Hartpury BD

Bit late adding this but had busy week! My email doesn’t appear to be receiving emails at the moment = highly annoying and just spent 2 hours trying to work out how to solve it to no avail…..  Anyhow… I took both Ali and Donovan to the British Dressage Competition at Hartpury last sunday – with Ali I am trying to get qualified for the Elementary regionals before the end of November deadline, Donovan came along too!

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Ali was on first and it was her first time indoors since last winter! Her first test was in the old indoor school, which she finds a bit spooky (although much less so than this time last year when were shot away from the gallery at full speed before even starting the test!) – it is also only 20m wide so we were right up against the walls, which she isn’t so keen on.  She started the test ok but a little tense and then to help matters I missed the leg yield, and ting-a-ling! I hadn’t even noticed that I had gone wrong, which I normally would as soon as I had passed the marker! However she continued to perform the leg yield and then medium trot in the correct places with me trying to get myself together…  Unfortunately near the end of the test just before our serpentine of simple changes a few horses clopped by outside the indoor arena, a BIG distraction – head up and not the best to do a canter-walk transition out of.  I just managed to get her through them not too badly and she came down the centre line well to score 65% – not bad considering and a qualifying result so 3 more points.

For her second test we were in the big Hartpury Arena and although the gallery is bigger with more people watching and a slight “buzz” of people talking, she prefers having the space around the marked out arena in the middle and actually “grew” with the slightly bigger atmosphere, which bodes well for the future!  She did a lovely test and I was so happy to get 73% and 7 points towards qualification (annoyingly leaving us just 1 point off – so fingers crossed all goes well this weekend at Abbey to push us up over the 15 points required!)

Ali just before her test in the Hartpury Arena

Ali just before her test in the Hartpury Arena

Ali just before her test in the Hartpury Arena

Ali just before her test in the Hartpury Arena

I was trying Donovan back in the snaffle and although he is getting the hang of bending in the lateral work better, he is still trying to evade it partly because he does find it more difficult.  Unfortunately after an initial good relaxed warm up, he was rather difficult once I asked him to perform the lateral movements, dropping onto his right shoulder and leaning.  I don’t think I dealt with it the best I could but it is always easy to look back especially when you are about to go in for a test.  I have worked him a couple of times since and also used the double bridle again and he is improving – he is not the quickest learner but is definitely finding he can perform half pass, shoulder-in and travers with more bend so more correctly, it is now a case of repeating until he is really happy with it so doesn’t try to rush or fall onto his shoulders and building his strength further so he “sits” and collects more.  He is however very happy now we have started doing a bit of jumping and hopefully the variety will be good for him too!! 

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Nick Gauntlett Training

It was a lovely sunny day to head down to Chescombe Farm with Ali and Donovan for jump and flatwork sessions respectively.  Ali was on first and worked in well, she really seems to be getting the idea of taking more weight behind very quickly – I am hoping that I can get her qualified for the BD Elementary regionals in the next couple of weeks as qualification finishes at the end of November!!  After popping over a few fences, we jumped round a course at 1.05-1.10m – she found this fairly easy and is obviously feeling well as humpity bucked at the end!  Nick reminded me that at this height, at which she feels comfortable to do as little as possible so she has learns to think for herself – sometimes easier said than done… but now is the time over winter to be teaching her and let her make a mistake and have a pole in training, then she will learn how to get herself out of trouble despite me!!  She does get very cross if she has a fence down – ears back etc!

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The fences then went up to Intermediate height (1.2o-1.25m) – at first she was a little out of her depth and wasn’t quite keeping her shoulders up to the fence so not making it as easy for herself.  She had a few down and so I came back to the first oxer and practiced keeping the revs up right until the moment of take-off and keeping her outside shoulder up.  Once I got a nice jump over this, we carried on around the course again and she felt brilliant – staying straight and soft all the way and really pinging!  I was very pleased with the way she jumped especially as even when she felt less comfortable with the bigger height she didn’t start rushing or getting tense and so we quickly managed to jump round well.

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Next it was Donovan’s turn, he came out with his eyes out on stalks and snorting!!  Since his injury he has only been out locally and to dressage so I think it was rather exciting with a full set of jumps out and things all around the arena.  As always, because he is so spooky he was too short in his neck and needed to let go and take his neck forwards more on a longer rein.  Nick suggested a subtle change in my position, tucking my “tail bone” under so that my core was stronger and just using my fingers to soften him in the jaw when he spooks and tenses rather than my whole arm, which he can then sometimes come against.  He was also really helpful with positioning for half pass, where Donovan is reluctant keep the bend through his rib cage so I need to use more inside leg while still asking him to move across.  It doesn’t help that he can be quite lazy off the leg so his reaction to an aid can be rather sluggish!  At home as well as practicing for the tests I am going to include sessions getting him to work lower and take the rein forward encouraging him to relax over his whole back and go forward better off my leg in all paces, this should help to build up more muscle which he still hasn’t totally regained after all the box rest he had.  It was a really encouraging and positive session! 🙂