Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Surprising Dressage Outing (and a couple of mini rants)

We did a bit of dressage at the weekend. It hadn't really been planned, I had been given a free entry for helping the riding club set up some jumps, so figured it would be good to use it as a 'non jumping' schooling day out. Sensible to remind the mare that sometimes we go out in the trailer, but don't actually jump!

As I was seeing it as schooling rather than competing, I was calm and not nervous at all. The mare on the other hand was very wound up - a combination of plaiting her mane, and the daft livery owner deciding to mow her lawn about 3ft away from us. Now, the mare is actually pretty cool with things like this, but when someone is going backwards and forwards over the same sodding bit of lawn (and sticks, stones, dog treats, the garden shed, and God knows what else by the sound of it!) It even has an effect on a bombproof horse. I struggled to get the tail bandage on, and my darling horse of 10years booted me! Thankfully I was very close behind her so there wasn't much force behind it, and thankfully she is barefoot behind. But I have a beautiful round bruise the size of a golf ball on the side of my knee (bad leg, of course) Bloody creature.

So having got the beast ready, I loaded up her, me and kids and we were ready to go. The showground is less that 10mins away, so we were soon turning into the gateway. Just a little suggestion: If you are parked right by the gate at an event, and have rather a large entourage, please do not stand in the way, and then give me a dirty look when I get close to your horse. I would suggest moving your horse slightly, and possibly asking one of your entourage to open and close the gate for someone coming in, or at least pretend you haven't seen me, rather than gawping at me as though you have never seen anything so grubby in your life. This is very small riding club dressage, and you are clearly not Carl Hester.

Anyway, we parked up, I shared out cartons of juice, hot cross buns and Nintendo DS's between the children, got changed in the trailer and away we went. Amazingly, one of my fellow liveries turned up to lend a hand, and even more amazingly, so did my husband! (who was on call, and between calls at the time)
The mare felt amazing, I had to put my stirrups up a hole as I felt I was not quite in full control with the added oomph she had acquired that day, but she warmed up well, and before long it was our turn to go in.

Last time I did dressage I did the same test, Novice 24, under the same judge, at the same venue. The only difference was that I felt I could actually ride this time, and my horse didn't feel like we were doing the wall of death! There were still 'moments' that I felt it was best to just sit quietly and wait for her to relax, rather than fight with her. But on the whole I was absolutely delighted with the test. I was beaming and giving my horse a lovely big pat, the judge looked at us as though we were a complete disgrace! Now usually I am happy to admit that we are disgracing ourselves in some way, but this time I felt proud of my little horse and the work we had put in. One of my pet hates is snotty professionals. Yes you may be at a very low level, but they have absolutely no idea how fucking hard you have had to work to get that 52% and a bit of encouragement, be it a smile or a positive comment goes a long way. I've written for dressage judges at British Dressage events, and on the whole, they are pretty cool. They generally give a smile at the competitor, even if they are muttering to the writer "Oh dear, here we go!" (or worse)

I felt very pleased with our test, and felt the mare had redeemed herself for kicking me. One of the most disheartening things when competing is feeling you have done really well, only to look around and discover the standard is ridiculously high. Bugger! So imagine my amazement to see we had scored 61.9% (5% higher than last time!) and been placed 3rd overall, and second in the members section, also qualifying for the local Riding Club Championship!!! I practically skipped back to the car, blue and yellow rosettes fluttering in the wind, only for my darling daughter to say "But you didn't actually win, did you?"

Sunday, 9 March 2014

A bit glum, but ending on a high!

I've been a bit down this week, mostly due to the ongoing livery yard saga. Amazing how something so good can break down so quickly and completely with only one toxic person. It's very sad, and has taken the shine off having horses at the minute. Thankfully we have only 4 weeks until we move.
With all of this in mind, my enthusiasm for riding has been waning. My flatwork appears to be going backwards, jumping isn't any fun on your own, and I have no one to hack with. Yes, woe is me.
So, with this in mind, I wasn't that enthusiastic about going xc schooling. It felt a bit like a pointless waste of time and money. But I am so glad I did!
It wasn't easy, I had to drop the kids at a friend's house at 7.30am armed with a packed breakfast, get to the yard and pretty much load straight up. Luckily I had S the super groom come along, and she really is pretty super!
The xc was at Ely Eventing Centre which is great for seeing everything. There are teeny jumps, and huge jumps, and everything inbetween. I wanted to do ditches and water, and a couple of other technical bits, and have a ping around some small jumps just to have a jolly and get some confidence.
There were 5 of us, which I think was a bit too many if I'm honest as it did mean a fair bit of standing around, but Ros the instructor was very good and took me aside for a few minutes to warm up, as she knows that is the bit I struggle with. She told the others to warm up over all the little jumps in that part of the field, changing gears as necessary. With me, she told me exactly what I needed to do, and kept me going continually between the two jumps until I had relaxed. She knows me so well! After that we were flying! We were definitely the least experienced pair out of the 5, the rest all doing/have done BE, but actually we didn't show ourselves up in the slightest and jumped everything (some even better than the experienced ones!) So proud of the little mare, she really is a star :-)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

How to be a Horse Trials spectator.

On Saturday morning my friend S arrived, we packed the kids and a breakfast picnic of warm cheese and ham croissants and hot chocolate into the Disco (or the fun bus as it is often known) and set off for the first local Horse Trials of the season.

We had a few friends competing, so we kept our eyes and ears open for any sight of them. This proved tricky due to the thick fog, and the PA system seemed to be having some difficulties.

We had a wander around the xc course, inspecting a rather large log and steps combo that S was desperate to show me as she had jumped it the previous year. I'll admit I was suitably impressed! We then joined the congregation around the ditch (Isleham Horse Trials has a notoriously tricky ditch) where we met up with some friends in time to watch our friend (and sometime babysitter) go through rather stylishly.

The kids had started getting fed up by this point, but S is clearly a genius and had packed several packets of Smarties. This helped keep the little ones occupied for a while.

We then saw another friend arrive so went to say hello and help her get on. I must admit I was pretty impressed at how calm all the horses were. My two would embarrass me hugely!

We watched the showjumping for a bit, discussed jumping techniques, and people who we knew/knew of/knew to avoid. The problem with watching the showjumping is that your comments can be overheard rather easily!

It was cold by then, the fog not clearing quick enough, so we retreated to the car for hot chocolate and more yummy things. Luckily our parking space was right next to the xc warm up area, so there we sat for an hour watching how everyone warmed up, what tack is currently 'in' and deciding which xc colours looked good, and which made the rider look like an oversized cupcake (there were a few!) It seems that the air jackets have really taken off at the lower levels, which can only be a good thing, also five point breastplates seemed to be the most recent 'must have' accessory. Personally I like my hunting breastplate for being good for the job and not rubbing or getting in the way, the five point ones seem a little fussy for my liking (yes, even the Devoucoux ones, dare I say it) but I am very much an amateur, so what do I know! Also spotted a few Micklem bridles which I quite like the look of.

Another thing I noticed was the trend for jumping the warm up jumps at an angle. A useful exercise I'm sure, but in the hour of watching I think I saw one person jump a jump straight. Is straightness not important anymore? S informs me that her non-horsey other half pointed this out at an event last year, while she was warming up, and instructed her to do the same in an effort to fit in.

Sadly we couldn't stay there all day, as we had our own horses to see to. But a great way to start a weekend.

Last week's update

I wrote a blog post the other day all about the last week, the ups and downs and conclusions. But I couldn't bring myself to publish it. Basically it was what the mare and I were doing, a bit about going to watch Isleham Horse Trials (and how being parked next to the XC warm up provided at least an hour of entertainment from the comfort of the car) in fact I probably will write about Isleham. The rest was just whinging on about the stress of livery yard politics. No one wants to read that shit. Anyone who has horses on a livery yard knows only too well the stressful situations you can find yourself in, no need to bore anyone.

Anyway, the horses finally got some grass! How wonderful it was to see them outside in the sunshine, eating grass and being horses.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Jumping Exercise

We have a small arena, and at this time of year, only half of it is usable. This can make jump practice a bit tricky.

The mare is very easy to actually jump, in that if it has poles you just point and shoot! Turning and general control however are not our strong points. Neither is anything 'unusual'

With this in mind I wanted to practice the bits we found hard. So this jumping exercise is perfect. Four poles set up in a + shape, with a jump stand on the outside edges, and a stack of tyres in the middle (a block would have been the obvious choice, but you have to work with what you've got!)  This took up about the same space as a 20m circle.

The small jumps helped us to concentrate and for me to sit quietly and not over ride. Because of the jump layout the mare was listening to me instead of fighting, which was rather nice! I should have planned my routes a bit better though, to get more of a flowing round. It was a little disjointed at times.

We then attempted the tyres in the middle. This surprised us both as I half expected her to stop, but she jumped it with a lot of space to spare (beautifully basculed too) However, she then proceeded to stop the next few times. I think I wasn't being assertive enough going in to the fence, so she quite rightly said 'No'
We popped a couple more of the straightforward jumps and I asked again for the tyres and this time she went. We jumped it a few more times (still bigger than necessary) and then called it a day.

So now I know I need to get her used to spooky and unusual jumps. Time to get out the feed bags!