Sunday, 16 November 2014

Two years ago....

I dropped Buddy off at Rockley Farm. It seems like a lifetime ago but I remember the feeling of trepidation and hope that I felt that day. I managed to hold it together driving the empty lorry up the drive but only just! I felt miserable and counted down the sleeps until he came home, I missed him terribly, But every single second of that was worth the fabulous feeling I have had since and I cannot thank Nic enough for everything she has done to help us on the road we have been on.

I know I am one of the lucky ones, that there are people out there who haven't had the success I have been blessed with but I appreciate every single second I have with Buddy and will never, ever take that for granted. Things could have turned out very differently for us. But it hasn't been easy, nor has it been handed to us on a plate. I work really hard, I have thrown myself into learning as much as I can about barefoot and have perfected Buddy's diet and exercise regime so it is as good as it can be when we are faced with the limitations of being on a livery yard. I have made sacrifices, lost people in my life who I considered to be my friends and questioned my judgement on several occasions.

Being barefoot is hard, you go against the 'traditionalists' and have to justify your choices but I can honestly say that my equine life is much more satisfying. I have met some fantastic people who have supported me and given me brand new ideas, my fabulous yard owner has been incredibly accommodating and understands why I need to have a high maintenance pony, has made an effort to understand and I know she has my back and has also become a good friend. I have found two brilliant trainers who don't care that Buddy has no shoes on but who also take an interest in the fact that he is barefoot.

I also have my horse of a lifetime. We have achieved things in the last two years that people thought were impossible. I will never find another like him. We are a team and he will never, ever, ever leave my side.

Vive le donks!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dressage demons? Forget that!

So after our not so successful championship I've been working hard and trying to get my mojo back. I'm still in a place where it feels great to me but as I've not got anyone on the ground with me to film its really tough to gauge if he looks as good! Plus I'm doing unaffiliated things with unaffiliated judges so its very tricky as there's no set standard - I do wonder if I should bite the bullet and do some affiliated stuff on a ticket but I'm not totally convinced yet.

So with the idea of getting our mojo back and hoping for a decent warm up I entered some local dressage. Two tests, prelim 7 and 18 and the aim was to go and really ride him in the tests, get a decent warm up and not really care too much about the score. 

I'd been really pleased with him during the week and hoped for continued good performance but didn't want to drill him too much in the school so in my typical style I decided to have a jump lesson the day before the comp! I was trying a new jump saddle which I loved, Buddy was great and YO commented how much he'd improved since she'd last seen us working for a prolonged period of time which was lovely to hear.

Dressage day dawned and I had a lovely leisurely start so had plenty of time to get ready. I somehow managed to get behind my time and ended up running late! Got to the venue and flung his tack on and jumped on. As I walked across the car park I realised I'd not put my hat on - doh! A lovely lady came to my rescue and got it out of my lorry for me.

After our stressful warmup last time I was slightly concerned as there was a few ponies and little riders in the warm up so I really didn't want to cause a scene. He had a couple of tense moments but no shooting off or spinning around so I'm hoping some desensitisation and taking him off the propell has solved that issue. We went in for P7 and the arena was very wet and boggy and I felt B die on me a bit but I did a couple of transitions and was happy to start. I was really pleased with the test as we did everything in the right place and didn't break in our canter (wahooo). 
Squinting with his frillies
There was a long break between my two tests so I used the time to remember P18 and Buddy was quite happy munching on his hay. The previous class finally finished and we ended up 2nd out of 15 so I was chuffed. Next up P18. This test is much busier and actually suits us both much better. I managed to canter in the right places although we did overshoot the marker in our left canter but I'll take that over breaking at the moment. I was pleased with the test and Buddy was in my good books already with a lovely frilly and with us achieving our objectives so that was enough for me. 

As I was getting B ready to load the organiser bought our sheets over and there was a red frilly on our second sheet - clever pony had won the class! There were 9 in it so I was really pleased - I still get a huge buzz everytime I get a rosette, it really means so much to me and I appreciate every one, but a red one is treasured!!

Next stop is a jumping lesson with Warren on Sunday - I've not seen him since last month so will be good to have some more homework.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Dressage divas (or not)!

The nights are drawing in now so I am limited to schooling after work - the plan is to get up early and have a few rides before work in the winter but I am awful at getting up early so that will be a struggle I'm sure! The focus over the last couple of weeks has been to prepare for our dressage championships.

Stride length difference - shod vs barefoot. Can you guess which is which?!
We had another clinic with Warren last weekend - I have been so busy with work that I'd not managed to see him in between my last one (I like to have a private session in between usually just so we can have some focused attention). I wanted to work on straightness and building on what we'd been doing previously and luckily that's what Warren had planned! We warmed up over an upright with two poles on the floor in an A frame. B started drifting to the left and so Warren got me to correct it but I didn't feel I quite had his left shoulder in control. This came to bite me later in the session when we were asked to string some fences together - Buddy said no, dropped out through that shoulder and I came incredibly close to hitting the deck. I had enough time to think 'I'm coming off' but somehow managed to get my leg back down and back in the stirrup. Go me! But this showed up the issue so I really concentrated on keeping my left elbow tight but he ran out again. Third time I grabbed my neck strap and kept my leg on - Warren had also put another pole on the other side - so Buddy popped over. We came round a few more times and popped it without an issue. 

Throwback pics - Top is the first week he arrived as a 4yo - bottom 4 years later as a fit 8yo
We then focused on angling fences, first one on its own and then a double Then stringing a course together and Buddy was awesome. The poles really helped him focus and I wasn't distracted by them so it was great. Warren gave us some great feedback and was pleased with how B looks and how he is performing. He did mention that we may need to consider our bitting arrangement shortly as B is a big, strong horse and we want him to listen when I check him. After our eventers challenge I had wondered if this was coming but I like to try and school my issues first but my size vs B's is a no brainer really ;o)

Next step was onto the dressage champs. I was really excited about it but our prep hadn't been ideal as I've been abroad with work but the plan was never to win but it was great to have qualified. B has been a bit of a twit recently about warm ups and he was wired when I got on, every time a horse came towards us he stopped and span. I couldn't get anything decent out of him for 10-15mins. When he relaxed the trot felt good but every time I asked for canter he shot off. We got a bit of work in but it definitely wasn't enough so I decided I'd just have to do a bit prior to them ringing the bell. I knew that this could really affect our test but I had to work with the situation I'd been given.

At the Dressage Championships - Looking the part if nothing else!
I was actually really pleased overall with his test. The trot work looked (the joys of mirrors) and felt super - and got complimented outside the ring but our lack of canter prep failed us again as he struck off on the wrong leg on the right rein and then broke twice. He just wasn't off the leg enough. I expected to be hammered on my canter marks (although what he did show was super) but we've definitely done worse tests. I was then absolutely gutted to be given our worst mark ever at prelim and we were in the bottom half of the order (I thought we'd come last but just looked at the results and there were a few beneath us - wahoo!). The comments on my sheet were confusing - lots of good, very good and excellent comments scattered across the sheet but with marks of 4-7 across the board. I'm ok with being given low scores (although I do think it was undeserved in this case - bar the canter obvs) but the comments must reflect this. But hey ho, dressage is an opinion and I mustn't take it so seriously but it is really hard when you have worked so hard, are clearly getting better and then the scores are getting worse!

Finally - a double clear!

Once again we've been keeping really busy between competing, training and just having some fun!

Our last out was to a local equestrian centre who were hosting an eventers challenge. This consists of 9 show jumps and then straight out onto the XC course for another 10 fences. I'd entered the 85cm class as Buddy is so blase around 80cm now and we've been schooling over 1m at home so he's more than capable. Plus I was debating entering a BE90 before the end of the season so thought it could be good practise.

We had relatively late times as we were running in the second last class so a nice leisurely morning getting ready and no plaiting as it was jumping! I arrived with plenty of time to walk the course so watched a few show jump in the smaller class before heading out to XC. The SJ was well built and up to height with some spooky fillers but nothing that concerned me, although there were faults and falls all over the place. I started walking the XC and I was pretty shocked. As it turned out the 85 and 90 course were exactly the same so it was up to height the whole way round. It would definitely give us the test we needed!! 

It was soon time to warm up and so we wandered over. There were 6 or 7 people crammed into a 40x20 and it was chaos. Buddy has got funny in the warm up after a few near misses out eventing. If someone canters towards us or next to us and we are next to the fence he panics. I get tense in the warm up too so that doesn't help but the crazy state of affairs was not making life any easier. There was one pair who had their trainer/mum there and they hogged the fences - with lots of shouting for good measure. She galloped into the oxer and the pony stopped so she hit the deck. This happened again and at that point I left the warm up and it was winding B up. I managed to get back in and pop a couple of fences but B was incredibly wound up by this point so it was a bit pointless. 

We trotted into the first as our warm up hadn't been great (!) and then B was off like a rocket - I struggled to get him back for the turns but we made it round clear - just! Then out to the xc - we jumped out of the school like a rocket. I brought him back to trot for the first fence which was a simple collection of upright logs and then kicked him on to the second which was a huge table. It was in a dark and spooky part so back to trot three strides out and then kick (and shut eyes) and we flew. Sharp right turn to a log in a water trough (odd) and then five strides to the step complex. Buddy has only ever done one step down in a comp but this was two bounce steps up - one stride and then two steps own. I was a bit anxious about this when I walked it as I wasn't sure how B would react but he popped up and I just sat back, kept my leg on and he popped the two down. Next was a ditch with an alternative skinny brush. I had decided to take the option and he had a look but jumped no worries. Kicked on to the bank - up there, small step up and then down the other side and onto the final fence - a nice triple bar. As I crossed the finish line I suddenly realised that we'd gone clear! Wow. I think we both needed the extra difficulty - one for B to keep his mind engaged and for me to actually ride every stride! Results came out and we managed to nab second place and won some money. Very pleased! 

The next day I decided to take B to a sponsored ride, it was supposed to be 10 miles but I'd heard it was only 7 so I decided it would be ok even after his hard work the day before. I almost regretted my decision halfway round the woods as it was incredibly stoney. I wouldn't have done anything but walk on it (but there were jumps as an option!) so it was taking a bit longer than I thought. We made it into some fields and managed to have a good canter and popped all the fences - he was a keen been which was lovely and he felt like he was locking on to his fences. I was worried that he would be a bit foot sore the next day as the terrain was a bit challenging but he came out without a care in the world so I guess I need to stop worrying about it!

I decided that I was going to end my season without entering another event and focus on training and getting ready for next season. B feels really good, we've got our dressage championship coming up and work is really busy at the moment and I don't want to do it unless I can focus completely on it, especially as it's a step up. 

Plan for now is to continue with lessons, B is going to have a holiday and then we will have a quieter time up to Christmas and then kick start again in January with some JAS and jump training. Before I know it the season will be starting again :o)

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Bumper Update

It must be the time of year as I notice this time last year I was a bit rubbish with the blog too!! However, same as last year, no news is good news but it does mean it's time for a bit of a bumper update so I'd suggest grabbing a nice cup of something and get comfortable...

So our last blog was just prior to our last event at Elmwood. It didn't exactly go to plan and I was a bit disappointed in our performance. However, we did a good dressage to be at the top end of the field (and managed 8's for our walk which was SJL's request), clear show jumping (and it was causing a bit of carnage with some incredibly dodgy lines used) but we got eliminated XC. In all honesty it was just one of those things.. I'd trialled a new warm up and really wound B up and he shot out of the start box meaning business. He flew over the flower box at 2 (which I was worried about) and stormed over the next 5 fences. We then got held on course as someone had fallen off. I tried to keep B focused but by the time we were ok to go he had switched off a bit and the next fence was a spooky trackener and he refused three times so we walked home. I was really gutted about it but in all honesty it has just showed up a flaw in my training and so I am focusing on getting B jumping spooky fences immediately into our sessions so he understands that he must go and stopping isn't an option. 
Final fence at Elmwood
After Elmwood I immediately felt a bit worried that I was pushing B too far, was he comfortable in his feet, was something else going on that I was missing.. Typical paranoid owner behaviour when you're bringing back a broken pony! He had also started to feel a bit 'bleurgh' and a touch flat in his work (he usually does at coat change time) so I decided to back off a bit, give him an easier couple of weeks and then re assess. I also added some propell + into his feed (which I know isn't ideal as a BF friendly additive) and that seems to have had a really positive impact. So my paranoia was diminished and I felt better as B felt better too. On reflection, he hasn't had any serious time off for a while and he's never been in this much work before so it probably all got a bit too much - something to remember for next season.

I had booked on to a clinic with Warren (my RC runs monthly clinics) and I decided to go, see how B was with the thought that I could pull out if he didn't feel right. As it was he was super and we jumped the biggest course we've done. Warren was also really impressed with the improvement in both of us. I do have a new plan though and must keep jumping spooky things early on in my session as that will only help us in the future if we get stopped again and will allow me to trust B more. I have practised that since and it is starting to work and he's not stopped since so it will be interesting to see how we get on at our next session with Warren.

The following weekend was the biggest weekend in the calendar - the Rockley Rehab Reunion 2014. I have been organising this with Nic for the last two years and it keeps getting bigger and better. I didn't manage to get to the Thursday festivities due to another commitment but I had booked Sara-Jane Lanning in for Friday and nabbed myself the last slot of the day. Nic had also managed to get the slo mo camera for the whole weekend so was filming everything we were doing and our SJL session formed part of that. I hadn't seen SJL since before Elmwood so it was good to catch up and see if she thought we had improved. As it was, I ended up with the same pony that I get at home and he was working really hard for me. He was impressive (I think he knew he was on camera) and I was riding round with a massive grin on my face. I am really starting to enjoy dressage again and can see the impact it is having on all areas of our work.

Saturday morning was spent on the XC course and I had one aim in mind - DO.NOT.LET.BUDDY.STOP! So, as per Warren's instructions I found the spookiest fence on course (that wasn't novice/intermediate height) and headed off at trot. He did try and stop but I had my lead rope neck strap (I need to get a leather one made as can't find one long enough) and just kept my leg on and he popped over. Big grins. Went over it a couple of times and he was confidently cantering over so I moved on. We did most of the fences on course and for the first time he managed to canter through the water and did drops into water which was great - I was prepared for a huge leap as he ummed about going in but he was very sensible and just popped off in walk and trot. Clever pony. Unfortunately we didn't really get involved with the filming as I need to keep him moving and focused on me but I was really pleased with his attitude. I am still debating our next step - I'd like to do another 80 but it's impossible to find any that don't clash with other things so I am contemplating stepping up to 90 but I don't want to finish the season on a problem and it will be on his record so am still debating!!

One of my favourite parts of RRR is catching up with old faces and meeting new ones. Last year Steven Leigh came to meet us all and this year we were blessed with his presence for the whole weekend. It was great to have Steve's feedback on B's feet (especially given my wobble after Elmwood) and to hear that he thought B and his feet had improved was great to hear and really boosted my confidence that I am not ruining my pony just yet!

When I arrived home I had a lovely invitation to my RC's dressage championship which we qualified for this year. I am really excited and will be working hard on our test to make sure we can be as good as possible and stand a chance of doing well.

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).

Friday, 18 July 2014

Cracking Crown Farm

I have never been to Crown Farm (Ascott-under-Wychwood) before but have heard lots of good things about it and so I was really excited to arrive on Sunday. Buddy came off the lorry clearly knowing exactly what this eventing stuff is all about now and so was quite distracted as we wandered through the lorry park, past the show jumping and trade stands and across to the dressage warm up. It was raining and despite having a huge amount of space to warm up in we kept getting cut up and Buddy was feeling inattentive and far from his best. I'd given myself 20 minutes to warm up (which is usually plenty) but I could have done with 10-15 minutes more to reduce the tension and get him a bit more focused on me. The test was ok, we can definitely do better, and the marks improved as he settled down but I need to remember he hasn't been in this type of environment much before and it was a proper BE atmosphere with 6 dressage rings plus all the big show hype. I guessed it was a 38-42 test depending how generous the judge was feeling!

Thanks to 1st Class Images
We had an hour and a half in between dressage and jumping so I left Buddy with my friend and went to walk the XC. It was much hillier than I thought it would be and so running round was a bit more tiring than expected but I was confident that it was jumpable - the only one I was concerned about was the first fence which was a flower box and Buddy is never keen on those so to have it as the first fence wasn't ideal. There were a couple of fences I thought he may look at later in the course (the haycart and saw) but hoped by that point he'd been in full swing and wouldn't care.

I went over to to the SJ with 20 minutes to warm up so I could watch the course being ridden as well but when I arrived they were taking numbers rather than running to order and there were 20 horses before me so I waited outside. The SJ was causing a bit of carnage with faults, slips and time penalties all over the place - the ring was very greasy and to see a few horses slid right over despite being studded up didn't exactly fill me with confidence!

I took Buddy into the warm up when I had 8 to go but it was really difficult to get any good work as he was so wound up. There were 15-20 horses in the warm up and the idea of etiquette seems to have gone out of the window. There were lots of wild horses in there, people cantering up bottoms, cutting people up in front of or behind the jumps and just general rudeness. Buddy was getting upset by it and I was getting tense so we jumped the cross a few times, popped the straight and the oxer and went in. The corners at the top of the ring appeared to be the slippiest so I planned to trot those but keep moving around the rest of the course to try and avoid time faults.

Buddy boinged over the first which was a rustic fence and then took the bridle and he was off! We came into the third fence full of it and I struggled to get him back for the turn to four. Back to trot and we popped through and round. He calmed down a bit after this point and the rest of the round was lovely - slightly strong but lovely and we finished clear. Big pats for the pony.

As there had been such a delay SJ we didn't have much time before XC so it was straight back to the lorry, quick drink for us all and change for me and it was time to go. Buddy definitely understands what XC is now and was incredibly excited about the prospect of doing it which wasn't ideal as the walk to the warm up was down a steep hill! We jogged over there and then as soon as he'd had a walk round and a trot he was back to being his calm self.

I used Warren's advise again in the warm up and kept it short and sweet but made sure I jumped him quite early in the warm up to ensure he was ready to go when I asked. It was soon time for us to go and I'd decided to trot into the first - just in case - so we power trotted out of the start box. I felt him back off when he realised where we were going so sat back, kept my leg on and he took me forward. He then decided he didn't facy it and we span round. I represented and he ballooned it - big pats and onwards to the next, a simple pallisade which I came in a much more forward rhythm and he popped it well. He baulked at the fence judge's car by the wall at 3 but kept moving forward and popped it. He then spotted a couple of groups of people by the next few fences but I got him back with some vocal encouragement and lots of leg over 4 and then sped on to 5 - the first combination on course. I couldn't get his attention away from the fence judge and crowd so tapped him on the shoulder, brought him back to trot ready to kick him up over the fence like Warren had advised. However it wasn't enough and we had another stop. I represented and although he was wary and not 100% focused on me we got through. The next fence was the castle jump and someone was stood right behind it so I screamed 'JUMPING' at them and they kindly moved!!

Thanks to 1st Class Images
There was a stony track up the hill through some woods and I really kicked him on here. He baulked coming out of the dark into the sunlight and at the people stood around but I kicked on and we flew over the tyres at 7. Next was a simple palisadey type fence which he flew and then on to the ditch. I bought him back to trot for this, just in case, but actually I think he would have been fine in canter as he popped it and locked onto the roll top which was next. Stayed in canter and approached the next looky fence which was the hay cart. He did look but I kept my leg on and he popped it out of his stride. Next was house to water to house and I trotted in to give him time to see, he trotted through the water and popped the house on the other side. Cantered downhill towards the drop at 12, back to walk and he had a look but popped straight down, through the wood, up the hill and over the log back out to the field. Didn't glance at the saw fence, over the next without concern and hooned down the slope towards the last which was another flower box. I was not having another stop and so really sat back, leg on and he flew. Galloped strongly through the finish and carried on halfway up the hill!! 

I must admit I was gutted with the two stops as I'd only wanted one so I ended up finishing on 80.5 rather than the sub 75 I'd aimed for but they were green stops where he was looking at the crowds and I can't really train for that. Once he was in the swing of things he made it feel incredibly easy and clearly loved every second of it and he did a brilliant clear SJ - one of only a few in his section - so I can't really complain. My friend who groomed for me also said that the commentator was saying some really lovely things about our round (and she wasn't holding her punches) so thats really lovely to hear and boosts my confidence that we don't look that horrific as we're going round!

Thanks to 1st Class Images
We had a session with Warren on Wednesday evening (where he was really impressed with the improvement in us both - big grins) and he agreed that I probably should have cantered out of the start box, come back to trot 3 strides out and then kicked him forwards. Once he gets used to the crowds and distractions we will be competitive so I'd like to get it sorted as quickly as possible but it may just be that he needs a few more runs to build his confidence up and understand what is expected of him.

We're at Aston-le-Walls next, which is one of my favourite events, so he's having a quiet week of hacking (bar the clinic with Warren) and then we will up the schooling ready for that.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Building the confidence bank

So after the high of our first event (still grinning about it almost two weeks later!) I had booked us in with Warren for a jump session and got a last minute entry to an eventers challenge. 

The session with Warren was, as usual, filled with information that is just unbelievably useful and educational. I feel like I am in the process of deconstructing my riding style and building it back up again. As such there will be a few bumps in the road but I really get what I need to do and Warren is helping me get there without getting frustrated! This session followed on from the XC session the week before and was focussed on getting Buddy forward and thinking and for me to sit back and allow B to jump. We warmed up over a cross a few times and then went to jump a fence with a rubber mat under it. I rode like an idiot, sat forward and Buddy span and I was eating sand. Urgh. It was so frustrating as I knew exactly why I'd come off a millisecond before it was too late to correct and I fully deserved to eat dirt. Must. Get. Better.
Pro pics from Wheatlands ODE
Hopped back on with pride hurt more than anything and focused on correcting my errors and getting B to think forwards. In my first session with Warren I was overriding so we corrected that and we've now gone too far the other way so Warren was getting us to walk into fences until we were a stride or two away and then kick forwards. This really helped B wait and sit back on his hocks and we got some much better jumps because of it. Warren also noticed that if I'm not 100% sure how B will react I slowly slide my bum backwards towards the cantle in semi-defence mode but this pulls my shoulders forwards and down which puts me in a position of weakness immediately. No one has ever noticed this (or just hasn't told me) so it was a bit of a revelation but as soon as I know I'm doing it I am aware and able to correct it. So, homework was to ride the last two strides and keep bum at the front of the saddle and shoulders back. Easy right???

So, onwards to the eventers challenge which was essentially a short format ODE with dressage and then 5 SJs, onto the XC and then back to the SJs. This was held at a local riding school and I usually avoid going there as the courses can be a bit dodgy and the ground isn't ideal but I thought we could do with another competitive XC run prior to our next event hence deciding to go. I walked the course the night before and there were some incredibly dodgy hairpin turns and a couple of the fences looked a tad larger than the 2'9" advertised but I thought my eye was a bit out so didn't get too close to those fences! 
Pro pic from Wheatlands ODE
Dressage was one to forget - it was a novice test (our first) and the ground was horrible (hard and slippery) and B just wasn't particularly willing or happy about it. It felt rushed and horrible and I forgot the final circle so had an error of course as well. Went to warm up for the SJ/XC and I noticed that some of the XC fences had been put up and there was a double of uprights on a table with a drop behind the second. I told myself to man up and kick!

The first SJ section was good and the session with Warren had really helped and Buddy was pulling me into the fences so I managed to canter all the way around, apart from the hairpin turn from 2 to 3 which was nuts and 3 was an ascending skinny spread so I wanted to get it right. Clear on those jumps and then onwards to XC. Buddy was full of it - he stormed over the working hunter style fences, onto the trackener and then over to the tyres (one of the fences I'd not got too close to) where he had a look, I came back to trot to get the power and then kicked and B FLEW. Blimey. That felt BIG (found out later it was 1.10m) then to the first combination of log to roll top. Straight through and over the water trough. He was feeling full of confidence and very strong at this point and so I brought him back to trot to regain control as the next section was through the woods and there were some boggy patches. He boinged over the barrels, over the log and then the next combination which was palisade to step to palisade. No troubles and we were back in the field heading towards the table. I was scared. I sat back but B knew what he was doing and flew over the first and then over the second and we landed at the bottom of the slope. Was back onto the SJ and by this point B was strong and not entirely listening so we knocked a couple of rails when he went flat and so we finished on 8 faults. Time was tight - 300 MPM - so I expected a few time faults but we only got 7.something so I was really chuffed as I didn't particularly press on. I was really impressed with his attitude as he is definitely filling with confidence and it was a really tough course for his second go. We finished 7th and just out of the frillies but it's all about adding confidence to the pot and that was definitely achieved.
You know I said it was wet.... Pro pic from Whealands ODE
I've got a manic week with work leading up to our next event on Sunday and I am crazily excited about it. Again, not expecting a placing but the aim is to achieve a sub 75 final score (sub 45 dressage, less than 8 SJ and one refusal XC) and build up confidence points. It's a lovely XC course and as long as I ride properly it shouldn't cause us a problem. Wish us luck!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Turning dreams into reality

Part of me still can't quite believe I am writing this update... Yesterday Buddy and I completed our first event. It has been a long journey to get to this point and I have definitely taken it slower than I needed to (in terms of soundness) and, if I'm totally honest, part of me never expected to get here. To complete an event has been the holy grail of returning to work and of working hard on his feet and we've just done it. It feels incredibly surreal and it wasn't until I got Buddy home last night that it all sunk in. I expected to be in floods of tears through the finish line but I wasn't, I had that amazing feeling of elation and I think it was because I expected to finish.. it wasn't a fluke as we had trained hard to make sure we were ready and although the conditions and everything was far from perfect on the day we had done enough to ensure we were confident and good to go. I am blessed to have such an amazing support network around me but huge thanks obviously go to Nic and Rockley Farm for making my dream a reality.

We'd had a good week prior to the event and I'd gone XC schooling with Warren at Mattingley which was really great. We came home full of confidence and I felt completely prepared for the task at hand. I was very lucky with my times but still had an early start as I wanted to make sure I had breakfast and some chill time before I got to the yard. The weather forecast was not great and heavy rain and thunderstorms were predicted in between 10am and 3pm - pretty much exactly when I'd be riding. Great. I'd walked the SJ and XC the night before and was confident it was do-able without too many issues so just needed to get through the dressage and see if we were up to being eventers!

I know it's blurry but I just wanted to show how confident B was with the going

It started to rain pretty much as soon as we got there. I ran over to get my number and check in then it was back to the box to get B ready in between showers. I'm not entirely sure why I bothered as the heavens opened pretty much as I got into the warm up! He felt bright but attentive and I was pleased with how our warm up was going although it was hard to not be distracted by the other horses slipping and sliding all over the place as the rain continued. Buddy was coping so I ensured that I kept him as together and balanced as I could and it was soon into the ring. According to the other competitors, our ring was incredibly slippery but I have to say I didn't think so (or Buddy didn't) and as you can see from the video he wasn't finding it an issue at all! I got back to the lorry and watched the test and I was pretty happy with it - there were moments I would have given a 5 to but also moments worth an 8. I was confident it would be a sub 50 score ;o)

Then it was back to the lorry to try and dry off a bit and onto show jumping. It had been raining quite hard, thunder was rumbling and the going was the worst I could have wanted - rock hard underneath but soft on top which equals a recipe for slipping. I decided I would see how he felt and go from there. One of my lovely fellow Rockley friends came to help and she kindly went to see what our dressage score was. We had done OK she said... 33 and currently around 5th place. Blimey... A double clear and we'd be in the placings for sure! I tried not to be too competitive as that was not what the day was about.. so onto the warm up!

The ring was disgusting, slippery and with a whole load of people who need to learn warm up etiquette which made it quite stressful. Buds wasn't too keen on the ground and the take offs were getting pretty churned up so I kept my warm up to a minimum and just popped each fence a couple of times. In the meantime it appeared everyone was getting eliminated, multiple faults and time faults a plenty. I couldn't understand why but I do think the ground played a huge part. It was our turn in and my plan was to go with the flow but to trot round the corners and into the spooky fences. I had Warren's advise ringing in my ears and tried my best. I did make two mistakes getting in front of the movement and Buddy quite rightly told me to bugger off as he wasn't sure and I just made his life harder so it was easier for him to say no. So two refusals and a whole load of time faults... BUT we didn't get eliminated!

Before the heavens opened!
As there had been lots of eliminations we got ready immediately for XC and went across. By the time I'd warmed up and was ready to go the heavens opened and the rain wasn't messing around. Within a minute I was soaked through to my knickers! I have to say they were the worst conditions I have ever ridden XC in. I could barely hold my rains (thank god Buddy isn't strong) and could hardly see at points. We had a refusal at the first as I wasn't concentrating and expected him to just pop it (won't make that mistake again) and then later on in the course, 4th from home (#13) which I had expected him to look at but he was totally distracted and not paying attention to where he was going. On paper it was the worst day ever - final results aren't up yet but I would assume we had the furthest fall from the placings ;o) - but I completed each of my objectives and that is the main thing.

Best bit was that Buddy bounced out of his stable this morning and we went for a gentle leg stretch. He is totally sound and was striding out obviously very pleased with himself! We have a lesson with Warren on Tuesaday and I'm going to try and get a late entry into an eventers challenge for next weekend in preperation for our next event on 13th July.

Monday, 23 June 2014

What a week - Finished with a show!

Buddy was not exactly enthused to see the lorry pull up on the yard this morning as I was interrupting his snooze time! I quickly plaited him up and we were soon loaded and on our way. It was a relatively local show but was held at our county show ground and I hadn't quite realised how popular it would be as I saw more and more horseboxes and trailers going the same route as us - eeek! 

I entered the dressage and 2'6" jumping as it was all going to be on grass and I wanted to practise in a competition environment prior to our first event. I was warned that the warm ups and rings were slippery and so I made sure I kept Buddy up together in his canter and well balanced whilst warming up. We did our test and whilst it wasn't amazing (that sodding right canter got me again) I was pleased with him and his left canter was uphill, rhythmical and spot on . The score definitely did not reflect that but that's dressage so onwards and upwards!

I was then told that there weren't many left in the jumping and I'd not seen anyone go clear whilst warming up and there were shod (and studded) horses slipping all over the place so I wondered how educational it would be. After chatting to the ring steward I decided to give it a go so went and swopped tack and came back. I'd hoped to watch a couple go and learn the course (typical eventer) but there were only two more of us left to jump so I ambushed a kind young lady who taught me the course and then went and warmed up. The joys of being on your own are that you have to jump what's in the warm up and my choices today were a 2' cross pole and a 3' oxer... hmmm. I cantered over the cross and then jumped the oxer a couple of times - we then knocked it down and there was no one there to put it back so I went into the ring!! 
Ignore me hauling right to get to the next fence!!
The course was not easy for a first time (there had been 6 clears all morning), with a tricky turn on a right angle from 5 to 6 and the same in the jump off section. My plan was to get round and as we came into the ring Buddy went really green on me and backed off. I remembered my session with Warren and did my best to ride positively and keep my shoulders behind my hips. We trotted into the first as I could feel him going boogly eyed and then cantered when appropriate. The going was slippery so I was careful on my turns and I trotted between 5 and 6 but we were clear! Unfortunately due to all my trotting and setting him up we were the slowest in the jump off so came 7th and they only placed to 6th. I was a bit gutted but today wasn't about that and I was just really glad to get round together and it was a super warm up for our first event which is next weekend.

We have a much quieter week this week - I will be practising my dressage test to try and do better than this weekend - we are off to Mattingly with Warren on Wednesday for a final XC school and then it is the biggest day of the year. Wish us luck!!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

What a week - XC schooling

The horrible events at the weekend really bring home how dangerous our sport is and prove that you can be at the top of your game or jumping relatively inconspicuous fences and the worst can still happen. Thoughts with all their families and connections at a time like this. 

However, life can end in the blink of an eye and my theory is that I can do everything in my power to ensure me and my horse are as safe as possible but for me these events have just proved that we should live every single day to the full and enjoy every second we have. I am on such a high after all my time with Buddy this week, I am so proud of the horse he is, the horse he is becoming and our future together and I appreciate every single second.

We started our XC adventures back at Wheatlands Farm at an XC clinic with Ginny Howe. I had taken a place on this at the last minute as I had been indecisive about which class to enter at Buddy's first  ODE and couldn't decide between the 70/80 class so wanted another opportunity to go round so I could make my mind up. The M4 was horrendous so I arrived just as the clinic was scheduled to start but luckily the other people in my group were also late so I had time to get ready!! Our group was a couple of more established ponies competing at 100 level so I was a bit concerned my baby would hold us back but I needn't have worried. Ginny started by asking about our history and she had heard of Rockley and was interested in how we had used the rehab to bring him back into work. We started off warming up in walk, trot and canter - ensuring that the horse was off the leg and thinking forwards - and lots of forwards and back in canter. Then we warmed up over a roll top - we went straight in at 80 and stayed between 80-90 the whole session -  and I concentrated on keeping my shoulders back and thinking forwards. 

Buddy started off a little bit green, especially over a line of skinny doubles, but as the session went on he was really starting to get it and was taking me into fences he hadn't seen before full of confidence and started showing the type of horse he is going to be. As long as I rode positively and kept my shoulders back with a supporting leg then we were flying.  Ginny thought he was fab and that my ambition of getting to Badminton Grassroots (or Novice) wasn't entirely unrealistic and actually pretty achievable. She also told me I should enter the 80/90 class so I have amended my entry and gone for the 80 - eeeek!

Then onto Saturday - I had arranged with a fellow Rockley Rehab to pop across to Boomerang. We had a fab time and Buddy was feeling more and more confident and happy to tackle the fences. This could also be because I am also feeling more confident ;o) We popped up and down some steps, managed to canter through the water and popped his first trakener. I was really chuffed with him and he gave me a sneaky peak on the horse he is growing in to. I am excited!!

I will update the blog as soon as I have the video from Wheatlands and I'm just editing my headcam footage from Boomerang so it will be on here ASAP.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

What a Week - Part Two!

We trundled off this evening for our dressage lesson with Sara-Jane Lanning. I have a couple of Rockley friends who have had sessions with her and she comes incredibly highly recommended so I was both excited and a bit nervous! My dressage background is rubbish - it has always been the bit I had to get through to get to the fun stuff - and I have never competed above Novice level so I am a million miles away from being a dressage diva. However, I have started to enjoy it more since having Buddy (I do think winning frillies helps - I know how bad that sounds) and he definitely has the ability to go way beyond Novice level and I would like to teach him to do some of the more advanced movements down the line. I also have another motive - if I want to get to Badminton then my dressage has to be in the low 20's - if it's not I've got no hope of being competitive so this is the first step to improving our marks.

I filled SJL in on our background and we had a walk and a trot around but as soon as I went on the left rein I thought 'he just doesn't feel right'.. not lame but not right. I stopped and said to SJL that I thought I'd have to stop as he didn't feel 100%. She said she'd seen it and he wasn't lame but he was stiff through his body so she asked me to take up more inside bend and move him out on the circle. It made a huge difference and he felt a million times better. She then said I had 'lazy legs' and was stifling Buddy's movement as my seat was driving him all the time and making his back dip away. Naughty Mummy. So I sat still and asked with my legs only which made an immediate improvement and meant he had a huge over track in walk. I then had to keep the same thing in trot and the hardest bit was maintaining the correct bends and riding each rein differently. SJL said his 'normal' trot would earn him a 7 (which he does tend to get) but the improved trot would be more 8/9 so I will be aiming for that on Sunday ;o)

Then onto canter. SJL really liked his movement but I must remember to keep him straight on the right rein and keep some inside bend and a supportive outside leg on the left rein. Once I got this there was a huge improvement and he felt lovely. We also worked on our downwards transitions, I find these really hard and haven't been able to improve them on my own but SJL said my problem is that B is too obedient so I don't have time to ride into the transition. She showed me what she meant and then B and I had a go - when I got it right it felt brilliant so lots of practise required!

SJL gave me some lovely feedback, she says I have good feel and Buddy is a lovely genuine horse and he has got really good movement. She did make me laugh though as she said the first thing she though when she say Buddy was 'gosh - he's got big ears'!!! I did say his nickname is 'donkey' for that very reason. She made such a huge improvement in us from very small changes (and it works really nicely with the way Warren teaches too which is very important) so we will definitely be going back again soon for another session.

Sorry for no pictures but there will be video tomorrow as I'm having my lesson recorded. I am really looking forward to it!!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

What a week - Part One

After our brilliant session with Warren last week I wanted to set up another one pretty quickly. The opportunity came yesterday and so I leapt (no pun intended!) at the chance to go to his yard. I was hugely excited as I got so much from the clinic last week and could tell very quickly that Warren has a great eye for identifying exactly what you are riding and I am very much in need of some fine tuning.

Warren very quickly identified an essential flaw in our plan - Buddy is behind the leg and I sit too correctly (never been told that before!) and as a result as soon as Buddy drops behind the leg, I immediately ask him to move forward - if he doesn't respond then I use my heel which drops my shoulder and makes me tip forward which immediately makes my position ineffective and I've got no hope. It also means that it is difficult for Buddy to engage behind and really use his back end, especially when jumping and my weight is forward and on his shoulder. 

We spent some time working on getting me sat with my shoulders slightly behind my hips and ensuring that each time I asked for forward with my calf I got it. If I didn't then I had to immediately give a kick by the girth and get a forward response - ideally in the gait higher than the one I'd asked for. It was alien to both of us but Buddy quickly got what we were looking for, even though it was quite hard work!

Warren jumping Buddy
I struggled far more with the exercise - Warren likened it to trying to rub your head and pat your tummy whilst also trying to ride! I will need to work hard to make this a subconscious change and it is a fine line between encouraging forward motion and becoming defensive so once this does become subconscious I will still need to pull back and focus on it occasionally to ensure it is correct.

We jumped some fences, making sure I kept my shoulders back coming in to the fence and that I left Buddy alone in the last few strides (I have a habit of chasing and kicking on take off). I wasn't quite getting it right so Warren asked me to walk until 2 strides before the fence and then trot which equaled a much better jump! I then had the feeling I needed and we made a bit of a course - there was the odd sticky jump when I didn't get it right but when I concentrated it made a massive difference to the jump. 

Pingy Pony
Warren then asked if he could have a sit on Buddy to make sure he felt the way he looked. He spent some time making him forward - working on walk to canter to make him sit. He said that Buddy wasn't loading his shoulders evenly which was stopping him from taking a contact on the outside and that, on the right rein, he hangs on that inside rein. I'd felt this for a while but wondered if it was just me as I am wonky and the issue goes when I've done lots of small circles (and of course he is then loading his shoulders evenly and sitting more...!) and worked on that engagement. But Warren continued to ask the questions and Buddy kept finding more evasions (the sign of a good horse according to Warren!!). Eventually (after a few circles) Warren was happier and he popped him over a couple of fences and I managed to get some pics. He thought he was a good horse and with a bit of work we can do everything I want to which was great to hear.

We have another session booked (xc this time) on 25th June so I have just over a week to practise everything and hopefully Warren will see an improvement. In the meantime we have a busy week ahead - lesson with Sara-Jane Lanning on Tuesday, XC clinic with Ginny Howe on Wednesday and then we're off XC schooling with a fellow Rockley Rehab - so be prepared for a whole host of blogs this week - I'm hoping to have at least two more for you (depending on photographers available).

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Wicked lesson with Warren Lamperd

We had a bit of a disasterous weekend last weekend - we had a lesson with Sara-Jane Lanning planned and our first ODE - arena eventing style. Unfortunately I had to do a last minute dash to the hospital with a relative (who is totally fine now) so that scuppered all my plans. SJL was so very understanding and I'm looking forward to my lesson with her on 17th.

This week was manic with work so poor Buddy had to cope (!) with just some hacking and got away without schooling once, lucky thing. We had a clinic booked in on Saturday with Warren Lamperd and I was really looking forward to it... Until I saw the weather forecast. Thunder, lightning and tornadoes were forecast for Saturday and I would not have taken Buddy to a new place in those kind of conditions, he's worth far too much to me. I needn't have worried as although we had horrific thunderstorms in the morning, by the time the afternoon came round it was beautifully sunny.

I've never had a lesson with Warren before but had heard good things from friends, plus he's a UKCC L3 coach in both show jumping and eventing so I hoped I wouldn't look like a total numpty and let Buddy down. The group was a nice size, there were 4 of us, all of pretty similar attitudes and although Buddy was one of the greener horses there we held our own in good company.

Time for a canter Mum?
To start I introduced myself and Le Donks and we went through a potted riding history. I told him all about Buddy's injury and said how he was barefoot now. I am always wary of telling professionals this purely as there is a lot of stigma around being barefoot but Buddy is sound and this method has worked for him so I will continue to share it! Warren, luckily, was very interested and had a look at Buddy's feet and we chatted through what he thought they should look like (shorter in the toe) and I explained why they look like they do and even though they don't look like they should work they do. We chatted through supplements and then he said that I was definitely doing the right thing for my horse. Wow. I was so relieved that we were not only accepted but also approved of.

The session went really well, we started off by jumping a cross pole twice and then we were brought into the middle to analyse how our horses went and then changes we should make to improve. Our issues were straightness (Buddy) and riding too much (me). So next time round we worked on it and slowly got better. The lesson continued in this way and I LOVED Warren's approach, it made you think about key elements that you could improve on easily and those small changes made a massive difference in all the horses and riders.

Stopping for a drink in the river
One exercise Warren used with all the horses was to bring them back to trot around 5/6 strides out from the fence and then pick up canter again. It worked like an exaggerated half halt and got all the horses cantering better and powering from their hocks. The first time he used it on Buddy and I we were coming round a corner into an oxer which was around 100 and it was wide. We got a good take off spot and I was pleased with the jump but as soon as we landed Warren told me to give Buddy a pat and come back to walk. I panicked, wondering what I'd done wrong - was he lame?! Warren then asked me how the jump had felt to me - I said it felt like nothing special, we got a good spot but he could have come 'up' more. "Interesting" said Warren, "Where do you think he jumped it?" he gestured at the wings and I said maybe he'd jumped 6" higher than the back pole. Nope - Warren then gestured pretty much at the top of the wings, which were 1.60m give or take, and he said "here". What?! It felt like nothing... Honestly, nothing special at all.. I didn't have a prolonged moment of suspension or anything. Warren then told me that's what it feels like on a special horse. Big grins all round.

We finished off by adding a triple into the course, it was a straight with one stride to a parallel with three strides to a cross. The key was to get the take off right at the first element to allow them to meet the parallel easily. All the riders messed it up first time and backed off the first - Buddy ballooned the parallel and we ran out at the cross as I had slipped my reins to allow him to stretch. Once I sorted the take off point we jumped through beautifully.

My prized possession arrived this weekend - signed by the man himself!
I was gutted I didn't have a photographer there as I was really pleased with the way he went. Warren was a brilliant trainer and I will be going back to him for lessons as he made me think about my riding in a more positive way and the small changes made a huge difference to Buddy's form.

I am planning on going XC schooling again next weekend, then we have a local RC show where I can do some dressage and SJ on grass and then we have our first event booked in for the end of the month! Am ridiculously excited about getting out there again.   

Monday, 26 May 2014

Xtraodinary XC

After our not quite as successful as I would have liked last XC session at Tweseldown I've been working hard on my PMA and have been jumping some bigger fences at home to prepare for our next go. I had a jump lesson last weekend and my YO commented that I was riding better into my fences and was more determined - result!
Getting more confident
So, determined to ride rather than sit like a dead fish, we trundled off to a local venue that offers tiddly jumps right up to 100 so I knew it would cater for what we needed. Buddy started off very green and backwards but instead of worrying about it I focused on letting him gain confidence in what we were doing and that seemed to work!
Warming up
We started off over a simple hay feeder and then moved on to a tiddly baby ditch and then strung a few fences together. Buddy was hilarious over the ditch initially but got confidence the more he did and was happily popping over and combining it with other fences so we moved on to the bigger ditch.

Popping the bigger ditch
After a few goes he was happily trotting and cantering over the larger ditch so I started to string this with a roll top to house to sharks teeth. We had a few 'I'm going... I'm going.. Nooo I'm not' moments at the start and then with the flowerbox at the end but as the session went on his default was to go (even if he jumped them 3' higher than necessary) which was great. 

At no point whatsoever did I worry about his footing - the ground was quite slippery in some places as we have had so much rain - he feels better than he did last year as his balance has improved massively and that has really helped. I also found it hugely interesting to review my footage - all these pics are stills from videos (I use instagrabber which is free) and I can go frame by frame to see how he is landing. As you can see from the pictures below he has a fabulous landing on the flat but he was also consistently landing heel first after the fences which was really interesting as I don't think this was the case last summer but I'd need to review the footage again to be sure.

Clever pony managing a heel first landing
We are definitely at the stage to start thinking about getting that first event in the diary and I do have one in mind for the end of June. I would like to get another couple of schooling sessions in as I would like to be at the stage where he is confidently popping fences first time rather than having his green wobbles as he could go backwards at an event and I want to make his first experience as positive as possible for both of us.
Textbook example of a heel first landing!

The next week is going to be busy, we have our first dressage lesson with Sara Jane Lanning on Friday and then our first ODE on Sunday - it's all three phases but arena XC so will be a good test for us both.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

First Place at Fairoak!

I've kind of given the punchline away with the title of the blog but hey ho - I'm a stupidly proud owner right now!

Buddy has been going really well at home and we have finally got a dressage saddle which has made a difference to my position and I am able to sit more into his canter which is a relief as he is so bouncy when he gets going.
Pic courtesy of PoloPhotography
I made a late entry into our local RC after I had totally forgotten to post my entry! I had originally planned to make our novice debut but I couldn't do a prelim as a warm up first so decided to just do the prelim instead. I hadn't realised that it was a new test for 2014 and that it was a long arena test so I'd never ridden it before and I've never ridden a long arena test so was a bit apprehensive -especially as I only have a 40 x 20 school at home so couldn't actually practise either!!

Buddy came off the lorry sightly wild - it was very windy and there were lots of horses having high jinks which Buddy thought was very exciting. Luckily once I was on he was calmer and he worked in really well. It was soon time to go in for our test and as I was walking up I ran over the test in my head and all of a sudden my mind went completely blank! I couldn't remember how to get from my 20m circle down to the other end on the right rein... Of course I didn't have a copy of the test on me but luckily I'd downloaded it from dressage diagrams and there was signal on my phone so it was a frantic minute trying to get to the right page in time! 

Posing in the sunshine after the test
As we worked in the wind really picked up and I wondered if we'd get blown off our centre line as the gusts were pretty strong. But Buddy appeared to be strong enough to hold his own and I was very pleased with the test. The only bit I wasn't as happy with was our right canter as Buddy was very naughty and kept picking up the left lead. It was a real shame as we threw away marks on his best canter and he got a 7.5 when we finally got there!

The class was small - there were only four of us - but there were some very smart horses in the ring warming up and I wasn't expecting to come top but as they put up the scores I saw we were first by a fair way. I had a little cry as its our first red frilly at Prelim and there is still so much to work on so we can improve on what we are getting now. I've got a lesson booked with Sara Jane Lanning at the end of the month so I'm hoping she'll give us some top tips.