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!

photo 1

Sweet potato apple pork patties. SO GOOD.

photo 2

Mash up of everything good, in a ball.

photo 5 photo 3 photo 4

 

That familiar-unfamiliar feeling

What a week! Classes are done finally and now it’s just wading through the 5 exams this month until I can shift my focus completely to work and riding (and my spring course..)!

Today I dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on my new summer job. This job will keep me in the city for the summer. While there is a certain amount of excitement about the job itself, and the experience it will give me, there is also a feeling quite similar to one I had frequently while overseas. The being outside of your comfort zone and growing up type feeling. Something new, something exciting, something maybe a little bit scary? It seems ridiculous to compare the two- staying in the city for the summer, somewhere already pretty familiar to travelling across the world, alone. But, is the first summer I will spend away (away is dramatic- its only an hour) from home. It seems to be eliciting some homesickness-like vibes.

So much of this past year has been about putting myself outside of my comfort zone- taking on the unfamiliar and the scary- and finding out where it takes me. That unfamiliarity is almost normal. Its starting to seem that just when I get used to one thing, I find a new challenge to take on. That’s what pursuing higher education is about though, right? Sometimes its not even an unfamiliar challenge that pops up- it quite often is something familiar to me, a challenge I have dealt with and worked through already, but presented in a new way. Demanding that I re-look at how I faced it before and develop a new game plan for how to deal with it now.

Those who know me best know that I love taking on a challenge. Which is why, although the unfamiliarity of stepping outside of that comfort zone is usually terrifying, I have been consciously making the effort to do it more and more. I can’t lie, it is completely exhausting, deflating, and runs me down some of the time. However, the changes I have noticed in myself as a student, friend, athlete, young professional, etc etc, show what that effort is providing me with. I am able to set goals and work towards them with confidence, even if the road along the way isn’t one I’ve travelled before.

Everyday is a new adventure, yadda yadda.

That got deep fast.

Apparently there are lots of things floating around in my head right now.

To summarize, summer job= staying in the city= mixed feelings.

I’ve had two rides on the grey beast since moving him to McMullans for some spring butt kicking. He has been exceptional both times. Tonight consisted of about 45 minutes of bending, and transition. His transitions are so so nice (miraculously) even now after the winter off- that is- until about the 30 minute mark when the energy levels start to dwindle. When we started our hack today he was floating around the ring in great balance, bending around my leg like nobody’s business. But as we continued to work- the whole floating thing went down the spectrum a bit, and he relied a little bit more my hands instead of carrying himself. It was good to spend a bit longer with him tonight, to see where we are at in terms of lateral work and general flat work. Fitness wise, he is way above my expectations. The biggest thing for the next little while is going to be reminding him how to balance himself, and getting some fluidity/impulsion back into his trot. And of course reminding my body what it is like to be in the saddle on a regular basis!

Just in time

I’ve broken my record for length between posts, I think. Which must mean my life is finally getting back on track (insanely busy)!

It’s been just over a month now since “the surgery”, and I’m finally almost back to normal. I’m done dressing changes, and although there is still some healing needing to be done- I’m pretty much able to forget about it and just let it happen. Which is good, because that means I can ride! Yesterday was my first real ride back since surgery, and I haven’t been that happy in a long time! Willard has been moved to McMullans for the week as we’re planning on going to Fall Harvest this weekend. Yes, a show right after a month off- an excellent plan, isn’t it? Any other year I might not have felt comfortable doing this, but this year I have complete faith in my horse and our ability that this shouldn’t be too much of a problem. And here is where I need to say a HUGE thank you to my friend and fellow rider Laura Clark, who rides at Bluebear and also hails from Carman. She has been coming and hacking Willard for me over the past month and after riding him tonight in the ring I was so happy to find he was moving beautifully and so willing to do lateral work. Like I never got off! I knew he would be in good  hands with her. So, Laura if you read this, thank you thank you thank you!  It’s great to know my horse is in relative condition even when I’ve been unable to ride for a while.

I rode for about an hour and a half yesterday, and an hour today- I just couldn’t bring myself to get off. Even though my body has gotten a little too used to the easy life. I’ve been slowly trying to add things to my schedule, like work outs and now riding, plus work- and soon school again. 2 months ago it was easy to do all of those things in one day and still have energy at the end of the day. Now, it’s a little more challenging. I’m still trying to find the energy I used to have. I’m sure it will come back, I’m not really giving it a choice. Hopefully over the next couple weeks, as my schedule starts to pick up again I will feel back to normal. School is only a couple weeks away!!! I can’t believe how excited I am! Before I started this post I had my nose stuck in one of my texts already. Wonder how long this will last? Haha

My class schedule is pretty full. Actually, it is completely full. I have 10 courses, my 5 for the fall are: Nutrition, Biomechanics, Data Analysis, Anatomy and Physiology, and Scientific Principles of Fitness and Conditioning. Following those, with my AP running all year, are: Intro Kinesiology, Research Methods, Prevention and Care of Injuries, and Psych in Sport and Life. It’s definitely going to be a challenging year, to say the least. To add onto my school schedule, I plan on riding and working as well. Although fall has some of my tougher courses, I think it will be the easier term, schedule wise as most days all my classes are in the afternoons- so I’ll have most mornings and evenings free to work and ride and study. The winter term things get a little crazier with courses spanning from late morning to evening classes plus a Saturday class- which means I’ll be in school 6 days a week. Unfortunately this was the only way I could schedule things so I got into all my classes and labs, so it will have to do! The past week or so has been a flurry of me organizing text books, gym memberships, locker rentals, and everything in between. Thankfully most of that is done now and I can focus on Fall Harvest, and then finish moving things to the city and settle in there. As much as I’ve been pretty stressed lately, it’s all for the right reasons and I’m very excited to face the challenges that come up this year in school. I proved to myself in Anatomy this spring that I can get decent grades if I work hard at it, so I hope I can continue proving that to myself in the future. That B was definitely not easy for me, but it was such an accomplishment when I got it! I still stop and wonder sometimes why I chose this path. What is someone who has always drifted towards arts and never did well in sciences doing in a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the most challenging specialities?! At the same time, I can’t see myself doing anything else. And the more I talk to other people in the profession, the more I fall in love with it.

That’s all I’ve got for now, I’m exhausted! Here are a couple pictures from my ride on Sunday- and I hope I write again soon! There will definitely be a Fall Harvest update!

MS River Rouge cruise!

Roomies!