Feeling Fine

Harley and I are now collectively 51 years old having both recently celebrated another birthday. That said, we are both doing pretty darn well despite our mutual arthritis 😉 I have lost some weight, which is helping us both, and Harley is sound, shiny, and happy with his work.

 

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We have recently been forced to take a brief hiatus from riding because another horse at the barn developed a high fever. To be safe, any horse that could have had potential contact with the sick horse was quarantined and monitored closely. Harley does not share a pasture with the sick horse, but his stall is right next to a temporary feeding “stall” that the sick horse uses daily. So, Harley and his stall mate got to be 24/7 pasture horses for two weeks and all of us were prohibited from taking our horses up to the main barn and arenas. I think he loved his break. I was bummed at first because the quarantine started right before the holiday weekend but as it turned out, I got my own nasty sinus/cold bug and have been down for the count ever since. The quarantine has been lifted after the other horse went one full week fever free so we all hope we are out of the woods and maybe it was just an isolated incident. Harley never temped high and was in great spirits. I spent the holiday weekend almost entirely in bed but I did emerge to visit the pony on Memorial Day to fly spray, check temperature, and stuff with cookies.

 

*****PUBLIC HEALTH ANNOUNCEMENT******

I want to take a minute to explain a stupid thing I did in hopes that no one else does this. I was recommended an essential oil to use with Harley and I don’t have a ton of experience with essential oils but acquiesced to giving it a try because even if it didn’t help, it smelled good. I cut or diluted the oil with coconut oil per the directions and had a little container of it in my car. On Memorial Day when I went to visit Harley, I noticed a spot of dry skin on my hand and rubbed a bit of the oil on the spot before I got out of the car at the barn. I was out there just for a quick visit, being sick and with sun blaring down, I stayed out there for maybe 20 minutes before I noticed that the spot where I had rubbed the oil was bubbling/blistering. I thought it was a skin reaction because it never hurt so I immediately washed it off my hand. Well, the damage had apparently already been done and that oil BURNED THE EVERLOVING SHYTE out of my hand. The bottle warned against it in tiny print that I didn’t read. I have since learned that many essential oils, especially citrus based oils are EXTREMELY PHOTOSENSITIVE meaning they react with UV light and produce a phototoxic reaction in the skin. It’s pretty much a chemically induced exaggerated sunburn.

 

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My skin thankfully never hurt from this burn but it did hyper-pigment because, as I learned later, bergamot based oils like the one I used, are notorious for causing extreme skin reactions when exposed to sunlight. I am thankful I didn’t rub this stuff all over my face or neck because…could you even imagine?!?! Anyway, don’t be like EquiNovice, carefully read about any essential oils, and don’t make margaritas at the barn- because apparently the oils from the limes are photosensitive as well and there is such a thing as a Margarita burn.

So… yeah… aside from that…..

 

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He’s just a little uphill

 

While I was sick I bought some barely used stirrup leathers on eBay. They were supposedly “unbranded” but they are clearly branded, they are Albion calf wrapped leathers that I got for $13.

Mic drop.

Like, I feel a little guilty and bad for the seller.

 

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I rode Harley for the first time post-quarantine and was worried he would be feral. I lunged him to start and he lunged like a pro and was a perfect gentleman for our ride as well. I focused on the canter in our ride and it has been a while since I have really worked much in that gait but he looked so steady in his canter on the lunge that I just had to ride it. It was productive and he surprised me by being more relaxed than I thought he would be after his spring break. I would think it is about time for his hock injections but he is just moving so well right now, I don’t know if I should wait or go ahead and get them in.

We are chugging right along and I told myself that if I hit my initial weight loss goal, I would look into starting lessons with the other trainer at my barn (my current trainer’s trainer). This sinus/bronchitis thing hasn’t helped, but hopefully by next week we’ll all be feeling fine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wish Granted

Last weekend seemed to be the last breath of summer in this area so I didn’t need anymore of an excuse to leave work a little early on Friday and head out to the barn. Harley has been growing a pretty woolly coat the past month and he’s often already sweaty before I ride. So, I made a plan, and Friday was the day! I gave him a bath which he didn’t really appreciate and then I took him out to graze in the sun which he liked much better.

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After he dried my trainer insisted on taking photos of how clean he was for five seconds.

 

 

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We also tried to take cute photos with the barn’s fall decorations but my friend lets her pony do whatever he wants and thinks it’s cute and makes no effort to stop him so after he rolled the large pumpkin into the parking lot with his nose, ate the straw, and yanked down the corn stalk, I was pretty much in favor of being done with that activity.

I hope you got a good look at that chestnut chest hair above because promptly after those photos were taken, I tried my hand at clipping a horse for the first time ever!

Harley was awesome and didn’t even bat an eye at the clippers. He stood completely still and was a total dude about the whole process. I thought it wise, for my first time ever holding a clippers, to stick to something simple so I planned a tidy bib clip to start out with and later I could extend it if need be. I think I did a pretty decent job for my first time! But, I have no idea how you guys do things like make shapes/designs or straight lines for that matter…

 

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Saturday early afternoon I came back out to the barn for a ride and the barn was eerily empty for such a beautiful day. Sometimes Harley gets more concerned when he’s all alone in the arena but on Saturday he was a perfect angel and did not put a foot wrong. We had the BEST ride we’ve had in months. It was wonderful. He was relaxed but forward and even when I spanked him with my whip once a little harder than I planned, he let it go and didn’t get tense. I did not wear the theraband around my back but spent the whole ride focusing on getting that same feeling like I was wearing it and sitting up and back and relaxing my shoulders. He was much more accepting of my contact and I remembered to half halt firmly but release quickly and to keep doing that throughout the ride especially when we started to get disconnected. I find I’m often so concerned about the tension in our rides that I let us both get away with not having that conversation in the contact. I really enjoyed such a quiet, productive ride where I had the chance to feel through the connection when his focus was on me and when it wasn’t.

Sometimes this really nuanced message gets lost in the hustle of trying to “do things”. I have been frustrated lately in my lessons because they seem so focused on completing a pattern or getting a shoulder-in. That’s okay for some rides, but I often feel like I’m skipping over fundamentals to do it. I’m struggling to merge the two functions. And wondering, is it better to slog around doing imperfect “patterns” until they finally click? Is repetition the key? Or, is that connection the key to the whole thing and the minute you lose the connection you should stop trying to complete the pattern until you’ve recovered the connection? A little of both, probably, but I just don’t enjoy that feeling of running around like a chicken with my head cut off in the hopes that eventually one of those aimless circles will be a perfect 20m with correct bend.

Oh, dressage…you’re such a perpetual, addicting, mind screw.

 

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Physical Limits vs Mental Limits

Monday I wrote about ways that I am pushing some physical limits in my life and today I want to talk about some mental limits that I’m struggling with lately in my riding.

A few weeks ago, I had an amazing lesson on Louie where my trainer even video taped part of my ride to show me how much my seat has improved and what a positive influence it was having on the way Louie was moving.

 

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Alas, what goes up, must come down. Tuesday’s lesson was a total bust and I’m still trying to process what was going on. I think I may have been in my own head too much- trying to reproduce something I came across in a very exploratory frame of mind by instead forcing it or rushing it. Louie was being a little lazy and when I couldn’t get him to feel how he felt last ride, I kind of crumbled. When Louie started phoning it in, the wheels came off and we were a mess out there. She asked me to do some canter transitions to balance him in the trot and he was. not. there. He was super dull and giving the bare minimum amount of effort and I was suddenly completely at a loss for what to do. I could feel it- or rather the absence of it- and I just kept trying to force it. I was able to finish with some decent canter work only after a heart to heart….er…whip to rump discussion with Louie and my trainer explaining to me that I wasn’t even asking him to keep it together- I was just giving away all of the impulsion out the front. Weak sauce.

After the lesson she told me something I already knew, but after that performance, probably needed to be told again. She said something to the effect of, “you are not a beginner anymore, when people start lessons they look to their instructor to guide everything they do. When more advanced riders take a lesson, they come in and ride and I help when they need it but they do what they need to do for their horse before I say a word. You have more than enough tools in your toolbox to get him where he needs to be without me- you have to ride him like he’s your horse. If I ask you to do some exercise but you can feel he isn’t balanced enough to do it, get him there- do something else you know will help him.” She’s right, of course.

So, what happens when the EquiNovice isn’t exactly a novice anymore? I’ll tell you what happens- responsibility!!!! UGH, what a drag! As long as you are new you feel like you can make mistakes, second guess yourself, be hesitant, and it’s all acceptable because, well, it is- you’re new. Coming to grips with not being new is a bigger mental hurdle than I thought it would be. I need to level up my mental fortitude to match my skill or it’s going to be darn near impossible to continue to advance.

I don’t imagine this was a particularly enjoyable lesson for my trainer to teach and it is in stark contrast to my last lesson which I think she probably did enjoy. But it means a lot to me that she continues to push me to be better. Yes, I pay her for every lesson, but she could just as easily feed me empty compliments and let me putz around on good natured Louie every week. I’m never going to show him; never going to be reflected publicly as her student; and may not even get to take lessons from her for very much longer. But she still cares about my development as a rider enough to tactfully have an uncomfortable conversation with me and push me to be better. That’s a quality instructor.

 

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Mental limits: must push for more progress! Onward and upward and don’t let a few bad rides get you down.

 

 

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Oh Happy Day

My first lesson back after a 6 week hiatus was a total win! It was great. The best part about riding someone else’s horse is that when you can’t ride, they have still been training super hard. I got to slot back in and feel like I haven’t missed a beat. She adjusted the lesson to try and make things relatively easy on my knee, but it was just as detailed in terms of pushing me to improve both my aids and my position. Getting Louie, french leather lover, to come on to the aids and lift and feel super light and ready is soooooo much easier than it was one year ago. It is a great feeling to hear my trainer comment how tall he gets and how great he is moving while I am riding him. I can’t seem to replicate this feeling much with Harley yet but I’ll allow myself to feel like I am at least on the right track.

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We walked for most of the lesson and worked on half-pass. Louie is such a funny boy and often makes us laugh during lessons because he is so tolerant and forgiving but you can always tell when his brain is about to explode and he has earned a break. He will totally let me keep him there teetering on the edge of sanity for a good long while as we try to get the right result before finishing the exercise. He is never naughty and doesn’t buck or bolt, you can just feel it through his whole body that you are really pushing him outside of his comfort zone- it’s kind of this potential energy, snorty, chaotic sensation. It’s the best. He’s such a good boy.

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Treats?!

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No treats…no photos

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My knee did very well. It was starting to get tired at the end of the lesson and that’s when I will have to be extra careful. I gingerly dismounted and paid very close attention to each step while untacking, grooming, and walking him back down to his barn. When I got home, I could really tell that it had been quite a bit of work for my knee. I was sore and my knee was a little swollen. I iced before going to bed knowing that I had PT the next afternoon so I needed my knee to be feeling good for another tough workout. I don’t want to push things too far too fast for fear of backsliding. Overall, I am very pleased to be back riding and thankfully with dressage, an “easy” workout doesn’t have to feel limited!

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