesday (which I didn’t know about, I should have asked, so that was on me for sure), and he didn’t get ridden or his meds, which I was immediately annoyed about. If I had known, I have time to get to the barn on Tues nights to ride and administer meds. ARGH. So, Oats had Tues/Wed off, no lesson yesterday due to the family death, and I have a lesson tonight.

He did get his meds on Thur, and we did a little jump school (set up 3 jumps, trotted the xpole a bunch of times and then cruised the course 1X) and some stretchy trot circles to really round out the focus. He was falling back through his hind end a LOT, which to my suspicious mind is linked to him missing a few days of meds?!! Oh well, I guess not much I can do now.

He was a good boy for jumping though. Phew the arena is so dusty! Gak! We go from flooding, still mushy in some spots, to too dusty. We can’t win!!

So, a good week for me, but an extremely challenging one for everyone else.

Heart hunger

Kind of a busy week, being a single dog parent is not my most favourite thing! Oh well. I had my jump lesson last night, my dad came to watch which was nice of him. The lesson was kind of good and bad- The good was it was a interesting exercise, the oxer didn’t bother me at all, and when I rode focused & correctly, Oats rewarded me!

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Oats says- do it right this time! 

The bad- so many stops! UGH! I had a lot of trouble focusing on the more technical elements of the exercise- a skinny jump on a circle approach, for example. I held too hard with my hands, couldn’t seem to figure out the distance, got tentative at the bending line and BOOM! Oats would stop. Sorry, try again! He seemed to say. He is not really a stopper either.

So we did try again, and when I softened my hands/arms, and let him free he jumped fantastically. It was lovely!

So what figures with my lack of focus? UGH.

Not normally a problem I have, hahah. Oh well, Oats is an excellent teacher in this regard- he says no when he has an issue, and goes nicely without holding a grudge when I do it right! Now, if it were so easy I would allllwayyys do it right, eh??

I have a rider biomechanics workshop on Sunday that I am looking forward to- hoping to learn some new stuff! No racing this weekend, which I am glad for because my legs are so tired.

Dinner out tonight at the Bella restaurant at Bear Mountain with the folks as their last night in town, and hopefully I nab a ride after on ol’ Oaty. I can’t get enough of him!