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Lockdowns back

Posted: 9 Jan 2021 - Comments (0)

Back in another period of lockdown and feeling very lucky to have horses on the doorstep and plenty of space. Can't imagine being in a city flat or having children to homeschool, if you are in this situation hats off to you.

Work is busy so tired rather than bored. The ground has been frosty and hard this week meaning the horses have had limited turnout (well Fliss has Ellie has just had to put up with it) and some walking up and down the road when it is not too icy. Looking like we are due a thaw next week and the rain back so not sure what to wish for.

Ellie is continuing to make good progress and this lockdown will allow me to focus on her recovery and get her properly fit and back in work before being tempted to do too much too soon! Fliss meanwhile I am trying to let down slightly although will tick off her work and schooling so she is not on the boil but hopefully improving over the time.

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BD Dressage

Posted: 5 Jan 2021 - Comments (0)

The first outing of the year and the last for a while was BD at Tall Trees on Sunday. Starting to get together the qualifying points for various regional finals and festivals although I doubt we will probably go to them, it's good to say we have qualified though! We entered both Novice tests and hopefully once we have gained our qualifying scores can move up to Elementary.

I have to admit I was expecting a couple of lovely tests and hopefully some good scores. Well I got the good scores but perhaps not the quality of tests I was hoping for. We had had a few really cold days and that had resulted in a decrease in exercise and turnout leaving a very fresh Fliss who wasn't always on side. We had some lovely moments but equally some naughty spooks and she was just a bit off the aids and not really listening.

First up was Novice 22 and we broke in Counter canter and scored a 2, the rest was a bit carefully ridden but still managed 68%

Next was Novice 37A and we had a really naughty spook at the beginning as well as nearly dropping me off camera when in free walk to leave the arena we had a major spin. She still managed 69%!

I can't help but feel if she had been on side we could have got some special scores, however chuffed that we had some great scores despite not being on form. We won both classes overall so a couple of red rosettes to start the year.

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Happy New Year - A review of 2020 and a look ahead

Posted: 2 Jan 2021 - Comments (1)

To anyone that is reading this Happy New Year, thanks for continuing to follow the adventures at Shoestring. I certainly don't think 2020 was anything like I imagined this time last year. The biggie has been COVID19 which has affected us all in many ways and obviously curtailed what we have been able to do with the horses. For me it meant no eventing, with being based in West Cornwall the uncertainty of what would happen, the travel, the limited training opportunities and the need to stay away frequently alongside the pressure of the job made eventing for me impractical.

My job has changed both in role and intensity, my normal role was a health and safety inspector dealing with accidents, workplace inspections and safety concerns. A job I was confident in and fitted nicely around the equine plans. I am now helping lead a team tackling the COVID response in the Council. This involves primarily working with businesses to advise on what COVID safety measures they should be undertaking, responding to complaints and ensuring where practical and needed we enforce on those businesses not complying with the rules in terms of COVID secure measures or being open when they shouldn't be. With Cornwall just moving into Tier 3 this means all our hospitality and holiday premises will be closed and I wouldn't be surprised if we receive a 100 complaints over the next 3 days regarding premises still being open. Some of these may have legitimate reasons for people staying (such as work related) but others will not and all need investigating. Certainly it can involve some long days and could explain why I have taken barely any holiday.

The horses for the little they have done have gone well. British showjumping Fliss jumped 12 classes and had 9 double clears and 9 placings including a super double clear in the Foxhunter at Pendarves (picture bottom). For Ellie it was a different story only jumping 3 classes but winning her last one before injury came to the fore. We have also really moved to the dark side and not only registered for British Dressage but had a dabble with dressage to music qualifying for the national BRC dressage championships and not disgracing ourselves at Elementary level. Fliss also gained 14 points in 3 classes and a huge 72% in her music at the close of the year. Certainly for the moment looks like dressage will be the most accessible to continue with under the tighter COVID restrictions in the short term.

There has been some great training. I was lucky at the beginning of the year to have some great sessions with Hannah Esberger and Lucy Jackson through becoming a Dengie Ambassador at Vale View that was an inspiring start to the year (that never was). I have continued to travel to Owen Moore at Lyneham Heath who as really helped us develop and continue my regular flatwork training with sponsor Stef Eardley who had some good news of her own this year when she became the new Para Podium Potential Pathway Mentor Coach for British Equestrian.

Sadly Ellie developed a strange intermittent lameness one day she was fine (usually the day the vet came) and a few days later crippled. We eventually diagnosed a bone cyst which needed an operation to place a screw in the foot. The operation went well and we are now 3 months into recovery. A setback at the one month stage when an infection set in was a really worrying time, thankfully she is now hugely improved. We are still not confident whether she will come back to ridden competition work fully but she would certainly have a career as a broodmare if not, vets have confirmed that there is nothing hereditary. At the moment although doing some light work she is the scruffiest thing out not having being clipped and still out by night with no rug or just a waterproof sheet on.

My only homebred to date Kensa was 4 in 2020 and huge thanks to Mel Hennah for doing a super job backing her. She was still quite weak so has been turned away until 2021 when hopefully she will come back into work and start her ridden career for proper. It will come with some difficult decisions as I cannot do 3 horses. Clearly the Ellie situation may make the decision easier but if not their are some real dilemas ahead.

The other huge change has been a change in location. We have always struggled being based only 25 miles from Lands End with the travel element of the horse sport. While we explored some big ideas of relocating to Scotland instead we made a slightly smaller hop from one end of the County to another, we are now based on the Devon Cornwall border 50 miles closer to most places. At the moment we are in temporary accommodation and I have the unknown luxury of having the horses outside the door, not only that but I have the use of a school which is an amazing facility that I have not had access to before on site. We are currently waiting for the proposed purchase of a property at Lawhitton (nr Launceston) to complete and move in, hopefully in another month.

So time to look ahead I have already mentioned that Kensa will be joining me in the Spring / Summer. I am writing this as the COVID cases are rapidly increasing (with it my work load) and the first Horse Trials of 2021 has cancelled. Realistically I feel COVID will be around for the first part of this year and guidance is still not to travel out of your area. Training to get ready for the season will be difficult so we will probably tick over with dressage and show jumping (if we don't enter a total lockdown) and wait for the way ahead to become a little clearer. As horses are not my living it is easier for me to make this decision and I am very aware of the implications of spreading such a nasty virus. When so many people are struggling and lives have been lost it seems selfish to be so frustrated that we can't do more particularly with Fliss missing a couple of what should be her peak years and I am nearer 50 than 40.

Fingers crossed the COVID vaccinations kick in quickly, people generally remember the Hands, Face, Space message and that we can get back to doing what we love best soon.

Huge thanks to all my sponsors and supporters, I feel I haven't really given them the exposure and time I would have liked this year and really appreciate them continuing to work with me going forwards.

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Sad to read you have left us down here but exciting times are sure to be ahead for you. Hope to see you at a BD comp soon! Jx

SJing lesson - Mandy Frost

Posted: 26 Dec 2020 - Comments (0)

Firstly I would like to wish everyone a merry Christmas.

At the beginning of last week I had a lesson with Mandy Frost who is one of our top local coaches. Advantages again of being further up the County it meant training is in reach. It was Fliss's first lesson with Mandy so there was a little of getting to know us, discussing goals and plans - I mentioned jumping some 1.30's (not sure where that came from).

We focused on some exercises that involved turning to the fences and the need to look early to make this happen. Where we look hugely influences the horse and our ability to jump and prepare for the fence. Once we have seen the fence it takes 2 seconds (2 strides) to work out what we are going to do and another 2 to implement it, so we need a good 4 strides. It was interesting what a difference this made and we went from some slightly awkward jumps to much better rhythm and jump once I looked early.

We also looked at me sitting up better (shoulders back), a slightly higher hand to stop her drawing her head in and down as well as working on getting her head up and looking. A little bit of video from the exercise:-

Delighted how Fliss is feeling very fresh and well for her move. Would highly recommend Mandy if you have the opportunity for a lesson.

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More dressage

Posted: 21 Dec 2020 - Comments (0)

Some people call show jumping the dark side but for me dressage has to take the crown! However doing 2 competitions in 4 days and coming away with 4 winning rosettes may be converting me slightly! This time it was St Leonards and certainly it was an advantage to be on an eventer that didn't mind wet conditions. This time we were entered in the Novice 34 qualifier and we debuted out music at BD at Elementary level. She did two super tests the first one being slightly spoilt by a spook in the first movement costing us a 70% score and overall win. I was chuffed with nearly 69% and a win in the silver section.

The music went really well and although as the only one in it were guaranteed the win I was chuffed with a 72.3% score which would have been competitive in most company. We seemed to match the music well, we still need to improve the leg yield and particularly the simple changes but nevertheless we scored consistently around 7 and Fliss has suddenly found a most amazing medium trot.

Apologies the video finishes a minute short as the camera ran out of battery. The disadvantages of moving and not being able to find much, luckily I have found it tonight in the cool box of all places!

Can't believe how well and fresh Fliss is feeling currently. Huge thanks to Dengie for keeping her in tip top shape and feeling so well.

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Dressage BD

Posted: 17 Dec 2020 - Comments (0)

Just before lockdown we registered for BD the one show we entered was cancelled and that was that. We have now managed to enter and compete! More to the point our new location meant the show was just up the road. We were entered in Novice 23 and Novice 37a and the classes for a midweek show were competitive.

She has been quite fresh but worked well at the show. We still have times where she will naturally tighten the frame and neck but this is improving and I was delighted to get some good marks. In the Novice 23 we scored 67.7% to win the silver section and come 3rd overall and in Novice 37a we scored 68.2% despite an error of course. We had done a lovely medium which I was congratulating myself for and then suddenly had a mind block and couldn't remember what we should be doing next. By the time I remembered the halt we were a marker beyond where we should have stopped! Despite the mistake we again won our section and not sure if we were 1st or 2nd overall.

This is our Novice 37a

We have another dressage show on Sunday at St Leonards this time so hoping for reasonable weather as we are outside.

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