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Friday, 1 December 2017

November Round Up

I don't think I ever sit down to write one of these reports and struggle for content... Ever month seems to be jam packed with activity and days out.

November was full of training sessions, both on the flat and jumping, as well as a dressage competition at a local venue. We've shared our favourite Instagram accounts, why we think Premier Equine make the best winter rugs and our riding ambitions as part of November's blog hop!

So read on to take a flick through the month in full...

I was lucky enough to be able to start the month with some annual leave from work (wahoo!!). After a crazy & manic few months, I really needed a few days away from the usual daily life to restore my batteries. I'd thought about working on my blog and spending lots of time up at the yard, but I took a reality check, and just relaxed for a week, taking a break away from a screen for a week too!

It did mean that I got to enjoy morning schooling sessions like this though... πŸ’›

Dressage training

Mid-month we had our usual dressage training with Cathy Burrell. Last month was all about bend & flexibility, which I've been working hard on in the weeks in between. I've noticed that while over the summer we struggled to gain balance and bend on the right, this seems to have flipped to the left, with the right rein now much easier... I suspect we'll have a few of the flip reversals throughout our training! πŸ™ˆ

This month's session was all about elasticity and 'feeding the neck'. As many of you who follow us will know, we've been working hard this year on giving Louie confidence to take the bridle forward and down, and finally this seems to be coming together. So now we need to work on being able to stretch the very bottom of his neck out and prevent him from holding his frame. Although one of the basics and fairly simple in concept, for a horse that comes back behind the contact, it's more difficult. 

During the session, we got some beautiful work out of Louie, where I could really feel him let go of himself, push me up through his back and begin to feel the elastic contact. It was one of our best session ever...& I was even more chuffed with the compliment from Cathy at the end!

In between our sessions with Cathy, we've been working really hard on this idea of 'feeding the neck', with a little difficulty at time of stopping Louie's nose becoming behind the vertical and ensuring that he keeps an arch behind his jaw. Causing some vibration on the contact while half halting while using leg is the key...and we're really seeing the results of some hard work & determination around achieving our goals with this piece of flatwork!

Showjumping training

We had a training session with Philippa at the end of October, which was an amazing lesson. Louie was confident, rhythmical & balanced... I wanted to keep up with this and with no training sessions booked in, I've been making sure that I've kept jumping at home.

We had planned to go to a local unaffiliated competition in the middle of the month, but with a clinic running over the course the day before and reports coming back that it wasn't very well built, we made the decision not to go (plus, it was FREEZING!) and instead hire somewhere the following weekend. This didn't quite work out, so most of the month, we've been jumping at home, trying to increase the height of the fences and get my eye back in for what a 90/95cm fence looks like.

At the end of November, after a busy day at work, we were booked onto one of Philippa's clinics, away from where she is based. I took the opportunity to jump in a different place and give Louie the experience of jumping somewhere "new" (we've been a couple of times before, but not for a very long time!)

I came into our session completely time pressured and flustered, and tried to hurry our warm up, conscious that we had 45 minutes. I've no idea why as we always have this length of time, and we always have plenty of time to achieve what we wanted. So, we spending a little longer on calming down, slowing down in the trot before starting to canter over poles. Louie's become a bit cheeky and keen on the left rein (now what feels like our weaker rein) so when rushing after the pole, I learnt the difference between using my core to stay steady and not using it to drive from my seat. It really worked and when we started to jump, Louie was much more relaxed and rhythmical.

We worked on a 6 stride distance, which Louie made look short but equally didn't rush - he just has a big stride and once in a rhythm and bouncy canter, makes up the ground very easily!

My homework is to work on the quality of the canter on each rein and really engaging my core as a control in a better way. We also worked on a 4 stride distance to a 1 stride double on the rein, and I soon realised how not forward I rode around the corner into the first fence because I was worried about making the distance in 3 strides or that awful 3.5 stride feeling! I realised I needed to get this out of my mind and ride each fence as it came with what horse I had underneath me, not the horse I thought would be there.

Dressage competition

We headed to Alnwick Ford Equestrian for a couple of unaffiliated dressage tests. While Louie took an unusual spook on the long side of his first test, he came in the arena much more grown up, confident and feeling strong. The first test was a little tense in places, but our second test was much better, and we came home with some really encouraging comments from the judge, and a positive feeling of what to work on in between competitions alongside our flatwork training session homework pieces.

We've taken the plunge in November to affiliate to British Dressage, entering a competition at Holmside Hall on 2nd December. It's somewhere Louie hasn't been before, so the aim of the game is to go and have as a relaxed test as possible, and to gauge how much more confident he will be in a venue that he hasn't seen before. I know from going there in the past, there's a cafe and viewing area down one of the long side, and I'm keen to give him as much arena experience as possible. I'll make sure to update you all with how we get on!

Hacking out in the Autumnal Northumbrian countryside

Of course, how could I not include views like these in my round up post!

Over on the blog...

We teamed up with Heather Wallace, fellow equestrian blogger over on Bridle and Bone to bring a new Blogger's Corner post, highlighting the best plugins for a self hosted Wordpress blog

We've also joined in with Heather's November blog hop. November's topic was all about riding ambitions, so if you want to find out what makes us tick in the saddle, take a read through our riding ambitions blog hop post.

Finally, the end of November marked one month since the 2017 Equestrian Blogger of the Year was announced, so we invited winner, Roosa, over to enjoy a quickfire Q&A guest post from her. Roosa is a very active blogger and I love seeing her daily dose of equestrian life, so if you've got a sec, pop over and follow her too!

Roosa reciprocated the invite, and we were very lucky to feature on Roosa's Horsey Life too - take a flick through as we hand over the baton from the 2016 Equestrian Blogger of the Year to the 2017 winner!

So, it's been a very busy month! December already has one competition planned, as well as a couple of training sessions. With Christmas and some time off, fingers crossed we'll have plenty of time to spend with Louie over the month!

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