What day is it?

Yesss I realize I skipped a week… forgive me.

I’ve had a busy two weeks, as usual. Classes wrapped up this week and am now in full blown study (procrastinate) mode. I’ve realised thought that preparing for exams is a lot easier when you’ve studied consistently throughout the term. No panicked cramming for this kid.

The past two weeks also brought me wiping my diet slate clean again. Gluten and processed things were sneaking their way back in and it was definitely having an impact on my energy, and when my energy gets impacted- keeping up with my 14hr days gets a little crazy. So I got strict. And I actually stuck to it. It hit me that if I don’t have energy on my side, exam season is going to be a lot harder then it needs to be. In the last two weeks I’ve gone back to straight up clean eating. No gluten, no dairy, no processed sugars (I went from Starbucks almost every day to only twice in two weeks, and one of those times it was tea). I also made a point of not being lazy and buying food as often. My University has an absolutely amazing cafeteria, all organic and local foods, and when I do buy food there it’s always food that is good for me. But it’s expensive, and too easy. And my style is never the easy way.

So, did all this actually make a difference (asked my Naturopath yesterday at a follow-up)? Of course it did. Nutrition is everything (not that I had bad nutrition before, but it wasn’t the best nutrition for me). This got me the “uh-huh, uh-huh” knowing nod from the ND. Since getting serious about eating my energy has pretty much tripled, I sleep much better, and I’m a little quicker with my thoughts. I’ve also noticed that since taking dairy out again, the headaches have decreased. All good things with 9 exams starting Monday morning.

This past week has probably been my favourite. Last Saturday I went to a basketball scrimmage  in Carman, and was introduced to the girls (both JV and Varsity teams) as a training resource for the upcoming season (no I don’t have time for that, yes I’m going to do it anyway). Monday brought the Older Adults fitness class, which is for sure always a highlight of the week. I’m going to be sad when it’s over in a couple weeks, it’s truly a very rewarding experience. One of the co-ordinating profs came up to me as I was watching a few of the participants at the core station, and told me that his “favourite part about this class was not only seeing the progress in the older adults- but even more in watching us students smile as we work with them, and have just as much fun”. After that I headed out to Carman to basketball practice, where I ran the warm-up and a 15 min block of conditioning. I’m really loving the chances I’m getting to teach/train others. Between the older adults and the basketball team I worked with Monday, I was on cloud-9. I even got to help with actual skill work and scrimmage with the girls at the end of practice, and find out I can still play like I could in high school-maybe even better (although I was killer sore the next day!). It’s becoming clear that I picked an appropriate career path, every time I turn around I’m finding something that I love more within this profession.

The rest of the week was pretty standard. Classes ended on Wednesday (seriously, already?) and since then it’s been all work and study. Oh, and riding. I rode two on Thursday at HC, one on Friday (Shakka), and two Saturday (Will, and Shakka). Shakka is a project horse at M&C’s that I’m hoping to be able to hack every now and again, especially throughout December.

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I had a great work-out on Wednesday, which somewhat bit me in the ass on Thursday when after 3 hrs working at HC (2 rides), and then 7 hrs at MORfit brought some very sore arms and some less then light legs to stretch out. Needless to say I was pretty tired. On Thursday Claude had me teach all the lower body stretching to a client, which was interesting. It’s not something that’s particularly hard in theory.. but (and maybe it was the fact that I was exhausted) I found myself stalling out more than once on simple explanations. Luckily, Claude is very good at pushing me to the point where things actually stick, and after stumbling through the evening I feel much more confident in what I know. Again, that push off the deep end learning strategy is working.

This week I also began working on (actually putting pen to paper) setting up my Functional Training Class geared towards equestrian athletes. This is something I’ve been thinking about for so long, and I’m finally getting the chance to put those thoughts to action (courtesy of my awesome boss at MORfit). I sent out some feelers early in the week to the riding community, and got a fantastic response of interest back. My progress on this is definitely going to be hindered by exams for the next couple weeks, but the gears are turning. Some things that will hopefully be sorted soon are pricing, timing, and specific goals and progressions I want to aim for within the class itself. I’ve found a love for helping others discover how health and fitness can make a difference in their life and goals in so many places this year, and I can’t wait to explore how I can do that in the sport I already am highly involved in.

I’m absolutely loving how I’ve been able to get creative with my goals in this career so far. Every side I see of where my future can go is very exciting, and I always have an answer for one of the most popular questions I get: “What are your job prospects post-grad?”. I almost always say that there is good prospects, especially for those who are willing to be creative with how they go about things. I used to say that because it’s what I’d heard from other graduates, but now I’m learning how many little windows of opportunity there are. Like I said earlier, sometimes it’s like every time I turn around there is a new idea forming beside knowledge I already have.

So, here we are on the eve of exams. 4/9 this week…Tomorrow I start off with my massage practical, and then Tuesday is First Responder written. Thursday brings pathology and Friday is the big First Responder practical. It’ll be a busy week for sure, that will go by way too fast. I’m feeling strangely prepared for everything. It’s almost harder not to overpressure myself then it is to review and relax at this point. If that makes sense? I’ve noticed that students have a way of working themselves into a complete freak-out over finals, when really, it does them no good. Especially when it comes to First Responder. I’m lucky in that I’ve found myself surrounded by recent grads, or working ATs through practicums and work, who, although sometimes have horror stories, also come with tips, advice, and reaffirming words in regards to all the exams up ahead. I stocked up on all the essential foods today, lots of fresh (as fresh as you can get in Winterpeg) fruit and veggies too cook with over the next couple weeks and keep me going. #brainfood

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The saddest part of the above picture is that that basket is completely full of all things healthy, spinach, kale, eggs, apples, blueberries, onion, green beans, vegetable protein/vitamin powder, etc etc = $110. This will probably last me a week ish, feeding just me. The guy in front of me, shopping for a family, had a cart full of household goods and food (some healthy, some not), and  total of $80. While I fully believe that money spent on one’s health is never money wasted… but it does make me wonder how different the world might be if the good for you things were priced like the not-so good for you stuff. And of course, which is more expensive long-term: health, or sickness? I’m sure it all balances out in the long run, but I know my bank account misses the living off KD and ramen days.

Think studious thoughts for me this week!

Water into wine, and vice versa

I had to put vice versa up there, because some people will argue to the grave that a glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. Right, mom?

I’ve found myself the past few days in a very motivated state- which I am taking full advantage of. Midterms are over, and although I am very satisfied with some of the results- others I was a little disappointed in. However, after a few days (a week) of being kind of down about it, I’ve found myself now using it as a little extra push to focus some time (haha, whatta concept) on prepping for finals. Already? They’re a month away! No, but seriously… they’re ONLY a month away.. Yeah, I know. When you have approximately 8 final exams, practical and writtens combined to total approx 50% of your courses- I’m feeling like getting a jump start on that is a good idea.

This week my schedule has been running pretty tight, as usual, but also much more focused- as per the above paragraph. The past three days have been running quite smoothly- but I know the latter part of the week is going to get a little bit more hectic (as it usually does). I’m actually quite glad, as much as I love my evening shifts at the gym, that I booked both nights off this week. This morning I got to campus bright and early (7:45AM, haven’t been there that early since first year…) to practice with my football supervisor, Nikki, as she preps for her national certification. Again, so glad I have the opportunity to study with a grad of the program! I ended up just staying on campus all day and doing more studying, because, hey- gotta take it as it comes right?Tonight, instead of working, I attended an awesome presentation by Dr. Peter Jensen, a sport psychologist, which was super interesting on both the athlete, coach, AT, and student point of view. On Thursday, which I had already booked off in advance on the chance that I had football, I so far have no plans as our semi-final game is now on Friday night. I haven’t quite decided what I’ll do yet with that extra time. Perhaps start the next 10 page paper I have due. Perhaps see some friends I haven’t seen in a while. Who knows!

What I do know, is that Friday is the day I have ended up being triple booked all over the map. Before I found out our game was on Friday, I was planning on attending another guest lecturer at school, this time the topic being “too much sitting”, then heading to the a AT student association function, and then seeing some friends. While I still think I”ll be able to attend the lecture, everything else got kiboshed by football- another late game (8:30 PM), which means by the time I get out of the cold around 11:30 PM, I’ll be way to wiped to do much else except warm up and try to sleep. While I was really looking forward to the other things I had originally planned for Friday, I’m equally as happy to spend the time at football with the team. The experience I’ve gained there so far has been so worth it, I wouldn’t want to cut my season short! Even if it means freezing for a few hours.

Right now I’m very glad that my schedule is full of so many wonderful things. If you remember my post a couple weeks ago, the one where I was a little bit over the whole school thing (written during midterms), and really just wanted to be riding. And as much as I do really miss riding, the things that have filled my schedule lately (running KSA, research, classes, so much studying, work, football) are have begun to seem like less of a chore (ask me again during finals), and more like something that’s getting me to a higher place.

One thing that has been helping me motivate myself a little more (besides midterms roughing me up a little) is exactly what I was missing a few weeks ago. Riding. I haven’t forgotten about the goals I have there, and while before I was getting frustrated about having to put them on hold each time I head back into a school year- I’ve started getting a bit more proactive about it. I’m really working at finding a balance between all my different goals and pursuits in both aspects of my life, and I’ve started working on some very rough drafts of a functional training class for riders. I hope to keep putting some work into that in between reading my massive text books. Coaching on the weekends has really been a great excursion too for me. This past week my student and her horse started showing some awesome progression in many of the things we’ve been working on, and I love getting the feedback from her as she rediscovers herself as a rider and bonds with her horse. I’m glad I have little opportunities between extra projects at school, coaching, and Horse Connection to give me a break from everything else.

Those goals I wrote about at the beginning of the school year are being achieved, day by day. I’m 100% sure this attitude will flip on me again soon, and I’ll being dragging my ass around campus not wanting to do anything. Which is why I’m taking full advantage of it now. Turning that water into wine.. or the “whine” into water? Because water is the healthier option there.

Speaking of healthy, that’s another goal I’ve been working hard on. After gaining 6lbs in one meal (I was serious when I said I loved Thanksgiving the most), I’ve been putting some serious effort into eating right. Gluten and most grains are out, dairy is occasional, and consistent eating throughout the day is for sure in. I know the reason I’ve been able to keep up with myself on not a tonne of sleep is because I’ve been eating right.

Speaking of sleep, I should really get at that for tonight. Tomorrow is another early morning and a long day. Until next time!

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Holla at me, I could totes make the team…

Am I done yet?

Just kidding, I love school. Most of the time. Sort of? Ask me again when I’ve recovered from midterms.

It’s been one thing after another, as usual, this week. Between midterms, my car breaking down, and then being fixed, but actually not being fixed and breaking down again, not getting to work, taking two too many cabs, midterms midterms midterms, awards banquets, more Thanksgiving, wanting more sleep, assignments….. and everything else… Lets just say I’m tired.

I just finished my last midterm (of 5) today.. Last Wednesday I had two of my bigger ones. That was lots, by half way through the second one of the day I was starting to wind down. I haven’t quite been able to get my studying mojo back. My brain is in full rebellion mode, and I don’t really feel like fighting it to be honest.

Now that midterms are over with, it’s time to really stop procrastinating on some of the assignments I have. Instead, what do you think I’m thinking about? Riding. I think I have the MHJA year end awards banquet to thank for that one. Hanging out with the McMullan Team this weekend, seeing many fellow riders get well deserved recognition for accomplishments this season, and discussing goals for next year- how could I not just want to jump back into training full time and forget about school? While I am getting some of my barn fix with Horse Connection, I’m really craving that feeling you get after a great course, or after a lesson. Or just after a good ride on my own horse. I know I would miss my “other life” in school and all these other goals I have. But, grass is always greener.. right?

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M&C. The impact these two people have had on my life, and the lives of countless others is astounding.

As much as I can’t really be riding as much right now, I’m being presented with a few opportunities to tie in my career goals in the AT world with my goals in the riding world. A proposal from a prof in regards to brainstorming ideas around a functional training program based around things one does on a farm came about around the same time my boss at MORfit proposed that each staff member come up with some sort of class to teach, or event to run. This combined with my longstanding plan to form a fitness program tailored to the equestrian athlete is definitely causing some ideas to float around. If anyone reading this has some specific things they would like to work on, or questions about how a training program could help your riding- please let me know! I’m very much still in the brain storming phase.

The thing that’s becoming painfully obvious about this year in Uni is that, for me anyway, we’re getting to do just enough hands on stuff to make you want to do more and be done with all the lectures and in-between things.  Especially because I am able to integrate what I’m learning into more than one of my work places and volunteer opportunities. Sitting in assessment lecture just is not quite the same as actually getting to do an assessment. Just like practicing in taping lab just doesn’t cut it when you have been doing it in real life. At the same time, all these classes make us realize how much there is to know.. and how little of it we actually know.

This past week a classmate and I ended up accepting the position of Vice Presidents of the Kinesiology Student’s Association, which is a partner of our other student association, WATSA (Wesmen Athletic Therapy Student Assoc.). We had been wanting for a while to become more involved, so this was kind of a “go big or go home” response. I’ve had very minimal experience in student politics, with small roles in high school. Nothing, however, to this scale of responsibilities. I’m both looking forward to the new role, but also hoping it doesn’t completely overload my schedule. Another thing I said yes to was a paid research assistant position with the same prof mentioned above, who I have been working with the older adults fitness class. He received a grant to continue with research, and I gratefully accepted the chance to be a part of it. Why not, right?

I’m hoping this week brings some time to get my feet back under me. I’m pretty much headed to bed once I push publish on this sucker.. it’s 9:30. Here’s hoping I get my car back tomorrow (9 business days and counting it’s been at the shop), and that I also find some of my energy too.

Monty at Horse Connection

Monty at Horse Connection

 

 

Some exciting things I did this week (nerd alert)

Two posts in one day?? I’m impressed with myself. This never happens!

I’ll keep this one short and sweet, because most of it is super nerdy, and it’s my second post within 24 hrs. Also if I waited til next week either I’d forget half the stuff I wanted to write about, or you’d end up with a monster of a post.

I had an interesting week in many respects, and I’m not going to list all the interesting things because that would just be too much. In an attempt to keep it brief, I will now list some of the better aspects of the past 7 days:

  • Accepting a new job
    Okay, so maybe not that new. The volunteer position I took with Horse Connection turned into a paid assistant instructor position early this week. Which really only changes a few things- instead of one morning a week leading a horse around a ring and doing some assisting with students, I now am there two mornings a week and will assist in the lesson plans and eventually take over some of the theory classes with the kids. Kinda cool, pretty excited about it- a little unsure on how the extra time commitment will effect my sanity. This will be my third paying job. However, it is something I really want to be involved in- and upon discussing the basis of Horse Connection with a prof- I realized that this could also provide me with some potentially very interesting topics and experience to put towards my degree and eventual career.
  • Getting frustrated and working through it (on horseback)
    We’ve all had those rides. Where it feels like nothing you do is making a difference. This week I had two of them. Really boosting for the spirit… The horse I’ve been working with for the above listed job has been somewhat of a challenge this week. Last week when I recalled my experiences with him, you’ll remember I was quite happy with his progress. Horses keep us humble, of course, so clearly this meant we had to have a week of stubborness and frustration to follow up that excellent ride last week- right? That’s how it works in the riding business. One step forward, three steps back. The first ride of the week was just brutal. The horse I remembered from the previous week was long gone- I was now riding a straw bale with attitude. Probably didn’t help that I went into the arena with a negative attitude and a headache. Lets just say I didn’t do an awesome job of separating my own frustrations from my job as a rider that day. The horse wasn’t all to blame. The next time I got on this week I was prepared to deal with myself a little better. Sonny was still a stubborn brat. But instead of getting angry and taking it out on both of us, I made myself take a step back before we reached that point and only resumed work with Sonny when I was a little calmer. This helped, quite a bit. I won’t say we made a tonne of progress, but we made more then we had previously. As I was told by the owner at LC Farms once when I was working with a young horse in front of him.. “You must look at yourself before you can ask ze horse to listen” (imagine a heavy french accent, the quote is much more profound that way).
  • Bought a watch, felt like a grown up
    This one doesn’t need too much elaboration. It was a little bit of retail therapy mixed with actually needing to acquire a time piece for my wrist. To go along with the feeling like a grown up- I actually cooked some real meals this week! Squash and veggie medley with chickpeas and bacon, spinach pasta with meat sauce, and bison with rosemary and basil veggies. Look at me, acting all adult and stuff. 

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  • Got a little bit more hands on
    I was going to title this section “getting handsy” but then I figured that was a little creepy. Anyway. Classes have been getting much more practical lately, as mid-terms approach way to quickly. However, outside of the classroom I’ve been able to gain some exciting new experience in the clinic at work- as well as of course on the field at football. Thursday with the AT at MORfit I got a chance to practice my massage skills on real life patient for the first time! I had zero idea what I was doing, but it was great! Another patient who I’ve been stretching for the past 3 weeks or so also commented: “Either she’s getting stronger, or I’m getting weaker” to the AT- who responded with “that’s because she’s getting more experienced and doing a great job”. Yessss! The next day at football I was relaying some of those experiences to my supervisor there- regarding the massage and not knowing what I was doing, she had this to say: “that’s okay, you’ll soon get to the point where it’s like reading a book through your hands”. Speaking of football, we had an interesting game this Friday- the most exciting injury was a very dislocated distal interphalangeal joint on the 5th digit (aka the first joint of the pinky finger). I got to play shock control (aka distract the heck out of the poor guy) while we splinted it and got the player ready to head to a hospital. I also got to explain to the coaches many times why legally we cannot just “pop it back in”. The finisher to my argument was showing them a picture of the player’s hand (since we had already stabalized and covered it)- which generally resulted them in quickly agreeing with me and walking quickly in the other direction. Nothing like a little bit of gore to settle things. My supervisor said many times that she was so happy to have me around, and that her job is so much easier with another set of hands and another opinion on some of the more challenging issues we have come up more often now that the season is in full swing. Which was great to hear after a long week. Thursdays and Fridays always seem to be good days, even if the rest of the week is insanity.

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  • Practicing to make perfect
    I also made a point of thinking my way through the heel-lock portion of my ankle taping. For whatever reason this section of the tape job always gets me, and I swear I’m the only one- everyone else thinks they are simple. It’s all in the angles. And you cannot pick a fight with tape- you will never win. Friday I did my best on the ankles at football, but again just couldn’t get that perfection I want. My ankle taping is always very functional, it’s just the presentation side of it I’m wanting to perfect. Saturday I actually just sat down and thought my way through the physics of it a few times. Sunday I stole a friends ankle and practiced the crap out of the maneuver. I’m happy to report that I figured it out, I found the angle I need to make it simple. The picture below is literally an entire roll of tape put into heel-locks one on top of the other, trying to cement the technique I figured out into my hands. Now, I’m hoping muscle memory will start kicking in. It’s only taken me a year to wrap my head around the angles, it has to be only forward motion from here.

 

 

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So, there you go. A bunch of things crammed into a short post to sum up another week katmah style!

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Round by round, fence by fence

EPSON MFP image

 

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!

EPSON MFP image

EPSON MFP image

 

Why does this feel familiar?

So how long has it been since I last wrote? Years? Yeah. Sorry about that. You should feel special, though, as I’m choosing to write instead of work on my case study. Because its so abnormal for me to choose writing instead of school work….

I can’t even blame it on being busy. I will, however, blame it on attempting to not be busy. No, that is not a phrase that grooves with my style of living, and yes it was painful to write. I’ve been harshly reminded by my own brain lately that when I try and do too much (my regular amount) that what happens is not in my control. Wait, was it ever?
I’ve been back at work full time the past two weeks, mostly successfully. I’ve ran a couple times, which still isn’t producing symptom free results. BUT, it has been improving. I have hope that one day soon I will be able to run and not have a head ache. I’ve done a couple almost regular strength work outs as well, and those are surprisingly not as bad as running. What else have I been doing? I’ve been making an honest effort to do what is right for me in the moment.

This isn’t new.. I always try to do this, not just after I hit my head.

Doing that, for me, has always been more difficult when my regular routine of insanity and running about from one thing to the next is taken from me. It’s happened a few times, so you’d think I’d be more comfortable with it. Turns out, my comfort zone is pushing myself to the limits of comfort. I’m always looking for more, something new to achieve, or how to better myself. Is that a bad thing? No, it’s an important part of our human nature. If we weren’t always looking for more, for something else, where would we be today? So take away my option to be busy and involved, and I feel lost. It happened to me a few times when I was traveling, again when I got home and had surgery last summer, another time when my second surgery was cancelled (that might have just been more general frustration with the Universe), and now- right after a very optimistic start to my summer, followed by a head injury. I should be the boss at recovery by now.
This time has been different, slightly. Initially it was the same panic and “seriously, universe? Again?”, then it was the acceptance and “fine, I’ll take a week off”, and then it was “okay a weeks over lets get on with it”, and finally the realization that maybe it’s going to be more than a few weeks til I’m “normal” again. Looking back, I’m starting to realize that the one thing that is common in each of the situations I’ve been in where I’m forced to slow down, or worried about the way my life is going, is riding. It was a major factor in why I went to NZ and took that first job. Riding was the reason (one of them) why I left LC finally, because I knew it would ruin the sport for me if I stayed. Riding was the reason I took the next 4 months mostly off being in the saddle, the longest amount of time I’ve spent out of the tack probably ever. Because of that I was able to realize that my love for the sport wouldn’t disappear if I didn’t do it all the time (which was a huge fear for me). Riding (and my new career choice, AT) is what brought me home again.
Last summer the thought of getting back in the saddle kept me mostly optimistic through recovery, and the first show back (and the last show of the year) was one of my best- proving to me again that I can step away and still feel welcome when I come back again. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point- riding is a huge part of what my life orbits around, and what anchors me.
This time, like I said, something felt different. After the initial head hits ground event, I just couldn’t go out to the barn. I honestly did not feel up to it, and I didn’t go out until a week or two later. Even then I didn’t ride. I knew I couldn’t, and shouldn’t. Most of the panic and anxiety for me was around work and school. At first, realizing this scared me a little. Did it mean that riding was less of my life now? Was I losing hold of something that’s held onto me for so long? Then I got on my horse, because I felt ready to, and everything became a little clearer.
I wasn’t supposed to ride until after I could successfully run and weight train. But, in order to be me, I have to bend some rules. I did it 100% feeling ready to. And I’m not just saying that.
Last week I had my first jumping lesson in over a month. I was so nervous. I’d had 3 rides on my horse in the past month, he’d been fresh for all of them, and I was still far from normal. This lesson was going to be my deciding factor on whether to go to the Beach Party Show this coming weekend. All day at work I’d had the worst headache of my life, and I wasn’t feeling very well at all. At the end of a long week.. it had been my second week back full time, and I had also taken on two evening shifts along side my full time hours. I had pushed it a bit. I was so close to cancelling my lesson. When I left the office, my head ache dissipated a little- and I decided that I was going to try riding, staying honest with myself and stopping if anything got worse. Want to know something really awesome? Of course you do. As soon as I sat in the tack, everything else melted away. No headache, no anxiety over money, school, or my health. No excess thoughts. Just the current moment. Relying on pure instinct and learned muscle memory for the next hour, it was the best lesson I’ve had. My horse was perfect, I felt amazing in the tack, and nothing was disturbing that. It was truly one of those surreal moments. C was extremely pleased with us as well, confessing that she was also a little worried about how the night was going to go, but very pleasantly surprised by both my riding and my horse. Needless to say I am planning on competing this weekend, and I’m really hoping the heat doesn’t absolutely ruin me. Look forward to what I’m sure is going to be some interesting days ahead!

What am I taking from this?

You can plan all you want. You can think you’re in control all you want. You’ll almost always be proved wrong. So, what can you do to make sense of it all? Have something to come home to. Whether its a family, a career you’re passionate about, a hobby, or all of those things. I have a few of those things, all which come into play in keeping me grounded at one time or another. Right now, it’s riding. It’s giving me the confidence to relax. To take a step outside my anything but comfortable comfort zone. To trust that things are going to work out. Because they usually do, if you take time and trust your instincts.

Anyway, here are some snapshots for you….

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And some foodie pics!

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Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies. Seriously the best EVER.

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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. 

 

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.

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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