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Saturday, 31 August 2019

Summer Round Up


Well, it’s going to be a MEGA summer update coming to you today… I can’t believe I skipped writing a monthly round up for more than ONE THIRD of the year.

Throughout the summer, we’ve enjoyed plenty of highs, but also some lows. We’ve headed out hacking, got a few more competitions under our belt, took part in many training sessions, and completed two Area Festivals. We’ve been had cross country fun in the sun, using a new GoPro to capture it all from in the saddle, discovered the amazing improvement from equine sports massage, invested in a brand dressage Voltaire dressage saddle, and transformed the way we’re riding to find new success.

We’ve had a blast this summer, with never a quiet moment & plenty of happy times with friends & family! That’s right, sit back, relax and enjoy a read through all we’ve been up to from May through to the end of August!

May

It was our first showjumping lesson in a few months, working getting the feeling for our rhythm back with some accurate dog leg polework and remembering to ride around the corner. It felt great to be back out jumping and we left with some homework to ride around the corners in a tighter 20x40 with a simple but effective exercise. We also hired an arena to keep working on our rhythm in a bigger space in between our training sessions with Philippa.




Louie had a trip to the vets for his final scoping – all clear! Such great news, and now armed with a heap of knowledge, I really hope that the future will be all about prevention management and that we won’t have to take time out to treat equine gastric ulcers again.

We finally got hold of a correctly-sized Micklem bridle following our Bit to Perfection session back in May, and Louie seemed much more relaxed than in his grackle for the flatwork and I was pleased (& surprised) at how much of an instant impact it made to his way of going!


We headed out to a British Dressage competition in the middle of the month, and while it was obedient, it wasn’t our prettiest dressage display. Working back at home, Louie just felt uncomfortable. I led myself into a fast downward spiral that everything and anything had gone wrong with Louie… So I got the vet out to confirm my absolute sure feeling that he would need to go to retirement (I know, ridiculous…) only to discover he had a fine bill of health and soundness, but that the saddle didn’t fit. Cue the saddle fitted one week later.

We were unexpectedly without saddle for three and a half weeks, having meant to only be one. So as the spring grass really sprung, Louie only had lunging word to keep him in shape for almost a month. It didn’t keep him in shape. He’s great to lunge, but both he and I were bored after 10 days literally going round in circles and me watching his tummy also become increasingly more round!




June

A month with two of my absolute favourite events on the calendar (well, except Floors Castle). Our local Belsay Horse trials – a fantastic event running from BE90 to Intermediate and one which I was very lucky to experience a day behind the scene with in 2018.


A week later, it was my favourite of the biggies – Bramham. Based in the heartland of where I grew up, I have many fond memories of hacking around the Bramham estate when younger, having all sorts of fun on various ponies along the way.

Having found out Louie’s saddle wasn’t quite right in May, I’d booked his first ever session with an equine sports massage therapist. Certified with the FEI, Kelly from Hands On Massage, was able to work literally from head to toe with Louie to relieve any sore spots that she came across.


Mid-June we finally got our saddle back. The flocking had been done, but it wasn’t checked against Louie, so I stuck to flatwork and hacking in it just in case it wasn’t quite right. He soon let’s you know, but I wanted to get rid of any discomfort that it had been causing for Louie. We booked a session with another fitter to come and take a look, but had a bit of a wait until towards the end of July!

At Bramham we had one of the best pieces of news all year – we became a sponsored rider and welcomed into the Voltaire Design family. I purchased a new dressage saddle, something that I’d wanted for a VERY long time, and while it was much more than my budget was set at, the technology and innovation that is built into them, really impressed me. I wrote a blog post about what helped me to decide to buy a dressage saddle with Voltaire – it’s well worth a read if you’re interested in the different points that I took into consideration (beyond the beauty of the saddle!).


Around 10 days later, we had our confirmation fitting and our order was placed. I’ve never wanted to wish summer away, but I couldn’t wait for the time to pass and have my lovely new saddle to start training in.

Right at the end of June, we took part in our first Area Festival at Alnwick Ford. Since having my saddle back, I’d been working on a totally new way of riding AND taken off my spurs and replaced it for a long whip. We had two training session before the Festival, so I was super pleased with how much more forward Louie was and obedient, although unfortunately we were a bit unsettled by the large banner down the side of the arena, leaving Louie much more tense in his test that during the warm up and me so concentrating that I managed to miss a circle out! I was still pleased, and rather than becoming very downhearted about our results, I took plenty of positives away and set myself mini goals to improve on based on how things had gone.


July

July started off with a full week away in the sunny and beautiful city of Copenhagen and a week off work for Louie. Quite the opposites weeks really… But at the end of that week, guess which one of us enjoy a sport massage?! Yes, Louie! Kelly came out to see how Louie was doing since our saddle had been back and make sure it wasn’t causing him any sore spots. All was good.

We launched straight back into training with great dressage session with Cathy, where we really worked on getting Louie to take the contact. It’s something we’ve always worked on and struggled with, but slow and surely, it now really felt it was coming into force! Hooray! Filled with inspiration and motivation we headed to North Yorkshire to enjoy a lovely sunny day at the dressage at Richmond Equestrian Centre. I didn’t look at the tests until the Friday evening, so had to do an “emergency” training session in the school on Saturday afternoon to have a go at counter canter along the long sides following a 15m turn back. It was OK, nice, and wasn’t going to interrupt our test, but equally, it wasn’t going to give us great marks.

One test was short, one was long. He was tense in the first and broke into trot as he reached the track and could have had much more swing to his trot work, but overall I was pleased. The long arena test was a quick-fire, rapid test with movement after movement. I’d no idea how I was going to remember it! Thankfully, I did, and I was MEGA impressed with how Louie performed! Sure, there was a heap of stuff we could sharpen up and tidy up, but he’d done the test, including a longer stretch of counter canter. I was chuffed with him.


Both tests, but especially the second long arena test, were very competitive as it was the week before the same venue hosted the Summer Regionals. So I was over the moon to discover Louie had brought home a 5th in the first test and 1st place in the second one! Even better about the day was a surprise visit from my Mum and my friend who came for an afternoon to watch us!

It was my birthday on the 19th and I was so excited that Andrew bought us a GoPro to start filming our adventures from in the saddle. I couldn’t wait to use it. I enjoyed a birthday breakfast out with Andrew, before an afternoon stroll with Louie. I’d taken the Friday and Monday off work, and put the extra long weekend to good use, hiring a local cross county training facility to enjoy AND put our new GoPro to good use in! Make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see more footage from in the saddle!



We finished up the month with another dressage competition at Holmside Hall and enjoyed a showjumping training session with Philippa the day after. We’d had our saddle check by another fitter so I was now confident to be back out jumping.

Dressage was great and we achieved two personal best scores at Novice level, and I was even giddy about both counting towards Regional qualification…until I realised we were in the Bronze section. Summer dressage really is lovely…enjoying your horse in the sunshine with hopefully a cool summer breeze. Well no. It was pouring with rain, and while our test was inside, the warm up was outside and resembled a scene from a mid-December training session… Still, great practice for winter competitions!


The next day we headed for our showjumping training session – the first one since before our saddle went away in the middle of May. Continuing to ride around my turns has always been a weakness for me, so we started out with a good exercise on a figure of eight to turn back to jumps and come off the track to them. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and couldn’t wait for the next one so decided to book a couple of sessions to hire the arena throughout August.

August

August started off with a fantastic training session in a completely new arena. I really wanted to start to get 0.5 marks more for my medium trots as almost all other competitors seemed to be more established so throughout the session, we worked on activating the shoulders upwards and outwards, while continuing to drive the engine from behind. Louie (&I!) made some great progress throughout the session, and even when not asking for medium, I could feel a big difference to his shoulder movement throughout. It was a lovely feeling!



Louie enjoyed a couple of days off while I enjoyed a family weekend with my Mum and step Dad. We visited lots of beautiful places along the Northumberland coastline, enjoy plenty of nice food and of course a refreshing drink or two!

Following on from the successes of our dressage training session at the start of the month, I’d hired our usual venue for flatwork to make good use of their mirrors in their indoor arena. I wanted to work on activating the shoulders while maintaining a test style rhythm and way of going. It was a great productive session, and although Louie was super spooky, he worked hard and seemed to be learning our new tips and tricks quickly. I love it during times like this of training.

Next up was our second run at Area Festivals, this time at Northallerton Equestrian Centre. We seem to have the luck of late tests – this will be our third out of three Area Festival that had a time close to 8pm! We were very lucky to have Cathy, our flatwork trainer, help us warm up. And for the first time ever we learnt something new and what felt exceptional during that warm up – it was a real break through moment. Making Louie true react off the thought of using your leg. WOW! The boy can shift! Both in trot and canter!

Unfortunately a bit of tension at the end of the centre line led to our medium trots being a little tense and therefore quick as opposed to lengthened, but we still got the reaction. But in the medium canters…WOW! He flew and I really felt the transition from medium canter back down to working canter before the trot transition. We even got some 7’s for our medium canters! Sure, the test was a bit unbalanced and I overshot some movements, but the overall way of going was SO much better. I was thrilled to get 65.49% - it was one of our highest scores and at a championship! Even though we didn’t qualify for the Finals I was beaming ear to ear all the way home!


I enjoyed our showjumping too, with couple more arena hires and another training session from Philippa, working on a variety of areas, but crucially sitting taller and holding my position into the fence better. This, combined with the change to our flatwork riding, has transformed how much more effective I am in the saddle when it comes to our jumping session. We’re heading into the following few months full of positivity and excitement for what they’ll bring.




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