Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 8


...And back to the real world

I'm back. I have put off writing my last installment as it makes me quite sad. I'm now well and truly back into the "real life" of working and being a Mum. The holiday is really over. 

My last ride in Cascais was the morning before I departed Portugal. I had a magical lesson (again with Frederico), riding Vingador. We continued our work on laterals, flying changes and passage. For me, the lightbulb moment was realising that for these movements I had to wait (and wait a bit more...!) and prepare. My eventing reflexes have me wanting to do everything in a hurry (and in doing so, trying to do too much). So it was a revelation in riding the flying changes to sit up, half halt, slight change of flexion...quietly ask for the change. It worked! 


There is, much to my surprise, actually time to do this, even between 3 x changes (if you have seen the video I recently posted on my Gretgrix Equestrian Facebook page, you can see me finally 'getting' the sequence changes...5 across the diagonal). In the passage too, it was quite the experience for me to learn to slow down and travel in that much slower rhythm. I'm sad that I had to leave when I'd just had a brief taste of how much more there is for me to learn! 

Maria gave me a souvenir of my stay - my very own CRC shirt ;) Very happy to be the first Aussie recruit (well, after Sarah that is! ;)) 


Upon packing my bags, Paulo collected me from Quinta da Bicuda to take me to the Airport. We had a slight detour to make - I had been looking for a special souvenir tile to take back. Earlier in the week I saw beautiful tiles of Lusitanos at The Portuguese School of Equestrian Art. I naively assumed they'd be everywhere, which wasn't the case. Anyhow, Paulo specially took me back to Belem so I could get my beautiful tile (2 actually...oh and a print for the wall!). As a result, I got to the airport an hour before departure and only just made it to my boarding gate 15 mins before closing. Gate 46 is the furtherest away of course....! I like living on the edge ;) 



So what have I learned? 

Many people have asked me how riding other "fancy" horses can help me with my own riding. I cannot emphasize enough the value in riding schoolmaster horses in developing "feel". To understand straightness, you need to ride a horse that can go straight (when I sit straight, of course!). To understand true collection, it is something that must be felt. To get the feeling of the higher level work, it is best experienced on a horse with a higher level of training (and tolerance!) before attempting to train the movements on a less educated horse. I also had the opportunity to ride younger horses, to learn the process of their training and experience riding a range of horses. I could write volumes on so many of the things that I've learned. Many of them that I'd been told before, but needed extra time for the penny to drop! Riding under instruction for consecutive days also saw quite a transformation in my position, feel and timing. It taught me I need to be more disciplined in my training - both on myself and my horses. 

Both Sarah and Frederico gave me exercises to do off the horse, to improve suppleness and body awareness. Use of the Balimo chair helped get my lower back, pelvis and hip flexors more free. Regular visits to my osteopath and off horse strength/suppleness training is now part of my routine. 

Experiencing "pure" dressage training has seen a shift in my thinking/training & ambitions. I now view dressage as it was originally intended - training, and an art in itself, not just related to competition. Whilst my first love is still eventing, I really enjoy dressage training. I have the utmost respect for those who ride high level dressage - and am in love with the Lusitano horse ;) So beautiful, so much power, personality and yet a forgiving, willing nature. I now just need to win Lotto to bring home one of my own....In the meantime, I have a lot of learning to do with my current horses first! 

On a more personal level, this trip was a way for me to step outside of my comfort zone - going somewhere new, to concentrate on a different riding discipline was an exciting adventure. Much to my surprise, I felt relaxed the whole time I was away (must have been the nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night....bliss!!!). Travelling alone teaches you so much about yourself & what you are truly capable of. I was able to talk to my kids each day (hurray for the internet!) and it wasn't as hard as I thought being away from my family. So many people said to me they could never leave their kids for so long - however, I have faith in my husband's parenting ability, not to mention my wider support network of family. 

If you ever want to do something like this - just do it! It might be a leap of faith, but the rewards are great. Life is too short. Get out there and seize the moment!  

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A tour of Lisbon

I was going to include this as part of my "Lusitano Diaries" but it really deserves a chapter of its own. On Monday 23rd January, I went on a guided tour of Lisbon with Paulo and Agnes of Amazing Discovery Tours. What a fabulous day!

We started off in Belem, where there are many significant monuments and historic buildings (I have included hyperlinks for those wanting more historical information).  The first of note is the Tower of Belem . This is just magnificent!

We then visited the Monument To The Discoveries. It is difficult to comprehend the size of this until you are right up next to it.

Nearby is a world map set in tiles...

Next up was morning tea at Pasteis de Belem - home of the Pastel de Belem, their spin on the Pastel de Nata (or as most Aussies would say, a custard tart). They are quite different to the custard tarts we are accustomed to. The pastry is light, more like a puffed pastry, and the egg custard filling more fluffy. They were delicious - I had mine with cinnamon and sugar. 

They even have a display window so you can see them being baked ;) 

From Belem, we moved to explore the older part of the city. Alfama is on the slope towards St Jorge Castle. The old houses with coloured walls and distinct terracotta coloured roofs make a magnificent picture.

It was then time for lunch, so we moved into the Central district. 

We had a delicious tapas lunch with piri piri chicken, cuts of cured pork, local cheeses (including goat & sheep milk cheeses) with bread, cod cakes and a local white wine (sorry, totally forgotten region!). 

Then it was more exploring of the central district -

Anyone for some vintage port? It was only €1,000 odd...

We finished our meandering through town with a visit to a Ginjinha bar. Yep, you just walk in to be served your shot of cherry liqueur. Bottoms up! 

!!! Felt a bit lightheaded after that at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. 

On that note, I have to say I had a really enjoyable day. There's heaps more to explore, but it has given me a taste of many of the things Lisbon has to offer. A good reason for a return trip ;) 

Thankyou to Amazing Discovery Tours - it was great to have company and to learn more than I would have exploring on my own. One day I will have to come back in the summer time to see the city at night, with all the restaurants and Fado singers bringing the city to life. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 7a


I apologise for the lack of blogging over the past fortnight. It took the better part of a week to shake the horrific jetlag (so much worse flying home, remember flying 'west is best'). I kept waking at 3am and falling asleep, exhausted at random times of the day. I then stupidly knocked my iPad off the bench, wrecking the screen. Add in a 1700km round trip the weekend after I got home and you can see why I haven't been in a writing mood! Back to the reality of my very hectic life! 

Now to test my memory. January 23rd was my second last day in Portugal and I started with an excellent morning lesson with Frederico, on Hostil, the lovely 4yo Lusitano. We worked on getting him soft, supple and travelling in a good rhythm. We then did some lateral work, introducing leg yield in trot. His canter work was fabulous. I was so much straighter, my reaction time so much better that suddenly I just "got it!". As horse people will relate to, it was a ride where I didn't want it to end.

The rest of my day was filled in with a guided day trip to Lisbon with Paulo and Agnes from Amazing Discovery Tours. I will write the next (very pictorial) chapter tonight, once I have the chance to download more photos from my camera.

Up soon : Lisbon, my final ride at Cascais Riding Club on Vingador and lots to reflect on.
PS. Did I mention I am already planning to go back??? ;)

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Lusitano Diaries - 6 1/2

I am sorry to not yet have installment 7 done yet, but jetlag is really affecting me this time - who knew travelling East would be so bad? If anyone has any tips for overcoming waking at 4am all the time and then battling to stay awake in the afternoon - let me know! This has never happened to me before.

I am blown away though, by the response to my little iMovie - which has had some 3000 views in a matter of days!

Monday, 30 January 2017

The Lusitano Diaries - Part 6


It is now almost a week since I last posted and I have been in a confused jetlagged fog since arriving home at 2am on Australia Day!

Sunday 22nd is where I recap my journey. I had a day off riding and met up with Sarah for a cuppa before heading up to Sintra for some more fabulous sightseeing. 

As quoted by Wikipedia - Sintra is a resort town in the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon. A longtime royal sanctuary, its forested terrain is studded with pastel-colored villas and palaces. The Moorish- and Manueline-style Sintra National Palace is distinguished by dramatic twin chimneys and elaborate tilework. The hilltop 19th-century Pena National Palace is known for a whimsical design and sweeping views

It is a place you could spend days exploring. I did some (ok, quite a lot of) shopping in the cute little village, before looking through the beautiful National Palace. 

The ceilings in this palace are so ornate - I can't imagine the work that went into such a building! 

The tile walls are also magnificent

The kitchen is huge! 

I then saw a "walking track" up towards Moorish Castle and Pena Palace. "A nice day for a walk" I thought...I should have viewed the sign more carefully (see that hiking picture???) Note I had also bought some cast iron wares that I was carrying with me!! 

A nice seat for a rest?

And oh just got steeper....and steeper

Umm,  was heading in the direction of that castley-looking place, and then saw rockclimbers on their way up the cliff. A little out of my depth! 

But, I made it to the foothills(!) of the beautiful Pena Palace and got a transfer to the top.

My photos don't do it justice, but it has AMAZING views from the top

Once again, beautiful inside (and an even bigger kitchen!)
(my other photos are yet to be downloaded from my non mobile device). 

I then got a ride all the way back down the mountain, saving my legs for another day.

Monday morning, I had a lesson at 8am with Frederico, this time on Hostil again. Hostil & I were on the same page. He was beautifully responsive, did lots of suppling work & baby leg yielding and I could feel my coordination and timing was getting SO much better. Work on the Balimo chair had also loosened me up before my ride and I felt much better through my body. 

Stay tuned, will soon write my next (lengthy) installment on my day tour of Lisbon & my final ride (sob) on Tuesday morning...

NB: I have been awake since 3am this morning after falling asleep on the couch at 9pm last night (!!) My poor body clock is hating the transition back (along with the heat and 2 very busy small children...) PS For my new Portuguese friends - a forecast of 39 degrees today! 😳