Shaping up

As I was walking home from the gym last night I was hailed by a car. “Miss! Excuse me, miss!” I turned to see a car with two guys in it. “Yes?,” I asked. “You have a great a**!” “Uh…thanks,” I mumbled.

I was briefly angry with myself for being so polite and lame in my response, but then I decided that I shouldn’t be. Why was I blaming myself for the years of cultural conditioning that led me to try to be polite when confronted with boorish behavior?

Also, truthfully, I do think my butt has become much more toned since I’ve been riding twice a week. I didn’t start riding so I could get a better behind, although it’s a side benefit that I’m happy with. Horsies and a firmer backside?! Count me in!

I’m only a month away from my big goal — riding in Scotland — and while I’m a much better rider than when I started my lessons in March, I won’t be able to do all things I’d like. I really wanted to be able to canter, but I have hardly done any cantering to date, and likely won’t be ready to do so before I leave.

I haven’t written very much about my horse-riding experiences (although, I haven’t written very much at all the past few months). When I first had the idea to take lessons so I could ride during a 16-day trip Scotland in October, I asked the experts over at Grumpy Rumblings for some advice on what skills I should concentrate on building in preparation. While I was excited by my progress in June, by the following month my aged body had revealed to me that I needed to do yet more work.

Since the last week in July, I’ve been in physical therapy twice a week to work on my left foot, ankle, and calf, and I’m definitely improved. I’ve noticed such a difference when walking, in fact, that during a follow-up visit I asked the doctor if she thought I could try running again. Her answer was to wait about two weeks before I started again, very slowly.

My left ankle still gets fatigued when I’m posting the trot for more than about five minutes. I’m working on building up my ability to do it for longer, and have the approval of the physical therapist to push it a bit more each time I ride. It’s mostly because of this unaccounted for set back that I haven’t been able to learn to canter yet. My instructors (I’ve been working with two different ones) have wanted to see me balanced and steady in the saddle before having me learn to canter safely.

Just in the past few weeks, I’ve decided to look at other options for improving my riding. I talked with the one instructor about share boarding a horse instead of riding different school horses all the time. (For those who don’t know, share boarding is basically like leasing a horse, or sharing the expenses of keeping a horse with a private owner or the stable.)

My thinking is that if I can learn to ride well — to find my balance and work through my physical challenges — on one horse, that will help me when I’m given the opportunity to ride different horses. Also, if I share board, I can ride at times that are less busy at the stable (such as mornings) and spend my riding time focusing on building my skills instead of dodging other horses. While it’s great to learn to work on a horse around other riders, at times I find it much too demanding to be trying to figure out how to avoid others while I’m trying to work on my own riding. 

The other change I’ve already started as of today is working with just the one trainer. Over the past few months, I’ve worked with five different trainers. Mostly I’ve worked with only two: one during a weekday lesson, and one during a weekend lesson. There have been a few times when one or the other trainer was out and I worked with a substitute, which is why I’ve been with so many. This week I decided that I should stick with just the one trainer for now, and changed my riding schedule to accommodate that decision.

I also got to ride a new horse today, a big gelding named Finn. I think he may just be my share board horse. I’ve ridden several school horses by now, and never sat one as well as I did on Finn today. He’s the largest horse I’ve ridden (a Percheron cross), and is somewhat mouthy (trying to gnaw the stable door, the bit, and nip at my shirt), but I was able to put his bridle on (he was already saddled when I got to the barn), lead him out to the arena, and ready him for riding without any issues. Once mounted, I urged him up to a trot with little effort, caught the correct diagonal quickly, and posted the trot with relative ease. Riding this morning with only one other person in the arena was lovely, too.

I still have some details to work out before I take the leap into share boarding, but I’m so glad to have the option open to me. And I’m really eager to get back on Finn again, too. 🙂

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Works in progress

First, I wanted to reflect on my biggest work in progress: me. I've been working with a personal trainer for a few months now, and I'm really starting to see the results. I've lost 9 pounds and have dropped enough inches that I can fit back into some really nice clothes in my closet. Yay!!

I also notice other changes in my body. It's much easier for me to resist crappy food (I totally passed on free donuts today), and I eat less. My food cravings are better and better: how about a craving for a date rather than a candy bar, or some peach slices rather than ice cream? Pretty good, eh? I'm going to keep going with this and enjoy the difference it is making in my mood, too.

Over the past couple days I've added a few more projects to my Ravelry page, including a few WIPs.

I've decided that I'm not into posting photos of works in progress, so don't look for any. Unless I'm trying to get feedback on something, I see no point to document my progress in photos. I'm much more interested in documenting the end product.

I usually don't have lots of projects going on at once, but I'm not being typical lately. I've got three different projects on the needles right now: a shawl, a sweater, and a sock. (Of course I have a sock on the needles! Socks are my purse project for when I have a few moments to knit here and there.)

The shawl is the Lace Wings shawl from Alice Cooley (pattern available from Lettuce Knit in Toronto…they'll mail it to you so no airfare required!). This is a simple lace shawl created for one skein of sea silk. I've had a skein of sea silk sitting around since I bought it at Stitches Midwest 2006, and I thought it was time to use it. The pattern is very easy to remember, so it's not a difficult lace project at all. But of course, it's still lace and looks quite impressive. I haven't worked on the shawl in a week or so, though, 'cause it started to get cool and I really wanted to get a sweater going.

The sweater is the Neckdown Wrap Cardigan from Knitting Pure and Simple. I'm using Dream in Color Classy in the color Good Luck Jade. Yes, I know this combination of yarn and pattern has already been done by the Yarn Harlot. That's where I got the idea, OK? It's a brilliant combination of a simple pattern and a wonderful yarn, and she has many more years of knitting experience under her belt, so I'm taking the idea and running with it. I've been wanting a wrap sweater for ages. The last one I tried was a disaster, so I'm pleased that this one seems to be working out so far. I do think I will alter the pattern a bit and add some waist shaping, though.

I'm still intrigued by Cat Bordhi's innovative "sockitecture" techniques, so my current sock project is the Upstream socks using Austermann Step. Thanks to a day of knitting yesterday (took a day off work sick since allergies were messing me up so bad) and a couple conference calls today I'm already past the heel and into the leg.

One of the reasons I've got several things going right now is because I want to avoid starting new projects in October. So, this is going to sound totally superstitious, but I visited a palm reader at the Renaissance Faire and she said that Mercury will be retrograde in October, making it a bad time to start anything new. I recall that a few months ago when I was in the dumps with my knitting, it ended up that there was a retrograde. I'd just rather not take the chance.

I figure it will be fine finishing projects that I've already started, I just shouldn't start them. It will be a fine time for frogging projects, too, I think. So I also plan on ripping out that ill-favored wrap cardigan that I attempted a few months ago during the last retrograde.

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