Mr. Oats goes to a gymkhana!

Mid-August, we had the chance to go to a really fun little local gymkhana. And we are NOT western-style riders, but wanted to have fun, support some local grassroots events and check it out!

Our failed pairs race!

Oats was very much non-fast, but he was also a touch footsore, so he did his best and was a good boy until he had a freakout on the trailer coming home and almost killed all of us…UGH horses!!

Anyways we had a great time trying barrel racing, pole bending, pairs race (hah not really), keyhole. I would definitely go again.

Here’s our youtube links, enjoy! 🙂

It just doesn’t happen

TWO jump lessons in like 4 days- go us! yay! This Tuesday Oats was verrrry sluggish off the leg, and unlike Saturday, never really woke up and got that excited. Wish I could feed him his oats again..?! Maybe?? I was wishing I had my spurs though, haha even though I had to remove them on Saturday.

Old Oats in all his glory!

We worked over a small grid, and remember- grids are my nemesis, ha. Or, they used to be. Heck, any trot fence was on my hit list! It went quite well though, so I have zero complaints about last night. Maybe one- jumps look high to me. Jumping 2ft, where he literally JUST CANTERS over it, and I am geared up for the freaking Olympics! Hahahah. I hope my brain and eyes will adjust, because Oats literally does not care and I am hyperventilating and like woah…Here we go! And he’s like, eh…

Anyways, it does serve to remind me that he is the best little dude. Not excitable, not rushy, just goes and does it. Very workmanlike. I could use a *little* excitement for the jumps here Oaty! 😉

Oh and we did get to 2’3” oxer in the grid and it felt high! hahaha. Oh, time. Such a fickle thing.

MEC Victoria Race 3: Halloween half marathon!

That’s right, fresh off a whole three weeks returning to running from a summer++ off, I ran a 10k and then ran a half marathon the weekend after! What am I, totally crazy?

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why am I always alone at the finish? 

Well, yes but that’s half of it. I had already signed up for the MEC half (I normally sign up for all of their race packages, so cheap and well-run, but I won’t anymore because they basically halved the races they offer and cut 2 of my favourite ones, and kept the one I hate and won’t run…soooo nope).

But anyways, I usually like this one because it’s fall, Halloween time and the air is crispy with anticipation! (or frost. Mostly frost). Plus since I traditionally have my summer-to-fall injury, I haven’t been able to run the half marathon in a year or so, and I wanted to this year!

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My kind husband came to support me and take pictures, but they were all blurry. Boo! 

I didn’t have great expectations. Hell, I just wanted to run it, see if I could finish, and then try and deal with the aftermath (injuries don’t mess around). I have also been dealing with nagging health issues, so I’m not really at the top of my game this fall.

Anyways, it went quite well! The first loop felt terrible. I was tired, we had Oktoberfest the night before, and just…EH. My stomach was unhappy, my legs felt like they belonged on someone else’s body…It was rough.

Lucky for me, I’m a strong second-loop runner though! I kind of shook off the annoyed and tired thoughts and felt- hey, it’s a gorgeous day! You’re DOING IT! Look at this! A few months ago, this was only in the realm of ‘maybe’..and I’m here!!! I felt great then, happy to be able to physically run again- and a half, with only a few weeks back into running under my belt? WOW!!

So I picked up the tatters of my morale and just ran. Pure, free, able. Running!

It also helped that I stopped getting passed by literally everybody, ha. Slow running is still kind of new to me 😉 And I felt strong going to the finish. Sure my left hip locked up, and my right foot had a sore spot on it…I was going to do it!

And I did! My time is humbling and slow, but I am happy with my efforts. 1:46 and change. Pretty sweeeeeeeet! As always, the volunteers were great, and the aid stations were well-manned and well stocked. I picked up two Clif gels but didn’t end up eating them, as the Nuun electrolytes were good enough.

MEC race #4 Recap~10k

Back to the Sooke Potholes for another race! We hadn’t been back since the MEC Race half-marathon was hosted there (since moved to Colwood for two years now!) so it felt good to be back at Sooke, despite a few tricky logistics. It’s further to get to, the race is hosted pretty high up the road so you have to park, hoof it ages to get there or take the bus. We took the bus! And we still BARELY made it to the start, no warm-ups or anything haha.

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Photo courtesy of MEC Victoria.

The bathroom lineup continues to be basically my nemesis. ARGH. I was also a bit miffed because I thought I had signed up for the 15k and was surprised to find myself with a 10k bib. How did that happen?!

Oh well, guess I’m running a 10k now.

The race was run really well, otherwise. Started on time, not too crowded at all, very reasonable pacing on my part (read: slow) and my breathing wasn’t out of control. I ran very conservatively and was kind of afraid of getting short of breath…

But in the end, it was fine. I am slow now, slower than I would have thought and mannn it sucks. But, this was a decent training race and I always like the opportunity to be back out in Sooke again, running on the gravel trails! So flat! 🙂

And thanks as always to the great crew at MEC, snacks at the end of the race and the fabulous photos of the race. My favourite part!

Would you rather look fast, or run fast?

After seeing my photos of the race the other weekend, I was like eeeughhh. I do NOT look good- I look like I am barely moving (even though I felt like I was flying like the wind!), gasping for breath, chubby legs, potential unibrow, and just…ugh.

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Dirt unibrow.

I look like a slow person. I always do?

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Hat unibrow?

Made me feel just a touch jealous of those folks who look like gazelles, instead of the living dead like I do. What’s their secret? How do they look so graceful, athletic? I always look like I am in pain, or just trudging. Jeeze.

ANYWAYS, despite that, I know I would rather run fast, than look fast. Bonus would be to have both, but hey, I’m not being greedy.

And that’s enough about running. I have been riding this week- rode Sunday (flatwork), Tuesday (more flatwork) and Wednesday (jump an x-rail, and flatwork). Sensing a theme here? Ha, flatwork is booooring. Occasionally it thrills me, and scares me.

I am looking forward to jumping, even it if does make me nervous sometimes. I just need someone to shake it up for me! I didn’t do my dressage lesson- back to every other week to save some $$$- and instead focused on Oats and my transition work. It was fairly good.

However…I am noticing that I get very tense and more worked up doing flat and dressage exercises than I ever do jumping now? And Oats gets more tense too? Uh oh. I’m not exactly pleased with that transition, but I guess this is a part of the learning process too? My anxiety from jumping is now translated or shifted to dressage? Lateral work? WTF is going on.

Oats was good last night, I was feeling very tired and unmotivated so he sure didn’t have a lot to work with, hahaha. Poor pony! I am still checking out places to bring him, so he gets a little bit more excitement out of his winter. He needs some stimulation too!

Burn your fires for no witness

Jump lesson update!

I didn’t update after my schooling hack on Tuesday because it was non-remarkable–Oats was being a good pony, we did some lateral work to limited success, and well, it was fine. Yesterday I had my jump lesson and something interesting is starting to dawn on me…

As I get better about my anxiety, and am learning to manage it and appropriately stretch my boundaries, I’m coming up against something my equine counselor warned me about: frustration. She said with learning comes frustration or being mad about something and that is just the way it is expressed, as part of the process.

I’m coming in to my lesson with Oats, not being frustrated at him, but being frustrated by our ‘pace’?!! And it never really bothered me before, and I think it is close to 100% in my head? For example…

We worked over a small gymnastic and then moved on to a little course. The gymnastic was a two-stride x-rail to vertical. Nicole moved it in because quite often Oats is backed off and not super forward through the lines, and if horses were jumping it before us, then it’s set too long.

Well! We worked through it, I complained that he felt too slow and she said he was eating up the lines, and she had to move the jumps back??? He was making the horse strides through the gymnastic, which pretty much never happens, and I was complaining that he felt too slow? What is going on in my brain??

Very interesting. The course itself went well and funny enough so did the gymnastic. Oats did have a few moments of extreme befuddlement over green box (which he has jumped a million times before) but now it was on a circle, in a shadowy part of the arena…So he jumped it like it was 3ft high and 4ft wide? WOAH! He did that every time too! I think he was having trouble ‘seeing’ what he was jumping, so figured that overjumping was the best/safest policy…Poor pony, it was kind of hilarious how confused he was by the box?

Proof Oats has jumped the green box with no drama.

Proof Oats has jumped the green box with no drama.

I did have moments where I was very close to my comfort zone and I let Nicole know, but I think it’s just a phase in my learning process right now. I never felt scared or super worried, just kind of…oomph, let’s GO Oats!

Also- Oats would like to wish everyone a happy Halloween! I think he looks better as a bunny than as the devil, don’t you think?

Oats as 'himself' last year...

Oats as ‘himself’ last year…

Bunny Oats

Bunny Oats

Still hope for the quiet heart

Had a casual hack on Oats yesterday, to stretch our legs and see how things are after our dressage lesson. I’m taking today’s jumping lesson off due to a work event at night, so an easier week for Oats.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

Oats looking cute in Feb.

We warmed up pretty nicely, and cruised over some poles. I wanted to work on getting the canter (it was an ok canter) on the spooky side. We did drop it a few times when I forgot what I was doing…But he picked it up, and was fairly chillaxed and amenable to the pole work. I then trotted over an insultingly small x-rail to a pole (I think it was normally five strides, but the trot-in approach ended up with six) and he seemingly picked up the wrong lead on the landing EVERY time. Hargumph.

Official beginning of summer: Nemo makes a reappearance!

Official beginning of summer: Nemo makes a reappearance!

Also, he decided that because the x-rail was so small, he could stumble over it instead of jumping it. Sighhh…

But, overall a laid-back and casual ride. Maybe I’m starting to feel more like myself again? My legs were BURNING though. I actually pulled Oats to a stop after a canter because I literally couldn’t support myself in the saddle! I can’t remember the last time my legs hurt that much, just so so tired and aching and sore. It was crazy!

My legs were just so ridiculously tired. I felt like my bones were full of sand.

I kind of felt like I was trudging to work today- not sure why my legs are so full-on tired this week, ugh, but I hope they snap out of it by next week. C’mon body, work with me!

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

The dude. Photo courtesy of Natasha K.

I’ve been sharing a lot with the other riders at my barn about my equine wellness approach, and it makes me think: Is it possible to change my mindset about jumping and showing? Can I change? It feels impossible to me, I’ve held this way of being for so long. Feeling something else seems like it will never happen.

I’ve also been thinking- maybe taking the showing down a BIG step is helpful to me. Now I have like, 2 shows this summer instead of 10. Baby steps?

The only thing a shark respects is a bigger shark: Thursday jump update!

Actually, my Thursday jumping was very mellow. I was wanting to kind of keep things relaxed (my legs are STILL killing me) and wanted to focus on one thing- slowing down my brain.

I have problems with getting too excited jumping, and blasting around the course, rushing, motorcycling with my body, not being straight. It’s due to anxiety, of course.

Blast from the past- Oats at our old barn.

Blast from the past- Oats at our old barn.

So, we worked over small, small fences, x-rails. I still, of course, tried to get excited and start rushing, motorcycling, etc. but in the end? I was able to slow it down and get straighter and calmer through the corners. It was good, and my legs started not cooperating by the end by sliding backwards, like they had a mind of their own…ARGH. Anyways, it was funny but I kind of missed that insane adrenaline rush that comes with *gasp* jumping fences higher than…2ft. HAHA.

Old barn with Oats.

Old barn with Oats.

It felt like, oh well, that was ok. Not, PHEW! We survived!!!!

Hm. Maybe I’m more into the buzz than I even realize?

Oh well! Good Oats, and good me, haha. And get with the program, legs. Jeesh.

One thing I’d like to pick out is when Oats and I had problems (and boy, did we have our fair share) how easy it is to pick out a ‘reason’ he is being a shit-head. And it’s normal, but I want to reiterate that sometimes it IS THE HORSE and his attitude- not the tack (valid sometimes), seasons (valid sometimes), chiro (valid sometimes) or ulcers (valid sometimes).

Yeah, check those out – but always keep in the back of your mind that it very well could be the HORSE and you have to work with that, not make excuses (like I listed above- reasons can be come excuses very easily. Trust me. I am an expert excuse machine).

I’m lucky that I have trainers that have helped me handle Oats, even when he is being a massive jerk. So much so that his status quo is ‘not jerk’ most of the time. Except maybe in flat classes at the Appy shows. Jesus, those are never going to be his forte.

But it bums me out when I see people fighting the same fights with their horses (online, in person, wherever) when it’s pretty clear they are finding reasons or making excuses, and something’s gotta give.

I’m happy with Oats most days, but he is an animal and not perfect. Hell, neither am I! So basically it works out well.

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?