Love and appreciate Mr. Oats

Boldness comes from confidence and confidence comes from success.

Quote by Jack LeGeoff, a very famous showjumper. And I have to say…He’s right. I was musing on this verbally with my trainer last night. I have had long-standing anxiety/fear issues with jumping (even though I love it!!) and it’s taken me a long, long time to let my body and brain be okay with what I’m doing- jumping! Years and years at 2′ basically.

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Screengrab my trainer took- Oats cantering 2’9” like a little pro! Can you believe we TROTTED this in our warm-up? Me either! 

In some aspects I look back and am like, man why did it take that long? But that’s basically the same emotion as finishing a solid personal-best style race and muttering, ‘Why couldn’t I have gone just a little bit faster?’ It doesn’t serve anyone.

What does serve is being appreciative and happy with the progress you/I have made. Taking it jump by jump, lesson by lesson, and day by day. I don’t really take it for granted (much…It’s still a human instinct apparently).

Anyways, my trainer announced she was going to have me do something yesterday that she knew I’d really hate- trot jumps. Ughhh!! Even better, we were going to play the ‘how high can you go’ with a trot jump?! I was like, oh this is going to be good… But I played along! Part of my anxiety in the past wouldn’t let me just try things, and I’m ready to try now.

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Another, less fabulous screengrab- a fail on my part, a too-close distance for Oats over the oxer. We had to re-ride this (and it went fantastic!) 

So we trotted in! We started with a canter x-rail, and then moved it to a very small (under 2ft) vertical for the trot in. We did a few trot in, and up it went! And then up it went again and we went SPLAT for one jump- I kind of pushed and then pulled and couldn’t make up my mind to leave him alone to it, haha. And then to 2’6”! Wha? I got with the rhythm a bit better, and figured things out, and we called it quits…Until I said go to 2’9”- I know we can do it. And the first time, I got nervous and did the ‘Go-no wait, no canter, now go!’ And I did confuse the poor pony but he bobbled up to it and flew over! We had to do it again, and this time I TROTTED and didn’t get all nervous and grabby. 🙂 YAY Oats!

It felt like a ‘Oats/Jesus take the wheel!’ moment but it was excellent for the both of us. For me, to understand that jumping bigger fences and ‘waiting’ not rushing or driving at them is a-ok and totally fine. For Oats, he was pushing off his hind end more equally. Win-win! And a bonus- when we went to canter it for our second course, it felt pretty darn easy.

That’s not to say our courses were foot-perfect (hahah no) we got in way too close on our second round to the rocks and to the oxer, so we had to ride them again. But you know what? I just love and appreciate the ‘try’ my pony exhibited in the whole ride, his willingness, and the mind/mental freedom I had to give these new and scary things a go.

Moment by moment, I just really am feeling this little guy more and more now.

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Dressage lesson on Tuesday (my last one for two weeks, as my lesson partner is away and I have other priorities for the next few Tuesdays as well). And we re-visited the ‘diamond of doom’ ha exercise from last week.

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It’s a particularly revealing exercise, because the horses both have absolute meltdowns at some point during it- revealing without mercy the holes in our training…Yikes.

We did it first at walk-trot-walk w/o stirrups, and then I did a few w/o stirrups walk-canter (but then had to take them back) and we did it both reins, in both gaits, and the second time we went to do it off the right rein- you guessed it- HISSY FIT city for both horses.

Oats was like, no. Just no. I am done. I have done this now TWICE and I am OVER IT.

I had to walk, cajole him ‘nicely’ into the exercise while he gnashed his teeth, huffed and puffed, ran backwards and swished his tail and threw his head down. He was pissed! Nevertheless….we persevered. It was ok, I can be calm and just.keep.asking. And wouldn’t you know, he let go of his pissy attitude and started coming around.

The trick here…Is to not buy into drama. And it is soooo tempting, the drama part. He gets all fussy and huffy and I want to get into it too! But, no. Calm, quiet, walking, boring. And eventually the drama goes away by itself, ha.

Karen reminded us that the exercise isn’t always ‘nice’ or perfect but the point of it is to keep doing it, and let it expose your weaknesses. And then don’t overreact when it does- that’s the point! Let it work, and the horses will figure it out- don’t worry about them huffing and fluffing around- they are confused and having a hard time with it. You don’t need to get into it with them.

We ended on a nice canter, and Oats was forgiving by that point, ha. Good pony.

A Halloween riding lesson

The horse knows when you know, and knows when you don’t know. Ray Hunt.

And boy, ain’t it the truth!

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So much candy…Aftermath

Last night was our semi-private dressage lesson with Karen Brain, and we worked on a VERY deceptively challenging exercise- a diamond pattern, using the dressage letters in the ring as a guide for the diamond.

The goal: Straightness to each letter, horse forehead lands on the letter, and then a mild pivot – front legs only- to the next letter in the diamond shape.

The reality? A muddle of lateral movement, extreme wiggling, fussy behaviour, sucking back behind the leg, throwing hips around, front legs move too laterally again…Oh it went on!

Also the reality: Riding lessons during Halloween night= nonstop fireworks. Constantly! UGH it felt like we were riding during some sort of war. The horses were as good as gold though and saved our butts. I think it also helped that the exercise was very technically challenging and required a lot of focus, so not a lot of ‘fluffing around’ time for them to start getting silly.

The exercise was at the walk, and then we’d go walk- canter-walk from each letter in the diamond shape. It became QUITE evident that the pieces would fall apart quickly here- and we, as riders, didn’t really know what we were doing…And the horses picked up on it fast.

Oats expressed his concern at the exercise by ‘dolphin-leaping’ instead of say, picking up a nice canter. HA. He did it a few times and luckily I didn’t get unseated, but I sure did lose my reins and had to collect them up in a hurry!

We got say, 2-3 nice transitions out of oh..100. And that is progress! It was a very tough and technical lesson, but everytime I got frustrated or annoyed, Karen was like this is hard, it’s hard for the horses and hard for you so just keep trying and something will work out. It did!

Lots of learning last night for sure.

Don’t give up on your dreams, Buddy!

A busy weekend when I wasn’t really expecting it! My folks moved officially to the Island, so we spent a lot of time with them. Then the time we weren’t eating/visiting, I was riding good ol’ Oats and running (track with my husband for practice, and the trails at Thetis Lake for fun!).

Oats was great this weekend, my rides seemed fairly forgettable in a good way so yesss! Saturday I worked over a pole, and did some straightness work. Easier said than done…

We did something funny on Sunday–I jumped him around a little bit in the ring and he was a bit sassy/tired/balky, so I cut it out after a few jumps and took him to the big field, and we did…Trot sets! To me and Oats, trot sets= my sprinting track work. He was huffing and puffing, ha. Still had enough energy to s

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Running in the field is my favourite says Oats! The dressage part…not so much.

pook right at the end though, going up a hill. What a goof!

This is what we did:

Walk in field. Pick up trot for 3 minutes, and then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 4 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 5 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Back down!

Trot for 4 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for 3 minutes, then 2 minutes walk.

Trot for a few minutes (he spooked then, so clearly he had a lot of energy and I lost track of my time…) and then cool-down walk.

This took me to noon, and time to hop off and go home.

Monday I did an equine counselling session and we discussed the show (good at managing challenges, kind of bad at my fall/trying to hold myself together to compete); and Oats’ mystery behaviour on Wednesday- her conclusion was that he was tired. And you know? He was acting so strangely that I totally buy it. Interesting!

Tuesday was my dressage lesson with Karen Brain. We were back out in the field and it was hard work! It was also really cool. We worked on picking up the canter on the ‘up’ side of a hill, incorporating a circle, and then managing the circle to the down-part of the hill. Hilariously, we sucked at it for awhile- I couldn’t seem to manage to keep going on a circle, keep his canter ‘bouncy’ and up instead of sprawling and flat, and make my hands do what I wanted them to!

It got better though, phew. A very neat ride.

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 🙂

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.

 

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.

 

And the hits keep coming?

Aka I fell off in my jumping lesson AGAIN. Hilariously, it was at the easiest fence on course…One that I was rocking last week at a higher height even?

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Jumping two years ago- photo courtesy of Christi.Funny I thought this was really high back then.

So, the good news is that my jumping ahead and falling off isn’t fence-dependent at all, or  dependent on going up or down the hill either.

The bad news is…Why does it keep happening? I felt overconfident, turned for the jump, thought I saw my distance and…WENT FOR IT! Without the horse, basically. I used to have a terrible jump-ahead habit that I thought I’d cured. Turns out, I haven’t.

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More good news- my mindset seems ok with this failure. It’s ok to fail, it was even kind of funny last night because I didn’t re-injure my shoulder, I just sort of rolled off Oats and onto the ground, taking the jump down with me. Oats stepped politely over it. I got back on, and I didn’t even have a BIG adrenaline rush like last time. I just felt like, whaa?? And that was silly! I was even kind of laughing?

So, yeah got back on and rode it just fine. And then we did the entire course again- I will admit to a few mild butterflies, but it was fine. We were just rockin’ the gymnastic this week too, something that gave me a hard time last week (hint: this week we got to canter in to them, and that was sooooo much better!!).

So why the falls? I don’t even feel particularly insecure!

Oats was jumping fine last night, he gave some boxes a hard look but went over them anyways, the outside line that kind of gives me trouble rode fine- if a bit crooked…as per ususal- our two-stride line that I fell off at last week first rode in 3 (eek) but then rode in two with some big clucking from Nicole. She checked the line after and saw it was set a tad long for Oats, so that may have been it. And yeah, we were rocking and rolling through the gymnastic, even with some big blue barrels set under it to give the horses something interesting to look at!

And then yeah, the easiest single fence on course and I blew it. HA?!

Oh well, this is another valley in the learning process I suppose. One day I’ll get it.