What makes a good man?

It felt like I hadn’t had a solid dressage lesson in forever! We had a break due to a change in my fellow rider’s schedule, so yesterday I was quite interested in getting back on the dressage train.

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Totally us right now. So, where are the next Olympics?

And you know what? It was a really good, solid and comprehensive lesson. We first worked on some modified quarter-turn on the haunches at each corner, focusing on getting the horse to move off your leg instead of ‘pulling’ around the turn. Then, we focused on getting the turn ‘all the way around’ instead of just a quarter. I had to expand my circle because Oats wanted to pivot off the hind end, instead of turning his shoulders more.

It was actually way harder than it looked or than I thought it was going to be. And we sucked at it on the left rein, yeesh. Oh well!

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Mr. Oats, dressage superstar

Next we worked on positioning for Travers lateral work with actually some really solid progress at the walk. When we moved up to trot it was…interesting. Some things I learned and need to remind myself: Lower is always good, so allow Oats to reach/stretch his neck down when he feels resistant. If it seems awkward and too hard, break it down. Move off leg for one side. Then ask for the inside bend on the other side.

Make it really clear what you are asking: Bend. Move off leg. One at a time. THEN try combining the pieces, relaxing the pressure as you ask. Give-take, give-take.

We even got ‘some’ positioning at the trot (which was described to be as a banana shape, the horse forms a banana and you travel that way haha), which surprised me as it was kind of tricky for Oats to understand and I wasn’t expecting him to get it in the lesson. Go us!! He wanted to stretch hardcore after that and got fussy. To be expected, and actually his attitude towards the whole lesson was great- he wasn’t having any hissy fits, hopping up and down, or anything! WOW! I think that was the first time I’ve been able to ask for lateral work of such comprehensiveness without some squawking from Oats.

Go Oats go! Some really great efforts and grown up work from the pony. 🙂

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MEC Race #5: The Grand Banana

And so bright and early, I didn’t hear my alarm and woke up in a panic at 7:21, freaking out at my husband. The race started at 8:30am, so I had time, but not a lot of it!

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I am actually not in this pic…And they’re off!

I got a whole lot of sleep (nope) after my two parties…So yeah I was feeling fresh, energized and ready to go (I wish). I had also eaten myself into a bad stomachache, so that was genius planning on my part too, ha. Worth it though, until I had to actually race.

We left the house, and made it to Elk Lake with lots of time. I warmed up- sort of- and it was very chilly out at the lake. Brrrrr! I kept an eye out for my friend, who was making a comeback from rehabbing her ankle over the past year, but I didn’t manage to see her until after the race.

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Faces of pain.

I wore my bunny ears, and had a ‘Playboy Bunny’ style singlet over top of my run gear. Cute eh? The bunny ears lasted…3 seconds and fell into the mud and got trampled immediately. Shoot!!

Once we were off, I was hauling ass – until I checked my watch and I decidedly…wasn’t. First KM was at 4:48, and I was trying for more of a 4:45 avg (newsflash- this was too ambitious and my level of training was NOT there).

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It was a beautiful morning.

It was really tough! I say that about a lot of my races, but here we are a few days later and my legs were just killing me. It was neck-and-neck for awhile with a few other lady runners (Cinderella in particular looked really good) and I got my ass kicked by them and a few other runners too. People were really on their game that day.

I did pretty well the first loop, alternating between feeling great and feeling like dying. I even managed a very brief ‘you’ve got this!!’ mantra, until about 8km, and then I felt so tired, and incredulous that there were how many KMs left??!! How?!!

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Dear god when will it end>!

I made it to the second loop and the wheels started falling off. I felt so tired, my knee was bugging me and I was contemplating giving up. I wanted to give up SO badly. Just…pull off to the side, let this charade go, and take it easy. It would be so easy.

Note to self- not a good mantra.

It was very seductive though…

But I dragged myself up the hilly sections. I recovered my gait after tripping hardcore a few times (yes, fellow runners were concerned and asked if I was ok!! Nice eh? I was fine, just clumsy and tired.).

I charged on, weakly.

I kept going.

I did it.

I did NOT get my ‘b’ goal time (1:45) but I was really close to it- 1:46. I’ll take it. And I will work on giving it another shot for my next half in the spring.

My friend did awesome, and I was able to meet up with her later. Her ankle held out and she ran a really strong race. She felt fresher than I did after, even! Wow!

Kudos to the MEC crew for again running a fun, well-organized race. I heard that over 700 runners were there that day!!! Compared with like, 400 last year?!!

Just until forever

So as I mentioned yesterday, I was curious to see how my dressage lesson would go on Tuesday. How would Oats be feeling? He seemed to be working out of any strangeness on Sunday, but last week was too weird for words…

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Keep this lovely feeling going!

I’m pleased to say he was fabulous! His trot was lovely, he wasn’t angry or ouchy with tightening the girth, and his canter was fairly nice. I told my trainer what was going on last week and she agreed that it is not like him to act this way, and it was likely due to one of two things: illness like the flu, or soreness- getting cast in his shelter, or standing for too long in one place. She also suggested that due to his age (14 now!!), we start looking at getting his hocks possibly x-rayed to see if he has any arthritic changes.

I totally agree with this course of action–I hated to feel Oats going the way he was last week. I wanted my bouncy, funny pony back!

I am checking with the barn manager to see when the vet is out for spring shots, and I will have him do a lameness flexion on Oats to see about his hocks, if he finds anything, then it is x-ray time. I will also be carefully monitoring how he moves/is feeling in the next couple weeks.

In our lesson, as I mentioned, Oats warmed up lovely and was back to his old self. We worked on a fairly challenging (mentally) exercise: shoulder-in at walk, and then transition to trot, and hold it at the trot, and then move to haunches-out with his head to the wall, changing bend.

Oats did find this challenging, but I’m pleased to say that his hissy-fits of ‘I can’t do it!’ and ‘I don’t wanna!’ are mostly over. He played well with me, and was mostly cooperative and working to his full strength. We worked these exercises well until the end, when Oats got tired and was like, ok – ENOUGH! And the we trotted freely, bending in the corners, and mannnnn his trot was soooooo good.

He snorted and snorted and snorted while we trotted! Somebody was thinking very hard in that lesson, good boy. I was very pleased with his efforts yesterday.

Struggle-bus dressage?

I noticed I’ve been complaining about flatwork a lot lately- in all honesty, Oats has improved by like, 100% and my ‘wanty’ behaviour is due to the things I now think we are capable of doing…

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Another time when he was sweaty too!

Like yesterday- our dressage lesson was pretty good, I wasn’t scared off anything and Oats didn’t bug me too much. But, things like- he wouldn’t trot when I was asking for contact in a medium-low stretchy frame- he would only canter. And canter. And canter. For a pony who has the HARDEST time going forward, it’s quite interesting to ride him when he finds canter easier than trot. I wanted trot though, so I was like wtf horse, why won’t you just trot?!!

But, as my trainer pointed out, if he’s doing the exercise well enough at the canter, leave it there for now. It’s mentally doing the job that you need–you can get nitpickier about the gait later. Fair enough!

So, we cantered–seeking the nice, stretchy lower-frame work that we tried to get in trot. And then we eventually got it in trot!  And the tried for it in a quieter, more compressed trot to transition to a small canter. This was met with mixed results- Oats started being a twit about yanking the reins out of my hands and tossing his head…So, back to the drawing board.

I found (again) that I let him buldge off my right leg going left. Oh and I rely too much on my inside rein to keep him in corners- this has been plaguing me on my jump lessons bigtime!

It was a very sweaty lesson. Oats had rivulets of sweat running down his forehead! If he’d only trot, I’m sure it would have been much less sweaty, but you know, ponies…No sense reasoning with them!

I did give him a very big and long head-scratching session- as dictated by me so he doesn’t rudely shove his big head on me- and he LOVED IT! And he got some more candy canes as a treat!