Thursday, November 27, 2008

Jumping Night

I had a really lovely ride last night. This is a jumping week, we’ve actually had a couple week break from jumping due to the transition from the Summer location to the Winter barn, but this week they had the indoor set up with jumps finally. I feel like I’m making progress, of course I still have a looooong way to go to get even back to where I was in my former riding life. And really, are we ever finished making progress and improving in anything that requires any effort or technique or whatever? Anyway, so after a short warm up, Alison started putting together little jump courses for us. First let me say that I’ve been working on canter transitions with Lulu and these have gotten SO much better. She picks up the canter pretty much right away for me now and we also almost always get the correct lead, even on her “bad” side. It’s not perfect by any means, but really I feel like it’s 100% better than it was just a few weeks ago. I’ve either improved a lot or have learned how Lulu needs to be ridden. Probably some combination of both.

Anyway, so back to jumping. The very first time I jumped Lulu, back when I was trying her out when thinking about leasing her, I had a blast. But I also felt like I was fighting with her over the fences, really battling her to not rush the jumps. And then I think something clicked with me the day we did the “Ladies Outing” to the cross-country course. We ended that day with such a wonderful, lovely collected course round that I’ve had in my head ever since. It’s amazing how a near perfect and wonderful-feeling and thrilling jump course can stay with you like that. Anyway, so it’s been in my head ever since and it was in my head last night while I jumped too. Jumping in the indoor was a different experience, since it’s smaller, the turns are tighter and you end up at each jump much sooner. So it doesn’t leave you much room for disorganization, you have to think constantly and plan carefully and react quickly. And remaining balanced and collected becomes even more important too. So it was a blast, I made a point of collecting Lulu before each fence, trying to keep her quiet and organized around the turns, etc. And I think we did a pretty good job over all. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and I still need to work on plenty of stuff, including my body position, but I think I’m getting it. I think the body position has improved a bit too, even though it still needs work. A couple of months ago I was throwing myself forward quite a bit and doing this big crest release even over the tiniest of jumps. I think I am now more balanced and my release is more reasonable, but I have to constantly remind myself and think about my position. But when I do, and when I keep Lulu balanced and collected towards a fence, everything usually works out very, very well and feels pretty fantastic (there is just nothing like having a successful jump course, the adrenalin alone will have me gasping for breath). One thing that I am very careful about is hand position, no matter what happens on a jump, I am very careful about not catching Lulu (or any horse) in the mouth. Even if we catch an awkward distance and I get left slightly behind, I seem to automatically slip my reins so that she isn’t chucked in the mouth. It makes it more difficult on the other side of the fence of course, because you are then in a position of the horse galloping away and you’ve got no contact at all, so it’s a scramble to gather up the reins quickly, but still it’s preferable to the alternative. I’ve never heard Alison correct me here, where I HAVE heard her correct others for catching a horse in the mouth, even suggesting that someone “grab mane” to make sure their hand position ends up in the right place, or that they don’t get left behind with that result. But she’s never had to do that with me, so that must be one thing that I’m doing right at least.

Anyway, so I felt last night that each course we did was a little better than the one before. I am no longer fighting with Lulu down to a fence. She is a bit strong, but does collect and listen to me and we’re much more of a team. And it’s FUN! Boy is it fun! Thrilling and fun. And we’re just jumping pretty small stuff right now. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel if I ever graduate to bigger stuff.

Monday, November 24, 2008

One More Day

I am one day closer to my little mini-vacation. I really am disproportionately excited about have a few days off to just hang out around at home and do errands and stuff. Pretty pathetic.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Sign of the Times

A sign of how hopeless and freaked out I feel about the current economic climate: I purchased two lottery tickets this week. I never buy lottery tickets. I feel so stupid, but also, I feel so little control about the future right now that $2 for a little hope I guess is kind of cheap.

Oh and (by the way) I didn't win. Of course. Sheesh.

In a Funk

Gosh it’s been a long time.

I’ve been sort of in a funk. My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I hate my birthday, it just puts me in a bad mood for some reason. Something about it just makes me feel really lonely for some reason. Normally I don’t mind and actually even sort of like being single, but on my birthday I really feel alone and sad about that. Holidays a little bit too, but nothing is as bad as my birthday. This year was even worse because my birthday happened to also be the day that they decided to do layoffs at my company. I was surprisingly and irrationally resentful of that. Even though we knew that the layoff was coming, it was an incredibly stressful and upsetting day. A couple of people from my group who I had been working with for years were let go, one was the person who actually hired me three years ago. And there have been others from other groups who I had worked with here and there who I’ve since found out were laid off. It all really hit far too close to home for comfort. I was desperate to make something positive out of that ugly day and so managed to run down to the barn and ride Lulu for about half an hour or so. I wanted to do something that was just for me and so at least I managed that. Being around horses comforts and soothes me, and while I ride I rarely think of anything else but what I’m doing that very moment. I can’t think of anything else that I do where that is true.

Since then the depression has really lingered, I’m having trouble shaking it off. I feel unsettled and stressed and worried constantly. I also feel very sensitive, that the wrong word from someone will upset me to tears. I hate this feeling but don’t really know what to do to pull myself out of it now since I really think it’s situational. Maybe taking a few vacation days will help some – at least I’ll have next Wednesday through Friday off. I was going to take the whole week off, but work is too busy right now. Of course being busy at work is a GOOD thing, but it does also add to the stress.

Anyway, so I’m kind of a mess right now. In a serious funk and kind of emotional. I have to find some time to run more or something, I’ll bet that would help pull me out of it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seen Tonight At the Vet

Two husky, rustic-seeming country boys walking in together with an itty-bitty, frou-frou Yorkshire terrier. Cracked me up!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Under the category of "WTF???"

Today. Pretty much empty gym. All treadmills are free. I get on one and start running, not even a minute later chick comes by and gets on the treadmill directly beside me. Right. Next. To. Me. Out of six treadmills! I mean, WTF??? Maybe after living in a city for so many years I have a different sensitivity to personal space issues or something, but ... sheesh!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

ATF Ladies Outing

Yesterday I was lucky enough to re-work my schedule so that I could take a vacation day and attend the Apple Tree Farm Ladies Outing. Alison organized the outing for the adult women of the barn so that we could go off-site to try some cross-country jumping at a different location, do some trail riding, have a nice lunch and socialize and get to know each other a little better in a relaxed and non-rushed environment. Because of weather, the outing had been postponed and rescheduled twice, before they managed to hit on a day where the conditions were favorable. That turned out to be lucky for me as I couldn't have gotten the time off for any of the other dates, so it really worked out well.

We all arrived at the barn around 8:30 AM and managed to get the horses groomed, wrapped and on the trailers and ready to go by around 9 AM or so. Not sure how we managed all that so fast, but we pulled it off. We did the short drive down to Groton, MA, unloaded, tacked up, mounted and hit the trails pretty quickly. I had never trail ridden Lulu before and so I didn't know what to expect from her. Horse personalities can change dramatically from ring, to trail, to field, or whatever. The calmest, slowest, most sedate animal in the ring can become a spooky nutjob on the trail. But Lulu was great. She was excited, while everyone walked, she liked to do an excited jogging dance. But the whole way listened to me and kept very nicely on the bit. Even though a sedate ride, she made things a little more interesting. Such personality.

Anyway, after we got back from the trail, we moved over to the big cross-country jumping field. We all spread out and started trotting and circling the area to check out the footing and to allow the horses to take a good look at everything. Lulu was very interested in everything around her, attentive and alert, but not spooky. She also was a bit strong, excited to be out in the open and so moving very forward, much more fresh and quick than she usually is in the ring.

Once we had warmed up around the field. Alison told me that I could jump one of a series of jumps nearby as a warm-up. I picked the medium-ish one in the middle and Alison had to laugh that I picked one of the "bigger" choices as a warm-up. Hey, it was still pretty small! Anyway, after trying out a few jumps here and there, she started putting together courses for people. She had warned me at the beginning that Lulu was still pretty green cross-country and might try to run out or stop on me, but she was actually jumping nicely for me (or I was able to ride her balanced and confidently enough to keep her steady and going well over everything). So, I was happy to realize that she felt confident enough in me and in Lulu and me together to give us some of the more advanced courses to do. Nothing was really all that intimidating, so I wouldn't call anything we did truly "advanced" (and nothing in that field is beyond Beginning Novice level anyway), but still, I did feel like I had made some progress in her eyes, or she saw some potential in me or something.

Anyway, we did a few different courses and then at the end Alison had me do one last one. I started Lulu out slow and steady, breaking into a collected canter as we rode into the first fence. It had been my intention to trot in between the various jumps because Lulu can get fast and strong with jumping, and especially out cross-country where things are more exciting for her. And then you add the greenness factor and whatever, so I wanted to keep her organized and under maximum control. However, after that first fence, I slowed her, slowed her, slowed her to bring her down to trot, and she just slowed down her canter to the point where she was just cantering so lovely and collectedly & slow, round, on the bit, the nicest canter I've ever had out of her. Maybe out of any horse, I don't know. Anyway, it was so nice, I kept it there and we did the nicest, most collected jumping round that I have done in many, many years (in decades really, I had actually forgotten what it feels like). I managed to balance her over every fence, she would get a little strong after the jump, but I would bring back, down, down, down, almost wanting to come back to trot, but not quite and she would give me that nice, lovely, round, on the bit canter again. It was really, really lovely and just such a fantastic feeling. The feeling you get when pretty much everything seems to go right. I really loved her for that, she showed me a side of her that I had only seen little glimpses of before now. She also showed me a little bit of the rider that I used to be too, and I'm thankful for that.

Afterwards, Alison told me that my body position was much better and that the round went well. I also over-heard a number of other people comment to Alison that Lulu seems to have come a long way. I like to think that part of it might have been my riding (or ability to ride her to her potential) and part our partnership. But maybe I'm flattering myself again. Anyway, the ride over-all was wonderful and a lot of fun and I ended it extremely satisfied with myself and very happy with Lulu. I have to say that I like her a little more every time I ride her.

After the riding we had a wonderful lunch of chili & corn bread and mac & cheese and apple cider and other stuff. And we got to all chat and get to know each other better. Turns out one of the women used to live on Martha's Vineyard (where my family used to have a Summer home and where I spent many years riding all over the island). Turns out she had ridden at many of the same places that I had and knew a lot of people who I had known. It was a real kick to talk about "the old days" with someone who knew the places and people from my past.

What a wonderful day. I so rarely take a vacation day and actually end up going somewhere or doing something other than just loafing around, so it really was very nice to have such a day. I ended it exhausted of course, but it was so much fun and so satisfying. I just love this horsey life.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

More People Who Suck

* People who don't understand the concept of gridlock. Or rather how to avoid being part of the problem. Here's a tip: if you see that you can't clear the intersection, then you don't go. Simple. (Apparently not so simple for some idiots, or perhaps they're just more people who feel that the rules do not apply to them).

Of course, there probably haven't been too many gridlocks seen in this little town in New Hampshire, but today is an important voting day and everyone had the same idea to get there early. It took me about 30 minutes to go about .7 of a mile. Yep, but I got 'er done (I hope we have some good news to wake up to tomorrow morning, I really, really do.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

Crap Day

Have you ever had such a stressful, crappy, no-win kind of a day that you feel like you're constantly about to burst into tears at any second? Where you are literally hyperventilating all day long? Yep, that's the kind of day I had. Here's to hoping that tomorrow will be a better one. Please God.

People Who Suck

* People who think that traffic signs such as "YIELD" do not apply to them (usually people who drive Cadillacs or Lexuses)

* People who think that 40 MPH in a 30 MPH zone is not an adequate speed and thus think that tail-gating is an appropriate response.

* People who can see how jammed my Outlook calendar already is, yet think it's okay to invite me to yet another useless, time-wasting meeting. After all, I can always catch up with my actual work after 8 PM most nights.

* Other people who do not even bother to check afore-mentioned jammed Outlook calendar before inviting me to yet another useless, time-wasting meeting.

* People who think I can just drop everything to run into Boston for yet another meeting (maybe not a useless one), disregarding any other work obligations I might have. Not to mention the cost to park ($12) and gas and whatever.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

It's usually not a good sign for the coming work week ...

... that I'm completely knackered at 5 PM on Sunday. Not a good sign at all.