Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Lesson #189: Switch Up

The lesson on Saturday consisted of just me and +ADW puttering around the indoor. He got this idea to switch things up. Which isn't a bad idea as I have ridden Ariel pretty consistently and don't really get on any other horse. And of all the horses to do this with too, Molson. Not a bad idea. I've ridden Molson just once previously and I did so in the dressage saddle. ADW rode another pony named Angel once but the pairing was... awkward.

I hopped on all of the 16hh or so and ADW got on all of Ariel's short stubby 15.1 or 2 hh. He giggled and said he hasn't gotten on such a small horse since he started learning at the previous school. Ariel also has a short little neck so there is even less horse underneath you! The most noticeable difference is in the amount of contact that Molson demands of his rider. Ariel is most content with maybe 1-3 lbs of contact but Molson can take upwards of 20lbs. Talk about a big difference to adjust right at the get go.

We start the lesson with trotting and then canter. Molson's canter is bigger and is just different and I need to consistently take more contact so he knows what is being asked of him. There were moments that my contact would just disappear because he pulled me forward so I have to focus on maintaining that contact or he'd pull me down in the corners. I have never had to give more contact than Saturday. Not only do I have to consistently sit up and maintain the contact while encouraging him forward, I needed to remember that the falling on the forehand is a gradual process.

I was nervous, needless to say. But, J has a bunch of confidence in our abilities and the opportunity to try something different led to him say "let's jump this". I wasn't feeling  hot about the idea since I was struggling with the contact thing and fighting one of my biggest issues: leaning forward into the fetal position. Riding Molson brought a lot of attention to that fault of mine. We went over one nice low X jump at the trot and my pace was crawling so much that by the time he reached the base of the jump, he was practically at a stand-still and took off anyway. I am impressed I didn't go flying off. Sitting up REALLY does do wonders. We tried it several more times and each time I had to consciously make the effort to keep sitting up and thinking "we're going up hill" with the increased contact. He also has a reputation to power up just before the jump and that's just one more thing to consider and take into account. Riding him literally feels like you're riding a rocker launcher that pulls you forward. My two point didn't feel like a two point since I felt simply like I was sitting up... but I think it might have been the start to addressing some of my issues and gives me an idea of what I should be doing.

ADW on the other hand was puttering around on Ariel and he got the opportunity not to have to deal with the heavy forehand and the powering up towards the jump. They did really well too! He has the opposite problem from me where he has to reduce the contact BUT maintain the light contact which I find trickier than the opposite. It's easy to lose that contact or jossle the reins and that too, annoys Ariel. LOL.

That said though, Molson wasn't a big fan of me and did give me a few disagreements with his ears turned back and his shaking his head a few times. Perhaps another time I'll see how things go... it was a good change up that required each of us to change the approach we're used to.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Lesson #188: Baby's Got Her Grove Back

The last few weeks have turned my brief success into a distant memory. It's as if things were regressing and I had no control of what was happening. But this ride on Thursday was right on. I was in a lesson with 2 students: both skilled riders and young so there is a certain level of intimidation but I have ridden with both before so I just said whatever. Besides, I'm shorter than one of the girls so... LOL.

I get the impression that it's going to be a pretty intense lesson with few breaks. I'm right... the warm up consisted of a proper posting trot going around. Then, we dropped stirrups. Once we changed direction and then went at it a few times, we were asked ... canter. Me? Surely you must mean the other two? Nope, me too. I chickened out said I wasn't feeling confident about that and pulled my stirrups back. In hindsight, I probably should have just said whatever but like I said, I've been having more and more doubts with my own ability and I'm finding that a lot of this sport has to do with one's confidence in their ability rather than actual ability... hold on. Not to say that you should go running out there to do whatever but your instructor is on the ground and has been watching you ride for a while... they know what you're capable of so they're not going to ask you to do something you're uncomfortable with. It's all in my head, I think.

I pushed Ariel to canter the rounds (with stirrups) and we just trucked around in pretty good form. Next, we're asked to take jumps one at a time building them into a course of 3-4 jumps. I got as far as taking a nice low vertical and then another vertical with a little gate underneath, a 2'6" lattice jump that was on the narrow side and finally, another vertical with skids underneath! I GOT OVER!! The entire course was done at a canter too and while my biggest weakness continues to be clenching into the fetal position and getting on Ariel's forehand, it wasn't all that bad! I felt in control and my position was (for the most part) not too shabby.

Sheri said that despite the usual shortcomings I've consistently been struggling with, I got over the course just fine and I looked way more relaxed than in the past little while. Things do feel great and I'm really excited to progress and hopefully get back on track!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Time to Shake Things Up

I wanted to get this news out sooner but with fluctuating events in my personal life, I am a bit delayed. I also have been feeling like I've been living in a fog. In the past, when met with a snarky comment, I was capable of quickly throwing something equally (often, more :P) witty and cunning. But slowly, I have less and less to say and felt less and less motivated to do much of anything (on all fronts). I've mentioned I've been struggling with my work life for a little while now and without going into detail, I have quit.

That's right folks, I'm voluntarily unemployed.

It's the best time for me to re-focus and evaluate where I want to be. I won't be unemployed long though... the thought of being unemployed makes me incredibly uncomfortable even though there is honestly nothing I'd want more, than to win the lotto,stop working and do whatever I felt like. Depending on my other half is not winning the lotto, in my opinion.

This turn of events arrives at a very fitting time because I'll be starting my work departure with a break in Calgary: I am going to Calgary Stampede. Hooyeah!!

A rider flies the stampede flag before a rodeo.
Check out the full post of the 2013 event, following the floods

We didn't originally plan for things to work out this way and my conversation about stampede happened several weeks previously. That said though, Stampede is an exciting event I have been thinking about in the past so when I got the call... I was particularly receptive: a call from +ADW a few months ago... "What do you think about Calgary Stampede? ... k cool. I'm going for work. ... okok calm down. I am trying to ask if you want to come too". Which the conversation ended with me squealing in delight.

The events we have planned, include a rodeo, chuck wagon race, cowboy for a day in Banff and lots of over indulgence at the food trucks/stands. It's probably exactly what I need, to get refreshed and ready for the next chapter of my life.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lessons #186 & 187: A cumulation of events

This post will be short since not a lot has been going on, in lessons. My Thursday night lesson was pretty much all flat work with me working on getting Ariel to canter and doing the trot and just focusing on position. In short, it was merely a lesson that I spent focusing on keeping me in check. But, I have been really tired lately that things are falling a bit on the wayside, even during lessons.

My Saturday ride was equally unexciting in terms of the lesson itself. I spent it puttering around on the flat and trying to maintain flexion with Ariel. She was being particularly cranky and bossy this lesson so I spent the better part of it getting her to listen to me. I know she's been testing me for weeks now. The end of this lesson was way messy. I have been expecting another event like this to happen though; Ariel took over and just ignored me and wouldn't listen to me at all. It was awful. And, if I wasn't as tired and just out of sorts, I would have probably been more embarrassed. It got to the point where Sheri had to come out to get Ariel into the arena again, after she refused my aids and decided she'd rather return to the stable. *mortified*

We all know this mare is very dominant and she is constantly testing things to see when she can surpass me, in our relationship. This seems to happen every few weeks so I know I have to be way more consistently diligent about getting what I want. "Ride through it" is my new motto. Even if that means I get unseated or otherwise. Better than letting her win, in this case.

She even flipped me the bird when I was returning her to her paddock. *siiiigh*

P.s. I have not forgotten about the "news"! Things are in flux sooner than I expected so I haven't gotten around to putting it out there. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mid-year Goals Review: I'm my own worst enemy

A few other (horsey) bloggers have done a review of their goals around this time and it makes sense since I'm also doing my performance review at work. You'll recall that the goals I set out for 2015 were listed in this post. There was a combination of personal, kitty, riding and reading. For a bit, I wasn't confident that I'd make what I wanted to accomplish. I was having challenges at work and I was starting to feel really overwhelmed with all the things that I had to do, outside of the goals I set for myself here just to maintain some sort of order in my personal life. I'm fortunate that +ADW (and my parents to a degree, since I try not to worry them and keep most to myself) is supportive and (mostly) patient of my frustrations and personal tribulations and I have amazing friends who commiserate with me when I need a moment (or two).

Let's get right into it, shall we?


  • Finish all my "stuff" half an hour before I intend for bed--10:30pm bed time! (hopefully my caffeine habit will reduce too!)
    This hasn't REALLY happened b/c I am a night owl. But, I have been trying to just go to bed the minute I'm tired. I mitigate things by getting prepared by 10pm and then seeing when I wanna keel over for the evening.
  • Getting active daily (by week), minimum: yoga twice, cycling once, cardio once, get off 1 stop earlier to walk home
    I have not tried hard enough. At the risk of making excuses, I have been struggling with work so I've been distracted; but, it's June now (not cool). I will start getting off a stop earlier twice a week this week and do my yoga stretches (maybe not the full session?) twice as well.
  • Complete a preliminary project management course
    So this is on like right now... but I might need to postpone with all the other things that have taken priority.
  • Complete my Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt
    In process. I am going to make it my goal to have the exam successfully completed by July 20th.
  • Study and successfully pass the MCAT
    This doesn't seem necessary any more... but I have to double check to be certain.
  • Be on time for stuff
    I'm doing pretty well for this one!
  • Make more of an effort to get out with friends
    This one is one of the easier ones... and I've done some "clean up" too.
  • Limit Facebook time to once a day, 20 minutes (this one is tough b/c I love procrastinating!)
    I think I average 20 minutes daily. I'm going to continue to be more direct and specific here so I can bring it to 10 minutes.
  • Maintain a regular blogging schedule so I can aim to have a minimum of 10 posts per month
    I'm all over the place with this one. I have had good months and not so good months. That said though, sometimes it's simply a lack of subjects to post about. I'd say I'm doing well so far.
  • Decorate my new home by finding spots for all photos or other images
    I have started. I suspect this will be a long-term work in progress.
  • For my piano, improve enough to get to grade 4 by end of year and perfect the Christmas tunes I've been practising for the last 2 years (only around the holidays!)
    I am not being realistic, based on the current trend. My teacher is treating me like I am doing this for the first time (that's not bad, but not moving fast enough since it's not enough of a challenge sometimes). That said, I'm an adult student so I can do whatever I want. I'm going to see to make some amendments to this and see if I can at least be plowing through grade 3 by year end.
  • Complete 2 more speeches in my Toastmasters ACB set
    This has taken a major stall. My office location has really limited me to be able to complete this. I have looked up after work sessions near home (to no avail) and nothing is nearby (no open clubs anyway). I will be looking for alternative ways to continue to practice my speaking and communication skills (see practice for job interviews ;) )


  • Clicker train Stanley in the basics and ensure he comes when called
    For the most part, he comes when I call him. But without consistency. Good start so far. We'll be working on refinement.
  • Set-up the ultimate cat-terrium indoors
    This project has sort of exploded... I will be pushing updates into our sun room to accommodate this so that the boys can go into the room on their own and stare outside. Windows have been opened so that has been a good start. We also are dealing with a community cat issue so I don't know how far along this will get. Getting things done in the house is correlated with the decorating so I feel this will take time. In the meantime, they are all over and have 2 trees, allowed on all tables and counter-tops and Bucky's bed is by a window.
  • Get Stanley to wear a collar without ripping it off


  • Ride every moment of a lesson with intention--don't waste time
    I'm doing pretty well here. Even on days I'm kind of tired, I push myself to get through the burn and keep going.
  • Communicate with half halts for transitions consistently to reduce that ear pinning and tail swishing
    Good progress here too--especially at gait transitions. Need to translate to other tasks/asks.
  • Participate at one adult show at Touch N Go Farms - Adult Schooling Series (not aiming to place--just get over nerves and gain ability)
    My first goal to getting there was to successfully ride courses of 2'3" before I even attempted anything further. With the way things have been going on in other aspects of my life, this goal might need to be postponed to next year. But I will continue to push forward.
  • Improve my hip/seat flexibility and overall fitness so I reduce/eliminate my physical short comings
    Related to my fitness goals... not really improving at this time.


  • Finish the reading list proposed from 2014 within 12 months
    To be determined but things aren't looking great right now :|
  • Read as many of those books as possible, through paper based books as opposed to electronic
    No problems here!
  • Pick up a few "non typical" Deb books and incorporate into 2015 or 2016
    I have met a major bookworm so I assume this will be no problem!

Overall, this has been a struggle for me on the personal side of things. To be fair to myself though, a lot has been happening that I have been working through that I won't get into here b/c you never know who reads these things. But those who know, know it's a real pain in the arse and it's just on me to change things. I have to want it though... you know? I gotta be hungry for the change and act on it every.single.moment.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with this image of my beloved baby Stanley doing what he does best: looking oh so cute.

He's seriously THIS CUTE all the time. It's hard to say no...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lesson #185: Canter Woes

The last lesson I had, we discovered that the saddle I'm using is not well suited for my strange body. That said, it is not going to break my learning trend so I haven't really looked seriously into getting a saddle. In the meantime, I tried a schooling 17 inch saddle to see if it was better. The primary consensus is that I am not struggling with the same pommel issues I was, with the 16.5. But, that doesn't mean that the saddle is necessarily fit better for me. I'm not sure if maybe the height of the pommel is simply the problem because there really isn't much else that seems to bother me. Sheri also said that saddles can be customized quite a bit so it is possible that the "ready to wear" sizing that is generally available isn't the problem.

For now, I'll sort out stuff with either the 16.5 or 17 depending on which is available. As a few readers mentioned, as long as it fits the mount, then the rider can probably make do with whatever is available since lessons usually range 45-60 minutes at twice a week so it's not THAT much. My conclusion is simply to continue with what I have but if something amazing comes by, I'll consider it.

Back to the lesson.

We sort out a pole course again. +ADW said he found it helpful to sort out distance and whatnot since Molson treats poles as jumps. LOLOLOL. I was initially told to add in a wall jump at the end. I figured it should be fine but I spent so much time trying to sort out the stupid canter with Ariel that it just never materialized. We only managed to get through the lesson over the poles because I was all over the place and having difficulty to get that mare to canter. It was so incredibly frustrating b/c I haven't had issues in a while now and I'm not a newbie any more. Because I struggled to get her going, my lower legs were everywhere and it created other issues up top. I was SO FRUSTRATED.

As usual, that frustration was probably translated over and that also contributed to the issue. I did manage the course a few times but it felt completely out of control, again. I hate that feeling that Ariel is going way too fast for me to keep up. But that's exactly it, eh? I am trying to keep up when I should be the one dictating our lesson.

It was pretty sucky that it didn't go too well but life goes on, right? Plus I've got some exciting news for y'all, soon!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Lesson #184: Saddles

Lately, I've been having a good experience with Ariel in the paddocks. She comes towards me when I arrive and call her. She isn't ignoring me like she has done in the past and best, she isn't trying to turn tail and run the other way! She had her feet done though, so she was a bit sore and getting her to do anything was a full effort. And I am way out of shape. But we all already knew that.

The warm up was really challenging because I was trying to keep her straight, in the arena and willing to walk over the water puddle. She was completely difficult and being crabby about it all. She's just feeling a little toe sore so no jumping (phew) and working on my position, says Sheri. Easier said than done, my friends!! This was definitely a challenge for me to accomplish all that, and keep focused on where I wanted to go. Needless to say, we were pretty messy up there.

Eventually we got into the canter and what I was asked to do is go into a half seat and just ride her like I'm a racing jockey. Round and round we go! She wanted to slow down but I said "no way. We continue to go". It was not easy and it's the first time I have had to really push her to move forward. It's something I haven't had to deal with, with Ariel, like ever. I was most certainly huffing and puffing.

Deb sure was insistent tonight. But I got the better of her a few times!--Ariel 

Our last exercise was trotting around without stirrups. I have definitely been handsy with Ariel but she was being difficult! The aim here? Flow together like we're dancing. I am sure it was less of a flowing ballroom dance and more of a jerky Elaine dance. I was told to let go with my knees (gripping), readjust my lower leg position so I wasn't leaning forward, pulsating squeezes to encourage forward movement. In all that effort, we discovered that the saddle is probably too small for me.

I am on my way to becoming sucked into this whole thing (as if I wasn't already drinking the koolaid!) and turning into a tack whore. Okay that's not entirely true. But I always said, I'm not going to get a saddle unless I own a horse. I started out getting all decked out in the appropriate riding gear. I still wear regular tshirts and such but breeches I have and a helmet and riding gloves for all seasons. Then I moved onwards... to saddle pads and a bridle. Now I have started to consider a saddle!

Our conversations about saddles was typically just in passing. I always thought that as long as it fits the horse and it is generally good for riders, we're good. Wrong. No wonder this is such an expensive sport... the saddle must fit both team members for optimal efficiency. I sort of always thought that and I found out that one of the reasons I tend to lean forward is because of the saddle!! Yes, it's not an absolute explanation but it certainly does contribute to things. And those tough as nails types would say, just suck it up. A good rider can ride without a saddle (that's true) so just learn to ride without one!

We'll look into this a bit more.. in case any readers in the Ontario area might know of a suitable saddle, I'm looking for a medium tree with a size of 17 or so with a lower pommel. For those saddle whores out there, you probably know WAY more so feel free to add details and comment! I certainly don't claim to be an expert of any nature about this stuff!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lesson #183: Same Old Tune

Saturday's lesson was an extension of what we were doing on Thursday. I needed to work on getting the right position over jumps and just keep riding things through, as I should. I have to admit, I didn't wake up feeling my peachiest. Some part of me wanted to stay in bed and just lie there but I knew I would have a better time going out.

Another one of the seasoned students rides with us and she's good... because she used to ride this cheeky thoroughbred that would try and pull all sorts of antics and she learned to ride him well... because she was the only one riding him! Now she rides a giant Trakhener who's got his own issues but she knows exactly what she needs to do, to keep him in check too. Needless to say, it's both intimidating and inspiring to ride with someone like her.

Today is a stiff day and we notice it because J decides to point it out. My butt is able to stay closer to the saddle but there isn't that "swing" in my lower back when we canter. It's the same thing Sheri said last time when she said that my upper body moves too much and the only part of my body that should be moving in the canter is the seat.

The exercises today are riding a non-course course. I have no idea about the proper name for this exercise but the course was set up and the difference was the poles were ground pole instead of jumps. This got us to practice our ride in and out because (why?) nothing changes over jumps. So riding it flat should translate just fine to a jump. Let me tell you... what trouble I had!! I couldn't get Ariel to start up on the canter when I wanted her to, or I couldn't keep her at it. It was a miserable session that I tried again and again. One of the major issues was definitely that I was leaning forward when asking for the canter depart (which is totally NOT what you're supposed to do!) and so all it became was a speedy trot that got me bouncing around and totally discombobulated.

I did persist though, and got through the course each time, even if it was messy and not ideal. That said, at least I know what my mistakes were. I just need to eliminate the physical barriers that hold me back. It's not really mental anymore, for me. The jumps we do are not "scary" like they used to be and I don't freak out like I used to but, my physical limitations are what's keeping me back. Not a big surprise there but I gotta push in some time to work on that so I can continue to move forward.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Lesson #182: There's Always Something That Works Out

My Thursday lessons are typically jumping lessons. It was a good opportunity for me to practice more. I rode Ariel with the same intent that I told myself to have, when warming up and insisted on straightness at the trot. It was not easy because for whatever reason, while tracking right, she did a little bit of a counter bend that I felt like I was constantly pushing back into a straight line.

When we worked on the canter, I remembered a post I read earlier that week, about the sequence of aids to initiate the canter depart. It's a bit tricky for me because I generally don't sit back enough and my weight being on Ariel's front makes it difficult for her to spring up and forward. So this time, I told myself, half halt then lean back and proceed with the other aids. The transition was flawless and smooth. I managed to get this twice during the lesson and I felt awesome about myself.

The lesson is otherwise relatively straight forward in that we continued to the canter after warming up and then went to work on some courses. I kept it simple and just went with the Xs because I didn't feel that I was in the right shape to attempt more. It was a short course of 3 or 4 jumps and that's fine by me! It's funny because my consistency with jumps is and isn't there. What do I mean? When I was doing the course, I would seem to consistently have the same trouble with the same jump or the same corner. I should know better the second time and appropriately make adjustments so that it doesn't happen again. But for whatever reason, I was making the same mistakes again.

I did manage to canter this little course and to me, that progress is just fine. Some of those jumps were clean as a whistle and we both sailed right over and others were a mess. One mishap happened when we broke stride and I had difficulty getting Ariel back into the canter to complete the course. Sheri reminded me that when showing, I need to remember that a rider has a limited opportunity to pull themselves back together: circle twice and you better be moving again or you're OUTTA THERE. They really don't mess around! Good thing that wasn't a show and I'm just working on getting myself together.

Since most of the jumps were coming together in a reasonable fashion with minor mishaps, Sheri added in a single vertical jump and told me to take it at the end of the course coming towards home. That didn't go as I planned but I did make it over. My body is still sorting itself out in terms of figuring out where it needs to be, during the two point over. I'm sure that it'll come... I just need more practice with the verticals on a consistent basis to get the right feel.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clicker Games

Those of you who've been following along for a longer time know that I clicker trained my big cat Buckingham. My rational for training him was to ensure that I could get him back to me if there was an instance where he dashes out the door. This cat is the cat that has been the recipient for all my new fangled dedication (or obsession... call it as you will :P) with doing better than the last.

Some background... my family had two cats (you'll see them in the "In Memory" section on the right hand column) that we lost too early due to what I would consider, avoidable illnesses. The elder, we put down because of her advanced state of cardiomyopathy--something we were expecting at some point but were still happy she managed to tough it out for as long as she did; she was the one who got me hooked on the feline species. Then there was my parents' favourite and my rival sibling whom I spent his life at some sort of odds until the end where we did make peace before he left us too.

Even reflecting about it now, I still get really sad and there is not a day that I don't think about them. When Buck unexpectedly appeared in my backyard after a long mourning period and wondering if I could ever let another cat back into my heart, I knew that (it sounds a bit nutty) he was brought to me to try again.

For a year, Bucky became my project cat and I worked really diligently at learning to communicate with him and understanding what his needs are. My mom would tell you that the two of us are probably inseparable and the best of friends. Without much further ado, I post the game we play in the back yard where he disappears into the bush and I would call him back out.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Lesson #181: Straightness

We moved indoors after it started raining and focused on straightness. Ariel is the least straight horse, ever. She does all sorts of counter flexing/bending or no bending because she's just like that. I always have to work a little harder with her, to keep her bent on the straight way. This lesson was focused completely on riding them straight, keeping them on the bit and getting them to round up. All things I'm still not completely understanding or "feeling" when I do ride.

Ariel is an Appaloosa so her breeding primarily marks her well for doing cowboy sort of stuff. Despite this background, Ariel loves to jump and gets her and her rider placed every time they've gone to show (not me, I've never shown her). But keeping a proper bend and flexion...? Easily, it's a challenge on even a good day. Sheri has ridden her once and told me that riding Ariel is about riding her body and keeping her straight and being able to do that before she even gets crooked. So that was the mission this time around.

After the usual trotting and cantering, Sheri starts by pointing out what position we want to keep their head carriage at, where they are round, accepting the bit and using their backs. I always thought that it's a rather curved head and neck carriage but for Ariel, she's not that long so there isn't a lot to carry that way. It's a matter of the height at which her head is being carried because I notice that when my balance is off, she lifts her head to tell me I've mucked up. But the step that I get back into balance, she relaxes and her head lowers. Add to all this, the proper flexion to keep her straight. I have to use the appropriate leg and rein aids to redirect her and the thing is, I find myself doing this a lot when she's going round and round. As Sheri reminds us, generally, we should always be doing something up there be it telling them to do something to continuing to support them if they are doing it correctly.

I didn't think I'd find this as much a challenge as I did nor as enjoyable but it was very satisfying to work on it and see glimpses of it when I got it right!