Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Depressurising.

It's no secret I put a lot of pressure in myself to do well, and be the best I can. There is nothing wrong with that at all. It's healthy and motivating and mostly a good thing. Except that sometimes I go a bit too far, push too hard and expect too much, inevitably falling short of my own expectations.

This seems to be getting both better and worse as I get older. Better because I know what I can do better, what went wrong, and am overall better at self assessment. Worse because I constantly set the bar higher and higher.

This came to a head this year, when I was pushing myself to do better, my results were generally reflecting improvement, but not to the extent I was happy with. In my mind I should have consistently been finishing in the top 10, yet I was still down the bottom of the score board. Added to that was pressure to get my young horse out competing and doing well.

Trying to juggle my own expectations and judging myself against other people and their progress resulted in constant disappointment and stress, making competing not so much fun, even though I was trying to put a lot of tools in place to prevent that. Thrown into the mix was feeling like I just didn't have time to ride both horses productively and enjoy it like I should.

Things got a lot worse when I fell off Henry. He had hardly been worked and we were up at pony club. He wasn't really bad, he just caught me at the wrong time and I hit the deck. I got right back on and kept working but it shook me.

I found myself not wanting to ride, feeling afraid to ride and having that affect my rides on Coolie too. I was feeling unprepared for everything and I was struggling. I knew something had to give.

I decided to sell Henry. I thought long and hard about it, and finally decided it would be the best option for everyone. Being scared sucks, and I am in general a fairly confident rider but I just wasn't feeling like the rider Henry needed me to be. I listed him for sale and I got quite a few messages abut him (why does no one call anymore, UGH!).

People would ask a billion questions and then want to arrange to come and see him. Then just stop responding. A lot of people who contacted me were not a good match. And through all this, I was riding Henry consistently. I took the pressure off myself. I started to have fun again. I found myself not watching to sell him.

All of a sudden I had a desire to ride my horse, take him out, push ourselves out of our comfort zone. That feeling had been missing for so long and suddenly it was back. By wanting to sell, I took the pressure off. I revised my expectations and started to just enjoy things again.

It's not been smooth sailing since this point. I have been tested thoroughly, but last weekend I rediscovered my confidence and something in my head has shifted. There is so much work to do to keep improving my own head space but I feel more positive and confident. I trust my abilities and it's a really good feeling.

Safe to say Henry is no longer for sale and is staying for the foreseeable future!


Monday, 12 November 2018

Henry the Adventurer

Shameless mushy gush post ahead. I have no regrets.

This weekend Henry went on all the adventures! Saturday we headed out to my friend Tahlia's place for a ride. It was Henry's first time over there and I think he rather enjoyed himself. He was very interested in these little horses who chase cows, but they weren't very interested in him.

We headed out into the bush and had a very relaxing ride. We crossed the creek, cantered up hills and bush bashed through some scrubby trees. Henry was pretty happy to be out doing the thing, and then enjoyed some paddock time while Tahlia and I caught up some more over a cup of tea... and then lunch... and then while we stood outside... By then Henry was like Muuuummmm can we go home now? It was 3.30 and we had been there all day!

Sunday Henry and I headed out again, this time to a competition! I manned up recently and entered thinking it was only going to be a small show. It ended up bigger than I thought with 3 dressage arenas and a show jumping arena packed in to a pretty small space. I was pretty nervous about it, but determined to do our best and not to let nerves get the better of me.

Henry unloaded from the float and I took him for a walk to look at the busy arenas. He watched for about 2 seconds before going on the hunt for grass. I immediately felt a lot better about things. I took him back ad popped him in his yard, and started getting things organised and plaiting him up. He stood like a champ, happily eating and it took me no time at all.

Andrew headed over to the show jumping and soon enough it was time to get ready. I hopped on and Henry felt nervous but nothing more. I walked him around the warm up with other people jumping and dressgaeing and cantering past us. He was alert but he listened so well and relaxed when I added more leg. We had a brief trot then we were up!

Henry was such a champ. He trotted, he cantered, he jumped! He was adjustable and listening and really on the job. It was a cute round, probably slow but we did canter and I finished feeling on top of the world. You couldn't have wiped the smile from my face if you tried. I was so unbelievably proud of my horse, and myself. We kept it all together and did the thing.

Andrew sent me a message, why don't you try the 60? So I raced to the office and swapped my dressage test for a 60cm jumping round. Who likes dressage anyway? And raced back to throw Henry's tack back on.

This time he was far more relaxed about everything and while the jumps looked big (hilarious since I happily jump Coolie so much bigger!) I was feeling good about things.

We headed into the arena to present to the judge and as we approached some well meaning poeple started putting up a gazebo for the judge before I could ask them to leave it. The wind caught the tarp and poor Henry got a huge fright, spooked, spun and flicked me off. i landed on my feet held the reins and calmed him down.

We waited for them to finish (I glared at them and had a few words about it!) and then we hopped back on and got on with things. Henry was far more unsettled and I couldn't quite get his focus back to where it needed to be. He jumped the jumps but was a lot more spooky and reactive, he tried his little heart out though and we got around.

I could not be more pleased with how Henry handled himself at this show. It was really very busy, the arenas were all on top on one another, the warm ups were small and yet he went around like he'd done it his whole life. it was a huge boost to our confidence and I know next time I will feel even better about taking him out.

I was a little nervous but handled myself well, and even falling off didn't put me off riding. Henry was such a good boy, and I think he is actually easier to take out than Coolie. People are always surprised when I tell them he is only 4!

I love my little baby horse, he is turning into such a gem. I can't believe he is 5 next week!




Friday, 9 November 2018

Summer plans

Summer is nearly here and that means it's the off season. In terms of going out and doing stuff, I have no plans. I actually don't want to do anything and I am planning on scheduling a weekend of doing nothing, away from the house, where I don't feel guilty about not cleaning.

I have many plans in terms of the horses training and what I want to be doing with them to improve them both. One of the big things I want to change is their way of going. Both of them are down hill, and need to learn to lift through their shoulders. Both of them need more topline. Both of them need to get better into the contact. Both of them need a more consistent rider, because a lot of the issues they have are down to me.

I have big plans for Coolie next year, and I intend to spend summer preparing for them. I have hopes for Henry but refuse to put pressure on either of us. What ever happens happens, but I want him to improve and be ready for when we are ready to go out and make waves. I want to take a horse out who has the best possible foundation to build on.

So that means loads of homework, which I am pretty excited about. Coolie has had an easy couple of week while I have let him have some downtime after our last comp and focused on Henry. Next week though he is coming back to work for project topline.

For Coolie this is going to involve lots of walking up hills in a long and low frame, pole work, and walking through the water at the beach. I want to make it fun and varied so I am going to put together a schedule and make sure we get to the beach multiple times, I'd like to make it there once a fortnight.

Henry is going to be doing hill work and pole work, plus his normal work. His topline has improved a heap already recently so he is on track. For him it is still all about building his foundation up and getting those basics firmly installed. My other summer project for Henry is cross country training! That's high up on the list and have a few ideas about getting him out with some friends.

In general this summer is going to be about relaxing and preparing the horses for next season, keeping them fit and ticking over but relaxing their bodies and their brains. They will most likely have some easy weeks, and time off but neither of them is getting a proper holiday as they will both get a month off next March/April.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Confidence

After my first lesson with Jonna, I was determined to ride better and be more present. I woke up on Saturday with a completely different mind set, determined and confident.

Henry was feeling full of beans despite having worked hard the evening before. I warmed Henry up, expecting Jonna to want to hop on but after a quick walk, trot and canter we got right to jumping.

Henry was feeling very responsive to all the aides but still a little bit like he wanted to buck. I kept him forward and cantered towards our first fence. Jonna wanted us to halt right after the first jump, Henry felt a bit backed off so I supported him with my leg and he got a good spot and jumped well, and halted promptly on the other side.We came around again and his time his halt was even sharper.


Third time around, Jonna had us continue to the second fence and I felt I needed a transition on the other side so brought him back to a walk. Fourth time around and we got it spot on. Added bonus I was feeling super confident and happy to push the boundaries. If he felt a bit like he was going to buck, I just pushed him forward and got on with life. The tuned up from Jonna was showing through, and Henry was responding to tiny changes I was making, which sure made my job easy.

Jonna had us revisit the bounce. We did it 3 times and kiddo was perfect each time. Jonna was pleased that Henry knew what was being asked of him and he didn't worry abut it at all, maintaining the same approach and departure at the jump.

Next up we approached the double from the opposite direction, the direction Henry was more reactive to the night before. Again, Jonna had me halt between the fences the first time, and second time around we kept going, Henry felt awesome and popped over well, and maintained a good canter away from the jump.

First time though in the corner after the jump Henry had a little pig root. I immediately half halted and sent him forward. We came through the jumps again and he didn't do it again. We successfully deleted the behaviour. He then tried to do it on the long side so again I sent him forward.


I'd just like to point out that previously I have been too scared to do this. Saturday though, I got on with it, having a bit of faith in my horse and my ability.

We had a quick walk break and Jonna adjusted some more jumps for us. Next we tackled a small jump made of blocks. I showed it to Hen first and then came around and kiddo cantered over perfectly. We repeated and I got him to a better spot, then we kept going around to the second jump of the double which he popped with no trouble.


This video is from Friday, Andrew was doing show jumping things all day Saturday and sadly missed my lesson

Next we jumped a related line with about a million stride between the 2 jumps. Henry had a nice forward canted and when we landed I sat up and put my shoulders back, he steadied and we kept cantering to the second fence. He did really well down the line and we repeated it again, just making some small adjustments to get things better.
Look at his little face!

We walked again before tackling the blocks and the related line from the other direction. Henry tackled the blocks well and as we were cantering towards the related line I had this amazing feeling that this horse was not green, that he was a horse I'd want to compete on and despite everything we have been through I felt like I could handle anything he threw at me and I felt like I do when I ride Coolie.


Kid jumped the related line ok from the other direction, he was light off my aides but a bit wobbly between the fences. I supported him more on our second time around and again just asked him to pay more attention. After the second time though Jonna and I had a chat and he said the way I was riding was perfect. I was with my horse and making good decisions. He said the second time through I ask Henry first if he was listening with a half halt and the second time I asked him to change his rhythm. He said I gave Henry the perfect ride.

We tackled that line one more time and then called it a day.

This lesson was completely different to the one on Friday night.  I felt confident, and I supported my horse properly. I rode forward when I needed to and I could smile and laugh during my ride. I didn't feel at all nervous at any point and it was a ver productive session.

I feel like for the first time in a very log time I trust my own ability I know I can ride and that I wont cone off. I trust my horse too. I trust my coaches.

My lessons were both very different but equally productive. I needed them both to see how much I am capable of, and that I can push my horse and handle his antics. My lessons were tough but I needed them.

It was very productive to watch Jonna ride Henry. All it took was 5 minutes and Jonna had him sorted, plus I could see that Hen is harmless. My near miss showed me I could stay on in most situations.

My confidence has bene building slowly for a while but these lessons sealed the deal. I feel like I can continue with my horse and have some fun. I feel like I can handle him no matter the situation and that I can trust myself as a horse person, that I have the tools to sort any issues out.

It was an incredible 2 lessons, and I feel so positive!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Near miss

Friday evening Henry and I had another lesson with Jonna. After nearly 2 weeks off from his abscess, he has been feeling rather fresh so it was quite good timing that Jonna was in Perth again. I only have 2 lessons this time round, one with Henry and one with Coolie, both jumping.

After tacking up Henry and I went for a walk down the road while the lesson before us finished. Once in the arena, we saw Jonna had some very interesting exercises set up, all of them very challenging.

We warmed up, and popped a little cross rail I made Jonna put down to get us in the groove. Then Jonna had us trot into a bounce. Henry has only seen a bounce once before and first time through his legs went everywhere! Second time through he didn't make that mistake again and fairly jumped me out of the tack. We passed through a number of times, with Jonna gradually increasing the height of the jumps, until the back rail was at about 90(!).

Look at his cute little form. He's really working this stuff out

Once we got the bounce down both reins Jonna had us start on the left rein, go over the bounce and turn left into a 2 stride. First time though I cut the corner, didn't support Henry enough and he barley made it over the first jump. We came around again and I gave him a much better ride, and he pinged all the jumps well, just rushing out of the double.

We then came through the double from the other direction and it was a mess to say the least. I gave Henry a bad ride again, didn't support him enough and he jumped the first fence before drifting left and not making it to the second fence, nearly ditching me in the process. I was sure I was a goner but sheer will power kept me on the saddle. I recommend watching the video!


I got myself back into the saddle and came around again and Henry popped it fine, but he was rattled and running. Jonna had me sharpen my halts, and then come through again, this time getting a good ride. Henry was feeling fairly bucky at this point, and I halted him when he got a little too expressive. Halting is only half the job though, as Jonna explained.  have to follow up by going forward after the halt. This is the hardest thing, and I found myself struggling to do so.

Jonna really wanted me to take Henry for a really forward canter but between him being extra fresh during the week and my near miss during the lesson, I was struggling to push him forward. I did a lap in a forward-ish canter and then Jonna told me to hand the reins to him.

Jonna hopped on and Henry wasn't sire what he was in for. Jonna immediately got him moving forward, and popped him over some jumps. If Henry rushed, or got a bit pig-rooty, he halted an sent him straight forward again, It looked messy, but Jonna's timing was perfect, not confusing Henry at all.

If Henry rushed, Jonna halted and then sent him forward, and kept him thinking forward to the jumps. It was great to watch someone else ride Henry, he is looking good! It was also good to see that even with a lot of pressure Henry didn't respond with the same amount of pressure, he gave in and got on with what was being asked. It was very reassuring and a good reminder that I bought this horse for a reason.

Jonna tuned Henry up quite quickly and jumped a few fences before we called it a day. He gets to come back for lesson number 2 tomorrow instead of Coolie. We need a follow up session and Jonna will ride him again and so will I.


Weirdly I wasn't afraid duding any of the lesson, I was just struggling to make myself want to push forward. I know I needed to but I just wasn't sure I could. Watching Jonna and seeing how to do it and how Henry reacted was great for my confidence and I was really looking forward to improving the next day.

It was a tough lesson, and it had a lot of learning curves but it's been brewing under the surface for a while and I am pleased it all came out with Jonna here.




Monday, 29 October 2018

Brigadoon CNC - Show jumping and cross country

Well, that is the last event for the season over and I am feeling rather sad about it. The event didn't end the way I had hoped but that's horses!

Coolie and I had SJ up first, and the course was very twisty with lots of changes of direction, a real challenge to see if we could land on the correct lead after every fence. Coolie was feeling quite spooky warming up, but he jumped well and after a few practice fences we waited our turn.

Approaching the judges caravan Coolie decided it was going to eat him so there was much sideways prancing and eye balling going on, but he got over himself pretty quickly when he knew we had to jump the jumps.

I have to say, it was the best course we have ever done. I rode forward, we got great spot's and Coolie landed on the correct lead every time! A couple of times where I wanted to woah, I added more leg and got Coolie to a good spot, I definitely rode forward and the reward was a perfect clear round.

To say I was happy was an understatement, two great phases down, and just XC to go. I was really looking forward to XC and couldn't wait to get out there. While we waited for our time, I helped my friends warm up for their XC, watched some SJ and then there was a pretty serious fall on XC. That pushed my start time back by about an hour while we waited for 2 ambulances and the helicopter to arrive. Thankfully I think the rider will be ok, and the horse walked away.

Finally I got on, and warming up Coolie felt his usual self. He was jumping well and feeling adjustable. I jumped a few fences and the waited, keeping him moving. The only thing that I really noted was that he slipped around a corner quite badly, but he recovered and kept warming up feeling ok.

We got into the start box and again Coolie was feeling spooky, but that isn't too unusual for him. The starter counted us down and I rode forward out of the box to jump 1 which had caused a few issues. Coolie was super back off and it took a lot of effort to get him over jump one. Not normal for Coolie. I rode hard to jump 2 which although he still  wasn't as forward he jumped ok. He came around to jump 3 and about 6 strides out he said no. I put my leg on and tapped him with the crop but he continued to say no and we had a refusal. We represented and once again he said no. Really odd behaviour. Third time around and he jumped it but he didn't feel right. Number 4 was a combination and he jumped the A element way too big and I knew we wouldn't get to B because I didn't have my normal horse with me. At that point I decided to retire, and we walked home.
Shiny, but not that spooky!
Untacking him I was pretty disappointed but confident I had made the right choice. XC is our strongest phase, my horse does not stop. It's just not him. I checked him over and couldn't find anything amiss so decided to keep an eye on him and chalked it up to just one of those days. Jump 3 was fairly spooky, the sun was behind it and reflecting off it, but that doesn't explain 2 stops. I knew I rode into it well, I was committed to the fence. He has jumped that jump before too. 

My coach was surprised too, she was TDing and I caught up with her after my round. She wondered if he had pulled something. We packed up and headed home and when I unloaded Coolie, he had lost a shoe. One thing I hadn't check was his shoes! The shoe was in the float, so it had been on when we left. I think when he slipped in the warm up it was enough to dislodge the shoe and make galloping and landing uncomfortable for him, but not enough that I could feel it.

I'm hoping that's all that it is and now he has his shoe back on he will be back to his normal old self. I just wish it hadn't happened at the last event of the season!

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Brigadoon CNC - Dressage

What's this? A mid event post?! 

Dressage day today! Before Coolie and i could get our event on, Henry and I had to go back to the vet. His abscess is healing well and he gets his shoe back on on Monday morning, so hopefully we can crack on!

Luckily it didn't take too long and we were home in no time, where a swapped horses and headed off to Brigadoon. I planned to get there with lots of time to spare so I could faff about and take my time getting ready. Andrew was always there doing show jumping stuff so I found him, got my number, finished plaiting and slowly got ready.

I had planned on getting on about 45 minutes before my test. Andrew was helping organise my stuff when he asked where my boot were... that's when I realised they were at home! Thank god fo my mum, she is a true life saver. Andrew rang her and she grabbed my boots and headed over. Thankfully I still had about half an hour up my sleeve and got on to warm up. 

Mum got a bonus dressage test, and it was a good one. Worth staying for! After a good warm up Coolie and I entered the arena feeling confident. He was relaxed, forward and working well into the contact.

Other than a few little moments where the flies got to him, it was a lovely test. It was accurate, flowed well and it felt great! I was very pleased.

I have no idea what we scored yet, I'm not checking until I am done riding tomorrow. I'm just enjoying my weekend!

After unplaiting Coolie and packing all our stuff away, I walked the cross country course. It looks fun, and all the jumps look small. I was looking at the 105 as I walked and I wish I was doing it. All the 105 jumps looked great and very do able. I am feeling pretty pleased about that and am now seriously thinking about my upgrade next season. I think we are ready!
Even this looks small!

The course is fairly straight forward with a few combinations. Lots of galloping fences, and it looks like it will be nice and flowing. A great course to gallop on!

Tomorrow we have show jumping up first and then XC at about 1. It's going to be warm again, but hopefully there will be a breeze like there was today. Everything looks lovely on the course and I can't wait!