My “Push Present”

If you don’t know what a “push present” is, it is a present a mum might get when she has her baby..  I definitely haven’t had a baby, nor am I going to yet but bear with me on this one.

When I decided dressage was the discipline I wanted to strive towards (two and a bit years ago I would say) the urge for a dressage saddle started.  Maybe I wanted to be “all the gear and no idea” rather than “no gear and no idea”!  Maybe I thought it would help my position.  Either way I ended up with a trailer instead!

Although my hip replacement took away the pain I had had for so many years, my hip abduction and rotation (I think those are the right terms) was worse on the left side.  The early days of riding were really tough because I could barely open my legs wide enough to sit in the saddle.  I compromised on my saddle desires by getting long girth straps on my GP saddle which meant there was less bulk under my leg.  It may have been psychological but I felt like it made a difference  to how wide my legs needed to be!

Things have been improving over time but I know my hips are still wonky in the saddle because of it.  I’ve been using the old abductor weight machines at the gym (you know the ones that face the wall because you’d look inappropriate using them if they didn’t!) and periodically sitting on the sofa with my feet together and my knees as far apart as possible trying to just encouraging the stretch!

Anyway.. the “push present”.  I’ve been pushing myself, pushing my hip and I’ve decided my new hip deserves to be pushed even further by putting it in a dressage saddle with surface blocks!

I saw a Thorowgood T8 immaculate condition dressage saddle being sold on Facebook, I set my heart on it (my current saddle is a Thorowgood and I think they are really good for those of us with changeable fat ponies and very little money) and drove to Wales to get it.

Being second hand and being new to Pea it does need some flocking changes but I have tried it out and I think I love it!

I realise I might get some criticism here – I am well aware that a different saddle isn’t going to fix all my problems etcetera etcetera and that actually I might be signing myself up for some discomfort with my hip being forced to open up more but I think it is all for the greater good.

A New Start – January Dressage

On Sunday 12th we (Pea, me and top groom Alex) ventured out for our first competition of 2020.  I thought we’d better return to our nemesis venue to battle our demons from the last competition there.  Getting our lowest score EVER back in October was obviously an all time low.  Getting a lower score each time we went to that venue felt really rubbish.  Thankfully this time the pattern didn’t continue!

It wasn’t a great test.  I had mucked up the warm up by being too bothered about getting out of the way of other people and not really focusing on what we needed to do.  Pea was knackered by the time we did our test too – that winter reduced exercise regime has not been good! Nevertheless we managed to get through the test without major spookiness at the big door to the indoor school (I made sure it was shut the whole way this time so there was no strip of light like previous times) although I just couldn’t get her off my leg and the canter work was pretty much non-existent!

A score of 57.95% is a baseline score for 2020 which I very much intend on massively improving – bring it on!

To watch my test (and some!) click the link below to see my vlogging attempt!

A Week In The Life

2020 Goals!

2019 is officially over – it has been an amazing year and my goals certainly helped me on my way.

2019 Goals

1. Get Strong

Steps towards this goal have changed over the year; I was doing yoga and cycling in the summer but then I started ballet and going to the gym all of which have helped my strength.

2. Compete

We racked up 7 competitions in 3 different venues – I think that counts as a tick for this goal.  If you’d told me at the beginning of the year I’d be doing the Riding Club Qualifiers at Hartpury I would NOT have believed you.  But we did!

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3. Move On

Definitely ticked this one off with a new house and a new job!

4. Reduce

This goal dropped in after my Mid Year Goal Review.  I’ve stuck with my Lush plastic-free shampoo, conditioner and shower gel and I’ve replaced my cleanser with a cleansing bar.  I’ve been much more conscious about what I buy.  It would be really helpful if more brands followed in the footsteps of Derby House and Honest Riders to be more environmentally friendly!

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2020 Goals!

It has actually been really hard to set goals for this year.  I’ve got some big dreams but I’ve also got a wedding to plan and a job to maintain!

1. Branch out!

This year I want to do the next stage of stepping out of my comfort zone with Pea.  I would like to try out a few new competition venues now I’m more confident with towing.  I’d love to do a freestyle but I’m not fully sure what I need to do to get ready for that and I feel like that might be a lot so we will see about that one.

2. Flex

Although I’ve got a lot stronger in the last year, my external hip rotation and abduction on my left side is not very good.  Doing ballet has made the difference in my sides very obvious but is certainly doing me good in addressing this.  Don’t get me wrong, my hip is a hundred times better than it was before I had the hip replacement but I’m still wonky in the saddle because of its flexibility.  That is going to improve this year!

3. Party planning

I wasn’t going to make this a goal but I thought it was quite funny so here goes.. Successfully plan our wedding without losing my mind!  If you didn’t already know, we are getting married in August and it is going to be a quite a DIY job.  I’ve never even planned a party before so tips and suggestions are more than welcome.. wish us luck!

2019 – A Year In Review

January

This year started with serious levels of motivation. Alex and I viewed some houses and started the process of buying our own home. Pea and I went to our first competition since my hip replacement which also happened to be our first away from home and in an indoor school.  I also spent a lot of time sorting my blog into pages.

February

The defining feature of February was the glorious snow we had and the equine flu scare which pretty much grounded most activity.  I also spent a lot of time doing my “Swedish Death Clean” and clearing things out in preparation for moving house!

March

We moved into our new house at the beginning of March. The joy of living in the same village as Pea still hasn’t worn off although I have to say I don’t walk to the yard as much as I did then!  We did a lot of painting, shopping and gallery wall creating but Pea and I also got out for a lesson once the flu scare had calmed down.

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April

We went out completely again in April. This time my parents came to watch which was really special. My mum was able to see the difference my new hip had made to my riding – I hope it made it worth all the weeks of her putting anti-embolism socks on me when I wasn’t allowed to bend!  It was also the month when our sofa arrived which made our house really feel like a home.

May

By May the weather was much improved and the month started with a wonderful (and expensive) trip to Badminton!  It was a month of good riding weather and Pea’s super snazzy Derby House fly rug.

June

The summer dressage on grass started in June. I had a stinking cold and doing two tests on such wet ground (because the May sunshine hadn’t lasted) was all a bit much. Nevertheless, it was a good month for riding and a month of decision making in terms of my job. At the end of the month Alex and I went to Noah’s Ark Zoo for my Christmas present of an elephant keeper experience.

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July

At the beginning of July I managed to secure myself a teaching role at my school for September and have a fairly successful show with Pea. I also started going to ballet classes.  The rest of the month involved a lot of stressing out over her health. She was fat, she was shuffling, she cut her chin. She also got put on a new fitness regime which involved a lot of cantering up the hill by our yard. It ended with a cancelled dressage competition due to a local strangles scare.

August

August was mostly wonderful – it was an entire month of summer holiday after all! We had weekends away in Devon and Scotland but the rest of the time was spent at home, with Pea or sorting out my classroom for my new job. We did have a bit of an issue with a screw in Pea’s foot but it thankfully healed without drama.

September

The first day in my new job coincided with our last competition of the summer – talk about biting off more than you can chew! Pea was feeling pretty good and I managed to establish my new working and riding routine.

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October

October was quite a month! Alex asked me to marry him (I said yes.. of course). Pea and I had a super disastrous dressage competition, I barely survived clipping her but then we went to the Riding Club Area Qualifiers at Hartpury and it felt like I was achieving a dream. Then my new baby nephew was born!

November

It is hard to feel positive when every day is dark and most days are muddy or wet! In November I took a step back from schooling and competing, taking the pressure off completely but enjoying chilled rides and hacking. I spent more time with family which was really nice.

December

December was a tricky month at the beginning. Pea and I had a lesson which just proved how unfit and out of practise we are. I got swiped by the end of term lurgy and so missed out on our competition plans and several Christmas dinners! Since I’ve been off work things have improved and I had a lovely Christmas with Pea, Alex and my family.

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The Christmas Non-Gift Guide

Last year I made a traditional Christmas Gift Guide and I still stand by last year’s ideas, all of which are still available, but this year I thought I’d do something different.  One of my Mid Year Goals was to be a bit more environmentally friendly so here are my alternative gift suggestions.

Vouchers/Money

This is an oldie but a goodie!  The recipient of the gift can put it towards something they really want or need and will get proper use out of.  I am trying to collect less general stuff which means most of what I have on my wish-lists are big things that need saving towards (a Charles Owen Ayr8 helmet being my current object of lust!)

Homemade

I’ve been leaning in this direction for the last few years with my family gifts.  Two years ago I painted personalised glass baubles (whether any of my family members have them on their trees this year I’m not sure..) and last year I made scrabble-tile pictures in bought frames!  If you’re not feeling particularly craft, cookies/fudge/truffles are also fairly easy homemade options and there are wonderful horse cake recipes for your four-legged friends.

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Favours

Not the wedding type!  A less official present option would be offering up your time and energy to something.  Maybe you could do someone’s mucking out to give them the day off or look after their pets so they can visit family of friends.

Presence

“My presence is your present!”  I think as you get older you realise the importance of spending time with the ones you love be that human or equine.  I know that having some time off at Christmas will give me the chance to catch up with my family and spend unrestricted hours “playing” in the stable with Pea!

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Tried and Tested: Derby House Medium Rug

I’m a big fan of letting horses be horses but I’m also very much a believer that if we expect our four legged friends to be athletes and perform for us then we have to treat them accordingly. As you will know from In Too Deep, I clipped Pea in preparation for the Area Qualifiers and when a layer of natural rug comes off, a layer needs replacing. Luckily, my favourite rug brand Derby House had very kindly lined us up with a medium weight rug to replace Pea’s lightweight when the time came.

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I chose the Pro Frenchie Print Medium Combo Turnout Rug – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you can’t have cute patterned rugs when you’ve got a cute little pony, when can you?  They even have accessories to match!  If you’re not a dog fan, they also have Christmas designs, unicorn print, plain colours as well as black and frequently add new prints to their collection (you might have seen last year’s cow print that Pea had!)

Derby House say this rug is “crafted from a tough 250gr diamond weave print that is durable, waterproof and breathable and 200 gram of warm polyfill you can be sure that your horse will be warm, protected and dry no matter what the weather has in store” and Pea would certainly agree.  She has been wearing hers for over a month now; we have had periods of torrential rain, a night of snow and a whole heap of mud and she has stayed warm, dry and clean throughout.

Leaning over wire fences and being a generally mischievous little scamp has challenged the ripstop outer of the rug.  It is scratched but the waterproofness hasn’t been compromised yet though it will need mending at the end of the season.  The classic Derby House design has robust neck buckles and chest clips.  In all the Derby House rugs I have had, I’ve never had an issue with the hardware and this rug is no different.

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If you are in the market for a cosy, well-designed rug for your four-legged friend this winter I highly recommend you give Derby House’s website a visit.

Your Horse Live 2019

This year’s Your Horse Live was my fourth consecutive year!  It has me going back each year to see the demos and peruse the extensive shopping stands.  This year I was lucky enough to get a complimentary ticket but Alex was keen to come (can you believe it!?) so I paid for him to come along too.

I was highly restrained when it came to the shopping (especially compared to Badminton) and although there were lots of beautiful things, I only came away with a trailer-tie bungee and a new competition whip.  I would have liked to walk away with the ponies from the Rescue Village too but that wasn’t to be!

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Alex was particularly keen on the 3.5 horseboxes and the Ifor Williams trailers but made do with a pork roll instead!

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Charlotte’s demo was what I really wanted to see.  It was interesting to see her coaching one of her riders.  She kept telling her to go more forward and really go for it, it was somewhat reminiscent of my lessons!  It was also a good reminder of the importance of transitions – I get too lazy when it comes to that but if Charlotte says I should.. I should!

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At the end she brought Valegro around for everyone to pat – is it sad for me to say it was amazing to be so close to him and to touch him?  I’m sure for a lot of people he is just a horse but I’d rather meet him than any A list celebrity!  The way she jumped on him bareback while the jumps were being set up and the arena was being harrowed just highlighted what a special guy he is.

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We stayed with the demos to watch a bit of Jonty Evans jumping with Padraig McCarthy.  Jonty’s big fall was just before my hip replacement and I’m in awe of how he spent 6 weeks in a coma, suffered a brain injury and is now back eventing.  What is really incredible is how effortless his riding looks considering how the injury has affected his thought process and speech.

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We left that demo early to go to Charlotte’s signing; I had taken my copy of “The Girl On The Dancing Horse” to get her to sign but unfortunately the queue was shut off just as we arrived.

We managed to catch some of Sharon Hunt’s cross country demo with Karla (from Muddy Mayhem) riding.  If you don’t already follow her, she is hilarious and the way she pinged round the tiny arena with tight skinnies was so brave!

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Our last watch was Ben Atkinson’s behind the scenes demo.  Last year we watched his proper demo – I was totally in awe of what they did then so it was really interesting to get more of an insight into how they train their horses to do that.  You clearly have to be very calm, brave and confident to do the kind of liberty work they do.  I would love to give it a go but I think I would need to do a course or something first.

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I had a thoroughly enjoyable and educational day (and Alex enjoyed his pork roll!)  I can’t wait to see the line up for next year – I’m already thinking about who I hope will be on their demo line up!

A Big Ask

On Sunday we went to Hartpury for the Area 18 Riding Club Novice Qualifiers.  I have been excited/nervous about this since we were invited to do it a month or so ago as we have never done anything like it before but we had such a good day!b

Preparations

I’ve been getting a bit complacent with my competition prep. recently but not this time!  On Saturday I emptied my car, cleaned my tack and boots, then re-packed the car with only what I needed for the competition.  It was such horrendous weather that I couldn’t do anything with Pea until the next morning.  I did a bit of meditation and listened to a podcast before bed.. trying to achieve the ultimate positive mental attitude!

The extra hour (with the clock change) was a good start to Sunday and I’d left plenty of time in the morning to get Pea ready.  I intended on giving her a bath but after only washing her legs and the end of the tail she was shivering and I ended up putting her turnout rug back on over her travel rug to warm her up!  A quick warm sponge on the top of her neck where her white parts were a bit brown and that had to do!  It was nice to have enough time to go home to get changed, while Alex fueled and pumped up the car, then we set off all still relatively calm!

Hartpury

I’ve only ever been to Hartpury as a spectator before and I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing  when we got there.  I tried to follow someone else going to get their hat tagged and passport checked but in a moment of comedy, they didn’t know where they were going but thought since I was following them that they must be right!  We got there in the end and my Riding Club teammates filled me in on where everything else was going on.

Miraculously Pea hadn’t pooed all down her legs in the trailer like normal and she was surprisingly calm so getting her ready in the beautiful sunshine was actually pretty nice!  Did I mention that we parked right near the toilets so I was able to go for as many panic toilet trips as I wanted?

The warm up arena posed 7 problems, two windows with bars, a window into the next door arena, a colourful banner on the wall, a very open and light exit route, a puddle of wee and a super scary mounting block.  It was essentially a potential recipe for disaster but I kept my cool (quite incredibly) and we managed it.  Although there were a few other coloured horses, we were the only little coloured cob team I saw, nevertheless, she looked so smart it didn’t matter.  I had a bit of a second guessing panic with my canter warm up, not particularly reassured by Alex telling me I was right.  It’s not that I don’t trust him..

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Next, we went to the holding arena.  There were more banners and distractions in there but what I was really pleased with was that we actually got in the door with no hesitations!  Then it was time for the test.

When we went through the gates into the International Arena I tried to ignore everything apart from the banners and letter cones around our arena.  Pea was certainly looking around at everything, taking it all in.  Alex told me later that the horse in the other arena was out of the arena and on two legs so I’m glad I didn’t notice that!

I felt that the test started quite well, Prelim 7 has a nice chunk of trot work at the beginning which settled me down.  The first canter strike off was incorrect but I corrected it then Pea took me completely by surprise by jumping over the white boards between K and E!!!  I got her back in and tried to get back into it, feeling fairly certain I would have been eliminated for that.  Our second canter wasn’t much better but we did stay in the arena!  After the halt and thanking the judge I actually took a moment to look up at the banners, the lights and the viewing gallery, just thinking how amazing it was to be able to ride there.

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I walked back to the trailer beaming (quite a change from two weeks ago) even though I thought I was eliminated and even though it hadn’t really gone to plan!  Alex said he was impressed so that meant a lot AND Pea was still super chilled which was amazing.

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When I went to get my sheet I discovered I hadn’t been eliminated (if you leave the arena and the boards are at intervals you are ok).  I got 60.22% which is lower than I was aiming for but at least I was in the 60s and I didn’t come last!  The constructive comments were nothing that I didn’t already know I needed to work on so that was good too.

I’m so grateful to ERC for having me and it has filled me with confidence to go to other ‘posh’ venues!

Pre-Areas Training

Today we had a cheeky pre Area Qualifiers training session.  I’ve just about managed to put our last disastrous competition into the back of my mind and am trying to get ready for the weekend.

As always, I’ve got a lot of homework to do and a lot to remember for Sunday!

Free walk

I lean back in walk and instead I need to lean slightly forward and keep my hands down to encourage her to march on.  I need to practise this in the warm up and really get her going so that hopefully I don’t have to chase in the test.

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Medium walk

This needs to be more active otherwise my transitions to trot are going to be rubbish!

Trot

I get a bit too complacent in the trot because it is so much better than it used to be.  Pea has a tendency to lean and get too deep so when she does that I need to give with my hands and push with my legs then she lifts her nose.  It is a lot easier to see the difference now she’s maneless!

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Canter

Today it was left canter that was our nemesis.  I need to bend her to the left, which she finds really hard, and give with the right rein to help her to pick up the correct lead.  Ironically, when we went on the right rein she immediately picked up the left canter!

I also need to make sure I work really hard to keep it going because any moment I relax in the canter, she will break.

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Now I just need to work out how to sort out my mindset and keep my head on Sunday – any tips?

Olivia Towers Demo In Photos

On Saturday I made an impromptu visit to Olivia Towers’ Young Horse Demo. As with the Open Day, it was amazing to be in her beautiful arena and watch her ride her wonderful horses! Here are a few photos from the event..

Paris (broodmare), Rufus (yearling) and Bee (3YO)

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Joey (5YO)

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Moley (5YO)

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Wilf (12YO)

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