Friday, April 27, 2012

Falling In Love With All the Wrong Horses!

Blogging is much harder when there are so many things going on!

I've been doing all kinds of riding since I've been home. I've ridden Monte three times and I still really like him a lot. He is a 4 year old so plenty of green to go around but his personality can't be beat. He's playful but also super chill and easy going. A great balance for when I get myself all bent out of shape.

I went to get Mr. Monte out of his stall the other morning and he was napping. He was so cute! Of course when I finally asked him to get up he groaned the whole way to his feet. It would be hard for anyone not to like this horse.

Fortunately or unfortunately I rode his half-brother next that day. His half-brother is Frankie and they look very similar, both plain bays and about the same height (although Frankie is a smidge taller I think). Frankie is a year older and he has a little different build with a slightly shorter back, a nice sloping shoulder and a bit more uphill. I hadn't thought much about him until I got in the saddle and said "oh my!" He was AMAZING to ride, very naturally round with no help from me. I really liked him a lot. It wasn't love at first sight but it might have been love at first ride. I was able to walk, trot and canter him as well as take him over a tiny cross rail. He was super nice. A little more of a worrier than Monte but very respectful and willing. The bad news is he is a cribber and he has some rounding in his front ankles. My trainer thinks he will probably be limited to the lower levels of eventing.

That is how things stand for now. No decisions made yet of course. For now I'm just going to enjoy riding as many horses as I can. I really do like Frankie a lot but I would have to have a vet out to look at him and x-ray those ankles to find out what is going on and see what limitations he would put on him. He is perfectly sound right now but a vet might say he shouldn't be jumped at all. It's really too bad because I really liked him a lot but I also really want to event so I don't want to make him do something that could cause him harm.

We went to Rolex yesterday! It was a blast of course and more on that later.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Jetlag, Banks and Ditches, Oh My!

The past couple of days have mostly passed in a series of blurs. I got to Ohio on Wednesday night and by Thursday afternoon I had been out to the barn where my instructor/trainer greeted me with lots of enthusiasm. It was certainly nice to feel so welcome!

By Friday evening I had ridden three different horses and gone cross country schooling. First I rode the beautiful Mr. Monte:

Sorry for the bad picture. It was just a cell phone pic from my trainer
I only rode him for about 5-10 minutes. When I got to the barn my trainer was already riding him and she asked me if I wanted to hop on. I watched him go for a bit and then I got on. He is really pretty. Much prettier than any of his pictures show. For a plain bay he really isn't plain at all. I was able to walk, trot and canter him. I was a little nervous about asking for the canter but he was really easy. I was pretty impressed and I can easily tell why my trainer likes him so much. (Oh but he is pretty big. Not as big as Sky but easily around 16.1hh I'd guess.)

After that we loaded up some horses and headed to our local xc schooling place. I took the horse my sister's been riding (Oreo) just to give him a little outing. We didn't actually do a whole lot of jumping but I did work on getting him over some ditches. He has apparently had a ditch phobia for a while so I was pretty excited that I was able to get him over three different ditches without much trouble at all.

When we got back I rode a gray mare that my trainer is fostering for Friends of Ferdinand. Her name is Paris and she has a history of not being treated so well. You have to be a little careful with her on the ground but she seems to really want to please so I think she will eventually get better. I didn't enjoy riding her quite as much. She was the opposite of forward. She was super green but very quiet. Every time I asked for a trot she would start to trot but immediately tip on her forehand which would then tip me forward and then she'd stop. Once I got her going she was pretty nice, though and I even did get a little bit of a canter on her. I think she will eventually make a very nice hunter for an amateur. I guess I'm going to be riding a lot of greenies while I'm home this summer so I'm hopeful that I will learn a lot and improve my riding!

Let's see, then on Sunday we went back to Twin Towers for some more xc schooling. This time I took Monte but for the most part I just walked him (led him) around and let him get used to being in a different environment. He's been one other time before but this time there was a pony club rally going on and my trainer had another horse out that was acting like quite the fool so there was a lot for him to take in. I was pretty impressed by his behavior. He was very looky but for a four year old he was pretty well behaved. I just did some ground work with him trying to get him to concentrate on me instead of what was going on around us. He got it a couple of times. I also led him up and down a small bank and over a couple of ditches. That was pretty much a non-event. It will be very easy to forget that he is only a four year old.

In between all of that I've been trying to get my sleep hours flipped. I hit a wall last night and was asleep by 8pm and didn't get up again until about 6:00 this morning. I'm hoping that is the worst of it. jet lag is a pain!! Oh and holy ice cubes Batman! It's cold here!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Good Things Really Do Come To Those Who Wait!

So, I have a couple of posts coming up soon (hopefully). I want to tell you all about camp. It was SO much fun! But I got a little interrupted the last couple of days.

A little interrupted by a few plane rides!! That's right. I am writing from the good ol' U. S. of A.! Ohio to be exact. Say What? you ask. Well, last weekend a flight popped up on the Space A screen going from Kadena all the way to Columbus, Ohio. I couldn't believe it at first but once I had my husband look to verify that I wasn't hallucinating we decided that I absolutely had to try and get on that flight. And voila! here I am! Sorry for all the exclamation points. I'm a little excited! The trip was one of the most stressful things I've done on my own but in the end it was totally worth it.

Next stop: ROLEX!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sometimes You Need That Bad Picture (or Video)! (Part 2)

As I left for the barn the clouds were looking quite ominous, like a big wall of black, maybe I wouldn't have to ride after all. About halfway to the barn the rain started. I thought about turning around but good manners would not let me do that. My trainer hadn't called to cancel so she was still expecting me.

As I pulled into the barn it was still coming down although not quite as hard. One of the Japanese instructors was giving a lunge lesson in the rain and all the Americans were huddled under the barn awnings. Two horses were already tacked up, Sky and Mokoto. Alexis told me she had planned on riding before my lesson and the horses had been tacked up and ready to go for about 45 minutes but they had been trying to wait out the rain.

It seemed as though I was going to get out of my lesson. I told Alexis I really didn't mind if we cancelled and I mentioned being a little discouraged from the photos of the day before. She immediately jumped on that; telling me not to be discouraged. And like magic the rain stopped. We stepped outside the awning to double check and looked at the radar on a weather app on her phone and it seemed as though we would get that ride in after all.

As Sky was already tacked up I went ahead and rode him again. Right away there was a huge difference between the two days' rides. Alexis mentioned that she should have shown me videos of myself earlier as my hands were a hundred times quieter.

All things were not perfect by any means. I still had moments like this:
And I was still having a hard time keeping my heels down at times:
But I also had a few pretty nice moments. Not perfect but much nicer:

So I learned quite a few things through these two rides.
  1.  I still have a lot of work to do. It's not like I didn't know this before but it was just a reminder. I especially need to keep working on that independent seat. I need it to be able to keep my hips loose and following while my legs are strong and my hands are quiet. It's especially noticeable when I ask for that canter transition because I have to be so strong with my leg it literally makes me curl my whole body up (which is what causes me to lose my stirrups in the first place). With an independent seat I would be able to have that strong leg while remaining long and loose to follow.
  2. It's not ALL me. I rode in a different saddle the second day and right away I had a much easier time keeping my seat balanced and underneath me. The second saddle is still a far cry from the saddle I ride at home and I once had the opportunity to ride in one of my trainer's custom saddles and even though it wasn't custom for me it still made a HUGE difference in my form. The right equipment really can make a difference.
  3. This isn't something I learned so much as something I need to really keep thinking about and that is the size of the horse I am riding. Sky is a really big horse. You can tell I look like a little peanut on him. He's not just tall, he's built very strong. I get tossed around on him quite a bit. I think I do alright with him but it isn't always comfortable. Since I'm getting ready to (hopefully) buy my next horse I'm really going to have to think about how big I'm going to be comfortable with.
Tomorrow is Adult Camp! Here is a preview of what we are supposed to be doing:


900 - arrive
915 - yoga
1030 - ride - Group 1
1130 - ride - Group 2
1230 - lunch
100 - massages
130 - How to keep yourself and your horse motivated in training
200 - ride - Group 3
300 - Beach Ride
400 - Head home

900 - arrive
915 - yoga
1030 - ride for video analysis
1230 - lunch / video analysis
130 - Connection and the training pyramid being "on the bit"
200 - ride - Group 1A and Group 2
300 - ride - Group 1B and Group 3
400 - party!!!

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sometimes You Need That Bad Picture (or Video)! (Part 1)

I've gotten to ride three times this week! On Tuesday my very wonderful husband came out to the barn with me (thank you babysitters!) and took some photos and videos. I was so excited to finally get some photographic evidence of how I've improved. (Most of you probably already know where this is going.)

It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day. I was going to ride Mr. Sky. I was a little nervous about that only because I hadn't ridden him in a little while but at the same time he is a little more photogenic than Mocha.

Getting him Groomed
Getting Ready to Ride

 We were a little stiff starting out and we never really got connected but we still had a couple of nice moments here and there.

But I was still having trouble with those darn canter transitions. After looking at the photos I can tell why. Can you?

Then we started to jump. The first (very small) jumps felt alright but as we went on I had more and more problems.

 Turned into this:
 which turned into this:
We took a small break to discuss some of my issues:
I would love to say it got better. I thought that it got better. It felt better but this is the best jump photo I got out of the whole day:
I would actually like this photo if my leg hadn't slipped so far back
I did have a good time, though. As I said it was beautiful and it was nice to have my husband with me for a change.

When we got home and I started looking at the photos and videos I really did feel my heart "sink." I'm not even going to share the video but I was really not pleased, not pleased at all. My hands were all over the place and I really looked even worse than I felt. It was very discouraging.

Honestly I didn't even want to ride again the next day. As I drove to the barn it started raining. Would I ride or not? Stay tuned to find out. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Okinawa Zoo

It is Spring Break for us over here in Okinawa. My husband took the week off and we've been trying to do some family things around the island. On Monday we went to the Okinawa Zoo. It is quite a different experience than what you may be used to in the states. I'll let the photos do most of the talking.

Of course the first thing I really noticed at the Zoo was this sign:
Pony Rides at the Zoo every weekend!

The inherit dangers of horses!

It took me a sec to understand this sign. Horsehinder leg say what?
The first actual equine we came across
All the horses we saw appeared to be in very good condition

Do Yous Have Carrots?

And for some non-horsey animals. This was a Zoo after all!
If it looks like I was very close to these Hippos it's because I was! Literally there was only a small metal fence that only came up to about mid-thigh on me separating humans from hippos. My husband pointed out that the Japanese have higher expectations for self-responsibility than we do in the states.
Does the lion look close? He was:
I did feel a bit sorry for the big cats and the one bear that was there. Most of the animals seemed to have adequate room and at least one cage-mate but the big cats and the bear could definitely have used some more room.
I'll leave the sign interpretation up to you!
Creepy Crocks!

There was only one elephant out while we were there
 And no trip to a Zoo in Okinawa would be complete without seeing some Habu. My husband told me that if you get bit by a Habu they fly you off the island permanently b/c supposedly the anti-venom only works once. How bad/sad is it that I found myself wondering just how much it would hurt to get bitten!
Weston was not so sure about the Iquana
Elaina and the Water Monitor Or as She Informed Me The Dinosaur!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Thanks, I Needed That!

I had a great ride for Easter Sunday. Last time I had two weeks off between lessons I felt like I rode like crap with the whole losing my stirrups thing but this time I felt pretty good. I rode Mocha the wonder pony and I think he's starting to remember me. He doesn't test me nearly as much as he did the first few times I rode him. We put a course together and just worked on having nice, quiet rounds. I had some really great moments and the last round was very nice. Mostly I just need consistency. It's hard to have consistency without a lot of practice and unfortunately riding once a week is just not going to get me there anytime soon. But, I'm starting to think the basic building blocks really are there. When I do get home and start riding every day again I'm hopeful that I will see a pretty big jump in consistency.

I can't stress enough how nice it was to be in the saddle again. I've been having a lot of anxiety ever since this whole "am I going home or not" thing. The last several mornings I've woken up feeling like someone has a fist around my heart squeezing away and a few times a day out of the blue I'll get that same feeling. I don't think I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself the last couple of weeks. I'm hoping that riding this week and going to horse camp this weekend (where we'll be doing some yoga and getting a massage! along with all the riding) will help alleviate some of that.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

As The World Turns

I'm not sure how my life turned into a bit of a soap opera the past couple of weeks but somehow that is how it feels. Long story short; I'm still in Japan. BUT, I'm okay with it. There are a couple of reasons but the main one being that I've finally been honest with myself and realized that it was just too early to leave my husband and son. I do still plan on getting home for the summer but it will just be a little later and it may or may not be in time for Rolex. I've decided I'll deal! And when I do get home I think I'll just surprise you all. No more of this is she going? Is she going? So, sorry for the little merry-go-round lately.

What I've learned: This whole thing has taught me something. Many things actually but one thing in particular. I need to be careful about getting into the "deserve" mentality. We hear it all the time, "you work hard you deserve a break." "You're a stay-at-home mom you deserve to get out." "You made that money you deserve that new car."  The list goes on. This mentality is so prevalent in our society that it is simply the norm. It's like a basic truth of being an American. But do we really deserve anything? Where we are born, who are parents are, what skin our color is, it's all just a crap shoot. We don't have any control over the fact that we were born in America with all of it's many opportunities. The problem with thinking we deserve anything is that it can be very easy to forget to be thankful for the many many many things that we have and God forbid we should not get something that we deserve! Believe me (I  say to myself) you will have a much better, happier outlook on life if you stop thinking about what you deserve and start being grateful for what you have.

To the good news: I have a riding lesson scheduled tomorrow and because it is spring break over here I have three more lessons scheduled throughout the rest of the week. I will finally be able to write something horse related! Yes! Next weekend the barn is also having an Adult Camp and I've decided to go. I'm not sure what all it will entail but I'll fill you in when I find out.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Burning Down the House

I made scrambled eggs for the girls this morning. After I was finished I got two plastic bowls out for the eggs and for some reason put one of them on the hot burner. It wasn't just for a second either. "Mommy, what's that smell?" was my first clue. Hot stove + plastic bowl = a big, smelly, smokey mess. I was just glad I didn't end up setting the fire alarm off. I'm sure the other 60+ families in our building would NOT have appreciated that. I tend to get a little absent minded when I'm feeling stressed.

We are going to try flying again VERY soon and I'm super nervous and stressed about it. I've never done this Space A thing before and as a compulsive planner it is very difficult to be embarking on this venture that has a very unplanned feel to it. If we get on this flight (63 seats available so I'm pretty hopeful) we'll go from here to Hawaii and then on to California. That doesn't sound too bad, right? I was just reading that the type of plane we'll be flying on is known to break a lot. Visions of being stuck in Hawaii for who knows how long keep dancing through my mind. Again that doesn't sound too bad and if it were just me I think it would be much less stressful but having a 5 year old and a 3 year old along certainly ups the stress factor! And since I started writing this the plane has been delayed again... that's three times in a row now. It seems the reputation for being broken a lot is deserved. That isn't exactly comforting knowing we'll be flying hundreds of miles across the ocean!

Then once we get to California we have to figure out how to get to the nearest airport and get on another plane or two before we finally make it home. I'm so looking forward to being home but I am really dreading this trip! I tell you eventing should be easy for me after living over here. I have been pushed so far out of my comfort zone over here that even an advanced drop into water should seem like a piece of cake! (Have I ever mentioned that drops scare the bejeebees out of me, even the itty bitty ones!)

But hopefully the next time you hear from me I will be somewhere stateside or if we get stuck in Hawaii I will at least be in the U.S. again. Where is the nearest Walmart or Target??? And can I get some Chipotle please!!

Oh and if we do make it home any time in the near future I have a date for my first possible event. Greater Dayton Horse Trials takes place on the 19th and 20th of May. You may or may not see me there!!