New season training in full swing!

Firstly I shall endeavour to blog more regularly this year!  With an injury (to myself) quite early in the season, I slightly lost enthusiasm with Ali and I loosing our mojo despite the other 2 going well and Merlin stepping up to Novice and winning too!!

All the horses are going well and feeling good, if not a little spritely at times in this cold weather!  We have been to a few training competitions and I have some training planned with all of them too.  Flicka, who we unfortunately are going to sell (can’t keep them all…)  has really strengthened up over the winter and Mum has been enjoying some dressage lessons with Adam Kemp on her.  As she has strengthened her jumping has improved lots too – although she is only 15.2hh, she is a full warmblood so it has taken her a little longer to mature.  We took her to Allens Hill a couple of weeks ago for the Eventing Training – she did a good dressage test with just one mistake and then jumped a brilliant double clear in the Show Jumping/simulated cross country at 1m.  We were thrilled as she hadn’t be out to jump since the end of the last jumping season.  See a video of her in action here.

Flicka schooling at home

Flicka schooling at home

I have been having some great dressage lessons on Ali with Islay Auty, she is improving all the time mainly working on collection and quality in all the paces and flying changes.  She qualified for British Dressage Regionals at Advanced Medium (silver) but we don’t feel she is quite ready to be competitive so will carry on training for now, especially as we are focusing on her eventing as well again now.  She is jumping better than ever and as keen as ever!!  See a video of her round at Allens Hill 1.20m here.  I am excited to have got a place on one of the Mark Todd Bridging the Gap 2-day training courses with Gill Watson and Lizzel Winter at the end of February – really looking forward to having their input in stepping up to 3*/advanced level again with her!

A frosty Ali after schooling early one chilly morning!

A frosty Ali after schooling early one chilly morning!

Merlin has come back into work now after spending some time over Christmas back home with his owner Sue and is feeling good, he too has strengthened up and looks fantastic.  We are trying jumping him in a pelham, which he seems to like, making a lovely shape over a fence in this bit and feeling very happy!  He had is first outing last week jumping a good clear round the 1m in his new bit!  He has had a lesson with Islay too and we are working on impulsion in the trot and canter as well as improving the lengthening in these paces.  See a couple of clips of his lesson here.  Not long now until we get the out cross country schooling again too!

Merlin flying at his first jumping outing of the year! Happy boy :)

Merlin flying at his first jumping outing of the year! Happy boy 🙂

Mum and I had a good day at the International Eventing Forum at Hartpury on Monday, as always with many useful tips and exercises to try at home.  Tomorrow, we are off to Allens Hill for some more Eventing Training weather dependant (surely it won’t snow…)

Thank you to Lintbells Equine for their continued support with Yumove Active Joint and Yumega Skin and Coat.  Now with Mum due a second hip replacement, she is also trying out their human joint supplement iMove!  Check out all their products (including for dogs and cats too) at http://www.lintbells.com

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Early Season Event Reports: Gatcombe, Goring & Weston

We have had a fairly lucky early season compared to some, managing to get to and run at events with all this rain!!   Unfortunately Sapey was unable to run this week though so Ali has completed Open Intermediate classes at Gatcombe and Weston Park and Merlin and Flicka in the BE100 at Goring Heath.

Gatcombe

Ali managed to stay sensible for her dressage, which was the new Intermediate test for this season including shoulder in and half pass.  She performed well despite the XC having just started behind with the commentary and whistles blowing!  We just lost rhythm a few times where the ground was changeable but scored a very respectable 30.5 in a competitve section (our first time at Open Intermediate – meaning any horse could be in our section!)  See a video of our test here.

Ali gat dr

Onto the show jumping and Ali was very keen!!  She jumped really well despite being a bit of a handful, I managed to keep the energy under control except in the treble where she made up a bit too much ground to tip the last part for 4 faults.  See a video of our round here.

Ali SJ gat

Gat SJ1

The enthusiasm continued on to the cross country…  and a little bit of a difficulty getting into the start box – thank you to one of the lovely starters for the lead!  She felt brilliant having only been XC schooling once due to the weather and time, however just misread the corners at 7, glancing off the first one for an annoying 20 penalties in an otherwise lovely round.  I built and practised the corners at home, which she still didn’t understand at first – odd for her as she is usually so brilliant at things like that!  Good first run though and lucky to get it in before the rain the following day!

Goring Heath

Merlin and Flicka had their first BE100 run at Goring Heath, which got gradually stickier with mud during the day but held up for them both to complete.  Merlin performed a solid but slightly underpowered test for 30.3 and was very keen to get back to the lorry for the next bits!!

Merlin Dr

Merlin

Flicka felt much stronger and more balanced than last year and despite a couple of minor wobbles was good to score 31.8

Flicka dressage

Flicka

Merlin jumped a clear round show jumping although lost his improving technique somewhat in the sticky mud and we have been working on a more forward active canter without getting too long, which he will need when he steps up to Novice.  See a video of his round here.  Flicka felt fabulous and was really pinging even on the difficult ground but unfortunately we missed our stride at the double, which she did well to jump the second part of but then clipped the last behind too – a bit disappointing given how well she had jumped up until that point to come away with 8 faults.  See her round here.

Flicka SJ

Flicka Show Jumping

Onto XC and Merlin first – he started off a little sticky, just not quite jumping out of the forward stride I wanted but got better and better the further round we got and came home clear easily inside the time to finish on his dressage score for 4th place!  See clips of his round here.

Merlin making the "wave" fence out of the water look tiny!

Merlin making the “wave” fence out of the water look tiny!

Flicka found it a bit tricky as the ground conditions had got really sticky by the time she went XC but just kept confident and jumping, every time we jumped a fence on better ground she flew!  I was thrilled that she was also clear and made it inside the time.  See clips of her round here.

Weston Park

We were unsure if Weston would continue to run all week due to all the rain but the organisers did a great job even moving the show jumping so we had fresh ground.  Unfortunately to OIU21 was cancelled the day before but this meant we had a cross country course that had not been ridden on.  The dressage arenas had just been moved across slightly though so we had to do movement like half pass through a strip of mud where the long side of the arena had been the day before – not ideal!  Ali was good considering but looked like she was going on tip toes saying Yuck!  She did well to score 33.  They were working on the show jumping putting sand/gravel down in front of the fences – Ali jumped brilliantly and tried so hard.  I was frustrated to have just the first down and looking back think my canter was slightly underpowered to  it so she got stuck in the mud!  Watch our round here.

Weston SJ1

Weston SJ

We didn’t go XC until lunchtime so watched a couple before we went and the ground looking to be drying in the sun and wind.  There were 3 water jumps in the first 9 fences so I wasn’t sure what she would think of that, especially jumping into a stream at fence 6!! (See course photos here)  She started well but we had a hairy moment into the first water when she stood off rather a long way from the first part causing me to loose my knitting sitting back away from her!!  She was fabulous though and popped in well and then was flying, no need to have worried at 6 into the stream!  Feeling good I kicked on a bit more and answered all the questions easily coming home with just 4.8 time faults – the fastest round of the morning Intermediate sections.  To top it off we finished 2nd in an Open Intermediate taking her to 78 BE points – wow!  You can see a video of various competitors round the intermediate track here (by Harveywetdog) – we are the last horse on the video (just after minute 17) seen jumping the last 3 fences.

So a pretty successful start to the season overall, now it just needs to stop raining!!

Thank you to my sponsors Lintbells Equine providing Ali with Yumove Active Joint and Flicka with Yumega Skin and Coat.  For more information on their products, visit their website!

 

Busy weekend – season’s on the way!!

I am writing this happy, firstly due to the appearance of the sun today (at last) and secondly because I’ve had a fab weekend with the horses.  On friday we managed to get to Addington for the BD Regional Championships where both horses had qualified for the Elementary class.  It was touch and go as to whether we would make it with the storms that just kept on coming – luckily we were finished by lunchtime and got back just as the wind was really picking up (phew!) Ali was on first and despite being rather lively at times in the warm up, performed quite well in the ring other than getting a bit tense at times.  It was a great experience for her though with loads of flowers, 3 scary judges tables, plus quite a lot of outside noise for us to contend with in the big indoor.  She scored 67.92% to come 6th in a class of 31 so very pleased with her.  Click here to see more photos of Ali during her test.

Ali performing her last medium trot up the centre line to finish the test

Ali performing her last medium trot up the centre line to finish the test

Donovan was his usual spooky self but after getting him nice and forward, he relaxed well in the warm up…. this was before he saw the flowers!!! He performed a consistent test and I managed to prevent any spooks (the flowers at A were particularly scary!)  We thought the test was more relaxed than Ali’s and would score him higher but in pure dressage they prefer them more active so I need to work on this whilst still keeping the relaxation with him.  He scored 66.41% for 12th.  It is a bit disappointing how close the marks were as the judges just don’t seem brave enough to use the high or low marks enough and personally I am finding the half marking rather strange and not particularly helpful.  Click here to see more photos of Donovan during his test.

Donovan medium trot

Donovan medium trot

On saturday both horses hacked and in between I took my old pony with his current little rider to their first proper dressage competition together.  He was a little star as always! Then back to getting lorry reloaded for XC schooling today.  We took both horses to the all weather XC schooling at Aston Le Walls in fabulous sunshine (did I mention the sun yet?…)  Donovan went first today, his first time XC since his injury so I was glad of the perfect going – he felt brilliant and just took everything in his stride as if he’d never been off.  I was especially pleased with how he popped over all the skinnies as in the past he has been a bit cheeky with nipping past!  Fingers crossed things continue to go well and he can get out eventing again this season 🙂

On Ali I had booked a lesson with Nigel Taylor, we had a voucher that she won at their horse trials last year.  She was a tad fresh to start with but just wanted to get on with the job because she loves it so much and settled the more we did, she felt great through the water, up and down steps and as always was brilliant on her line to the more tricky fences.  I have put an album on my facebook page of today, click here to take a look and please like and share my page!  Can’t wait to get out for our first event now!!!

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!

IMG_1919

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.

IMG_1936

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! 🙂

It’s getting darker…

After Ali’s fab result last weekend she has had a slightly quieter week this week with just a couple of hacks and schooling sessions, she’s feeling and looking really well though.  We’ll be doing some dressage and showjumping until more of a break for her in the deepest darkest time of winter!!

Donovan is looking very smart after his full clip (including his extremely hairy legs) – I’m sure he must feel the cold more than any other horse because he gets sooooo hairy!! Pleased to be rid of all the hair this year as we left most of it on last year (for safety reasons!) when he was just in the walking stages after his injury.

Handsome Donovan

Handsome Donovan

I have swapped him to fixed bits on the double bridle and bought a new set to fit him as he was being a bit “mouthy” in the loose bits, he is improving and feels great to the rein most of the time keeping still but soft in his head and neck but is still playing with the 2 bits a little to much than I (and more importantly the judges) would like for a test. His flying changes are really improved though and he usually does them when I ask without a buck or leap at the same time!!  This is great as it means as soon as he is more settled in his mouth we should be able to move up to Advanced Medium!  On Saturday I did a mad dash from work finishing a little late at 1:30 pm down to the indoor school where the Three Counties Dressage Group were running a test day – you are judged riding through a test as you would be in competition but the judge then gives feedback + points to work on afterwards.  Mum had kindly brought Donovan down in the lorry with her horse.  I was really pleased with him as we didn’t have long to work in but he went well and his half pass I felt was much improved and we got good feedback on it.  The judge really just said he needs to stiller in his mouth for the higher marks and loved his extended walk, which he usually can be lazy in!  We’ll keep practicing ready to go out and do some more tests soon, trying to keep motivated as the nights (and mornings at the moment) draw in and we have to ride in the dark more often!

Saturday morning consulting - mad doggy family vaccination session!

Saturday morning consulting – mad doggy family vaccination session at Avenue Vets!

 

Donovan lesson and up onto the 3yo!

I took Donovan for a dressage lesson with Mike Garman today.  We are trying to get him to sit and carry himself more at the moment so that the lateral movements are then much easier, in canter this is quite easy but in trot not so much especially on the left rein where he likes to fall out onto his right shoulder and lean!  He has such a powerful big trot that we are trying to teach him to keep his shoulders up in a smaller trot and then gradually up the tempo.  Things are gradually improving and when it’s good, it’s brilliant!  I have decided not to enter BD next weekend but to spend the money on another lesson instead as want to be really ready to get good marks when go out and start Medium.  I am also going to try riding him in the double bridle just to see if this helps.

IMG_1720

 

We worked Flicka again this afternoon with Mum lunging then long reining her in the round pen – next step long reining in arena.  At the end I got on again and we walked round for the first time (still on the lunge rein) until she totally relaxed.  She was very well behaved apart from one little spook.  We are very impressed with how she is working with the long reins on – exciting!

Flicka's  first ride

Flicka’s first ride

 

Cuddles for clever baby horse!

Cuddles for clever baby horse!

Lastly today Dad and I took the home made “Shoulder brush” into place in the jumping paddock on a 5 stride related distance from the new log courtesy of the bog old Conifer that had to be cut down last week.  All ready for Ali and I to try out.  Todd has already tried it – see pic!

Todd testing the log - see brush in background

Todd testing the log – see brush in background

Brush - this angle from the log

Brush – this angle from the log

 

 

 

Time for a lie in…

Good day at home today starting with a much needed lie in after a few rather late finishes and early start with work this week – very thankful for Mum and Dad doing the mucking out so I can have a sleep!  Then had a great hack on Donovan this morning coming back along the terrifying bridle path! -he is still so spooky, don’t think he’ll ever grow out of it.  He is going for a lesson tomorrow to polish up our lateral work etc. ready for going BD medium.  It was interval training for Ali today, although she felt so fresh on the way down and once in the field that I’m not sure she needs to be any fitter but I entered her for the CIC* at Gatcombe today mid-September.  She has Goring Novice first in a couple of weeks, and of course our exciting trip to Blenheim for the Nick Gauntlett Demo the week before Gatcombe!!

Flicka the 3yo has been lunging and long-reining well with Mum and I lunged her this afternoon with a saddle on  – she’s looking rather smart and going well.  We trotted and cantered her round with the stirrups down and flapping and she took no notice at all.  Mum came and held her and legged me up  once she’d worked well and after lying over the saddle for a little while – patting everywhere and lifting myself up so she could see me, it was time to sit on properly! I sat up and we walked round in a circle – all taken nicely in her stride so big pats all round!  It won’t be long before I’m riding properly in the arena then we’ll do a bit of hacking before turning her away again ready for next season.