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!

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