Dressage

Lots of dressage practice this week!  After galloping Ali on Thursday, it has since been time to practice in the 60×20 dressage arena we have put up on grass at the bottom of the field (as flat as we could manage) – I wanted to get her practicing more on grass before Osberton because being on grass instead of an arena surface definitely affects her way of going.  She is very good as the arena is in the same field that we had done our fast work in but when in her dressage saddle etc. she knows what her job is for that day!  On Saturday I had a lesson with Mike Garman in the field arena and he gave me some great tips to get those extra marks and get her showing off a bit more – I was really pleased with the way she went.  This morning before taking Donovan off I did a short jumping session in the school and she was really pinging! She will have the day off tomorrow, and then the count down to Osberton begins….

Also I have now uploaded photos of the CIC* cross country at Gatcombe last week on my facebook page – click here to take a look!

Donovan has been going well in his double bridle this week and is improving well in the lateral movements so I was looking forward to our competition today.  Although keen to come off the box, he was his normal settled but spooky self in the work in but I managed to get him motivated quickly and he worked in well.  Elementary 53 went well except for one mistake when he thought we should strike off in canter again after our trot transition!  He felt really in front of my leg and off the ground so I was pleased – we scored 67.06% to win with the comment that he could be steadier in his mouth possibly because of the double bits.  So after a short break it was onto the Medium 73, again he worked in quite nicely apart from coming across the diagonal in canter on the left rein he was tending to drop onto his right (outside) shoulder so this was affecting his simple change, which we had to do as we crossed the centre line – we practiced this a few times and he improved.  I was quite pleased with his test except he made a mistake in the above movement, which caused him to strike off wrong so I was rather annoyed with him about this as he is quite capable and got an 8 for his other simple change but was just being a thug!  I felt the lateral work had gone well though – how wrong I could be… I was terribly disappointed that the judge had only negative comments about most of our test and especially the half pass, which we thought had improved loads and been good at home.  Unfortunately I had to go on my own today so nobody was there to video me, so it’s a shame I can’t watch it back.  It really is annoying though when a judge makes neither helpful or encouraging comments (especially when just moving up a level) – I think they need to try and find some positives or pointers on how it could be better.  So it’s back to the drawing board…..

Gatcombe CIC*

We had a great weekend at Gatcombe Horse Trials and were very grateful for a stable just a couple of miles from Gatcombe Park at Pixie Thomas’s lovely yard.  We had dressage middle of the day on Saturday and although Ali was not quite as relaxed as I would have liked (partly due to a very busy warm up area and her grumping at the other horses!) she did a reasonable test.  I was very pleased with our rein back as she stayed really steady and calm for this, which we have been practicing but was disappointed at still getting only average marks for it!!  She scored a 52.5, which again was rather disappointing putting us in 38th overnight out of 94 starters.

Working in for the dressage
Working in for the dressage

We walked the cross country on Saturday afternoon and then had a relaxing night in the lorry! On Sunday morning we headed back to Gatcombe Park for 9am so that we could do a “fake dressage” – taking Ali in her dressage saddle and working in the dressage warm up area for 20 mins to get rid of any excess energy before SJ.  And I’m glad I did as she was still rather fresh when I started working in for our show jumping round, it was great to have her nice and forward and keen though!  She jumped a fab round and didn’t touch a fence until just tapping the last, which thankfully stayed –  we needed a little luck as I had watched many go round rapping lots of the fences with none falling!!

So onto cross country on our dressage score!  It was a nice flowing course going through the woods a few times; there was a tricky rail down to a ditch and back up a steep bank to another rail, which caused a few problems but the fence I was concerned about was straight into the water – a log with brush on a step directly into the water, this would be the biggest jump into water she had done and there was turn towards to trees on approach.

Fence 17 into the water
Fence 17 into the water

But she was amazing! Answered when I said go and jumped straight in the fantastically up the step out.  Click here to see video of us through the water.  We came home with just 3.6 time faults, which I think I partly lost running down into the woods the first time where there was a tight turn that I wanted to make sure I got – I was really pleased but it was slightly frustrating that just those few time faults dropped me from finishing 13th down to 29th!  Still amazing to go double clear at her first 1 start though!  Really looking forward to Osberton for the Young Horse (6yo) Championships in 2 weeks and will practice our dressage a little more on grass between now and then to try to improve our mark!

On another note, Flicka, our 3 year old had her last ride on Friday last week going beautifully in walk, trot and canter including over poles in the school without being lunged or long-reined first and even popped a little fence!  She has now gone back out to the field for the winter before coming back into work in the spring.

Flicka popping a fence
Flicka popping a fence

My week off

I have had a packed full week off work so far…  My parents have been away so I have been looking after the livery yard (and cows in the evenings!) for them so still plenty to do even though I wasn’t actually going to work!

All the horses have been going well.  Flicka the 3yo has been long reining well and riding is improving daily, we can easily walk and trot around the arena and over poles with reasonable directional control!!  She was good as gold on a short hack up the lane and we have now done a few short canters in the arena too.  She will go on another short hack today before going back to the field away from the yard with Rusty our hairy little pony who keeps her company for the winter.  The plan is to bring her back into work next spring hopefully ready for some 4 year old classes.

Flicka

Flicka

Donovan is getting much more used to the double bridle and starting to take the contact more forward in it now.  We have really been working on keeping his outside shoulder up and stepping especially when he goes to spook at something and I had a very successful lesson with Mike Garman again on Sunday.  I rode him in the snaffle this morning and he felt much better in this after being ridden in the double more often just recently, much lighter and responsive – I was really pleased with the lift and elevation I got in the trot work and how much more easily he was going in and out of the lateral movements.  He is qualified for the BD Winter Regionals at Elementary now so in a couple of weeks we are off to do our first medium!

Ali has also been going well on the flat and I am just trying to keep this consistent ready for our next competition at Gatcombe in the CIC* this weekend. I took her to Allens Hill on Tuesday for their brilliant progressive clear round where the heights go up each hour and you can go in and jump/school round as needed for £10.  The courses are always really well built with different turns and lines so it’s a good challenge and practice to get them (and the rider) thinking.  Ali went really well over the 1.10-1.15m and I was so pleased how well I was able to keep the forwardness and “ping” round all the turns and lines – great preparation for the weekend!

Anyway, the rain forecast for today doesn’t seem to have come to much so I off to fill the lorry up with water etc. and ride the others.

Blenheim Horse Trials

Posing in front of the Palace

Posing in front of the Palace

We had a great time yesterday at Blenheim Horse Trials taking part in the British Eventing Cross Country Riding Skills demo with Nick Gauntlett in the “Attractions” Arena.  Ali was quite bright when we first got over there but quickly settled and once in the arena behaved impeccably for her 6 years with all the stands and distractions, including the fair ground near-by, which was only scary when the merry-go-round started going round!!

The fun fair at one end of our arena!

The fun fair at one end of our arena!

We did simulated cross country and she answered all the questions with ease.  Afterwards we had time for a walk round the shops and a look at some of the 3 star XC fences (so that we can dream of jumping them one day, hopefully in the not too distant future!!).  Thanks to Alice, Mum and Dad for coming to support me and taking the photos and video.  **NEW** Click here to view clip.

Corner on the angle

Corner on the angle

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photo (2)

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Goring Heath Novice

I was not in the best frame of mind heading to Goring after a really busy couple of weeks at work and rather too much lost sleep.  I had managed to continue riding Ali but my preparations were not quite as I’d have liked, however I decided to go and see how she felt!  After a 2.5hr journey (we still don’t seem to have worked out the best route to Goring!) we got all studded up ready for the dressage as there was plenty of time to walk the XC course after dressage.  She worked in fairly well but wasn’t quite as soft on the turns and serpentines as I wanted, once in the arena I just tried to keep her nice and forward and really went for it in the medium trots and canters – and it paid off, she scored 29 – her best at Novice yet and 3rd after dressage!

Onto the show jumping, I worked in for longer than normal to try and get her softer (and because she’d had quite a long break after dressage) but she obviously knew it was time for the jumping (which is much more fun!) as she was very soft and relaxed doing really good flying changes both ways while warming up.  She jumped well over the practice fences with me focusing on trying to keep the forwardness.  Unfortunately though I didn’t keep myself together in the arena and lost the jump in the canter getting far too close to the second fence and totally missing at the treble so we ended up with 2 down and 8 faults – I was really disappointed as she has been performing so well in this phase and I felt I had not ridden it at all well.

Onto the XC, which I decided to do despite the SJ as she hadn’t had a XC run for a while.  There we a lot of combinations and skinnies to contend with and the ground had been aerovated so was reasonably good despite the dry weather.  There was, as always when I have been to Goring a large step then down hill at fence 4b (after a skinny brush) and she jumped down it really well – a relief after the problems at Chepstow and confirmation it was the bright sand there that spooked her.  She also had to jump a log on a step into the water – she was really bold here but slightly dropped her hind legs on the log when she spotted the water! But I am glad she jumped in like this rather than ballooning into water like her mother used to!  She nipped round to various other skinnies well to come home with 5.6 time penalties, which proved quite good as no-one in my section went inside the time.

Click here to see us over the last 2 XC fences.

Rather surprisingly despite our 2 down SJ we still finished 5th, I think in part because of the many time faults everyone had on the XC (as well as a reasonable few jumping faults too) – a pleasing end to the day.

I am happy to report I now have just under 2 weeks off work! Also yesterday evening I got a call to say our entry had been accepted off the wait list for Gatcombe so we will run in the 1 star there in 2 weeks time.

Lyneham Heath XC Schooling

Donovan went for another lesson today, first time in the double bridle and I was pleased that he felt much better than last week in the snaffle so I think we will stick with the double for now.  His work towards more collection was really improved and just need to work more on the half pass as especially to the right he tends to be lazier and leave his bottom behind!!

This afternoon we took Ali to the fantastic schooling course at Lyneham Heath Equestrian – every time we go they have added more new fences and although hard, there was good grass cover and the take-offs and landings are always well maintained.  Ali was brilliant – she started off a bit strong but we practiced lots of skinnies, corners, banks and jumping into and out of water.  They had a new fence with a ring on top on a mound that ran down on 4 or 5 strides to a angled skinny brush, which she took on beautifully despite me having to slip my reins down the bank.  She also gained more and more confidence jumping into the water directly, which we hadn’t done much of before.

Brush fence on mound before angled brush skinny

Brush fence on mound before angled brush skinny

Um... take off at the corner - jumped very well, slightly missed timed camera skills from mum!!!

Um… take off at the corner – jumped very well, slightly missed timed camera skills from mum!!!

Skinny house on the angle (2 strides after similar one)

Skinny house on the angle (2 strides after similar one)

 

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Over the boat into the water, before 2 steps to another boat out

Over the boat into the water, before 2 steps to another boat out