Hatley Castle 8k Race Recap

Wow- two years since I last raced this series, and almost two since I raced- period! I did two little races this fall, to whet my appetite to get back out there πŸ™‚ and I can tell you by this race, I was READY.

Pretty much dying, ha my neck is straining so hard! Photo courtesy of Lois D’Ell.

We missed two of the VIRA races- the first one was cancelled due to snow/ice, and we were in Mexico for the second (oh what a hardship eh??) so I was feeling eager for this one. I know Hatley is a tough course, kind of a heartbreaker for people hoping for a good time due to the rolling hills, steep hills, and gravel/trail sections but no matter we were racing again!

The weather was SO nice. Like, amazing. Too bad it’s absolutely miserable right now, lol I am dying it is so cold. Last week the sun was shining and it was around 10 deg? We didn’t need to dress warmly for Hatley, which is funny b/c I swear every photo I have from that race there is snow on the ground, or ice, or it’s hailing and we are frozen.

I know it looks like I’m walking, but I swear it was hard!

We started a bit late hilariously because the main gate was still locked, so they had to go get big snippers to cut the lock off!?!

So good thing it was so warm.

The start is very congested- I started fairly close up, but was still bouncing off folks for a good…1km. Ouch, that does hurt your time a bit. When you pass 1k and start heading to the first out-and-back hill, it thins out greatly. I was passing/getting passed a fair bit until kms 3-4, where I just got…passed, ha. I was running in a bit of a ‘reach’ pace I think, particularly for my inexperience in racing over the past two years (and no hills…and a serious injury…lol). But I kept at it! It felt pretty horrible but, a horrible I could maintain.

Something fun- this time I was ahead of Ian. So when we had two out-and-backs (km 2-3, and km 5-6) he waved to ME this time! πŸ™‚ Now that’s a first!

I had to add this one b/c it makes me laugh. Photo by Lois D’Ell.

I thought I was running pretty well through the trail section but I was definitely slowing down. The transition from the trail to the ridge, and then the loooooong downhill, was much longer than I recalled/wanted. I hit the downhill and immediately felt like I was one step away from face planting most spectacularly, yiiiikes! I am not used to running fast downhill and it was freaky.

Then it was roughly 1km to the finish, and I did…Not run super triumphantly, ha. I was straining, it was rough. BUT then there was the finish! πŸ™‚

And I did it! Gun time was 34:13, and that makes a 2 minute personal best for me on this course. I was really happy with that, not shabby at all. I, of course, coughed my lungs out for the next three days…Racing is extremely hard on my lungs, quelle surprise!

Ian finished shortly after me, and we cruised up to get our snack bags and surprise! Sweet swag in it. An Endur hat AND I won a door prize- a super soft t-shirt πŸ™‚ how awesome is that?!!!

A gorgeous day and a good race. Life is returning to normal (at least sometimes).

Some really nice rides

Had a dressage lesson last night and it was just so good! Not perfect but man, I feel like Oats and I are really reaching a deeper understanding via how I am twisting my body?! So the problem is ME! hahah.

Who can resist this handsome fellow?

We worked over trot poles, looping around them and then cantering them and trotting juuuust at the last second- which, whoops, Oats jumped over the row of poles one time when I didn’t transition in time, hahah. Good boy πŸ˜‰

We worked on leg yielding into the poles which was cool and then we took away all the poles but one, and then worked on cantering up to them STRAIGHT and managing the turns without my body twisting in the air. It was much harder to do than I realized?!

Just loving our rides! (from a jump lesson a few months ago, no recent clips from last week sadly)

Oats was very steady and very focused on this exercise. His canter felt really awesome! While we were certainly not perfect, it felt like a very thorough and excellent learning exercise. Now to actually do this when we ARE jumping….Is the real challenge!

And last week we had a really cool ‘zen’ lesson as I call it, where my lesson partner and I were pretzeled into many different shapes, hands off the reins, legs off the saddles, in an effort to find our real centre and straightness- and wow, the horses LOVED this. They were so relaxed, and we focused on deep ‘square’ or diaphragm breathing. I could even see Oat’s ears relax when I was going into the canter transition. He got a bit tense, I sat straight (which still feels like scissoring, ha) and breatheeeed…And he relaxed immediately and we got the nicest left lead canter we’ve gotten in forever!

And I think this intensive bodywork is paying off- he felt fantastic last night, and we had a really fun jump lesson the previous Saturday as well. Just loving all of these lessons, it costs mega $$$$$$ but wow I am getting so much horse and so much physically out of them πŸ™‚ it is awesome! Plus, I want to do ALLLL the things this year. I know how fleeting horses are, and how fragile the situation can be. I just want to do this forever!!!

The future and the past

We had our fifth dressage lesson back! Oats was quite good for it, really he is a pony that just shows up and nails lessons, isn’t he? Funny considering he had another meltdown the day earlier about…The corner of the arena? Ha. As he ages, he seems to be very reactive/spooky about the strangest things. Noises don’t really bother him, like geese crash-landing on the tin roof, but the corners of the arena, that never change? OMGGGG! He does seem to be developing a warmblood-like spook in his older years…

From last fall or so, but this is what I face every day- filth!!

Anyways, he was super! Funny that his canter coming back into work has been 100% better than his canter BEFORE his serious injury? Like what are the odds?

We also did some trot leg yield, which we were…Not great at. We haven’t done them in 8 months, so it clearly is a work in progress. Not quite so fun as his dreamy, dreamy canter….Where I even got him to trot in a downward transition using only my body/seat. I was so surprised when it actually worked that I lost the contact in that moment, shoot! But wow it felt so good!! πŸ™‚

From last summer but this is what we’re working on! Sooooo smooth

I am very pleased with his return back to work in dressage-land. Very consistent, even if we do have to kind of work on some resistance/bending in the warm ups (I guess some things never change haha) but his work is holding for longer, and getting more consistent. I am particularly in love with the canter we are getting.

And Oats has now been on Equi-Cal for almost a week, and he gets two pumps of Camellina oil, as he lost weight coming back into work and I don’t want him to lose any more! It was quite the shock for me to see him lose weight, as he has always been a very easy keeper. My guess is coming back into work + Prascend + low sugar hay = struggling to maintain, poor dude. I hope to see progress on his weight soon, and also his darned shedding. My god, he is FILTHY every single day!

I figure I will keep him on Equi Cal for the rest of the bag, and then by summer transition him back to oats. I just don’t want to transition him to them too early, as he is still gaining back muscle and power from his many months off.

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 πŸ™‚ 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…Β 

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 toΒ 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.

Fading frontier

We had a lovely weekend for the start of November. It’s been so warm- almost freakishly so, coming off a really cold October. Apparently it was the coldest October in 80 years, and then now it’s been the nicest November that I can recall. Funny eh?

 

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Our view for the weekend.Β 

We rented a house in Sooke (my friend rented it for oh, about 11 of us…) to celebrate a whole bunch of late- October birthdays, my husband being one of them. We had such a blast! It was really chill, the house was big and since we got their earliest, we nabbed the biggest and best master bedroom. Plus we had our family with us (dog and bunny).

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A lot of this

We went on a short hike to Mystic Falls, and it was so warm on Saturday I couldn’t even believe it! No toques or gloves needed.

We enjoyed the hot tub, sauna (though on Saturday night the sauna made me feel sick, ugh!), ate and drank sooooo much. Yeah! We do group breakfasts and dinners, so Ian and I with our friend Jared managed Saturday morning’s breakfast (crepes- sweet and savoury). Delicious but we were a few crepes short unfortunately! We will have to make more next time.

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Ian apparently doesn’t know how to smile

Dinner was an amazing greek chicken night, with salad and greek potatoes and bread. YUM! I ate a ton. Probably why I felt sick in the sauna, come to think of it now…

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Gidget enjoyed a lot of attention this weekend

Breakfast the next day was amazing…Home-made Challah bread, which I have never had before! Turns out one of the guys in the group is a really good baker in his own right, who would have thought eh? It was soooooo good.

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We finished up the weekend by visiting the Sheringham Lighthouse. It was neat! It felt really good to sit back, relax and take a few days off from ‘real life’ since things have been just crazy busy in Oct (Kelowna race weekend, Ian’s birthday, Oktoberfest, MEC half-marathon, my mom’s birthday, my parents staying at my place for a few days, etc etc…just nuts!).

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The lighthouse

I always cherish these weekends. Ah, so nice.

No one does it like you

Wow, so like a week of silence… Life got too busy, work kind of blew up in my face and I couldn’t deal with 1 more thing, at all for the past two weeks. I am hopefully coming out the other end of it, but yeahhh… Not fun. At all.

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Love my boy

Also my allergies went completely off the rails and friends, I amΒ suffering. Congested, incredible sinus pain, itchy upper palate, allergic coughing, eyes swelling shut and so itchy that I can’t even deal…Oh boy, I love it. Add this to work and I spent most of the week absolutely miserable.

But there is also the good: Weather! We had a crazy turnaround and had highs of 19-20 degrees this week. It feltΒ incredible and sadly we are back to seasonal (still pretty decent) but on Wednesday it was downright HOT! Woah! I loved it. πŸ™‚

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I went to the beach- 20 degrees, can you believe it?Β 

Horses! Oats has been a total superstar!! Love my boy. We had a gymnastics jump lesson last Thursday (I hate gymnastics, so it was …Not that inspired, ha.) and then we had a really fun jump course on Saturday, with all sorts of crazy jumps! Not high, but definitely getting more consistent at the 2’6” -ish level heights. We also had a cavaletti jump at ‘A’ that really caught us out a few times, as well as a 1-ft circle jump that I biffed HARD by staring at it, hahaha. It was fun though!!

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Got myself a latte at a new coffee shop nearby: Pretty eh?

Sunday I went on a run with a work friend, and then went riding later. Oats has been really good, although I’m noticing his ‘halt’ has turned back into ‘halt and then start flying backwards…’ so we’re working through that this week. Lovely…It’s not a new issue for us, it crops up about once or twice a year, but kind of always bugs me. Oh horses!

This week was totally psycho with work, and by Thursday I was Over.IT. and tired. So tired. I didn’t really want to go have a jump lesson, but I know that when I go, I’m happier. More ‘me’ if that makes sense? So off I went! My allergies were a bit better yesterday, I still can’t wear eye makeup but yeah anyways. My jump lesson was really good! We worked over a small course, with the rocks as a single jump down the centre-line. Hahahha it was hilarious, Oats deked out and went around it the first time, crushing the traffic cone that was designed to guide us. HAHAH silly pony!

We had a blast! He was jumping really well by the end (he did get a bit flat at first, and kind of ‘blahhhhed’ over the first jump) but we had fun and it felt good later! He also kind of tried to half-jump over the rocks and jump off to the side. Oh pony. He’s such a good boy though, and it was a cool and fun lesson. See? I always do feel glad that I went and jumped, even though I spent my week feeling itchy, miserable, tired and stressed out.

My boy is always there for me. πŸ™‚

Don’t let it get to you: Riding fieldtrip!

So this weekend we had our rescheduled trip out to the fancy environs of Fairlawn, the stables owned by a trainer and her family. I ride with this trainer regularly, but we wanted the whole meal-deal- a ride in her fabulous indoor with all the works! And we were NOT disappointed! It was lovely πŸ™‚

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They still had a lot of snow, but the driveways were cleared enough to be able to get the horse trailer (my friend hauls for us, it’s her rig/truck) onto the property and the horses off and tacked up.

The place is gorgeous! We had soooo much room, we didn’t know what to do with it! Oats and I worked on the counter-canter loop and boy did it feel different with so much space to play with. Not gonna lie, we struggled a bit but when I figured it out, so did Oats and he was happy to comply. I still feel a bit like the loop challenges me personally, and so it’s something I want to ‘finesse’ a little more until our next horse show…

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Synchronized waiver-signing πŸ˜‰

Which is counting down! Our first dressage schooling show will be later in April πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to take my guy out more. We had a really nice time, and it was great to be able to practice in a bigger arena.

Second chance summer

What a great weekend. It was so lovely, I wish I could bottle it, so I could release those ‘feel good’ endorphins for months to come…

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Photo courtesy of my friend- blurry but it captures all the fun we had!

It was the kind of weekend where things justΒ work out. The weather was fantastic, I had some great times with my girls, drank wine, ran, rode my pony, floated at Thetis lake and just had a fabulous time all around in the hot sun.

Saturday we went garage sale-ing in a community that usually has great garage sales, and this year it sucked! What gives??? I still bought a pair of shorts and workout pants (and they do look great) but in the past we’ve had way better luck. Oh well, that’s just how garage sales go I guess…

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Holding hands so we don’t drift apart! The two Sarahs.

Then I zipped out to the barn and rode Oats in the outdoor arena and he was really great out there! It was so hot too, I couldn’t believe it. Like a big frying pan. I had a super fun ride, hung out at the barn for a bit cleaning & conditioning my tack, and then drove home and prepared to…go on a really long run. In the heat. Wow! It was really rough, not gonna lie. More of an eternal shuffle-jog, but I did it!!

I then had the luxury of a great bbq dinner courtesy of my husband with a beer to share and a bottle of wine. Ahh….

Sunday I didn’t have to get up too early, but my super-husband made crepes! Whooo! And then we both set out for the day- I rode Oats and then my barn friends and I went and floated at Thetis Lake (a great idea of theirs and the BEST day to do it). I just had this feeling like, I wanted this day to last forever….

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Oats has also been enjoying the summer! Photo courtesy of Sarah C.

Husband went climbing for the whole day, so I wrapped up at the lake and then put my gym clothes on and stopped off and ran some hills (again in the heat, yeowch it was tough) before heading home to take Gidget out. I had to walk some, I was dying!! Oh well, my legs too quite the beating this weekend.

Home again, with an ice cream McFlurry to finish off an amazing weekend. I just wish I had so many more of these! πŸ™‚

Half Way Home

No dressage lesson – or any riding actually – for me and Oats on Tuesday. I was stressed beyond belief at work, had to work a bit late, had to run an errand after work, and the weather was channeling the ‘storm of the century’ complete with gale- force winds, sideways rain and trees bringing down power.

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I, wisely, elected to not even try to rush to make my lesson. Having made that decision, I didn’t even go to to the barn. I was in a terrible mood, I yelled at my dog, I was surly to my husband and worse to my coworkers. It was not a good day to ride my horse, and bring all that negative energy to him, on a lousy weather day.

So, I ran my errand, got home around 6:30 and took the night off.

I’m glad I did–I was in no shape to ride, and I think part of being more aware of this makes me a more thinking, compassionte horse-owner.

I was bummed to miss my dressage ride but in the grand scheme of my relationship with Oaty pony, it was a good choice. I rode my dressage plan last night, and he was in turn good and bad, haha. He warmed up LOVELY…Can’t say enough good things about how he is moving right now. We then worked on some very focused lateral work, after doing the spiral-in-spiral-out at the trot (he spirals out great, in not so great).

Oats at Foxstone

Oats at Foxstone

The lateral work was a mixed bag. I need to do it more, that’s quite clear…Oats banged his head against the wall, the mirror, and the final thing–a giant iron post that really smartened him up and made him stop, in shock, about how much that one hurt! He would rather bang his head into the wall than, say,Β go sideways? Yes, off the right leg, that is DEFINITELY his preference.

To the left, beauty…soft, sideways movements. Floating, butterfly-like…Ah…

To the right- ARGH. But, he did learn. It just took a long. frustrating.time. Haha. I still feel ok about it, just need to be smarter about practicing the less-fun stuff on my rides! Rather than, say, jumping…

“All acts of nostalgia are expressions of longing for a past that never was”

Didn’t have my dressage lesson yesterday- as board increases are starting to eat into my regular ‘horse budget’ I’m having to cut back a bit- and so my dressage lessons are going to every other week, and I didn’t show this summer (by choice but also by $$$).

Instead, I did another horse counseling session and we focused on setting SMART goals. This was hard for me, because I can see the goal part, and I have my start, but what about the middle stuff? How does that go?

Well, it goes something like this…

I want to ride in the 2′ and 2’3” divisions at a local show series.

I want to compete in the whole series.

I want to finish each division without skipping any classes.

Easy eh?

Well, I also want to do it without having a meltdown, feeling anxious, feeling ‘out of body’ and actually enjoying feeling competent in the situation.

Not so easy.

How do I do it?

Continue with my private jump lesson once a week.

Add in separate schooling sessions over fences focusing on relaxation- now this is going to be the tough part.

Continue doing my counseling sessions once a week until my first show, and then probably moving it to once every other week.

So…That’s my action plan moving forward. I hope I can make progress this way!

Oats was a lovey to ride yesterday, I didn’t end up riding for that long as the counseling session took about an hour. We had some GREAT forward canter in the outdoor, and some fairly reasonable trot. Overall, a fun ride.

Today I am taking off, and having drinks! Yeah! Tomorrow is the jump lesson- where I get to put my money where my brain/mouth/body is…AH.