Monday, 30 January 2017

No January blues here!

The year started off in an amazing fashion as I was picked as the winner of the Celeris UK 2016 competition! I have loved my new boots since I got them in August (so much that I ordered my next pair when I collected them!) and am a huge fan of the work they are doing so to win was just amazing. I popped into their studio a couple of weeks ago to collect part of my prize and ordered my new boots (Bia in black cherry) and Scharf helmet.

Valegro eat your heart out!
Since we moved to Springwood Grange I’ve been so focused on improving that fun has often taken a back seat so I decided to kick off January with a trip to the gallops. Buddy loved it and my tracker hit 38MPH although it had a rethink afterwards and settled at 34MPH but seeing as a racehorse hits 35MPH I’m pretty impressed with my warmblood speedster!! I find that having a good hooly every couple of weeks really helps him stretch and release over the back and he did some mega work after this so it’s a good thing to keep doing.

After having a test riding clinic last year I got back in touch with Jo Cooper who I worked with about 10 years ago after an accident with an old horse. She was amazing and the effects are still active today and I wondered if she would be able to help me get over my test riding challenges. I couldn’t really describe why I was having issues as I’m not nervous but my brain seems to focus purely on the test movement rather than me riding the horse through those movements – if that makes any sense whatsoever?! Anyway, I had a chat with Jo and booked in a session. I hadn’t managed to ‘test’ it so our competitive debut was focused on that! I’d picked two tests I like and have ridden a lot (N23 and N38). B was sharp as a tack in the warm up but was rideable and as I looked in the mirrors I was feeling good and totally ready. First test was N23, I was smiling and B felt good. We entered and did a centre line worth an 8 and the next movements were either 7’s or 7.5’s and then we hit right canter. I always feel confident about this as his canter is amazing but when we shot off with a leap (B can’t buck – thank god) I was trying to regain poise for our give and retake on a 20m circle when B decided he’d been good enough, did his weird headshaking thing and jumped out the arena (which is no mean feat as the kickboards are 2’ high and there is a huge bush). I got him back together, picked up canter and the little bugger did it again. I continued and finished the test but unfortunately I was eliminated for exiting the area.

Posing in the sunshine
The judge was lovely and said what a shame it was as it was a lovely test and we’d come on so much since she saw us last time. It would have been a mega score so was pretty gutting but I was totally focused on the fact that I’s actually ridden and the test felt beautiful up to that point so.. weirdly… I was pleased! I’d debated about whether to do N38 but thought it was worth a go. I tentatively cantered in the warm up to see if he’d headshake and bugger off but I was pleased he held it together. He was much tenser and I couldn’t soften him enough but we did a safe test and I was pleased. A bit disappointed in the score (61%) but I agree with the comments and we got hammered for his tension which is fair enough.

Baby half pass
Eliminationgate then led to me doing some more research on what could cause B’s symptoms. He isn’t a ‘headshaker’ but the contact goes light then he will shake his head horizontally (quite violently), his tongue sticks out and his neck twists round to the left. Occasionally his left eye blinks rapidly. He’s done it to varying degrees since a 4-year-old (and we missed out on our best TQ score in 2015 as he did the same in a test) but it has got more frequent over the last year. He has had everything checked and the vets said it was definitely not ‘headshaking’ and thought it could be an eye allergy last year but eye drops (and a face mask & nose net 24/7) made no difference. He does it in every saddle, bridle, saddlepad combination – only ridden and after 15-30 minutes of work, weather conditions are irrelevant. It’s not consistent at all. So I thought that maybe it could be his bit – he doesn’t do it in his jumping bit which is a ported myler – and he ticked all the sensitive tongue boxes so I ordered a bombers happy tongue to trial. Unfortunately, it made no difference and he felt horrible and heavy in it so I abandoned that trial! Jane has seen him do it and he’s done it with her too and she thinks it’s an evasion as I always back off when he does it. He is moving the best he ever has, looks amazing and feels amazing so I was erring on the side of evasion but the last thing I would want to do is push him through something when he’s not right so I called my vet for a quick chat and he thought it was likely to be the case to so gave me that all clear to crack on. He’s been loads better since and we’ve only had one instance in the last two weeks. As he loves the myler I’ve ordered a similar one to try although it has a smaller port and no hooks (as that’s not BD legal) so maybe he’ll be more comfortable in that? Who knows! If anyone has any random ideas as what else it could be please drop me a message!

Jumping fun
Bar this he has been incredible on the flat. Since Jane has been riding him she’s picked up on a few things that could potentially give us challenges as we go up the grades and so we’ve been working hard on correcting them. It has been so useful for both of us as I’ve never ridden above Novice so to have this kind of insight has been invaluable. I’m much more aware of everything I’m doing and what B’s body is doing and now it’s all about the advanced work and building the right foundations to get us there. Now we have full control of his shoulder and B understands what different leg positions are asking for it has been easier for Jane to cement the half pass. So last week whilst the school was semi frozen we decided that a walk session would be a good time to focus on the next steps. My face must have been hilarious as B nailed walk pirouettes both ways and half pass. Both test worthy and looked amazing! I was so proud of both of them. The progress we have made in the last few months has been incredible and totally down to Jane helping B understand what he needs to do and then helping me develop and improve.

To round off the month I’d booked an hour at April Farm as they have a great selection of jumps. I have a crazy idea of doing some combined training so thought I should test my new found control and jump somewhere away from home and also over some fillers. He was very buzzy and spooked violently at an Eeyore filler so I did wonder how sensible he’d be and whether I’d bother with any of the bright fillers that April Farm have on offer! I set up some tiddly fences so we could pop over the fillers (from a standstill if necessary) and we did have a couple of slammed on brakes moments. But then I gave myself a kick up the backside and realised that I needed B up and together all the time. The moment I let him get a fraction longer or downhill he has an excuse and it’s easier for him to stop. I can’t emphasise how small this difference is – you probably wouldn’t even notice a change if you were watching and weren’t looking for it – but he doesn’t give you an inch so I have to be totally focused and on him all the time. I feel like I’m sawing my hands but actually on the video its hardly visible so I’ll stop beating myself up but I think I’m chasing him in the last couple of strides so need to go back to legs off for a bit I think. As a result of the session I have booked in to do the combined training – it could be a disaster but I reckon it’ll be loads of fun regardless!!