I set some goals for 2014, some of which I managed, some of which I succeeded at, some of which were set in folly.
1. Consistently ride at least 4 times a week - Successful
I think I managed to ride very consistently all year, although I had a real slump from February to May, due to saddle fit issues and sore back syndrome. Even when I wasn't riding, I spent time with my Last Unicorn (as Saiph calls him) playing with his ball, attempting to ride bareback, or just hanging out grazing. Since I got the Alta, I have been riding 4 or 5 days a week, and J and I have been riding together on the weekends.
2. Continue to pursue my current path of weight loss and fitness. Eat less, ride more. - Somewhat successful
I don't think I've lost any weight at all. However, I can ride for several hours over varied terrain without taking to my bed the next day. My legs have slimmed and developed muscle. My core is stronger and Ashke and I are better together now then we were a year ago. My seat has developed and I am able to ride through incidents that I might have gotten off and walked a year ago.
3. Continue to increase my back strength and core - Successful
If you have ever had significant back pain, you know how difficult it is to do anything: breathe, sleep, walk, poo. Every thing hurts. I have made significant inroads into strengthening my lower back and core. (No, I can't plank, but for this over half a century body, I'm doing much better, thank you very much). I spent this weekend riding (16.75 miles in two days) without my back brace and although I have some sore muscles, my lower back is not hurting. I cantered without any issue, rode out spooks without it spasming and did not have any nerve pain at the end of the weekend.
4. Take a lesson with Cassandra every two weeks during the winter - Somewhat Successful
I did take lessons for several months and discovered that Ashke and I are not cut out for Modern Dressage. We did learn a lot of stuff, which I am adapting somewhat, and applying to WE. I learned a very valuable lesson in learning a lot more about any discipline I decide to approach and interviewing the trainer to make sure what I think I am getting training in is what I want/need to be trained on. Just as I wouldn't want to use a western trainer for eventing, trying to use a modern dressage trainer for Working Equitation did not work. Since I've switched barns, I will be able to take lessons with a trainer that specifically works on Working Equitation and who is willing to help Ashke and I find a way to be successful in our chosen sport.
5. Learn more about Dressage and tests - Somewhat Successful
I read a book called "The Twisted Truth of Modern Dressage" and discovered that I am not a real big fan. I really have no desire to ride in that fashion, nor do I have the money, the horse or the body shape to succeed. I find that dressage for Working Equitation fits my horse much better and applies lateral work to actual real life use (opening and closing gates have been invaluable on the trail). The expectations for Working Eq advance much quicker than Modern Dressage (collected canter work by level 2) but the dressage part of the test is less important than the horse through obstacles. I can also wear clothes that are comfortable (I will never be comfortable in a dressage jacket) and a helmet at all times.
1. Compete in at least one 25 mile Endurance Race - Complete fail
The Kenlyn Urban Challenge did not happen and then VSV closed the borders to Wyoming for the Happy Jack Race. I did, however, get a clean bill of health from Diane and encouragement to proceed in a race. Plus, Ashke and I managed 400 miles on trail this year, and that was after a really slow start, plus we aren't really done with the year yet. I have Thurs, Fri, Sat and Sun to ride this weekend.
2. Compete in the virtual Working Equitation Event in October - Fail but Still a Success
I didn't compete in the virtual WE event online. I actually got connected to a couple of WE groups and went to a WE clinic, WE schooling show, a two-day clinic with Nuno Matos (Portugal's Champion), and a WE play day. I would have shown at the RMIHA year end show, except VSV. This though, is going to be a huge focus for us in 2015. There are monthly fun days, clinics and schooling shows expected in 2015. I'm so incredibly stoked about the opportunity.
3. Compete in a RMDS Dressage Schooling Show in 2014 - Fail and Not Really my goal
Not only did I not do this, but I think this really was a goal because of N. Watching her ride made me think we could do the same. However, neither my horse nor myself is cut out to ride dressage for a dressage specific show. N did show in the first Schooling show, but has now shifted her focus to jumping. Cali seems happier jumping than doing dressage and N used to jump, so this is fun and exciting for her. I hope they continue to progress and have a great time this year.
4. Expand our trail rides to other trails - Complete Success!!
Getting our own trailer was the key to our summer. And J getting Coyote helped too. We rode Bear Creek, Chatfield, East-West Regional Trail, Flatiron Vista, Dowdy Draw, Marshall Lake, Teller Trail, and Ralston Creek Trail. Our favorite by far is the East-West Regional Trail. There are a ton more to try. I also discovered a book called Riding Colorado, which has 221 pages of trails you can access from Denver. I am drooling already.
5. Increase speed and distance of trail rides, weather and footing permitting. - Success, mostly
Overall, the distance and speed has increased. We are able to go farther faster and his walk is a rock solid 3.9 mph. We still need to continue to work on this, if I really want to try and endurance ride.
6. Get Ashke under control at the canter - Success
It's taken a lot of experimentation and listening to my horse, but I think we finally have the bit that works to stop him and the bit that he can live with, listen to and give to pressure with. We have tested it time and again on the trail and I have been able to ride out spooks without bolting, canter at the speed I wish, and stop him when I want.