Monday, May 28, 2012

Bromont preparation

Liberty and I earlier this year at Pine Top, GA.
Bromont is a little over a week away and I've well and truly entered the scary end of a three day preparation. This year I've decided to leave Cole at home (we're making some great progress with his dressage and will continue that focus) and I am riding Liberty. In his preparation last year he was injured in an unfortunate clipping accident that left him out of action for the rest of the year. He's come back super strong and has performed very well at his lead up events with some top results. Tomorrow he will gallop for his second last time, then on Thursday a jump lesson followed by a final gallop on Sunday. I'm very fortunate to have access to a state of the art gallop track which takes some of the stress out of the gallops. Some, but not all! This final 10 days before any three day is highly nerve wracking with no time to really change anything in your prep, you can merely put the final touches on! Most of my dreams are filled withs images of enlarged tendons, foot abscesses and runaway horses. Not good for ones sleep patterns!! This weekend I have Wonderful Waredaca with Hot Reels, Fine Art and Lightning. Hot Reels is a really nice young horse who I've very much enjoyed competing, his owner will take over the reins from next week. Fine Art is with me as his regular jockey recovers from a very broken arm. And Lightning is with me to gain some experience before his owner jumps back on. I love being involved with this horse as I originally bought him out of a field in WV where he his life definitely wasn't on the improve. After we produced him, Julie then bought him and has kept me involved with his career. She won a showjumping competition on him last weekend.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Fair Hill

This weekend I had six horses at Fair Hill's end of Spring event. Having been here only five weeks ago, I was expecting basically the same courses. I couldn't have been more wrong! Each level was well and truly at the toughest end of the spectrum and beautifully dressed up. EG the novice had to jump a cabin landing with one stride into water then a bank out! I had horses at each level so I got to see each first hand. Cole jumped very well around the cross country to end up 4th. Liberty did an uncharacteristically poor dressage but then jumped two super double clears. He's feeling very good and I'm looking forward to Bromont with him, he'll be very competitive. The three novice horses were good: Smokey scored a 28 in the dressage. Lightning showjumped like a star and Fudge finished on a 30. The scores haven't been posted so I can't see where he ended up.... Unfortunately Ron and I had a tumble in the water after he overreached on landing. Both of us are fine, just quite annoyed as he was jumping really well up to that point. I have posted a video of Liberty cross country below.
Thank you to the organisers of the event for running it so smoothly and thank you to my owners who keep me in the game!

Monday, May 14, 2012


Lessons are a vital part of any riders life. This applies to everyone regardless of level, from beginners to Olympic riders. This is a truth I've been aware of since my first trainer had me on the lunge line  at 5 years of age on my first pony, Bluey. Since then I've had many lessons varying in consistency and quality. Initially the goal was to keep me from falling off my pony. That achieved, we moved onto rising trot. At this point my ultimate goal was to be able to canter and perhaps compete in the Grand National just like in National Velvet. So I started cantering. Bluey then understood my Grand National goals and took it into her owns hands/hooves to teach me the gallop we would need if I were to win whilst competing against the 17hh monster thoroughbreds on my little 12.2hh Welsh Pony mare. She did this by bolting from the bottom of the paddock back to the house. I thought this was wonderful, the adults did not. SO annoying. Back on the lunge we went, for what seemed like ETERNITY. It was probably only a few weeks or a few days, but when you're five that amount of time is actually quite long in relation to the amount of time you've been alive!  I think it was at this point I started to see lessons as a necessary evil, something that must be done in order to improve but not to be enjoyed. Now, 20 something years later, I'm just starting to see differently.
Even through Pony Club I saw my lessons as the evil one must do in order to prove you have enough control of your pony to be allowed to jump or do games. It didn't help that my second pony, Princess, was very inappropriately named. She-Devil or Killer would have been more suitable names. The pony club trainers viewed us as a lost cause and often treated us as such, basically if I didn't fall off I was allowed to go and jump with the other kids. I was even allowed on the odd occasion to go thru the 'jump lane'! This involved taking away our stirrups and reins, lining our ponies up in chute, smacking them on the bottom and yelling 'heels down', 'eyes up' while we galloped uncontrollably thru a line of jumps. This is actually one of my favourite memories! A little while later I graduated to a bigger, faster horse called Apollo. With him I developed a love for going even faster, now adding in cows (we loved campdrafting) and xc jumps. All of my training at this point had been thru the pony club. By now my parents saw I wasn't going to stop riding so they got me some lessons privately. Money was in VERY short supply in my house so I'm eternally grateful to them for doing this. I like to think they did it to give me some education, however I think they actually did it as a form of health insurance. Particularly after I built a xc course in the paddock and timed myself to see how fast I could do it. Then devoted several weeks to beating each 'record' I set.
By now I had given up on my Grand National aspirations, who was I kidding that I would be able to do that? Plus the movie International Velvet had just made it to TV and I'd decided on a different career path, international eventer! I renamed Apollo, he became Pie (anyone who's seen the movie will understand) and we practiced our winning xc round over and over and over again. At some point I realised dressage was a part of eventing, I also realised I wasn't very good at xc and realised the showjump rails weren't going to keep themselves up. So I got a job (I was 13 now, perfectly legal in Australia) and started investing in more lessons.
This brings me back to the point of the story: I've had many lessons from many trainers. Some great eg: Heath Ryan (inspiration, builder of careers), Rozzie Ryan (dressage extraordinaire and most patient woman in the world), Vicki Roycroft (just the one but boy did it stick!), Wayne Roycroft (I've never felt so small and big at the same time), Prue Barrett (just the one but genius), Craig Barrett (genius also), Martina Hannover-Sternberg (o to ride like her), Boyd Martin (whom I worked for, learnt a lot about riding and a LOT about life!), Phillip Dutton (still working with as often as money allows), Marilyn Meredith-Little (taught me how to jump BIG jumps). There are other trainers who I learnt good and bad things from but the thing that I had never acheived in a lesson was enjoyment or pleasure. Not once was I happy with a lesson, not once have I looked forward to one, not once did I look back on one thinking it was successful. I saw them as a time where I was being judged and told what I was bad at. I know that's the point of a lesson but I saw that as failing. And each time I went to a lesson I would be failing at something. Just recently something weird happened. I was on my way to a lesson with Phillip (it's a two hour drive, great thinking time) and found myself looking forward to it. So I went with it and told myself how much fun it would be. Lo and behold I've never learnt so much in one go! And afterwards more of the lesson sank in. On the way home I made a mental note to myself to remember that. Then at my next lesson I went in with the same view. I think I've now started to enjoy learning and am not ashamed that I don't have ALL the answers. One small step for me, one giant leap for learning!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

MCTA Advanced

MCTA is on of my favourite events: great organisers, super course and close to my barn! I had 6 horses competing from novice thru to advanced. Smokey was super coming second. Ron jumped beautifully finish third. Cole was 6th in the advanced. I took it easy on both Liberty and Charmer. Liberty as he's already had a super season, they can't run for time at every event. And Charmer as it's her first time at this level since Millbrook last year. She felt as tho she would have happily jumped the intermediate!

I was VERY happy with the way Cole jumped around. One of only three clears in the showjumping, he really showed the benefit of the jumper shows and lessons. On the cross country he again jumped really well. The scoreboard will show two runouts at the second last combination on course. But I really don't feel as tho that was an accurate picture of how he actually jumped. He read the tough double corners very well. He jumped thru the water extremely well (you'll see in the video below, a little unnecessary encouragement from me), the bounce upbank super. The coffin felt like a schooling exercise. The only problem occured at the fence line, back into the main field, which was then two strides to a brush skinny. The placement of the skinny meant jumping the fenceline at an acute angle. In my efforts to jump the skinny well I think I under rode the fenceline in and had a very cheap runout. The same thing happened on the second approach. I then realised I was too focussed on the skinny and just rode the first fence. He then jumped super. That's the hard thing with riding at this level, it only takes one small mistake. He finished feeling a lot more grown up and full of confidence. And I finished slightly kicking myself but also really happy that he definitely feels as tho he belongs at advanced, he loves his job. I'm the first person to be tough on myself and I'm terrified of failure, but I couldn't help but be happy with him! I've had rides (on other horses) where I really thought I would end up with a visit to the hospital but managed to get around clear and claim ribbons. Then there are rides like Cole's today where the scoreboard doesn't look as good but it was a really beneficial round that rode really well. So I'm kicking myself a little bit but am not going to lose any sleep over it. In every horses career there are ups and downs, sometimes the downs actually turn out to be ups!

Thank you to my owners who entrust me with their wonderful horses. To Chloe for making sure the horses are prepared. Heather for running the barn. And my students who provide me with an income to keep pursuing my dreams.

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