The last week has been focused on sorting my brain out a bit and preparing for our very first area festivals... and plaiting... lots of plaiting practice! My YO has told me that my plaits are crap (in the nicest possible way) and I've never learnt to do them with anything other than bands so after B looked so gorgeous at ALW I decided it was time to bite the bullet and start sewing my plaits. I was pretty crap but after another quick de brief I got the hang of it and then spent the next three nights practising. They are not Burghley worthy (yet) but I was pretty pleased and they looked so much better than my banding attempts so sewing is the way forward from now on.
|Chilling in his stable between tests|
I had a lesson with J the day before to run through my tests and work on sharpening him up as he can become a bit of a lazy toad and get behind my leg. Lots and lots and lots of transitions really helped and I was pleased with our run through. Points to note: don't stop riding, don't let him get long and enjoy it!
I'd booked a stable at Bury Farm and had always planned to stay over on the Friday night but I changed my mind and made the decision to drive up first thing on Saturday morning, do the arena walk and give B a couple of hours to chill before our warm up test. So I ended up leaving the yard at 5:30am to get there on time.. My little lorry sat nav took me on the most random journey past Whipsnade Wildlife Park and at one point I thought I was going to be driving through the park and had a little bit of a panic - I'm not sure B would have liked the monkeys climbing on the roof and would the lions have thought their lucks was in with meals on wheels (?!) - but luckily there was an option to continue on the 'normal' road.. crisis averted.
|Big pats in the final halt|
Due to our little diversion I had 5 minutes left of the arena walk so chucked the tack on and in we went. B was quite tense but nothing terrible and I was glad to have done it. He then had some time to relax in his lovely stable and I plaited him up and got myself ready. We had a warm up test (P15) first in the international indoor and after finally finding my way into the warm up I was really pleased with how he went and he focused on me immediately. It was soon time to go in and B tensed up as we went through the horse walk and into the huge arena which was decorated with flags, banners and flowers. I made sure I used lots of transitions to soften him up and make him more reactive to my leg and then they rang the bell. Our first centre line was a bit wobbly, our first 20m circle a fraction small and B was anticipating my leg a bit which made him tense but I was really pleased with the test and thought it was a fab warm up for our AF test.
At this stage it was starting to get rather warm and I was worried B would doze off before our AF test (P19). We had over an hour in between and so I watched a few tests and had a wander round before tacking B up and starting our warm up. We were outside for the AF and there was a lot going on so B was rather tense in the warm up. I spent the majority of this time trying to get him to soften and as soon as he did I worked on my transitions. It was soon our go and I felt rather nervous as I entered the AF arenas! The test was not our best, B was tense, I was concentrating on keeping him in the right pace rather than keeping him up together but by the time we trotted down the centre line I was delighted with him. He coped so well with the atmosphere, we did everything in the right place and I enjoyed the experience.
|Too on the shoulder but check out the heel first landing!|
All I wanted was to pick up my AF plaque and to not come last and that was achieved!! We finished up on 64% so our PB for that test so I can't be less than pleased, particularly in that environment. The judges disagreed slightly in their opinions with one having us in second place overall and another putting us way down the order and it was really interesting reading the viewpoints from the different judges and the points that let us down according to each one. The winners of the class were on 70% so we weren't hugely outclassed but I definitely need more ring practise as I just can't seem to manage to keep him together consistently throughout a test which is rather annoying but I will get there soon enough.
My plan was to have that as our last competition for a while but I have done a last minute entry into Fairoak for this weekend to practise my ring craft. Scores don't matter but I want to focus on my riding and work on keeping him together more before we have a break. We will then go to see G for a jump session and to try and work out this bitting situation before I go on holiday.