Monthly Archives: May 2013

Momentum

First of all, I am so happy with this weekend. Second, I’m still coming down from the “horse-show high” so if this post is a little scatter-brained, forgive me. Third, it’s a long one. I neglected to write down thoughts for each day- sooo I’m combining them all into one. You’ll be okay. Take breaks if you need to (I took about 3 to write this post).

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Let’s start with Friday. Warm-ups on Friday were great! It was our first time in the outdoor rings at Brandon, as well as our first outdoor experience (showing and training) since August 2012. So, it would be natural to expect a little bit of a gong show. However, Willard was impressively more chill than I expected him to be. Yes, we were excited. And yes we had a little bit of a motor, BUT, we were controllable and willing to participate in common sense. The deep sand footing helped, I’m sure, keep the shenanigans down. We discovered quickly while galloping around that the ring was unique in that in had slight uphills and downhills throughout. It added a cool challenge to courses over the weekend as you needed to plan for those changes- some lines would ride tighter or longer- and singles could come up pretty quick on the downhill if you weren’t careful. That, along side the deep footing, were a variable in the number of rails throughout the riders this weekend.  I must say though, Will loved the footing. He’s always been a sand horse, but he felt amazing in this ring.

We actually had two warm-ups on Friday. As I was hacking him around in the warm-up ring, M called me over to the main ring and popped me over some smaller jumps- mainly trotting in and calm canter out- just to see how he was going to handle life in general. After about 40 minutes of that he told me to go back to the barn and get C, and let her know that I was ready to do some real work now. C, surprised I had already done some jumping, worked us for at least another 40 minutes- this time doing the usual schooling of cantering to everything and working around a full course. Here is where I started to feel great in the tack. The added challenges of the slanty-uphill-downhill ring made rider effectiveness imperitive to success. Coming into the diagonal line up the centre? Left leg, left leg, left leg. Otherwise the slight uphill with the left slant drags you out and your line to the in jump gets blurry- causing rails either in or out (which we learned the hard way a few times). This year so far as been new for me in that I can actually be more effective in those ways. I can think my way through a course while riding it, and control my aides appropriately. Before it all became kind of a blur. Mentally and physically I feel like I’ve broken into a new dimension. And I like it.

Saturday.

IMG_2991It was a little bit chilly…

This was one of those days where you just had to laugh. Being the nineteenth class in, the morning was a lot of.. well not a lot of much actually. Trying to stay warm. We went for breakfast at a nearby bakery (which was somewhat torture for me.. smell of freshly baked cinnamon buns when you can’t have any?) and then us hunters braided and finally it was time to go. Our first two hunter rounds, Willard had his motor running at high speed and we were a little bit too keen. However, they were good schooling rounds and by the time the Classic came along we were a little bit more chilled about things. We rode the Classic at 3ft and had a really good round, with an unfortunate rail at the second jump. Because of this our score was dropped under 50 and we didn’t make the call-back round- however I was perfectly fine with this as it just felt so good to be on our rhythm again. Rails happen. Especially at the first outdoor show of the year in deep, new, footing.

Here is our Classic round <—Click there.

Now it was time for the jumpers. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous. Or excited. I was. Just a little. Enough to cause me to attempt to put my gloves on the wrong hands.. M was questioning my sanity, hands down. My horse was also feeling some of that. Also a little confused as to why we were back in the ring and why there were so many new and exciting jumps this time.  We worked our way down to the first jump, a oxer with white rails on top and a plank with colourful “bubbles” on the bottom. Annnnnnd we stopped 3 strides out, Willard was a bit surprised by this new and odd looking thing in front of him. No worries. With a good snort, and a small tap beside my leg with my stick,  we galloped around again and this time I was able to convince (tell) him that jumping over the scary bubbles was a good plan. After this we had a nice forward pace around to the vertical bricks on the diagonal five strides to the  red and white planks out. Around again to the green oxer five strides to a one-stride out combination. This is where Willard needed to test the effectiveness gravity, and the distance a 160lb rider could fly before succumbing to the forces acting. Luckily the jump standard caught me. I must say I’ve developed cat like reflexes in the air. I came out of that with only a beautiful bruise on my thumb from trying to hug the standard as I collided with it.  Still 14IMG_2998

So that was a bit disappointing. Well, more so frustrating. Mostly because it was almost entirely outside of my control. We had the perfect distance and I was riding well. Nobody saw the abrupt change of pace coming, if you watch the video (which is hilarious- mostly because of my mom’s comments throughout) you’d also be surprised to see my flying through the air as if that was the plan. The theory I’ve come up with is that he was just a little surprised at how much fun he was having and his excitement took over his brain causing a system overload (side effect of being a thoroughbred…). As much as I was frustrated and disappointed.. and as usual, my brain was involuntarily making my tear ducts open. I was greeted at the out gate by the most amazing group of people. M and C, as well as the rest of the McMullan team. They helped me not only reassure myself and my bruised confidence- but also laugh it off. Because what else can you do, really. Especially when M puts his hands on your shoulders, looks you straight in eyes, and introduces you to the “McMullan rule”… “It’s not acceptable to come out of the jumper ring with tears, unless you’re hurt. Otherwise I send you back to the hunter ring”. I wonder if laughing and crying is an exception… Anyways, no time later it wasn’t frustrating anymore, it was just an experience that was actually more funny than anything. It would be no fun if things went perfectly every time. Horses keep us humble, right?

That evening a few of us headed to a local restaurant called Komfort Kitchen- which I highly recommend! A nice wind-down from the day, and a reminder of how far things have come and what the potential is for the future. That was a lot of the atmosphere for the weekend, actually. Which is exactly how a competition should feel.

Sunday. Oh, Sunday. I loved Sunday.

Because of our projectile debut in jumpers the day before, I dropped down a level into the 2’6 class for Sunday. As much as I wanted to stay at 2’9, this was a fantastic choice for confidence building. Jumpers came first thing Sunday morning, and the course was only slightly changed from the day before- with the same first three fences. Which was nice, as we already had confidence over those three. This time, things were a little less new (although just as exciting). Coming up to the first jump there was a fair amount of Will saying “uhhh I was scared of this yesterday.. maybe I should also be scared of it now?” and me saying “nope. Get over it.” and him actually responding in a positive manner. This was the theme for the rest of the course. Coming into the combination that ended us the day before, this time it was further into the course, I rode it exactly the same in and set him up nicely- thankfully this time there was no questions asked and no gravity checks. We earned a second place in that class!

IMG_2990Our first official jumper ring ribbon!

Our hunter rounds that day were also quite good. The first, was a little bit quick- Willard’s motor was still running on high from the jumper round earlier that day. So in between we did trot laps of the warm-up ring. By the time we went in for our final class of the weekend, the 3ft stake class, the motor was a little more settled and we put in a nice clean round which earned us a 3rd beneath some great rounds by two other McMullan riders. It was a great way to end off a fantastic weekend!

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One of the most exciting things for me was actually getting to feel strong and effective in the tack and not  hurt. Anywhere. Also, not constantly be thinking about when the hurt is going to come back. It’s amazing how effortless things get when you aren’t trying to compensate for anything. You can actually ride. You can stay positive- both physically and mentally. All the work I’ve done inching my body towards health and strength these past years is really starting to show. I’m in the best shape of my life, and starting what looks to be a new era as an pain-free athlete. FINALLY. I am starting to build a trust in myself that wasn’t always there before, which is only helping my skills in the saddle.

I also survived on my new eating habits. I’m no longer a cheap date (not sure I ever was, to be honest), as often the only thing I can eat on the menu at many restaurants now is steak (love it). I’ve also found that I’m craving things I used to really not like. Tomatoes for one. And grilled shrimp. It’s really odd to all of a sudden just want something you’ve been disgusted by for most of your life. However, the body generally knows what it needs so I’m going to trust that logic.

So there you go. A pretty thorough play-by-play of my weekend. I’ll post the videos of my hunter rounds from Sunday once I can, and hopefully some pictures as well! Unfortunately mom was so excited about my jumper round she forgot to video tape it. But, there will be more of those. M has said, in his way, that I did well enough this weekend that he will keep me around for the next show. The momentum we’re building is taking us in a new and exciting direction. The highs and the lows are teaching us more about each other, and me more about myself. It’s been years of baby steps- but all the little things are starting to add up.  We learned so much at this show, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

945040_10151692181008086_2016810418_nFocus on your goals and believe in your actions. Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. 

 

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2 days to go

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Willard’s face as he sees me eating HIS apple.

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“I did that one stride like a champ.. and this is how you reward me?!” I know.. I’m a jerk.

Had a fantastic lesson with M&C tonight. Which is exactly what I needed coming up to Wheat City this weekend. I am really starting to get a hang of this whole riding thing, it seems. I’ve never felt stronger in the tack, and my legs stay where they need to be and find the distances for me. We even did a one stride tonight, to finish off. One strides used to be a terrifying thing for me, but I realized tonight that I really don’t have anything to fear anymore. As long as I support my horse, he will get me out of there. For the most part, tonight, I was probably overriding through the combo. The thing is though, you’re moving so fast that you don’t even have time to think about things as they happen. The two main thoughts for me were, okay- legs on, shoulders back, jump in- one- out. After take off of the first jump, there are no thoughts. Only rhythm. Which is what my last post was themed around. Tonight really came down to just that, all over again. Getting to that first jump with a rhythm- everything else is taken care of after that. There is nothing you can think in that period of time to fix anything. Leading up to the vertical in was C’s voice creating a pace “da dum da dum da dum” as she does, and all I could hear past that was hooves leaving the ground- silence- one stride- silence- and landing. It’s nice to not have to think so hard about everything. It’s even nicer to feel a more concrete trust forming between me and myself regarding my ability to not slip into bad habits and not let old fears take over.

Progress, I love it!

I also have to say that my horse is still managing to surprise me with skill and power that just seems to keep coming year after year. He is jumping fantastic this season. So fantastic that tonight C actually stopped mid-sentence out of distraction after he took a beautiful jump over a vertical. C, speechless. That doesn’t happen often. But, I’ll stop bragging about my horse now…

The evening ended with M saying “You’re getting good at this.” and then “If you keep riding like this we might let you ride jumpers more often!”. Now if that’s not encouraging (especially for those of you who know M), I don’t know what is.

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Find that rhythm

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” -Nick Caraway, The Great Gatsby.

That variety of life. Do you ever look around at what you fill your life with and wonder how you’re lucky enough to be where you are? I do. Sometimes I have to pause and breathe- taking in everything that surrounds me. As you will have picked up by now if you read my posts even on a semi-regular basis, my days could use a few extra hours in them majority of the time. I’m surrounded by amazing people who inspire me, support me, and keep me on this planet. Sometimes all the different shoes I fill can cloud my focus. I can get lost in it all, forget to slow down and take that breath.

This weekend thankfully I had a few different opportunities to do just that. With my first show of the season coming up next weekend, as well as a midterm, I am so glad this weekend turned out the way it did. Whether it was sitting on the floor of the gym or in an Olive Garden over Sangria (technically not supposed to have alcohol yet- but seriously, a little Sangria never hurt anyone), or anything else in between- I got the chance to just slow everything down for a little while.

A phrase often used by C in our lessons is “find that rhythm and stick to it”. Put into a riding context, finding your rhythm or pace is imperative to getting around a course, or doing anything really. You definitely notice when you aren’t on it. I’ve had rides where I can’t find that rhythm if my life depended on it. But when you find it, things happen for you. You see distances, you make lines, that single oxer on the diagonal is amazing. I’ve been translating that to my daily life lately. Sticking to “that rhythm” is how I make my schedules aline. My different lives, and the goals that go along within each of them, instead of colliding and crashing into each other- they work around one another and often even compliment each other.

Sometimes, like the past week, I fall off that rhythm and get a little lost in everything. There was less “enchantment” to life and more just flat out exhausting. It’s like getting into a combination at an awkward distance and then getting stuck in the middle because you lose your momentum. It’s not a good feel. Re-organization, a deep breath, and “riding positive” (man, m&c are full of philosophical quotes) are what is needed to get through that combo successfully. That’s exactly what I’ve been able to do the past few days.

Something about this upcoming show in Brandon is a little bit nerve wracking for me (besides it being the first show of the year). I have a lot going on right now. It’s really not surprising my focus isn’t always where it needs to be. Between two.. three jobs, completely reworking my eating habits (which is still amazing, btw), spring courses, and training myself and my horse for competition… things can get jumbled sometimes. Some of the weird feeling about next weekend is probably because it’s the first show in a long time that I’m going into with no chronic injuries to speak of. Those ongoing issues almost became a comfort zone for me, even though they were far from comfortable. When something is with you for that long, it becomes a habit and part of who you are. While I’m very excited that I have been able to move past that pain, it’s a little weird not having it still. And of course, there is the fear that it will come back. I don’t write about this often because its a scary thing for me sometimes, and I have struggled with it and worked on it for a long time. However, it’s also something that I’ve gotten through, learned from, and improved from. I’m in the best shape of my life, and never been more able to handle whatever life throws at me. I’ve always said that life begins when you step out of your comfort zone. This is just another piece of that comfort zone I’m stepping away from, onto better things.

The other new thing for me is heading over to jumper land. It’s not exactly new, I’ve been there before. But it feels different this time. Maybe because I’m more prepared than I’ve ever been. And it’s one step closer to some big goals of mine. Things are starting to happen for me, hard work is paying off. It’s exciting, and it’s terrifying. Finding that rhythm with my horse isn’t as elusive as it used to be- and I have much more confidence in myself as a rider to know that even if things don’t go perfect- I can fix them. I can get out of that combination. A little leg, positivity, and a lot of determination is all it takes.

Up until this weekend I was having a hard time visualizing myself riding around a course and something not going wrong. My focus just wasn’t there yet. Then, this morning, while hacking Willard as a rain storm pelted the tin roof above us, things started to clear up for me. All I could hear was the rain, all I could feel was the rhythm of my horse underneath me. No conscious thoughts, other than knowing that this is my rhythm. This is where I need to be right now. Things clicked back into place somewhere in those moments. I’m back on a rhythm. Thank all the things. Not being on a “rhythm” is frankly exhausting, and a lot more work than it should be.

Had enough philosophical musings? Okay. Well here is a quick update on Week 4 of my diet! It’s been good! I had a few days where I wasn’t feeling amazing, but I think that was because I overdid it on the fibre side of things- which can cause some GIT discomfort. I’ve been feeling much better the past few days and more back to my normal. I made some amazing meals over the past week, as well as some cookies. I’m interested to find out how this new eating style holds up over a weekend of competition. I’m really, really hoping that it goes well and I have just as much energy as I have had while eating this way and that carries over to my riding. That would be amazing! It will definitely take planning. But that is something I am getting very good at.

This upcoming weekend will be a good trial run on many fronts. I am hoping for good results in all aspects, but it’s one of those things you just have to take as it comes. No sense worrying about it until something happens worth worrying about. Although at this point I’m wondering if we should do some anti-rain dances. That might be something to think about.

As usual, here are some photos of my delicious food creations (and one just for fun selfie)!

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Hummus, anyone?

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Breakfast “pasta”

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COOKIES! I love cookies!

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Look at how much my hair is growing!!!

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Week 3- Just keeps gettin’ better

Another week has disappeared somewhere. Where does the time go?

Classes started this week- thankfully I only had time to take one. I can promise you that if I wasn’t working full time I would be in more. However the fact is money needs to be made and this one class fits in perfectly with that money making schedule. Even more awesomely a good portion of the class takes place in the gym practicing different lifts and exercises- which means I can coordinate my gym time with my brain time.

So this week went by so fast I can hardly remember most of it. Like seriously. Right now, though, sitting here working on this post- I feel like I’ve had three weeks in one. I’ve certainly done enough to cover more hours than have past. Monday after work I took Will out for a long hack down the dirt road to try and burn some of his energy. I’d guess we went about 4 miles, half of that either trotting or galloping, the other half walking or trotting serpentines in another attempt to regain his attention. Thoroughbreds. Some days. Tuesday I made a mad dash from the office to the barn, did a quick ride in the ring focusing on bending and lateral work and then another hack down the road before getting back downtown for class where I stayed until 9:30. That was a bit of a crazy day. Wednesday brought some relaxation time with Mom where we were treated to manis, pedis, and facials (new favourite thing). Thursday I decided that trying to make the barn and back before class was not worth it so instead I spent an hour in the gym doing sprints- before my 3 hr lab… in the gym… Writing this down I am re-considering whether I’m sane or not.

Friday was probably my favourite day this week (besides facial day, obvi), even though it snuck up on me AGAIN. Fridays are the days I drive like crazy to get out to the country to coach the local 4H club. Last week was a bit touch and go as it was week one for all of us- and not all the kids were there, and the horses were feeling spring. This week we had pretty much everyone, and I was able to split them into smaller groups. This was a lot more cohesive to progress then trying to do 10-15 kids and horses at once. That would be insanity. Both groups this week did a similar lesson plan- what I have named the Y exercise. For pretty obvious reasons. It’s in the shape of a “Y”. Original. I know. Anyway. I’ve done this exercise with one of my previous coaches, except with jumps and at a higher speed. The premise is having the horse and rider walk into the “Y”

|  |        <— like that except imagine it being a little more compact and closer together.

/ / \ \

while the instructor is standing at the top of the Y. As the pair walks into the stem or chute or whatever you want to call the base of the Y the instructor indicates a direction for them to turn (I was mean and waited to the last reasonable second). The rider is then responsible for directing their horse in a controlled fashion out of the exercise in whichever way indicated. If the instructor doesn’t signal left or right that would mean continue walking forwards- which more than a few of the kids took as a opportunity to try and run me over.. classy guys- love you too. If I hold both my hands up, that obviously means stop or halt. As I expected they caught onto the basics of this at a walk and then a jog pretty quick, so, for an extra challenge I suggested they could try doing the exercise with no hands- only using their legs to direct their horse. Predictably many of them, when asked if this would also be simple, said “yeah I can totally do that, no problemo coach!” (Okay they didn’t say it with that enthusiasm, but I take it where I can okay). Also predictably, that’s not how it went. (mwahaha). It didn’t take long for them to realize that their legs weren’t as effective without the pull of their reins. Point for me. Shwing.

My goal with this exercise was to start them thinking about what their body is doing during different phases of riding. Because I thoroughly enjoy pushing my students, some may call it being mean (lol), I randomly through in a stop sign for them when they were working with no reins. Earlier in the lesson we had discussed how shifts in our body can help to influence our horse’s speed/direction/balance etc. So I wanted to see if they had been listening when we talked about a shift in our body backwards will signal to the horse to slow down or stop (when in conjunction with other aids of course). Well, they were listening all right. When I signalled stop- more then one of them definitely used their body weight to try and get a halt. It looked like they had pulled the lever on their recliner- legs stretched forward, leaning back, arms to the side- like it was the hour after thanksgiving and they were enjoying a post-feast chill out. A little bit over the top… apparently we forgot to talk about subtle changes in body position. I couldn’t help but laugh. It was an excellent chance for us to talk about what subtle means and why we don’t want to launch ourselves backwards in an attempt to stop our horse.

Many of these kids have no interest in competitive showing, some would like to do rodeo, others, and I quote, “just want to run”. Some are only there because their parents put them in 4H and they have to participate. All of that leads to them not really understanding how basic equitation/horsemanship skills are going to help them in whatever they are doing with their horses. You think you can run a barrel pattern with no leg control? No balance in your horses body? In your body? Some of them have been relying on spurs because their “legs get tired when they don’t wear them”. Luckily those who have been doing that are a bit more experienced so I fully plan on taking away their crutch and getting some muscle burn on. One of the parents after that lesson came up to me and commented that I was really emphasising working on legs. And she was right, that does seem to be an emerging theme. After talking to each individual and asking their goals, many of the answers were control and getting their horses to respond better. Where does that all stem from? The rider’s body. What is the base for the rider? Their legs. One of the best things for young riders, I think, is teaching body awareness. Knowing what your body is doing, and where it needs to be will clear up a lot of confusion between you and your horse. Communication is a lot easier when each individual knows where they stand.

Another challenge I threw in for those who were doing the no reins things pretty well was backing through the exercise- which was a pretty difficult thing for almost everyone. Backing up their horse for 4 steps in a straight line was difficult, let along through poles in different directions. But I have to give them all credit, they all tried it out and didn’t give up when it got hard. I could see them working so hard to listen to the guidance I was providing and put words to action in the saddle. One girl, who was only on her second ride back after coming off rehab for a broken leg (she is still trying to get the strength back on one side but is so determined to work through it and ride while working on her rehab), even tried the backing- which I didn’t expect at all, knowing it would be extra challenging for her not having nearly the same strength on her recovering leg. Nonetheless, she gave it a shot- and predictably the horse made a nice backwards circle in the direction she didn’t have as much leg power. She tried it again and again- each time taking a little more from the tips I was giving her from the top of the exercise. After 4 or 5 tries, when everyone else was through and done- I looked and saw her giving it one more try- this time she did it PERFECTLY. And the look on her face when she got through the end of the “Y” was probably the best thing I’ve seen in a long time. That look of accomplishment.

I hope she felt as proud as I did!

Saturday I rode both the boys again, Felix was great as usual and Willard and I finally were able to do course work without pretending it was race day. Not that he would know what that is. Unless it’s a innate TB things. There were a few jumps throughout our courses that were absolutely breathtaking. Charlene even exclaimed after them that they were phenomenal. Pretty inexplainable, but I’ll try anyway. Willard would leave the ground at the perfect place and I would feel is neck and shoulders round up to me while his back followed the arch over the jump. There was an extra second at the top of the arc where time just stood still and you could feel what perfection was. Literally breathtaking. If any of you other riders reading this have felt that, you’ll know what I mean. It’s those small moments that keep us hungry for more. Those are what get us addicted to this sport.

Sunday was spent with the Rance clan for a Mother’s day breakfast, after that the day was pretty straight forward. I went to work at the gym- where I actually got to do some training with a client, which was exciting! Unplanned, but young kids came in (their mom had just bought them memberships), and were trying out the gym. My boss soon realized that they had no supervision and just asked me to keep an eye on them while they were there as he was off for the day. They quickly came to me with questions and it turned into me working with them for about 40 minutes or so going through different exercises and keeping them at safe weight loads. It was so much fun!

Now here we are, another week is about to start- so I’ll leave you with some pictures of some yummy things I made this week, and me dead-lifting my PR of 170lbs!

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Sweet potato apple pork patties. SO GOOD.

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Mash up of everything good, in a ball.

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Week 2, completely different from Week 1

Well, it started out kind of similar. Actually it started out worse. Monday and Tuesday while I wasn’t as fatigued as I was after week 1, the nausea and abdominal pain/ flu-like symptoms were back with a vengeance. This is pretty much exactly how the ND said it would go. After wednesday though- things started feeling normal and this week I’ve really figured out how to eat right with what I can eat. What a difference!

If you’re just tuning in, this is week 2 of being on a very restricted diet (no gluten, dairy, yeast, or sugar), and of making the switch to a paleo way of eating.

It’s pretty safe to say that over the latter part of this week I am very much in love with how I feel! I have so much energy! It’s energy that lasts all day, even through my crazy non stop weeks! The food I’m making tastes amazing, and I’m really starting to get a routine down for cooking and meal planning (even in the minimal hours I have to myself in a day). I really thought it was going to take adding an extra couple of hours in a day to make this work- but with all the extra energy I have lately it hasn’t been a problem to make real meals throughout the week.

Besides the energy, I’m in a better mood a lot of the time as well! I only had one frustrating moment this week where I got a little overwhelmed while out for supper, first at Hermano’s, where everything on the menu looked so, SO, good- but because of my numerous restrictions currently I could basically have none of it. That turned around quickly when we found a place called Boon Burger down the street- which is a vegan restaurant. Never in a million years would I have seen myself enjoying a vegan burger (I had the bombay talkie burger on a quinoa bun), but it was super yummy! I mean, I’m still questioning what “bacun” is…. but past that I was pretty impressed. I’ll definitely be revisiting Boon again. Their sesame potato fries are to die for! As well as going back to Hermano’s once I can eat a little bit more of the menu.

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The most exciting thing for me, again going back to the energy I have, was this weekend. Friday I had my first coaching session with the Graysville 4H club which gave me some good insight of what I’ll be working with over the next few weeks. Saturday I rode two horses- Felix in the morning (who was amazing, and I am so excited to ride more of him this year!), and then took Willard for a long 4 mile hack where we dealt with some of his grumpiness in a very productive way (serpentines for 2 miles will make any horse a little more focused and responsive), and then went to the gym and had a great work out (Deadlifts super-setted with core exercises anyone?)- came home from that day feeling like I could still go out for a run.

Today (Sunday) I worked the afternoon at MORfit and then attended a friend’s choir concert. After that I headed out for a run which turned out to be the best run I’ve had.. possibly ever. 5 miles, absolutely pain free (a month ago I could hardly run a mile without paying the consequences of not being able to walk for a week- stupid ITBS) at a pace that was 1:30min faster then I’ve ever run. I’m pretty sure I smiled for most of the run. I just feel so good!

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Felix! Cannot believe he is 3 already!!!

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Here’s to hoping that week 3 sees some of the same results!

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Without thinking

I had one of those lessons today where things went from amazing to stressful in about 30 seconds.

Maybe stressful isn’t the right word. Challenging? Thought provoking?

Riding is a sport where things can change pretty quick. As most sports are. However, this sport adds in the wild card of being seated on a 1200lb creature with a mind of it’s own, pointing it at a fence and saying lets get there and over it while keeping a steady pace, leaving from the exact right spot, and making a tight turn afterwards. As a rider you have to  be able to react in a hundred different ways over a span of a few strides between jumps. You have to keep that balance between aiding your horse enough, but not so much that signals get mixed.

I’ve written about the role of trust before. The last time I wrote about it I was exercising steeplechasers in Napier, NZ.

Every muscle in my body is sore and tired, and I’m way past the point of exhaustion. But I’m still saying yes to another ride out and smiling as the horse races up the hill on the way to the work out trail. In this kind if situation you have to be able to build the trust quickly. You don’t have months or years to build a relationship. You have seconds, maybe minutes, to trust the horse you’re on and establish a confidence.

Click here for more from that post.. 

Over the course of this competition season, Willard will be moving into the jumper ring more. This has been a long time goal for me, and I’m very excited for the new challenge.

I’ve been working with M&C for a few years now, and have very high trust in their abilities as coaches. Tonight was one of those nights where things may not have gone as well if that trust wasn’t there. Lots of new challenges are being thrown my way this year, both within the sport and outside, and while I take them all on as best I can- I would not be able to do it alone. Will is a fantastic horse, with loads of potential- but right now he is still in that excitable spring thoroughbred phase that I’m pretty sure most horses that got 6 months off are in right now. You ask him to do a roll-back to a tiny oxer and he assumes we are in the jump off of the CN International. Drama queen.

Through the exercises I worked on tonight with M&C, the issue of trust kept floating through my mind. For some reason there was a small communication issue at times between Will and I. Where he wanted to rush towards jump, I was saying hold on. Where he was saying lets make this turn tighter, I was saying lets go out one stride more. Where I was saying relax, he was saying “this is so exciting!!!!!!!!!!!”. These are all little things. In no way was any of this a disaster. Just a little less graceful then it could have been. However, it took a lot of trust between me and my coaches, and me and myself to not get overwhelmed and frustrated. I had to keep reminding myself that I knew what I was doing. To stay calm, be patient. If I’m not confident in my abilities as a rider, what right do I have to ask my horse to do what he’s doing? The trust I have in M&C was also a huge part in being able to remind myself that I was okay. I knew all along that they would never ask me to do something that they didn’t think I could do. Knowing that helped keep me confident that things were going to be okay.

As athletes we do so many things without thinking. We’ve done these things so many times that our brains run on autopilot. Not to say its easy- having the ability to not only do these things without thinking about them and also the confidence and trust in the other factors like the unpredictable animal you’re on, yourself, and that person telling you to point that animal at, and jump over, an object it is traditionally supposed to stay on one side of.. is not an easy thing to do all the time. But, imagine if we as riders had to consciously think about every thing we do on course? Riding up to a jump would go something like this…

…shoulders back, hips forward, eyes up, inside leg/hand with slight pressure to control bend, outside leg/hand slight pressure for speed, balancing horse, slight squeeze on outside rein before jump, both legs positioned approximately at girth line, heels down, flex in elbows, appropriate contact on horses mouth, keeping pace steady, finding the right distance, using leg pressure to keep that distance, waiting for horse to jump to you, hands follow horses mouth over jump, shoulders still back, slightly closed hip angle, eyes looking towards next jump, middle of arc opening hips bringing shoulders up and back preparing to land, legs maintaining pressure at girth line, bringing hands out of release (all while maintaining steady contact on reins), open shoulders, balance horse, slight squeeze with fingers on inside, steady contact on outside, looking for line to next jump still, turning and balancing with legs and hands, maintaining steady pace, present horse to next jump, repeat…

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That’s all happening in about 5 seconds. I guarantee I’ve missed about a hundred other tiny things. These are habits that are automatic for us, made that way by years of practice. Experiences good and bad teaching us that even though all common sense says you are crazy, find a saner hobby, this is what we love doing- and while that is bound to come with some doubt occasionally, trust is what gets you trough. Some of those things we still may think about- but for the most part, I know for me anyway, my head is pretty quiet while I’m riding a course. Quiet of those thoughts anyway. At times, like tonight, I am reminding myself that I have trust in my horse, my coaches, and myself. That is the only thought I need to get the job done. Everything else follows.

“Just do what you do best.”

I don’t know if any of that made any sense. So good luck figuring that out, I’m too exhausted from that 90 minutes of course work to make much sense of anything right now.

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