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Posted: 24 March 2019 - Comments (0)

I have blogged now for over 10 years and occasionally get asked for tips on what makes a good blog. I may not be the right person to offer this as lets face it social media and blogging are always changing and developing. People now are vlogging a lot (video blogs) but what do you do if like me you haven’t got the face or enthusiasm for vlogging?

The most important thing if you are going to blog keep it regular. I have one of the longest running equestrian blogs and thats partly due to the fact I tend to average 3 blog posts a week and have kept it up year in year out. This ranges in content from short updates, event reports, training information to occasionally opinion pieces. People know if they click on my blog once in a week there will be new content. Blogging is a commitment and blogs can take between 15 and 2 hrs to complete depending on the complexity, the research needed and material that needs preparing and attaching.

My blog is on my website but nowadays a lot regularly blog through social media and this seems to work pretty well too.

For me the next most important area is honesty! It is no good just blogging the successes and the good times, I won this and that soon becomes quite boring and isn’t a realistic reflection on equestrian life. I try very much to reflect the ups and downs not just the good bits. My blogging about a serious injury to my advanced event mare and my recent confidence issues had some of my highest page views and really got people interacting with Shoestring. I think leading on from this interaction is very important. I link many of my blog posts to social media, so I may share some pictures on social media but link to the blog post for full details to keep the blogs alive and unique.

Returning to the honesty though it is equally impossible to be totally open and honest. I realise that rather contradicts what I have said above but when it affects other people you need to think twice. So some examples if you are having issues with a horse and it is owned by someone else they are not going to appreciate these issues being blogged about online. Even something simple as years ago I blogged about a new horse that I had bought for a project to sell on. When I did sell it the owner didn’t get on and demanded I have it back, she maintained that as I had bought it as a project (quoted from my blog) I was doing it to make money and therefore a dealer. Whether this would have stood up in court I’m unsure but I didn’t have the money or will to test it out! So think about what you say online particularly if it involves other people. I try to avoid being too controversial, with sponsors supporting me I can’t afford to alienate people.

Clearly basic grammar, spelling and general readability is important. As more naturally a mathematics person I don’t always find this easy and generally I get someone (usually Mum) to proof read my posts, they still are not perfect but should not spoil the readers enjoyment.

A few key further points:-

x - Keep blogs concise
x - Humour really helps the readability
x - Try and be original
x - Be honest don’t gloss reality
x - Use plenty of supporting material (video and pictures). Make sure the content is yours to share and not copyright

At the end of the day regular blogging is a big commitment and not for everyone. You are better never to do it than trail off after a month or two.

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Top tip - Shoes

Posted: 21 March 2019 - Comments (0)

So a top tip for the season is if you get a set of shoes changed (with appropriate stud holes) get them saved and keep them in the lorry. Then if you lose a shoe at an event it is easy to get a replacement on and ready to go. I usually tap the stud holes and wrap them in wd40 sprayed cloth and keep them in the lorry. If you shoes are always past it when changed consider if it is worth getting a spare set made up.

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Weighty matters!

Posted: 20 March 2019 - Comments (0)

When we were away at the BRC Arena Eventing championships we had the opportunity to get both girls weighed. Spillers were there with a weighbridge offering a condition assessment and feeding advice.

I think it is very important to know the weight of your horses there are many areas including medication, worming and feed that are influenced by the horses weight. I have found hard particularly with Ellie to assess her weight so I was excited by the opportunity to get them assessed.

Spillers weight score the horses on a 1-9 scale with 5 being perfect and both girls were given 5 scores although personally I thought Ellie deserved a slightly higher score as I always tell her she is fat! When weighed Ellie was 440Kg and Fliss 510Kg.

We discussed the diet and I was impressed with the advice which wasn't too pushy towards spillers but sensible and rounded. Considering the horses condition she was very happy with my fibre based diet her only recommendation was that Ellie was changed from a broad spectrum vitamin supplement to a balancer as it would have greater nutritional support to her busy competition schedule. I came away with a bag of treats for both girls and two £5 vouchers so I will probably be trying Ellie on a Spillers balancer.

Huge thanks to Spillers for a great service.

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Boot Camp - Austin O'Connor

Posted: 14 March 2019 - Comments (0)

Without doubt the highlight of our time away. I had been feeling a bit demotivated and this was just the kick in the right direction I needed! We even had one day of kind weather which was a real bonus even if storm Gareth made up for it on the second day.

Last year our few days with Austin really kick started our year and helped pull me out of the doldrums and it was great to come back to be pushed to the next stage. For anyone that doesn't know Austin is based at the fabulous Attington one of the premier training facilities in the area. An indoor school, huge outdoor arena is complimented by the most fabulous all weather cross country schooling facility.

We left Aston about 9am on Monday and travelled the hour down to Austin and made our way to settle the girls in their stables. I think the yard we are housed in probably has housed stallions in the past with big solid high doors which Ellie in particular has to stand on tip toe to see over. We were lucky that Monday was beautiful weather and having met Austin in the school and discussed what we wanted from our few days training we decided to make the most of the weather and use the cross country arena.

Fliss was first up and I said we were aiming to start the season at BE100 and hoped to move up to Novice later in the season. We schooled with this aim in mind. He asked me to just pop a few fences to get a feel of how we were going. Once we had popped a few simple ones he asked me to ride a little more quietly and allow the fence to come to us and for Fliss to work out what was needed, he was happier at this stage for us to pop extra strides in and very much ride to our eye. We walked off some simple steps and trotted through the water (no hesitation). We gradually increased the difficulty of the exercises until we jumped some decent fences both into water and over some big ditch combinations. The video shows the progression through the session.

Ellie also made use of the cross country and we spoke about the plans to take her Novice this season. Austin was very complimentary about Ellie and how well she was going. She did a few more advanced lines and fences than Fliss and enjoyed the challenge again finding easy answers for the questions asked. I couldn't be more delighted how well she went.

So day 2 was less kind and the weather turned we were lucky with Fliss and generally got away with it, yes it was windy but it only spat with rain, by the time it was Ellie's turn the heavens had opened!

In a lot of ways both horses worked on similar things in both flat and jump elements. On the flat it was very much a case of getting the horses forward into a soft contact, a slightly longer rein and working on the nose out and forward particularly with Fliss. Focusing on them carrying themselves and balancing themselves and not sitting on the hand. Using the gears in trot and canter and the medium paces to open them out and then using the seat and body to collect them back up again. You can see in the video how this has really helped Fliss's trot.

Jumping wise we did a number of athletic exercises. We focused on a couple of fences on a turn that walked 4 strides but with Fliss we did it in 5 thinking all the time quietly. The video shows how we progressed the exercise. Austin was very keen I didn't do too much for the horses and let them make their own mistakes. With Fliss he felt the odd canter pole, v rail or other things to focus the jump would be useful. Whilst she has a good jump she has enough scope that she doesn't always need to use it and therefore we need to focus her far more to help her develop and strengthen.

Sadly as I said Ellie's session was not recorded as the rain was horizontal by this point! This is disappointing for a couple of reasons, mainly it is lovely for me to look back and recall what we have done and hear Austin's wise words, equally it is nice to show off when they have done something spectacular. In this case the medium trot Ellie found was amazing and the fact she jumped an upright of 1.30 was jaw dropping. I will admit we did tip it a couple of times but once her eye adjusted she soared over it.

We worked on the same exercises as Fliss with similar requirements to ride quietly and let Ellie make her own mistakes. Overall I was delighted as Austin was very complimentary on how well both had been produced to date and felt rather than repair any problems he was helping us move onto the next level and have confidence in our progression. I am desperate if possible to try and make time and finance for another trip to see Austin this year as a further push forward.

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Horsequest Arena Eventing Championships - Report

Posted: 13 March 2019 - Comments (0)

A 7 hour trip to Aston where we representing Threewaters Riding Club at the Championships. I had qualified both girls individually after winning the qualifiers at Bicton Arena.

There were good bits and bad bits from the weekend. The weather whilst in early March can never be expected to be perfect was pretty far from it! It was bitterly cold, very windy and at times wet (we even had snow), staying in the lorry or even venturing out to watch wasn't that much fun. On the plus side there was great camaraderie from the Threewaters team (the 80 team had qualified as well) and it was super to meet up with my supporters at Horsequest Advantage who even laid on hospitality for myself and the team which was hugely appreciated, even more so as allowed us an hour to get warm.

So onto the important bit the competition. I was quietly hopeful that both girls had the potential to be competitive but sadly it was not to be although both leant loads. The competition at Aston used 3 arenas, starting in one arena by the stables and lorries moving out through some gates and into the next arena via the water jump to the cross country space. I didn't really anticipate how green both my girls would feel having not done a competition like this where you move arenas.

Fliss was on first and the 90 course was lovely the only concern I had for Fliss was leaving the first arena and going straight into water. It didn't help that the water at this time had small waves as the worst of the gale force winds were buffeting the event, She jumped a nice clear show jumping round and was confident over the first cross country fence, she was surprised to leave the arena with purpose and then taken aback to see the water, she stopped half spun and then with leg on worked it out and trotted in. Sadly though a disobedience as far as the competition was concerned and 20 penalties. She proceeded to be a bit green in the arena but actually very genuine and jumped nicely round the rest of the course this included another water question which she did without hesitation.

Video of the 90 round. The pink colours are not my new colours for the 2019 season but team colours sponsored by Woof Wear.

Even without our 20 penalties we would have been slightly slow to have been placed. Really good education for her though.

Ellie was doing the 100 course and I thought this asked some questions, 3 was a decent brush ditch, 5 had a couple of decent steps to a palisade and 7 was a big skinny. I didn't ride the show jumping very well I was a bit backward and that caused a pole to roll at the double. She too I could feel was slightly green leaving the arena but her greater experience came into play and she worked it out, she jumped a super round and cleared the joker which was strategically placed at the bottom of the slope. Although the pole would have been influential disappointingly the biggest influence was the time. Considering the time should have been quicker than Fliss's class we were 20 seconds inside the time despite not pushing it, in fact the majority of the class were inside the time. When I walked the course the day before there had been an additional couple of fences in the course and these were removed on the day I wonder if they hadn't adjusted the time accordingly! Anyway it is irrelevant and with a pole down we were never going to be in the top few anyway.

Overall I enjoyed the weekend, the weather did just slightly take the shine off it but it has to be expected this can happen in March! Both the girls learnt loads and will have come on for the experience. Huge thanks to Threewaters Riding Club for making it such a good weekend.

From Aston we headed to Attington for a few days boot camp with Austin O'Connor blog to follow tomorrow!

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Horsequest Arena Eventing Championships - Preparation

Posted: 5 March 2019 - Comments (0)

I am going to be a bit lazy today and add a link to another blog I have written for my fantastic supporters Horsequest Advantage. On Sunday we are competing at the Arena Eventing Championships at Aston Le Walls in Northants representing Threewaters Riding Club. Read about our preparation and meet the rest of you team mates.

Blog Link Here

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