Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Moving On...

I've been riding with the same eventing coach for the past 5 years. I've also been boarding at her house during the summer months and buying the majority of my equipment from her tack store. I joke that I might as well just sign my pay cheques over to her.

There has been ups and downs but lately it's been mostly a series of downs. I don't feel comfortable airing all the issues but it all comes back to the level of service. Scheduling has been a bit of a nightmare, communication is basically non-existent and I've been left out of a few activities that I would usually have participated in.
Cute pony pictures to break up all the text

She makes me feel like she is constantly doing me a favour, when in fact, I am paying for a service. I expect to be treated with consideration and respect. While we are friendly, I wouldn't call us friends. I'm not saying you can't be friends with your coach, but to me the coach part of the relationship is more important than the friends part.

So I've decided to move on.

I've been riding with a dressage instructor for the past few years and will continue. to ride with her, on both horses when I can get in (she only comes to our barn on Fridays and her schedule is always packed so I'm the first on the cancellation list with Ritchie).

I've also started hauling out for jump lessons on Dee. I've only had 2 lessons so far but I'm really enjoying them. My new instructor is strictly a jumper and is quite direct. She does not sugar coat anything but all of her students ride really well and are competitive. I'm excited to see how she will improve both of us.

This leaves me in capable hands for everything with Dee, except XC. Which is a little daunting when attempting to move up to Training this season. For now I'm going to just focus on clinics and try and haul down south to ride with Sandra Donnelly and my back up coach who is also down south. I may continue to catch the odd XC schooling with my old coach if the schedule works out and I am in the mood. But I will definitely not be making any extra effort to make it work out.

I'm also undecided what to do about jumping Ritchie. One of the new girls at the barn is bringing in her own jumping instructor so I may give a few lessons with her a whirl. For now, I'm content to just pop around the small stuff and build his confidence.

Dee's new (only) trick. 
In an effort to not burn any bridges and make it uncomfortable at the barn I have not spoken directly to my old coach. I've broached the conversation a few times and she just brushes me off or changes the subject. I don't normally avoid conflict but this is a fight I'm not going to pick. I'm going to just let it go away quietly and will address it if she ever brings it up.

I'm not sure it's the right course of action but for now it's how I'm moving forward. Have you ever had to break up with a coach? How did you do it?

Friday, 12 February 2016

Creepy Crawly Ick

I was born and raised in Alberta. Other than a brief gap-year in Ireland I've always lived in Alberta.

Alberta is pretty awesome. We don't have rats. No really, we don't. I never appreciated this fact until I lived in Ireland and the rats were the same size as my cat.

Another fact I've been pretty grateful for, especially as Lyme disease comes more to the forefront of the news, is the lack of ticks.

I'm not claiming Alberta doesn't have ticks, we do, but they are not very prevalent, especially in the Prairies. As you move north into the forest and west into the mountains you are more likely to encounter ticks.

Because of this I've managed to go nearly 30 years without ever personal experience with a tick. When I pulled Dee's blanket the other day I had to go get someone else to confirm that the black spot I found was in fact a tick. With some help (and the handy travel size tweezers in my purse) I managed to successfully remove the creepy little thing.

I'm not overly bothered by bugs. But something about a creature with it's head buried under the skin and still being able to see it's legs wiggle gives me the heebie-jeebies. Ugh. Just typing that made me vaguely uncomfortable.

Alberta has a Submit-A-Tick program in an effort to track and asses the risk of Lyme disease. (Most Alberta doctors refuse to admit we have Lyme in the province and as such it is nearly impossible for sufferers to get treatment, but that is a completely different story). I dropped off the tick and within a week they called to let me know it was a Winter Tick, likely transferred from a moose, and not a carrier of Lyme disease.

I still have no idea how Dee managed to pick it up and have it appear under her blanket in the span of 16 hours.

Here's to hoping I don't have any more tick encounters. Apparently I can never move. Sandra was telling us horror stories of her time in Virginia where they had to remove ticks from legs every single day. Just no. Ick.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Sandra Donnelly Clinic - Day 2

I'm a terrible blogger. I wrote this post, scheduled it and then went on my merry way. Blogger ate it and I couldn't summon the will to rewrite it. Every time a post disappears it kills my desire to blog. I may need to switch to a new platform.


Day 2 of the clinic started off with Ritchie. Shimmer-E was able to come and watch and get an education in jumper land (she is my favourite DQ).

Our flatwork started with going over the differences in full seat, light-seat, 2-point and driving seat. Sandra then put us through our paces, having us change our seat and demand a reaction from our horses. Turns out my light-seat has disappeared. 

Full seat? No problem. 2-point? Rock solid. Driving seat? Effective. Light-seat? Completely gone. I couldn't for the life of me allow my hips to move with him. Sandra told me that she's not surprised. Dee doesn't really let me practice light-seat without some fireworks. My homework is to keep working on it with Ritchie until I feel really solid in it. Then to work on it some more before I try and transition it to Dee.

Moving onto the over fences work, Ritchie really showcased the fact that Saturday's challenges were more of a test of my determination than fear or confusion. We jumped a skinny, brush boxes, a one-stride, a two-stride, planks and lattice. All which was new to him and he didn't say boo. We did have one drive by, the first time in the one-stride, but it was definitely a steering problem, not a jumping problem. 

It wasn't always pretty but we did everything successfully. And we did our first real courses!

My main goal for Ritchie during the clinic was just exposure. He stood quietly while others had their turn. He couldn't have cared less when the other riders forgot I was riding a young stallion and parked themselves quite close to us. I was super proud of him. For a young horse who's had very little exposure to new experiences and places he really couldn't have performed more admirably.

A somewhat accurate portrayal of our set up

For the first time ever with Dee we completely mastered the flatwork and weren't the remedial child! Sandra had us turn down the center line and leg yield back to the wall, and then do it the other way. We started out walking and she had very little to say to Dee and I that wasn't super positive. Next came the trot, still super positive. 

We then started asking for a walk transition while continuing to leg yield. This turned out to be super helpful for me because Dee and I really struggle with downward transitions (Dee is convinced we should only ever go faster). It was critical to keep her body straight while doing this, no allowing her to fall in (or out) in her right shoulder. When we were straight we had some incredible transitions.

Same exercise at a canter. Dee and I haven't schooled canter leg yields but you'd never know it. It was the most magical flatwork. If it hadn't been a clinic I probably would have called it quits there and floated around on cloud nine for the rest of the day. That's how good it was.

I normally go first because I am really good at remembering courses. Except here. This is not the course I was supposed to do. For the first time in well over a year I forgot my course.

We moved right into jumping. It wasn't long before Sandra had the fences set at 3'3" (and even one that was sneakily 3'6").  We were able to jump around and successfully nail a pace and keep my nerves from interfering. I was super good about not looking down because I picked a spot really high on the wall and did not take my eyes off it (otherwise the fences started to freak me out a little, which is silly, we are both more than capable).

We even jumped a giant (think 3'3" with a 4'3" spread) triple bar. Considering I've been scared of oxers and petrified of triple's and hog's back's I was really happy with how it went.

Ritchie is a very physically demanding ride. So by the time I rode Dee I was a little tired and my legs were very sure I shouldn't be doing anything. I ended up running out of steam near the end. It really showed up coming into the triple on one of our final go's. I had a good pace but was nervous and Dee backed off as we came to the base. I just wasn't able to add enough leg and we came to a graceful, if abrupt halt in front of it. Sandra told me she thought we had it and that Dee could have helped me out a little. We got it done in a second try but it was becoming obvious that Dee was backing off and I just didn't have the gas to really get it done.

You can see how it's starting to fall apart here, but we still get it done

Because Sandra is awesome she lowered some of the fences so we could end on a better note (the second fence in both of the related distances stayed up, but the first fence got lowered). It was completely the right thing to do. It was also really nice to know that it wasn't anxiety or panic that necessitated the drop, just a lack of fitness on my part. I can work on that. #goalbreeches 

Overall it was a great clinic. I couldn't have been happier with both horses. I can't wait until it's show season.