Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Definitely Stressage

Buddy and I set out for our very first solo dressage outing last weekend. It was a bit as I had made the decision the previous week but hadn't really had time to practise as much as I would like. Our canter is still a work in progress but I get moments of amazingness and he is getting the strength to be able to hold it for longer periods of time but Buddy needs the match practise as he can die on me when I go in for my test so we need to overcome that. Charlotte doesn't have anything to worry about yet.. maybe in a few months ;o)

We had lovely lazy times so I had plenty of time to prep on the morning of the show and B was looking very smart when we left. I have never been to a show on my own before so totally underestimated how long it takes doing things on your own so I was running late for my warm up and only got 15 minutes. It was peeing with rain the whole time and our warm up was tense and crabby with occassional moments of oh so nearly there. We just weren't on the same page but I didn't have time to do anything about it so in I went.

The test was, as expected, a bit bleurgh. His trot work was super and earned him 7's and 8's but his walk was lethargic and he broke in his canter which pulled those marks down. I was annoyed with him as he can do so much better but wrote it off. It was our worst test to date and scored us just shy of 55% which although it sounds terrible on paper, actually wasn't too bad and we finished in the top half out of 30 competitors. 

We had an hour to dry off, eat haylage (Buddy) drink tea (me) and learn the second test. I had a chat with Buddy and told him I expected more this time. I think he must have listened as when I got on board he felt super. I'd left 30 mins for a warm up as he was so awful earlier and I had the perfect warm up. He felt awesome and people were telling me how smart he looked and they expected us to do really well. I was enjoying riding so much I obviously totally overcooked the warm up as he completely died on me when I went in for my test. I am no dressage expert but I'm 99.9% positive that pony club kicking and puffing like you've finished a marathon are not found on the scales of training and I don't think the judge approved.

On a positve note the canter (when he offered it) felt a million times better and the second test was much better at 60% but it was so frustrating to lose everything we had in the warm up as I think we would have been in contention for a frilly had he played ball. Again,  the class had 25 in it but we finished in the top half (just!).

He is such a tricky customer as he can be sharp in the warm up but dies in the ring - I need to practise this more to overcome it and I may have to sacrifice some tests to really get him thinking forward as this will be an issue if I let it continue. But we are out again this weekend (glutton for punishment) and so I am hoping we will return to form - as this was Buddy's first outing without a frilly and I'd forgotten what it's like to not get one (spoilt? Me? Never :op )

As this wasn't a perfect session the positive things to take from this outing are:
  1. He looked fabulous
  2. He loaded three times without an issue
  3. We were on our lonesome and it was ok
  4. Our second warm up was great
Wish us luck for Sunday - think we might need it!!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

No news is good news.. A huge update

It has been a long time since I updated the blog - I am so sorry! You can be assured that no news is good news and we have been busy doing exciting things as well as more dull things like moving house and working.
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Posing at RRR13
At my last update we were on the verge of going to have our x-rays re-done and I was a bit scared... OK, a lot scared. I still have the fear of going lame in the back of my mind and I was terrified that the x-rays would show further degeneration. 

We arrived at my vets bright and early and my vet, Chris Tufnell, had a good look at Buddy’s feet and watched him move.  He was showing as 1/10 lame on a circle on the hard in the car park but his feet were going through a wonky phase (typically) so I wasn’t concerned but, most importantly, Chris wasn’t bothered by it at all and was really pleased with how his feet looked and at his improvement.

I think I have spoken about Chris before but I am so very lucky to have him as my vet. He is so incredibly supportive and shows such an interest in what Nic is doing and they still speak regularly which is great. Anyhoo.. there were other vets from the practise there, as well as some visiting vets, and Chris showed Buddy off to them all. The best bit of all was when we spoke to a highly acclaimed racing vet and he looked vaguely interested but then he saw Buddy, the warmblood, stomp off barefoot over Chris’ stone drive (which is more like Brighton Beach than Rockley tracks) and his eyebrows shot up his forehead and he seemed far more interested!!

But I guess you all want to know how we got on... well, for me, I set my own expectation that best case scenario was that there was to be no change to our pictures from last year.  At that point we had been home just over 6 months and without shoes for 9 so an expectation for huge changes would have been unrealistic. However... there were changes – good ones!! It was clear that there was bone re developing on the navicular bone and the pedal oestitis is improving. Don’t get me wrong, the changes are TINY but bone is the last thing to change so this gives me a huge amount of hope for the future. I am planning to get them done again in two years purely for my own interest and it will be great for the Rockley project.
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View of pedal bone - Sept 12 & Aug 13 comparison
After that I was on a bit of a high and we have continued jumping although we haven’t had our competition debut yet as I was on a competing ban until we moved. We are in now so I’m pleased to report there will be competition reports heading onto the blog very soon.
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View of LF Navicular bone - Sept 12 & Aug 13 comparison
The other most exciting thing that has happened was the Rockley Rehab Reunion. I have been aiming for this since I saw the video this time last year when I was spending evenings sobbing into my pony’s mane, wishing for a resolution and the video gave me some hope that it *might* not be the end of the road. Things have obviously improved hugely since those October nights and we were there with bells on! I was helping to organise it so was slightly anxious whether everything would come together but I needn’t have worried and it was fabulous.
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Buddy thinking he knows better doing a bounce in a one stride double
Buddy thought it was THE BEST THING he has ever done in his life and was rather wild for the whole weekend but it was oddly rather nice to have him feeling well and so very happy although I’ve told him he will have no excuse next year! As well as it being lots of fun (a couple of us regressed to 12 year old girls cantering everywhere we went) it was great to meet other rehabs, share experiences and see how amazing all the ponies are at all different stages of their rehab. 
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Buddy's first jump out of water - lack of scope is not an issue we have!
If you haven’t seen the videos via the Rockley blog then I highly recommend that you have a look. The slo mo footage has had around 10,000 views, is being talked about worldwide and is fascinating viewing. The horses on the video are all rehabs bar one and range from just completing their 12 week programme to being a few years in. The coloured cob galloping up the hill went home in April/May time and was 100% sound the next day.  Its emotional viewing so get the tissues at the ready! The round up video shows a bit more of what we got up to and shows Buddy having a naughty ohmygodimsoooooexcited moment.

RRR2013 from Nic Barker on Vimeo.

I came away with a feeling of having been involved in something really special and it helped remove a block I’ve been having about Buddy’s capability. I still worry about him going lame, I’m getting better but it is always there, and to see him coping with everything when I just let him get on with it just helped me to remove that mental block. There was a great guy there too who came all the way from Northumberland and was meant to stay just for Saturday but ended up staying for the filming and he confirmed Buddy has ‘perfect feet for him’ which made me grin a lot. I met some great people, laughed til my belly hurt and was inspired by each and every owner and their horses. 
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New friends Bailey, Felix, Chester, Buddy and Rolo at RRR13
I cannot wait for RRR14 – we are moving location to Boomerang – and we will be having an open day on the Saturday so do get in touch if you would like to attend.