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Its hard to believe that September has come and gone. With only a few months left to season I have kicked up in to high gear, my hip is doing well and is slowly getting better as I training longer and harder.
I currently train twice a day and I wanted to share some of the cross training that I am doing. In reality I will compete against people riding several horses a day so I am doing everything I can to be competitive. I ride Welmingh 6 days a week. Monday and Tuesday are typical training days, Wednesday is a lighter day, Thursday and Friday are challenging again and then Saturday is a hack where we train the extended walk, and its getting much better. I feel like the hack is a big mental piece for me as well in learning to trust my horse again in strange scenarios.
Now for the fun part, I train again in the evening and with access to a 24 hour gym there is no excuses. I run 5 or 6 days a week. I try for 6 but it doesnt always work out if my hip is sore. I am currently running 8 km or 5 miles each day and training to run the Disney Princess half marathon in February with my coach. I figure if Disney gives me a princess medal its official. I train upper body 2 times a week to balance out my lower body. I do abs 30 minutes 3 times a week and top that off with yoga once a week. When I run I often add in squat jumps and a tonne of walking lunges, my goal is to walk and lunge across the draw bridge, I can almost make it half way now. I have lost 5lbs and my goal is 20 before season so I am well on my way!
I guess thats probably the reason September has flown by. I am already feeling a difference in my riding and I am having some of the best rides of my life as my horse and I both get stronger together. Its amazing how refined our partnership and communication has become through our efforts. I am looking forward to the approach of the season!
Well, I think technically its a tropical storm, maybe it has become a Hurricane but all in all I am still getting used to all the excitement around Hurricane Isaac. A good friend of mine checked in this morning to see if I was getting “Isaaced” I am pretty sure in any other context that term would be followed up with a “giddy up” or a “giggidy giggidy”. In this case its followed with, yes I am getting Isaaced and no I dont like it. So far everything is just very wet. Which I guess is to be expected. Kim is making sure Welmingh doesnt float away and I am hunkered down at home. Watching the storm from my window. We are on the very edge of the mess and I am hoping that by tomorrow we might see the sun again. Its funny that in the winter up north being hunkered down at home for 3 days is not a big deal but in Florida it seems very foreign.
My hip is getting better. I have been doing my physio daily. Basically over the past 6 months my life has been very unsettled and I have not been in the gym as much, with the residual imbalance from my broken foot my hips are now not equally as strong. So getting them back to being even is my main focus right now. Lots of stretching and strengthening.
As for Welmingh he is getting stronger every day, he has finally started sweating more and we have been out hacking to develop a bigger and stronger walk. We are working on the zig zag for the Intermediare currently, that placement is a bit trickier than I expected it to be but he is a super star and very patience with me. Now we just need the rain to go away so I can get back in the saddle!
I started my ride today with my daily hack around the field, looking and the blue sky with a few fluffy clouds in it, as I took a deep breath to enjoy the smell of the tropical plants around me I cant help but believe that the perfect training environment can be created.
The weather in Florida has its challenges but so does everywhere else. No its not always perfect yet I never hear anybody complain. Now I would love to make this a post about the weather but I can assure you it is not. I have boarded a just a few barns throughout my riding career Always trying to find the perfect balance between coaching, horse care and other horse owners.
Today, I am happy and thankful to have found an environment that is almost a perfect balance. Often the politics of a barn can make even pony paradise miserable. I have never boarded with a group of people who are so genuinely happy for the success of others. In a positive learning environment, other coaches and riders has been positive in telling me when something looks awesome. They have also been supportive in helping me fix mistakes that I am making. Today I had a breakthrough in the self carriage of a half pass. In that moment as I checked out the mirror to see how awesome it looked, the other trainer at the stable to a brief second out of the lesson she was teaching to mention what a big change Welmingh had just made in his self carriage in that moment.
As any rider knows you can have moments of delightful feel but it is always nice to have it validated. Even more so by someone that you are not funding their pocket book.
Welmingh has made another big improvement over the past couple of weeks and a lot of people are noticing. I dont need my ego fed, but again the positive reinforcement is always nice when you are feeling like things are headed in the right direction.
Everybody gets along so well, and opinions are respected. Nothing catty or bad is ever said about anybody including other trainers or stables. My horse is happier and more vocal than he has ever been, Kim monitors his feeding program carefully and makes recommendations as she see’s fit. The grooms are great and never miss a thing. Especially when it comes to a white horse that I am pretty sure is cleaner than my white riding breeches. (How awkward if I had to show that horse!)
Everyone at our stable comes from the north “somewhere” and in having discussions about training environment it sounds like what I come from in Alberta is common across the board. I am happy to have landed in a place where the environment is right for learning and I can focus on doing my best with a support team of friends and riders who are all on my team!
Feel is often a mystical conception among dressage riders. Everybody has a different interpretation and preference. Since my feeling has come a very long way over the past 6 months I decided it was time to write about it.
I remember watching Anky’s half pas on Krack C and it almost appeared as though she didnt have any leg on her horse at all as he gallantly reached across stretching both legs to the max. Well I can say that I get it now.
When Welmingh arrived back from training he was so heavy in the hand that I could not even ride him in the snaffle. today I ride with mere ounces of contact in my reins. In order to do that, I have had to make Welmingh more accountable to my legs. He now responds to the leg with mere ounces of pressure as well. I am really enjoying the lightness of this ride. It enables me to carry my hands lower and for my aids to be completely effective and unnoticeable. The second he starts to get heavy again my hands rise up in order to balance the contact so its an indication that something is going on behind.
He is quieter in his mouth than he has ever been. I would imagine with limited pressure on the reins he is far more comfortable in his contact. The most amazing part of all of it is that he is carrying himself in true self carriage he is lifting from the shoulder when I apply a bit of leg, instead of burrowing into the contact. It is very much like night and day to ride. And quite exciting as he starts to develop a true extended trot for the first time.
I know that when I learned to ride dressage I was often told that I needed a heavier contact and the rule of thumb was 3 to 5 lbs. Today I am throwing out the rule book and riding my horse with lightness, feel and connection. And I LOVE it!
I posted a video of my ride last week. Sadly I still feel like I have so far to go to get where I want to be. It is funny however, how the universe tells you what you need to hear. My friend Maureen who was by my side through my concussion, and my journey in getting back on my horse. A true friend as far as I am concerned because I am fully aware that even my cat deemed me a bad person on a few days where the pain was intolerable. She watched the video and said he looks nice and relaxed. And the comment stuck with me, I thought, “Why would she say that? He is always relaxed. So random. Can’t she see how awesome his canter is? ” Well, the joke is on me.
Maureen is right. She is one of the few people that saw how he was going before he left. He was hot, tense and spooky. The tension was ruining the quality of the gaits and creating problems throughout the higher level movements. Before I left for Florida I had not yet ridden him on a long rein even in the arena when warming up and cooling him out.
So as I warmed up today in our 20 minute wander around the field on a long rein and a palm frong (palm tree branch) fell to the ground and I shortened my reins in anticipation of something bad happening, Welmingh continued to saunter along like this was no big deal. He has also become accustomed to large flocks of birds flying at head height. And other random animals.
So she was right. He is very relaxed. And sometimes I need to look back to appreciate how far we have come instead of obsessing about how far I have to go.
I havent posted a long post in a while so thought this would be a good time. For the first time in our partnership Welimingh is actually going better in the trot than the canter, thats progress I guess. The quality of the canter struggles with his balance and me expecting him to lift more through his shoulders in true self carriage. That will come with time. My biggest struggle this week has been that Susan asked me to lengthen my stirrups one hole. That means a quick adaptation is needed on my part in order to stay balanced. At first my lower left leg would not sit still. It drove me absolutely crazy to be so disconnected from my body.
A great friend of mine told me to close my eyes and ride it intuitively. So I sat in my bed and rode it. I feel like my balance is slightly more on my right seat bone than my left., when I addressed this with Susan today she suggested I am blocking through my hips somewhere. So the quick fix was to drop the weight in my left stirrup and open up and relax my pelvis and allow it to move with my horse. Today was better.
Susan says it takes 28 days to break a habit. I know that using sports psychology and visualization is as effective as riding itself. I am giving myself a week to be rid of this problem and back on track. I will keep you posted on who is right.
Changing to the new stable was a very good decision, they are very attentive with the care and have helped me with a lot of adaptation issues that have come up. Although the temperature has not gotten much hotter the humidity has certainly picked up. The other bonus to moving is having both Susan and Kim around as GP riders to bounce questions off of.
Its the first time in a long time that I have trained under a coach that is willing to help out or give advice when she is not under the clock. Such a novel and selfless concept. I was struggling with some canter pirouette exercises earlier this week and Susan was more than happy to offer a bit of advice, then we school it in the lesson. She is also willing to throw out a “that looks good” every once in a while as words of encouragement. I am very fortunate and happy to have found such a positive learning environment.
I am off to a “very special olympics party” this weekend with some very big names in the horse world. I am told there will be ridiculous games like the egg and spoon race (no horses) for all of us to play. With this crew it is bound to be the most competitive egg and spoon race the world has ever seen so I will try to get some video.
Now I just need to decide what kind of cake to make!