Friday, 1 August 2014

Work hard, play hard

As per my last blog post we have been having a quiet couple of weeks since our last event, to give Buddy some downtime and also as it was year end for my primary supplier so I knew work was going to take over although I did under estimate quite how much! As a result we have been having lessons, hacking and having fun as neither of us fancied anything serious.

This week has been time to step it up a notch again as we are two weeks out from our next event at Aston-le-Walls. I've been focused more on our jumping than flatwork recently so it was time to get back to Sara-Jane Lanning's for a session. SJL had a fantastic result at the regionals last week, qualifying in the Novice, Elementary and Adv Medium (I think) so it was great to see her after such a huge success.

We started the lesson with a recap, since our last session I have been working hard on sitting quieter and not driving with my seat but using my legs and trying to be more disciplined about making sure Buddy is just 'there'. As we were warming up SJL commented that his walk was so much better and covering more ground which was great to hear as I've been working really hard on it. It still needs more activity but that will come as he gets more confident in working in that frame.

The key to this is really making sure I ride each rein differently. His worst rein is his left (which is unusual apparently but not surprising) and so we start each session, or new question, on this rein which means he gets a 'break' whilst working on his easier right rein. I have to really work hard to support him with my outside leg and also to get the inside bend without him falling out through his shoulder. Key to this is ensuring that the bit is in the right place in his mouth and using spirals in and out to get him using himself properly. I have a huge fear of see-sawing the bit (and I can do this is high pressured situations) so I have been a bit soft on B but SJL makes sure that I ask him in the right way and actually, it makes Buddy's job a million times easier when he is working over his back and the resulting feeling is lovely.

As our session went on SJL mentioned that at the start B is a bit stiff, unyielding and looks very much like your bog standard boring bay horse but as time goes on (and I ask in the right way) he looks smarter and smarter and becomes that obedient, willing bay who a judge will remember. This is really important as I desperately want to qualify for Badminton grassroots and we need an excellent (in the 20's) dressage score to be able to get within sniffing distance of a regional final. 

We finished our lesson with some canter work, again starting on the left. SJL wanted me to keep his neck down and his back round and soft whilst also remaining soft myself. I really struggled with this as it is also my weaker rein so there were shouts of 'sit uuup, engage your core, bend, stop doing that weird  thing with your left hand, steeeer' echoing around the arena! It's so frustrating as we were so close to getting it but if either one of us slipped up or wasn't right it wouldn't work.

Onto the right rein and I was able to relax a bit more. I need to concentrate on making sure I don't let the bend get too much on this rein as otherwise we strike off on the wrong lead. I make sure the bend is right, my outside leg is supporting and 'ping' we have the perfect transition! It was much easier to ride the canter on this rein but I must make sure that I do not let too much bend in the neck.

We finished off on the left rein and it was much better - I got the right balance between holding with my core and stifling him and it made such a huge difference to every single element. We obviously have a long way to go but SJL feels we have lots to improve on and it's not an impossible task to do it! I have been given the task of achieving an 8 for our walk next time out - no pressure!!

Next outing is to Warren's for a jump session, I want to go XC schooling next week and then its ALW on 10th (Buddy's birthday).

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