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First competition of 2019 - Dressage

Posted: 6 Jan 2019 - Comments (0)
We started the year with a relatively low key dressage competition at Colraine and decided to take both girls. I warmed up in the morning with a Park Run, these are organised free 5k runs. I went to the one at Trelissick which was described as undulating, it was actually hilly and testing, I wasn't therefore displeased with a time of 32.23.

The dressage competition was the first time the girls would compete head to head in a dressage class. They were both doing Novice 24 and then Ellie also was entered in Elementary 44. I must admit I was hoping to be competitive as the winner of the novice had a dressage to music tape made for them as a sponsored prize, quite fancy making our dressage a little more exciting, however as the most non musical person out I would need serious help.

Sadly mum had been struck down by the lurgy so I was without her help, luckily I was also taking my friend Vanessa so I had help to manage the 2 girls. Fliss was on first and in the warm up she was super, I had my best medium trot from her to date and she tried so hard, made me realise just how far she has come. We went in to the indoor and she just went slightly green on me nothing huge but just lost the smoothness and suppleness she had warming up. There is still huge improvement though.
A score of 67.6% was fair and I was pleased.

Ellie followed and I was slightly disappointed with her on the day. The Novice 24 wasn't a bad test and some of the trot work to start was lovely but I guess with all the jumping we have been doing she has lost some of the settled dressage work and is a bit feisty and uneven in the contact. One minute she was coming behind it and the next snatching at the contact. She was also ploughing down and forwards in the downwards transitions. Saying that she did do some nice trot work to start and scored a mark more than Fliss on 68% to win the head to head. Ellie was 2nd in the class and Fliss 4th which was a great result although we missed out on the music prize, never mind the dressage world can wait some more for us to try dressage to music! Sorry no video of this test so you can't make your own comparison.

Ellie then went on to do Elementary 44 and again the contact wasn't that great. She also was trying to pop her tongue over the bit in some of the trot work meaning she wasn't taking the rein forward so we had no mediums. Saying that it is pretty good on a bad day we can still score 65% for 2nd place (there was only 2 of us in the class though).
So a reasonable start to the competition season and certainly identified some areas to work on. Maybe a change of bit or bridle for Ellie to find something she can work softer to rein with. They will probably both be pleased to know that jumping is planned later in the month!

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A year on - I couldn't cope

Posted: 2 Jan 2019 - Comments (0)
Probably my most talked about post of 2018 was the first one I wrote explaining the confidence issues and depression I was suffering. See the post here This was hard to write, admitting how bad things had got. What perhaps surprised me is how many people agreed either publicly or privately that at some time they had had similar problems, I think awareness of these issues, how common it is and how they can affect people is important.

For me it had reached the stage of not wanting to ride, riding ineffectively and at times just not wanting to do things at all. I clearly remember a lesson with Fliss that all I would do is trot round holding the neck strap and when it was suggested I should canter I just burst into tears and got off. I have always struggled with confidence in my own ability but this reached a whole new level and made me very despondent. Admitting publicly I had a problem helped and hindered, it made me feel weak and hopeless but equally probably it was the beginning of being able to turn things around. I have a year later turned things round, I am enjoying the girls and looking forward to riding. So what was the magic formula? Hard to say I think everyone is different, I tried sports psychology and for me it was a waste of time, too formulaic and probably didn't touch on the deep rooted problems. I do believe sports psychology has its uses but needs to be the right person at the right time. For me a number of things have come together to help:-
  • Support of Mum, friends and trainers. The help, advice and general support was invaluable
  • Having two very genuine and patient horses. Ellie was my comfort blanket and Fliss did not put a foot out of place despite my nerves and backward riding
  • Homeopathy, hard to say if this had an effect but tried to have a natural boost to my positive energy and general energy levels
  • Working hard at being physically fit and strong, started some running (not a natural runner) and did gym classes to improve physical fitness and core strength
  • Listened to a lot podcasts in particular those that focus on successful people be it business or sport. Amazing how many of them struggled at times in their lives. Included 'Tim Ferris Show' '10% Happier' 'Crazy Good Turns' they say surround yourself with positive people this helped!
  • Cussedness, at the end of the day I'm not one to throw the towel in horses have been my life and as such however much I didn't want to I kept getting on and doing things
  • The Thursday positive post that I run every Thursday on Facebook.
A year later and I am enjoying the horses. I did say that if in a year things hadn't improved I would give up as it was no way to go on. Probably 2018 was one of my more successful years with both girls showing huge improvement. I am aware that certain things still need improving, the confidence in my own ability, the tendency to over analyse every mistake, extreme competitiveness and the temptation to compare myself to others are all still problems that need improvement. I am sure it could be easy to tip back into the despair of last year but trying hard to avoid digging myself that hole again.

Lovely to finish the 2018 with a comment from a trainer "Lovely to see how well your horses are going. You should be proud and excited for next season".

Fingers crossed it will be happy, fun and positive, preferably with plenty of frilly's!!

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Arena XC training Pontispool

Posted: 31 Dec 2018 - Comments (0)
Yesterday we took both girls to Pontispool for some training with Jo May through Equestrian Training South West. I was delighted in how well both girls went and showed the progress they had made.

You may remember just under a year ago we took Fliss for the first time and she refused point blank to get her feet wet resulting in me paddling in icy cold water. This time she went straight in and we even progressed to jumping a fence in the water.

The structure of the lesson was similar with both girls initially making sure the different gears were available from an open forward pace to a collected coffin type canter. Jo was also very keen on developing a stable position following the Chris Bartle mantra of shoulders up over the fence and look up, forward and well ahead to the next fence. We started by working with the drop fence and halting on landing, then halting after a couple of fences to make sure the horses were listening and not just running on.

Fliss was ace and has learnt so much in the last year she took everything in her stride a few c.lips from the session.

Ellie really enjoys these sessions and has got very cocky but has just enough about her to keep it in check. She really showed what she could do and made the exercises feel very easy. This gave me more of a chance to work on my own position. Points to note in the main were :-

x - Look up (eyes up) x - Shoulders up x - Hands soft and down x - Rhythm

Really pleased as you will see on the video we finished by jumping a decent fence into water that would be novice standard. Really starting to feel that novice is very much on the cards for Ellie.

Had some lovely comments from Jo about how fit and well my horses were and I should be excited about the season ahead. What a nice note to say goodbye to 2018 on.

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Christmas Done!

Posted: 29 Dec 2018 - Comments (0)
Well Christmas is done and dusted and the girls have had a quiet month. It has been a good chance to work on a few improvements, both girls have been practicing and have developed a flying change on demand (well sometimes). Ellie meanwhile we have been working on introducing rein back which will help us develop our dressage.

Big thank you to sponsors Super X Country for their super Christmas package. I have been working with them since there inception in 2010 and pleased to be a small part of their enormous progress. There range has expanded enormously everything is smart and wears well.

Tomorrow we are off for an arena XC clinic with Jo May at Pontispool.

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Who says horses are dangerous!

Posted: 23 Dec 2018 - Comments (0)
I am trying to keep my fitness work up and interspersing some running with the gym work. I honestly feel it is no coincidence since being fitter and stronger the horses have been going so well. To have the lung fitness and core strength is invaluable and actually helps the horse rather than hinders it when it too gets tired. I do pilates once a week, gym / classes 3 to 4 times a week and occasionally run as well.

With the festive season I am no doubt packing away the calories so prior to our work Christmas breakfast this week decided to have a run. I was feeling very pleased when after a couple of miles I was still travelling easily (slowly mind you) and not too puffed, was peering at the houses as I went by promptly missed my step and turned my ankle over the curb! Lesson learnt focus on where you are going not how well you are doing or be nosy, I had to sit on a wall to recover and could barely get my foot to the ground, there followed a mile hobble back to the car. My ankle swelled and bruised fairly spectacularly and my poor physio had an emergency call. Luckily despite the swelling and bruising the pain was quickly under control and riding has not been a problem. However it is clear that horses are no more dangerous than going for a run!

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Deja Vu

Posted: 18 Dec 2018 - Comments (0)
After a wet and muddy winter last year history seems to be repeating itself with torrential rain and high winds. Although the girls aren't getting any formal holiday December has been a competition free month with plenty of hacking and low key work hopefully giving them both a chance to unwind and relax slightly.

I am over the moon with how both girls are looking, Fliss in particular has really muscled up and is looking amazing. I have always kept the feeding quite simple and totally fibre based. Both predominately have Dengie Alpha A with a little Speedi Beet. In the winter when Fliss can drop a little weight I have found the Blue Chip balancer is excellent, Ellie has no problems with weight in the winter so just has a vitamin supplement and both have salt. Combined with haylage I find this a natural diet which is cost effective and seems to give plenty of energy without any stupidity (well not too much).

Starting to make loose plans now for the eventing season but wondering if the weather will have a similar impact to last year. After such a quiet year this year I would like to get some events in early but will be very frustrating if the weather has other plans. Will have to ensure there is a plan a, b and c!!!

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