The machine that made us: Jump lessons!

Yesterday. Wow. So, the day went pretty seamlessly- work was good, it was fairly pleasant to run home and I was heading out to enjoy a walk with Gidget. I had my headphones in, and was listening to my favourite podcast at the moment (Casefile, check it out!) until my good mood came to a screeching halt thanks to an insanely rude, entitled neighbour.

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Dirty details don’t need to come out but protip: Confronting someone with ‘are you deaf’? pretty much NEVER goes well, you old crank. God, it really brought my happy mood down and raised alllllll of my hackles. Don’t mess with me. 

Anyways, I was amped and angry and then spent over an hour driving in traffic to the barn, leading to me rushing around and literally running to grab tack, horse, boots…Yeah. I was in an awful mood going into my riding lesson. Pissed, running late, angry, etc etc the proverbial black cloud was hanging over me.

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This sadly bled into my ride. I felt awkward, clumsy, not connecting well, Oats felt sucked back, tenderfooted and his canter? Ha, what canter. He could not hold the canter, warmed up feeling like a piece of cardboard…Yeah. So, success??

We worked over a few elements of the course in the outdoor and they went ok, until we strung them into a course. Ugh, horrible. I was getting left behind, riding defensively, you name it, I was doing it. I could NOT get in the ‘groove’ per se.

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We regrouped, and then went to tackle the course again- and Nicole suggested I let my body ‘flow’ more and focus on a big, exaggerated two-point bend/release instead of my stiff, defensive, ‘sit’ position. This would help Oats jump better too, as he would feel me committing more to the jump and not riding from the backseat (one of my bigger flaws at the moment).

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Brenda kindly gave Oats her old flymask after his other one got destroyed last week. Wonder how long this will last?

And wouldn’t you know, it worked! Our second course rode really well! Some bobble fences, but overall it flowed much better, we met the fences together, rather than Oats and then me, and it was overall just much more pretty and positive. A great note to end on! AND my friend was there, so I got video + screenshots from it. YES! Plus- I matched with Oats (on purpose this time) so we look pretty too.

So, from good, to really bad, to good again. A rollercoaster of a day!

 

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Is it too much to ask? Dressage recap!

So my dressage semi-private lessons with Oats have been pretty good, suspiciously good lately in fact. So it was only a matter of time before Oats had a big throw-down hissyfit ‘I don’t wanna’ lesson, and last night was kind of it!

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Oats gets a haircut…

Luckily, he is also 17 and can’t buck as hard as he used to! Phew!

We worked a fairly difficult exercise- turn off the short end, and leg-yield at the trot. This will eventually turn into leg-yield and transition within the leg yield, and back to the gait. So we did trot-walk-trot (HARD), and then trot-canter and then canter-trot. Oats was fairly amenable on one rein- left rein to right leg yield and was kind of a disaster on the other!

Oh Oats!

He was like, umm…no. Instead of our regularly scheduled transition, he would LEAP instead of moving sideways. Like, actually just jumping in the air. Greeeat….

This escalated a bit into a leap-buck, but like I said he is getting older so his bucks didn’t really unseat me, thank god. Ha.

This lesson is one that we had done last year, but without the transitions. And the leg-yield was enough of a brain-melter for both horses! We could barely even get the leg-yielding so being able to ask just a ‘little bit more’ was a stretch for Oats, and he was learning (slowly and kind of nastily) but learning.

So there is progress, albeit very slow and kind of unpleasant for me when Oats really gets going. Oh well, I can manage! And it is nice to see how the exercise develops from one year to the next. Oats is also clipped, so I didn’t have to spend forever and a day cooling him out. YESSSS!

A challenge

I went quiet last week, partly due to a large amount of stress at work, but also due to horse stress.  Yep, they both happened on the same day…Don’t you just love it? After all the shenanigans Oats has gone through lately (stopping at fences, being a dick at horse shows, stopping again at fences, me falling off in a bad 7-day period…) things got even worse. Not for riding–that’s been fine.

He banged into the stable manager when she was taking him out of the field, and she fell into a stump. On her back. Cue a hospital visit and now she’s off horses/stable work for a good two weeks, maybe up to six now. I felt terrible when I heard about this.

Jesus. First, my horse is an asshole to jump. Now he is an asshole to handle?

I was SO OVER THE HORSE THING. All of it. All of it was putting me in a really bad mood. I felt so sorry for her, and like, just…GAHHH. Last week and hell, most of the ENTIRE month of May, my horse had no redeeming qualities. NONE.

I was furious at him, angry and so pissed off.

I rode Thursday and it was actually a fairly productive ride, but I found myself chasing him to the pole exercise I was working on…So maybe I wasn’t good at letting things go. By Saturday, I had a good long time to stew in my misery and unhappiness. When my lesson time finally rolled around, I had worked myself into a frenzy of tension. Full of ‘I don’t wannas.’

So yeah, perfect to have a lesson, right?

WRONG.

This time I verbalized what was going on in my head to my instructor, who totally got it. I’m going through some stuff right now with Oats, and I’m not feeling comfortable at all. I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate and see where things are.

And I am pleased to say I did not lose my temper at Oats in my lesson, we didn’t push my boundaries with jumps- we did a small ‘x’ and a small vertical that I quite frankly could jump in my sleep- and worked on jumping those in combination with a leg-yielding pattern. It was interesting, I was very sweaty when we finished, and I didn’t at all feel keyed up, nervous, anxious or anything.

Ending on a good note. I was pleased with how it went.

Sunday, I set up the pole exercise in the outdoor and went to practice my ‘eye’- short distance, long distance, right distance. I deliberately pushed for the long distance and actually was able to ride it- wow! And I ‘collected’ sort of held for a short distance, and was able to make it.

It was a good ride, very comprehensive. I had a small jump set up, but it wasn’t calling to me yesterday, so I left it alone. Our lateral work sucked, but what else is new? Haha. Oh and Oats had a hissy fit about a car parked behind the arena- something NEW?! Gasp! But we managed just fine.

I finished feeling pretty calm and competent. I need the practice, apparently, on making decisions. I will keep on it until I feel like I can make the right decision!

I also felt awful about the stable manager so I sent her a Starbucks gift card as a ‘get well’ gesture. That made me feel a tiny bit better.

Mr. Oats has an angry day

Oats was just…bizarre last week. I haven’t ridden yet this week (took Monday off because I was in a terrible mood and tired, felt I really shouldn’t bring that negative energy to the barn) so we shall see for my lesson today..

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Pretty much how Oats feels about life.

But yes, for Saturday, he was just…awful. Thursday he was cranky and grouchy, tired and phoning it in. Saturday he was SO ANGRY. Fine in the cross-ties, and then a nippy dragon in the ring! I went to tighten his girth and he tried to bite me, repeatedly. He swished his tail in the angriest horse way. He refused to let me get on. He wouldn’t walk forward, and when I asked, kicked out>??

Yeah, your guess is as good as mine? He wouldn’t trot, only hop angrily and pissily.

I gave up on the trot, and we went for a good, very forward, sitting & working canter. He was lovely during it! And then our trot work was pretty nice after too? So wtf Oats? Why the attitude? He dropped it once we had our good canter warmup but wow, he came out ready for a fight. This is definitely unlike him, easy-going Oats.

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Oats harasses his buddy Jim.

He is very perplexing this month. Last week was kind of an ugly week. Is he just feeling stiff, or is it something else, since he seems to work out of it ok?

Sunday, I decided to warm him up a bit before I got on by walking/trotting, turning circles, stopping and backing up in-hand, just to sort of see how he was feeling. I then tightened the girth very carefully, respectful of his feelings, haha. And he didn’t show any of the crazy snarkiness and anger of Saturday. So far so good.

I hopped on and he was a bit slow in the walk, but listened well enough to my leg with not so much tail swishing and I’m pleased to report- NO angry kicking out. He trotted nicely straight off the bat, no real hopping…And when he went to hop, it wasn’t as dramatic and pissy as before. Hm..

We cruised over a few x-rails, but mostly focused on the one thing I am struggling with: Straightness over the diagonal. His canter was fine, I actually didn’t do any ‘dressage’ canter with him (the super forward upright sitting canter) because he didn’t seem to need it like he did the other day.

It was a good and calm ride. Now, where is this horse all last week? I could use him back!

Constructive Anger

So, my day yesterday started by slipping on a bag of dog crap that someone considerately left in the middle of the sidewalk…

and then having a run in with the van at the crosswalk that I later called about,

and then work (enough said. It was a very very frustrating day)

and then on my way home, got into an altercation with an asshole cyclist,

and then my riding lesson- my dear pony spent a lot of the lesson trying to kill me, and I actually had to get ‘hulk rage’ on his ass.

and on the way home- drove behind someone who was turning left at an advance left on Hillside, who then decided to STOP in the middle of the intersection. I honked and honked, and they waved me, and I was going to go around them…And then they decided to start going again? We almost crashed.

I went home and was like….yeah.(actually was literally ready to throw something at a window).

This is an illustrated example of my day yesterday: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.ca/2010/05/sneaky-hate-spiral.html

I can only hope today is less than half as bad. That is the best I can hope for.

Installing the ‘go’ button NOT the ‘eject’ button??

Today’s recap is going to be about the clinics I watched with Jan Ebeling and my lesson yesterday on Oats (hence the ‘go’ button not ‘eject’ button. He gets those confused, apparently. Or maybe I do?).

Jan is funny, erudite and very nice. His clinics were forward-focused (funny it was definitely the theme of the entire weekend- how do you fix riding/horse problems? MORE LEG LEG LEG! (as per every clinician, all weekend.)

I am starting to see that a BIG problem in my riding is that Oats is not forward off my leg, and let’s face it- not at all broke to the leg very well.

Hm…definitely something I have either caused, or let happen through laziness/attrition/ not wanting to rock the boat too much.

Jan was very interesting to watch- he schooled riders to ‘push’ and then ‘let go’ when they got what they wanted from the horse. He believes strongly in warming up and transitions through the gaits- big trot, small trot, then walk, then trot. If your transitions are unschooled, your other work will suffer.

He also was a big believer in FORWARD to the downward transition, rather than letting them ‘schlump’ through it.

Check him out here

He is fair and very kind to the horse/riders combos. His big takeaway is to be flexible, and be fun about what you’re doing- it’s not ALL bad. Ha.

(He should have seen Oats yesterday!)

So that take me to Oats, naturally. He felt sucked-back and pissy on our first ride on Monday, that I sort of solved by cantering immediately over poles and working over crossrails instead of doing the usual walk-trot-canter warmups. That worked pretty well actually.

Except on Tuesday, our challenging lessons with Karen Brain, his sucked-back pissyness was definitely on display.

It was interesting (and frankly scared me and wigged me out) we are in a BIG grey area. Oats is finding other behaviours- rather than straight out bucking- to get around what I’m asking. So…instead of forward trot with bend, he’s trying to canter. Sometimes throws a buck- in all fairness, he only did that one yesterday to the left. It’s not all ‘bad’ but it’s also not all ‘good’…It’s just…there.

He’s trying these other behaviours, and Karen felt like he’s slowly getting ‘there’ but bringing up these other attempts to see what he can sort of get away with. So, I guess I can’t punish him for trying??

It was funny though and SO EXHAUSTING when I was like, forward-trot-bend and he’s like…canter-suckback- neck in air. He does this funny ‘prop’ up when he was trying to canter and it felt like when he tries to launch me, so I got kind of grabby…which is the wrong response. I had to ‘fix’ it by either circling, or letting him canter but really working the canter- left bend right bend left bend right bend. He doesn’t just get to cruise.

Over and over and over and over…

We did circles, oh, did we ever do circles. I felt dizzy!

Then our circles weren’t forward enough (jesus lady, I was getting tired at that point haha) so Oats thought a circle meant a chance to suck back again. ARGH.

My butt and leg cramped up. We were soaked in sweat. It was frustrating, I got annoyed and kind of mad, and Oats was just barely, grudgingly, giving me what I wanted. PHEWWW.

(oh and you should have seen our ‘discussion’ about picking out his hooves nicely before my ride. Apparently Oats feels like he should be allowed to snatch his hind hoofies away from me, rudely. I had another idea about that !!! Nothing pisses me off more than that. Frig!)

I am feeling sore today and think I will give him a day to think things over (and I need a break to go for a run maybe).

Horses. Why does it always feel like 1 step forward and then 3 steps back???

How you grow up

So *takes a deep breath* I did it- rode in my lesson yesterday with Karen (as I mentioned in my previous post, I was soooo undecided about it).

Success?

Success?

Even right up until when she came to the arena, I was like no, I’m not riding. Yes I am riding. No, I’m not. Yes. No. Yes.??

I kind of felt like tearing up when I went through how I was feeling with her, but funny enough she said hey let’s go ahead with business as usual, and act like he’s going to be perfect. If he isn’t, we will deal with that when it happens.

Dressage days

Dressage days

So….I just didn’t have a lot of time to get angsty and dramatic. I had to stay focused, on the game, and couldn’t let my mind wander.

We worked, and when I said he felt like he was getting rude or pissy with me, we worked constructively through it. Very positive, and very thorough.

I learned some really good tools to help me cope with his behaviour, like working on right-bend from the left side, using the wall to help me if I felt unsafe or concerned, and getting after him in a tighter circle if I felt like he was going to try to toss me off (it never got to the bucking point but I did use the circle once or twice when I felt uneasy).

In short? My heart was in my freaking throat!!! But I was committed to work through it, and determined to see this through. Every time he ‘threatened’ or tried to intimidate me, I wanted to FREEZE and grab.

The tools I am learning are helping me move beyond the ‘frozen’ fetal position, and get more proactive in managing how I am riding Oats.

And it is tough! Particularly when my first instinct is to grab upwards and ‘save myself’ when he bucks, instead of being able to ‘feel out’ when and if a buck or pissy behaviour is going to happen and proactively deal with it, before it escalates into a buck.

We even cantered, though I said NO WAY at first! Right lead 3-4 strides, left some good circles, though I was grabby and nervous at first.

It was a good, extremely productive lesson. Oats was coated in sweat (needs clipping SO HARD right now) and I was sooo sweaty too. It was not a pretty ride, but it was one that we honestly needed to get us over this dangerous plateau we are on.

So, while I am not exactly over the moon happy, and frankly still worried about what the hell I’m doing with him most days- I’m also committed to at least trying what I am learning with him.

And I asked how long it would take to get us through this rough spot and Karen said it can take months- 3 months or 6 months or whatever. WTF? I was like, nooooooo I’m doomed to be a walk-trot rider forever!!! (dramatically).

Hah, well she said it is like training a child- lots of reminders, pushing boundaries, etc. You can’t just do it for a week or 1 lesson and be done, blah.

I just can’t help but feel like I get/got frustrated because my version of progress right now feels like a freaking circle, nevermind a linear line or squiggle line. What gives?