Honey Bunches of Oats does dressage!

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I saw this quote in another blog (Medal Slut), and I loved it so much I had to use it~

“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – Charles Bukowski

And here’s the shocker-for a reluctant dressage-er, we did REALLY WELL!! Got our personal best scores of all time?! 68.47% in Training Level 1, and 69% in Training Level 2~ can you believe it! I can’t!

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The whole gang with their ribbons!!

Rewinding a bit, I had originally wanted to go to the Cowichan District Riding Club’s jumper show on the Saturday, when everyone was going but as I mentioned yesterday we had a packed schedule and no hauler to go up with, soooooo dressage it was!

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

I had avoided the dressage ring for a few years, because it was hard, we were’t good at it, and it tripped all of my high-anxiety issues for showing and Oats did not respond well to my nerves, at all. So, jumping it was. But then, my husband got me some fancy white dressage boots for Christmas, so I wanted to show them off…and well, I had a ride to the showgrounds with my friend and her horse, sooooo…

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

It was fated! We were doing dressage for the first time in like 3 years!

As you will note, we practiced a LOT in the two weeks leading up the show. Four dressage lessons, even? I was ready. I was still very nervous, but luckily we didn’t have a lot of time to fuss around at the show, as we were running kind of late, haha. I hopped on, did a pretty perfunctory warm-up (Oats was ok, but swapping his left lead for his right CONSTANTLY in the warm up and it as driving me nuts). Anyway, off we went for Training Level 1 and you know what? It went fine. I felt pretty ok about it, despite him spooking a bit in the warm up and getting a little silly.

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

Funny enough usually at horse shows, I can’t wait to BE DONE and get off. This time? I finished my test 1, and said I want to get back in their and have more opportunities to ride the test! Who is this girl? I was still anxious, but I felt like I could have more time in the ring and really focus on riding.

Cue super long hiatus where Oats got loose and ran over one of the girl’s finance’s foot. Whoops!! He did catch Oats for me though, with Oats pinning his foot into the ground. Yikes! Oats and I hung out for ages..My first test was at 9:50am, and my second one was at 1:50pm!!

I got ready at around 1:10pm and warmed Oats up for the second time. He was TERRIBLE in the warm up. Thundering around, swapping leads like crazy, kind of acting nuts. I had this awful sinking feeling in my stomach.

Nicole was like, hey leave it in the warm- up, and just go and ride your test!

Easier said than done…

But, we entered the ring, started the first half of the test, got whistled out (judge thought we were doing Training 3 mistakenly, so I got to go back out, re-enter and start the test over.) Despite the miserable warm-up, the whistling out, we DID IT. We entered the groove, where I was focused on my test, on my horse, and on my body.

Each moment was there for me, and I wasn’t thinking too far ahead. (I did worry about the canter, ha).

When we came up to the final halt, I just KNEW we had a rocking test. We aced it!! The judge called me over and asked what breed Oats was (a mutt, I said. haha) and she said she really liked him and he was a good size and a very nice mover! WOW!!!!! 🙂

That test? Highest score ever for me- 69%. Good enough for second place for us! YESSS. A great end to a good day. I was very proud of how we pulled it together, and you should have seen how great everyone else was riding yesterday- I wasn’t the only one coming away with some good scores!!

Kudos to my friends for their great efforts, and to the Cowichan District Riding Club for a friendly, welcoming and fun atmosphere.

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Photo courtesy of Makayla Hovey.

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Coming on strong

This week, work continues to be….the bane of my existence, but we’ll chalk that up to it being that way for approximately another month (GAH).

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This girl can make it happen!

Jump lesson last night and I was actually feeling ok going into it. It has gotten cold again here (hate it) and I was freezing in my lesson. Like, wanted to keep cantering/trotting in my warmup because I was so cold. My trainer said ok that’s enough warming up for Oats and I was like, are you sure? I need to warm up!

We started work over a grid, and it was set short. Like, Oats short. And I really got into it! Usually grids are my nemesis and I kind of flail badly at them. However, I was feeling quite confident about the shorter distances even though we flailed through them as poles, I said they would probably work out well as jumps, and I was right! The shorter distance gave me a lot more confidence.

Then, we worked on setting up a small course with the gymnastic as a start.

The course had very few jumps (4?) but we jumped them several times in many iterations. S-curves, a bending line, diagonal fence, one on the centre line, all sorts of fun combinations! Oats was a superstar, and the most amazing thing happened. I screwed up a fence or two, cursed briefly, and then let it go and was able to immediately move on. I was even able to slow my brain down enough to think about what my next move was (something I am NEVER able to accomplish). Who is this girl?

I was sitting tall around -most- corners. I was focused on the approach, and using an opening rein for the S-curve. When I bungled the bending line (with a big chip..), we went and rode it again on Nicole’s prompting, and it went perfectly. WOW! For me, to be able to let that anxiety (performance mostly) go and just ride it again fixing my mistakes? That is a big step. Huge for me.

Even my trainer is noticing that I am slowing down enough to be able to fix things, adjust my position, carefully consider my track and be better about sitting up (elbows are kind of a work in progress though, and I wasn’t always great about sitting up all the time).

Still, I am proud of being able to think- yes I can do this. This is how it will go.

It’s taken a long time and I fall off track a lot, and these jumps were very small and totally do-able, but I didn’t have anxiety doing it. When my trainer suggested jumping the course again, I didn’t start backpedaling, I just did it! 🙂

 

Clawing my way back

So, to close out the long stream of pouty posts- I have a better (not great but better) update. I had a jump lesson last night, and while coursework is still a bit beyond my poor frazzled brain, Oats proved to me that he can be both a packer and a pony that saves my butt!

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Want to feel bold again!

I do wish he didn’t have to, but honestly- coming off a string of falls jumping, a lesson where he stopped a lot, and a bad horse show-I just don’t have the confidence in me right now to ride the way I need to ride. I know that about myself. I will need to claw it back, and regain the lovely, forward confidence that I had as shortly as a month ago.

We worked in the outdoor and the rain held off- thank god too, because it had been rainy/drizzling while I was warming up but then surprise! It stopped! Oats was spooky, he eyes were on stalks, he was looking looking looking for anything to get silly about. In hindsight, it was an excellent opportunity to manage both my nerves and his ‘looky’ behaviour in a safe, controlled environment- a lesson. Bonus for the both of us!

So, we worked on gaining his attention and not in the way I would have been forced to if I was riding alone (through anger, adrenaline and other unpleasant ways). It was a give-and-take, a PAY attention! Ok good, soften hands. PAY ATTENTION! soften hands…

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I remember when this felt high??

And it worked!

We then worked our way up to a canter-in gymnastic (which weirdly are becoming my favourite things, even though I have notoriously hated gymnastics, the canter-in ones are like, soooooo good for me).

We did that until my brain had enough- it gets easily ‘flooded’ right now with anxiety- and my trainer let me walk on a few successful ones ending in a small oxer. Oats was great!

We then worked over a teeny tiny outside line- five strides- and proceeded to bungle it SO bad. I just could NOT let go of my horse. I held held held…And chased and then held. Eeeek..

Oats, to his good nature and credit, still jumped it very gamely. He was 100% honest, I just couldn’t let go of his face. I still feel a bit bad about it. Nicole suggested I ride with one hand and surprise! I was able to ride through the line without bungling it tooooo badly. It was still not pretty and wow…Even though we got the 5-strides, I still grabbed on to his face for dear life over the second fence with my one hand gripping like grim death.

Interesting…

So to wrap up- my head game needs some work to ride boldly forward and let go of Oats’ face, but to give me some credit too- I took some hits and I can’t brush off how it had affected me.

 

Dave Freeze clinic #2: Be willing to be a bozo occasionally.

Went to my second Dave Freeze talk this weekend, curiously the day before my Foxstone show- auspicious timing eh?

Last time I attended his talk, I came away with some good information, but also felt like I didn’t go deep enough, and I was struggling with anxiety. Now that I have been doing a lot of hard work on managing my physical stress and trying to take that next step to actually putting it into practice, like at the horse show. So, the talk that Dave hosted, combined with the work that I have been doing weekly with Vicki, put me in a good mindset for the show.

Dave went through the steps with us on how anxiety/fear presents itself, and how to get an optimal performance. We ‘borrow’ from the stupid list (fear, jealousy, anger, sad, worry, frustration, nerves, stress) when our performance outcome does not match our perception of ourselves, our image.

So, our image has to change a bit, to allow for mistakes and mistake management (this was a big one). That way, we won’t have to ‘borrow’ from the stupid list when we make mistakes and screw up–that’s just part of life, and a part of YOUR life. Most of the time, you are ideal. Occasionally, you are amazing. And sometimes, you are a bozo.

You have to be willing to tell yourself the truth about who you really are.

Accept that occasionally screwing up exists as a part of yourself. Don’t always protect your image, change your image. If you are on a spectrum of performance, being too careful will limit your performance–thinking about the ‘wrong things’ will do it too, ie- caring too much, thinking too much about distances, other riders, mistakes, prize money, etc.

At a horse show, keep in mind The Big Eight

  • calm mind
  • relaxed body
  • grounded
  • centred- the ability to change your mind if you need to
  • positive
  • patient- time isn’t rushing by, it slows down
  • effort- put out the appropriate amount
  • focus

When you have these things, you will be in a zen state. This is ‘carefree’ but carefree still means focused. Riding carefree is great but you’ll always have to manage mistakes.

Keep in mind that attributes (mistake management, the Big Eight, bravery) + Process (rhythm, pace, distance, balance, position, connection) = Outcome (a great ride, fun, smooth, enjoyable, connected, proud). Let the outcomes go.

Focus on the attributes and process. Then the outcome will take care of itself.

Sports intertwine- Running VS Riding?

Funny enough I don’t really blog much about running except recently some race reports. Truth is I think it is kind of boring, it’s a boring sport to do, and to talk about (for me, mostly).

Probably because I’m not thrillingly fast, and I do find it very disappointing and discouraging. Funny enough in my riding life I am pretty much at the ‘mediocre’ level as well but still LOVE talking about it- to anyone who will listen- aka my blog…HA.

(I will use this opportunity to sneak a riding update- Saturday and Sunday we had to do flatwork, which Oats cooperated but was less than sparkly about). He got the fastest tack up-warm-up-ride, including trot cross-rails and canter circles-yesterday of his life!!). Lesson tomorrow, clip job/tranq today.

But there is cross-over. Riding is a very mental sport, and so is running. The head game is 90% of the win for both of these activities.

So, even through my headline says running VS riding- it’s more like running + riding= mental success! (?????). The success part is still coming I think…

I like this quote from a running blog I read from time to time: Run Selfie Repeat

One of the easiest mistakes you can make when working towards a fitness goal is feeling ashamed, discouraged or defeated by where you’re at instead of empowered by it. We all have to start somewhere! It doesn’t matter how fast you’re doing it, how long it’s taking, or how far you’re going, it’s the fact that you’re showing up and putting the work in that counts. And sometimes you have to stop to smell the flowers, to take a break and remind yourself why made the goal in the first place.

It is very easy to get lost in the process- for both my riding goals/progression AND my running goals.

So I didn’t break the top 10 in yet another race- overall, I’m doing fairly well and injury free. That’s a big win!

I’m getting more out of my jumping lessons (when fear doesn’t overtake my brain) and by being/starting in a comfort zone, I’m also enjoying them MUCH more.

It is easy, so easy to think: I’m not running/riding enough, I should be faster/progressing more, I should be placing higher, jumping higher, etc etc etc…

And why do I do these things? I LOVE these sports (well riding, running…I get a weird sense of self satisfaction from. I call it runner’s smug).

So yeah we can do it! Go us!!