So, it’s strange. As a rider, especially as a rider with a disability, I work hard to not compare myself, my progress, what I’m working on to others. But, making the barn switch has exposed me to more. More people. More horses. More higher level riders. More expectations. And, apparently that is super motivating to me? Today as I tacked up for my lesson, I watched as an elderly horse and his mature rider tackled their canter work in the indoor while a jump clinic continued in the outdoor and something in me just said why not try.
Cantering is a tricky thing for me, a combination of something that’s physically hard and mentally challenging because I know my inability to put weight in my legs and disastrous coordination in general makes something I have to really concentrate on. Combining that with a prior horse who did not have the best canter, it’s a combined block. But, today, after some good sitting trot work I was asked what I wanted to do… and I said canter. And I did, walk canter transitions. 2 of them, one lap each.
Clare got all the cookies for being the schoolmistress I need right now, mentally and physically. So lucky to have connected with her and to be able to learn from her at the end of her career right now.
The sitting trot is not a passive action. You can’t sink into it, you push into it – that rhythm, than down action – it’s percussive, it’s powerful. And weirdly enough, it’s now doable.
But first. Piggles and I had a kind of embarrassing failure of a last outing in June, he planted his feet at X and nearly didn’t move, then we were called off course when we weren’t, and decided that collection just wasn’t happening. Oops. But the judge (David Schmutz) was super kind and encouraging and it wasn’t a total embarrassment (that’s saved for when Radar ducked me off, damn pony!)
Anyway. We had a great August, he was going great. Decided to aim for early September show… and then was told they wouldn’t shorten the court. Got it, that venue is out! In September Piggles got a bit ouchy and life changes meant that he’s now partially retired and enjoying his life at Mar Val.
So, where does that leave me? At a new barn, with a new horse to sponsor and riding with multiple trainers for the first time.
Meet Claire! She’s an aged Morgan x Thoroughbred (my favorites!) and is teaching me so much. It’s not easy, hello anxiety! But she makes it worth it. I’m learning how to take my riding to the next level, pushing myself for more, working on moving instead of being quiet, of asking for more. It’s fun! She probably isn’t consistently sound enough to do any rated showing, but for me that’s okay for now – especially now.
She’s teaching me how to bounce, how to push, how to become more secure.
Spent this weekend spectating at the Golden State Dressage show and CPEDI, watching all kinds of wonderful horses and riders, and making my paradressage classification permanent!
I also tried my hand at some equestrian photography, I love photography although with fine motor and vision issues… my results may vary! I clearly need to figure out if my point and shoot has a sports mode and would want a tripod if I were to do more, but it was fun to try.
Classification was interesting, as usual (wait… I’m supposed to be able to move that way?) and literally nothing changed numbers-wise. We got looped reins added to my dispensation, which will be nice moving forward as we try things out.
The riding – in the CDI, CPEDI and Classic show – was generally inspiring and is giving me things to think about (FORWARD! FORWARD! PUSH into that FORWARD!).
Last night I saw Cavalia’s new show, Odysseo, with a friend as my Christmas present from my parents. Just as with the first show I saw, it’s simply splendid.
Favorites from last night included a liberty demonstration with upwards of 30 horses all in the arena, bridle-less and (mostly) responsive to their handlers on the ground… except for one who meandered away and had to be gently encouraged to rejoin the pattern! There was some seriously awesome trick riding (guy went underneath the belly of his horse! girl went upside down at the gallop and picked up gloves she dropped!) Another highlight were some brilliantly talented acrobats. The heights made me queasy but they were spectacular.
We got the package that included dinner/dessert…and, most importantly, a tour of the stables! It was amazing seeing the horses we had just seen on stage, lounging in their stalls and getting pampered. So worth it to get that experience.
We are seriously contemplating going again next month. It was that good.
Sometimes I question why I had to fall in love with horses, of all things. And really, it doesn’t make sense. I am uncoordinated, sometimes fearful, and a perfectionist… and I choose to sit upon a one thousand pound flight animal and attempt to tell it what to do. Sure.
But then I have a ride like I had today and am reminded why I ride. Pig (the horse) and I started off a bit eh – he wasn’t engaging himself and was throwing his weight on the forehand. And we worked on it.
I activated every muscle I could access to raise hands, sit back, and use my body more effectively. He realized he could in fact bend, collect, and get light on the reins. This approach to riding suits my anal side perfectly. I love piecing it apart and putting it back together to improve. I love messing up but then figuring it out and improving. I love feeling the lightness. I love the intellectual challenge.
Sometimes you just need a bit of leverage. In riding, in life, in anything.
Today that came in the form of a jointed kimberwicke bit on Mr. Piggles the Morgan. Being a bit on the forehand, he is sometimes tricky to get truly yielding to the bit and light in your hands… actually, he’s usually the opposite of light! The kimberwicke is not dressage-show legal at the lower levels, but using it correctly can give me the feel I need to work on acheiving the same results with a snaffle if I decide to show next year.
The main takeaway from today’s ride (besides the usual – go forward, hands higher) was about my inside and outside reins working together and being complementary… inside to a heave bend, outside to enhance flexion. With the bit of extra oomph from the stronger bit, I could really feel the change and responsiveness.
Best part of the day, besides just being out there and having a good ride, was overhearing the other trainer in the arena complimenting my position… to have someone say I’m straight in the saddle is testament to the hard work of my trainer and I.
We talk a lot about expectations in the disability community – about how they are too low for people with disabilities, about how children with disabilities are unchallenged and under-estimated, about how we need to set higher expectations for everyone.
But sometimes, we underestimate ourselves. Today was one of those days for me. I was convinced my horseback riding lesson was going to be ‘meh’. I was a bit dizzy and tired and was worried I was a bit out of shape since I didn’t ride last week.
That was not the case. For the first time in awhile, I had both strength and timing to keep Piggles (yes, I ride a horse named Pig) straight, forward, and (sort of) light on the bit. We had great balanced transitions and light halts.
Everything just came together. Now there were many factors for this (barre class on Friday? lots of walks? who knows!) but it this reminds me to continue to set both realistic and high expectations for myself.
Sometimes I need that reminder, and this great ride when I didn’t think there would be is a good push in that direction.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. Just not worth the pressure one puts on oneself. But of course I have lessons from 2014 and hopes for 2015.
Managed to start 2 new jobs in 2014, which I hope doesn’t happen again! Both good moves on my part and I learned a lot from both, but a little too much newness for my liking. I’m nearing the 6-month mark at work, and my instances of “oh %#^+ I have no clue what to do!” are (thankfully) rapidly decreasing. I like the feeling of going into work and basically feeling competent at what I’m doing. I applied to be on the list for a promotion… so, we’ll see.
Non-work things were sometimes great, often tough this year. My grandmother fell in the summer and passed away in the fall. That was rough for my mother and my extended family – even though she was not particularly grandmotherly in that stereotypical way, she was still family. I had 2 horses I was riding become lame and un-rideable. A looked-forward-to trip to New York City had to be cancelled. But, of course, those things are trivial when compared to family.
There was good stuff too – Friends at the Moebius Syndrome Conference, learning how to ride a big 18hh sweetie of a draft horse, a wonderful weekend on the beach at my favorite west coast hotel. In everything, I learned a lot about myself and about life (yeah, that sounds overwrought!)
But 2015 is looking promising… moving to an apartment closer to work and to the barn (and away from some of the anxiety-producing civil unrest) this month, traveling to NYC in February (yes, I will be freezing!), going to a really interesting conference in September. And hopefully moving up in my career.
If somethings’s not working, do something different. – Mia
That gem of a quote came from my riding instructor, in the middle of a so-so warm up for my lesson last night. And, of course, I had a great lesson after I took that concept to heart.
Because getting “stuck” – in a physical or emotional state, in a self-destructing pattern… is not good. I know I have the capability of getting myself un-stuck, and things are in the works that will make it so much easier for me to work towards those goals.
It’s okay to feel stuck, but it isn’t okay just to stay and get stagnant in that feeling. Because usually, one little action helps create a chain of reactions that are organic and right.
After getting myself and the horse unstuck, had a great ride complete with a wee bit of unintentional (huge-strides but fun!) canter. I love and respect what horses teach me.
Friday I had a great riding lesson on Cowboy, a 20-year-old Paint gelding I’ve ridden on and off for a few years. So happy I have the opportunity to ride him again, he’s in a great mental and physical place and is just content with life right now (yes, I’m anthropomorphizing). After having a dog with me all the time since February, I now unconsciously give the horses dog commands… But then again, my dog now responds to “clucks” so I guess it’s even!
Saturday I gave Cassius the opportunity to play in my aunt’s back yard, and it was great to see him have so much fun! He romped around and played a few minutes of fetch and a bunch of rolling around in the grass. Now that I saw how much he enjoyed that, I will try take him there periodically.
On Sunday, I helped with the CCI booth at Animals on Broadway, a huge dog event at a local shopping mall. It was nice to finally meet a bunch of people (and puppies!) from my chapter, as well as a few other graduates. Cassius did perfectly, I think he enjoys anything that involves meeting other well-behaved dogs and having people tell him he’s a good boy.
Next weekend I’m off to Ashland, Oregon to visit family. Strangely enough, Cassius has actually been there before (without me, obviously). I’m excited for our first non-CCI event, and to have Cassius meet the rest of my family.