Back on track

Suddenly I have become obsessed with Dressage again, helps that there are some great competitions to take part in. I have never taken part in any competitions that have qualifiers and finals so I’m extremely excited to have got through to the UK Riders Final at Arena UK in August. I have attempted a few Novice tests in the last month so I’m hoping that by competing at Novice when we do the UK Riders Final which I qualified at Prelim level we will find it a little easier. I entered a Novice test this month with E-dressage (watch here). As I have received over 70% three times so would go into the Open section in Prelim which is the E-dressages way of kindly pushing you to move up the levels! I have also entered a few tests with the mane show including a prelim test, novice test and a prix caprilli which was a fun mixture of jumping and dressage!

 

I decided that I should get Parker a new bridle as his current bridle doesnt fit him very well. The nose band moves about a lot and the head piece is so badly designed. I was recommeneded that I buy him a Micklem as for so many people it has been a magical transformation but turns our Parker isn’t like other horses and hated it, in fact he hated it so much our dressage scores went down almost 10%. Although he looked more secure in his outline due to the nature of the micklem it seemed to be a fake outline as he wasn’t using his back properly and started picking up the wrong canter leads and having little tantrums. I can’t put my finger on it completely but I think he didn’t like how well fitted the whole design was so we went back to the drawing board and bought him an Albion with a crank noseband which has made him so much happier and our dressage is back to normal!

So because everything was getting a little serious recently competing every week in dressage I took Parker to Adult Gymkhana at Kenwick with North Lincs riding club. I was put in a great team who didn’t mind that Parker thought the mugs and flags were going to kill him and that maybe he wasn’t as fast as the zippy ponies and best of all we won! Definitely the best way to de-stress!

It was my birthday recently and like a kid with their first pony I got my mum to buy me lots of matchy matchy things so me and Parker can look super all of which we wore to go to Field Farm to have a little play on their cross country course. After that and most importantly we went on the beach which has been on my bucket list for so long! Bless Parker he was so brave and really tried to take on the waves which were ok when we were in deep up to his belly but when we were in the shallows he kept running away from the waves when they came in and out. We had a lovely gallop up and down the beach which made me feel hopeful that during our next event we shouldnt get any time faults!



Parker was very excited to take part in Pony Club Camp this year as he clearly still believes he’s a pony. Parkers Physio Sarah Harris came and helped the Pony CLub members paint Parkers muscles on him and then we lunged him over some jumps to learn about equine atatomy.

Most excitely I have two events planned and paid for so im trying to get ready for Frickley and Shelford!!!

Advertisements

Failure on the road to success!

Its been a funny old month for Team Parker with some lovely moments and some moments of failure!

So Diana and I decided to take Parker to Grange De Lings to have a morning of Cross Country training. We planned to meet there so I had to load Parker and drive him by myself. At some point whilst driving along in the awesome sunshine, aviators on, singing along to the radio I realised this was what I had been missing, freedom to just take myself and Parker off whenever we wanted! So eventually I pulled up to Grange De Lings (there were a lot of hills, sorry to everyone stuck behind me!) The Cross Country course was phenomenal. There are different fields with different height jumps so you can work through one field before moving on. Diana (who hates jumping) decided we might come back to the novice jumps at the end and give them a go … We had a wonderful couple of hours focusing on jumps that had steps up and down, coffins and water jumps as these are things we can’t practise at home and as a combination we haven’t had a lot of experience with. Parker had a whale of a time and jumped everything with gusto and after almost 2 hours still didn’t seem tired! By this stage I was so amped up I would have attempted the novice jumps but reminded myself Norton Disney was next week!

After Galloping around and splashing around in the water we took advantage of the wash-room facilities, or at least tried to, Parker who had just lept over some scary looking jumps was terrified of the overhead hose!

With a great day XC under our belts and a reasonable score of 66.67% on our E-Dressage Prelim Dressage test, Parker saw Sarah his physio two days before Norton Disney just to loosen him up.

12959493_10156699418825537_66061101_o

So it was time for Norton Disney. Once again it had been raining quite badly so we knew the ground would be soft. I don’t think I realised quite how soft though as we watched lorry after lorry have to be pulled in and out of the car park (Luckily our little Amy lorry didn’t have any problems!) Parker arrived well travelled and happily stood on the lorry as I went to walk courses etc. I was so amazed with how calm he was compared to the dressage warm up at Oasby. He listened to me and focused on everything. The arenas were quite muddy and the corners a bit slippery so I made the decision to stay out of the corners more than I would normally have done and I felt we rode a nice test and although we got 7.5 for our free walk we only got a mid table test. You can view the test here. The test was a new one for this year and has an awkward free walk along the long side and across the short diagonal and then straight into trot. Its an interesting test and I enjoyed riding it more than when I first saw it written down!!

During the show-jumping course walk I noticed how cut up the ground was before and after each jump which worried me as Parker has only jumped on nice even surfaces so I knew he would find take off quite hard. I was right about the ground and we had a disaster on the last double. Parker didn’t get a great push off on the first jump and landed awkwardly and me being me relaxed too much at seeing the last jump took my leg off. Parker realising he couldn’t sort himself out ran out. I had a daft moment and whipped him straight round and over the jump forgetting that it was part of a double and should have jumped both jumps again so had a technical elimination….

DSC_9791

Happily though I was allowed to carry on to the XC phase as a HC. We had a lovely round as there was no competition pressure. The only jump we had any issue with was the steps as we had practised steps with a stride but these were a bounce which we haven’t worked on. But he tried his heart out and on getting to the top of the steps I heard a little cheer from some bystanders (always a great motivator thank you!!) The rest of the course went smoothly but unfortunately I don’t know what our time was due to being HC.

PS__0873.JPG
Parker Posing for the camera

 

I had luckily pre-organised a show-jumping lesson with JJ Equestrian Services at Willow Banks. After Norton Disney we worked on good turns to a jump, a forward going canter and me not hanging onto his reins! We used lots of canter poles to create a rhythmical canter to stop Parker rushing to a fence. I had to be reminded (more than once) that I have to allow more with my hands and not lock my elbows and to use my legs more before taking a half halt. Think Joanne felt sorry for Parker having such an inept jockey! I was really happy with the way he went particularly as the surface was sand which initially Parker found hard going.We (I) have a lot to work on at home.12986393_10156731305605537_1082471742_o

My little failure has made me quite philosophical, I have got quite far with Parker with very little extra training and it was going to happen at some time. We picked ourselves up quickly had a lovely rest of the day and I went home with more determination to succeed. One the plus side I’ll never do that again!!!!

 

Also

  •  Parkers little brother Roo was sold and has gone to his new home so Tamara our 11.2 Sec A has moved in with Parker to keep him company. They look so cute together little and large!
  • instagram.jpg You can find us on Instagram as the_next_mane_event
  • I finally committed to a new pair of boots and bought myself a pair of Ariats. I’m totally in love and cant stop looking at them but will be eating beans for months!

The season has begun!!

Woah where to begin?

So this month I bought myself a little horse box. She’s currently not a looker but John is as we speak busy filling, sanding and spraying her to turn an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan! I’ve named her Amy after Amy in the Big Bang Theory because she’s the quirkiest thing I’ve ever driven! She’s got a choke, a strange wobble at 38 miles an hour and a screwdriver to open the petrol cap! But she’s all mine and I’m so excited as she offers me the chance to be independent and take Parker out whenever I want without having to pester and bribe someone to take us which I always feel guilty about!

 

Im still doing E-dressage and had a good January result. We filmed at Sheepgate and I felt he was more focused, we won our class and stayed at the top of the Blue Chip winter league. However… we didn’t have such a great February test. I think he’s feeling fit and fresh and I struggled to get him to focus so a lot of our movements felt tense as he was far more interested in everything going on around the school. We got a reasonable 65.63%. I think that the chance to win the Blue Chip League got to me as I haven’t ever won a long term competition. I put a lot of pressure on both of us and didn’t manage to get the best from him. We still got third in the league out of over a hundred riders so I am immensely proud of Parker. We got a HUGE frillie, a sash and a trophy and I got an email today from Blue Chip telling me more goodies are on their way! It has highlighted to me that I have a physiological issue when it comes to competition and have to work on settling my own nerves before competing to get the best out of Parker.

 

So to Oasby!! I don’t know about everyone else but my goodness the rain was terrible. It rained continuously for the whole of Wednesday, and as our fields began to flood and the ducks began to arrive my heart sank. Thursday was cancelled however the sun made a miraculous return and the ground began to dry up. I don’t know what I was more nervous about, the eventing or driving the horse box there and back! We arrived in one piece Parker seemed to have travelled well (I never went over 35 miles an hour, Sorry anyone in Lincolnshire who got stuck behind me!)

IMG_3159
Parker checking out the box’s living

After walking the course I had to spend 10 minutes trying to calm my nerves not really at the height but at the jumps that involved going up or down like the sunken road which for some reason worry me!

Parker was very excitable during the dressage warm up as he could see part of the cross country course and just couldn’t wait to do that part. I made the mistake of wearing a pair of boots that I haven’t worn before with my dressage saddle and we had some major squeakage which put both of us off big time! The dressage test itself wasn’t horrific there were some nice parts but we had some excitement and an early canter which caused the marks to rack up! We got a clear in the show jumping and then were onto the xc course! We had a blast! All the fears of the jump ups and downs were gone. Parker became big and brave, pulled to get to everything and opened up on the long stretches beautifully until we came to the water. I had to encourage him through the water and over the jump at the end but then we were flying again. It was about then my fitness was called into question I started to struggle to breath and felt a bit wobbly in my stirrups I could feel my heart beating and I honestly was worried about being able to finish but then I saw the last few jumps and something got me over. I thought we’d got through really quickly but unfortunately we got 6 time faults which put us in 7th place not bad for the first event of the season! A little round up of our Oasby adventure!

IMG_3147

I’m waiting to see if I got through the ballot for Norton Disney but in the meantime I’m going to take him to the beach to help both our fitness levels (and reintroduce him to water!) and also take him to some unaffiliated dressage to try and sharpen his focus. Also might have to find myself a new pair of boots that don’t squeak! Hopefully John will have the horse box finished for our next outing!

ANNNNDD Breathe……

Wowsers what a week!

Started on Friday with a trip to Hill House showjumping. We were transported by a local company NR Equine who were lovely and helped me stay calm before jumping! Parker hasnt ever been in an indoor school so this could have gone either way, as it turned out he was such a cool dude and we jumped three clears and even managed to win the 90cm. I noticed with interest the difference in horses between the showjumpers and the eventers (there were a few out!) The eventers tended to be slower and more careful in some rounds I was 3-4 seconds slower than the winners so I suppose something I need to work on would be to work on speed!!!

100_0171

On the pilates front I have joined a class and am going weekly and finding it RIDICULOUSLY hard! The teacher found it very funny how physically fit and strong I am but at the same time how weak my core muscles are! We were performing a move where you lie face down, your arms are stretched out above your head ,and lift up your upper body and I just couldn’t do it!! However I have found my back pain has lessened for a few days after the class so I’m hoping as my body continues to get stronger the pain will stay away!

Parker and I became proud owners of a beautiful Kent and Masters Dressage saddle this week and we took it to Sheepgate to test ride it whilst filming January’s E-Dressage video. I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely happy with either of us we seemed to butt heads quite a bit. I have been think about my riding a lot recently and have come to the conclusion that I am currently at a threshold in my learning.

4stages_learningI am currently very critical of myself and my riding, particularly on the flat. I keep thinking I should be able to do this move better than that and this is affecting my actual ability to ride. Using the four stages of learning model I think im hovering between stage 2 and 3. I look back on my riding a year ago and cringe at my riding as I thought at the time it was brilliant. I realised today how important it is to video regularly as its a great tool for self reflection, and although I wish I was amazing it has helped me to realise how far me and Parker have come and how with practise and dedication hopefully in another year’s time I can look back on videos from now and think wow what a difference.

This week I’ve also found time to spend with the other man in my life! We travelled to Hull and had a wonderful meal at the Michelin starred restaurant the Pipe and Glass and then stayed the night at dog friendly B&B the Boxtree house. Both were amazing and come highly recommended! I have to say I left Yorkshire slightly heavier to say the least. “Sorry Parker!” I think its good to sometimes get away from my horsey life and remind myself that there is a life away from jodhpurs and mud which has helped me relax and be ready to get back to it!

Last on my list this week was a quick jaunt back to Hill Hose to meet Lisa Smith an eventer from ‘p north’ who was holding an arena XC clinic. It was a fantastic experience once again I was told to stop riding so dressage and had to shorten up my reins and have them much more out in front of me. Although the jump height was not huge we worked in approaches to skinnies and corners and how to find a line and jump through a awkward grid of jumps. I was very happy with Parkers work ethic and was so happy with his fitness, we could have carried on for another hour given half a chance.  Lisa seemed to like him telling me that he was intelligent and could work out a lot of the stuff for himself and to stop interfering so much! Looking back on the videos much of our jumping is a bit rough and I got left behind a few times but Parker was bold and had a go at everything!

12650831_10204380647311108_5237192297459765657_n

So thats me done for a while. I’m going back to work to earn some pennies to pay for Parker the money eating machine! (I’m a little skint now!) Oasby has opened so it’s time to enter my first event of the season!

Beating the Winter Blues……

So after a few well deserved weeks off for both me and Parker after competing at Norton Disney, it was back to normal with a dull thud. I felt the familiar feeling of I can’t be bothered creeping into my riding routine. It was always dark or raining or both. Hacking was out of the question unless it was on a day off, galloping was out as it was so wet, Parker was always dirty – who buys a grey? Schooling was too much hard work or the school surface was too boggy ….. I realised then that I needed to change my mindset. The winter Blues were setting in!

This year I’ve worked really hard to keep Parker going strong not just ticking over ready for the beginning of the season. One of the main ways of doing this for me was joining an on-line dressage site called E-dressage. They set a dressage test for you to video and upload, BD judges judge it and you get really good feedback to work on for the next month (and if your lucky a frillie!) Another great thing about on-line dressage is no need for transport and hours of cleaning as although you should look smart they don’t want you in show gear. Since joining E-Dressage I’ve become obsessed with schooling and dressage again. It’s been brilliant and I’ve even had a go at a Novice test which I might not have done out and about. It’s brilliant except on the day the results are published as I’m so competitive I find myself clicking refresh over and over again!

Me and Parkers first attempt at on-line dressage

My plan for January was to get myself stretched out. I promised myself I would work on  my own body to make myself stronger in the core in order to improve my Dressage score. So far this month Parker has had a visit from the equine physio Sarah Harris who told me apart from a few tight spots Parker is beautifully built. I then went to see Laura Payne for physio. She believes I am indeed hyperflexible which sounds brilliant but instead is the cause of my back pain as my muscles are protecting important joints. So I will indeed have to do lots of stretching and pilates in order to strengthen everything! (Boo I just wanted to pay someone to fix me!) Cod liver oil and Aloe Vera Gel on the go. Watch this space!

It’s all about the PANTS! So I was reliably informed by my instructor that full seat breeches would change my life. Once she said this to me I went into full detective mode and got into the weird and wonderful world of dressage pants! I’m always up for trying anything that may help improve my riding so for Christmas this year I have ended up with a pair of gel padded dressage pants, seam free pants and the most amazing faux fur lined under-jod thermal leggings as well as a pair of Ariat full seat breeches.

So a few days after Christmas and giggling insanely to myself  I got dressed in all my Christmas presents and prepared to start riding like Charlotte! Alas although I had a really comfortable ride without any of the possible underwear ‘malfunctions’ my riding didn’t really improve although I am looking forward to our first event to wear the seam free pants, always embarrassing to have VPL!

I have also realised that stressing about not wanting to ride only causes more stress. If I’m really not in the mood Parker doesn’t care as long as he’s warm, fed and has a hug. We’ve done a lot of long distance hacks on days off and to keep me fit trotting in a light seat ah the burn! Parker has been amazing out by himself as we explore the countryside. We have discovered the painted SLOW letters on the road. At first he was’t sure about them and we had to jump over each and any every one. Lucky we can trot over them now!

IMG_3389 (1)

 

 

So now it’s back out to the freezing cold (of course wearing my thermal long johns and all my christmas socks, gloves, hats…) checking the BE website for when the first events open. We have a few weeks of fun planned including some showjumping, an arena eventing clinic at the end of Jan not to forget this months E-Dressage test!

The first event!

 Wow! What a day! We arrived, little old us, amongst all these huge beautiful lorries, as usual a little late. After checking Parker had travelled ok I ran off looking for the course walk mentor that BE had arranged. I felt so overwhelmed by the size of the venue as I’ve never been to anything other than very small local shows! After eventually finding the cross country course I headed into the course and caught up with the group. The mentor Sue Ringrose was excellent, giving tips on angles to take fences in order to line up for the following fence, places where time could be made up, and places where horses might like to run out. Looking at the jumps I felt a little sick – less at the height and more at the width!

First stage dressage deep breath we can do this!! We warmed up nicely and were very calm. Parker looked with interest at dressage arenas on grass which he thought was a little odd. The dressage was a mixed bag. It wasn’t terrible, but as in BE you aren’t allowed to carry a whip we were a little under powered and did a few dodgy corners. But we got through and didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Anyway, brilliant thing about eventing: no time to dwell. Onto the showjumping!!

The showjumping warm up was a relaxed nice big open space and three nice simple jumps to pop over. Parker being Parker obviously refused the first practise jump. Nothing like routine! The round went so quickly and we had a few cat leaps over the scarier jumps much to the commentators delight (I heard the crowd laugh as she commented on our unusual style!) but we got a clear!!!



It was a quick trip back to the trailer for a complete change and a quick snack before heading out to the cross country warm up. On the way I heard that I had got a decent dressage score and was currently in the top five with some scores still to come in. Talk about pressure! Once again we refused our first practise fence but I’m starting to understand this is something he does! I watched a few riders head out and noticed a lot were having trouble with the very first fence. It wasn’t very inviting and looked a little fake. I was told to enter the starting box and off we went. As predicted Parker look a good look at the first fence however my friend Tori’s favourite phrase entered my head ‘if in doubt kick and shout’ so a quick pony club kick and a GET ON! And we were off. I can honestly say those 4 minutes and 45 seconds were the best of my life! We galloped along and jumped everything in front of us, Sue’s words of wisdom came rushing back just at the right time! It was the oddest sensation to keep hearing my own name being called out over the tannoy telling people which jumps we were up too. About two fences to the end my legs began to give out and I had to summon everything to keep going but we got home and Parker greeted everyone with a whinny like he had just come back from a stroll around the lanes! Me however I had to fall in a sweaty heap and was struggling to breathe. However we had done it and from what I could make out had jumped clear!

   After cooling the beasty down and returning him safely to the trailer I was excited to see where we had come. Much to my shock we had got 7th out of a section of thirty! We had had 8 time faults (probably due to my shaking legs and gasping for air) but 7th! I was so proud of my little man he was amazing! Our first time out and we have a better idea of what we need to work on over the winter to come out next year as strong as possible!!!  The thing I couldn’t get over was how supportive everyone was of one another, there was a lot of congratulations and laughing which I thought was wonderful sportsmanship!


Well me and Parker are having two weeks off before we come up with our winter plan!!

This first event is dedicated to my wonderful friend Tori who lost her beautiful mare Pollyanna. Tori lent me her cross country colours and gave me so much advice in the run up to Norton Disney! Polly defiantly galloped around the course with us! Thanks Tor!! Xx

Countdown to Disney….

maxresdefault

Not that Disney!!

So after being inspired by Charlotte Brear and Manor Missile at Burghley to start eventing I needed to actually enter my first event.

Before entering I thought I had better try to jump at a competition otherwise it might be a very expensive dressage test! I entered a local competition and was so pleased with him we came home with a 2nd in the 60cm, 6th in 70cm and 4th in 80cm. We had a few poles down (mainly my fault) got the experience of jumping in a competition and even  had a go at some jump off style riding!

There is quite a long process in order to enter an event you must register yourself, buy day membership, register the horse, buy a training pass and then finally enter your competition. I was convinced that I hadn’t entered properly as I had left it (like everything) to the last minute and had to send a little email to the events secretary to check she had got my entry!

We have only had time for one lesson with Diana over any jumps since entering which was great fun and ended with us going down a nice sized grid with a knot in my reins and my arms stretched out. A year ago I wouldnt have trusted Parker to not refuse or run out but times have changed!

I also needed to have a go at cross country before the big day so I hired a local course and strong armed a friend of mine Sonia into taking me and coaching me over the fences. I realise now I am a wuss and cross country jumps seem alot more solid when your cantering up to them, however Parker made light work of the 90cm jumps and thanks to Sonia and her gentle reminding that once again im not doing dressage and to keep my hands together we ended up having a wonderful afternoon galloping through the water and jumping the scary coffins.

IMG_3203

As the competition has got closer and closer ive been getting more and more nervous I got a text two days ago with my start times for each phase, Gulp!

All going well I hope to have a great day…. all going well!!

Fingers Crossed!!

Showing off…

So it’s Saturday afternoon, I looked across the field and my heart sinks as Parker wandered passed with huge patches of well I tried not to think what he’s been rolling in now. Lucky I had my amazing groom Charlotte helping me and together we scrubbed, groomed, rinsed & scrubbed again until he resembled a respectable horse. I have to say I cheated ever so slightly and used the supreme product for leg whitening and painted his legs white, left him for the night in his onesie, a rug and bandaged up to the eyeballs with my fingers crossed that he didn’t find something to roll in!


6am rolled round and I crept into parkers stable to see the damage…. Amazingly he was clean all over, I swore and sweated as I plaited up, a job I hate but it was made easier with my nettex plaiting spray and we were ready to hack to the show as we took some of the riding school ponies and kids with us.

It was a brilliant show very relaxed for his first showing show which is very different from a dressage competition with all the prams, dogs, and loose ponies! We did a few in hand shows as when I first bought Parker he was terrified of trotting in hand I suspect that he had been chased up and didn’t trust the person running beside him. With a lot of work we can now trot up, something that is nessicary for eventing as you have to trot your horse up at the start for the vet to inspect that your horse is sound to enter. The judge wasn’t overly impressed with his trotting though as he is still wary and doesn’t trot very fast. (We did some cantering in hand instead) The ridden showing was much better we won a few classes and took reserve ridden champion. We also won the dressage with a great score of 75%.


Today was a great test of Parkers ability to concentrate with so much going on plus he showed how patient  he can be waiting for his classes to be called. Once again my awesome groom Charlotte ran round after me getting my bits a bobs ( at one point we came out on in hand and had an all change to get back in to the  ridden ring and I had my hat, Spurs, saddle and reins waiting for me!) she held Parker whenever I needed to dash off for one thing or another oh did I mention she’s 8?


(Check out those white legs remember I painted them Saturday night)

Our first event opens next week so must remember to enter!!

Motivate me!

The cold dark nights are beginning to draw in and im starting to feel tired and struggling to stay motivated to ride. Its not only the riding though. At one of our recent competitions Parker felt sluggish so I asked a nutritionist what I could do to increase his stamina with out putting on to much weight as he is errmmm… naturally rounder she suggested Alpha A without molasses, an oil and pink powder since being on this twice a day he has been on top form. Me however I eat rubbish when I actually remember to eat and drink nothing but tea. I think eventing will be a strain on my body and at the moment I feel im the weak link. I have an old injury in my back and have a weak back so I think I should start pilates which I tried during the summer and left me feeling positive.  I have an ongoing niggling problem in my right arm which I have been having physio on. So my big plan now is to eat healthy, go swimming and generally look after myself and hope that also helps me want to ride more!!  Would love to know how other people have a competition horse and a full time job!

IMG_2467

In other news we have a fun showing show on Sunday that I now need to get the filthy beast ready for…..