Forever is a long time: Jump lesson update

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Jump 2 in the combination.

And spoiler: It was probably the worst I’ve had all season- even worse than the one I almost fell off in? And here’s the other shocker- while I was annoyed it was going badly while I was riding, I also felt…Fine. It was like, ok this is how it is going to go. I can deal. I’m glad I got media because my friend has been coming to take videos and I LOVE seeing her! She is so cool. Just a blast to be around. 🙂

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We conquered the combination! One small win.

So what went down? It started pretty well actually! We schooled over a few x-rails (and I have to say, trotting bigger jumps really helps Oats and I to rock back, so maybe I should ask for that or practice it on my own next week…I hate it though!), and then schooled over the combination.

A few weeks ago, the combination was my BIGGEST bugaboo. HA. Now this week, we were crooked as all hell (coming out of the left is tough for us…the drift is real!) but we could buckle down and like, ride it? Rather than sitting and freezing up, ha.

So, the combination. Good! Check.

But when we went to ride the course, Oats got spooked by our friend in the field and slammed on the brakes at the first jump (the rocks) and then I looked down and stopped riding to the second jump (every time, as it turns out…the planks), and I started losing focus.

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This one rode fine for the most part- off a bending line (generous) plank jump.

The rest of the course rode pretty well at the lower height- no complaints there.

But then, I started losing touch of ‘soft’ and out of the saddle riding and basically every time I tried it, I disconnected and Oats stopped. Argh! So, that’s something to work on. He felt me disengage and he was like, nahhh…

Every time I buckled down and RODE he was like oh yeah no problem! So, clearly my ‘being soft’ is the issue here.

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This line was a yawn, but it’s also where I started losing my shit…Ha.

And then when we went to ride our second course, a few more people joined and were hanging outside the ring, with a few dogs in the shadows. Of course Oats could NOT handle it…And I mentally had a lot of trouble regrouping, and adjusting my ride and my mindset. I guess I couldn’t handle it either? He wasn’t even being that spooky, hahah. I was frazzled!!! Jumping is hard enough for me without added distractions, though in hindsight, I do value them. If i can maintain focus in the ring for my jumps, that can only be a good thing for horse shows eh?

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I love that we match this jump perfectly!!

But…Yesterday I let it get to me.

We got around, and funny enough it was at the most boring, non-interesting jumps that we had the stops at (because I thought I could stop riding at them, obviously). Hah!

Oats is a saint though, and while he will definitely call me on my bullshit, he’s very honest and forgiving. He’s like, oh ok let’s do it! Literally doesn’t really notice from jump to jump. And let’s face it- I need to be more like that myself.

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“There is no god any more divine than yourself”

I’m in another Walt Whitman mood again!

I had another jump lesson last night, and while it was by no means a ‘breakthrough’ or super amazing lesson, it was just good quality, and that’s good for me. Except my little bratty pony sucked back on my second round and we found out why…A poop emergency!! Gotta go!

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The course- the gymnastic is the one we worked on (obviously it was set MUCH lower for me!). Doesn’t it look beautiful?

ARGH! Oats!

We started with a gymnastic (SO not my favourite…) and I kind of flubbed it a few times, haha. But then we picked it up, and I got to work on my next-favourite thing, not sitting in the gymnastic and grinding my butt. Staying in two-point, off his back, is surprisingly difficult for me. Even more so in a gymnastic? Why, world, why?

Next we strung together a course, and I’m not saying ‘small course’ because we have the luxury in the outdoor right now of making those suckers LONG! 13 fences total, including the gymnastic (it was a canter-in gymnastic for me, trot-in for George).

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From a few weeks ago. This week, this turned into an oxer and I think the best jump for us on course! 

And I had a good time! Not perfect, jesus god not at all, but not so bad that my ego took a beating. And that friends, is what success looks like to me. Sure I let him drift horribly, his leads again were a work in progress (dammit!!) and we got a very awkward short spot more than once, but we also nailed a few jumps and they rode forward and lovely.

I think it’s all a matter of not letting your ego take the ride. You ride. Each fence. Good? GREAT! Bad? Ok moving on! Either way, my goal when I am jumping is to ‘feel’ each fence. Not drifting outside of myself, not feeling the horse. I’m done with disassociating.

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This week we jumped the oxer going the other direction, slightly downhill. 

It’s funny to me to ride with another person in my lesson, because I do it so rarely, but when I do it’s also a lesson to me- everyone deals with anxiety. And people see me ride, and think I never have to deal with it. Ha, how little they know! Anxiety used to rule my life, rule my ride and my lessons. I am still managing it, day-to-day. I just worked extremely hard to manage it, not make it go away forever- that’s not going to happen.

Tempered, not tamed: Riding updates!

I had a lesson on Friday  (dressage with Sam) and while I was pondering what I wanted to focus on in my lesson, I realized that we (Oats and I) were so bad at the rollback exercise in my jump lesson the day prior. Bingo- that’s what we needed to work on!

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So I told Sam, and we experimented! I really enjoyed it actually, because it provided me with an opportunity to really distill the prior lesson down and play around with it a bit more. What works? What isn’t working?

We broke it down from a line of two jumps, to a single jump, trot-in. Get the lead!! That was the key. Once we did that, I learned that we could influence the correct lead by asking for canter ‘just’ in the step before the jump. Newsflash- that’s your lead.

This wasn’t quite so simple with the canter-in approach. I was getting pulled past the x-rail, and dumped down on the landing= picking up left lead instead of right. Shoot. How to fix? Change the positioning I have coming in. Instead of two-pointing and sort of floating above Oats, sit more and influence, holding the contact all the way through. And you know what? This ‘more contact’ approach did the trick! Neat eh? I’m glad we took the time to really experiment, keep an open mind when things didn’t immediately work.

How cool!

And then we worked on seating positioning influencing the canter. It was…Hard. Hahahah. But we got a lovely canter from both me AND Oats. Oats really is very happy to keep going, providing I give him the correct feedback 😉

End of the season: Bazan Bay 5k Race Recap!

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Faces of Anguish: The 5k… Photo by Lois D’Ell.

Ah man, as I write this- I’m struggling with weird crushing fatigue and muscle weakness/exhaustion. It’s not a good feeling, and I felt dizzy; had nausea and lightheadedness at the work gym on my lunch break today. Lovely. I had this last week, sort of on-and-off since I got back from Mexico. What is with travelling and me getting sick and/or facing crushing exhaustion?? Anyone have ideas?!

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Bazan Bay last year. This is my last year in my age-catgory, sob!

Anyway on to the race- I took Saturday VERY easy (see week of exhaustion/fatigue and a cold), so I was feeling sort of fresh but also with some strange muscle fatigue happening (I am finding it hard to type, my fingers feel tired and I am struggling to make a fist?!?).

I have been taking my iron pills and b12, as well as magnesium, but I’m really wondering what is going on…

So yeah, the race. Last year I had a really fantastic rally, and managed to break 20:00 minutes for the 5k. This year? Ha, nope. My ego was slightly bruised by this, but not by a lot- I still ran a very respectable 20:09. So, close but no cigar. Better than I likely had a right to run, to be honest, with the craptacular way I have been feeling this past week and now week!

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Faces of Anguish II: the finish of the 5k. Photo by Lois d’Ell. 

I started pretty quick and immediately it felt hard. My second Km was slow- too slow at 4:06…Shit. I bounced off another girl as I got boxed in pretty badly. Hit the turnaround and my previously cocky feeling of ‘this is ok, I can do it!’ evaporated. It was getting hard, really challenging. I was breathing hard, and starting to suffer.

In a weird sense of deja-vu, a girl who was racing this year was shouting and gasping and screaming, just like last year. It was bizarre. I think if each year you sound like you’re dying, maybe the 5k just isn’t…for you.

I saw some other runners who usually smoke me, HARD, and I passed them and they did not catch up. This surprised me- the 5k is a weak distance for me, and it sucks. I was running alone with a few men, and kind of wished for a woman to really spur me on! Like usual, the finish line was so far away and cartoonishly stretched further when I was running to it- I was freaking wiped!

I finished and briefly contemplated puking, like the guy I saw on his hands and knees throwing up after the race. Yes, it’s that fun! I got my breathing under control, found my husband and we trudged back to the gym. Damn, that was difficult. Weather was pretty good though, not too windy and not raining. It’s been pretty lousy these days so I’ll take what I can get!

The ceremony after was great though, I got third in my age category (this surprised me, it’s not a very competitive time for a fairly competitive race), and I was first in my age-group. PLUS I was able to get a chiropractic treatment from my chiropractor, because they were there as the sponsors of the race and were providing treatments. Score! Nice eh? It’s a very well run race, safe with great volunteers, snacks and treatments. I do highly recommend people trying their hand at a fast, brutal 5k to do it here- it’s a personal best-type course.

Sad to see another season go, but each race season teaches me something about myself. Isn’t that always a good thing? I age up next year, so I bid farewell to my age-group buddies 🙂 Felt nice to make a connection this year with some lovely ladies.

 

 

Show report: Mid-Island Cadora Halloween Haunt Dressage Schooling Show!

I signed up for this show hot on the heels of my last show, exactly a month prior (CDRC in Sept 20-21). I wasn’t super sure about how this was going to go- a new venue, a bit further, 2 hours away in Nanaimo, hack classes (our very real nemesis for awhile) AND dressage tests? Phew!!

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Winner winner!

But, you know what? We had a GREAT time! I had a good feeling when we went to pick up our numbers from the show office, and they let me know I had won the early bird entry prize- some cash back from my entry. YES!! Plus swag bags for the entrants- Purdy’s chocolate pumpkin and apples for the ponies. Sweet eh?

We didn’t have to load up too early, thank god. We were all in the same hack classes (command and dressage seat equitation), my friend and I were in the costume class- purely for fun, and then we were all in two dressage tests.

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He was moving better at Sept CDRC for sure…

That made for a very busy day. We were hauling ass back and forth from the trailer, to the hack ring, to the dressage ring alllll day. Phew, I was tired! So was Oats! First up was command class (which I got confused and thought we had just ridden dressage seat equitation, hahah). There were not many horses in our class, which made me feel relieved because I just watched a rider all off their horse in the class before ours…

It went well, Oats got a little jazzy at the trot, but he kept his hair on and was very well behaved. We did a turn on the forehand, and change of direction through the trot, and probably some other things that I can’t recall. We were first!

Next up was dressage seat equitation- a rider scratched, so it was just me and my two friends. This got held up, because an ambulance came with a firetruck. We later learned a young girl had gotten kicked in the head, and had to go to the hospital. Jesus. 😦

So the class was delayed due to the emergency, and the judge cleared it with us that the horses were ok with the ambulance/sirens coming through (Oats and Donato could care less, haha). This class had a few more interesting tests, sitting trot, drop stirrups, pick them up again, collected trot, extended trot, collected canter (we broke, whoops) and extended canter (fun!!). Oats again was a superstar and we won this one too! Next it was a quick change for my friend and I to do the costume class, which was super fun.

My other friend had to hustle to the dressage ring, and had to find someone to read her test for her, haha. Lucky for her, and me, we found someone! She rode her dressage tests, and then I hustled over and got changed back into my show clothes, and onwards to the dressage ring.

They were lovely about helping us out with reading the tests, I mean I know mine but still… My first test was very ‘eh’…Didn’t have that round, bouncy pony that I am used to having. He was stumbling a bit on the footing, and just felt kind of flat. Like, the minute I went for a downward transition, he’d just flatline you know? Eh.. And our canter transitions? HAHA yeah he flung his head up, hollowed and didn’t want to. Ohhh well…My test 3 for First Level was kind of similar, but he broke before doing the canter serpentine, not during it, weirdly. We actually got them this time?? Hm.

Curiously, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but I scored higher on my First Level 3 test for first place (with a 63%, the judge was good but NOT super generous, apparently with everyone) and I got a 62% on my First Level 1. Now that’s funny, a full swap from last show? Ah, I’ll chalk it up to him struggling a bit with the footing and move on!

And the day even got better- I would up with high point in the hack classes courtesy of our two red ribbons. A brand new dressage saddle pad!!! And I pocketed a few mini chocolate bars from the office. YUmmmm… Thanks you guys. A great day with fantastic weather out with my horse buddies? There is truly no better. I am so lucky. 🙂

 

Time to come home: Crazy horse show weekend! Dressage day.

This past weekend Oats and I participated in the Cowichan District Riding Club’s jumper and dressage days (Sat jumpers, Sun dressage). Wow, I am tired! And I bet Oats is too, ha.

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I really like doing these shows because they are very reasonable, cost-wise and the people running them  (all volunteers) are lovely people and offer a very relaxed atmosphere. That being said, I was a bit anxious for dressage day as I was trying my hand at a level above where I normally show (Level 1 test 3, as opposed to just trying Level 1 test 1). Actually I am pretty new to Level 1 in general! Not an expert here!

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We warmed up and Oats was okay…Kind of dragging me around a bit, and getting strong and kind of downhill. My hauler and friend was really helpful in getting me to find a way to fix it, instead of just getting annoyed, haha.

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We went in for Test 1 and it went okay but it was a little rougher, above the bit than I would have liked. Our first lengthen was pretty weak too. Oh well!

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Then it was time for Test 3 and before it, when we were hanging out in the warm up ring, I watched a horse literally rear its rider off. Scared the daylights out of me! I find that kind of behaviour really triggering, and rattles me to see it. The rider was fine, but landed pretty darn hard. It was very frightening, but they rode a nice test regardless.

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Anndd overbent…

Test 3 I felt physically ‘rode’ better than Test 1, but it did not score as well, the judge was definitely tougher and expecting more from us (which we kind of didn’t have at this point, but hey it was a fun experience!).  The canter loops went went well until Oats kind of had a minor hissy fit about it and broke the second loop. Shit!

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Our geometry was off, but that’s a work in progress too, and the judge was very kind and commented that if we fix that, our scores will be MUCH higher. There is hope for us after all! 🙂

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Leg yield- a bit resistant. 

So this is how we scored (and I am happy with it, I know we have lots to work on), but I feel grateful to have this experience with Oats.

First Level test 1: 65% for first place

First Level Test 3: 63% for third place.

None too shabby!

Thanks again to my dear husband for braving an entire weekend of horse showing, my hauler and friend, and my other friend who’s horse had to cancel because he hurt his eye. Shoot! Bad luck.

Be the one you love: A good lesson update

Last jumping lesson, I was kind of bemoaning the fact that Oats just didn’t have any ‘oomph’ and consequently was grinding slowly to a halt at some pretty easy fences. I just didn’t have it in me to make a change in those last few strides, even though I knew I had to. So how do I manage this? What can I do to help?

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Nancy took this photo of Oats sharing a moment with her daughter’s pony and Oats’ twin. So cute! 

A few things actually- I had an equine counseling session to determine why my anxiety was stopping me from being more proactive on Monday.

And in my riding lesson last night, I came armed with something a little more – a pair of my ‘motivator’ spurs (they are pretty long). Now a note about Oats and spurs: I could NOT use them on him for years. He would basically send me to the freaking moon. He had a very hard buck and was not afraid to use it! So, I couldn’t use my ‘motivators’ on him, heck I couldn’t even use my regular small spurs on him.

But now, he is at the ripe old age of 17 and more mature. It was time.

So I came into the ride with some backup to my leg – the long spurs. We warmed up in the arena, and I kind of wanted to have a freakout when he got silly about going through the gate to the outdoor field (where we spent time on Wednesday setting up x-c style jumps…so fun!!) but Oats gets weird about the gate, so he was rearing/hopping up, etc.

With that, I wanted to spiral. Shit!!

But Nicole talked me through it, haha and soon we were happily walking and trotting in and out of the arena to the field with no drama. Phew!! Now on to jumping. We warmed up in canter over a small x-rail to a 6-or 7- stride line. The normal Oats would get 7…and that would be a stretch. The new and improved motivated Oats? 6 bang on. Wow!!

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Our ‘x-c’ jumps in the field.

I didn’t realize how much of an impact the spurs would have on our ‘forward to the jump’ at all. It was crazy- my legs got tired because instead of squeezing or kicking, I was having to steer with them, and hold them still! They were burning? Oats also had a few ‘squeal!!’ moments when he realized I was using my spurs to get some forward- a few sassy kick outs but nothing bad.

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This one looked weird but rode fine!

And I realized that I was definitely going to have to get used to this ‘new Oats’…He was very forward, but when I was not careful and kicked or squeezed with my spurs too much, he ‘spurted’ forward and would get flat over the fence= rails down. I had to be more careful about maintaining the pace, rather than trying to get ‘more’ pace as I am used to.

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We jumped the other hay bales, not these ones.

All in all, it felt crazy, exciting and kind of thrilling. Who is this new thoroughbred I am riding? It’s Oats! We also went into the field and schooled some of the small x-c jumps and he was awesome, but we also faced the forward =/ flat jump issue and he hardcore ignored some half halts and just slammed a rail. SIGH! Oh well. He was very responsive and I was very impressed. Wow.

As with any new power, comes responsibility. I will only use these for jump lessons under supervision.