Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Huntercombe Camp

I had my annual mega holiday a couple of weeks ago and so am back feeling refreshed and recharged which is good as we have a busy few weeks coming up. We've been cracking on with our training and Buddy has been going really well. Jane at Springwood Grange has been working minor miracles and keeping us on track with our aims of moving up the dressage ranks and I am thoroughly enjoying the whole process. Buddy seems to be thriving on the harder work and it's keeping his brain engaged although he throws in far more tricks and evasions every time to keep me and Jane on our toes! It's definitely not easy but its working wonders for my riding and adding new tools for me to use in the future.

Lovely large stables
Then, this weekend we went off to The Unicorn Equestrian Trust and Lyneham Heath Equestrian for Huntercombe Horses camp. I was so excited to test out whether the focus on our flatwork had helped the jumping as he was so much more polite on the Thursday before we went at Janes. I had booked in for a flatwork lesson with Matt Jenkins on Friday evening to kick start the weekend. I'd not had a session with Matt before and I always find it nervewracking to ride in front of new people but we did not let ourselves down and Matt quickly got the measure of us both and Buddy's sneaky tricks. We focused on activating the hindleg and getting him moving quicker and sharper. To do this we focused on slowing down the trot and really thinking about getting the backend moving through. I had to focus on keeping my reins shorter and more forward to allow B to use his neck and it was actually much easier for me to manage his shoulders as I could correct the neck or use counterflexion much faster to keep him on track. Next we worked on the canter and keeping that truly through, using 10m circles and a bit of on and back. Right canter was great but we had a bit of yee ha into left canter and as soon as he saw the long side (all 66m of it) he wanted to just go so we worked on keeping him back, doing 10m circles to keep the impulsion but also not pushing it as he found the exercise tough.

Stretching our legs
Next Matt used the lunge line behind B to really getting him pushing. I was a bit apprehensive about how he would react but it really worked! The gentle swishing on the floor got him sitting down and up. The trot and leg yield work afterwards was of much better quality. At the end of the session Matt gave us some really lovely feedback, he liked B and thought he had the potential to go far which obviously gave me a huge grin for the rest of the weekend.

Warming up over poles
Saturday was jumping day, we were booked into two sessions and I was nervous but excited. First session was pure SJ and Giles quickly had us jumping scary stuff! We put a new plan into place and so I had to keeping my hands forward and legs supporting but no squeezing, nudging or kicking allowed. The reason being that B will jump but he often is a bit panicky and so we want to change that process for him and by letting him figure it out himself it removes all the panic. For the first time ever we had relaxed jumping that wasn't strong or silly. It was also so much nicer for me to ride, instead of being left behind or in front of the movement we were together all the time. It felt brilliant. This continued into the XC style jumping in the afternoon and we just let B take his time, assess the situation and make the judgement. It's pretty unnerving coming into fences with zero leg but it worked so we went with it!! We had no stops and he ballooned in confidence over the two sessions and I couldn't wait to take him XC the next day.

Popped sweetly first time - I need to trust more!
I knew that the XC would be a big test for us both and probably more me than him. I have to learn to trust the new way of going and accept that he's going to go. We warmed up over a few fences and the new theory was working.. I really should trust Giles a bit more! As the questions got a bit more tricky I had to use a bit more leg but for the first time this just encouraged him forward in a positive way and the relaxation remained throughout. Its a completely new method for me and so I didn't get it right every time but when I did the feeling was amazing, he was taking me forward and felt really happy. He wasn't at all strong or trying to bog off and he was a delight to ride - I had a huge smile on my face whilst jumping. 

This is not going to be an overnight fix and I am planning on spending as long as it takes to get him happy, relaxed and comfortable. He has all the talent but I want him to enjoy the work we do and not stress about it so we have made the decision to hold off eventing for a while as once we've got this bit sorted the only limit will be how brave I am ;o)

This weekend has proved that I have an amazingly talented but rather tricky horse who I just know is going to fulfill my wildest dreams and make me a much better rider. Thank you so much to all the people who are helping make it a reality as I could not do this on my own! 

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