Tag Archives: dressage

Conclusion: Because

I recently came to an important conclusion about my riding. I am sure you are waiting with baited breath to hear what it was. But to I think I should give you a little background first.

It started when I finished a few knitting projects I had planned on for quite some time. I had, in rapid succession, quite a few knitting projects I had planned to give away as gifts. I, of course, have many more I wanted to do, but I didn’t really want to start on them yet and none of the gift deadlines were particularly looming. So I felt a little depressed. There are so many beautiful projects in the world to be knit, how could I knit them all, and if I couldn’t knit them all, why should I bother knitting anything? Thus went my completely ridiculous line of reasoning. So I listlessly flipped through my knitting books and magazines thinking how fabulous it would be to knit this sweater, or that hat, but I just didn’t have the right yarn. Then I started going through my yarn stash and feeling the beautiful yarns and thinking of how I would love to knit with this yarn or that yarn, but darn it, I just didn’t have the right pattern. And then it hit me. I madly grabbed the two skeins of homespun yarn my mother had sent me ages ago that had been sitting in my stash begging for the perfect project and then lunged for the issue of Piecework that I knew had a pattern I had been longing to knit if only I had the perfect yarn. I knit a test swatch (but only a very small one because I generally don’t believe in them and because it is a shawl pattern for heaven’s sake) and then I paused…I realized I had no real reason to knit this beautiful shawl pattern from 1930, that perhaps Miss Marple would have knit. I had no one in mind that I would give it to, and I had no real use for it myself, though I suppose I could use it at work. Why would I knit this project? That was when it hit me- why not! I would knit it, as huge and ridiculous as it may be, because I could and it was there and I wanted to do it. I would enjoy it, the yarn was just right for the pattern and vice versa, it would be beautiful and special. Of course it will take ages and I am praying I have enough of the unique yarn that I cannot get any more of, but I am doing it because it will be knitting for the sake of knitting. What does that have to do with my great conclusion about my riding?

Well, of course, though I qualified for our state’s dressage championships at training and first level I decided that I wouldn’t go. It would be fiscally unwise for me, I haven’t been able to take as many lessons as I would like, and aside from the shows at which I qualified I haven’t shown Strider at all. And did I mention those shows were at the barn where I board? He usually travels well and winning certainly isn’t everything, but I want our first trip to championships to be over the moon wonderful. I don’t want to be worried that I am not prepared and that I can’t really afford it. But I still have been riding like a crazy person. At least 4 days a week, no matter what, I am at the barn riding. There was a brief time I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why. Was I trying to prove something? Was I determined to get to second level by next year? No and no. Well, kind of no. Mostly no. I realized that right now I am riding religiously for the sake of riding. Because I love riding and my horse and the barn where I board and the experience of it- and I didn’t really need another reason. So my great realization is that goals are wonderful. Having a reason to do something can often be very important. But sometimes it is just as important to do something for no reason at all.

So, I hope you do something you love not because you have a goal to accomplish, but just because. And until next time, RAWR!!!!

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Totaled

Last Tuesday I had a bad day. It wasn’t an RA flare, or just being in a bad mood, and I know that attitude really effects how we perceive things. But I think this counts as a genuine bad day; not that I don’t see a few positives. I will get there, just bear with me for a bit. But let me tell you what happened:

 First, I set my alarm clock one hour late on accident. I plead that when I set it after 11pm the night before I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. As far as why I was up that late the night before- that is a longer story but suffice it to say my schedule right now is pretty rough. Sometimes I think we get cosmic foreshadowing of things to come. Perhaps my having all of 2 minutes to get dressed and out the door to have any prayer of getting to work on time (I usually leave before my alarm even went off that day) should have been a good clue that staying in bed that day would have been the better choice.

Miraculously, I made it to work on time and work though less than fun went as well as it usually does- nothing remarkable there. I managed to leave nearly on time for my dentist appointment that afternoon. It was a bright sunny day, I was just heading in for a cleaning, and really things were going well after such a rough start. Until I went to get on the interstate. For those of you that aren’t familiar,Coloradohas relatively speedy interstates. The speed limit in many sections is 75mph, but many people go 80mph and merging can be interesting since often drivers are less than kind about allowing people in. I was driving on an on ramp with a tight curve, and to my awareness, I was suddenly swerving out of control; every correction I made to try to gain control just made the situation worse. I hadn’t been going very fast, since I drive that on ramp all the time and know the turn is tight, but I slammed on the brakes and pulled my car into a skid away from traffic. Good idea, right? Well it was until the skid took me into a pole sideways. Ears ringing and vision returning after the side airbag deployed, I sat there in disbelief. I have never been in a real car accident (that is qualified by the term real because I did have a minor one once but someone essentially backed in to me from a stop because they took their foot of their brake), and at the time I couldn’t figure out what had happened to cause it. I was dazed and shaken but otherwise ok. I got out of my car and glanced over it. It looked remarkably fine considering, and seeing the interstate a few feet away made me grateful that the situation hadn’t been worse. A driver that had been behind me stopped and made sure I was ok and I took a minute and gathered myself. I looked at the time, well, I still had plenty of time to make it to the dentist, even if I went slowly.

I eased onto the interstate and my car felt a little odd but ok considering, or so I thought. I got about a mile down the road when it swerved a little again and then I heard a distinctive sound. I admit my first thought wasn’t particularly printable. I pulled over, and got out and started attempting to change my tire which was rather flat. I was beyond shaken at this point so I really wasn’t making good progress. I had the jack out but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to put it together all of a sudden. So, I am fiddling with pieces of the jack when a Colorado Department of Transportation truck pulls up. The two CDOT guys were amazing. They had the tire changed so quickly I hardly knew what was happening. Thankful for my full size spare, I was on my way again, if rather slowly, since by this time I was quite terrified to drive. I got off the interstate at the next exit and took a back way to the dentist’s office. I made it just in time for my appointment somehow, so I was lucky enough to find out I need more dental work done. (I have major jaw problems so though not surprising the vast amount of dental work I have had and how much trouble it is for me makes it an ordeal.)

 So, I readily and hastily submit that I am grateful that I wasn’t hurt beyond a bruise from the airbag deployment. I also am rather glad I had switched insurance companies a few months ago and have much better insurance than I used to have. Bythe next afternoon I had a rental car, covered by insurance, and my husband was steadily working through the insurance claim process. So it was pretty bad as far as days go, but it seems like things are working out. Unfortunately, per the insurance company, my bug is squashed, or rather, totaled. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. One point of relief though, was that even in a rental car, Strider still comes up to the pasture fence when I drive up. Don’t ask me how he knows its me, and believe me, I have asked other people if he does that when they drive up and they assure me he doesn’t (so I either have friends that want me to feel flattered by my horse or a horse that is pretty wonderful. Or both.). 

Unfortunately that means that this week will be devoted to dental work, a rheumatologist appointment, and car shopping. I think those are three of my top five most dreaded activities. I am hoping for riding as many days as I can and a knitting night to ease the pain. So far I am at least on track with riding, even if I did mostly stretchy work with Strider last night. We have no more shows this season (I know, we really only had one: between EHV-1 and finances it has been a good season for me to focus on training), though I will get to groom at one, so it is nice to just ride and try to keep improving.

I guess all that to say, I think we all have truly bad days, thankfully, a day only lasts 24 hours and even seasons have to change someday. And horse time usually helps. Well, until next time, RAWR!!!

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Look Behind You

I have a picture on my desk at work of when I first started riding Strider. It was taken at a schooling show literally about a month after I started riding him. I remember I knew it was nuts to take him to one so soon since I could barely even get on him I was in such bad shape from RA and he hadn’t been ridden for a long time. The riding he had before that hadn’t sat well with him (that is a good part of the story of how he came to be given to me- yes I said given…though at this point in the story I was leasing him) and before that he had been on the track. Basically it was silly to do, but I wanted to try. He is the shaggiest I think he has ever gotten, his feet were a mess; the best description I can give of him then is of a rather refined looking mule with ears that didn’t want it enough. Brown horses that haven’t had fabulous grooming and care just don’t look good- and I am referring to the true brown horses that everyone calls dark bay with bleach spots. There is so much wrong in the picture: girth cover because the only girth I had was ancient and had no elastic, Strider isn’t tracking up, mismatched neoprene splint boots I borrowed, my position is atrocious, and I was considerably heavier than I am now. But I love that picture. Strider still wasn’t convinced about me yet, but I was thrilled and it shows. The joy in being able to ride again, even if it was terrible, was obvious.

That picture is also a reminder of how far we have come. I don’t have many pictures of Strider and me, but I know how he looks when he walks up to me in the pasture. I know he trusts me now and even usually will leave his food and his “hole” (that’s what we call his shed ha-ha) when he hears me call him. He is sleek and shiny now; his feet are in great shape (for a TB type horse- no cracks and good wall. His angles are much better and his front feet are up a shoe size.); he is incredibly muscled; his personality is really showing and I think every time I see him I am in awe that I  get to ride him.

So what’s my point aside from that I like looking at a terrible picture and I adore my horse? Well, I think sometimes on the middle of struggling and pushing so hard to move forward and prevail over hard things sometimes we forget to remember from where we came. Whether in dressage, hunter jumpers, or fighting RA sometimes it helps to remember how far you really have come. It may seem at times like we only move backwards, especially when treating RA, I know, because I remember what it was like to be on a treatment that worked. But sometimes we have to remember what it was like to before we were diagnosed, or when we were diagnosed in order to see that, though it may feel like I have no options, at least I have a great rheumatologist on my side now. Or in dressage, sometimes we get hard on ourselves (ha! Sometimes? Maybe always?) and our horses because we can’t seem to perfect a certain movement, reach a goal, or we let our minds get the better of us, but where were we and our horses 6 months, a year, or 2 years ago?  If we look back maybe we can find the hope and faith to keep moving forward; it isn’t a new thought at all, but I know I needed the reminder. Just don’t get stuck looking behind you- you never know when you might run into a wall or a tree or a manure pit or something- trust me on that one.

Until next time- RAWR!!!!!!

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Finally! (and some drama)

I did it! Part of the reason for my long silence, though not all of it, was that I kept trying to take Strider in a dressage show. The first one I had to scratch due to a death in the family, the second one I entered and the whole show was canceled because of the EHV-1 outbreak. I was starting to sense a trend. I decided to risk it and try entering a third show though. It was last weekend and there was no apocalypse, a lot of drama though.

First, Strider’s saddle fit became a really big issue. It had been a small issue and had seemed correctable with shims and pads- and then more pads, and more pads. We were at four pads and my calling him, “princess and the pea horse” was a little too apropos for comfort. He was starting to get back sore as well. I was not ok with that and it did nothing good for our suppleness or transitions to say the least. He is already conformationally challenged so I didn’t want any other issues. I also go into the horse version of panicked parent mode when I know my horse is uncomfortable.

As soon as I could I started saddle shopping. Thankfully one of the mobile tack stores has a large used selection and was going to be close by; I was able to try six saddles in one weekend! Even better one of them actually seemed to be a great fit for Strider. The only downside was that it was a bit of a gamble because my trainer couldn’t check it for me. Based on my own knowledge and how my horse felt in it I decided to go with it (trainer is still out of the country- I will let you know if that was a good gamble when she gets back!). Worst case it has improved his royal highness’ back, doesn’t require four pads, and is, in my opinion, and based on some quick digging on the internet, a better value than what I had before. Now I can just hope my old saddle sells quickly so I can replenish my somewhat drained savings.

The new saddle came just in time. In fact, I got it exactly a week before the show. Less than ideal timing, but at least I got it before the show, since my old saddle was definitely not helping us out. I was worried I would be riding my dressage tests in my jumping saddle. But thankfully that didn’t end up happening.

 More surprises were in order though as the Thursday before the show I had to leave work early and go see my doctor because I was having intense stomach pain. There were no clear answers, as usual, but we treated the pain and set an appointment for a ct scan. Not eating in preparation for the ct scan calmed things down a little and though I didn’t get the results of the scan before the show I was able to make it through thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

 I will spare you the rest of the drama involving warm up arena melt downs (Strider: “ZOMGWTFBBQ there are more than three horses in the arena), boot disasters (one fit and not the other- no kidding), and missing tractor parts.

 I will be honest: my first ride was terrible and it was all my fault. Poor Strider tolerated my show nerves fabulously though and between his generally being good and a somewhat nice judge we managed to eke out a 64% on t-3. It got better as the test went on, but I am pretty sure a drunken sailor on a unicycle could have done a better center line and halt, salute.

 Somewhat miraculously (it’s me we’re talking about here- historically I haven’t shown very well. Even when I have scored well I am usually an absolute basketcase), I gathered my wits, drank some sports drink and actually breathed a little before my next test. I admit I was worried since it was First level, but I figured I may as well relax and enjoy rather than freak out if the results would be the same. My old trainer used to hate it when I would say, “I have to stop caring,” because she didn’t understand what I meant. I am realizing that in order to show well I have to be able to let go of the outcome. I ride far better when I don’t care. It’s not bad in my case, because then I actually ride. Not caring for me doesn’t mean I stop trying; it enables me to try. We went in and though I rode conservatively, we ended up with a 67%. I really couldn’t have been more pleased.

 The next day we had a different judge and the scores, on average, were lower. We managed a 68% on T-3 (and it felt amazing!!) and a 61% on First 1. Both rides felt incredibly steady though and I was absolutely thrilled.

Vanya has not been sitting around all this time either. He has been doing western. I jokingly say that he “has a 4-Her.” I think in theory the 4-Her has him but if you ask him I am sure it is the other way around. He has done well at remembering what little western he knew and improving on it and has even become vaguely decent as a showmanship horse. He still needs work but western is good for him in his old age. I am sure he will be excited when fair is over and we can start focusing more on getting him and his 4-Her ready for barrels and poles though. He also is going to get his own little kid after fair and I cannot wait for him to get some lead line action.

 My RA has been pretty bad which is really why I haven’t been posting much. I am determined to push through it to the extent that I can, but often I have the energy to work, ride, etc. and then posting falls by the wayside. I will do my best to update more frequently whenever I can. I am trying acupuncture to help with some of the side issues that have been nagging at me so we’ll see if that helps. Even my knitting has been slower than usual. Oh well….always have to keep pushing on!! RAWR!!!!

 

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I admit it…

I was sick a fair amount recently and this meant I got to watch some TV I otherwise wouldn’t be able to watch. Because I am fashion challenged and I know it, I watched, “What Not to Wear.” I nearly choked on my grapefruit juice though when Stacey showed one of the people getting made over on the show a dress and heels and explained that it should be a model for her shopping for “casual wear” since it would be great for wearing around for every day type events and errands. Taking a few deep breaths to calm myself I realized apparently life as a horse mom is really different than the life of other people. (I know….gasp! I really knew that but this moment brought the point home. Keep reading, stop laughing at me, I promise I’m going somewhere with this.)

Though I know I have the fashion sense of a toddler after six cups of coffee, I also know that much of my lack of fashion sense is because my horses are a majority of my life. In an average day, I get up, go to work, ride my horse and do things around the barn to keep him happy and healthy and fed, and then go home, rinse, and repeat. Sometimes I take care of another person’s horse so the day starts with horse chores and there are extra evening chores as well, but basically, it is a rare day I am not at a barn at some point. I wear clothes to work that at least in a pinch I could go catch a horse in if I had to since I can’t say that eventuality has never occurred. I can’t imagine showing up at the barn in a dress and heels- especially since I can’t walk in heels unless paddock boots count.

I do have some fashion sense though- I know how to wear white breeches without embarrassing myself (no vpl, stains etc.) , I know how to do my hair under my Charles Owen helmet for a hunter class, dressage test, or jumper class. I know, though legal, it is a fashion faux pas to wear field boots for dressage and is just as much of a faux pas to wear a stock tie (though not a stock collar) in an average hunter class. It’s all a matter of culture.

Hopefully I can remain a hopeless fashion failure in the non-horse world without repercussions. It takes work to keep up on the latest horse fashions after all and there are only so many hours in a day. I’m open to suggestions though- if anyone thinks they can fix my human fashion stupidity they are welcome to try- just know that my budget goes to clothes for my horse first. That is probably most of my problem right there. Oh well. Thankfully I am not horribly bothered and my husband seems to find t-shirts, breeches, and brightly colored knee high argyle socks with paddock boots entertaining rather than embarrassing. But all of this is to say, it is high time I admit: I am completely incapable of being fashionable outside of the horse world. I admit I have a problem, but I am not sure I have the strength and desire to change. So anyway- RAWR!!!!!

 

 

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Core Workout 101

I feel like I was punched in the stomach. I know….great way to start a blog, a week, anything right? But here is the worst part: I wasn’t punched in the stomach and I did it to myself.

So here is how it happened:

I haven’t been very good about getting to the gym since my RA treatments have been less than wonderfully successful lately. Of course I have been my usual type A perfectionist self though working as hard as I can possibly make myself to do the homework my trainer gives me with my horse and keep up with four or five rides a week at least. I really hope I can work out my budget to do some shows this season and shows or no shows I want to be the best I can be. I am just ridiculous about riding in that respect. I still can’t quite figure out why, but I want to do it the best I can. I can’t imagine a world in which I do not ride. And I want to be amazing at it and I am not there yet. So I work at it as hard as I can.

Recently my horse has been doing really well in training. Don’t get me wrong, we may still be in Training Level for all eternity, but I am ok with that, and if we are in Training level eternally we will look amazing and be happy doing it! But, this has led to my working more on my riding as we get better. I learn new techniques and refinements and practice those as we work on things with my horse. In my most recent lesson, my trainer indicated that my sitting trot was much improved so I should do it more.

So we did. And holy buckets was it hard. My horse, though I love him dearly, doesn’t have the easiest trot to ride even though it is a far sight better than it used to be. He has an extremely short back so even when he is supple, his trot can feel like riding a pogo stick on a trampoline. My core muscles were screaming at me and I was breathing as hard as I do when I run after about ten minutes. I felt like an idiot. I practice sitting trot so why was doing it for ten minutes straight so hard?

As a result, my homework this week was to do sitting trot, especially on ten meter circles interspersed at nice intervals, for longer periods, take a short break and then do it again. Of course I still need to work on getting half halts, getting canter lengthening and then transitions back, shortening/collecting the canter strides, getting him more round, and a variety of other elements we have been working on as well.

I did my homework a couple times now. My abs and core muscles hate me. I can’t believe how out of shape I am. It certainly makes me fill a little silly since I had thought I was working pretty hard and keeping up with where I needed to be. So…I will keep working at it. I will get past this and actually be able to sit the trot with decency one of these days! RAWR!!!!!!

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Changes and Moves

I have to say, right now is a really weird time. Some things going on I would really prefer weren’t happening. Other things I am so excited about I could burst. It is just weird.

 First: the not so fun. Matt is leaving again. He has to finish up the last of his training so he will be doing Air Force-y things for the next 5 weeks. I keep telling myself at least it is only 5 weeks. Ask me Monday after his flight leaves how that is working out for me. Our house still hasn’t sold yet either, meaning that when he returns from his training he faces a somewhat ridiculous commute to the Air Force base he will be stationed at. In fact, our contract with the realtor expired. We attempted to get a new one before Matt left, not one of the realtors we called has called us back. It is one of those things that just makes me say, “Really!?” in a particularly incredulous tone. My coworkers hear it all the time.

 Since I don’t want to be sad all day, let’s move on to happier things. Note: these happenings are not without their fair share of drama. I felt like I was trying to manage an entire herd of drama llamas this week.

 I am moving my horses to new barns. Note the plural. Vanya, the geezer, is going to a beautiful place in the trees, with small arenas, but excellent care. In fact, I think they have the most beautiful hay I have seen since I came to Colorado (I used to live in Vermont- they know how to make good hay; Colorado….not so much). When I saw it for the first time I hadn’t had dinner yet and was about ready to try it myself- it was that good. It is clean, quiet, and it just felt like the right place for him. They offer the services he needs at a price I can afford. Score one for the good guys.

 Strider is going to my trainer’s barn. It will be a bit of a commute for me, but I am super excited to get more lessons from her and to have Strider get some training rides. I really want to get both Strider and I going really solidly at First level and right now I think Strider is ahead of me. I suppose that is good but it is easier when I am ahead of him I think. I also work really well with this trainer as she really seems to understand me and is able to help me not turn into a wad of type A, perfectionist tension ten minutes into my ride. I am really looking forward to riding and training in preparation for next show season. So, another very exciting, happy event.

 Strider is getting yet another type of shoeing. My farrier noticed the angles in his hind feet aren’t looking right and he wants to get them corrected before they cause problems. I love my farrier. He does a great job of preventing issues and addressing the ones we already had. Strider is getting some pretty fancy shoes though. One of these days I should post a picture.

I am still trucking along for the most part. Since Matt has been home I haven’t really been able to run, unfortunately, but other than that have been ok. I got sick before he came home, and it took me ages to recover enough energy to run. This week I have had the energy, but not the time. I did get a good swim in though. I also think I may have found a set of reins that will work for me and be legal for dressage competitions without a dispensation thanks to an amazing helpful person. I now proudly sport big, fat, round, rope reins on my dressage bridle. We look very Wenglish. I hope I can find some purple cotton rope soon to use for schooling; after all, I need more purple tack! Right now I just have black nylon but they have proven much easier to hold than anything else I have tried. Matt does have to make them as actual Western rope reins are not long enough, but they are not hard to make at all thankfully. The hardest part is sourcing the rope. Fat cotton rope is actually harder to find than I had expected but it is not impossible.

 So, life goes one. I have been knitting bunches, riding bunches, and enjoying having Matt home. Moving the horses marks the beginning of an exciting new time for us though in a variety of areas, and hopefully will be smoother sailing.

Until next time….RAWR!

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