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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So you have a distracted horse.

It’s a challenge we all face (well those of you who ride, anyway). Especially this time of year. Even more so if your horse is coming off 8 months of pasture time. Thankfully this awesome weather is providing lots of opportunities to get out there and re-focus your pony on the most important thing: what you’re telling (asking) them to do.

The past few rides for me have gone along these lines..

1. Pleasant warm up with Mom in the ring playing with Felix.

2. Me being amazed at how well my horse is listening and responding.

3. Feeling like a champ.

4. Other horses leave the ring.

5. Suddenly I become of little importance.

6. Awesome feeling vanishes.

7. The next 45 minutes are spent competing for focus.

This is to be expected. My horse literally hasn’t left the pasture since last August. Who can blame him for being a tad bit herd bound. I’m noticing huge similarities between the horse I bought 5 years ago, the wild eyed 6 yr old who pranced for the first half hour every ride, regardless, and the horse I’ve been working with for the past few weeks. Although, he’s definitely still got some of his discipline. Deep, deep down. It’s very apparent when he’s surrounded by his friends and I’m riding. As soon as you take him out of his comfort zone, though..

Luckily, I’ve learnt how to deal with this. Way back in the day during our trial period with Mr. Willard, I attended a dressage clinic at Pine Ridge. It was a solo lesson, and the Willard I was on was in no way happy about this. I was pretty nervous myself, to be honest. But- what happened over the next hour that day was amazing. By the end of the clinic, he was completely focused on me and not worried about anything else. When we left the ring we had spectators coming up and telling us how amazing the whole process was to watch. I’ll probably never forget that day- as it was the first time we’d seen the potential Will has. What was the magic trick? Constant stimulation. Never letting him take his attention off of me. Even if it meant walking two steps, stopping, walking, stopping, walking, backing up, trotting, stopping, etc. Every time he even thought about taking his focus away, I was responsible for bringing it back. Always questioning him, asking for something. It could be the simplest idea. Like a walk to halt transition. Any kind of transition really. A pivot. A change of direction. Walking in squares, spirals, circles, triangles, you name it. Constant change. A major clue as to where your horse’s focus is? The ears. If they’re pricked forward, he definitely is not concerned about what the small human on his back is doing. Having one ear cocked to the side, or slightly backwards is a positive sign you’re getting somewhere. You can tell a lot from the ears. Another thing I’ve learned over the years working with Will, and similar horses, is that sometimes you just gotta give them a chill out period. After 15 minutes of you constantly picking at them, who can blame them for getting a little annoyed. A few minutes of loose rein time can go a long way, especially with ADHD horses. It also gives you as a rider a chance to relax, too. Because, trust me, rides like this are not always the most fun. It’s also important to know when to push, and when to call it a day. If you’ve won a battle, and your horse is listening to you- doing what you ask, then maybe it’s time to give them a pat and move on. There’s no sense pushing it too far, and opening up a new war that ends up lasting another hour. That’s hard on you and the horse. Be okay with small victories!

Riding isn’t just a physical act; it’s a mind game- 110% of the time. Horses are smart (even though I’ve often found myself muttering the words stupid, ignorant, idiotic when having a frustrating ride), and they can read you like a book. ¬†They will find ways to challenge you and try to take the easy way out, at least some of the time. While every horse is different, they will be stubborn, pushy, full of attitude, and be complete asshats- as much as they will be cute, full of heart, compassion, and talent. As Charlene likes to say, “Horses keep us humble”. They can bring out the best in us, if we have the patience to work for it. Nothing worth having comes easy, right?