Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Triumphant Team Quest

The weekend started well as we had an amazing jump session with Warren. The training is with BS Berkshire and is hosted by Warren in a reasonably small (20x50 I guess) indoor school. It's spooky but such a great training tool as it makes me think! Warren really put us through our paces and was making Buddy and I really think about what we were doing. We focused on riding the hindleg, powering the canter and ensuring that I was commited to the jump. We started with cross to vertical along the long sides and then started building a grid down the centre line.

This was really hard as it meant I needed a really powerful canter out of the corner into the first jump which was about 10m in (we kept this very small, almost caveletti so it encouraged the hind leg but didn't punish any mistakes), one stride to a vertical then we built up to adding an oxer and then another small jump. This then became part of the course and we had a double on one long side and the vertical on the other plus the grid. A lot of fences for a small space and a big striding horse! But he was superb. Really starting to find his jump now and never, ever thought about saying no when I got it right or almost right!! I finished beaming and it was the first jump session I've had for ages where Warren hasn't had to point out all the good things we did - I could see the growth in us and finally felt positive again.

Blinged up Bullet Dodgers uniform!
It was then all systems go to prepare for our BD debut at Team Quest on the Sunday. Our team - Blinged up Bullet Dodgers - are all Rockley Rehabs and Buddy is the longest graduate. We had our team uniform sorted and were ready to have some fun. The classes were jam packed, we'd all entered the prelim and there were 42 competitors in the class so we expected absolutely nothing from the day - although a point towards regionals would have been nice. 

The weather was horrendous and scheduled to get worse but we were competing indoors so it wasn't as bad as it could have been. All of us warmed up well and I timed B's warm up perfectly - he was being a changer in the canter but that's going to take a while to eliminate completely but we are getting there. I went in determined to RIDE so I did a power trot around the outside. Halted, the bell rang and it was time to enter. He was naughty in his left canter and kept breaking but I corrected it quickly. When it was time to canter right I kept him straight, didn't let the bend go crazy and rode every stride. It felt awesome and I came out feeling that it was an 8 canter. I was really pleased with the test, it wasn't perfect but it was good. I was hoping for a mid 60's score. 

Once ponies were put away we went to see how we'd done... well what we saw was incredible. Two scores in the 70's and a 67! We were all in the top 4. There was a looooong way to go and I did wonder if the judge was just being over generous with the scores so did not expect anything but with a team score of 211 I hoped we'd be in the top 10 teams. We trundled off home and I planned to pop back to collect the sheets later on....

In the car on the way there I was thinking how awesome it would be if we managed a placing but then quickly discounted that though as there were 11 team scores to go after ours and with an overgenerous judge... it was unlikely. However, I walked in to the cafe where the scores were... walked up to the scoreboard and had to check a few times... we were still in the lead with only one more team to go. Emily was still in 1st place in our class, I'd been pushed down to 3rd and Lucy was still 6th. I was sending messages to the girls whilst waiting for the final team scores to go up and it felt so emotional. It took ages for the final scores to go up and they left the final score blank for a long time but finally they put it up. I had to stop myself from screaming 'yeessssss!' but we'd only gone and done it!! We won!

They did a proper prize giving and they told our story of being Rockley Rehabs (the secretary had asked where our team name came from), the whole room cheered and I ended up blubbing! It was completely emotional, very fairytale-esque and completely unexpected. To finish 1st out of 16 teams was just a massive achievement and we are now going to give it our best shot to get to regionals. Our next outing is on 8th March and I can't wait!

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Working hard and moving forward

We've been keeping busy again, ramping up to the start of the event season. Unfortunately we were balloted from ALW so I have re-routed to Munstead at the end of March instead. It was actually a good thing in the end as I now need to be abroad with work the week preceeding ALW. We are off schooling at Munstead on 1st March so will make sure we are all good to go. We are pretty much guaranteed a run as my ballot sticker from ALW has now been upgraded to a super sticker.

The day after my tumble we went off to dressage at a local EC. We had entered prelim 12 and Novice 24. Buddy was pleased to be out again and was rather bright to tack up - I had the previous days events in the back of my mind and so made sure I stuck to my mounting routine. It was all fine and I wandered down to the warm up... only to be told I'd not put my hat on!!! What an absolute idiot and a slightly critical piece of equipment, especially when your horse can bugger off as you're getting on. Anyway, hat on we went down to the warm up. They were running very early so I had to tell them that I needed my full warm up time. I could have done with an extra 5-10 mins to get him on side but had no option but to go in. He was a total idiot!! Very camel-esque, onward bound and had lost all concept of bend. I saluted the judge with a wry smile at the end. Silly donkey. His worst score at the level - and last place!!

I stayed on him as there was only 20 minutes between tests and just walked around, keeping the focus on getting him soft and listening to me. It was soon time to go in and he was so much more rideable in the Novice test. I finished feeling pleased with our performance as we are still not particularly established at that level. The sheet echoed what I felt and we finished on a decent score of 64.2% Although I added my sheet up again when I got home only to find that it had been added up wrong and we actually got 65.7% which would have put us in 2nd place rather than the 4th we ended up with. Despite the loss of a blue frilly I was very happy with the original score and delighted with the actual one!

April 2014 vs Feb 2015

The tests were both qualifiers for Trailblazers and we qualified for second rounds in both tests despite the disasterous performance in the prelim! I won't be taking it further as the finals are in July and I cannot take any time off during that month so it's pointless trying!

April 2014 vs Feb 2015 - Looking much more established in the canter

Then onto this weekend we had another lesson with SJL. I had two lovely friends come along and take some pictures which I was hugely grateful for as I could see the transformation from the last photos taken in Sept. I wanted to spend the lesson working on our canter as Buddy has a habit of changing behind when we come off of a circle and straighten up. We started the session making sure that Buddy was soft and accepting the contact, I need to make sure that he is round to get the back really swinging through - he is not a horse that you could ride back end to front end as he would happily go along like an inverted camel forever!! Once we moved onto the canter work SJL had me keep almost counterflexion on the right rein as I tend to get overzealous with the inside bend and then B just falls out through his left shoulder. On the left rein I need to keep his ribs soft and ensure that there is true bend around my inside leg as well as keeping my body almost to the outside and manage that left shoulder on this rein too. There is a lot of work to do but it is all coming together! 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Downtown Funk

Unfortunately not a post about a new funky song but more about my state of mind! I have debated whether I should post this (is it fuelling the negativity?!) but I've always believed that this blog is a warts and all account of our journey so here goes!

Our regular readers will probably not be surprised at this post, I'm conscious that my last few posts have been decidedly bleurgh and a bit negative and unfortunately this one is along the same theme - sorry! It's going to be long and probably disjointed so apologies for that in advance.. I'll try and find some pretty pictures to brighten it up a bit ;o)

Buddy's Brother - can you see the resemblence?! 

I have always had (and will always have) a competitive streak. I like to succeed and do well and that hunger to be the best I can be has brought it's benefits throughout my career but it also has a huge downside which I have now named the downtown funk. The downtown funk comes into play when you are striving to be the best you can be, are working really hard but nothing seems to go right when it matters. It's not a one off occurance (ie one dressage comp) but a series of unfortunate events that all come together to create the funk and make you feel completely rubbish about everything - it is impossible to see the positives straight away (even though your rational mind knows them) and all you do is focus on the negatives.

I am currently in the darkest depths of this downtown funk. Everytime I get on Buddy I have an objective and when it doesn't go to plan I am beating myself up, even though I know that I am being completely unrational. I am a huge fan of the Chimp Paradox and it has helped me hugely in the past but it's not working this time!! 

My previous blog posts have alluded to the fact that I have not been content with our results but even in my lessons I am struggling to see the good bits even when they are pointed out. I have awesome support from my trainers and poor Warren has had to deal with me the most during this weird period and has been everything an excellent coach should be, pointing out the positives and showing me clearly where I have progressed in each session and overall. Today was a bad day for me. I tried one of Warren's saddles to see if it would help my position.. Buddy used to have a huge mounting issue which, after a lot of hard work, we got him over but it is always at the back of my mind - especially in a place away from home and even more so if he is feeling bright - but I have a strategy to deal with it and he's not done it for a good couple of years. However I broke that strategy today and paid the price! As soon as I started to swing my leg over he shot off and I hit the deck (although I was particularly proud at how long I managed to cling like a limpet for). I got back on but Buddy was upset by the incident and TBH I was too. So I spent the majority of my lesson mentally chastising myself for being such an idiot, angry for ruining my friends lesson (we shared) and feeling like I was taking a massive step backwards. I know none of this is true, hindsight is a fabulous thing and Katie had a fab lesson with some huge lightbulb moments! Warren also highlighted the improvement in my balance in the saddle which meant that I could make adjustments without affecting B's confidence over and coming into a fence. It was a huge lightbulb moment and although I agree and can see it my overwhelming emotion is disappontment in myself and wondering why I am bothering. 

I really want to qualify for Badminton Grassroots but I know that a season to do it in isn't really realistic, especially our first BE season, but it is possible if the fates align and I work hard. Plus there are other bits in play - my saddle is crap and really hinders my position (grippy knees and an unsupporting lower leg as a result) so I need a new one if I want to progress in the way that I do... I should hopefully have that sorted in the next couple of months but in the meantime the fact that it is crap is just playing on my mind and I'm wondering why I'm even bothering when I know it's causing me (and Buddy) issues so should I just wait until I can sort it out?!

I know I am putting crazy amounts of pressure on myself to do well. We are both more than capable so we *should* be doing well so when it's not as good as it can be I am getting sucked into thinking negatively about it all. Urgh.

I have made a decision to see a sports psychologist who will hopefully help me out of this funk of mine so it will be interesting to hear her thoughts on my situation. I need to do something as although I still love riding I can see that the passion I have could start to dwindle if I don't get on top of it quickly. In the meantime I will keep on trucking - dressage tomorrow and the countdown to ALW is on although it looks like we may be getting balloted! If so, we will re-route to Munstead instead.