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!

Horse Benefits Part 2: What They Teach Us

I’ve been thinking recently about how much horses bring to our lives (if you haven’t seen “Horse Benefits Part 1: What They Give Us” pop over and check that out before you read this). Although I joke to the parents who point out horses to their children “don’t go there, you’ll be poor” what I should actually be saying is “do it, I can’t think of many better ways of teaching your kids how to deal with life!”

Realism

Horses ground you.  You can’t become over confident because they will bring you back down to earth (sometimes literally!)  The very fact that half tonne animals allow you to sit on their backs and tell them what to do is humbling.

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Resilience

There are maybe more ups and downs with horse sports than with any other because there are always at least two “people” involved.  Health issues or injuries, confidence issues, falls and other challenges all require you to develop coping strategies, get back on the horse (again, sometimes literally) and keep going.  A valuable life skill!

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Discipline

As well as requiring commitment, horses need you to have self control.  You can’t let your emotions get out of control because that directly affects your horse.  You can’t spontaneously decide to go away for the weekend, stay out all night when you’ve got a show the next day or spend all your money on clothes.  You can’t just grab a horse and ride it, it involves so much more than that.  Which leads us on to..

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Commitment

Riding or keeping horses teaches you commitment.  You simply cannot improve in your riding if you don’t commit to it and as for having your own horse, you either have to make a massive financial commitment to get other people to look after your horse or commit excessive amounts of time, energy, blood, sweat and tears to do it yourself, whatever the weather!

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What have horses taught you?

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Snow

I could write for days about the inconveniences and issues associated with snow, particularly for equestrians but it has all been said before.  Yes, it is a pain, but unless you want to move to a different country, it is something we are just going to have to get used to, particularly with increasingly erratic weather patterns (don’t get me to get my A level geography out!)  Therefore I’m encouraging you to try to be positive about the white stuff.

School’s Out!

Particularly if you are lucky enough to be in education or work in education, but also in other jobs, you may well get yourself a day off.  What is better than an extra day at the yard?

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Taking Stock

If, like me, you’re currently focused on progress (maybe working towards a competition or confidence goal) the snow is likely to put the brakes on your plans.  I think this is a great opportunity to take a step back, reflect on what you have achieved so far and what you are doing next, take the pressure off and do something different (even if that is just working on your walk rather than your canter).

Cleanliness

The snow freezes up the mud, covers it over and leaves us with squeaky clean ponies (and wellies!)  Nice soft, dry coats and pristine hooves in the winter?  Yes please!  And for those of you frowning at me because your shod horse’s hooves fill with snowballs.. I direct you towards the wonder that is Vaseline.

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Fun

Sorry but no matter how old you are, the snow can be fun.  Whether your fun is galloping through a snowy field, making a snow horse or sledging behind your pony, there is no shame in being a bit childish and playing in the snow.

Beauty

There can be no denying that the snow is beautiful.  I love the clean whiteness of it and the sparkle when the sun comes out.  When you are done having fun (and battling the snow challenges that we are not talking about) take in the view.

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What do you LIKE about the snow?

Along For The Ride – There’s Snow Place Like Home

If you follow my socials you will know I’ve been hoping for a snow day and today, my dream came true by many inches!

At 3 in the morning (I must have known something was going on) I woke up to see the world was white and by 8 o’clock it was confirmed that work was closed.  Not that I was going to get there anyway!  My other half had taken our 4×4 to go to his job so I was twiddling my thumbs at home trying to work out how to get to the yard. If you know me, or have read Home Is Where The Horse Is, you’ll know that the yard is my favourite place.

My 3 o’clock in the morning plan had been to walk but it was very sensibly pointed out to me that it is a 4 mile drive, would be quite a bit further to walk, snow isn’t easy to walk in AND if I got into trouble no-one would be able to help me.  Let’s not forget the ceramic hip either!

Anyway, I had established that the buses were not running and just as I was contemplating hitch hiking (for the first time in my life) I got a call to say my boyfriend was coming home and the car was mine!

Five of us horsey people made it to the yard and mucked in with the yard owner to help to feed some of the horses.  I can definitely recommend bumping around on the back of a pickup to go up to a far away field and divide and conquer a herd of fluffy, fat gannets with buckets of grain as the best way to start a Friday.

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The others all decided to hack out but I really didn’t fancy it.  I’ve watched ‘The Horse Whisperer’ too many times and the image of that horse slipping and falling on the ice under the snow and sliding down the hill haunts me.  I know lots of people hack out in the snow but I just couldn’t get past that worry that something might happen.  I didn’t have a hip replacement so that I could end up in hospital again and I’d never forgive myself if something happened to Pea.

I spent a good couple of hours grooming Pea and trimming her feathers off.  I know the snow will probably be all gone before we know it but I don’t want her to have snow dreadlocks or cold wet feathers.

We then popped into the school so that we could get some kind of ride in.  Pea was slightly put off by the remnants of the snowman that had been made earlier but soon made friends with it..

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We plodded round and round the school, trying to churn up a centre line, long changes of rein and 20m circles.  I tried to work on having a forward medium walk and free walk as there wasn’t much else I could do! I hoped to break up the surface enough to school properly but we only managed a bit of trot as it was still just a bit too hard.

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I whiled away a few more hours at the yard before succumbing to the call of a warm house and the promise of a chippy tea!

Today’s ride was not a success in terms of working towards our goals (though we did work on our walk) but I had a really lovely day in the best place.  Sometimes pony time is more important than riding!

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Did you have a snow day?  What did you get up to?

Christmas Gift Guide 2018

Christmas is a time for friends, family and a bit of time off work HOWEVER it can also be a good excuse to give and receive some presents!  I have put together my top 8 picks for equestrians, equines and even non-horsey support teams.  I have chosen mostly small, British businesses – remember, when you buy from a small business, a real person does a little happy dance!

Click on each heading to be taken straight to the item.

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Gallop Guru – ‘Palomo’ Leather Saddle Handbag £175

I was lucky enough to receive one of these for my birthday several years ago.  It is great quality and totally eye catching – I have had lots of pointing, looking and ‘where did you get that?’ when I have worn it.  It is the perfect gift for the equestrian who isn’t afraid to express their passion for horses even when dressed up!  It is well worth checking all the other gorgeous items Gallop Guru have to offer.

Eqclusive – Brush Pack – £80-102

Christmas is a time to treat yourself and your four legged friends.  I have an Eqclusive brush pack and use at least some of the brushes on Pea every time I ride.  They were so worth the money.  If you’re after more of a stocking filler, my top picks would be the Schimmel brush and the New Generation Curry Comb.

Derby House – Pro Snowman Medium Combo Turnout Rug £54.99

I’m a big fan of Derby House rugs, they are good quality and they always have fun prints.  Pea has had a varied wardrobe of checks, spots and fair isle in the past and she has written to Father Christmas to ask if she can be bedecked with snowmen this Christmas.

Olivia Towers – Zip Jumper £46.99

I’m an avid follower of Olivia Towers’ vlogs and social media.  Her riding and mindset skills are inspirational.  I’ve ordered myself a ‘Believe it’s possible’ jumper which I know will both remind me to get my head in the game and will be great to ride in.  Do check out her other slogans and pieces.

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Horseshoe Hearts – Original Horseshoe Heart Good Luck Charm £23-6

I discovered this wonderful business on Instagram and if I could, I would fill my house with everything they sell!  I think that a heart would be a particularly nice present especially as you can personalise them.  Get your order in quickly as they close their order book on the 10th December!

Willberry Wonder Pony – Berry Pony – £20

Christmas is a time for charity and this charity is so worth supporting.  To keep the memory of Hannah Francis alive, I think every rider should have their own ‘Berry’ pony.  ‘Peaberry’ certainly helped me to put my life in perspective when I was in hospital.  All the proceeds go towards bone cancer research and granting equine wishes to seriously ill people.

Emily Cole – 2019 Calendar £7.99-9.99

If you’re a regular blog reader you will already know that I love Emily Cole’s work.  Her calendar is a 12 images in 1 present whammy but I would highly recommend having a search around her website at the prints and other items as there are pieces to match each rider and horse’s personalities and interests!

Daniel Skinner AKA Skint Dressage Daddy – From Nags To Numbnuts £6.99

If you’re not familiar with Skint Dressage Daddy, he’s the ultimate reluctant pony-parent (and writes a blog). His book makes the perfect present for other long suffering non-horsey partners and family members who will be able to laugh and cry (and swear) with Daniel through his guide while us equestrians try to defend ourselves!

What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Back To School

It has been another big week for me!  I started my new job (back in a school) on Monday and today Pea and I went for our first lesson since my hip replacement.

I’ve had a few really sluggish and frustrating schooling sessions recently and I decided I am better enough to gain something from a lesson.  I feel like I’ve got use of my leg back but I’ve completely forgotten how to ride! I spoke to my instructor and we agreed that she would ride Pea for half the time and I would ride the rest.

It didn’t start particularly well – we haven’t taken the trailer out since before my operation, we have a different car and just generally hadn’t quite prepared that side of things!  Once we’d located a key for the hitch lock, botch job attached the correct number plate to the trailer and pumped up the tires, I made my boyfriend drive along the yard track and back to convince me I was happy to put Pea in.  We have a bad track record of trailer outings being a bit stressful and this one was no exception.

HOWEVER, once we were there (only five minutes late) it was all worth it!  My instructor rode for a while which is so good for Pea because she doesn’t often (ever?) have anyone riding her who can actually ride!  She’s had fairly limited proper schooling in her ridden career and definitely showed that.  I then got on and had a lesson.  We are working on getting Pea more forward, accepting the contact and becoming more supple.

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I am SO aware that my instructor riding Pea set her up to go better for me than she does when I get on cold but it still wasn’t easy, I still had to find those buttons.  I feel like I rode better today than I did in my last lesson (before my operation) so I’m feeling very positive about where we are going riding-wise and I left with the biggest smile on my face!

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As you can see, being a fluffy, unrugged wild pony isn’t very conducive with being a dressage diva.. Pea was SWEATY.  If anyone has any bright suggestions as to how to deal with it I’d love to hear them – it is too cold for proper washing, is clipping my only option now?

Living My Life!

So here we are, nearly a week on from that top doctor advice that now I can ‘go and live my life’..  I thought I’d give a little update on how life is going.

The Downs

  • I’m fully back in the swing of my work schedule now.  I work 9.30-5.30 in one job and then work as a private tutor in the evenings which means..
  • I am SO pushed for riding time.  The evenings are rapidly getting darker and although I’m still only riding for short periods of time, when I ride after work on non tutoring days I feel so rushed!
  • Rushing is not good for my still recovering body.  After feeling so knackered from walking and mucking out ONE stable I have been doing some reading on how much muscle you lose from inactivity.  I am very much still getting my strength back, if I rest between activities I am ok but when I’m rushing I end up in pain or with cramp! It upsets me that this time last year at my old job there were 20 stables to muck out between two of us and this year I can barely do one!

The Ups

  • Although my brain is still stressed about work, money and time, I feel so much more relaxed about my leg.  I’ve been moving and sitting however I want and so far haven’t had any dodge moments since my restrictions have been lifted.
  • I’ve adjusted my mindset when it comes to my riding and it has made me feel much better.  My first ride made me feel like I had gone so far backwards and then as I did more to try to rectify that I was worried I was overdoing it.  I had some great advice that if I thought I was overdoing it.. I probably was and that aching is ok but not pain.  So I’ve stripped back my expectations and I stop when I get to the pain stage.  I’m treating my riding as though I’m starting from scratch again but am pleasantly progressing at a slightly accelerated rate than I did this time five years ago (when I first started riding!) I did something this week which was very exciting but I’m going to have to wait until next weekend to write about it.. watch this space!
  • I’m getting the hang of our new camera and so is my boyfriend.  We both love photography so it is nice to be able to take better quality pictures for my blog and social media.  We have a Canon with a 18-55 lense but are pondering what longer lense or waterproofing equipment we may need in the future (British Dressage Championships in the rain was tricky) – if anyone has any top tips please let me know!
  • I’m generally feeling more positive about the future with my scrummy pony, snazzy camera and bionic hip!

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