It was hot, then it got hotter

Another season has come to an end in the hunter jumper world. And I have absolutely no complaints about anything that happened this season. It was for sure another up and down kind of summer for me, but the consistency I saw in my rides in the shows I was able to go to is truly encouraging- and the way my rides when this weekend at Fall Harvest sums up, as this show always seems to, how much I’ve progressed.

Our warm-ups Friday went by with ease. We warmed up in the hunter ring first, and were probably done in about 20 minutes- everything went so smoothly! C and I were wondering how it was going to go, as the night before during my lesson Willard seemed to have taken the equivalent of 50 caffeine shots. It was a little bit crazy. But, I guess either the heat took some of that out of him Friday, or he actually just chilled out a bit- because he actually acknowledged the human on his back this time. After jumping around the hunter ring, we headed over to the Jumper ring.. Our first jumper school at Bird’s Hill (or anywhere.. usually there either isn’t a jumper schooling or I miss it..). It was pretty intimidating, even with Lauren and Megg there with me. Lauren is an old pro at jumper schools, and Megg was there for the first time on her new horse. My horse surprised me with how well he handled everything. I expected him to be good for the jumps, but wasn’t sure how he would handle the natural obstacles such as the ditch and the bank/table top jumps. The ditch took a couple tries to get him to gallop down and jump out with confidence, but not as long as I thought- and the bank, well, he just loved that! Loved it so much that when we did the table top ride (jump up, three strides, jump down), he decided that it was so much fun he need to buck his way across- hop down- and buck away. Hokay pony. That evening Megg and I went out for a lovely supper. One of my favourite parts of shows is getting to spend time with the amazing friends I’ve made through training with M&C.

Saturday came bright and early with Jumpers beginning first thing. Will and I were competing in the .85m divisions. We went into the ring with the mentality of “ride like it’s a lesson”, and had no major issues. Will loves jumpers. Saturday we placed 4th in our .85 Junior Ami division, with a rail and a time fault. Later that day we moved over to the hunter ring for our Child/Ami Non-Pro Hunter division. We put in some good rounds and ended up top 5 in both over fences and the under saddle. Quite respectable for the competition there, and the fact we’d just come from Jumper land! C was happy, I was happy, and that’s what mattered. It was a great feeling to get out of the heat that night, I can say that much!

Our Sunday jumper rounds were even better then the previous days. In our Open .85, Willard decided to have a good long look at jump 6- so long that he forgot to jump it the first time. This provided us with a great set up for our JA round right after, as it was over the same course. That round was perfect, except for a lazy rail early in the course. Click here to watch it. I decided to drop our Open Low Hunter that day, because it was so hot (+40 degrees, crazy humid, and zero wind), and I could feel my horse’s energy (and mine) starting to dwindle. I wanted to save something for the $500 Hunter Derby later on that day. It was so hot my sunglasses would fog up while I was wearing them. I would be able to cross competing in a sauna off my bucket list, if it had been on there in the first place.

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So, finally came time for the Derby to get started. As myself, a fellow McMullan teammate, and M&C were walking the course- I was informed that I had been misinformed earlier and the class was a sign up order of go (I thought it was posted order, in which case I was in 5th). Since I hadn’t signed up they had listed me as first to go, and were taking no excuses- if I wasn’t at ringside, with my horse (who was still in the barn, untacked) in 7 mintues then I would be disqualified. I am blessed with amazing teammates on my side. Megg and Lauren sprinted ahead of me to the barn and by the time I had also completed the ~1000m sprint (thank god I’ve been doing interval training this year) my horse was ready to go. I had time to just barely take a couple warm up jumps and get to the ring, where M&C instructed me to gallop into the gate (not usually hunter style) and gallop straight to the first jump, which was about 50m inside the gate. So, that’s what we did. The video unfortunately missed the first couple jumps- but the rest was caught- it’s definitely worth a watch!

No time for any second thoughts, we had one of the best rounds I’ve ever ridden. My horse left it all out there for me, and I could not have asked him for anything more. As we came over the last combination, a two stride, I couldn’t contain my smile- and it was so cool to have everyone at ring side burst into cheers. We achieved a score of 88/100 that round, a personal best! After the class of 10 finished- all very competitive rounds, we ended up 4th. Another personal best for us when it comes to special, classic, or derby classes. If there is a way to end a season, that was it!

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So what else have I been doing in this heat wave? Since getting home from the show on Sunday, I’ve been spending my mornings at football practices taping ankles, thumbs, and fingers, covering blisters, abrasions, lacerations, and assessing injuries. Oh, and learning. So much learning. I’m learning quickly to trust my instincts when it comes to this stuff, and more often then not they lead me in the right direction. Classes begin next week, and I’m pretty ready to get back into things. This year is going to be one giant challenge, but I’m excited to take it on. The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of this week is writing- obviously not on here, but a lot of it stemmed from topics I have covered here. One piece was for a scholarship entry, another an article for Horse Country on the EC Hunter Classic, and one more piece as a writing contest entry- all focused around how riding has impacted me in one way or another.

Other events happening next week, my first time covering (or being at really) a football game. In Brandon of all places. From what I’ve heard game days are pretty crazy, but if there is one thing I’m good at- it’s crazy. But, right now, I’m heading into a long weekend. I had the entire afternoon to myself yesterday- which I spent going for a ride with Lauren at the barn (I’m going to miss those this winter!), then with my old friend Netflix at my dad’s. Today I had the entire day to do exactly nothing, and I’m just about to head for another ride while my horse is still this close to me. He moves home tomorrow, where I’ll only be able to hack now and then when I’m out that way and time allows. Sad face. Saturday I do my one work shift for the weekend and then more freedom until Tuesday. I have no solid plans for those days- which is a new concept for my over scheduling brain- but I’m also looking forward to have some time to just chill out before the crazy train hits my life next week.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Heart of Hearts

This show started out for me fairly similar to how RMWF did. Going as a spectator, falling in love, and setting a goal to one day be one of those glorious people in the competition ring. This is the second time I’ve made that dream come true, and taken my humble horse to Heart of the Continent- Manitoba’s largest and most competitive outdoor hunter jumper show. Willard and I entered in our usual divisions- and were most competitive in the 3ft hunters. If I were to take you round by round over the course of this 5 day event, this post would take 5 days to get through- so I’ll give you a briefing on how we did.

Overall this was one of our best shows yet. I feel like I say that every time I write about a competition, which is the way it should be right? Always seeing improvements, and the big picture starts getting a little more awesome. Thursday and Friday we stayed consistent and earned ourselves top 6 placings in our Child/Ami/Non-Pro division as well as the Senior Low and Open Low divisions. Will pulled out his awesome for the flats- which he normally despises, and we were scrounge up some good results there too.

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Saturday brought the big Equine Canada Open Low $5000 Hunter Classic, which we managed to put in a great round for. My best Classic round yet (Hunter classics are just a fancy, longer hunter round- of which the top 10 scorers get called back for a second final round- usually intense, always more expensive). If you’d like to see what our round looked like, click here.  We ended the first round with a score of 64, just a couple points below the cut off for the second round. There were 30 competitors in this class, one of the biggest hunter classics I’ve ever competed in (no doubt the purse helped). What brought our score down? We didn’t find the elusive perfect distance to the first fence, which in a big competitive class such as this one is important. I also had to push him up in one of the lines, and that slight pace change would for sure catch the judges eye. However, the fact that we were only a few points behind the top 10, and it was our best classic round ever, is enough to satisfy me! Besides, missing that distance in that class meant that I found it in every single course I did the rest of the weekend (that same first jump ended up being the first jump in most of my courses). Later on that day we ended up 2nd in our Child/Ami/Non-Pro, click here to see that round, and placed in the top 6 of our other rounds and flats for the day.

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The final day of competition brought our Adult/Ami medal and our 3ft Hunter Special (specials are similar to classics, except they are only one round). Our course in the medal class went really well, however I didn’t ride a very great flat portion and we ended up 4th overall- still very respectable given our competition! The high light for me was our Special round. It was absolutely perfect, except we had some loud ticks on a couple fences which brought down our score. However we still managed to place 6th overall, which meant I achieved my goal of winning a “fancy ribbon”! It was the first time we’ve ever placed in a special, and I am SO pumped about it! Another high light was being Reserve Champion in our Child/Ami/Non-pro division for the weekend!

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Fancy ribbon!!!

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The rest of the loot!

So, it was a super great weekend for us results wise. Many goals were achieved, even the superficial ones- like getting a cool ribbon. One of the best things for me was to be able to place, and be competitive with some really good, national competition. To hold our own against some of the best horse/rider combos in western Canada is something to be proud of! Another really cool thing is how consistent we were throughout the entire weekend. Something that is becoming common for us is that consistency. The ability to go into the ring and have good rounds over and over again is new, but exciting. I used to be happy with one good round over an entire show- but now I expect to go in and be successful no matter what. The bar keeps getting raised higher, and I’m excited to find out what we can achieve next.

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Still 1

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Round by round, fence by fence

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What an awesome weekend!

I had some major doubts going into this competition. A head injury +  month off riding + a month of training + heat + a fresh horse.. not the greatest equation for success. However, somehow we pulled it all together and had a great show with some even greater results! We stuck to the hunter ring this weekend, to be safe and get our legs back under us.

Our warm-ups were slightly rushed, hot, and.. energetic. Will was pretty excited to be out and about, so I compensated for that by basically galloping him for 15 minutes in the heat- then moving to the show ring and doing lateral work at the trot for another 15. Then we did some jumping, a lot of single jumps and trotting into lines, adding out. Just to get a little chilled out (hypothetically, as it was 30 billion degrees outside). By the end we were going quietly over the baby jumps. I was exhausted. He was not.

Friday we started our 2’9 Junior Amateur, Sr. Low, Open Low, and Adult Ami/Non-pro (3fts) divisions with our motor on turbo. Willard decided that I needed an arm workout, and that’s exactly what he gave me. All day long, pretty much it was a tug of war between us- I managed to get him listening enough by our 2nd 3ft round to put in a decent one for Open Low, getting us a 5th in a big class. By the end of the day I was feeling how out of shape I am. Like seriously, I could barely walk. Let alone lift my arms. But, my head felt good- even through the hot temperatures.

Saturday things started turning out (thankfully, my body probably wouldn’t have survived another day like Friday). We still had some pull in our first couple rounds- but much more controlled. Our last 3 rounds in the 3ft handy courses were spectacular! Every time we went in we got the same consistent pace, and great jumps. I was able to actually give on the reins instead of being a control freak. Being able to go into the ring 3 consecutive times and have rounds like we did is a HUGE achievement. Every rider will know how much of a challenge getting that consistency can be. Our results on Saturday were a 6th in our 2’9 JA under saddle, a 5th in our Open Low, a 5th in our Sr. Low, 5th in our Open Low U/S and a 1st in our Adult-Amateur/Non-Pro!

I was super pumped!

Pretty pumped!

Sunday was a shorter day, just two over fences rounds and a U/S. We competed in the Adult Amateur Medal class (equitation- so based more on how I ride), and the Open Low Hunter Special. I didn’t do any morning hack, because I didn’t want to burn any lasting energy from my horse (or me for that matter). It turned out to be the right decision. When I got on for my warm up before the Medal, Willard was perfect. Our A-A course was a bit different, as we started on a 4-stride line. Regular hunter courses will start on a single fence- allowing you to develop a pace and be set up for the next combination. This trick in the course cause problems for pretty much everyone. My ride in was awesome, we had the perfect distance to the in of the 4-stride, and that pretty much lulled me to sleep. I forgot to put my leg on and ride the line, which resulted in an add to make the 4 a 5 stride. That was the only mistake we had on course. The rest of it was amazing. We had a great pace, consistent, and our turn to the trot fence was gorgeous (if I do say so myself). We had an even better under saddle portion. By far our best flat class of the weekend (Will generally hates flats). Much to my surprise, we ended up winning the class!!! I couldn’t stop smiling after that. Our first win in a medal class! Our Open Low Special round started fantastic, but the 4-stride got us again(even though it wasn’t the opening combo). That didn’t even bring me down. I was so pleased with both Saturday and Sunday. Not just the results, but how amazing our rounds felt and how consistent it was.

Classy

Classy

Going into this weekend I didn’t set my sights on having perfect rounds. I really just wanted to be at a show, in the atmosphere, riding my horse. Results weren’t big for me, just seeing if we could put into action some of the things I’ve been feeling at home. That’s pretty much what we did, but (not so surprisingly) when all those things come together, results happen. Mentally this show started out as a challenge. After our warm-ups, and Friday, it was super easy to wonder what I was thinking. I’ve never felt so out of shape, old injuries were playing games with my head, and I was frustrated because starting out this year things were going so great- and then it all got halted- which seems to happen to me more then it should. I worked really hard Thursday and Friday to just turn all those thoughts off. Or at least quiet them, so more productive thoughts could take over. Yeah, it’s crappy that I’ve had another set back. Am I still surrounded by amazing support? Yes. Am I still good at what I do? Yep. Will I still learn something from this show, regardless of what happens next? You bet. Do I still love what I’m doing? Check. From there I decided to just enjoy whatever happened, and go with it. One stride at a time.

This helped me realize that it’s less intimidating to go into the ring and aim for that great round, and that it’s a lot easier to go in thinking about each jump as a individual. C always says to go in and “think your way around”, in fact that’s usually the last thing I get told walking in the gate (either that or M’s classic “go and be good”). I used to go in and picture what my entire round should look like, and that’s where my thought process would stop. If I messed up one distance, or had a awkward jump- my mind just froze- because that image of the “perfect” round had been shattered. This weekend, when I went in, the first thing I thought about was taking a breath, then where my leg and body was, how it feels, and what our pace is. From there it’s each separate jump as if we were just riding at home, from jump 1 to jump 8 (or 9 or 10)- after each one it’s coming back to our pace and waiting for the next distance. I’ve found that finding distances is easier this way too, especially into lines- which used to be a huge problem for me. Ride what you have, not what you want. Patience for seeing the distance, and commitment to what you get- while preparing for the ride away from the jump. Rhythm, balance, support, all that great stuff. It’s there, if you can settle enough to find it and utilize it.

I’ll post some videos later this week, for those who are interested!

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One day

Today was short and sweet, and a lovely way to end the season.

The only class we had today was the hunter derby. Now I realize I’ve been talking about the derby on here and really haven’t explained it. Really it’s just a big hunter course, this one had 15 jumps set between 2’6 and 2’9 ish, with options having more points. So there were often two jumps beside each other, one higher- equalling more points. Both the hunter and jumper rings at BHP were used and natural obstacles such as the bank and others were involved in the course- with easier options. There was a brief chance to school many of the options before the class started. There are two rounds, top 8 advancing.
Here is my best effort at describing the course: we started on a single diagonal vertical with a higher option (I took all the height options), bending line to the problem oxer from the previous days- it was no problem today thankfully! Then a bend and gallop to jump number 3, a single oxer, to a outside vertical, bending line to a oxer. This oxer was causing some problems today because you ride the bending line to it around the judges booth- which was set in the middle of the ring- so jump number 5 really comes out of nowhere. We got over it just fine and galloped down to 6, a vertical at the bottom of the ring- I made the mistake of letting him be a little too cautious to this jump and getting ahead- which resulted in a rail for us. 7 was an option of the ditch or a vertical on the outside rail of the jumper ring- we did the vertical (quite nicely too), then a turn to a bending line across the middle of the ring, tight handy turn to jump number 10, a vertical with bales underneath, then up the hill to a 5 stride, down the hill balancing to the castle jump (so much fun), and then a turn to the final combo, a two stride. That makes sense in my head because I walked it, visualize it, and rode it today- but I’m sure it makes no sense to you reading it unless you were there.
I was SO impressed with my horse. Many of the jumps in there he hadn’t seen- and he has never had to ride up and down hills in a course, and he even did the bank first time in schooling- no questions asked. He galloped around that course like a pro, brave as could be. I think he was having about as much fun as I was! Our score after the first round was 53- unfortunately the rail was what brought it down and we didn’t make the first cut. Without that rail we definitely would have been in the top 8.
Mike and Charlene were both very happy with us- Mike even said that “we might make a rider out of you one day”. One day… One day. I was all smiles for the rest of the day. The trick to courses like this is to gallop around and pull out all the bravery you have. Sit up and keep your leg on and equal pressure in the reins. Don’t abandon your horse. And your horse won’t abandon you.
So with that, my 2012 season is over! I had so much fun this weekend, and at every show I was able to go to. My horse is really giving his all for me- and I am becoming a much better rider then I was even a short time ago- and we are a much better team because of that. It’s funny how quickly progress can happen sometimes, I believe it was last year I wrote around this time about everything “clicking”, and here it’s happened again, even more so. I wonder where we’ll be this time next year..

Only time will tell.

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Intro to Summer

As usual the past few weeks have been a blur. Between studying for exams, showing, working, and finally writing exams- I’m now realizing I feel quite lost not having anything to study for.. until September anyway. I’ve filled that gap by trying to plan out my courses for next year. A task that is actually impossible, seeing as I’ve been given a VERY late registration date because somebody in the office screwed up and lost my paperwork along the way, so most of the sections I’m hoping to get into will most likely be full by the time I register, which means I’ll be rearranging this schedule a thousand times over no doubt. Luckily, I have a friend on the inside (my AT) who is always there to help pick the right courses and answer any questions! Can we say hero?

As you may recall, I was at Summer Smiles horse show over the past weekend, and it was definitely summery and full of smiles! I got into Winnipeg from Regina at 8am (getting up at 3:30am was really fun), and made a fast transition from half asleep, grody commuter to semi-awake student and managed to get to the University by 9am to catch my last review lab. After that I had a quick study date at Olive Garden with my favourite study buddy Michelle, and then squeezed in a quick nap before heading out to BHP for warm ups. Because my mom is awesome, my horse was already there and all I had to do was check in at the show office, put numbers on tack, and head out to the ring. Will was a star, very concurrent to how he’s been all spring. So after going over a few jumps, having pizza with Mike and Charlene and a few others from the barn, braiding, and making sure everything was good to go for the morning- I made it back to my apartment, only almost falling asleep on the way back to the city a couple times. Back at the park for Day 1 by 7:30, I quickly realized that Mr. Willard had waaaaay too much energy for the hunter ring, or any ring. So, since I had hours to spare, I set about working his energy levels down. Generally I’ll hack for about half an hour on show mornings. I spent an hour and a half on him that morning, and believe me- one of us was worn out. Nevertheless, it was the right choice- as he was perfect for all our rounds that day! We won our 2’9″ Jr/Amateur class, and placed top 5 in all our Sr. Low rounds. Mike summed it up perfectly later that day by saying “you have to do what’s necessary to be successful”, so if that means spending almost two hours hacking- it’s worth it. My original plan for this weekend was to spend the extra time I always have at shows studying and reviewing for exams. I have no idea why I thought that was going to work. I really tried hard on Saturday to focus on studying, but when I’m in horse show mode- trying to memorize the origin, insertion, actions, and innervation of the pectineus muscle just doesn’t work out. Plus I was extremely tired. So I decided to give up on the day time studying, and focus on studying after the show day was over. Again, why would I think that would work? By the time I got back to my place at 7:30pm, I sat down to study and woke up an hour later with metal ring imprints across my cheek from passing out across my notebook. After that I decided I should maybe just go to bed, at 8pm. That 14 hrs of sleep was worth it though, Sunday was another great day, without excess energy thankfully. We pulled off a reserve champion in the Jr/Amateur Division, and again top 5 placings in the 3ft classes. I even had enough left in the tank to do a little studying that night.

Patti, Charlene, Alison, and I rushing to wait some more..

Monday morning began with the last quiz of the course, and it went very well! That gave me a little bit of confidence to roll with for the exams on Wednesday and Thursday. The bell ringer on Wednesday wasn’t my best work, I don’t think anyway, but Thursdays written portion felt really good. Either way, I’m done for a couple months! Now what?

On Tuesday this week, I had my second consult with a sports med regarding the old reoccurring back injury that never seems to leave and also opinions on if and how the cyst on my tailbone could be affecting it. A couple weeks ago I had a consult with a doctor at Pan Am, on the same thing, who x-rayed my back and found nothing and ordered a MRI which I’m booked for later in July. She was pretty unhelpful, in the sense that she couldn’t really give a definitive answer to anything I was asking other then saying that the pilonidal sinus could be related, but there were too many factors to be sure, and that SI joints are tricky and the best thing she could suggest is cortisone shots and discussing other invasive treatments outside of the therapy I’m already doing.  The doctor I saw this week, at Legacy, is also very interested in seeing the MRI and hopes to be able to give me a better answer after those results. Although his initial diagnosis, without the MRI results, isn’t the best (mechanical back pain, likely chronic), he seemed pretty proactive and willing to help me try out more treatment options such as acupuncture/dry needling to go along side therapy – seeing as I’ve tried everything else. My AT, who I trust more then anyone, is thinking that this upcoming surgery on the cyst is going to make a big difference. There is a structural problem that keeps reoccurring, and we can’t quite figure out why. Basically what happens is my SI joint slips out of place, causing the left part of my pelvis to rotate funny- in turn causing lower back muscles, hip, and thigh muscles to do really painful things. Bending over lots is usually what really sets it off, which is a good reason that I’m no longer working in the manual labour field- because that’s all I was doing. As much as I’m frustrated that nothing is fixing this problem long term, I’m very glad I have such a talented AT on my side- keeping me functioning and somewhat sane.

And so now I get to enjoy 2 weeks of summer before I go under the knife and spend most of July recovering. I’m loving my new job, although it’s quite a transition going from outdoor work to a office job. What’s on my list of things to do during the next two weeks?

1. Ride (duh), as much as possible! I had an awesome ride tonight, even though it was nothing more then a simple hack in the ring here at home. It was one of those rides where I felt completely ‘in the zone’ the whole time, and like my horse could read my thoughts, and I his. Every rider will know that feeling, and know how great (and addicting) it is. With the MHJA Beach Party show approaching this coming weekend- I’m grateful for every ride I have like this. There is no better feeling then feeling that focused in competition!

I’ve also been coaching a local girl for a few weeks now, and I’m loving watching her progress! It’s a great challenge for me trying to explain the simplest parts of riding to someone who doesn’t necessarily understand them yet. It’s not always easy to explain something that has become second nature to you. I’m getting better at it though, and by the improvements I see every week in my student- she is understanding at least some of what I say! I’m happy that at least if I can’t be riding most of the summer, I can be helping someone else build skills in the sport!

2. Run, bike, plank, push up, pull up, lunge, squat, lift, press, work out! I’m seriously going to miss the gym, almost as much as I’ll miss riding during recovery time. The changes I’ve seen in myself over the past 6-8 weeks of consistent training are amazing, and I am so excited to get back into it as soon as I can.

3. Work. Because my student life has taken a serious tole on my bank account. The fact that I’ve been in between pay cheques for quite a while now doesn’t help either. Luckily for me, my next pay cheque should come through.. right after surgery. So my two weeks of real summer will be spent doing the cheapest activities I can find. AKA, hanging out with my parents.. a lot 🙂

All that makes for a very, very busy couple weeks. But, I usually function better when I’m kept busy- so I’m glad for that! There will certainly be some crazy days, where I’m not quite sure how the schedule is going to fit. Example being, next thursday when I have my pre-op/anesthesiologist appts all afternoon at Boundary Trails in Winkler, and then warmups at the RRX grounds in Winnipeg. Everything always works out though, in the end- so all I can do is keep right on going- one day at a time.

Somebody told them they could grow up, graduate, and make me feel old!