Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Excited About Riding Again!

(Ruby & I at a 2-Phase competition a couple of years ago)

I haven’t written about my riding in a while, but I did want to post an update before much more time passes. I have to say that I am having an excellent time riding this season. I decided at the beginning of the Summer that I wanted to add an additional lesson (a private) to my week, at least for a few months. I think this has worked out well for me as it has allowed me to have some great focus, has helped motivate me and I find that having that private lesson on Thursday, after my group lesson on Wednesday, gives me the opportunity to have some good scrutiny to work on things that maybe came up the day before, to zero in on stuff that needs more attention, or just to build on things that we worked on in the first lesson.

The other thing that I have made a commitment to with my riding is jumping on my own more. I posted this a couple of months ago about how I am regarded as a kind of a “jumping scrooge” at my barn. Well, in the interest of trying to make jumping more “been-there-done-that” / ho-hum / no-big-deal for myself, I have made some good steps towards banishing this image of myself as well. 

I have gotten pretty good about jumping at least one session per week on my own and have slowly been increasing the amount of jumping that I will make myself do. I started with jumping a couple of little fences at a time and then calling it “done”. I now will jump pretty much anything set up in the ring, as well as some stuff in the field (including the up & down banks). I have also been increasing the height of the fences that I do on my own. My attitude about jumping has improved to the point where it doesn’t faze me to jump around combinations of 3’ (or so) fences by myself. Of course, my trainer is also happy since, when it comes time for my jumping lessons, I’m no longer whining or giving her a hard time about jump height. It’s a work in progress, but the more I jump, the more I find that I want to jump! Funny how that works.

My Dressage work with Ruby continues to have its frustrations. About a month ago, I went through a very balky spell with her. Every flat session she would come up with a serious evasion where she would basically refuse to go forward, sometimes even at the walk. It has been especially frustrating because I felt (and still feel, believe it or not) that we had been making a ton of progress in our dressage work. Ruby’s trot in particular  has seemed to turn a major corner. Suddenly she gets the concept of what I’m asking for in the trot, becoming forward, actually on the aids and truly round (and with a correct bend!) When we went through this bad patch last month, it would take me almost an entire training session to boot her forward, to take her head out of llama status and get her out of her funk. The name of the game was transitions. Lots of transitions (basically my go-to tool, when all else fails). Walk, halt. Walk, trot. Trot, halt. Trot, canter. Canter, walk. Walk, canter. If you balk, you get booted forward and we get to do more of the same, endlessly. After going through this for forty-five minutes or so, I would usually, finally, end up with a soft and responsive horse, approaching the trot that I had been looking for. But, man! Was it frustrating. And exhausting. There were a few of those sessions where I questioned whether I should be selling Ruby and looking for another horse. There were a lot of times when I questioned whether I knew what I was doing (well, I still question that all the time). But, I have to say that it has gotten better. The canter still needs a lot of work and she is still pulling some of her balky maneuvers in our canter work, but her trot work has been lovely. She has also been offering this good trot work earlier and earlier in our rides too. Where it used to take me a lot of warm-up, suppling, transitions and other work to get her to a state where she started lifting her back, softening her jaw and reaching for the contact, I am finding that lately it has become more of a natural state with Ruby. It’s not immediate, but I am usually not jumping through a lot of hoops to get there either.

The thing with Dressage is: This is actually very hard for horses. There is a reason why there is a Dressage Training Scale. It’s not expected that you will achieve these things overnight. In addition to the training of the horse to gradually improve, there is also the gradual strength and muscling that is built in the horse as you progress in your work. It is not meant to happen all at once. A lot of the flat work asked of horses in Dressage training can be equated in humans to gymnastics, yoga and strength training, with a fair amount of endurance in there as well. It takes time to build on the work and your progress is usually measured in tiny steps. This year I feel like we’ve been “getting it”. And because we’ve been getting it, I’ve been asking more of Ruby. The balking thing is, I think, her reaction to my asking more of her – it’s hard! I just have to work through the rough patches and make her realize that defiance makes her life much harder.

With all that said about my dressage frustrations this Summer, even during the worst of it when I would be on the brink of giving up with Ruby, we would then have a jumping day in there where she would be awesome! Gallopy and loving life, even doing flying changes when I ask properly. And then there are the days when I get great flat work. It has been so hard-earned over the years that Ruby and I have been together that it is especially sweet when there is fluidity and harmony. It’s like the Dressage Gods have suddenly smiled on us. Because it hasn’t come easily, those great moments are now especially sweet.

To sum it up, these days I am truly excited about riding again. I was never actually “blah” about it, but I had reached a bit of a slump where flat work was always a fight, and it was also hard to watch others who have horses that make it easier. I dreaded jumping and just wanted to get through it and be done. I wanted to make improvements in all aspects of my riding and training of Ruby, but wasn’t really doing too much to get there and, as a result, wasn’t seeing much in the way of progress either. Now I feel like my riding world has opened up some. I look forward to even just a garden variety schooling session because I feel that I now have more of a partnership with my horse. Thanks to CrossFit, as well as more riding in general and some tweaking of my eating habits, I am also much more fit now than I was a few months ago, so this is definitely a contributing factor in my overall attitude and in my ability to ride better.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Well, at least I can row: CrossFit 08/13/2014

We had a crazy weather day here in New Hampshire, heavy rains that turned into a monsoon by the evening. It was raining so hard that I actually got one of those reverse 911 alerts to my cell phone warning of flash flooding. Riding was canceled, so I figured that I would go to CrossFit instead, since I didn't go last night and Wednesdays are usually strength work, something I definitely need to work on. It was raining so hard when I left my house that the thought actually crossed my mind, 'hmmmm, I wonder if anyone will even be at CrossFit tonight?' And then I immediately followed with this thought, 'stupid! Of course there will be people at CrossFit!'

I'm still nursing a very sore achilles, so I have to be careful what I do. I didn't go last night because I thought the posted WOD was going to be too tough on it. The workouts that I do take on, I just have to monitor it as I go. The good news this week is that I'm not limping around so much and it did not feel any worse the day after Monday's CF, so I'm encouraged by that. I'm not ready to run though. I ran from car in the rain to the gym tonight and it hurt quite a bit and caused me to run with a limp, so that is going to take some more time.

Posted workout for Wednesday, August 13th:


Line Drills x2 rounds each:

Butt Kicks
High Skips
Karaoke High Step
Forward Sprint/Back Sprint (run backwards)

What I did: Same, except the High Skips hurt too much, so I substituted extra rounds of Butt Kicks on that interval. 

Performance / WOD:

A. HBBS - E2M x6 x2 Reps (Translation: High Bar Back Squats, every 2 minutes for 6 rounds, do 2 reps each round)

What I did: My 1 rep max for this lift is 115lbs right now. During the warm-up I built up my weight to 85lbs and found that pretty challenging, so I kept it there for this exercise. It was tough, not sure if all the rounds crept up on me, or that's just what I had in me tonight, but whatever it was, I felt like I made the right decision for this one. Got through it in decent form and feeling fatigued, but not spent. 

B. 1 Mile Time Trial Run or 2000 Meter Row

What I did: Fred and I rowed and everyone else ran. I finished the row in 10:05 and wasn't too impressed with myself. But then I was thinking back to when I started CrossFit a couple of months ago and remember having to rest for a few seconds here and there during 400 meter row sessions. Tonight I did 2000 meters without any break. Coach Jen also seemed to think that the time was good for me, so okay, maybe I'm happy with it. 

C. 4 sets of 20 Slamballs as fast as possible.

What I did: I did a bunch of them to get the hang of it (hadn't done this before) but didn't count how many. And then I did one focused set of 20.

Some notes:

  • I really need to sort out my schedule so that I can come on Wednesdays more often. It's normally a riding night for me, tonight was an exception because of the bad weather. But I could probably work out an occasional CF session before work, or maybe at a lunch time or something. I have to think about this. 
  • I'm disappointed that I'm out of commission for running at the moment. I really want to work on the running some, at CF and outside of CF. I'm glad that I can row at least though. 
  • Slamballs are surprisingly hard!

Monday, August 11, 2014

And ... another benchmark: CrossFit 08/11/2014

I took a little break from CrossFit because my sore achilles was tweaked badly after a particularly tough workout a couple of weeks ago. I've been hobbling and limping around, afraid to come back too soon before it had a chance to get a little better. I've been resting it, icing and I've been wearing this crazy thing to sleep in. (Laugh all you want, but that Strassburg sock makes it so my achilles isn't so tight when I get up in the morning). Today I wasn't limping around as much, so I decided to give CrossFit a shot. The achilles hurts the most when I go down stairs, but I seem to be walking without too much limp now. Oddly, I've been able to ride okay. It hurts, but I can work through it and the stretching down in the heel is actually good for the tendon. 

We lost a friend from our CrossFit community last week. Patrick was only 22 and was killed in a tragic accident. Our CrossFit members have been reeling from the loss. Shocked and devastated. I am still so new that I didn't actually know him, but once I saw his picture, I realized who he is. He was very often at the box when I was there and often joined my class. Really cute, really enthusiastic, fun, great attitude, he was close to many of the CFE members. I never formally met him, but can feel the deep loss that many at CFE are feeling. Tonight I could just feel the hurt emanating off of everyone. I don't think I really appreciated until now how strong this community is. The caring for each other, the commitment to remembering Patrick and for helping each other through this tragedy is incredible. I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite like it. Tonight's session was bittersweet. 

Posted workout for Monday, August 11th:


Run or Row for 400 meters

What I did: Rowed for 400 meters. 

Dynamic Mobility:

Knee Hugs
Ankle Grabs
Lunge w/ Twist

And some additional dynamic balance lunges with Coach Jen

What I did: Same, except that I only did a few of the inchworms because we were outside and the gravel was digging into my hands. I think we forgot to do the ankle grabs though. 

Barbell Warm-Up:


What I did: Same, only with a dowel as there wasn't a free 15lb barbell. 

Performance / WOD:

A. Squat Clean -- 12 minutes to build to a heavy single. 

What I did: Coach Jen had me take the 12 minutes to just work on my cleans in general, without worrying about building up to a heavy weight. I started with just the 15lb bar and worked up to 45lbs. I can probably do more weight for this lift, but my form was a bit shaky with the achilles issue and being a little rusty after my CF break so I left it at 45.

B. "Jackie" (Another one of the "Girls" -- Benchmark Workout):

For Time:

Row 1000 meters
50 Thrusters (men & women: 45lbs)
30 Pull-Ups

What I did: 1000 meter row in 5:10. 50 Thrusters with just the 15lb bar (I did it in sets of 20, 15, 10, 5 -- obviously they get harder as you go along!). 30 Ring Rows -- I tried to do the Ring Rows with my back as parallel to the ground as possible, to make it harder. 

My time was my score: 10:39 (which is pretty meaningless since I didn't have any weight on my Thrusters and did Ring Rows instead of Pull-Ups). 

C. There was a Cash Out, but I ducked out!

Some Notes:

  • I don't seem to have any trouble with rowing. I think I was among some of the first finished rowing in my heat, and I think I could probably have pushed harder.
  • Doing lots of Thrusters will give you jello legs. Yes, even with just a 15lb bar (or maybe it's just me). 
  • I wasn't the only one who did Ring Rows instead of Pull-Ups tonight.
  • I am not going to feel like a real CrossFitter until I can do some kind of Pull-Ups. Banded or whatever, just something. 
  • I am so glad that I went! Thank your CrossFit Earned for welcoming me back.