Sunday, 5 July 2015

Cock ups and a sub 40 dressage!

We competed at Carlton last Sunday. Carlton was one of the main reasons I joined BE, having done plenty of schooling round there when I was younger.

I found I wasn't quite as nervous about it as I was at Little Downham, mainly because I knew what to expect. Although I did feel slightly unprepared due to some footy issues and it being so hot (horse gets very lazy in the heat)

The day itself started ok, but it wasn't long before we were driving through quite a lot of rain, with one child complaining of feeling sick. Luckily my husband was there to be my sat nav though (my sense of direction is so poor we frequently end up hopelessly lost)

The set up at Carlton was fab. It had a friendly, family type feel with lots of little things going on. There was so much for the spectators and family members - dog show, birds of prey, excellent viewing (with straw bale seating) and a ping pong table.

Also the sponsors of my class Country and Stable of Olney had provided lovely little goody bags for each competitor.

Thanks to a really enlightening dressage lesson (turns out straightness is key!) We managed to get our best dressage score yet. Despite it feeling shocking and myself getting us totally lost. I suppose having your rider sat straight does make it easier to do all sorts of things, like tracking up, half decent transitions etc... Was pleased she didn't feel like loosing her footing at any time, despite the hard ground and recent downpour. Oh yes, and the cows in very close proximity (she doesn't like cows!)

Feeling a bit crap after getting lost in my test I headed off to walk the xc course in my two hour wait between dressage and showjumping.

The course was perfect. A really great mix of twisty little bits which needed a bit of concentration and accuracy, and some cracking galloping stretches complete with nice jumps and hedges (we really do love a good hedge)

Feeling slightly happier I headed back to the trailer to get ready for the sj.

We struggled in the warm up. I had knocked my confidence in the dressage, and then subsequently all my oomph had just gone and I was really struggling with my nerves. I found that every time I turned into a jump I would have to suddenly take a pull because someone had cut me up, or a helper was fiddling with the jump, or someone else had demolished it. In the end I just went in. Jumped the first two well, then just forgot how to ride. It's all down to how wonderful my little horse was that we only had one jump down. I deserved to have had many more faults.

Feeling rather flat we went off to the xc warm up. Decided that we would just school round quietly, use the day for experience and hopefully do better next time.

The first jump we popped nicely, then she had to be persuaded away from the floral novice fence, and over our little hay feeder instead. Jumped big over number 3, then decided that if I was going to go round like a granny then she had better take matters into her own hands!

She then flew! We had a sticky moment over a skinny log where we got the striding wrong and then nearly ended up in the crop field beyond, but apart from that we had a cracking round. Needn't have worried about the fitness, despite being exhausted after the finish, I didn't have to push her at all, and she recovered very quickly, and doesn't seem to have suffered any ill effects from the hard ground.

In the end we finished with a 37 dressage, 4 faults sj and then a clear but with 15 time faults xc. Not bad really for our second BE.

Unfortunately my happy bubble was burst on the way home when someone's cat ran under my wheel. Not something you could even imagine happening really, but rather a traumatic end to the day. Oh and the sick feeling child was spectacularly sick at bedtime.

Next up we have Great Witchingham in about 2 weeks. Need to do some more straightness work, bit of sj practice and learn the bloody test! (its in a long arena - I'm screwed)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

The trials and tribulations of the newly working parent

Or, the many ways in which I've fucked up recently....

I've recently started a new job. It's very new in lots of ways, not only am I the new girl, but I am doing things I've never done before too.

My previous jobs have pretty much been all horse based, or bar/pub work. I've also done the odd stint in a shop, but not since I've been a 'grown up'

Anyway, I now have an office job and I bloody love it. I'm well aware it is still a novelty, and that it could wear thin pretty quickly, but at the moment I don't care! I'm enjoying being paid for being inside, wearing nice clothes, answering phones and emails, and being able to chat to lovely colleagues.

However, there have been some teething troubles....

Firstly, I've now got to fit what I usually have all week to do, into before and after work slots, and a Friday, Saturday, Sunday. I know for most that would be easy! But remember I have 2 and a half horses to do daily, one of which is in full work, and I am a slattern so spend a lot of my time charging about trying to find stuff (clean uniform, kids homework, a hairbrush, stuff for my lunch etc...)

Which leads us on to fuck up number 2. Lunch.
All winter I've existed on cereal bars and cup a soup, and then had something when I got home at 2.30pm. Now, I'm in the office 9 - 5.30pm which is nowhere near a shop, so I need to take lunch with me. A couple of times I've forgotten and spent the day eating cereal bars (I keep some in the car) and drinking coffee.

Forgetting stuff.
In the few weeks I have been working I have managed to forget to send snacks for my kids, send my son to French, forgotten to send their books in, their coats (on rainy days too!) I'm hoping once I get into the swing of things then it will be easier.... (hahahaha)

Or more specifically, outfits, I actually have plenty of clothes.
Usually I spend my days in breeches, long socks, a t shirt, or stretchy long sleeved top, body warmer and fleecy headband. However, that's not going to cut it in the office. It is casual dress, some are in jeans and trainers, some are dressed very smart, so it is personal preference. But I do actually like clothes, I've just had no need (or spare cash to be honest) to keep my wardrobe (ok, don't currently have an actual wardrobe, but you know what I mean) up to date. So I'm struggling to find something in between horse wear and pretty dresses. Suddenly a lot of my clothes are looking a bit sad and sorry. And don't even get me started on my hair, that is a daily battle I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy.

Another downside is not seeing the kids as much, but if I'm honest I'm enjoying the time I spend with them more because it's not every waking moment! I have a fab child minder, so I am completely happy that they're happy and well cared for.

There are also some advantages of going out to work (obviously, or I wouldn't be doing it!)

I love learning new things, and especially realising I'm still capable of doing so.

I love the social aspect. Once your kids start school you find you aren't socialising as much. Most of your mum friends are either back to work, or at baby group with younger ones, and after school is impossible because all the kids are doing different clubs and you can't fit it in. So going to work every day and being able to chat to people is great.

I've found I'm getting more organised and making the most of the time I've got.  Before it was easy to put things off because there was always another day, but now my time is more precious so I'm making the most of the odd 10mins. I manage to do the horses in 35mins in the mornings now, because that is all the time I have! And when I get a free evening to ride I do so, even though it is raining and I can't be arsed.

And lastly, the thought of a decent pay cheque at the end of the month is most appealing....

Monday, 16 March 2015

Mother's Day

Best day ever!
Not only did I have my husband off work all day, the kids had made some lovely cards, presents and a bloody good breakfast in bed for me (with quite a lot of help from said husband) Also, very little whinging to be heard (amazing!!)

We spent the morning getting all the yard jobs done, then the afternoon playing at Ely Eventing Centre over the xc jumps. So much fun! Lovely little horse was just so cool about the whole thing, we jumped lots, and I think her favourite jumps are the steps up and down, totally nailed them. Did lots of ditch practice, even jumped the trakhener twice (I hate the things!) and lots of little combinations.

We had a good group of us which pushed us all on a bit, and everyone felt fantastic at the end, having felt we had all achieved loads.

Unfortunately I had a silly fall. Silly because I knew the horse was tired, but because the others wanted to do the 'big' ditch, I decided to have a little pop over it. She is such a good horse, and will figure them out for herself, I just have to wait patiently. Unfortunately she stumbled when she decided to go and lost her footing so the front end came down and me with it! Bang went the air jacket (and £17 on a replacement air canister....) Thankfully I landed on my feet, but have somehow got a cracking bruise on my arm, and have learnt a very valuable lesson to go with your gut instinct and don't push a tired horse. I got back on and popped a smaller ditch on the way back to the lorry park no problem.

Home to cold hose tired horse legs and tuck her up for the night with lots of haylage and a tasty looking dinner. Then onto my home with my fab family and a huge roast and soak in the bath.

Thanking my lucky stars this morning when little horse walked out without bumps, bruises or any hint of stiffness, unlike myself...

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Perhaps I'm just ungrateful?

We had a jump clinic today at our yard with an event rider. It was bloody awesome, felt I learnt a lot, and have been bouncing ever since!

But, the more we do, the more we improve, the more capable and in control I feel, the more I feel I don't actually know where I'm heading.

Last year my goal was to get back into it, to improve my confidence and fitness. Then it was to compete more, which we did, then I felt like I wanted to perhaps give British Eventing a go.

But after this winter I feel a bit lost. Ironically because I've had more time to ride, more disposable income to spend on pony outings and things have improved loads.

But what now? I feel we need to practice our newly acquired jumping skills until they become habit, we should definitely work on our dressage, and I really need to get out xc schooling. But I feel flat, not excited. Maybe I just need sunshine? Or more sleep?

Team Chasing starts for us in 3 weeks, hopefully that should help perk me up. The horse is feeling really well by the way, so no concerns there.

Maybe its just the realisation that we're only ever going to be mediocre? I'm horrifically competitive and I'm no good at being just 'ok'

Meh, maybe I just need to man up and stop moping!

Sunday, 22 February 2015

We went hunting! (and survived!!!)

Yesterday the mare and I went hunting at one of the busiest meets in the area. The reason was because I know that super early on there is a 6 furlong stretch of grass that I could do battle should we need it, and I know my way home from most places too. Also, they don't technically 'meet' until later on so no cap required til then, just a charity donation, which works well if you think you might only be out 10 minutes (again)
It was very busy, we were towards the back and we were counted as numbers 98 and 99!
But..... We had brakes. The mare wasn't too happy about it to start with, and we stayed so far away from the others we were frequently following footsteps, but despite being so excited she could explode, she didn't, and when I asked her to stop she did.
We stayed out an hour, then spent an hour hacking back in the sunshine, which was blissful.
We really couldn't have done it without a friend and her super patient mare who kept Alice company and was a calming influence.
And I'm not sore today - result!

Monday, 16 February 2015

First day of the half term, and sorting a little blip

I had planned a quick pop on the mare today to help boost our confidence after our blip on Saturday. There were jumps already set up in the school, the kids, who are on half term holiday, were quite happy to have a play and a snack in the clubhouse (only had to stop and bellow at them once from the school) so I figured a 20 minute session would be just what we needed.

She warmed up well, a bit too well actually, rather 'free' today in fact. But I sat quietly and encouraged her forwards, trying to concentrate on my riding - not dropping my inside hip, keeping my shoulders up and the leg on.

Someone had set up what is now known as the Andrew Nicholson circle exercise (after the Eventing Forum the other week) where there are 4 small jumps on a 20m circle. I have done this exercise lots with ground poles, but never felt we were balanced or controlled enough for actual jumps. But still, it gave me the opportunity to pop over one or two of the small jumps, give us both a little boost and call it a day.
Well, that was my plan. Unfortunately the mare very often has her own ideas, and is clearly not suffering from a knock to her confidence. So in an effort to gain the upper hand (or something nearing equality - I'm never fully in charge) I thought "Right you little baggage, let's see what you think of this" and we gave the exercise a go. It's bloody difficult! But to her credit she cracked it on the second go. Not due to our extraordinary balance and coordination, but only our combined bloodymindedness.

Tomorrow we shall try it again and a bigger jump or two, then that will be all for jumping for a week or so. I just know that we need to address any issues as soon as possible to stop them becoming a proper problem (mostly in my mind of course)

And the kids? They've had a great day, playing all morning with the ride on toy tractor, followed by a Burger King and a film - what holidays are for!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Things we learn the hard way

We actually went showjumping on Saturday. Like proper showjumping, with lots of bling, and barely a stock or hairnet to be seen! (actually that is totally a lie, I'm just trying to be funny)

It didn't really go to plan. As predicted I was in way over my head. I tend to have ostrich like tendencies, and if things get a little bit scary or stressful I ignore the bad stuff, put a positive spin on it and keep jollying along. This can work wonders in lots of situations, but sadly this was not one of them.

The course was probably the biggest I've done, it was indoors, and although they did a cracking job of building the course, there's no denying it is much harder in an indoor arena. Despite warming up beautifully, and jumping her socks off over the practice fences, it all fell apart once we were in the arena. We had a bad jump over the first, knocked the second and third down, then stopped at the 4th and 5th, at which point I decided to retire. We left the indoor arena and went straight out and popped the practice fence again, with no problems.

Strangely I don't feel disappointed. I feel it's been rather a large wake up call, and I'd much rather it came at this time of year. I've learnt that I can't take the horse for granted, that we can wing it at 2'6" or even 2'9" but 3ft is pushing it. I've realised that if we want to do the higher levels we need to do more work - more schooling, and we need to learn to change legs when we're jumping. That my horse is actually an animal capable of being spooked by things, and sometimes she gets confused with what I'm asking - our second refusal was due to her locking onto the double, and so the jump we were supposed to be jumping took her by surprise.

I've also learnt that I should not take my husband and children showjumping, because they will not be impressed with a 4 hour wait for a class, and I will spend the day feeling guilty! Especially on Valentine's Day ;D