Posts tagged: fitness

Low Key

We had a pretty mediocre lesson after my last post. I’ve been frustrated with my riding lately, torn on what I should be doing, second-guessing, third-guessing, fourth-guessing… So I’ve used this little holiday time to try to reset, to back off him and myself. I know I’m probably not pushing hard enough, but my gut says to keep things quiet and easy and positive. I don’t think we’ll be having any big breakthroughs, and certainly not fast, but I also won’t be leaving the barn in tears.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I went out to see him midday. It was so fun and refreshing to be out there while it was still light out! Friday I warmed him up forward and loose, then worked on steady contact and bending. He felt great — better than the last couple weeks for sure. A few canter poles were his reward at the end of the ride — and some two-point work at the trot was mine. (Trying to keep my fitness/balance resolution!) Saturday I trace clipped him. I’ve learned from past experience that neither of us has the patience to do a ride and a clip in the same day. Definitely the right call: someone snuck him a treat while I was vacuuming him, and he was pretty incorrigible after that. He’s overall a good (and unflappable) boy and stood fairly well for the clip, but it’s really hard to do anything from the shoulder forward while he’s trying to jam his nose into the clippers, or my hands, or hair, or whatever’s in reach, and begging from passersby… Sunday we had another ride focusing on simple contact and bending, with some trot poles thrown in. Another woman at my barn has a horse built just like Poe (chestnut too — we always joke about doing a pas de duex), so every time we put the trot poles further apart to try to make them stretch we were laughing about how easily and ho-hum they trotted through. We ended with the poles 5 feet apart, which didn’t feel like much work for either of them. Good ponies!

Here are Poe and his pasture buddy coming to look for treats. I love that he comes to me — it’s going to be so nice once the snow’s flying!

first time for everything

We had our first outing of the season on the 11th: a derby over at Steepleview. It’s kind of a cross-country stadium hybrid, and we ran it last September. Then he was a little sticky then but went over everything, and I was super proud of him:

You can see me pulling him back to the trot after the second fence. The ground was very slick: two horses before me wiped out on the turn between the second and third fences, and there was another fall in warm-up. You can see he was a little leery actually going over the ditch, but I think he’d committed to it before he realized how deep it was? I don’t really remember — the moment didn’t stick out in my mind at all when we were on course. I remember the whole thing felt very uneven; we never settled into a rhythm.

Similar story this year, but worse. He’s been schooling so well at home, and we ended the season so strongly last fall, that it was strange to be sitting on him feeling so incredibly backed-off. I was really proud of him through the water, but everything else felt more or less like a disaster — particularly the ditch, where I took my first tumble off him. I had to fight him a little for the trot before it; I was ready for him to take a good damn look at it and had my leg on. It felt like he was going to go, but at the last second he dropped his head and spun to the side and bounced me right off. Stupid fall — at least I landed pretty lightly! (Didn’t get the whole thing on video unfortunately.)

The video doesn’t have the first three fences on course (I was the first in my division, and they didn’t make an announcement that I was starting) — Poe took a look at them but went. Honestly the whole thing felt a lot worse than it looks (including the drive-by on the ramp; I thought about circling to re-do it, but just was not up for another fight).

So, it was a pretty disappointing day. I left feeling discouraged and unprepared to compete: the XC was a disaster, our dressage lessons at home usually feel like monumental struggles, and our stadium is a mess. I’m still feeling pretty fragile in my personal life, and I need this to be fun. So I have mentally wiped the rest of this year’s competition calendar. We’re going to go school a couple places, see if we can get our groove back, and reassess after that.

Yesterday I took him out in the back field for a little fitness work. I want to start doing trot sets but didn’t have my mp3 player ready, so I thought we’d just do a little introduction, make sure he hadn’t decided everything out there’s going to eat him. He was pretty excited to be out and very, very forward. When I first asked him to canter, he decided that meant he got to gallop at any old speed he pleased — so we had a few discussions about that. He came around to my way of thinking, more or less, and finished his work a happy, sweaty mess.

So much of our work lately has left me feeling like a failure, but just being around him is still pretty damned awesome. He’s been especially cuddly the last few months, so sometimes we just stand for ages with our faces pressed together, or breathing into each other’s noses, and there is nothing else on earth like that feeling. When I am going out to get him I always sing his name as I round the corner, and it’s a beautiful thing to see his face poke out of the shed, ears pricked, before he walks over to say hi.

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