Tuesday, 29 December 2015

2015 roundup

I cannot believe that I am writing my 2015 round up! It has been an absolutely brilliant year and I've been blessed with a sound, healthy and happy horse which is always the most important thing but I've also been on a huge journey over the last 12 months and added some more amazing people into my team. Looking back at my objectives for the year I didn't achieve them all but I got halfway there against my easily obtainable ones - grassroots remains elusive ;)

April vs Oct - Huge change in musculature and way of going
My highlights for 2015 are as follows:
  • Being supported by two amazing companies - The Herbal Horse and Natures Way Natural Hoofcare - who have both enabled Buddy and I to be the best we can be and have given me a boost in my own self belief.
  • I have taken huge steps forward in my riding and added two fantastic people into my support team who have helped me achieve it.
  • I had my first BD win and averaged 65% at Prelim and 64% at Novice over the year.
  • Coming through the finish line at BCA after a clear round XC.
  • Team Quest. This was so much fun and I loved every moment (when we weren't competing at BCA). My team mates are amazing and we have really grown as friends over the last year and supported each other when the chips are down and celebrated together. I cannot wait to get back out with my teamies next year.
BUBDs having fun
I have learnt a lot about myself and feel like I have really grown as a rider. The nagging doubts about Buddy's soundness gets quieter and quieter as the years go by and I can honestly say I am the most relaxed about his management as I have ever been which is a good thing as work pressure has meant I've spent far less time with him as I would have liked over the last few months but he has survived. I am blessed to have a fabulous support team around me and my YO plays a huge part in that, particularly as Buddy can be a bit of a diva if he doesn't get his bottom scratches (!) and she helps me get the miles into his feet and scrapes the mud off over the winter.

Each year we complete a new milestone together and this year has been jam packed full of new experiences - TQ, BD, BE, hunting as well as area festivals and regional finals - and I want to continue to build upon that next year. I say it a lot but I know I am blessed to have Buddy fighting fit and sound, he is my rock and I do appreciate every single second I have with him.

I have decided that next year my biggest objective is to chill out, enjoy, remove the pressure and try to reduce my competitiveness! I am going to be very busy with work next year and so I need to be more realistic with my aims so that I am not spending all of my riding time preparing for a competition as it doesn't get the best out of me or Buddy. My sports psychology sessions have helped me identify my triggers and so I am planning on working on staying relaxed whilst at a competition to reduce my overthinking and allow me to just ride. I wouldn't be me without some aims though so my 2016 objectives are as follows:

  1. Compete at BD Novice level and qualify for an Area Festival
  2. Try an unaffiliated elementary
  3. Get a double clear BE
  4. Upgrade to BE100
  5. Qualify for TQ and My Quest regionals

Finally I would also like to thank each of you who reads the blog. It is so lovely to hear from you all and learn about your journeys so don't ever be afraid of getting in touch, I love hearing from you and Buddy relishes his 'fans' ;o) I hope you've had a great 2015 and here's to an even better 2016.

Happy New Year from Buddy and Krista

Monday, 28 December 2015

It's been a while..

I've had a few messages via my Facebook page as to where I've disappeared to so I'm very sorry - Buddy and I are fine, I am just unbelievably busy in my personal life. I will try and keep this more up to date as we start the run up to the season and start competing again and hopefully my work life will have a lot less travelling involved.

SJ at Moreton Morrell
In my last blog we were headed towards our run at Moreton Morrell so I guess I should start back there! We didn't have the best run and ended up eliminated for multiple refusals XC. Dressage felt good, albeit with moments of tension so I wasn't expecting a stellar score but thought it would be 34-37 depending on how the judge felt. SJ I had a new warm up routine and really focused on getting the canter spot on which I managed and had a spot on warm up. I went in to the ring and it all went to pieces - we ended up having 4 down which is a record for us and most unlike Buddy to knock so many fences. I came out feeling really annoyed as I thought I'd ridden well and didn't deserve to have those fences but hey ho. I had walked the XC and thought it would be a good question for us, definitely a top end BE90, but I was confident that we would get round. How wrong I was! I had the worst warm up ever, totally misjudged it and on our last jump with 1 minute to go Buddy slammed on the brakes as a horse was cantering in front of us and ended up climbing the fence. I got flustered and we didn't have a chance to jump anything else which was not ideal as the first fence was a pallisade with a white top that I knew he'd look at. We came out the start box thinking backwards and a quick slap down the shoulder got us over the first and I think I must have been so flabbergasted (and I got my trusty whip stuck in my neckstrap) that we stopped at the second. Urgh. We continued rather stickily onwards with a few sticky jumps until the two steps downwards - I'd debated which way to come off the bottom step and had thought straight but when I got there I hesitated and B took advantage and we stopped briefly. I don't think he stepped back but it didn't matter in the end so we continued onwards. We were definitely in the zone from there and I was feeling confident that we'd got over all the tricky questions until we came to the ditch. It didn't cross my mind that he  would stop but he said no BIG TIME and meant it and thus ended our journey at MM (although the fence judge kindly let me pop the ditch). After I'd gotten off the course I dismounted and quickly saw blood in B's mouth - he'd bitten a chunk out of his tongue which I am going to put the initial huge NO down to. Very disappointed but nothing terrible happened and we live to fight another day. 

Modelling his new rug from Natures Way and being photobombed by fellow BUBD Indy
The day's events did make me wonder what on earth I am doing when I get to a show as it all seems to be working well at home but something goes very wrong as soon as I set foot at an event! The fabulous Giles had offered to come with me before and so I asked him if he would come to my final event of the season which was going to be Littleton Manor but in the end B tweaked his back after TQ regionals and so I finished my season with MM. Very annoying but I will be grabbing G for my first event next season to see if we can figure it out, plus I've been doing some sports psychology over the winter to help me prepare. I think I have a better handle on my triggers now so just need to test out those coping mechanisms.

TQ Regionals
Next up was our season finale! Team Quest Regional Finals. I have never been so excited and nervous about a competition in my whole life. The BUBDs were all terrible for winding ourselves up - we wanted to qualify for the Nationals so badly - but in the end we all decided that we were lucky enough to get three knackered nags to the Regionals in the first place and we would be really chuffed with a rosette (top 10). The day came and the competition was tough, we were the only team with just three riders in and the pressure was really on to have mega scores. In the end we all did lovely tests but they would have all needed to be mid 70's to stand a chance of a top three finish and I am just not that consistent yet so that wasn't going to happen. As it turned out we came a very respectable 9th place and so got our plaque and rosette. We will definitely be back at it again next year and will be trying even harder to get to the National finals.

Chuffed with our test - TQ Regionals
After this Buddy managed to tweak his back so was off for a couple of weeks, I went to the US and then couldn't seem to get myself motivated so we've had an incredibly quiet few months of hacking and pretty much nothing else. I've done a couple of schooling sessions in the last two weeks and am delighted to report that the break feels like it's done him some good and he's feeling very well so it's back to lessoning in the new year and getting ready for an April/May start to the event season.

Blinged Up Bullet Dodgers Team Photo modelling sponsor rugs from Natures Way

Monday, 21 September 2015

R & R and RRR

We've had a quiet few weeks since area festivals but have kept busy with plenty of training and exciting news. Qualification for Team Quest regional finals ended on 31st August and I was delighted to see that we had qualified so we are off to Wellington on 4th October and will be praying to the dressage Gods that we get a bit of luck o the day and manage to grab one of three qualifying spots for Nationals. It will be extremely tough but we will give it the best shot!

Whilst I was sunning myself I had J ride Buddy for me to ensure that we keep moving forward to Regionals. She did a fabulous job (as I knew she would) and Buddy was feeling very well when I rode him out when I got back.. So well that I'd thought he'd had a few days off but no he'd been ridden the day before!! I am loving this change as it means we have finally succeeding in keeping Buddy looking and feeling well at this time of year. It's only taken me five years and I'm sure B will throw an additional  question in at some point but for now it appears that adding omega rice in early (I started it again in August in anticipation) and the supplements from The Herbal Horse are keeping him in tip top condition and feeling well.

Upon my return I was asked if I'd like to go cubbing (or Autumn hunting as it's now known) and as I would like to take B hunting this winter I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get him used to the hounds and settle any excitement with a smaller field. I am a true hunting novice so I was being very kindly babysat by a teenager from the yard who did a very good job of making sure I didn't do anything too silly. Initially B was rather on his toes but soon settled and was a super star. It was a perfect introduction as there was lots of hanging around, plenty of hounds around his feet and a busy enough field of excited ponies who knew exactly what was going on! I was also given an incredibly warm welcome and we will definitely be going back again soon.

It was then time for RRR15. I was in London with work in the morning so I arrived rather late on Friday evening but the lovely J stayed so I can still have a bit of my lesson anyway. We focused on keeping him forward and supple and he is feeling so good. I need to remember to keep him forward in the lateral work as he finds sideways far too easy but struggles to move forwards at the same time. It causes brain ache for the pair of us! It was lovely to hear from fellow rehabbers that B was looking better than ever and looks far more handsome in real life which made me chuckle.

We had a jam packed Saturday with SJ and XC lessons running all day. I was feeling rather apprehensive about jumping in front of so many people. It is still a huge challenge for me to get over so it was good practise to have so many people watching but G did tell me that I needed to breathe on a couple of occasions! Our SJ session was great, he was rather forward to start with so we tweaked the bitting again as he was sucking back into it rather than going forward and after that B felt the most balanced and controlled that he ever has. My position is improving and B is far more confident, he didn't even look at the fillers which would have been unheard of a couple of months ago. Later on we moved out to the XC course and G had us jumping lots of tricky combinations. We took the bitting back to its stronger version as I had nothing over the first few jumps and then we got back to a much more polite pony. He is still incredibly keen but it is positive energy rather than craziness and he just wants to get the job done. I need to make sure that I keep him focused on his job but he is becoming better and better everytime we go out.

RRR is such a great event and although we had some of my favourite people (and ponies) missing there were new faces to spend time with and share that journey with again. I come away each time filled with pride at how far all these horses and owners have come and despite the challenges their horses throw at them the network rallies round and helps each other through again. I watched several combinations bloom with confidence over the weekend and it was so nice for everyone to be cheered on along the way. No other group could empathise more with the journey we are all on and understand the impact that small steps forward have. The feeling of trepidation never goes away and even three years down the line despite being far easier, it is always at the back of my mind and my first panic if something doesn't feel quite right and it is in those moments that you need that support network of people to either tell you to just get on with it or to bounce ideas around with.

Next stop is Moreton Morrell for the BE90 and I am using all of my runs as educational pieces so I can try and get a system sorted! It will be the first time over an XC course in the new bit so hopefully we won't have a repeat of ALW but if we do then we will find a new way around it!

Friday, 28 August 2015

Bury Farm Area Festivals

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.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Average Aston le Walls

I was so excited to get to ALW I was like a kid at Christmas, waking up at 6am with those little excited butterflies in my tummy fluttering away. I'd done all my preparation and felt ready to put everything into practise and had my chimp semi under control (or at least he was quiet for the moment). We arrived with plenty of time to walk the course, have a look around and get ready. My lovely YO had plaited and quarter marked Buddy so he was looking mega smart and I was ready to show him off.

Looking smart in his 'The Herbal Horse' kit
He warmed up well for dressage, he had a few tense moments when horses came cantering towards him but he just went tense rather than doing a 180 like he used to. He was reactive and off my leg so I was pleased with him. I also felt rather relaxed which was unusual! As we went over to our arena Buddy tensed up and so I used the time around the arena to get him to relax again but as we came down the centre line he went a bit giraffe like but I got him back once we'd turned the corner. It was turning out to be a pretty sweet test until after our first canter when my mind went blank and I completely forgot whether I was supposed to be going across the diagonal or doing a circle! I stopped for a second and went for the circle option which was thankfully the right one. I was a bit disappointed to get a 34 as I thought it was a 32 test but I got a 0 for the stopped moment (!) and a 2 for my free walk as he jogged which I thought was a bit harsh but that's dressage and it was a mistake so I need to take it and work on it for next time.

Off to show jumping and B was feeling rather sharp as I walked down to the warm up. I hate SJ warm ups and so I know I get tense and B was really playing on it so I started jumping quite quickly after going in. He was feeling bright over the cross pole and I had it my head 'shimmy, fanny, leg' after my lesson with G but I really struggle to let go when B charges the last stride and with the stress of competition I held instead of shimmied and he was just crashing through all the poles. He respected the oxer I popped so I went in hoping that the fillers would back him off a bit in the ring.

We ended up having two poles as he was just fighting me. They were my poles as I just didn't ride well enough.. I was defensive into the first (no idea why as he was so onward bound), he charged to the second, we had a nice jump over 3 and 4 (as I actually rode) then got close to 5 and took the pole with his front legs. Watching the video I let my reins get far too long, I should have shortened them several times round the course but I didn't and so they got long, he got long and that's why we had the last. Annoying as they are my poles but I think I might also need to have a look at the bitting again.
Galloping towards the last
Quick change for me and onto the XC. I had a feeling he was going to be rather exuberant and I wasn't wrong. We warmed up well, he was super sharp off my leg and stormed out of the start and locked on to the first fence. He then took the bridle and we were off! Flew over the second, got a bit close to three as he wasn't really listening to me, over the house at four, didn't blink at five then spooked at the water (!) so came back to trot and we picked up canter on the other side and I kicked on to 6. 7ab was a step up, drop down and he had a hesitation at the top but a kick and we were off again to 8 which was a lovely wide oxer which he ballooned but was getting pretty strong at this point. Twisty turny round to 9ab which was drop to skinny and I couldn't get him back to the bouncy canter I needed to pop off the drop and get to the skinny and so he flew off the drop without leaving us the space to get to the b element and we glanced off it. Popped it fine when he realised he had to jump it and then kicked on to the corner. People had asked me if I was going direct here and it hadn't even crossed my mind to do the alternative - he'd been fine at BCA and he flew this one too! I kicked him on and we had a gallop to 11 and took this out of our stride, onto the max dimension (110cm) brush which was the only thing that backed him off and we had a much more controlled jump over 13. My arms and core had started to ache by this point after all the setting up and trying to balance him into the fences and I relaxed going into 14ab and ended up having 2 glance offs this fence too where I just couldn't hold him together and then we galloped home and over the last.

I wasn't especially happy with my performance as I knew I could have ridden better and we wouldn't have had the run outs at 14ab but I couldn't have done anything about the first one. I know I still don't ride as well at a competition so that will come with time but I also need to have a look at the bitting again as I think I need to either put two reins on the Pelham or find something else and as I struggle with one set of reins (!) I think I'll really struggle with two right now. I am delighted though that he is really starting to look for his fences (usually from the next class up) and is thoroughly enjoying his XC now so that's my positive from the day. Realistically I think he finds this all a bit too small and too easy and he is probably ready to step up but I'm not completely comfortable taking that next step as I will need to be totally positive, help him out a bit more and as I haven't ridden competitively at 100 level for 15 years it feels like a big step for me and where things become a bit more serious.

Buddy's just read his upcoming schedule!
We've got area festivals this weekend and then no competing for a few weeks as I'm going on holiday and he's got a busy time coming up after that with RRR, Moreton Morell which is our next BE, Regional Finals for Team Quest then Littleton and Broadway BE to finish the season.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Managing my chimp

Odd title for the blog this week but totally relevant so bare with me...

After our BD outing last weekend I had to do a bit of analysis on me. Although I've been out competing far more recently I realised that I have been mainly doing dressage as a team effort and this is a whole different mental ball game than competing as an individual. I was frustrated that I'd let old demons creep back into my warm up but actually all I'd done was let them snooze for a bit - I'd never actually addressed the original problem.

So, on to managing my chimp.... I read a great book a couple of years ago called 'The Chimp Paradox'. It was recommended to me by another rider and I also thought it would really help me at work too. In a nutshell it helps you to recognise when your emotions (chimp) are taking over from your logical (human) brain and gives you strategies to manage the process. The chimp reacts 7x faster than the human so in times of stress or high alert your chimp goes mad and reverts to emotionally triggered responses.

Focused whilst schooling
After analysing what had changed I realised that my chimp had got out of control and I needed to do something to fix it. So out came the book but after taking two days to get through a chapter I realised I needed the audiobook so that I could listen in my 'dead time' travelling and just before going to bed. I've been listening for almost a week and it has made a big difference already. The start of the book runs through a list of questions that we often ask ourselves and after answering yes to the majority (!) I realised that not only was my chimp out of control in my equine life but this has crept into my work and home life too. So I'm taking charge and learning how to manage my chimp much better and so hopefully he'll be far more co-operative over the next few weeks and months!

The first big test for this will be our 2nd BE90 this weekend at Aston le Walls. I am mega excited, its been two months since BCA and I've been working really hard on our jumping and flatwork to make sure we are completely prepared and ready to go. However, the biggest challenge to overcome is that naughty chimp sitting on my shoulder telling me I'm not good enough. I have a good friend in the same section as me and that is my worst nightmare! I hate competing against people I know - it's all ok if you both do well but if I do badly it's something that really affects my confidence for a while and that's not what I need a week before area festivals.

Jumping the stegosaurus.. As you do!
In preparation I have already set my goals for the weekend and know what I need to do to achieve them. I took B XC schooling at Boomerang at the weekend as I needed to do some ditch and drop schooling as there could be a ditch (the March event had a ditch at fence 3) and there will definitely be a couple of banks so drops were pretty critical. It was my first time going solo XC for a long time so I was determined I was going to stick to the bigger fences and prove I am more than capable without an instructor to hold my hand and tell me what to do.

It was a fab session, all the videos are on our Facebook page so you can see for yourselves but I was really pleased with both of us. He was keen but manageable in the Pelham so this will continue as our jumping bit and we didn't have any stops which was great for our confidence. Watching the videos I can see I am still being too upright in my position (comes from being ready for a stop) so I need to trust B more and bend through my hips but that will come in time and with more tokens in the confidence bank.

No chance of touching this!
For the rest of the week we have a jump lesson with G on Weds and then a flatwork session with J on Thurs so I can run through my test for Sat and practise my AF tests too. We have lovely times on Saturday as we aren't dressaging until 14:25 so I'll have a helper/photographer with me so regardless of the outcome you should have some pretty pictures to look at!!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Mind over Matter??

The weekend started with another flatwork lesson with J. I wanted to focus on creating a warm up strategy for the next day that I could practise and then tweak if necessary before AFs and also to run through the tests as J has a 60x20 school. It was a really useful lesson as we focused on a few areas of the test that we thought would cause issues. Our transitions from canter to trot are still pretty scrappy and we realised I was riding a bit wonkily across the diagonal in canter so we did a few exercises to help - it's not a short term fix but will get us there in the end. I was also having a blonde moment about the left canter and was really twisting my body which meant B was striking off on the wrong lead so we spent a few transitions working on that too and it was much better at the end. I went away feeling confident for our competition the following day.

Aunty J riding
It was a reasonably early start to get to the venue on time - its around a 45 minute drive from the yard and my first test was 9:30. We arrived with plenty of time despite me driving past the entrance twice (!) and it is a beautiful venue. I tacked up and jumped on and we went into the warm up. There was a lovely horse warming up and my little demons started whispering in my ear. I shrugged itoff and focused on getting B supple and soft. He was feeling pretty on side so we didn't do too much, I just made sure I had control of his shoulders as there are lots of circles in P15!

The warm up started getting busier and that niggly demon was getting a bit louder... I felt hideously outclassed by the horses and the riders, they all looked incredibly slick and professional. So I stuck to a circle for a bit. Then it was time to go in... I gave B a good look around the arena, the bell rang and it was time to start. I rode pretty shabbily to be honest and would have lost marks for inaccuracy across the board but overall it was an ok test. I came out and the warm up had filled up with even more stunning horses and riders so I made a quick exit back to the lorry to give B a breather before our second test.

I got back on with 10 minutes before my second test and as soon as I entered the warm up I started riding like a complete backwards idiot. Poor B. The test was pretty meh, the transitions down to trot were really shoddy, my second 15m circle was more like an egg and in my final 20m circle showing some streching I fought to keep his shoulders from sneaking in. It was not our best by a long shot and I left feeling a bit disappointed that I'd ridden like such a complete numpty and let myself get affected by something so stupid.

I took B back to the lorry and wandered back to grab a bottle of water and my sheets. The first test was up and I was astounded to see that we'd won the class (our first individual BD win) - annoyingly just shy of a regionals qualifying score of 66% - then they put the second test up and we were pipped into second place. I was completely surprised by the result as the other horses were really, really smart but then I guess anything can happen when you get in the arena. I was also delighted that even tests that I knew weren't our best scored well and the judge wasn't particularly generous either and there were more 50's than 60's in both the classes. 

Although it was lovely to come back with great placings I was disappointed that I allowed myself to get sucked back into getting psyched out in the warm up and not believing that I am either good enough or competitve enough to be there. It is something that I need to get sorted before AFs as there will be some fantastic combinations there and I need to ride for me and ignore everyone else. I also have a few accuracy things to work on over the next couple of weeks and so I will be having plenty of lessons and using J's 60x20 school.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Every day's a school day....

If you haven't realised from reading the blogs recently we are having a huge overhaul in Buddy's way of going but also my riding, effectiveness and position. I had a lesson at my first RRR (Rockley Rehab Reunion) and I said my aim was to not just be an effective rider but to look effortless and elegant whilst doing so. Whilst that is still a long way off I have got far closer to that aim in the last few months than I have in the last few years. I've walked away from every single one of my lessons in the last few months feeling better, having achieved something and pushing my goals a little bit further towards reality. I'm also getting a far longer list of things I need to work on!

Our jumping lessons have been educational but with moments of slight terror (from both G and me) as Buddy has got more confident and knows that I do mean it. Kamekaze jumping however is not my prefered style so this has meant a change in bitting was required so that I had more control. The tricky thing about B is that he is not strong, far from it, but he is unbelievably heavy in the hand and then pulls me down into the fences which means we get flatter and longer and then the craziness begins. So we had a few ideas of things to try, we didn't want him to suck back away from the contact, so I went armed with a bucketful of bits that my lovely YO had leant me from her magical (almost bottomless) supply of bits. G had thought a jointed pelham would suit him so that was the first one we tried. 

Initially he didn't feel great in it but once I started riding him and asking for something rather than being afraid of the bit he started going really well. The issues we wanted to fix were him charging into a fence and keeping him off the forehand. We started over a small cross pole and I was slightly apprehensive as he'd not jumped for a couple of weeks and he did go to charge at the fence but I sat up, half halted and we popped over it very sweetly. Success! 

The plan then went up a notch and we started playing over some bigger fences and stringing a small course together. For the first time I felt like I had the power under control, I could place him to the fence and actually make small adjustments. It made a huge difference to my confidence and also to Buddy's way of going - he had a much better shape over the fences and his canter was much lighter on his feet which can only ever be a good thing. It stayed consistent throughout the session and so I'm looking forward to testing it out xc this weekend.

Then we finished our weekly learning with a flatwork session. I've been struggling with a creeping right leg and tight hips so we spent a long time stretching me without stirrups and keeping B soft and supple in the walk. This makes such a huge difference to his warm up routine and helps me massively at a competition as I only really need to spend a short amount of time in trot and canter so if the warm up is busy I have the ability to warm up enough without stressing B out too much. 

Once we were both suppled up we went into trot and really practised getting our transitions soft but forward and 'pinging'. I have to resist using my reins to slow him down and go to my body first before half halting but I also need to keep the hind leg active and really stepping though. This was a tricky exercise for both of us but wow the trot work felt good when we'd done a handful on each rein. We then did a bit of canter and the quality just went up another level! We only did half of the school and stopped as B was tiring and we didn't want to push him too much as he'd worked very hard. It is so exciting to be working with two trainers who are so in tune with each other (without ever meeting) and really compliment each other and the goals I want to achieve. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Managing the Barefoot Performance Horse - Exercise

The biggest barefoot myths I heard about before taking Buddy’s shoes off were all focused around exercise and what my horse wouldn’t possibly be able to do without shoes. I’ve listed my top 5 below..

  1. You won’t be able to exercise on the road without wearing the feet to bleeding stumps
  2. You will fall over on grass
  3. You will need to use boots
  4. You won’t be able to jump on grass
  5. You won’t be able to compete
I can laugh at these now as I have proved the opposite is true but these opinions are still out there and are very strong. It seems that people think barefoot performance horses are a freak of nature and I’ve had several people tell me how lucky I am to have a horse with such great feet that can ‘cope’ with being bare – if only they knew where we started!!

I have always believed in giving my horses a really varied exercise regime and being barefoot hasn’t changed this at all. You follow the blog and so you have seen that Buddy hacks, jumps, gallops, schools and competes regularly.

Hacking is a really integral part of my week and I go everywhere and anywhere, I often take Buddy to new places as I think it’s incredibly  important for him to be exposed to lots of different things in a non-pressurised environment so that when we are competing new things are not such a big deal.  It is also great for my mental wellbeing and our relationship as a pair. I do make Buddy ‘work’ on our hacks though… Making sure he is loose through his back and working into the contact so that everything we do builds on the more focused work we do in the arena. It is also important for our fitness work and I have a few great hills that I can use to help build up our stamina.

I do far more hacking in the summer as I have longer evenings but I still don’t do as much as I would like to. On an average week we do about 10-15 miles, I will always hack on a weekend if I’m not competing and so can do up to 20 miles during these weeks. My hacking is varied and we do plenty of roadwork as well as some more challenging terrain.

I also try not to spend too much time in my arena although this is harder when I’m working late or during the winter and so I try and keep my sessions varied if I have to spend more than one or two sessions in there during the week. During the event season I do far less groundwork but use this a lot during the winter and often drag the poles out to add another level of difficulty. I do 90% of my show jumping training in the arena purely to save the strain on his legs and do a lot of work on technique for the pair of us so keep the fences small and the mileage lower. I don’t worry about practising SJ on grass too much as we do a fair bit of XC schooling on grass and I rarely jump single fences so Buddy gets to practise riding a course, they just can’t be knocked down!
I don’t really have an average week as my plans will always be around what competition is coming up and how Buddy’s feet look. As an example we spent a couple of weeks in early July mainly road hacking as his feet needed it whereas in June we spent far more time in the arena  or on grass practising for competitions. I will do at least one mainly road hack and one schooling / dressage lesson each week but am pretty fluid other than that.

I have found that Buddy’s feet get better with a variety of exercise and the harder he works the better his feet look and function. I have slowly built up conditioning his feet  and so he can cope with everything I ask him to do and that is the key – your horse will go foot sore if you ask him to do too much too fast. In my experience you can get away with a less than perfect diet if your horse is working harder and this is something I have seen again recently when Buddy had 8 days off when he whacked his splint, his feet are definitely more sensitive than they were but I see an improvement after every ride.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Managing the Barefoot Performance Horse - Diet

I've had a couple of mails recently about how I manage Buddy, his exercise, diet and feet so I thought I'd do a couple of posts on these starting with diet. When B came home from Rockley Nic gave me a diet sheet with everything he'd been fed and so I remained in that comfort zone for a very long time quite happily as I didn't need anything else. However I soon got braver and tweaked the minerals and then slowly started tweaking the diet.

For a barefoot horse diet is critical to keep the hoof functioning and sugar has a huge impact. Forage forms the bulk of any horse's diet (and if it doesn't it should!) so the sneaky sugar peaks in grazing have to be monitored. Buddy is out during the day in the winter, in at night and this swops during the summer months. The grazing at my yard isn't fertilised and is a mixture of different grasses and it is not the lush grazing that some owners have to contend with. When he is stabled he is fed haylage which is grown at the yard and so I know is 'safe'. He has ad lib access to this and is fed from a haybar.

The basis for Buddy's hard feeds throughout the year are the following items:
1. Coolstance Copra
2. Dengie Alfa Pellets
3. Crushed Oats
4. Unmollased sugar beet
5. Linseed (summer) / Omega Rice (winter)

I feed these in varying amounts depending on the time of year and workload but these basic items are always there in some degree. Added to this I have a delightful selection of minerals which I pre mix into little pots so that it is easier for my YO to manage. I have experimented with my mineral mix over the last three years and have used Pro Balance, Pro Hoof, Equivita and now I use Farriers Mix from my sponsor. Of those I rate Equivita and Farriers Mix and have noticed the better quality hoof with those two. I noticed no change in hoof when swopping to Farriers Mix and they had vastly improved when moving to Equivita.

My mineral mix includes:
1. Farriers Mix from The Herbal Horse
2. Cal Mag (30-100ml depending on time of year)
3. Salt (15-50ml depending on time of year)
4. Sports Horse Mix from The Herbal Horse

B is not the easiest horse to keep condition on and has a tendency to drop condition overnight at coat change time (Sept/Oct and Jan/Feb) and I have struggled to get it back on him. My previous 'go to' feed was Baileys conditioning cubes but these are too high in starch so they were off the list but in January I started feeding Omega Rice from Falcon Feeds which made a massive difference very quickly. So this year I will start feeding it before his usual drop off time to ensure he remains in good condition year round. The addition of the sports horse mix has also made a difference as, for the first time since I've owned him, he is only fed once a day during the summer. Now considering he is in harder work now than he has ever been and looks better than he has ever done I think that's a pretty good testimonial!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Perfecting my Position

I had a slightly different dressage lesson this week. B is feeling more consistent and is getting stronger all the time so it was time to start working on me a bit now too. I've really struggled to find the right centre of balance for me and my old saddle didn't help as it tipped me forward, didn't support me in the right way and I just felt 'wedged in'. My issues are that I'm hypermobile, have one leg longer than the other and am prone to tension in my lower back (as my muscles are working overtime to support my wonkey back). I have lots of exercises that I do to help combat the challenges but I am fully aware I will never be perfect.

The new saddle has done wonders but I've looked at pictures and just gone 'yuck'! So operation Charlotte has begun and it all started in this session. First thing to sort out was head (imagine hair being pulled back) then chest (lifting up) followed by core (supporting and lifting) then my seat (I need to think 'perch' otherwise my bum sticks out or I tuck it under too far) and finally legs (imagining I only have my thighs, thinking balance). It all sounds like quite a lot to remember and whilst I'm nailing it in walk I don't find it so easy when the tempo is upped. I will be practising a lot to make this a muscle memory but I think it'll take a while.....

The position theme was followed on with my jumping lesson this week too. We warmed up over a x pole which Buddy was poilte into the first time but then started charging at the fence. We bought him back to trot and he was better but as soon as we cantered he was off like a thing possessed. So we started to play with my position and dropped my strirrups a hole so I could use my legs a bit more and this was a bit better but we then dropped another hole and this enabled me to sit much better and I was able to use my body to slow him down. Throughout the session B kept taking the bit and charging at jumps we weren't even going to jump, he was being incredibly rude so we worked on getting him to listen, dropped my whip and removed my spurs which helped although he was still uber keen!! He has definitely gone from one extreme to the other and is clearly loving his jumping a lot at the moment but he just needs to take a chill pill a bit and not let the excitement take over. 

We also worked on me and making sure my position is far less defensive now as I need to learn to trust that B will go. At the moment I have a tendency to stay upright and then stay right back even over the jump which leads to an untidy landing and B shoots off as I'm not in total charge of him or my body. So we worked on making sure I go forwards over the fence and take the contact with me rather than just letting my reins get longer and longer. It took a few goes but I was getting better (although I still have a very long way to go) and it was making the landing and strides after the jump much more controlled. It was another game changing lesson that made my brain ache! I have another one this week and we will be trying a slightly different bitting set up to try and remind B that it is not poilte to hoon!

Our next outing was our final TQ competition which was at Wellington. I was doing P18 whilst the two girls did the novice test - Em has to but Lucy wanted to give it a go as her and Fryday are both more than capable. We warmed up well although he was feeling a bit onward bound in the canter and I was conscious I didn't want to spend too much time correcting it as it was very muggy and the indoor we were competing in gets incredibly hot and stuffy so I knew I'd just have to ride whatever I got when I was in there! As predicted it was ridiculously warm but I ensured I stuck to my plan and did a big circle at the top (scary door of doom) and cut across the school before halting in front of the judge. We trotted past and the bell rang. I was pleased with the test but there were moments where he backed off my leg and felt sluggish and the canter was a bit more onward bound than I would have liked with the added frustration that I knew if I'd checked him he just would have dropped me so there was some sloppiness in our transitions. However, it was a sweet enough test and I was pleased with him - I predicted a 66% based on previous performances.

The girls were on much later so I packed B up and took him home and when I'd finished unpacking the lorry the girls text to let me know I'd broken the 70% barrier again! Totally unexpected but so lovely. On reading my sheet the good bit were rewarded and the bits where he backed off were marked down which is fair enough. There was a pro photographer in attendance so hopefully they got some nice pictures. Both girls did really well in the Novice test scoring over 65% so we ended up on really good team score and 2nd place overall. We weren't expecting it so it was all the more lovely to come away with a frily. We are still in 1st place in the region so we are now prepping for regionals which is incredibly exciting!!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Top of the Table

Our last competition was Team Quest at Snowball Farm and it was the same test as the week prior - P14. After 'scratch gate' I really wanted to get out and have a good test. So as I went to the warm up I was a bit shocked to hear that they were running incredibly early and the person before me was already riding their test and I was next in! I then had to explain that I wouldn't be going straight in as I needed my full 20 minute warm up and was a bit shocked that that was the expectation. Usually I would have let that put me in a fluster but I maintained my warm up routine and went in when I was ready.

The test wasn't as nice as the week before as I didn't have total control of his shoulders and he was feeling rather full of himself in the canter but it was still a good test and I was pleased with it. The judge gave me some feedback at the end and said what a lovely horse he was which was a pleasure to hear - it's never happened to me before so to have it happen twice in two weeks is still a huge novelty. 

We ended up on 66.46% with the team on 196.92 which was 6.92 ahead of second place so a nice comfortable win which was really nice as it has been a while since we've got a red frilly. The best bit about this result though is that it has bumped us up to 1st place on the Central Leaderboard with a grand total of 48/50 points. Our next TQ is 12th July and then 9th August, both at Wellington and are just practise runs - Lucy is going to do the Novice whereas I'm still wanting to nail that test riding so will stick at prelim for now. 

The following week BUBD had a slight change of scene and we went for a lovely farm ride at Cholsey Farm. The scenery was stunning, the weather was rather warm but most of the ride was through woodland so was lovely and cool and as we were at the top of the Chilterns there was a beautiful breeze as well. It was a perfect day and the ponies all enjoyed themselves - Fryday was bucking and squeaking for joy when we went for a canter and decided to race the big boys which made us all go a tad out of control (which may have also been because we were laughing so hard we couldn't pull up).

It was the perfect way to start our more relaxed July. As June was full of competitions I had always planned to have a quieter July and focus on a bit more training and hacking as Buddy's feet need a bit more attention than they've been getting. The only competition we have is this weekend and then nothing until August but I've got lots of jumping, dressage and xc practise in the diary and am super excited about getting out and about again.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Long live the evolution

I've been working really hard on my riding and on Buddy's way of going in this year and I've added different trainers into our team as although my previous trainers have been great I've realised I'm a bit of a needy client (!) and need as much work on me and my mental attitude as well as the horse which is a bit of a tricky mix. However I started by adding J from Springwood Grange to help me on the flat. SJL has done some fabulous work with us but as I'm entering the next stage of my dressage learning I need a bit more help more regularly and J is just around the corner which is fab and she compliments the work I've done already.
Working hard in our lesson
 Then a couple of months ago, after taking an empty space on a xc clinic, I met G from Huntercombe Horses. In one session he got me and in every session since he has slowly taken me towards where I am now. I actually cannot believe the difference in us both over fences in the short time he's trained us and it's been a real revelation and Buddy is loving it too and is much happier now he knows where the boundaries are.
Gridwork session (after he'd calmed down)
The huge benefit is that I feel both J and G are genuinely invested in B and I. This makes a huge difference to my mental attitude as I feel I have two fabulous people in my corner who want us to succeed and who are giving me the tools for the long term not just to deal with things when they are going well but how to deal with the things when they go wrong. I am also learning to ride like I do at home when I'm at a competition and I'm being really drilled on it. B is not the type of horse that will work hard unless I set the expectation as to what I want, he's incredibly hard working and loves to please but won't put himself out unless I'm insistent.
This week has been a huge turning point for us, first the clear at BCA showed me how much of a difference it makes when I don't just sit there like a lemon, I had a super dressage lesson on Friday night and then on Saturday we had a gridwork session at G's yard to work on rider position and horses technique. B was a wild beast to start, charging at the fences and I told G I didn't want to die as I was heading at speed towards the wings!! He then got me to shorten my reins... More... More... More! This made a huge difference although was very alien but it made me realise how long I let my reins get when jumping. G said that B uses his neck and head really well for a big horse but now needs to learn to shorten that frame and I could feel him pulling me longer and longer as we went down the grid and the jump got flatter and we would have the last poles down so I need to be much more aware of this. Much like in my flatwork sessions I have to keep control of that left shoulder round a turn (shoulder in is my friend) and keep the contact moving and not let his neck get fixed so G was shouting 'wiggle, let go, wiggle, let go' at me as I was going down the grid!!By the end we were getting there, it was less wild and I started feeling that we were working together but both of us were taking responsibility for our part of the deal.
My biggest personal take away is that I must not change my riding when having a flat or jumping session. The problems I have are the same and I can help control them on the flat so I must not forget to ride properly and with those issues in mind when there are poles added to the mix. I must tailor my warm up for jump lessons exactly the same, get the shoulder under control and an even contact before starting to jump rather than just the walk trot canter I have done before.
P14 sheet - lovely comments and two 8's!
So with my brain crammed with lots of new information and a new understanding of what I need to do we trundled off to do Team Quest at Wellington. I arrived with plenty of time and had my warm up planned. He was going beautifully in the warm up so I kept my reins short and was determined to ride. We were in the spooky indoor so I made sure I did a circle at the spooky end before going down the long side to the judges box. The lovely judge let me have a couple of circuits round the arena (it is horrible and spooky) and then rang the bell. Well, all I can say is that it was the best test we have ever ridden. I rode, B tried hard and I just felt amazing as we were going round. Then, right at the end of the left canter with just two movements left, Buddy stopped for a scratch. I heard sniggering from the gallery (my lovely team mates!) and although it felt like a lifetime I got him back and he carried on in a beautiful frame again. It had completely thrown me though and as I trotted up the long side I realised I should have turned across the diagonal at H so I then deliberated whether I should go all the way round again but just wrote it off and came down the centre line. The judge was lovely and said what a lovely horse Buddy was and that I'd dealt with it well. I could not believe it (check out my face at the end of the video) - we were definitely on track for a PB score but still ended up on 67.91% and 2nd place in our section.  Our team ended up in 4th place as there were some stellar scores but it means that we are firmly in place for a regionals spot so I will be working very hard between now and then and hoping B doesn't have an itch on regionals day!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

D Day at BCA

So after the disaster that was last week I needed to get out XC schooling prior to our BE debut at BCA so I managed to squeeze a session in at Attington Stud with G yesterday. We worked on ditches and drops and making sure when I say go I mean it and that B knows I mean it. It was one of those sessions where everything clicked and I had a bit of a breakthrough in my riding. B is not overly brave but he does try and I've been unfair in the way I have been riding him and have no right to be disappointed in our performance unless I can categorically say I rode it and meant it! I chatted with G about my concerns and was told that it's time to just get over it and kick on... So kick on I did. It made a huge difference and although G did warn me it may go to pot at BCA and to expect a stop or two I came away feeling amazing and like I'd turned a huge corner in my riding.

It was another early start with an 8:30 dressage and time was not on my side today so I ended up running about 30 mins behind my 'worst case' schedule. This meant I arrived at 8:10 and after collecting my number and tacking up I had 5 mins to warm up - not quite enough time! So we pretty much went straight in and it was not my best test, my half circles were a bit crap and the canter a bit onward bound but I can't complain as we'd gone in cold and he needs at least 15-20 mins to get consistent. Back to the box and a little break before SJ. 

6 - The dreaded corner

I wandered over with 25 minutes to spare as had not walked the course so wanted to watch a few go. Pretty simple but up to height and a bit twisty although nothing to be concerned about. One of the worst things about eventing alone is that you have to jump whatever is in the warm up and so my choices were: tiny cross, 100 upright and up to height wide spread. I stuck with the cross for a couple on each rein but then he started get rather cocky so I aimed him at the upright - he bowled on and flew it but was still being a tad keen so came round to the spread to try and back him off. Nope. Hmm. I decided to call it a day and hope the fillers calmed him down a bit!!

He did go a bit backwards in the ring but I rode forward and assertively. It was not neat and we had 4 faults at the penultimate fence where he just went a bit flat but I was pleased he'd gone when I asked and thought it was a good test for xc. They read out my DR score at this point and it was a 42 so on to XC with 4 to add. 

Quick change and off to the XC course. I'd walked it the night before and saw three potential issues.. First, the corner at 6 as I'd need to be straight to it (there was an alternative which I had as another option if the first few had not gone to plan), 9ab a half coffin (he would only see the ditch after take off)and 12ab pallisade, two strides to drop. However the course was lovely and would just need me to attack it and ride.

He was being a pickle in the warm up - really hooning at the warm up fence - so I just focused on getting him off my leg and only jumped a few times. Before I knew it we were in the start box and being counted down. We shot out of the start box, quick slap on the neck to get him to focus on the first and we pinged it. Second was a picnic bench which he ballooned a bit, 3rd was a house which he went to have a look at but a bit of vocal encouragement got us over. Fourth was a half rolltop which we got a bit close to, took 5th out of our stride and met it nicely. As we came to the corner I gave him a slap 4 strides out and he didn't hesitate so we were on to 7ab where we were a tad wonky into the b element but still clear. Hay rack at 8 had a bit of a drop on landing so felt like we were in the air for a bit but had a fab jump over it and we were on to first big question 9ab. I kept my leg on, he saw the ditch on take off of the first element and I felt him back off but growled and he took the biggest leap over it. Landed a bit messily so quick change of leg and we were onto 10 which was a skinny house. He was wonky coming in and I kicked the flag out but we were on a mission. Next was step up to rolltop which he pinged and then our last question, 12ab pallisade to drop, which he zoomed through and down without question. Fence 13 was up to height with max brush allowance (though doesn't look quite as impressive in the pics) and he flew over it and stormed to the water. Another rolltop, three strides to the water which we slid into (B prefers his water nice and clear and not muddy) so trotted through, over the penultimate fence and then cantered up the hill to the final fence which he flew out of his stride. We did it, clear at our first BE90!! It was not stylish at all but I can focus on that once B understands I mean it!!

13 - B making the biggest fence look teeny
I felt quite emotional as its been a bit of a rollercoaster week but it was worth it for the high I'm on. To get to an affiliated event has been my main aim since B came back and it's taken us a while but to go clear after all the issues we've had at our debut is just magical. This one is going into my memory hall of fame. There are some videos on our Facebook page that my friend took for us so head over there for those if you fancy seeing us in action!

Two out of three ain't bad.....

So Sunday came round very quickly and my alarm was set for 5am to be there in time for my dressage test at 8:12! I'd built in plenty of time, got to the yard and chucked the final bits in, gave B a quick groom and we were on the road before I knew it. The journey to Mattingley is pretty easy and we pootled along loving the fact there was no traffic, I was feeling pretty relaxed, I had my plan and knew what needed to be done.

Arrived, grabbed my number and walked the SJ. The courses at Mattingley are always bright and up to height so I knew I'd have to ride but it was a fair test and nothing in particular I was worried about. B was pretty lit up on the way to dressage but I found a quiet corner and started working in. He felt good and was listening to me. We had a slight discussion about controlling the left shoulder in our first canter but after a short reminder he was on form. I timed the warm up perfectly and it was soon our turn to go in. 

The arena was on a slight slope so knew I'd have to keep him balanced to get the best picture. As I trotted round he did the biggest spook at the boards but after a quick reminder that it was not acceptable behaviour (!) he started to concentrate and down the centre line we trotted. BE95 is the shorted test in the world and it was very quickly over. I was really pleased, I'd ridden it and although there were a couple of bits that needed improvement I know what they were and how to correct them. We've not done a test on grass since last year and I'd forgotten how much different it is to ride on but I was pleased.

Quick break and onto SJ. The warm up was pretty hard so I kept my jumping to a minimum and just made sure he was forward and off my leg. We went in and they read out our dressage score which was 32 and ended up putting us 8th out of 49 so I was chuffed! Good jump over the first, dog leg to 2 and then round to an oxer at 3 which he looked at but I kept my leg on so he popped over, round to the first meerkat jump at 4, tiny oxer at 5 which he clunked and we had down, through the double, round to a big bright fence at 7, big oxer at 8 which he flew despite a slightly wide line from me and then the final fence at 9 which we also clunked as he got a bit long to and also clocked the other horse in the ring and just tapped it out behind. So 8 faults but I know I let him get a bit flat and it was pretty spooky so I'm really pleased with how he went.

Then it was time for a quick change and onto the big test... the XC. He was sharp in the warm up and so I did a lot of walking, making sure he was paying attention to me and was off my leg. Popped the warm up fence and he was feeling eager and before I knew it we were being counted down in the start box... He stormed out, took the bridle and was off! Over the first, down the hill and he spooked at the fence judge (!) so a slap down the shoulder to get him to concentrate and we flew the second. Into the woods and he was gawping at the fence judge for the third fence so another tap on the shoulder and "focus please donkey" and we were in a rhythm. We flew onwards to fence four and the sun was shining on it and the fence judge had an umbrella which is Buddy's pet hate so I sat back, kept my leg on and he took it out of a nice forward stride. By this point I was beaming because he felt like he'd finally got it and felt so, so good and was eating up the ground. As we galloped up the hill I saw the previous competitor at the next fence so I yelled for them to move over and we popped through the double of pallisades. I kicked on to the next fence and met it spot on then it was the double of tyres on an angle which he ate up and then it was the first question - the drop. I bought him back to trot, he spooked at the change of surface and I came back to walk to let him see the drop. He span round - first refusal - and then I just couldn't get him off the edge! I don't think we actually stepped back three times but the previous competitor was creeping up on us so I think the fence judge eliminated us a bit quick but I don't think I would have got him off anyway.

So we did the walk of shame home. I was absolutely gutted. On the way back I analysed what had happened - had I ridden him well enough, was he feeling his feet, am I cut out for this?! I had a little cry as I was just so frustrated after all the hard work we've put in to try and get this right. We are a few days post event now and I have had a serious think about the next steps. I cannot keep doing the rollercoater of nailing two phases and having a chance of a placing for it to all go wrong XC. We have BCA on Sunday and I am still going and will have an XC session on Friday to try and elimate some mental demons but BCA is definately d day for us.

B is not a naturally uber bold horse and despite having bucketloads of talent that is not enough. If he was a 'normal' horse then I would just take him XC schooling every week but I do not want to put unnecessary mileage on his legs and feet when it might not work and I need to be realistic as I have a very full on job and I'm not sure I have the time to commit to that level of work. I want him to stay sound and to enjoy what we do so I may have to accept that eventing just isn't his thing. I am trying hard to not let this outlook affect our performance at the weekend so I will make sure I sit up, kick on and try and enjoy it!