Sunrise from Dubai airport
It's amazing how some places seem like a second home. Cascais seems to be one of them - I can't quite pinpoint what it is, but I always feel relaxed when I'm here. Even strolling along to the local supermarket in the rain (dodging trees and signs with my umbrella) I was thinking how funny it is that I can love going shopping in a place where I can't understand a word of Portuguese, but feel totally at home.
It was a long journey (I had forgotten about that part). I was very fortunate this time to have three seats to myself for the 14 hr Melbourne to Dubai leg, meaning I did sleep (a bit). Even having all that time to lie down meant I arrived in better shape, not so stiff from being stuck seated all the time. The connecting flight from Dubai to Lisbon departed at what seemed like the opposite side of the terminal, so I got a good half hour walk in too - and a chance to appreciate the Dubai airport (last time I hardly had to move, the departure gate was much closer). There was the most beautiful wall size mural of Arabian horses somewhere in my walk....I wish now I'd stopped to take a photo!
Clear skies greeted me as we flew into Lisbon, but alas not for long!
I arrived to stormy and damp conditions, but the storms were very intermittment. I still like rain, coming from the dry country it is not something I ever wish away. I did get a bit wet walking to the supermarket, but then avoided a massive downpour just as I was about to venture back out again.
Time to ride
So, as I did last time, I kept myself awake on local time by having a dressage lesson at 5pm! I rode Hostil, the 5yo Lusitano I spent time riding during my last visit. It was interesting that Frederico remarked how much straighter and supple my body is, so I'm glad my riding has improved in 10 months! (NB - I have hardly ridden in the past 3 weeks since my own horses were turned out for a spell, so this is very good news!).
Hostil felt a lot more established since I last rode him - although still a bit cheeky and fresh, given the wet and stormy conditions. We did some suppling work and really made him focus, so there was no excuse to be distracted when it decided to rain. His canter work was very nice and rewarded me with some straight and balanced flying changes - it felt very easy. We worked on some leg yield and then into half pass which was great (when I got it right!!)
The other interesting thing Frederico incorporated into the lesson was use of Franklin balls to help with my sitting trot. I had seen them on the Internet, but had never tried them. These are inflatable/water filled balls that you can sit on or place in other areas to assist with position issues. It felt very strange to begin with, however once they were taken away - wow! My sitting trot was so much better, my seat and body more free and able to follow the horse. I was sitting much deeper. This is something I am going to explore more, not only for myself, but for the benefit of my students.
I found an article about them here -
This next week will be a great opportunity to work on myself as a rider and coach. It is good to work on myself, not just the horse and dealing with specific issues that come up when training for a competition. This is part of what has me frustrated when competitions run close together in a season - there's no time to work on specific issues - and I end up with 'band aid' solutions just to get better marks in a dressage test.
So many lessons in my many years of riding have been all about how the horse goes. More recently my own training has been about correcting my riding so I can be more effective and not block the horse or unbalance him. I think as riders we tend to get "stuck" once we've been riding a long time and then bringing on a range of horses...and forget to check in on ourselves. There's always something we can do better that makes our horse's job easier - in competition or just in everyday riding.
Lately I've been finding things a bit hard and really have burnt myself out (I only have one mode - flat out). The last two weeks have been difficult for me personally, with sick kids and nursing a cat with snake bite on top of everything else. I had to shut myself away a bit, for my own sanity. I took some rare time away from social media (ok, I'm back....but purely because people were having trouble contacting me!!!)
Time in transit and having a lesson yesterday has been a good time for relection. I'm letting go of the guilt that has encompassed me. Guilt for taking time off riding - which is silly because with increased work commitments and two small kids that need me, riding can't always be #1. Not to mention, I had decided to end my competition season early and give the horses a spell....so why the guilt? I was freaking out that with time off, my riding would be terrible once I got here, but it seems that was a myth I'd conjured up. You don't suddenly forget how to ride!
I feel bad also, that my health and fitness is not what it could be. I feel a bit self conscious about still carrying around a partial baby belly (and then some). Yet again, life does get in the way. I do need to take better care of my body, for the sake of my kids, if nothing else - but by making small steps and sustainable changes...and not beating myself up.
Let's see what today brings :)