Friday, February 5, 2010

Finally Getting Back into the Swing of Things

Well, that's pretty much what this post is all about. In the past few weeks that have been my second semester of my junior year, things have not been according to routine. This was the first week where I was present for every single day of school (no getting sick, no going to a funeral for a friend). This was the first week I got to ride Val a majority of the days. And this was the week we finally started getting our dressage back together!

For awhile, I haven't been having very regular lessons. They kept getting rescheduled for mini-emergencies, but the fact that the lessons were rescheduled for legitimate reasons doesn't make our dressage any better. I've been accepting poorer and poorer performances from Val without even realizing it.

Things really came to a head this week. Thursday, I was riding in the arena while my instructor was giving a lesson and she was telling me that he needed to bend and reach forward to my hands. I was stubbornly sure that he already was, but I started doing a serpentine and I kept getting in "trouble" for leg yielding. "He doesn't need to go sideways, he needs to BEND!" And I was stubbornly sure that we WERE bending. In reality, Val probably looked like someone had jammed his head close to his neck and then forced him to eat something vile-tasting; he was gnashing at the bit and turning completely U-shaped. And I was positive that he was soft, forward, and bending!

So, whatever hallucinogen I was on yesterday didn't work today; I saw my instructor ride my horse and saw what I hadn't been getting in forever. Then I got on and really felt my horse, and I realized he hadn't felt that way in months! We focused on him taking the contact instead of me forcing it on him and we started to work on a more gradual "soften" as a reward instead of just dropping him. I've definitely lost a ton of the finesse I had last summer!

Anyhow, it was a nice, basic lesson and we ended on a beautiful canter-trot transition. :) My instructor made me realize that I can't just keep riding the same way every day for forever and asking for the same things and expect to get the same results. Horses aren't machines; a button that "works" one day might not the next, and continually pushing the same button will just make them resistant and confused. We have to adjust to what we're sitting on every day and we can never expect them to be completely predictable. Where would the fun be in that?

Also, as a side-note, my fitness is definitely improving! My aerobics class is really more a "go down to the YMCA and use the machines and equipment" class; we get to do 20 min of cardio and then 15 minutes weights/etc. every day. I've been working on the elliptical, and I love feeling that every day 20 minutes is easier than yesterday. This Thursday, I went completely full-out, as fast as I could, for 20 full minutes and I felt VERY accomplished! That success made me think, "Gee, I bet I can run for a whole 20 minutes too!" According to the elliptical, I've been going between 1.5-1.8 miles every day. Let me tell you, folks, 1 mile on an elliptical machine feels a LOT different than 1 mile on a treadmill!

After my lesson tonight, I got on the treadmill and ran at 4 mph. That lasted for about 5 minutes until I was gasping for breath and positive I was going to DIE, right then and there. So, I came back to a walk, caught my breath, and kept going for as long as I could. Rinse and repeat and 18:30 later, I had run a mile. I can't believe that an almost 19-minute-mile kicked my butt!

On the plus side, my recovery is definitely better than it ever was. Also, I used to only be able to run for 2:30 before being completely out of breath. That's definitely an improvement, however small. I think I want to keep checking how fast I can do a mile on the treadmill a couple times a week; I'd like to be able to do an 18:00 mile in the next two weeks at least. I think that's reasonable, although I really don't know much about running. By the time May comes around, I would ideally like to be able to run for 15 minutes without stopping for a breather. I figure that if I can run for 15 minutes, surely I can ride for 5 minutes cross-country without getting too tired toward at the end of the course!


  1. Eurgh, I need to get back into working out. For awhile I'd go down to the rec center on campus once a week to run on the treadmill, then I'd do stairs every Friday. I work in a building that has four flights of nice cement stairs. THOSE days were fun.

    I got out of the habit when I got sick over winter break...guess it's time to suck it up and start working out again. Thanks for the inspiration :)

  2. It's SO hard getting back in the swing of working out (at least for me)! Have you ever heard of the "Couch to 5k" program? It's interval training -- I like to think of it as trot sets for people -- that's supposed to get you from zero to running 3 miles without stopping, in 2 months. I tried it a couple years ago and was having success, but (confession time) I just couldn't face one more second on a treadmill, so I never completed it.

  3. I so feel your pain when it comes to getting back into shape. This summer I was away from Denali for 3 weeks. I ran everyday. I ran and I ran, and when I got back, I rode her better than I've ever ridden. THEN, then work got in the way and I didn't work out, my riding time diminished. Then my trainer got hurt, then I got hurt. It's UGLY when I get in the saddle now!! I haven't ridden really since before Thanksgiving! Good luck!

    Just found your blog, your horse is beautiful!!!

  4. ugh I feel your pain!
    I stopped running track my senior year in highschool because I didnt have enough time with riding and work and school. But I never really sustained the level of fitness I had in track on my own, even with regular showing and XC runs.
    Then I hurt my achilles and had to take 6 months off and just when I thought i was getting better I fell and fractured my tibia, so back on crutches again, barely having lost the 15lbs I gained from being on crutches last time....I'm SO frustrated! I hope I can get back in shape by season this year.
    As for stamina, I recommend swimming, very low impact, but seriously hard workout on your cardio.
    Your horse is gorgeous! Keep up the good work!
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