We Got It Coming: Jump lesson!

Back to the indoor doesn’t have to be boring or draggy- in fact, it’s quickly becoming an opportunity to sharpen/refine our skills. Of particular importance, my bad habits of letting Oats motorbike around turns when we are jumping and kind of just ‘give up’. No longer!! This time I am GOING to fix that problem (five years in the making, but who’s counting?!).

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Man!

But yes, we worked on a particularly challenging course last night. Jump height-wise…Nothing impressive. But, we had a circle jump (hard for us), a skinny, some small barrels, a two-stride, and straightness!! to work on.

And it wasn’t easy, or very neat. But, we did improve throughout the ride, which is kind of what I’m going for. Things I am learning and hoping to work on this winter:

  • Fixing my corners, no more motorbiking/forgetting to ride/sitting up!
  • No pulling his head to the left over the jump!
  • No nagging with my leg. Let him relax, then GO for the jump, then relax.
  • Leg stays still.
  • Upper body stays still. Elbows are in shoulders are up.
  • Hands release, shoulders don’t release.
  • Adjustability in the canter.
  • No sitting back when I don’t see a distance and pulling up with my hands. Go with the flow.
  • Both reins used, with contact. This is a tough one for me, as I tend to want to only use one rein with the other flopping uselessly. I get afraid that too much contact will slow him down!

Sooo yeah, lots to work on. But, I did quite enjoy my ride 🙂

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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!

I thought the future would be cooler

Finally back on track with Oats! We had our first jump lesson in two weeks last night, in the indoor because I find it hard to see the jumps as dusk takes over. It was quite basic, a canter two-stride jump exercise with guide poles *ha, and some light coursework with guide poles.

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Last year- a very eager Oats.

All in all, a very nice light ride and I wasn’t cotton-mouthed, covered in sweat or anything. I didn’t even feel that anxious?! The jumps were teeny tiny, so yeah I was like sure NBD, I can do it all.

I was lurching and getting left behind on a few jumps (hello rusty jump position) sorry for Oats, as I basically skiied off his face for those and he was jumping really nicely too! No chipping, nothing!

We did get in too close to one jump, as I had to counter-bend him to the jump, over the jump, and after and he did NOT like that. He wanted to twist his lead left at the last minute (and get a nicer jump..). So, that was kind of ugly and we never did quite figure it out…

Oh well, all in all a very nice ride back into jumping. Go Oats!

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!

Guest post: Finlayson Arm 28k 2017 Race Recap!

Courtesy of my husband who bravely undertook this insane race last weekend! Without further ado:

The good memories of the 28k Finlayson Arm race are overshadowed by my evolution through intensifying stages of discomfort. This constant pain was punctuated by bursts of sunlight piercing magically down between treetops, a stunning vista or two and little reminders that this amazing network of trails is in my own backyard. There was also the reminder that I had volunteered for this little jaunt through the woods and that no one would sympathize with my agony.

A few weeks before the race, I had decided that four hours was the longest it would take me – the rough number to beat. I figured that was setting expectations so low that I was sure to finish with a smile. There was even some pre-race training for me, complete with my brand new water-bladder on my back and getting lost for an hour or two in the trails behind Thetis Lake. I felt sure-footed and strong. This was a race I could do. All I needed to do was power through some tough hills and keep moving. In a sense, that’s exactly how things turned out.

It was a chilly morning when we set out – cool and clear over night – but the forecast was sunny. The 50k and (suicidal) 100k racers had finished the day before in the rain. As if their punishment was not enough. I went quick off the start as I anticipated getting bottlenecked later on the narrow single-track. After a kilometer I was established near the top 10. Then we hit the creek. Anyone who has been to Goldstream Park will notice how a four-lane highway rips through the middle with no safe way to get from one side to the other. You either need to dodge cars or get your feet wet (and maybe your legs and maybe your ass depending on how nimble you are). A rope strung across helped the crossing not be complete madness, but it was a gritty way to start a race.

With wet feet I carried up through the rolling side hill on the west side of the highway. This is a really nice section of trail that I will have to remember to check out when I’m not racing. It was a time to flex out your legs, find your pace and your seeding, a bit of a free pass before you hit the real hills. Looking back I wonder if I went too fast in this section, maybe blowing too much gas.

About five kilometers in, we were back under the highway (luckily through a dry stream bed this time) and through the main park, eerily deserted in the still early morning. I already had a pain in my leg, a nagging injury that I’m learning to live with, so I started to run a bit more cautiously.

Next it was on to the main event of the first half of the race, up the face of Mt Finlayson. There’s a slow build to remind you that this is a serious climb, to check your pace and your ambition. Then it gets steeper. Then the trail kinda takes a break and you start scrambling over rock, open to the sky. I should mention at this point all the volunteers and signage to keep you on track. There is plenty of both and I always felt like I knew where I needed to go. They seemed to anticipate in these early sections where you might go astray and had people there to point. On the mountain there were more guides. It’s the kind of climb where there is the very real possibility of running off a cliff into thin air so I’m glad they were there to point the best way.

At the top of the hill I felt pretty good. Well, not good. My legs were burning. But there was a lift in getting over what I knew was the hardest section of trail and I had kept my pace and not been passed. It was this feeling that propelled me down the backside, not too steep (which was nice) and into trail that I had never seen before. Just before we popped out on asphalt (a surprise) I was passed by someone with a bit more lift than me, but I stayed on his heels as we ran along the short section of road towards the first aid station.

The station could not come soon enough. Almost two hours into the run, I suddenly felt depleted. I wanted to stop and sit and eat some cookies, but my new nemesis just cruised on through. I grabbed a cookie and a banana piece anyway and set off on the next leg, back into trail. This is where my memory of the route got a bit hazy. What kilometre were we at? How far to the turnaround? Basically, the race had moved solidly into ‘not-fun-anymore’ territory and I was doing some mental math on how much longer I would have to move. At two hours the footsteps behind me turned into people passing me. I tried my best to make sure they weren’t increasing their lead on me, but I found myself slowing on every little hill, my flow completely evaporating.

There is a long hill in this section that, mentally, nearly did me in. Where was the bloody turnaround? The trail was also quite technical, with loose rocks and big steps up in places. Then I saw the front runners coming back down and couldn’t decide if I was elated or destroyed. It meant the end must be near but also put the necessary route back home into perspective. At least they were giving shout outs to keep me going: “Almost there!” I hoped they were right. Finally there were more people coming back down towards me – people I recognized! Hey, you’re only a bit ahead of me! And there were the volunteers, a photographer snapping a picture of my grimaced face, and the end of the ‘out’ – it was time for the ‘back.’ (Side note: one of the volunteers or spectators or whatever was announcing ‘halfway there’ and I thought that was a bit cruel. Maybe most didn’t hear or didn’t care, but I was a believer for a moment. Could this truly be only halfway?)

I was so happy to be heading home (and downhill to boot) that I even passed who I would later find out was my trail buddy. I swung my bag around and took out my gel pack. Time to take in some energy and get going. Things were looking good. Now it was my turn to dish out enthusiasm to those still on the grind to the top – “keep going,” and “almost there” I kept saying even as it became less true the further I went. And there were so many people behind me. I was doing well! Then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

I was coming undone, step by step.

After three hours of “running” I did not have the strength to keep my pace, or any pace. I was passed, then passed again. I knew the aid station would be coming back up again but I needed it now. As I popped out of the woods back into the daylight I was passed by another three. But I had to take a moment. I grabbed another gel pack, a banana and squashed a cookie in my mouth. The volunteers were asking if I needed to fill my pack, something to drink. I shook my head and imagined the madness in my eyes. I muttered something about wanting to use up what I had. Maybe I had filled my pack too full as well. Then I was off for the final few kilometers and my once measured race became an unhinged stumble to the end.

The return route did not go back over Mt Finlayson, but skirted along one side. It was a rolling bit of trail that took a lot of focus. Right in front of me was the aforementioned Trail Buddy – temporary companions in suffering. It felt reassuring to keep pace with someone. Those who had passed us seemed to have extra energy to tap and were pulling away, but we were hanging in there, moving forward. I knew the end could not be too far off, but looking at my watch I began to wonder if I would get in under four hours. More importantly, would I be able to stand on my feet for that long? We rounded the mountain and rejoined the steep trail up from before – this time heading down. My legs – knees, shins – could not handle the steep downhill. I grimaced with every step. Up or down would not do; I needed flat, please.

Down and down we went and we were passed again. My world got smaller as I narrowed my focus on foot placement without collapsing or catapulting downhill.

Next was a split off to the left, in the direction of end/start. I could hear the highway again. I was picturing a mental map of the park and where we were in relation to salvation. The end could be around any bend, I told myself after every bend. Out of nowhere this guy in his sixties came up on us, hooting and and maniacally urging us along. “C’mon boys, let’s give ‘em hell” he shouted as if we were heading over the top of the trenches or storming Normandy. I put on a face and groaned some more. The crazy old man disappeared whooping and skipping along. Maybe I imagined the whole thing.

Then at about the same time that I decided my legs were finished, I spotted spectators ahead. There was a volunteer with a clipboard, calling ahead with my number, the sound of fans and a PA system blurting out names and congratulations. And then I heard my name, a mix-up, before I shot out onto the grass and over the finish, some prize pack thrust into my hands, the buzz of activity all around. There was my run buddy (he beat me in the end) with a high five and then food, glorious food.

For the next 45 minutes or so, I paced around in agony in between vigorous stuffing of burgers and beer. I could not decide whether to sit, stand, walk, or crawl into the bushes for a little nap. It was agony, but I had done it. And I never had to do it again.

I stayed on to cheer some others as they came across. A seventy year old, a guy who had finished the 100k yesterday was doing the ‘double-double,’ some others who I recognized from races past. Were they fast, was I slow? Did we all do “alright?” I cared a little. As much as this race was an experiment, you want to do well. Or well enough for your expectations.

I got in at 3 hours and 51 minutes, somehow just inside my (soft) target. I might as well have run a marathon. It’s the slowest 28 kilometers I’ll likely ever run yet certainly one to remember.

Cross-country schooling at High Point!

Sadly I have no real photos but trust me- we did it on Saturday and it went really well! The last time Oats and I were X-C schooling was oh, two years ago? The course was set up at Avalon, but I figured it was time to give it another try since Avalon has since sold their course to High Point, who are very enthusiastic about starting up their own venue. Thank god, is all I can say! I appreciate new blood in the equine field, particularly when they seem like pretty cool people 🙂

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A few girls went up last Monday and I was so jealous. Getting the day off to go up was NOT going to happen though, so I let it go…Until another girl on Thursday mentioned she was looking for a partner to head up on Saturday. A weekend? Sold!!

Ugh it was early though, yikes. Freezing out too. Nevertheless, we packed up the horses, our gear and took them up island to Duncan/Glenora, and my first time at High Point. We met with the trainer (Jane Stone) who was running the x-c lesson for us, and two other riders (all much  more competent than Oats and me, ohhh well).

We started in the smaller field that was jam-packed with jumps! So many jumps! And a big hill too. Oats was jazzed and a little frazzled, he couldn’t figure out wtf was going on. He was game for a few logs, but then when we turned to jump the small green house from the other direction, he quit – HARD. He couldn’t figure out what was going on?!

We just turned and re-approached from the direction he was comfortable with, no biggie.

Went up and down the hill and worked a small course of logs (me) big jumps (everyone else). And then it was time to tackle the big field! Oats was hot to trot on the path out to the big field, but settled really nicely and finally figured out the game- no refusals here for this guy!

Bad news- our path and precision need a TON of work. We drifted, hardcore, and it was bad. Good news- no refusals and Oats jumped really nicely! He really got the game by this point and was really game. 🙂

I was so proud of him, it made up for him being kind of a dink about going into the water (he wouldn’t, and then he did, and then when I wanted to go back in he started getting light, threatening to rear. Oh Oats!).

A great day, and a very good experience courtesy of my hauling buddy (who had a fantastic session on her horse, VERY impressive) and trainer Jane Stone, who made it very doable and approachable even for Oats when he was confuzzled.

Taking what’s not yours

Ride/life update- all good!

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Slow chukkar- not me, but it’s a general idea. Photo by the Victoria Polo Club.

Dressage ride on Oats on Tuesday, to make up for my rather schedule-less week (no lessons, whaaat?). Transitions up to a ‘big’ or extended trot, and back down. Still not interested in listening when we are at the ‘spooky’ corner but overall a fairly good ride. A longer one, because on Wednesday…

I played polo! In the beginner’s slow chukka. And it was fun! I committed a huge foul (crossing my stick in front of another horse, which is dangerous because I could trip the horse if we were playing at speed) BUT I also got a goal- my first! 🙂

So, learning experience all ’round eh?

And after polo (it is short, 15 mins practicing and 15 mins of play time) I hop back into my car and drive to the barn to ride Oats. No rest for the wicked! We just toodled around in the field, my goal for Wednesday.

Today no jump lesson, so I was planning on schooling myself a bit in the jump ring outdoors (small fences) after work. Weather got chilly last night, and cool this morning but it’s looking pretty good for the weekend so fingers crossed.

After my very busy weekend last week, I am looking forward to a long weekend with fun times to relax! (ha, what is relaxing…I don’t think I know how to do that).