Broken Confidence

Just got home from my jumping lesson and I have to admit that my fall last week got to me more than I let on (even to myself). The lesson started much like it did last week with Winifred being a good little hunter going low and relaxed.

Things started to go downhill when as we went around a corner by the mounting block trainer closed her coffee cup lid which made a snap and after that Win was absolutely sure something was hiding in that corner waiting for the perfect time to jump out and eat him.

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We changed direction and suddenly the other end of the arena was a mine field. The funny thing is that is the clubhouse end and at the beginning of the lesson the barn dog was barking but by then she was silent. Normally his spook is to jump sideways and spin. We had a few of those and also two butt-tuck-under-then-jump-ups. He even did a “hopping” canter at one approach to that end to. Then he would relax down the long end then the scary mounting block monster would threaten. *Sigh*

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I thought that that things would be fine once we started jumping. While he gets super strong over fences he does get focused and scary things tend to fade away. We trotted the warm up X, well the front have of him did at least. Did it the other way and he definitely didn’t want to hit his legs again. Back and forth one more time fine then did the outside line. I like to force him to do the add in our warm up so we did a 6 SUPER easy and I relaxed but not one stride off the line he shot left. Not something he has ever done.

That run out brought up nerves I didn’t want to acknowledge that I had after the fall.  Part of me even wanted to tell my trainer that I was good for the night but I soldiered on. Our first course was going good until our last fence which was a long approach to a single. Win was building his canter stronger and stronger but I was holding my own. I saw my spot and it was the right spot but as he got stronger at the last second I gave in and ended up jumping ahead for the 2nd time ever on him (1st time ended in a face plant). This time ended up better because it was a single and not a triple but still not good. Second course was alright and I hit my spot on that fence but I am pretty sure I had a death grip on him.

This night (and last week) have got me completely rethinking my goals. Look, I know that many of you are jumping 3’, 4’, or giant cross country fences and probably think I am pathetic to question if I can do 2’6” but I didn’t grow up jumping. I did dressage and even a little western pleasure (shhhhhh don’t tell anyone!) and after my back surgery I know my mortality. Can I do this? Which yes, I am still confident that I can jump 2’6″ but can I do this on Winifred? I know that I can but am I good enough to handle a strong, spooky horse like Win?

Trainer and I discussed this after my lesson. She reminded me how confident I was at the clinic and how good we did over the solid jumps there. She reminded me that we have not jumped in a month (expect for last week) and that everyone loses confidence after a bad fall and that we did 20 jumps tonight and had 1 bad and 2 eh jumps. But of course all I am focusing on are the 3. Lastly, she pointed out that we have a schooling show in a couple of weeks and I can make some decisions then.

I thought I was fine but it is clear that I am now second guessing my distances. Anyone else ever feel this way, and if so, how did you get past it?

 

Face Plant

Saturday Winifred and I had a jumping lesson. As we went through the flat portion I was planning the title of this blog post. Winifred the Hunter! He was SO relaxed but not lazy. We even received a few “super” comments from trainer. Of course I still had my normal “your leg is too far back” comments as well but I am working on it and was overjoyed to have Win moving so nice and relaxed. So what happened?

We started jumping like normal just going back and forth over a trot fence. Trot fences are not his specialty but he looked and acted like a pro at them! Next we were asked to trot over a cavaletti, canter a broken line to an X, then around the corner to a triple (1 stride to a 1 stride). He did the cavaletti great but got a little stronger on the broken line which got an “easy” from trainer. He was not bad but getting stronger. He came of the X and decided he was having fun and got a little stronger still. Let me be clear though at no point was he out of control! We weren’t even going fast by any means he was just wanting to. One of the things that I know that he likes to do when he rides strong like that is to take the long spot and I sometimes get left behind. Saturday though I did something that I have NEVER done before on Winifred….. I jumped ahead. My only (flimsy) excuse is that I thought he was going to take the long spot but I should have known that he is too smart going into a triple to take the long spot. He slammed on the brakes and I launched over his neck.

I landed directly on my face. Thank God for helmets! I know that I landed right in front of him and got into a ball as fast as I could. He did end of stepping on my right hand but trainer said that he tried everything he could to avoid trampling me and jumped me instead. Once he cleared me he stood there until I got up then he decided to take a walk towards the hay cart. I guess he decided that I was fine and he deserved a snack. Lol.

I am not the best communicator when I am hurt so my behavior after worried my trainer. I got up but stumbled because both of my calf muscles cramped for a moment. Once I saw someone grab Winifred, I started walking across the arena. Since I was not talking yet everyone thought I was confused but in reality I was going to get the Kleenex out of my jacket to help with the blood. Trainer finally got me to sit down, as I am still looking around, I apparently looked very confused. Trainer asked if I could remember what happened to which I immediately stopped looking around, focused on her, and answered, “yes, I jumped ahead. I am just looking for a Kleenex.” This caused trainer and everyone to breathe a sigh of relief and laugh.

Trainer asked if I wanted to get back on but at that time I could not close my hand. My amazing friend LT walked with me up to the clubhouse and then went back to take Win back to the barn and untack. BO (who is also my other trainer) got me some ice and within a few minutes I was able to close my hand. All I could think that that point was that I needed to get back on! Luckily, I was able to catch LT before she untacked Winifred and brought him back to the arena. Trainer was happy to see that I wanted to literally get back on the horse! We did a trot fence to loosen back up then the original mini course. I was worried that Win would be nervous and maybe he was but his reaction was to take his time and went at a beautiful perfect pace. The entire time we came around the corner to the triple I could hear trainer, “sit up, sit up, sit up…..” I may have learned that lesson the hard way but damn it I think I won’t be doing that again!

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Really not a pretty picture of me but not too much damage done. (Why does my forehead look so big in this picture????)
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It is hard to see the swelling but it got pretty big later that night but all good now!
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Winifred: “That is the last time I let her pick the spot!”

Finnley Friday!

I am stealing an idea from Draft Mare who does Wynston Wednesday and I am starting Finnley Friday. You can also follow him on Instagram at Finnley.the.cata_whattt

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About time I got some respect around here!
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You are cooking that food for me right?!?!
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Yet another “very durable” toy dead. This lasted about 2 minutes.  So glad I spent $13 on it. 

Winter Woos

Can this winter be over already???? I know that I just posted on my clinic but that was back in mid-November. Recently the weather has been FRIGID and riding has been tough!

Luther

Luther has been enjoying what I am calling his winter of bareback! I have not actually put a saddle on him since October. In the last couple of weeks it has just been walking and maybe a little trotting because the weather has been below zero. He is just too stiff in this weather but he needs to get out and move a bit. It has warmed up a little today and I will be out to ride him. We may do a little canter but we shall see how he is feeling. Side note: my trainer saw me cantering him bareback for the first time a couple weeks ago and her response……. “You canter him bareback???? I would never trust him to do that….. but I mean good for you!” Told you he is Lucifer! Lol

Tried to do a nice photo shoot with him but he had other ideas. Oh Lu….

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Temper tantrum when I did not get his cookies to him quick enough

Winifred

Winifred has done a little more than Luther but not too much more. We have not been able to jump in a few weeks but we have done some flat work. Win needs to be in a steady program or else all of his pent up energy turns into nervous energy. Even though he has lived in our barn for 3 years his nervous energy makes the indoor seem like a house of horrors to him. This past week I rode him Monday and he was not terrible but Tuesday through Thursday was far too cold to ride. I did get him out for some hand walking and on Thursday I let him run around the indoor with my friend KD’s horse Charlie. Charlie is actually Luther’s pasture mate but I had a brain freeze and thought he was Winifred’s. Oops! The boys did great together though. I expected Winifred to be the crazy one but Charlie took on that roll. Charlie was running around with his tail straight up like an Arabian and would stop to do a guttural snort every so often. Lol! Win just followed him around a little distance behind him. The best part was watching Winifred jump on his own. Why was not I not videoing that?!?!

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Are we going to be friends????? YES!

I rode him on Friday and everything concerned him! For some reason his “concern” gets a lot worse going to the right. Saturday we did a flat lesson and he was phenomenal! He was totally relaxed and we went around on a nice loose rein then Sunday he went back to thinking that Pennywise was going to jump out and get him. Oh Win……

Since we aren’t doing much we have been focusing on lateral movement and transitions. His transitions up are great but his downward transitions need a lot of work. This boy just wants to canter, canter, canter! He has been doing good with this lateral movement except for Sunday for some reason. We have been doing lots of circles including spiraling in and out, moving off the wall then back to it, just going around with his head in or out, and walking triangles. Always open to any other ideas if anyone has any. I have been way too lazy to dissemble jumps to do our ground pole exercise since I would then have to reassemble them and nobody wants to do that in this cold!

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How does this happen????

Finnley

This cold has really been affecting Finnley too. He is already a SUPER energetic dog and that is with regular bike riding. It has been too dangerous to spend too much time outside even with his coat on but I have forced myself to take him out for a little bit when it was safe. He has gone on a couple of short walks and has gotten to play with his friends Gus and Cleo. Our barn owner was so nice and let us bring the three of them into the indoor when it was empty. They had so much fun and even jumped a few of the jumps! Finn got to meet the new barn dog Gypsy. She is a super cute beagle basset hound mix. She was not too sure of him at first but it was a little overwhelming to her to have 3 new dogs on her turf looking to meet her. Once we walked her and Finn together away from everyone they settled down and it seems like they are going to be friends. 🙂

Frozen whiskers!

 

Clinic

 

Every year our barn hosts a clinic with professional trainer Mark Leone. I have audited the clinic for a few years now but due to various factors I was never able to ride in it. You have no idea how incredibly excited I was when my trainer said that I could participate this year!!! You also have no idea how nervous I was! It has been about month now since the clinic but I still wanted to record my experience so I can live it over and over. Lol.

The clinic is two days with a two hour session each day. Since I have show goals for the 2’6” division that is the group that I was put in. My group included some of my best friends which made the whole experience even greater.

Part of my nerves were the nerves of Winifred. Winifred is a phenomenal horse and I know that I can trust him over fences but he is not the calmest of horses. I had seen him at shows so I knew how he could be and that was with a little Perfect Prep in his system. I decided to be brave and not give him any calming supplement. I thought that this would be a good chance for me to see just how bad he could be and if I could handle him at a show.

Day One

We started our first session by gathering and giving a little background on ourselves and horses. Win could not bring himself to stand still so we just walked tiny circles as we informed Mark that while we planned on showing in the hunter division I knew the horse I had and therefore I was only looking to hopefully be competitive in the equitation ring. (FYI I was quite dizzy by the time we finished our pow wow.)

Once we were done talking it was time to impress Mark. Too bad I almost fell off in the FIRST 30 SECONDS!!! We had just picked up the trot (maybe 5 steps in to it) and someone in the clubhouse moved scaring the shit out of Win. He did his signature move of jumping down and sideways which had me hanging from his neck. My only saving grace was when he went to spin there was a jump in his way so in the 2 seconds that it took for him to realize this I was able to get back in the saddle and ahold of his mouth before he tried to bolt again. What can I say we know how to make an impression!

Winifred never fully calmed down like our normal rides. Not only did we have lots of people in the clubhouse moving around but Win was sure that the people sitting in the corner of the arena were going to jump up and attack him at any moment as well. If I have to pick a silver lining of this incident it would be that I never felt over looked by Mark who throughout the whole session repeatedly asked me if I was ok. Lol. This actually did lead a great compliment from Mark. He said that he kept asking me because I looked “cool as a cucumber” and told my trainer that I was the right rider for that horse. He even commented to the group that “when you have a nervous horse like the big guy you want to react like Rachel, in that she isn’t making a big fuss about it and just supports him in the areas she knows he is extra anxious.” All I could think was holy shit Mark just gave me an incredible compliment and holy shit am I a great actress because on the inside I was panicking!

The other silver lining in Winifred’s behavior is that I know that I can handle him when he gets like that. I have worried about how he is going to behave at shows and I have a bit more confidence that I can handle him.

We did some general flat work and then some really fun ground pole work. It was a simplistic exercise but SUPER valuable! He placed 3 poles and instead of just varying our canter strides through them (which is a valuable exercise too) we changed gaits. For example sometimes we trotted in, cantered the 2nd, and trotted out, other times we would canter in trot out over both, or canter in, trot the 2nd and 3rd, etc. Like I said simplistic but not something I have ever done before and since downward transitions is something that Win and I need to work on it was a great new exercise. Win does not like to come down to a nice trot from the canter and it was even worse when he thought that he knew we should be cantering. I love any exercise that changes the norm to keep him on his toes and thinking.

Now to the fun stuff…….. JUMPING! The first day to warm up we did a trot in gymnastic of X, one stride to another X. Simple right? My timing was totally thrown off though by the trot pole before the jump. I have not “used” one in years. Third time was the charm though.

Then we moved on to courses. Like the ground poles we worked on transitions at different times. Once he is moving Winifred does not like to slow down let alone come to the trot! We also had 2 lines set up, one of which was a 7 stride and the other was a 2 to a 4. Win’s MO is to grab the bit and drop strides but I had been able to get the right strides with him always…… until that day. We ended up doing a 6 down the 7 line and then a 2 to 3 instead of 2 to 4. Those videos are below. What I do not have are videos of us once I put my big girl panties on and took control of him. My BO later told me that when she saw the 2 to 4 line set up her first thought was Win will never get 4 strides in there so when I did it she was impressed and even more rewarding was Mark shouting “now you’re riding!” Wish I had that on video!

 

Day Two

Win came out slightly less psycho but still on edge. We did similar flat so I will go straight to jumping. Man do I wish we always had our jumps set up like this!!!

Clinic Course

The little pin wheel of jumps was great and gave us so many course options! The was also a line with a 4 stride to a 4 stride but depending on which way you jumped in it was either a long 4 to a short 4 or a short 4 to a long 4. I was so happy because we made the right strides each time. Oh and let me tell you about the straw bales jump!!! It was two straw bales stacked by two straw bales wide. On the flat Win thought it was going to eat him but he had no hesitation jumping it! (I know it is tiny for some of you out there but this was the a solid jump for me.) But it definitely was not all sunshine and rainbows! I got scolded for pulling out of a line and let me tell you I deserved it. The course started with the yellow oxer to the straw bales to the green oxer. The yellow oxer was fine but I got left behind over the straw bales and instead of going on to the green oxer I pulled him up and asked if I could do it again. Mark was upset and reminded me that things don’t always go perfect and there was nothing unsafe about me continuing on. He was of course right and I took my “tongue lashing”, really it’s not like he was yelling at me but knowing that the reason I pulled out was because I wanted a pretty picture going over that fence really made me feel like an ass. Funny thing is that no one was even videoing me at that moment. I also had a couple of times that I went off course at least one of them Mark liked my version and changed his course to that.

 

This was such a great confidence builder and I learned a lot of new exercises that Winifred and I can work on to better ourselves.

Things to work on

  1. Downward transitions
  2. Reduce anxiety (on both of our parts!)
  3. Being able to control and vary our stride lengths
  4. Keeping my heels down over bigger fences
  5. Not letting my leg slip back
  6. Releasing better over fences when Win in a run-away-with-me mood
  7. Staying up with him when he takes the long spot

2018 Goals (Real original, I know)

Goals, goals, goals……. Everyone is posting about their goals and I need to evaluate what I want out of 2018. As you know from my previous post my trainer set a showing goal for me but I need to think about some other personal goals. I know that this is a blog about horses but there are no horses without being healthy. I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. It attacks my glands and specifically it has been decimating my thyroid the last 2 years. I have put on MANY MANY pounds in the last 2 years. I get my thyroid tested every 6 months and last month it was at its lowest level ever. I have tried everything from Weight Watchers, My Fitness Pal, and everything in between without any weight loss or any more energy. I am currently on Day 2 of Whole 30 and of course I have weight loss goals but I also have non-scale victories. Ok this is supposed to be about 2018 goals but I feel like I needed to give some background.

 

  1. Lose 50 lbs
  2. Reduce my rosacea
  3. Improve flexibility
  4. Handle stress better
  5. Exercise 3 days a week
  6. Blog twice a month
  7. Keep my back healthy and strong
  8. Get Finnley’s jumping on people under control!
  9. Don’t totally embarrass myself at a show
  10. Qualify for medal finals
  11. Scared to write this one but trainer set it…… Be in the ride off for medal finals
  12. ***After looking in my closet I am adding finishing scrap booking for the following trips:
    1. Budapest
    2. Vienna
    3. Prague
    4. Hong Kong
    5. Stretch goal start Shanghai
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He is so cute!