Like riding a broke horse

Had a TOUGH dressage lesson last night. Wow. I went into it feeling tired, and came out feeling exhausted! I was even talking in my sleep last night, I was so tired. Ha. But, it was the good physical tired, rather than the insane stress insomnia I was suffering from for months.

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Me this whole freaking week. Also Oats after last night..

To recap- I ran-commuted yesterday (roughly 4k to work and 4k home), went out for a fabulous breakfast with my colleagues to The Ruby (where I enjoyed an absolutely obscene breakfast of fried chicken breast on waffles, highly recommend), and I then I worked on some mild sprint intervals on the treadmill- tried to fight off puking, ugh breakfast was too soon and too big, and then I jogged home, got ready for my lesson and rode in a sweaty, exhausting, tough, challenging dressage lesson.

Whoa. That is a lot even for me!

I guess part of me felt a bit constrained by racing so much, because I was trying desperately to not get injured, overtired, too sick (failed on that) and trying to recover from the one race in time to race the next weekend.

That is no joke and quite frankly takes its toll.

So how did I cure pounding my body into the ground for six weeks? OH, by doing it in one day of course! (ha, but not really. Jogging is much easier than racing and a lot more friendly on the body).

But yes, going into my lesson I was tired.

But no rest for the righteous, eh?

We worked on getting the horses to accept the contact and be ‘over the back’ without using bend as a quicki shortcut. We did a LOT of canter at first, and then broke it down to the walk, then trot, (and a lot of halting since Oats DID NOT LIKE THIS WORK and was making life difficult)…

It was rough man! Wow. I was dripping with sweat, so was Oats. My poor fingies were cramping up. Oats kind of hated the work, having small hissyfits and dancing around, throwing his head up/around, protesting, etc.

We did achieve some really nice steps, and Karen said something that made me feel totally stunned- that you can achieve that level of work ‘the automatic’ contact where the horse goes into-and-stays-in contact the whole time?! But HOW?

Simple but never easy.

Also time.

Of course….

Race Recap: MEC Race #3 The Tape Breaker!

I ran this one solo, no friend, no husband to join me but I was fine with it. The race moved from last year, the Sooke Potholes location. I really loved the Sooke race–I was fairly new to half-marathons, and found it quite difficult and hot, but the track, the scenery, the weather…so gorgeous!

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So when they announced a new venue I was kind of feeling crabby about it.  One of my favourite races was Sooke even though my time kind of sucked last year, just because of the lovely memories of it. So how was Royal Roads going to measure up?

Well! I can say I am very glad this was was changed when I was more comfortable with running the halfs, that’s for darn sure. It was quite a bit tougher, in terms of terrain to negotiate and the hills. Oh, the hills…I assumed it would be hilly but doable, but when you start with 2k of sloping hills, and then run up Wishart Rd–kind of kills your will to live!

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I’m not gonna lie, the first 10k I was feeling pretty surly at myself. My pace sucked sucked sucked, my legs felt really dead–I looked at my watch at the start and it was saying paces like 5:37, 5:40–at the START of a race? WTF was going on? Why so slow? Well, the slow was due to hill running, genuis! hahah.

It was a combination of gravel, pavement, some road running, then hill/road running, more trail running (roots) and back to gravel. A more technical half than I am used to, but you know what? At 12k a volunteer shouted to me–”Hey you’re half way there!” And I smiled and felt instantly better. Sure I am! Funny enough, having to muscle my way up a really long/steep hill made the time pressure much less for me. I was not going to get my goal time that I got at my last half- 1:45. So I might as well enjoy the process!

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And I did! It was still very hard, I was running dead alone for most of it–not many in the middle ground like me, some very fast runners ahead of me, and slower runners behind me, but nobody with me. It could have been very lonely, but I was fine. It was a hot day, I was sweating so much it was splashing off my ponytail 🙂

I made sure to stop at every water station and drink Gatorade too. I wanted my race to feel SO much better than last time, when I felt like dying and it was horrible. And you know what? I finished STRONG! Happy! FAST! *well, you know…

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My time was 1:50 and you know what? That is totally ok. I know I am capable of faster- on a different track- but on Sunday, that was good for me. I ran a race I am happy with. Congrats to MEC for putting on another affordable, well-run race for everyone, and I love the photos too!

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A strong finish. Thanks to MEC for another great race.

Persistence

So, this comes up often in my life:

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And yesterday, Oats and I did not have a harmonious warm up to our dressage lesson. He was being an absolute dingbat in the outdoor ring, spooky, snorty, sucking back, getting light in front and stalling out and wanting to run backwards.

It pissed me off mightily and I was near tears, frustrated and angry. WHAT about this summer is making him act like an idiot? Seriously, I have not had this level of terrible rides with him in like, forever. And now he’s spooky and a twit.

Summer Oats

Summer Oats

I was also still a bit sore, though not bad, from getting dumped – yes in the outdoor- from his big ‘spin and spook’ maneuver on Saturday so I was NOT in a forgiving mood.

I gave up, huffed and fluffed and we had our dressage lesson in the indoor. He was a bit feisty in the indoor, and made me ‘work for it’ to get to the real meat of the lesson, but you know what? That connection that I seriously was missing started coming back.

I even said it felt like before, when I lose all my ‘power’ in the outdoor ring, that I don’t feel like I have any connection with him. I also know that when I am frustrated and mad at him, I do not give him a fair ride, or the benefit of the doubt. So, it’s a partners problem…

But anyways, the lesson went quite well. That doesn’t mean there weren’t bumps in the road, but you know what? We persevere, and I did get some great, honest work from Oats. I finally felt like our connection was coming back! He was over his back, listening to me and really giving to me. I like those rides, and sometimes give too much power to my shitty bad and frustrating rides. Now, to gain some perspective…

I was quite pleased with his effort and the level of work he is starting to give me. He might make a dressage pony yet!

Is it true, we only get the horse we deserve?

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???

Who needs Who?

So, weekend recap: It was great! Had a weekend to enjoy the sun, as we are having a bit of a mild heatwave here (heatwave on the West Coast- +25 deg) Yeahh!!

Saturday, I rode Oats and he was hot. He tried to test me a bit by balking and refusing to walk forward at the far end of the outdoor riding ring, but I defused by just being like, uh..no. You will walk forward, even if it is sideways. He got over it pretty quick.

We got some great canter work, and then schooled a diagonal line that we messed up in our lesson- the waves jump to the ‘road closed’ plank. He did it very well! 

Husband and I then went to Thetis lake with some floating air mattresses, and floated out to the small island. SO nice. Sublime…

The evening, we met up with friends for a small BBQ in Beaconhill park and played Bocce. A good way to end a beautiful summer day.

Sunday- busy day! I got up to run Elk Lake (haven’t done a 10k since the Times Colonist race!) and mannnnnnnn it sucked. My knee was bugging me instantly. So, a run turned into a 10k walk/limp and took freaking FOREVER.

Sigh. Guess it’s not going to heal and this may very well be my reality…Despite the foam rolling, the ‘short runs’ and stair work and the muscle-building exercises. Grragrrrh!

Brought clothes to change and some snacks and headed straight to the barn. It was getting HOT! I rode Oats in the indoor, because I was a bit afraid of getting heatstroke- I seem very prone to it right now, for some weird reason. He was pretty good, we worked on ‘gallop’ and bend/counter bend at the canter- and yes, it was tough. We were dripping with sweat!

Hosed him off, and me too, and then it was home again and off to the beach! I took my dog out, and then left her at home. Packed up my Kobo and set off to chillax at the beach for awhile. It was quite hot, I was like..Am I in danger of getting too warm? That almost NEVER happens here, hah.

I got home around 5pm after the beach. All in all, a very nice weekend.

(photo of Nemo jump- yes finallly, I told you I could figure it out- courtesy of the talented Sarah C.)