Oats goes for six days a week!

Realized I’d misjudged my week a tad, and poor Oaty got ridden six days in a row! In my defense, some of those days were quickie easy rides, nothing too in-depth…But two of those days were lessons!

Don't mess with Mr. Oats!

I wish he was a bit meaner so he’d have some tail left!

My dressage lesson on Tuesday was good, some dolphin-hopping from Oats that I can chalk up to him not being very nice about trot+forward+contact, but eventually he left it alone and cooperated. He did get a bit fussy and balky with the hopping at some points, particularly during our lateral work at the walk, and then during our canter-trot transitions, but Karen was quick to catch on to that, as was I, and we adjusted our exercise to get him moving out and respecting my leg!

I was a bit cranky about his jerky little attitude at points, but Karen was also there to remind me that he really is getting much better! That is very true.

Wednesday I was going to take off, but because it was Rememberance Day, and I had the whole day, I rode. Ha, sorry Oats! Nothing to write home about for that ride, he was a bit sticky off my leg again- shades of Tuesday’s ride- so I firmly reminded that we GO, he did one sassy kick-out and was good as gold for the rest of the ride.

Thursday- Jump night! The whole gang was there, which is great. I used to not like having anyone around during my lessons- it was a bit strange for me because I normally ride late at night and the barn is deserted- but I quickly learned that riding with people around is something I can learn to like. It also helps me with my performance anxiety- nobody is particularly interested in your ride!

We did a deceptively difficult exercise, and it exposed some of my and Oats’ weak spots. A canter-in gymnastic of pole-jump-pole-1 stride-jump (oxer)- pole.

Oats was actually quite the fast-thinking superstar for the grid for the most part! I screwed up when we got to the oxer point, felt nervous and pulled back on his mouth–oops! It was purely my anxiety basically, so the next time around Oats declined the oxer…Shoot!

We broke the oxer down, rode it on a very loose rein until he was confirmed again, and then brought it back up to the oxer, and he was good! I’m starting to sense a bit of a theme with my rides lately, they aren’t perfect…In fact, we make mistakes. A lot of them! My ride is basically mistake-management?

And also I am having to let go of my clutching and ‘helping’ through grids. Oats isn’t liking that, and everytime I do it, I have to go back to riding on a very loose rein through the grids?! Whaa?

I did request though, that when we went back to the exercise and worked it into the course that it stay a vertical- I don’t want to accidentally sour Oats on the exercise, and I hoped to leave the oxer on a good note.

Nicole respected my wishes and we worked through the canter grid with the vertical, to a left hand turn to a circle over the green boxes (oh god, the green boxes that we screwed up every time we went through, to a small vertical on the long side- easy, a circle again to the left, canter the diagonal to get a lead change…that never happened in behind, argh, right hand circle of the green box- the green box required a 2X attempt every time! And finish with a strong canter across the diagonal over a small vertical. The best jump of the day!

So, some good, some bad. It’s been interesting for sure. We are in a learning process and it feels very different from before. It’s almost like I am allowing myself to make mistakes? I’m not just skating the edge of mediocre, I’m diving right in and making the choice to try. Sure, it’s ugly as hell sometimes, but isn’t that a bit better than just sort of never going there? I am trying very hard not to let my performance anxiety run the show. I will screw up, and that’s ok.

So, very good at times, and very bad at times is, in my mind, looking a bit better than just sort of…scraping by all the times.

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.

Life is something you do when you can’t get to sleep

One out of 30 isn’t so bad.

Being braver

Being braver

Had a jump lesson last night, and it did try my need for perfection quite strongly. I hate bad distances, crashing jumps, rails down, and chips (gah the chips!) and we had exactly 1 super bad jump- I misjudged and let my legs slip back a bit on the downhill, and Oats slid into the jump and took it out.

I kind of jarred my shoulder, but overall stuck it. We lowered it to an x-rail, worked through it again to the bending line oxer (it was kind of ugly), then rode it again to the oxer- much better!

I want this to look small to me.

I want this to look small to me.

I ended on that note, and it kind of took all of my courage to not completely wimp out when things went sour. I have a real tendency towards perfection, and when the rails start coming off the tracks, I backpedal and can’t seem to get going again.

My coach brought it home with this- so it was 1 bad jump-all the others looked pretty good! So what was I complaining about exactly? One out of 30 or so odd jumps isn’t the end of the world, and quite frankly, my need for ‘perfect rounds’ or flawless jumps is unrealistic and damaging – I’m saying this, she didn’t.

So we screw up and make mistakes- that is how we learn and how we change. Oats certainly didn’t hold it against me- he was a bit hesitant the next fence, but on the firm second try he was totally game. What an honest pony!

Sometimes he can be a saint and sometimes a devil- I need to trust him to make the right decisions.

And that brings me to today- not sure what kind of ride I might plan for tonight, but I’m going to take it a bit easier after our jump lesson last night. I don’t think it was particularly strenuous, but it was kind of a tough mental game for me- they always are.

I also worked quite hard on going into my jump lesson with a ‘neutral’ attitude – not grouching and not complaining about the jump heights- and did it work? Ha, sort of? I do still feel like i’m ”faking it” a bit but I am honestly trying to make changes in my mindset and my body. I also tried to make a real effort to breathe more (this happened in my warmup, not so much in my actual jump course, ooooops).

Though I did NOT say anything about the jump heights- even when they got bumped up to the ‘vaunted heights’ of 2’3”! OOohhh ahahhaha.

Go us!