A Saturday Lesson

A riding lesson and a brief mention of the wartime wardrobe challenge although I will write about it more in my monthly review of the WWC. I will post a review of the Muddy Trails race I ran on Sunday hopefully later this week.

Starting with Saturday, I was riding with one of my friends from our Sunday lesson as neither of us could make Sunday. This was a new experience for me as previously I have always either been in a group or a private at this stables although I used to frequently have lessons just myself and Sarah at our old stables.

I was given Td, he has been off work recently and is still coming back to full fitness. I was warned that I had to keep him walking actively as if he just dawdled along I was not helping him recover, duly warned and with the advice from previous lessons still in my head we set off for the school. I should at this point say that often we do hack at the stables just unfortunately with the beautiful Scottish weather of the past year the paths and tracks are not usable currently and we have been sticking to the school.

It was bitterly cold on Saturday. So cold that I was wearing four layers on the top half and my running compression tights under my jodphurs. Even then I could still feel the cold penetrating through. Td seemed oblivious, happy to wander around the school although as usual I had to work hard to stop him following B. We were working in open order as usual so each working our horses independently and taking them through school movements to warm them up. We were practising the walk and halt transition – halt is not something Td likes doing he always seems in a rush to get somewhere – which was good. Getting an active walk really helps for the horse listening to you when you ask for halt, we were also asked to halt off the track e.g. on a circle.

Next up trotting, we were each working in trot to exercises then were taken to one half of the school while the other working in the upper half and we were practising trotting 20m circles with a trotting pole placed in the middle of the school to help our positioning. It took a few goes but both of us were getting good circles by the end. Td is very responsive to the leg so it only took me gentle nudging him with my inside leg for him to produce a much nicer curve on the entry and exit of the circle across the school. Next some leg yielding, I messed this up slightly. The first time he moved across beautifully but the second and third I pushed him across too hard and he just walked in a diagonal line. As my instructor pointed out this was not his fault as he did exactly what I had asked for.

We also did a lovely exercise to make sure I was moving my arms with Td while in walk, ensuring my elbows returned to my sides afterwards. In order to judge this my instructor made us walk then trot with a whip balanced on our forearms, this worked really well except each time we rode into the more exposed part of the school the whip kept trying to blow away. Luckily Td doesn’t spook too easily, to be fair he seemed to be distracted by his own reflection in the mirrors.

Next up, a bit of canter. Td has a lovely smooth canter but he has a tendency to do the minimum of effort. A couple of times I had to steady his trot before we could canter, he has a tendency to rush at times. The first couple of times he went back to trot before I wanted him to. I was told to kick with my inside leg to keep him going, the difference was incredible. it felt like Td went ‘oh so I can really canter’, it was a brilliant forward going canter which I felt in full control. Another fun lesson, really nice to be just two of us although it meant that I had to try and keep out of B’s way rather than having the protection of other riders 🙂

The only downside with Td is he does not like to be in his stable, he throws what I can only be described as temper tantrums in the stables. He stood on my foot last January which meant I stopped running for a while (although to be fair if I had rested afterwords I probably would have been fine – top tip do not run a hard, fast five miles up a hill a day after being stood on by a horse).

A nice Wartime Wardrobe Challenge update,  after telling my instructor about the challenge she offered me the bags of clothes she was sending to the charity shop. I picked them up after riding and there were three massive bags waiting for me in the office. I had to take them quick people were already picking through them. More about the items I found in the March WWC round up.

Miles run: 6.5

WWC Coupons left: 54

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Deerstalker 5k (and a bit) 2013 – A Race Review

Time: 1hr 49 min 11 seconds (oh yes the seconds are important)

Position: 233/516

Well that was an interesting race. The whole of last week in south east Scotland there was mixture of snow, rain and wind – as the weekend drew nearer I kept hoping that the weather would clear up. Unfortunately it didn’t, but that didn’t stop the RatRace crew from putting on a great event.

Now it was the turn of the Inelegant Horse Rider’s boyfriend to turn 30 on Friday so as perfect preparation for a race (!) we were out on Friday night to celebrate. A few hours in the pub then on to a club night. Now I was being good alternating my gin and tonics with orange and soda water plus a couple of large glasses of water. However, a rogue tequila slipped into the mix and I woke up on race today not feeling the freshest. After some electrolyte powder mixed with water on the journey down to Innerleithen I was feeling a lot better, unfortunately the weather was worsening as we drove away from Edinburgh.

It was snowing heavily at Straiton and continued to get heavier as we headed towards Peebles. We were beginning to wonder if the race would be cancelled. The snow began to get lighter as we passed through Peebles and by the time we got to Innerleithen it was only snowing lightly and intermittently. The car park was a quagmire and as we picked our way across it to get to the event village we realised we were to be in for some serious mud and snow on the route, how right we were!!

Forest

A quick registration (with the normal obligatory terrifying disclaimer form), a cup of tea then back to the car to get properly attired. Being the Deerstalker run a bit of tweed and a hat is required, I don’t have a deerstalker hat but I think my outfit still worked.

Deerstalker Before

As is quite often the case we realised we were cutting it fine to be at the start line and had to do a quick jog in order to get to the start in time for the race briefing (we have missed many of those).

Then we were off! A few hundred runners surged forwards heading for the hay bales stacked up on the course. Across those and then you are off down a short, steep slope onto the road. Next came the muddy fields with my fellow Team Bambi runner trying to pick her way along the side of the mud while I just jumped straight in, nearly losing a shoe in the process. Next up the ditch filled with mud, slipping and sliding all over the place we headed towards the ditch where there was bit of a queue at one side. I clearly had not engaged my brain at this point as I thought ‘oh there is a space’ and jumped in…to quite a deep spot. A man fell in almost head first on one side of me but luckily emerged although covered in mud. Hauling myself out at the other side I was aware of the freezing cold of the mud getting into my muscles already but set it to one side as I set off running towards the hill. This hill is a proper beast of a climb, you go up the first part on mountain biking trails with some short steep sections thrown in. My Team Bambi friend has not been well so we opted to walk up most of the hill, which was a bit of a shame as I feel (were she well obviously) that we could have run a lot of the first section. Conditions were getting worse underfoot though with much of the trail covered in snow which had been turned to slush by the runners ahead of us. Most people were walking by about half way up the hill and as there were no places to pass this seemed to be okay with everyone in friendly spirits chatting and laughing at the sheer madness of heading out on this run in the snowy, wintery weather.

The path abruptly joined a fire road and at this point we decided to start running again. My muscles felt quite stiff and my shoes were slipping a lot on the snow, I began to notice that quite a few runners were wearing trail shoes and next year I will certainly be wearing some. After running for a few minutes we came to the next queue (this is one of the few downsides to a race like this, some of the natural features make inevitable bottlenecks and this can be frustrating). We took this opportunity to have some energy sweets as we both knew the climb coming was hard. This section basically involved clambering up and steep slope, using trees, roots and stones to help haul yourself up through the forest. What is most gauling about this section is that you descend to the fire road roughly 100 yards down the road from where you started. It was great even though my legs were burning by the time we started the descent, team bambi team mate was running on like a deer (apt of course), leaping over the branches and she has a great downhill running technique that I started to copy.

Once back on the fire road we started a gentle ascent, having gotten confused I was sure that we were about to hit another descent. How wrong was I! A marshal was stood on the road indicating for us to head up another small stoney path heading up steeply only to level out briefly before starting to head skywards again across grass and felled trees. It was a fantastic view but I think we were all starting to wonder if we would ever head back down! We entered the forest again on the single track paths and it could have been a scene from a Christmas card. The fir trees were covered with snow which gentle drifted to the ground occasionally creating a beautiful scene. We also spotted other runners descending through the trees, we must nearly be at the top!

As the trees thinned out we saw marshals stood at balance beams covered in snow and ice, I managed to stay on them briefly but whenever I had to let go of a tree I fell off. I chose the blame the snow not my well known lack on co-ordination! Next came the cargo net, this net isn’t fixed to the ground and essentially I didn’t keep my bum down low enough as half way through I got stuck by my buttons in the net. All of sudden I couldn’t move forwards or back, luckily there was enough space for people to get round the side of me but my team bambi teammate had such frozen hands she couldn’t get me out. It was up to a lovely lass dressed as a bumblebee to get me out, which I am very grateful for as I had an image of being there until the 10k lot came through in the dark!

Next came the first big descent. Now I made a slight mistake in what can only be describe as excitement at finally going downhill! I saw snow and assumed I would have grip so set off running, almost instantly I realised that the runners ahead of us had compacted the snow so that it had turned almost to ice. As this realisation dawned I flew past a few other runners, shouting sorry as I skidded around a berm finally coming to a halt in a small snow drift. I picked myself and carried on at a more sedate pace until we came to a marshal shouting the instructions ‘If you don’t have trail shoes on, sit down and push’. It was like sledging! Brilliant fun, I like to think I won the race I had with a fellow competitor.

A quick leap across the fire road and we plunged back into the woods. The lights and sound system weren’t on in the disco section making it feel slightly disorientating as though someone had just idly left this there but we all knew we were on the home stretch now and the pace had picked up. I decided to employ the sliding technique more and more on this section, using tree, branches and fellow runners to help my progress. I have to say I don’t think I would recommend doing this is old running shoes again, the lack of grip on my shoes did make for some hairy moments and the bruises and cut on my ankles show I didn’t come away totally unscathed.

Luckily a cargo net at the bottom of this wooded section stopped us from falling onto the fire road and once we had slide gracefully(!) under it we set off running towards the bridge. Next up the river crossings and the tunnel. Now last time we had done this run it had been dry in the days leading up to it, with all the rain each mud path was now just a mud pit. We were slipping and sliding everywhere, I decided to simply run as fast as I could through it all. There were moments where I felt my feet slide away from me but I just tried to keep moving forwards and I managed to stay up right. I thought the first river crossing was much deeper but it was only up to mid-shin although freezing cold as we splashed our way across. More water on the other side but in cups, to be honest I wasn’t sure that I needed it but I took some anyway – I have a tendency to get incredibly dehydrated on runs without noticing! More mud then the dread tunnel loomed into view, we had to jump into the stream then wade through a foul smelling tunnel filled with water up to your waist. We could tell this was coming up from the screams. I gamely jumped in and followed the line of runners through the tunnel, it really smelt worse than I remembered. Clambering up the ladder at the other side I realised we weren’t far from the end. Collecting my team mate we set off through the field again heading towards the cheering, the finish line was close….but still further than we thought.

We plodded through more mud then splashed through another section of river. At this point a spectator asked me if we were cold???? I just shouted that I didn’t know as I couldn’t feel a thing and dived off into the trees following my team mate. We finally reached the estate road and knowing we didn’t have far to go we both sped up, however I think we both remembered about ‘the wall’ at the same time and the pace slowed once more. We round the corner and found ourselves in another queue for the final cargo net. I apologised to everyone in advance this time in case I got stuck but made a mental note to flatten myself on the ground to ensure I didn’t. I went first, flat on the ground using my hands and knees to push myself along and I didn’t get stuck once – there is a lesson in that for me!

As my team mate followed me out of the cargo net she kept saying she wouldn’t be able to get up the wall, so in my motivational mindset I called her a jessie and told her to get her arse up the wall. I like to think my motivational chat helped as when we were pulling ourselves up the wall using the ropes I glanced across and she was haring up it. A final jump then we were crossing the finish line. A medal, a Snickers bar and a bottle of water and it was all over for another year!

Deerstalker After

An epic race this year but great fun, our time was worse than the previous year but our finishing place was much higher. I had to push our car out of the car park and the veggie burger I had wasn’t the best but everything else was great. Next year the 10k anyone??

Sunday Lesson in the Sunshine (briefly)

Now I am going to post a proper race review later this week but I will tell you that the Deerstalker 5k this year was tougher than the previous time. There was snow, ice, a freezing river, an incident in the cargo net and so much mud I looked like I had fake tan on! It was brilliant, more to come on that though.

Now I know that I am not meant to have favourites at the stables but I do. I love riding most of the horses there as they are all quite different but Tx still stays as one of my favourites, a highland pony he isn’t big and can be lazy given half a chance but if you make him work with you then he is a dream.

I was back in my usual group lesson on a Sunday and it was great, I have really missed riding with them all. My group is very friendly and encouraging although we all have a laugh as well. After being in other groups and by myself I can see that my Sunday group is a great bunch to ride with. We were working constantly in open order on Sunday which was nice as it requires us all to ensure our horses are paying attention.

Tx requires to be chased into walking actively at the start of the lesson, if you do this he responds much more in the faster work. I have learnt this now and given the similarities in this aspect between Au and P I got him responding well. We moved into canter work quickly, Tx initially wouldn’t go into the corners well – it was a bit boggy so he was finding the corners difficult – I had to work through that on a couple of transitions. I even got encouraged to make him canter faster which was great, he really felt responsive and when we missed cantering on the A marker I was easily able to turn him in canter to do the exercise again.

I have to say I suffered a little in the lesson during the canter standing up in my stirrups due to my race the day before, I didn’t get any sympathy obviously. In fact I am sure my instructor decided to make us all do an extra four minutes of trot work standing up in the stirrups purely based on my complaints!

The lesson itself was great fun and I thought everyone did really well. All the horses seemed very responsive yesterday, I only got a little laziness during the cool down where Tx was determined to stop on the centre line ever time we passed through it – he was confident we were finished.

Miles run: 13

WWC Coupons left: 54

 

 

Kit Review – Icebreaker Pace Leggings

This is my first product review so feedback would be appreciated, thanks.

I bought these leggings as they are made from merino wool, a more sustainable fabric than the usual running leggings I buy. I chose to branch out as part of the WWC to try to improve my running wardrobe’s sustainability credentials.

The first thing I noticed was how comfortable these leggings are and considering I have been been wearing compression leggings a lot recently they were also quick to change into (always useful to me I am invariably running late at the minute).

I wore them on a short lunchtime run at work this week. The fabric was a little scratchy in comparison to other running leggings I owe, I could tell they were made of wool. Hopefully they will soften with washing and wearing.

However, I did find that these leggings did not hold their shape or stay up during my run. I had to constantly pull them up, both at the waistband and on the thighs. This could be partly down to the soft fabric waistband but I am not sure.

It was distracting throughout the run and when I stopped to stretch I discovered the leggings had gone baggy in the crotch area, which is not a flattering look.

Overall I was not impressed with these leggings for running. I also wore the leggings to Pilates where the leggings did fare better. The lack of pockets on these leggings – frustrating on a run as I like somewhere to store my keys and money – means no zips digging into me while doing mat work.

I wouldn’t recommend these leggings for any hard physical activity but for toning, stretching and low-impact sports I think they are really comfortable.

DSCF0704

*disclosure* The opinions expressed in this post are my own and I have not been paid for this review.

Spooking ponies and Scones

First things first, happy mother’s day! Regardless of how you feel about the day it is always nice to say ‘thanks mum!’.

I had another private lesson on Friday – this isn’t usual, normally I ride with a group on a Sunday. So another lesson in spooking! This time I had Au, I ride her quite often but she is of a nervous disposition and being alone in the school with a cat that was jumping out of the trees and ponies galloping about in the field next door I was warned by my instructor that there Au would spook.

I was a little nervous but after her first couple of spooks I calmed down, while she does fly off she is quite easy to stop and it was much more interesting to learn about how to help her through it rather than get all tense. The basic theme was to keep her interested in what I was asking her to do, lots of increasing and decreasing circles in trot using my body to steer her inward then leg yielding to get her out while getting Au to look into the centre of the circle rather than look at the scary fence or trees.

I was also practising slowing my rise in trot then asking her to walk with my voice rather than using my reins at all. She is incredibly responsive to the reins and it can be that she rushes when you hold the reins too tight so it is good to get used to using them only to reinforce the command. We finished up by doing repeated short canters getting lots of power through the canter, it was great getting used to using the inside leg to keep her cantering and also pushing her out to the outside track. Au is known for being the fastest in the school and boy can she fly, great fun all round. These last few lessons which have involved spooking and a fall have been really useful to help me understand how to work a horse through these events, back to my group lessons next week lets see if I remember these tips!

So last week I was meant to run Lasswade 10 miler but unfortunately my sinusitis put paid to that idea. I still went along to cheer some fellow runners on and ended up coming away feeling really inspired. As perhaps can be seen from some of my comments on running I am not the fastest runner but this year I want to improve my times and I feel I can. I saw lots of women of a similar ability to myself coming through at Lasswade at around 80 minutes looking strong and importantly happy, that’s what I want to feel like and look like. I went for my first run today in about a week and a half..yes I was slow and it was a short run but I did it and it didn’t feel tough, well except that during the 30 minutes I was out there was hail, rain, sunshine and snow(!). It is the Deerstalker next weekend, a 5k and a bit race involving obstacles and fording rivers, I will post a review up of the race afterwards. We have done it before and it is great fun, maybe next year we will do the night time race.

A quick mention of the Wartime Wardrobe Challenge, I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy some new leggings and plumped for People Tree black leggings. A lovely fit and I wore them to work on Friday however while getting changed to go horse riding I put my hand clean through the body of the material! I was not impressed. However, I called People Tree and they couldn’t have been more helpful offering me a refund or an exchange and a freepost address to send the faulty leggings back. I am taking the exchange as I have quite a few clothes made by People Tree and nothing like this has ever happened before. I was impressed by their customer service too and wanted to mention that too.

Finally a quick mention of a lovely cafe I visited yesterday. Due to Team Bambi runner being pregnant and the others being ill we decided to go for a walk along Crammond Fall yesterday, the weather was pretty brutal but the scenery lovely. We stopped at the Crammond Falls cafe and it was lovely, delicious homemade scones with jam, a log fire and a friendly cat. I would recommend that if you are out that way you should stop in – friendly service and delicious food, it doesn’t get much better than that.

We did see some hard souls out kite surfing! I hope they went for a cake after that, they would have certainly deserved it. If my swimming ever improves I would love to give this a shot!

kite surfers at Crammond
Looks amazing….and cold!

Miles run: 3

WWC Coupons left: 54

Remember to breathe!

Unfortunately I have been a little unwell over the last few days, so apologies if this post is not 100% coherent. Now I think I already knew that I would be given P during my private horse riding lesson yesterday.

I mentioned last week that I thought I would be nervous when I was given P again and I was. Even in a lesson with only myself and him where I thought he would be calmer (no other horses to show off for) I was still nervous.

I got him warmed up well, we doing a lot of trotting work trying to help me understand the ability to help the horse move if you are balanced correctly and using your body weight to turn instead of the reins. Cue a lot of circles in sitting trot without stirrups, it did make me realise how easy P is to turn if you work with him. It also settled me down quite well, I just need to remember these things in slightly more stressful situations 🙂

Just as I was feeling a little happier he decided to spook. Immediately I pulled up and started explaining how I couldn’t do this. My instructor calmly told me that if I can’t deal with a horse spooking or bucking then I shouldn’t do beach rides, two hour hacks or jumping. My first reaction was to say ‘Well maybe I shouldn’t be’, the look I received for that comment was interesting to say the least. She then asked me what I thought he had spooked at. I said I wasn’t sure but that it had felt like he was slowing down and looking for something to spook at. ‘Exactly’ I was told, I had lost his attention and he decided that if he spooked then he wouldn’t need to do what I was asking him to do. She also pointed out that he was busy looking into the hedge when I should have had him looking to the right, the way in which we were about to bend.

Confidence slightly rebuilt I set off round the school again, I knew what was coming next but still tensed up slightly! Then cantering, cantering large, cantering changes of reins and turning him across the school on a sixpence. It was great, I managed to remember to sit back properly and the power increase from P was brilliant. I did forget to breathe quite a few times leading my instructor to force me to sing ‘Nellie the elephant’ while cantering around.

So the main thing learnt from this lesson? A horse can turn on a sixpence, get your balance, make your horse look where he is going (helpful), keep their attention and breathe during canter! I will let you know if I remember these things during next week’s lesson.