July Dressage – Points For Participation

Wednesday 3rd was the second show in the Evenlode Riding Club summer dressage series.  If you’ve read June Dressage – “Needs more work!” you’ll know that the first show wasn’t particularly successful for me.  The second show started out even worse!

Lead up

Last time the panic was all about the ground conditions but this time I barely had time to panic.  I was too busy applying for and being interviewed for a new job (which I got, by the way!)  I was completely unprepared, having only learnt one of my two tests, and I wasn’t able to leave Pea in during the day so although I had bathed her the night before, she wasn’t going to be clean by the time dressage rolled around.  I was also majorly lacking time – I got to the yard at about half 5 and needed to be warming up by 6.. not great.  As I was rushing down from the field dragging Pea behind me, I seriously considered forgetting the whole thing.  My brain rolled so far down the “don’t do it” train I was right down to “don’t even do dressage anymore”.  But I did it.

Prelim 1

Quite honestly, I didn’t warm up properly.  I walked my way though the test trying desperately to remember it and didn’t give Pea enough chance to soften.  Prelim 1 was tense and resistant.  There were a fair few times when I put my leg on and she tried to canter.  It was a bit all over the place and the actual canter was a bit of a mess too.  Hollow, overbent, there was a bit of it all.

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Prelim 14

I had nearly an hour to wait after my first test before my second one.  It was a good job too, I spent the time watching everyone else do Prelim 14 and just about managed to learn it!

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I went into the test feeling much more relaxed and although it still didn’t feel great, it was marginally better than the first!

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Aftermath 

I was relieved that it was all over after all the stress and rushing.  I always feel better afterwards and while I waited for my sheets I reflected on my achievements to that point.  I showed up, I got on, I warmed up, I remember both tests and we came out of the other side unharmed.  I know that isn’t what it is all about but I do think sometimes you have to credit yourself with taking part when the easiest thing would be to not bother.

I got 60.26% on my Prelim 1 with 5s for my canter work (“sufficient” is an improvement on “insufficient”) and 66.54% on my Prelim 14 with a 5 and 3 6s on my canter work (“satisfactory!”)  A standard “sweet pony” comment and a token 6th of 6 rosette (for my Prelim 1) tied up my test sheets.

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I feel much better about the whole thing now that I’ve had some time to reflect.  I am pleased that I got a better percentage and that my instructor told me my canter work had got better.  If I can sort myself out so that I’m not so stressed out next time, I might be able to improve AND enjoy the process!

June Dressage – “Needs more work!”

This week, Evenlode Riding Club held the first show of their summer dressage series in my yard’s front field.  I have been taking part in these since the first summer I was riding Pea (with the exception of last year when I had to attend on crutches!) so although I’ve done a few competitions this year, this was the show I was really looking forward to.

Lead up

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that the few days before the show had me in a bit of a panic!  It had been raining solidly for days and I was really worried about little barefoot Pea slipping over!

The morning of the show was no different and I got Pea in at 6 to wash her legs before work.  She was actually shivering, bless her!

She stayed in during the day in an attempt to stay clean but I did have a few messages through the day telling me she was feeling a bit “bright!”  Another bad omen!

Prelim 7

After work, a quick groom and a speedy warm up, a thankfully quite calm Pea and I trotted in for our Prelim 7.  I have to say that the only thing I thought about as I went round was “what do I have to do next?” and “which way am I going?” My brain couldn’t cope with the arena being the other way round from our arena on the yard (as in A was north east rather than south west!)  Does anyone else have perspective issues?

Anyway the first canter kept breaking (because it was meant to be a right canter but was actually a left canter) and the second one didn’t so I was feeling quite chuffed (until I realised that was a right canter when it was meant to be a left canter!)  At the time I was really pleased that I had got through the test without falling over or forgetting it (though I did nearly forget to salute!)

Prelim 12

I had to quickly get my head in the game for the slightly more complicated Prelim 12 which seemed to go pretty well until the right canter which broke, turned into a left canter and ultimately ended up as a trot.  By that point we were both a bit tired and we just about kept her going to the end.

 

Aftermath

I didn’t place. I wasn’t bothered about not getting a rosette but I was pretty bothered when I realised about that whole canter on the wrong leg in my Prelim 7 which, until that point, I had thought was better!

I got 58.41% in my Prelim 7 and 60.74% in my Prelim 12.  Naturally I had a “lovely pony” comment (how could anyone not like Pea!?) but the comment that stuck in my brain was “needs more work” about my canter in the Prelim 7.  Yes.  Obviously it needs more work.  Maybe I took it personally because I’ve been “working on it” for years.  I know I need to “work on it”.  I had a hip replacement so I could “work on it”.  Being there and doing it was “working on it”!

After reading my sheets I then had a look through the pictures Alex took.  All I could focus on was my left leg; knee very bent, heel up, foot stuck in stirrup.  This was my second wobble of the evening.  Something else I need to “work on”!

Then I kicked myself.  A year ago I couldn’t move my left leg, I should be able to forgive it for moving in the wrong way for a bit longer!  I am happy I didn’t wimp out and I’m glad that my parents were able to see a less spooky dressage test after the one they saw in April.  I am pleased I managed to remember two tests and ride some “satisfactory” and even “fairly good” movements.  Certainly a start to the series I can “work on”!

As One Thing Improves, Another Gets Harder

Finally, after nearly a month and a half of being grounded due to having the trailer serviced, being on equine flu lockdown and being busy moving house, yesterday we got out in the trailer again for a lesson!

In hindsight, we are still very much in the middle of being busy moving house, in fact, after morning tutoring yesterday we took the trailer (minus Pea) to B & Q and Argos to pick up some bits for the house and for my other half’s wall building renovation project.  The pressure of getting back in time for leaving at 3.40 for my lesson didn’t make for a relaxing shopping experience!

Despite the rush, we managed the shop (I’m sat on my new office chair as I write this) AND managed to get sorted ready for our trailer trip.  I was quite nervous about travelling Pea in such windy weather – she’s not a nervous traveller but I’m always nervous travelling her!  I need not have worried, it wasn’t as windy on the roads as it was at the yard and it was all fine.

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If you follow me on Instagram and Facebook you will know that on Friday I had a schooling session that just didn’t go to plan so I was worried that in my lesson we might not show the progress that I thought we had made recently.  Again, I need not have worried!  Pea was an absolute superstar and my instructor was really impressed with how much more consistent she was with the contact in trot.

Then it came to the fateful words ‘lets have a look at your canter’.  Now, if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that canter has always been our nemesis.  I find it uncomfortable hip-wise and Pea is still unbalanced and weak in the canter..  In this lesson, it was the worst it has been for a while!  When things go wrong in life I soldier on but when things go wrong in riding I have a tendency to crunch up and have a complete mental block.  Thankfully my instructor helped me out and interestingly told me that often when a horse starts using themselves properly in the trot (which obviously takes more effort than just bumbling around) they find it harder to canter.  She said that if they are used to running from the trot into the canter they suddenly find that they can’t do that from a more correct trot.  When one door opens, another gets stuck eh!?

Once we had achieved some kind of canter work we moved onto working on my halts.  I’m afraid until yesterday my halts were pretty basic – just make her stop!  My instructor taught me to use my seat, my body and my breathing (breath out!) to transition to halt to encourage Pea to do a correct halt.  She has a tendency to leave a hind leg behind so I need to work on letting her step through and finish her step.

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SO much to work on, so much to improve but that excites me.  For the focus of the lesson to be on something other than getting her to accept the contact makes me feel like we are improving.  Now I just need to find another competition to aim for!

Six Months In The Saddle

At the end of February it will have been six months since I started riding again with my new hip so I thought it was about time I looked back on what Pea and I have achieved in that time.  There are lots of links to past posts in case you have missed any!

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September (Month 1)

In all honesty, in September the key achievement was getting on and staying there for more than ten minutes!  I found it really hard to sit in the saddle in the first place although it gradually got better as each ride went on and each time I rode.  By the end of the month I managed to trot my way round an Intro dressage test for Dressage Riders Online.

October (Month 2)

I found riding quite mentally challenging in October because I felt guilty about how little I was doing.  I was still only riding for ten to fifteen minutes at a time.  However, at the end of October, I cantered for the first time since my operation.  It was very uncomfortable!

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November (Month 3)

At the beginning of November we took Pea to Lyneham for my first lesson in about six months.  My instructor rode Pea for a while and then I did and I went away feeling on top of the world.  I had a few weeks of feeling really good about my riding (although I was still finding cantering really challenging).  However, at the end of the month I had a bump in the road where I was in pain again.

December (Month 4)

After feeling so positive about my riding for most of November, December was a bit of a flop!  I had a really good lesson at the start but then I was away house sitting and had two bouts of feeling really grotty so I didn’t do much ‘proper’ riding.  I did do a Christmas yard hack into Bourton on the Water to sing a Christmas song in the river and take my boyfriend for a ride on Christmas day.

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January (Month 5)

January was a much better month for riding.  I took on the Bronze Top Barn Challenge which meant I rode (or did groundwork with Pea) for at least three hours each week.  I also entered and completed my first competition with my new hip (which was also our first competition away from home and in an indoor arena) and had another amazing lesson with my instructor.  Everything was a bit disconnected and wonky at the competition but Pea started working so nicely in my lesson and I finally felt like she was starting to accept the contact and become supple.  This continued when I was schooling at home too and I was strong and comfortable enough to be riding for longer.  I’ve certainly found that a longer warm up has been beneficial and the difference in my leg since my hip replacement has meant that I’m still comfortable enough to keep going afterwards!

February (Month 6)

February was meant to bring my second competition of the year and my step back up to prelim (which I was competing at before my hip replacement) but first we had snow and then the equine flu saga exploded so I haven’t been out competing and I haven’t been out for any lessons.  It has been really frustrating because I feel like things were just starting to fall together and now they are on hold HOWEVER Pea has been schooling really nicely at home.  She is a lot more off my leg and seems to be working more correctly.  The big achievement this month has been our hacking.  I haven’t always been confident about hacking but this month I have been going out for 60/70 minute hacks ON MY OWN (with Pea!)  A massive achievement for me.

Next Steps

I’m hoping to get back out again in March providing my yard owner is happy for that to happen.  I want to be confidently riding prelims with passable canter movements by the time the summer comes so lots of practice, some lessons and trying out some more competition venues is on the ‘to do’ list.

Along For The Ride – Swimming Not Drowning

Who else had a sinking heart this morning when they looked outside? Last week’s snow was inconvenient yes but at least it was beautiful and I had a nice day off!  Horrible as the rain was, I still had that Friday feeling.  The motivation to get out of bed every Friday is that it isn’t too long until 3.30 when I can drive to the yard and be with Pea.

Arriving at the yard was even more exciting than usual.  Yesterday, I picked up my saddle from the saddlers where it had been to get new LONG girth straps put on.  I have been wanting a dressage saddle for a long time but realistically can’t justify the cost.  I have been thinking for a while that putting dressage girth straps on my saddle might be a good compromise.  Anything to help me be more effective with my legs sounded good to me.

It was less exciting when I realised Pea was literally as far away as she possibly could be in the field and when I had finally reached her she was also absolutely disgusting!

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There was a lot of flowing and standing water in the fields and we appear to have a new lake that wasn’t there yesterday!

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Has anyone else fallen into an extreme comfort zone with their tack?  I feel like I’ve been using the 5th hole on both sides with my double ended elastic girth and saddle for my whole life (it is actually only about a year and a half).  Anyway, I had to put that to one side when tacking up and try to get the right balance of girth tightness.  I got on and honestly felt an instant difference.  My saddle felt narrower purely from the lack of bulk that a normal girth brings – mental!

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Pea was quite entertaining for the first ten minutes or so of the ride, she spent the whole of one long side with her head up in the air, turned to the side, staring out the donkeys who have recently moved to the paddock next to the school rather than at the end of it.  It was as though she had never seen them before!

I went through my normal routine to try to get her working over her back and becoming more supple and to my surprise, it worked fairly well.  Each time she softens I am shocked that I’m actually getting her to do it! I feel like I’ve just about got my head above water with this ‘riding properly thing’ (excuse the water reference!)

She was really good on the left rein but on the right rein she seems to want to bend to the outside which isn’t great.  She is definitely harder in the right rein.  Now would be a great time to see my instructor and get her to help us with the next steps but due to the equine flu situation, I’m going nowhere for the moment.

I didn’t last long tonight, my left leg muscles felt weird (probably due to the slightly different position as a result of the new saddle set up) and I called it a day after about 25 minutes.  I hopped off and led her round for another 10 minutes to cool off – she always needs an extra bit of walking to get her breathing back down and since we don’t have a walker, I do it myself!

How was your Friday?

 

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