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.

“First you take a drink. Then the drink takes a drink. Then the drink takes you.” F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I had a jump lesson last night- I wasn’t 100% sure how it was going to go, as this week I did have my ‘surgery’ of sorts and underwent anesthesia…So I figured, just go with it!

And you know what? It went GREAT!

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I am a good boy!

We worked over a small course that had a 1-stride x-rails, 2-stride bending off a sliced skinny, and TWO oxers. Gasp! I know, oxers make a reappearance…But don’t worry we worked up to it, haha.

And Oats was going great, he was jumping kind of flat but very honest and eager, and with every new crazy thing (slicing so many skinnies) he didn’t put up one fuss. Just calmly and honestly cruised over everything. I could tell when he was thinking about chipping (and yes the two stride didn’t always ride that well…gulp) but overall I was super pleased with his attitude, how fun the lesson went, and how brave I managed to be?! Who is this girl?

At least one of the oxers and one of the single fences went to 2’6” and I didn’t even notice? I did think the oxer looked higher, but wasn’t really sure. Oats really had to start thinking about ‘jumping’ and less about ‘cruising’ over the fences. That meant I had to tighten up my core, focus more on packaging his canter so I could get more power, and less strung-out pony.

We did have some ugly spots where Oats was surprised by the increase in height and we fumbled over them, so Nicole made us do just the oxers on their own- the rest of the course rode great. I squawked about doing just the oxers- scary!! But sat with that for a minute, drank a bit of water, Oats and I caught our breath, and  just…did it. Nicole said if we aced it right off the bat, we were done–but if we bungled it, we had to do it again, haha.

With that on the line, we cruised up to the first oxer and just flew over it! And then sliced the skinny, and headed to the next oxer- effortless! We were done! It was as perfect as we’re gonna get, and I was so pleased with the lesson, and Oats. 🙂 What a nice ride.

Mr. Oats steps up his game

Had a dressage lesson yesterday, and I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not- my trainer was later than usual, so late that my lesson partner went up to the barn to look for her? Turns out she was stuck in the porta-potty…that had no toilet paper. Oooops!

Long story short she is now missing 1 sock. HAHAH.

Anyways, after a bit of a delayed start we moved on to our lesson- teaching the horses to come ‘over their backs’ and work on ‘self carriage’. It was a VERY physical lesson, I was sweating buckets (almost wrote- swearing-buckets, ha) and Oats really stepped up to the plate and accepted the challenge.

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Not quite in the outdoor yet, but an example of Oats charging…

It was astoundingly good, for me, because Oats was trying so hard. No sass (except for at the canter on the right lead, a few sassy kick-outs) no fussing that much, no angry hopping up and down. He was amazing!! We achieved the contact, trot and pace we needed. His trot had so much loft I was getting tossed up.

I loved it! It was exhausting but soooo good. Wow, that pony really impressed me.

He came over his back, and we were able to ‘test’ it by bringing the trot down to a quiet trot, and then ramping it back up to a ‘big’ trot, and so forth. Then we went to the canter (it was not as good) and the back to the walk. At the walk, we played. Experimented with lateral work, turning without moving my hands, big walk, little walk, sideways walk, more lateral work…

Oats really got it!

What a superstar pony.

I was just overjoyed with the lesson (and completely exhausted,  Oats was covered in sweat). He is totally in the groove! 🙂

Here’s to being here

Dressage lesson on Tuesday and it went quite well actually. I have noticing Oats being a bit more stiff in recent months, with no real turnout, so we discussed that and a few approaches to it. That also led to our lesson being focused on teaching the horses to go to ‘long and low’ while still moving out into the bridle.

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Mr. Oats, dressage superstar

Oats did struggle with that, he shifts between wanting to snatch at the bridle and root, or raising his head up. We definitely had a few things to work out, that’s for sure! He was quite sweaty after, with white foam on his neck–we had a GREAT warmup this week, with temperatures reaching 12 deg?! And remember last week at -9? I was frozen? Yes it feels like another country right now 🙂

Wednesday I took off for both of us, as our jump lesson has now moved to…Thursday!

I used to always ride on Thursday, so it felt more normal to join the Thursday night jump crew. We worked on another grid (where I knew what I was supposed to be doing and yet couldn’t seem to make my body, you know, DO it..) My hands pulled up, instead of releasing down -shoot- and my traitor legs shot backwards. We also had one totally blasted turn that I made that Oats slipped, his legs went out from under him and he scrambled to recover. SHIT!

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2 steps forward, 1 step back.

I definitely was feeling it, this weird rusty, ‘out of practice’ feeling when I was jumping. Which is odd, since I haven’t really taken a lot of time off from it? Maybe from coursework? Or maybe the bitter cold took more out of me than I thought.

We worked on the grid, and then to a small course w/tiny little jumps. It was funny, I felt anxious again and declared I was NOT going to do it again! (not sure why I do this, it’s definitely anxiety-related and it happens when I feel a bit shakier or tired), but Nicole just laughed, let me walk it off for a few minutes, and then I was ready to go again! Hahahah.

So yes, I squashed that ‘fear’ part of me, breathed, calmed down, and went and rode the entire course w/the grid again. And you know what? It wasn’t perfect but it went perfectly fine. Sure, I was feeling wobbly and a bit unbalanced but you know what? I did it anyways! Go me!

So to sum up- Oats was great, very forgiving. It wasn’t perfect and sure didn’t ride lovely, but I conquered by fear and decided to do it again and it was totally ok. Baby steps.

A good ride and a not-so-good ride

Had my jump lesson on Wednesday and Oats and I were fresh and ready to go! I had taken Tuesday off to attend the lousy Hudson’s Bay event with my mom.

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He was jumping better than this over the skinny!

I think that day off really lets Oats shine- I was SO pleased with his attitude jumping, and it just felt so smooth and perfect. How often do I get to say that? Haha. We worked on a bounce gymnastic, canter-in slightly collected. It scaled up to three bounce jumps (tiny), to a 1-stride jump. We then worked in the gymnastic, to a small course that included a single box ‘skinny’ fence. I was a bit concerned about the box- no wings, no guide rails…What was the likelihood of a run-out??

We started the course and he was bang on! It was great. We then approached the skinny box and Oats did have a good firm look at it, and up and over, perfectly. Wow! I was caught up celebrating and forgot to ride my last fence in the course- oops, haha.

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Last year- a very eager Oats.

Time for a second go-around: And it rode just as perfectly as the first. How often do I get that? How about never, hahah. I was so pleased with Oats, a fairly technical gymnastic, he was working hard and huffing and puffing, but he was focused, rhythmic and never wavered. Good boy Oats, I love your efforts.

My trainer said she could tell how good our rhythm was due to Oats’ snorting- he was snorting so rhythmically it was funny- “snort, snort snort- jump- snort snort snort snort-jump,” haha.

But I have to say, I was thrilled with how smooth and focused it felt.

And then there was yesterday…Ugh. I got on and Oats felt weird. We walked for a long time, because he just felt ‘lateral’ and not forward. I went up to trot, and then canter, and his canter sucked. He was short striding, and backed way off my leg. He was soooo stiff. Ahh, poor Oats.

Clearly the work the night before, probably combined with standing around all day in the rain doing nothing= stiff as anything pony. Probably a bit sore too. So, I went down to more walk, some trot and just did some light bending, serpentines, circles and called it a day.

He is getting today off, and I hope he moves around a little more- I hate when he is feeling this way.

You didn’t come this far to only come this far

Hmmm words to live by?

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Go Oats go! Love a keen, uphill canter.

A rough night last night with my dear doggy scratching herself silly…She definitely has fleas right now. GAH. Time to get on treating her! It kept me up.all.night. Bad for her, bad for me.

After an exceedingly grouchy morning, I’m ready to digest on my ride last night- I wanted to keep it fairly relaxing, as we had a challenging dressage lesson the day before. I had cancelled my jump lesson last night (there are five Wednesdays in Nov., and I only wanted to pay for four lessons because I am basically hemorrhaging money on horses every day…).

And it felt like the right decision, you know? He was fun to ride last night, and I worked on a few small items, lightly. We did some distance work on poles, and borrowing briefly from my jump lesson last week, when we did collected canter raised-pole work, I collected his canter in to one pole, and let it play out for the next.

I really liked how he approached the pole with the collected canter, though it was difficult to get/keep that canter. He popped up, and round, rather than big and flat as per his usual canter.

Now, to work this engaged canter into our normal jump routine…Hmmm….

Oh and the weather was god-awful- sooo glad we have our indoor arena! It was pouring rain, and freezing cold. BRrr….Our rainy but mild November is officially over.

What more could a girl want?

That’s right, yesterday was my birthday! The big 3-1 for me~

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Celebrating at the barn with a big delicious cake! Thanks Sarah C, you’re the best!

In all honesty, things I have been focusing on overshadowed my b-day- my lesson with Jane Stone on Thursday that I was alternately looking forward to and worried about, my race on Saturday, Rock the Shores on Sunday, and oh, my big upcoming international trip.

So yeah, lots going on eh?

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More presents than I deserve!

But regardless, I had a GREAT birthday! (well, except for the having to be at work part. That part sucked). I hauled ass home from work, ran my dog out, threw on my riding clothes, wolfed down a Clif Bar and immediately got stuck in traffic for 45 minutes. SIGH.

I asked to have our semi-private lesson in the big field when I learned that the girls had so nicely put the jumps out there. A chance to work on my weaker skills at home? Even though I had previously fallen off at the Derby jumping in the field? SURE! Let’s do it. I knew it would be a challenge for me, because of my anxieties.

As it turns out, all my worries and fears were…for naught! Poof!

Jane was very understanding about what I have going on, and we worked it, man! I was really enjoying the lesson, we tried jumping a cavaletti to warm up, normal at first, and then some terrain-work, and then set to land flat and head slightly downhill. Success!

And then we started working on a small course, and it went super fantastic. Oats was so keen, I was loving it. We had a few bobbles- getting straight to a fence and him getting disunited, but it was fine and we worked with it.

I got a lot of confidence out of the lesson and felt so positive about it. Go us! Jane was very complimentary about our horses (who were perfect) and my position~ yay!!

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My second birthday cake- made by my husband! Menagerie on top provided by my sister.

And the cherry on top? A birthday cake at the barn accompanied by good friends and a Palm Bay. Yum!!! I even had more cake at home baked by my husband, who make an amazing cake that I immediately wanted to eat more of, even though I knew it would make me sick….

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It was a good night.

Yep I had cake and more cake with wine instead of dinner last night. So sue me, it’s my birthday!!! 🙂