Monday, August 19, 2013

Ticking Boxes to Save From Ticking Bombs

The universe has an awful habit of catching up to you, where ever you may hide. Once you open your eyes to what’s potentially out there, there is no going back. When you strip away the ego from life and push through the fear for even a moment, you see such brilliance.  “Light at the end of the tunnel” doesn’t come close to describing the view. But of course it’s so easy to slip back into old habits and let the humdrum take over.

When I’m riding and training, just bimbling about my daily life in and out of the stables, it’s easy to forget the light, to forget the things that make me truly happy. Everyday becomes about aims and ambitions.  Don’t get me wrong, these are great things. But sometimes this turns me into a ticking bomb just waiting to erupt with emotion in some form or other. Sometimes I forget why I’m doing something.

Because of this lunacy, I make it my job to tick some boxes every week to ensure I don’t get carried away in an egomaniacal, caffeine-driven quest for perfection. You all know how much I love coffee and how often I try to give it up or cut down. I love the buzz man! I don’t however love the frenetic energy while working, especially when I’m about some other poor soul.

I eat. It’s amazing how many horse folk don’t eat enough, or enough of the right things. I’m so much more level when I eat, so much more open to the idea that I might not always be right and maybe should change my point of view. If you ever have anything to ask me, always ask after a meal.

Each morning, as mad as it sounds I look my horse in the eye and I say hello to him, not at him, or near him. Sometimes it’s easy to forget we love them for what they are and concentrate instead on getting that perfect canter pirouette, or getting ready for the next competition.

I try to get very specific with the strengths and weaknesses of both me and my horse. The more specific the understanding of the training, the more easily I can find a solution and those days of randomly trotting about the arena in a mechanical fashion disappear.

Everyday I run through a list of questions in my head as I warm up trying to make sure I don’t fall for the ego’s desire for the movement to be perfect, to be established, finished. I check to see if I’m enjoying the journey or am I constantly looking for the finish line, the finished horse, the one I’d like him to be not the one he is at the minute. The second I sense that ego, I know it’s me driving the work and not my love of riding.

I ride my main horse first thing in the morning when I get home from the gym, when my brain is freshest for the challenge and my body is warmed up.

I make sure I have time enough so as not to rush his training to get onto the next thing.

Often I find myself in conversation with other riders trying to glean from them things that have worked for their horses, to see if something new, something different might help my own horse and training.

Just writing this down means I have a better chance of keeping my eye on the light ahead. Have you ticked any boxes today?  Why not try some of these.

Get out of the head and ego.
Let go of fears.
Sleep. (I haven’t conquered yet but I’m working on it.)
Make time for proper training.
Love what you do.
Be open to change.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring steps

My body sinks and melts down into the couch, weary and sore but only equal to my brain. I reached saturation point somewhere between pirouettes and passage. Luckily the excitement gave me an energy rush and my body held together with just a joy glorious thrill of steps that grew quietly bigger and bigger and reached somewhere beyond my dreams. Rex spent the week excelling in school again with myself and my trainer and each day brought new work, new challenges and new rewards as well. Lessons gave way to something I can only describe as tranquility within my body and brain. An instant where I was able to put every segment of training and knowledge into practice and guide Rex towards absolute balance. With short spells only in the saddle twice a day we were able to ask a little more of him and he rose to meet us every step of the way. Passage and piaffe were the order of the week and it’s always surprises me how these movements blossom out of consistent training and repetition. It shouldn’t but it does. Something I yammer on about to clients, friends and anyone who will listen is that correct repetition is essential in their horses training.
The feeling of it all coming together is enough to sustain me when times are tiring and replaces the coffee my body is desiring, thankfully because the house now comes with the precaution of only having decaf in it. The new year resolution bully has come to visit early and I resolved not to break down and inhale the contents of a coffee bag while we had our training week which is usually the order of the day. I managed to find time to ride, have lessons, organize a yard and still get to the gym which seems obsessive but allows me to vent all disgruntlements on a dumbbell instead of on some poor unsuspecting soul who mentions the wrong thing at the wrong time. A new improved “clean” diet is underway and the gym now stocks coconut water, finally water with a tasty zing so I have no excuses to be eternally dehydrated. Someone near and dear also got an extraordinarily monstrous blender for Christmas which means tasty protein shakes instead of stodgy stuck to the bottom of the glass flavoured ones. He also stockpiled my favourite peanut butter in the larder so there’s no excuse to not start piling on the pounds in the right way and that doesn’t include the boxes and boxes of chocolate we had under the tree this Christmas. A fresh routine in the gym has knocked the urge to sit and stare in boredom while doing the same old exercises sideways out of me. To the point where I’ve had to look up some of the new exercises and try them out when no one’s about so I have some credibility left on the gym floor. I’ve also discovered the TRX suspension training system for core strength. It’s perfect If I’m to sit still as my horse stomps about the arena I have to kick it up and notch and of course there’s nothing wrong with a six pack. The only draw back to the new regime is having to attach your feet to bands hanging from the ceiling, now try doing that in the middle of a busy gym without looking strange.
With the holiday season come and gone, I am grateful for the reminder that the shortest day of the year is past and we’re on our way out of the dark again. With the light coming, brighter notes of optimism come again, dreams, purpose and aspirations. Nows the time to look through the calendar and fix dates and goals. Time to brush off the winter cobwebs and set forth for spring.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sponsored by Nick Dolman Saddlery

 "Nick Dolman Saddler, Bespoke saddle maker"

I received the pictures from the Sarah Jewel Photography shoot to celebrate the joining together with Nick Dolman Saddlery. I spent a fantastic sunny afternoon with her on the farm and my new sponsored dressage saddle custom made by Nick . Nick and I have come to know each other through Rexs Bowen therapist, Clare Townsend. Between the three we seem to have found the ultimate saddle for him and I have to admit I didn't think his old one could be improved upon but this allows me to sit much deeper but more importantly allows the horse to reach much more through the shoulder. I'm pretty sure that all this amazing progress that we've made this season has only been helped by this wonderful saddle.

 "Because attention to detail matters"

 "Straight cut saddles allowing for full movement of the horses shoulders meaning a greater expression in the paces" 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Dust Bunnies

Dust bunnies. I think thats what theyʼre called. I donʼt think Iʼve ever sat still enough to see them before. I always thought they were a bit like fairies, and I donʼt mean the camp type this time. It does help that Iʼm on holiday.
Not at all unexpectedly, Iʼm sitting having a coffee. Iʼm watching the light stream through the window and pool on the table in front of me. Normally, the only bunnies I get to see are the ones scattering off the lawn when I schlep to the car in the blackness of an ungodly hour to go to the gym. I have to say, I prefer these ones. Watching these little specks dip and dive helps slow my brain and keep me from worrying what all my horses are getting up to at home. Frankly they all are probably happy of a holiday from me. I know the rest of the yard is glad of a break from my constant nattering. And they (the horses) are all pretty deserving of a holiday with all the training recently.
Itʼs amazing to see what progress has been made this last summer season. Heartwarming really, to see how far theyʼve come in such a short time. I guess itʼs all possible with the right approach. I know itʼs something my good friend Franc has been trying to drum into me for years — aims and intentions without the anxiousness. Itʼs only taken countless years, endless trainers, and one amazingly talented horse for my wooden noggin to accept that itʼs okay to play and have fun. Why shouldnʼt a flying change be fun? Why shouldnʼt half pass be a game we play in the arena? As I think it, ego is probably the answer. I do tend to carry mine around a lot, a bit like a chip on my shoulder. And these days Iʼll do my best to tell you that my shoulders are now muscled up enough to carry a decent sized chip. But actually those burdened broadened deltoids are full of knots.
Chips and knots. It sounds like a carpentry company. My furniture-creating father would be delighted. He is an amazing figure, part of the reason I try and prove myself in this sport, any sport. And all those nay sayers along the way. And the peers, pupils, and trainers Iʼve met as I yo yo up and down that ladder. Iʼm doing my best. And even that statement screams out to drop the ego and enjoy the fun.
The flavour of dressage and fitness that I love is at the heart of it. Iʼm taking those gleeful moments from what I do best and showering them on everyone and anyone whoʼs passing. Iʼve never held back when someone asks for advice when it comes to the ponies. And recently Iʼve been helping some people in the gym too! Itʼs a pleasure. Little do they release how much they help motivate me on the days when, like those morning bunnies, I want to run back to bed. So if weʼre having fun and leaving ego at home, we should be ready for winter. Which by the looks of the people passing this window is fast upon us. The last one to pass was discernible as neither male nor female. It could have been a grizzly bear for all the fur it was covered in.
Our winter preparations are well under way. Hay is in, extra feed on order in case deliveries to the island are tardy, the dentist has been to see all the ponies this week, and the saddler is due any day to recheck before winter training. The ever so important back guru Clare has been to see all the boys and girls, and has declared them fit. Iʼm on the list for a check up next time. And Suzanne at “The Gym” has been bending me into all sorts of weird and wonderful positions in the most platonic way to make sure Iʼm a little less knotted and chipped when that check up happens.
Last order of the day is a holiday, short and sweet, to bolster me for the winter months ahead. So here I am staring at dust bunnies, drinking latteʼs, and watching grizzly bears pass outside in the elements. Who knew Bournemouth could be so entertaining.