Thursday, 28 January 2016 10:15

The Bucket List — Boot Camp Rhythm and Blues

Written by Julie Brewster
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The Bucket List — Boot Camp Rhythm and Blues Olds College

I hit a wall today. Not, you know, literally. But physically I hit something solid and came to an abrupt halt! In spite of my weariness on Tuesday night, I popped awake at 2:30 am. Because insomnia is exactly what you want when you are taking the course of your childhood dreams! After 3 hours of sleep I honestly think I could have napped in Bender's stall at any point in the day.

Joan and I both drive in from out of Olds, so between 6 am chores and 7:30 am Fitness Class we have some time to chat or go find something to eat or nap. We both set our alarms this morning, kicked off our shoes and coats and settled into the benches in the arena foyer for 40 winks. I’ve been to race barns where the team works like a Swiss watch – there’s a pattern and a flow and the team is in general unison and harmony. I've also been in barns where there was no feeling at all of being part of a team. For obvious reasons, the barns that work in harmony are easier to be around, and must be better for the mental well-being and general happiness of the horses. Next time I'm in a disjointed barn, where there is too much “I” and not enough “We” I'm going to suggest morning naps in the same space. Very bonding! Our Boot Camp group formed a Chore team this week, and next week when the main program starts students will be assigned to weekly Chore teams. The hours that they will spend together learning and doing hands on horse care will give a great foundation to them when they move to a race or training barn to find their groove as part of a unified team.

I was exhausted by late morning. My muscles ached, I knew what I was doing wrong during my riding session on Bender, but I just wasn't quite able to fix all the problems. I'd correct one issue only to create another. I'd straighten my shoulders and my back would hollow. I'd flatten my back and my legs would give out and fall behind me. I'd find my legs and my hands would go kittywampous. It's some consolation that I knew it felt wrong, but as instructor Mara says I'm an over thinker and it was so frustrating to not find my neutral position and get some rhythm. Yesterday I was feeling the beat and doing a waltz and today I lost the beat and was doing bad white girl boogie! Think Elaine on Seinfeld... We all struggled a bit on our horses today, so we chalked it up to overall muscle fatigue and we'll work towards softness, balance and rhythm again tomorrow. During this week we have such a fabulous opportunity to gain strength and confidence in a small team. Mara, Theresa and Nancy are very supportive and find ways to explain our issues and offer advice. I'm hoping that by Friday we will all find the flow and be dancing to the same tune!

The classroom session this afternoon helped build our foundation as riders, and as horsewomen. We went through the technical aspects of the different gaits, and then watched a European Dressage video which walked us through many variations of how to find our self-carriage and rhythm in every gait. Although from a completely opposite discipline, the mounted exercises we learned will be useful to help us stabilize on the horse. Knowing and feeling the gaits of a racehorse is critical to the success of an exercise rider. Trainers can give instructions from the ground, but the rider on a Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred or the driver behind a Standardbred is the only one who has access to the movement of the horse for the entire round of the track. It’s therefore imperative that the rider/driver identify, analyze and describe any possible irregularities which might indicate the level of fitness or any potential soundness issues. The feedback for the trainer after every ride on every horse is a critical part of the job, so the skill to feel the horse has to become instinctive.

We only have 2 days left, and I’m told that my muscle aches will diminish and it will get easier for the next couple of riding sessions. I hope so. Because I definitely need to put a bounce back in my step and find the beat before we’re finished on Friday!

 

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