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.

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VIRA race recap: Port Alberni Paper Chase 10k!

An exciting new race for me, and for the VIRA Island series, them bringing back an older race that hadn’t been in rotation for years- the last Paper Chase was in 2002. This made up race #5 for my husband and myself, as we had a series of MEC and VIRA races all stacked up against each other.

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My first VIRA medal. And probably my last, ha. Photo courtesy of Ceevacs Roadrunners.

We prepared for the haul out to Port Alberni and the weather was fabulous! Chilly but blue skies and sunshine. A welcome change from the kind of drab grey misery/constant bone-chilling wind we seem to be having this ‘spring’…

I was starting to feel sicker though. Another cold was brewing pretty strongly in my head and now, chest. I feel HORRIBLE as of today, Wednesday April 5. But on Sunday I was just coughing a lot and had sinus congestion, nothing too bad, so I figured I could race but it might be a bit rough. Oh, it was.

The course description was a tad misleading- as fast. Ha, maybe the downhill parts! It was also a lot of rolling hills, and the up parts of those hills just killed me. Phew, I kind of wanted to quit at 4km again and found it very challenging to get into the rhythm. My paces were lousy on the uphills and decent on the down.

I resigned myself to running ‘my race’ and let ideas of pace go. And, I actually managed to enjoy myself in between ragged breaths for KM’s 7-8. KM 9 sucked, but 9-10 was quite good! I even felt pretty warm at one point, with sunlight blazing down on us.

The race was a small one, with just over 250 people registered and only 15 in my age category- not often that happens! And as it were, I placed third in my age group with a time of 47:09. I wasn’t super proud of that time, but you know? This is me right now. I’m struggling more with head and chest colds, chronic allergies, exercised-induced asthma and fatigue/exhaustion, so I have to be fair to myself and with the effort I am putting out. Me last year is not the same as me this year.

I am fighting with feelings of ‘why isn’t this year as good as last year’ but you know what, who cares! I am doing it and that is what matters.

The volunteers are fantastic, the food was the BEST- candied salmon seafood chowder and two types of chili- I had the seafood chowder myself and it was great! We had yogurts, Milk 2 Go and muffins, buns and cookies, with fruit and veggies.

I’d highly recommend checking this one out- smaller turnout, tough but doable course and great food at the end. We also checked out the brand-new Twin Cities Brewing, in Port Alberni, for a post-race beer 🙂

Never let go: Jump lesson recap

Jump lesson recap. Maybe I am getting my personal life mojo back?

It was good too actually! I finally got the ‘win’ I’ve been searching for. I started off feeling a blah (I am having a lot of trouble with pressure in my ears, so right now when I breathe it feels like it goes straight through my freaking ears!). Lovely.

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I am learning how to take screenshots! Still in the indoor though. Proof that we jump oxers, haha.

I was also feeling a bit jealous- the girls at the barn are all braver than me and jumping 2’9-3′ courses and here I am, wimping out at 2’3” oxers? Wah Wah WAH.

But that’s just me- I’m proud of where I am, and proud of how far the girls have come. I am doing the best I can 🙂

I felt ready to be challenged – a bit- ha, not too much. We fumbled our way through a grid, where I learned I need to sit up or we’d eat it through the last fence, with Oats not being particularly interested in oh, ‘jumping’ through the grid. I manned up and really RODE his butt through it, but the nice hands I had been slowly developing kind of went by the wayside last night in the grid. Oh well, two steps forward, one step back type of gig. Grids have always been our nemesis…

On to the course, which I am proud to say was NOT my nemesis!

We started with the grid, and then cantered over a simple single, and then over the ‘road closed’ oxer (ooh, big scary one) ha yeah, and then over a skinny bridge in an ‘s’ turn that I kind of bungled every time, to another oxer (who is this girl?) to a skinny one-stride that rode pretty much perfectly every time. Wow!

Funny enough, we had trouble with the grid, and the other girls had trouble with the oxers, where we aced the oxers (with only one stop, I just didn’t have the right striding and Oats declined, fair enough).

It was a good ride, and the course rode great. I was tempted to do it again and Nicole was egging me on to, but I decided not to. I just couldn’t chance taking a big step back when I’m kind of feeling really fragile- two go-arounds that felt PRETTY darn good was fine for me, and a big win!

Yeeha!!

Coming on strong

This week, work continues to be….the bane of my existence, but we’ll chalk that up to it being that way for approximately another month (GAH).

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This girl can make it happen!

Jump lesson last night and I was actually feeling ok going into it. It has gotten cold again here (hate it) and I was freezing in my lesson. Like, wanted to keep cantering/trotting in my warmup because I was so cold. My trainer said ok that’s enough warming up for Oats and I was like, are you sure? I need to warm up!

We started work over a grid, and it was set short. Like, Oats short. And I really got into it! Usually grids are my nemesis and I kind of flail badly at them. However, I was feeling quite confident about the shorter distances even though we flailed through them as poles, I said they would probably work out well as jumps, and I was right! The shorter distance gave me a lot more confidence.

Then, we worked on setting up a small course with the gymnastic as a start.

The course had very few jumps (4?) but we jumped them several times in many iterations. S-curves, a bending line, diagonal fence, one on the centre line, all sorts of fun combinations! Oats was a superstar, and the most amazing thing happened. I screwed up a fence or two, cursed briefly, and then let it go and was able to immediately move on. I was even able to slow my brain down enough to think about what my next move was (something I am NEVER able to accomplish). Who is this girl?

I was sitting tall around -most- corners. I was focused on the approach, and using an opening rein for the S-curve. When I bungled the bending line (with a big chip..), we went and rode it again on Nicole’s prompting, and it went perfectly. WOW! For me, to be able to let that anxiety (performance mostly) go and just ride it again fixing my mistakes? That is a big step. Huge for me.

Even my trainer is noticing that I am slowing down enough to be able to fix things, adjust my position, carefully consider my track and be better about sitting up (elbows are kind of a work in progress though, and I wasn’t always great about sitting up all the time).

Still, I am proud of being able to think- yes I can do this. This is how it will go.

It’s taken a long time and I fall off track a lot, and these jumps were very small and totally do-able, but I didn’t have anxiety doing it. When my trainer suggested jumping the course again, I didn’t start backpedaling, I just did it! 🙂

 

A very good weekend: Run, ride, party, tennis, eat!

I had a lot of fun this weekend, and it wasn’t because I had anything big going down, it was just really fun!

I was feeling really crummy- sore throat, very fatigued, sinus headache- but I didn’t let that bring me down, no way! Saturday, I was up very early (gah, 7:30am) to get out to the barn to meet the saddle fitter. Earlier than I would prefer for a weekend but heck, when the saddle fitter comes out to your barn, you MAKE IT HAPPEN!

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We are finally matching!! I love it, even with my trainer’s big saddle.

Long story short, needed air in my air panels as they went completely flat, and some re-flocking and tree adjustments are in order- he has my saddle this week and fingers crossed I get it back soon! Whoop!!

I am still borrowing my trainer’s saddle and she said I could try her dressage saddle, so I saddled up Oats on Saturday and wow, I did not enjoy that experience. It felt so…strange. I was very behind the motion, kept losing my stirrups even though I bumped them up 7 holes?!! And just, iick. Clearly I was not meant to ride dressage. If I do try it again, it will be in the indoor- it was just too jarring to ride in it in the outdoor ring, perhaps my biggest mistake.

Oats was kind of annoyed with me, fair enough.Sunday I moved back to the jump saddle (it is a very nice saddle, just too big for me).

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No photos! Damn paparazzi!!

I got home and jogged some stairs as as quick-ish workout and I forgot how hard stairs are. Bring me a hill any day!

Saturday night I had a series-end awards party at Rustik Bistro for the Christie-Victoria Insurance Run Series. I had a BLAST! $10 a ticket and it’s a silent auction, and awards with beer/wine and appies and squares–and they were so tasty, I was stuffed!

There were also draw prizes, and my name was in the draw prizes for the 5 pairs of running shoes (people who won series awards got all their names in a draw to win 1 of 5 pairs of running shoes) and I WON A PAIR! Lucky me eh?? I got gold in my age group (30-39) and that gave me a free seasons pass to next year’s track series, and a chance at winning running shoes.

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Lucky me! I would highly recommend checking out this track series- friendly, inviting, low-barrier!

Wow!!!

I also bid on some silent auction items- got outbid on a bunch- but also made out with a hair cut and a subscription to Canadian Running magazine. Yes!!

A great night.

Sunday, I was up and out to the barn to ride in jump tack again. Rode in the indoor as it was raining on and off, and it is not my saddle= no way I am getting it wet. Oats was very good if a bit lazy, and we schooled some tiny fences. I kept getting left behind? How? He was forgiving for that, good pony. A fun ride overall.

Zipped home and met my mom, who gave me this amazing pie: The roses took her 3 hours to do! It tastes as good as it looks!

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My mom made the world’s greatest pie. Looks and tastes amazing!

And we walked my dog along the ocean- I really like the proximity to the water, 5 minutes and you are there. My mom left, and when my husband came home, we played a bit of tennis–and wow we are soooo bad at it. Terrible actually, but it was really fun, silly and gave Gidget quite the workout chasing tennis balls everywhere!

Then we suited up and went out for a run- 8km for me and 6-7km for my husband. A very lovely day, and I wanted to spend every second of it making it count! And we sure did! That, friends, is how you enjoy a great weekend. I hope everyone else’s was as enjoyable as mine.

Foxstone show recap: November show!

On paper (well, in ribbons) this show looked pretty darn good- and to be honest, my complains and frustration comes from a place of progress not fear. So that IS a good thing.

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My new show jacket! I love it. A big thanks to my trainer for taking me this day.

Let’s break it down: I placed 2nd in the equitation over fences, two thirds in the hunter o/f classes and a fourth in the flat.Not too shabby eh? Well, I made some BIG mistakes in the jump classes, to the tune of not enough leg at all, and a big add in the the line with some chips, and then a lovely round in my second class to a huge fail at the…last fence…shit! We basically stopped, and climbed over it. Nothing but a total failure to ride the last fence on my part, which was very disappointing.

I lit a fire under my butt for the last jump class- I told myself NO MORE CHIPPING and NO MORE ADDING and oh, no more forgetting to ride the last fence and start congratulating myself too early, ha.

And you know what? It was our best round! I was moving.

Except then I didn’t know how to take that ‘BIG’ energy down enough for our flat class and I totallllllly bombed it. Oats was tense and anxious, and I was handsy and clutching, feeling afraid that he was bottled up and bucky, but not really knowing how, at the moment, to deal with it. Shoooot…

So, I kind of flopped, pulled, got anxious and failed my way through the flat class- we picked up the wrong lead on the right (TWICE! kill me now…) and generally I was kind of frustrated and miserable. Our last flat class was a dream so what in hell was going on?

Well heck, it’s all a learning experience! It is actually nice to take what I’ve consciously learned from the first show, and apply it to the second show.

We didn’t get a fabulous warmup- the outside ring was frozen solid- and so was I, by the way! So we had to just slowly walk around, freezing our asses off, until we could get into the indoor to warm up over fences. The scene there was total chaos, some riders seemed to have a warm up technique of repeatedly falling off…I felt disjointed and a bit disorganized, but Oats was a dream to warm up. The only thing I was annoyed about was his throwing his head around, but that’s just a warm up thing, I’m sure.

We then sat…and sat…and sat…freezing our butts off, while we waited for the final rotation to go- and we were last in the final rotation. Lovely.

I think the issues were clear- not enough energy for our over fences classes until the last one, when I finally mustered up enough ‘go’ for the course, and then WAY too much ‘go’ for my flat.

The sitting really killed our impulsion for sure, and then when I needed to be ‘sitting’…well, we were already in the ring for the flat class and didn’t have that necessary ‘decompression’ time Oats and I apparently need to not kill anyone in a flat class. I couldn’t moderate myself enough. It was 0-60 all the time.

Hm, interesting.

I had a dream that night that I was galloping Oats and I felt a bit out of control, but that I also liked it…It was strange. I felt like that dream was telling me that was what I needed at the show, but was blocked from achieving it.

So, last night I did my equine counseling session with Vicki, and kind of actually ended up re-enacting some gallops from my dreams? Weird eh? I guess that was what I needed to get…that big gallop, the good canter, and the ‘free, floaty, smooth’ trot that I could NOT get at the show.

It had to come up somewhere. So it did. I liked it!

I like seeing the progression, and I’m liking the process. So what if I am frustrated–at least it’s taking me places to see new things about myself and my horse.

It’s funny- when I said I was half pleased, half disappointed about the show, Vicki asked what would make me 100% happy about the show. What if I came home with all first places?

I instantly knew I what I would say–that the competition was weak, so I was the best out of the worst.

That surprised me. I need to be happy with what I am achieving right now.

Race Recap: Oceanside Mother’s Day 10k! A big ego boost of a weekend.

Not a personal best, but a good day nonetheless!

Not a personal best, but a good day nonetheless!

Woah- let me just say that I really love smaller community-run races.

They are so much cheaper (entry fees are typically $20-25 in advance, maybe $35 day-of), the food is good – better than what we normally have at the TC10k – and the volunteers are awesome!

And at the finish, they gave you a carnation and a bottle of water! Lovely.

And at the finish, they gave you a carnation and a bottle of water! Lovely.

I had mentioned at my last race (Sooke 10k) that while I was lucky enough to finally place, I had also won a draw prize for another 10k race- the Oceanside Mother’s Day 10k. So, even though my last 10k was kind of a killer and I was swearing up and down I was going to take a break…I was now signed up for another one! Silly me.

My husband ran with me, and the course was really nice. Good variety of terrain and not too technical, we ran across a small bridge, down a hill to Rathtrevor Park, and out to the ocean, and we ran along the ocean for a bit on gravel, and then back through the park. I think this run had some of the loveliest scenery, and probably the most race-marshals marking the route haha. We really enjoyed the slight breeze off the ocean, and the hilarious stares of campers going ‘WTF’ are these people running like idiots through the campsites!!

On course in Parksville

On course in Parksville- Photo courtesy of Terry Riggs

It was cool in the trees, and overall not a warmer day, which worked to our advantage.

It would have been an excellent race to try for a personal best, but for some reason I just wasn’t 100%- I was struggling to rate my breaths, and I felt like I was gasping a lot more than I should have been. I have been trying to start out faster, and then work to try and hold my pace for longer (like 5k or so) but I started dropping faster and by 6k I was like ARGHH…I’m dying….

Way far back you can see us! Photo courtesy of Terry Riggs.

Way far back you can see us! Photo courtesy of Terry Riggs.

BUT everyone else was a bit slower- soooo I got the happy cheers of volunteers shouting to me that I was the second woman!! Yeah! That has NEVER happened to me, as I am still  fairly new at racing, having started just this year.

So, we kept pushing forward. I lagged bigtime at 6-7k, got a big ego boost from the volunteers and went through to 8- struggled up the very short hill, and then held fairly strong from 9 to the finish. No sprint at the finish, but I did feel like it was a good pace, and one we held well for the last kilometer.

We finished at 47:25, which was slower than my last 10k time (I know I can’t get PB’s every time I’m out…) but good enough to place me as the 2nd woman overall, and 1st in my age group! Yeehaw!!! I do have to note though that this race was far less competitive (a fun run) than the ones I have run overall this year- that is certainly why I placed where I did, NOT because I have somehow inexplicably become a super-runner.

Thanks, as always, to the lovely folks who take time to organize, volunteers and run in these races- I’m learning so much at each one, and enjoying the challenge.