Saturday, 24 January 2015

Decidedly Average Dressage....

It's been another busy week here, we are well into our final preperation for our first event at Aston-le-Walls (ALW) which is on 7th March. We are entered into the BE90 which is a step up but B is more than capable and ALW is a lovely first time course. We will have gone xc schooling at least three times prior to the event and I just hope that our distraction demons don't come back after finishing the season so well.

In the meantime it's all about match practise so we are out and about as much as we can between now and ALW. Our campaign began with dressage this weeekend and I've been practising really hard as we were stepping up to Novice level. We only rode one test last year and I've never ridden at Novice BD level before so it's a bit of an education. Our preperation was good - I was confident we would do a good test although I had made the decision not to do the medium canters in the Novice as he's just not established enough yet. However, best laid plans and all that....

As I'd clipped him the night before I wondered if he might be a bit sharp but he was really sharp and mega spooky in the warm up. Luckily there weren't many people in there so I could avoid people and stick to a circle to work him through it. He felt fab in the warm up so I went in full of confidence. As soon as I entered the indoor I felt his energy just drop and I had nothing in the tank. The test was rubbish and I finished exhausted. He broke in his canters and although his trot work covered the ground it was nowhere near where it should have been. I came out of the ring gutted and incredibly disappointed. I was not looking forward to our Novice test.

I left it until the very last minute to get back on board and just walked around the warm up. He was overreacting to the other horses in there and it was much busier so just a quick walk trot and canter and we were in. He felt a tad better but I wasn't sure if I'd get any medium work at all!! I had to really nanny him round but we did it - I was not concerned that I'd be troubling the leaders!

Chucked him back on the lorry and went to collect my sheets without any expectation whatsoever! We got 63% in the Prelim and were placed 9th out of 20 which was a much better result than I was expecting! In the Novice we broke the 64% barrier and were sitting in 3rd place for a long time but were pipped to the post by the last rider and were placed 4th out of 12 in the end. I know I should be delighted with the scores and placings but I'm not. Even a bit of time to reflect and some alcohol (!) hasn't made a difference and I'm still disappointed as I know we performed way below our capability and should have done much better. It was not anywhere good enough to get us a badminton qualification.

The positives to take away were that we got good scores despite a rubbish performance so when the stars align for us (please happen soon) we are going to be breaking the 70% mark without an issue. It was our first competition since October so we are probably both a bit ring rusty and more practise will help. We are out again in a couple of weeks and we are also part of a Team Quest team - we are called 'Blinged Up Bullet Dodgers' and we are all barefoot Rockley rehabs - so that will give us more practise as well.

We are off jumping tomorrow and I'm looking forward to Warren putting us through our paces. I should also have a photographer as hubby has promised to come along!

Monday, 19 January 2015

January Blues

We've been busy over the last couple of weeks, starting the countdown to our first event in March. Training is taking the focus and first up was a session with Sara Jane Lanning. I've not seen her since October and have been working hard on improving our areas of weakness but as Buddy has had some time off and I've not been out competing I wondered if we had made any improvement at all.

Lucky for me, SJL did notice a difference in him (both in work and musculature), so we continued moving forwards with our education! I wanted to focus a bit on test riding and helping build up our strength. I find that I struggle a bit sometimes with preparing for each movement - oddly enough not something I struggle with when a test is trickier but some of the prelim tests consist of trot round, canter round and throw in a circle so I think my brain considers it 'easy' ;o) We worked on what I need to aim for (much bigger trot, improving the stretch in the free walk) and how to integrate that theory into practise so I will see how it works out this weekend.

We also spent some time working on canter as that, although hugely improved, is something we still need to work on. I let B pull me down, my reins get long and all of a sudden we are long and strung out - it's annoying as I really need to think about it - he's a sneaky little donkey.

I also have to concentrate on keeping my position in the right canter as he can change behind if I shift my weight even slightly. He gives me plenty to think about that's for sure. 

That left us buzzing and on form for our second training session of the week - this time jumping with Warren Lamperd. I was a bit nervous as I there were a lot of 'firsts' to overcome as we'd not been to the venue before, never jumped indoors, never loaded or travelled in the dark and I didn't 'know' anyone else going. B was a bit wired initially but it is quite a spooky indoor and there were some strangers watching through the glass and on the sidelines. I started the session rustily... Bad riding and B putting up with it. But after some focus from Warren we progressed quite quickly and I soon felt back in the groove. The things to work on are to use my body to turn (in tight spaces I panic and have a tendency to 'haul' to get my line) and canter more (we've been using trot to get the confidence and now we've moved on it's time to stop babying). I finished the session feeling slightly frustrated - I feel like such an amateur sometimes (I know I am...) but know that if I had more money to train, more horses to ride I would improve so much faster. I shared this with Warren but he looked at me like I had three heads and told me that it was the best and most confident he'd seen us. This made me grin. 

So, on the way home I reflected. Of course Warren is right and we have both come a really long way since our first lesson. I have confidence in Buddy but also in myself and when it does go a bit wrong nwither of us have a complete meltdown ;o) It's a rubbish time of year for feeling a bit down so I'm going to put it down to that, plus my huge drive to do better. It's a good thing but only as long as it has a positive impact. 

Buddy has a busy weekend planned as we've got our next session with Warren and our first competition of the year.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Looking forwards and setting the story straight

I can't quite believe that we are in 2015 already - what happened to 2014?! We had another great year, completed our first event, attended 10 shows and gained 7 frillies which isn't a bad result if I do say so myself!

Our goals for 2014 were to stay sound, have fun and I also wanted to achieve the following:
1. Complete a Novice dressage test
2. Score over 60% in a Novice test
3. Complete an ODE
4. Be consistently jumping 1m

All of which I am proud to say we completed! We only did one Novice test, I'd been planning on doing a few more but my lorry has broken so that's given us a few set backs at the end of the year but who cares - objectives achieved!

Looking forwards, the main ones are obviously to stay sound and have fun - these will form the foundations for every goal setting session forever more - but this year I want to up the anti and have a couple of stretches in there.
1. Be consistently competing at Novice
2. Complete a BE event
3. Get a top 10 place at a BE event
4. Be competing at 1m
5. Qualify for Badminton Grassroots (this is a mega stretch but a girl's gotta have a dream)

I can't say how we will do but if we can get his XC focus sorted we won't have any issue getting a placing BE - I just have to work hard to make it happen - I find the harder I work the luckier I get!!

Onto the here and now we've been pretty quiet as Buddy has most of November off as a mini holiday and just hacked - we upped the workload in December ready for our first planned event in March but haven't been out anywhere due to said lorry issue. In the meantime our story was in The Barefoot Horse Magazine (issue 5 which came out 1st Jan). I was really pleased with the article although it was a slightly tweaked version but nothing too far away from reality so that was great.

However it has caused a huge debate on their facebook page! So many people (who have only seen the screenshot of the first page!) thinking that Buddy was misdiagnosed, it cannot be true and we are deceiving people or that Buddy is a freak of nature and it's impossible for Navicular damage to be repaired. For everyone that's followed our story you all know that it isn't true and also that Buddy is not a one in a million and there are other horses showing the same improvement over time.

There have been so many comments about it and the farrier who shod Buddy three times post diagnosis has also waded in with some incorrect information so I would just like to clarify certain points here:
1. Buddy was diagnosed via x-ray in Sept 2012. We did not MRI. The reason for this was that my vet didn't think it was worth the £1K+ use of insurance money as it would not change the treatment path - we assumed soft tissue damage due to the bone damage. At no point did my vet advise that I should do an MRI (and even when I pressed him he felt it was a waste of money).
2. Buddy is self trimming. I do not have a farrier attending to him as, to be perfectly honest, I cannot trust them to not touch frog, sole etc. I have considered it and even taken the advice of others but they have always agreed with me and Buddy's comfort is far more important. However I do have advice from other hoofcare professionals and my vet who totally supports me at all times and I do rasp his toes to stop them chipping. He has never gone for 'months and months' without a professional viewing them.
3. Buddy has never been under the care of Hoofing Marvellous and I have never asked their opinion of his feet and they have no claim to our story (bar their involvement with the magazine). He went to Rockley Farm for his rehab and has since been under the care of Coach House Vets, Rockley Farm, Stormybracken Hoofcare and Natures Way.
4. Buddy's feet are not regulation. Although they do look far more normal now than they ever have done. They are still healing and are getting stronger with every new hoof cycle and evolve during the summer when they are flatter and winter when they re more concave and have small bars.
5. The x-rays. These were re done in August 2013 - 11 months post diagnosis and 9 months post barefoot. They are on the blog so you can see them but, as a recap, the second set of films showed a huge improvement to the pedal oestitis and also to the damage on the navicular bone. The navicular bone improvement wasn't as significant BUT it was there. My vet confirmed as did other professionals that were sent the films. It is not magic or deception but fact and there are other horses on the Rockley blog who have showed improvement on MRI and x-ray.
6. Buddy has not been, and is not, on bute, any bute substitute or NSAID of any kind at all. The only supplements he takes in addition to his hardfeed (copra, oats, um beet, alfa pellets) are Equivita, salt, cal mag and linseed. He was on propell plus Sept - Oct during coat change.
7. Bare foot is not cheaper! I spend more on Buddy's feet now than I have ever done.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and these will sometimes differ from my own, especially when I am putting myself out there and the story I am telling is so different from the traditional views on navicular and its treatment. But, if you are going to tell or make judgements about our story please do not fabricate lies or tell the story in a different way so that it suits your view - that is something I have a problem with!

I am completely open about Buddy, his training and care. I am not perfect and am constantly learning so I will make mistakes. I didn't touch Buddy's feet until the summer but rasping his toes seems to suit him better so that is something new I have learnt about his management. Every horse is different and what works for us may not work for you but it's a good place to start. I do not believe that every horse can go bare foot. I've blogged before about how much hard work it is, you have to be 100% committed, re educate yourself and go against the grain. I knew nothing about feet before Buddy went lame as I placed my trust in my farrier but I have learnt and now understand far more than I have ever done. Even if you get the diet and exercise spot on there can be underlying issues within the horse that will stop you ever being successful and so then it is only fair to shoe the horse to keep it comfortable.