Thursday, 21 February 2019

Busting!

Wednesday Jump Day! What better way to throw out that midweek blues than to get some airtime?

I set my course on Monday knowing that I wouldn't have time late int he week, and I put out lots of fill for Henry. I want him to be really prepped for his upcoming shows. As I was setting the jumps, I realise it would be really handy to have 2 extra sets of jump stands, and an extra set of cavalletti blocks. I have a set of heavy metal wings which are fine, but awkward and not the safest so I would like to replace them one day. My lighter stands make life so much easier!
These ones! Not complaining too loud, they were free. 

For once I decided to ride Coolie first and I made the decision to ride him in his dressage bridle. Usually I jump him in a universal bit, and use rings on his breast plate but he doesn't love that bit and I want him more into the contact when we jump, especially over show jumps. At home this is generally fine, but I want him to be responsive enough at shows to use his snaffle. He will never go XC in a snaffle though, far too much adrenaline!

Well, pony was on FIRE. I kept the jumps low, and worked on riding forward to the jumps and his adjustability in the softer bit. He was really good, listening well for the most part. He was nice and responsive, bu my aides definitely feel more muffled in this bit. It's an odd feeling, like he can hear me but it's fuzzy. It's something we will work on more, and I will aim to show him in his snaffle when we go jumping next in a few weeks.
Ah Mum, dis jump too small, k?

Over all he felt really good, and jumped well. I think he needs slightly bigger jumps to really focus on and I was having a hard time getting me right, but it wasn't too bad. He felt like a fat pony next to sleek, tall Henry! Poor fellow, he's actually very sporty!

Henry was second and he warmed up fine, though not as on my aides as normal. We started trotting very a very small cross rail and he was a bit backed off, but I put it down to the cones at the base. He jumped fine though, if a little less energetic than normal. We gradually built up the course and he was fine, but really not with me. Usually he is so into jumping and last night he was really hard to keep together and not in front of my leg at all. It was really hard work.

He knocked a few rails and I thought maybe the jumps were too small, although they were all set to about 65cm. So not huge, but not too tiny. He jumped new fill with a bit more enthusiasm but still not his normal self. I was starting to get a bit worried although there was nothing obviously wrong. After a few good curses we called it a day and I was feeling it, having worked hard to ride my beast.
This is new, and normally would result in a lot more air...

I hopped off and Henry immediately did a HUGE pee. Poor boy had been busting! I wouldn't want to jump with a full bladder either. Hopefully next time we jump he wont need to go so bad...
Pictured: me working way too hard. 

Oh, and even with a full bladder and minimal effort, Henry still makes jumps feel tiny. I need to remember that!
At least the jumps look too small for him!

Monday, 18 February 2019

Limbo

Life recently has been quiet. It's been hot, so horsey activities haven't been as prevalent as previous summers. Plus we have a 4 week holiday coming up at a rather awkward time for competing so things have been going along quietly without much excitement.
Lots of pretty views though

That's not to say there hasn't been much riding because there has been lots of riding, just not many adventures, competitions or lessons. Instead we have been putting the hard yards in at home, working on transitions, self carriage, lateral work and learning the new tests. There has been plenty to get on with.

It's been nice to have a break and not have any big events to focus on, and I have found myself with more time to focus on both of the horses equally. Henry has a big month in March planned, with an outing nearly every week. It's been useful to use this downtime to really work on getting him ready to event.
Look at him go!

Henry has appreciated this extra attention, and has been coming along in leaps and bounds. He is happy in his work and a regular routine. He has started to love going out in the float, and his work ethic is huge.

I am looking forward to getting him out in the coming weeks, although I am a bit nervous too. I guess it's hard not to be when competing is still a bit of an unknown entity! I am determined to take a big breath and get on with it though, and really push him for his best. We can do it and I know Henry will prove to be much braver than me.
He is getting FANCY

Before we go away, Henry has 3 competitions and some lessons planned. He has something on almost every weekend at this point, before he has a big holiday. The rest if the season will depend on how he goes in the coming weeks, and how often we can get out XC training. I have a couple of events in mind for his first eventing start, but I will let him tell me when he is ready to take the next step. I know his XC is not solid enough to compete on just yet though, and I don't want to over face him. We have all the time in the world.
Oh look, a friend!

Coolie has been ticking along in the background, enjoying his bush rides and a bit of flatwork. My plans for him this year are very up in the air currently. I'm not sure how I feel about it if I'm being honest. Usually I have it all planned out, but having a holiday at the start of the season means I have had to take a step back and not have things so set in stone. It's odd not knowing when we will go eventing. This time last year we were gearing up for the first event of the season, and had been out XC quite a bit. This year we have had one lesson on the flat and jumped once at home. I don't think he minds having a quieter life for now!

It's weird being in limbo, but I think I'm making the most of it!
Ah yep, this is the life!

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Big smiles

It's been a while since the boys and their teeth done, and there were a few little niggles with both of them that made me realise they needed to be done. Lucky for them today was the day!

Henry got to go first and his teeth looked good. He had a few sharp edges that were starting to ulcerate but where he previously had caries from the oaten hay we used to feed.  For the last 18 months the horses have only had Rhodes hay and meadow hay which is much lower in sugar. It has paid off because all of Henrys teeth are looking fantastic! He was a very drunk patient, and I think he forgot how his legs worked, he was hardly standing!

He doesn't have all his adult teeth yet and I have to be aware of his upper canines which are currently erupting. He had his sharp edges filed, his annual vaccinations and his willy washed and he was good to go. 

Coolie was next, and he had a few pre existing issues and I was keen to see if they had improved. Coolie has always had bad carries, and while they have been slowly improving, this time round they were all just about gone! I was very pleased with that, but he has a few other issues.

Two of Coolies teeth weren't quite aligned, and some food was getting stuck between them. This has resulted in a big cavity through one of his teeth. This looks like it was sore and he appears to only have been chewing on one side of his mouth. To fix this and try to help the tooth recover, the vet put a temporary filling in.

The filling is made of a rubber like material used for moulding human dentures. It will stay in for a few weeks and fall out, hopefully after the gum has recovered a bit. The hole was packed with antibiotics too.

To make Coolies day even better he had his tear ducts flushed, willy washed and had his vaccinations. He was so thrilled... NOT!

Overall, both horses teeth looked ok. I just have to be aware with Henry of his last few adult teeth coming through. Coolie also appears to have a dental disease that we will monitor closely and radiograph at our next appointment. Both of them were star patients, if a bit drunk!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Course design seminar

In an effort to better understand course design and maybe one day become an official, I went to a SJ course design seminar. It was free, air conditioned, and to become a qualified course designer you have to do the seminar. Andrew came to get a better understanding of courses for his judging and there was free lunch!

There were about 10 people at the seminar, despite being open to anyone interested. Every person in the room other than me was a qualified official in some way, being either a course designer or a judge. Luckily I already knew most of them!

So, get a cuppa and settle in for my 6.5 pages of notes.

The role

Course designers are responsible for the horses, the riders, themselves, the smooth running of the competition and the safety of all involved. It's safe to say it's an important role that isn't taken on lightly. A course designer has to be aware of the level they are designing for (riders and horses) and a course shouldn't be designed to trip combinations up but to test the training and ability of the combinations.

Types of courses

Young horse classes need to give horses a chance for a long and successful career. The courses should be inviting, combinations should be one stride or left out and distances between related lines should be more than 6 strides.

For kids, amateurs and ponies you need to keep in mind that the riders are green, the courses you design should prepare them for a move up in height and be encouraging. Courses should not reward reckless speed, so incorporate turns and avoid long run ups to jumps, especially at the end of a course. In classes lower than 70cm our rules say that optimum time classes should be used. Courses should be designed with this in mind.
The perfect combination of a green horse and an amatuere!

For classes with experienced horses (higher heights) you should build courses towards the highest/hardest class of the day, don't go all out in the first course. Horses should be challenged but not overwhelmed, combinations shouldn't be used as the main source of difficulty. The total combination of efforts of all the classes the horses will do needs to be considered, don't put maximum efforts on the first class.

Course design

Don't use all the material available in the same day or the same course. If you're designing for multi day shows introduce fill over the days, and if you have something you want to put in the main course, introduce it on the first day and put it away before bringing it out again, don't put totally new things in the biggest classes.

The first fence doesn't need to be up to height, put it one hole lower. Fence heights should be adjusted for the footing, if it's deep sand keep the height a hole down. If it's a good surface, jumps can be built to height.
A liverpool!

A good course should flow, and it should test the training level of the horse, and cooperation and coordination of the horse and rider, the horses boldness, carefulness and concentration, the riders judgement and concentration and the scope of the horse.

A course can be made more difficult by adjusting the obvious things like height, width, distance, and time allowed. As a rule of thumb oxers should be as wide as they are tall. The width can be adjusted slightly to increase the difficulty, but not by much. To make time more difficult a designer can wheel inside lines.
Planks like this are one of the hardest jumps for horses, it appears solid and it very upright

While a course should always be flowing and there should always be at least 3 straight strides before a jump, there are a number of less obvious ways to making a course difficult. The types and combinations of jumps can be changed. Fill can be used to draw a horses eye down, causing rails.

Changing the length of strides just slightly will over all make a course harder, especially as not all horses have a standard stride length. By changing the stride length between jumps it keeps the horses and rider on their toes.

The more strides you put between a related line, the more chance the rider has to stuff it up. That's a good thing because it means a rider will pull a rail all on their own without any help from anyone. In a double, if there is only one stride a rider doesn't have much time to mess it up. If it's two strides a rider has a chance to change something, possibly resulting in a rail.

When you design a course, it should have about half oxers and half verticals. All the questions shouldn't happen together, they should be spread over the course. The turns in each direction should be about equal, and distances should be mixed. Having variety between courses is also important.

Fill

When it comes to fill and fence colour, the surroundings need to be taken into account. Look around, make sure the horses aren't jumping directly towards an open marquee, and that the jump can be distinguished from the background. Different decoration can soften a jump and make it more inviting. Horses struggle to lock onto jumps that are a solid colour, and things that are round, wavy and curved can cause problems.
Wavy boards are spooky, and this jump caused a lot of stops

Fill should be added later in the course, not in the first two jumps. Water in a liverpool will draw a horses eye down. Placing fill lower down will do the same so to make a course more encouraging, fill can be placed up higher. However if it's a large class putting fill lower down will cause rails and help separate the class out.
See how this is lower down? In a green horse course it could be raised to be more encouraging. For the record, this is 4*

In a double fill should only be used in the A element unless it is the same fill and then it can be used in both. For doubles, placing the oxer before the vertical if a safer option.

Placement of plants, flowers pots and fill can also soften a course and help draw horses in.
Plants look nice and soften jumps. You can also see this is an unfilled B element and A has a gate in it

The seminar went into detail about how to measure distances between fences, how to do a course plan and other things regarding the building of a course. We also sat a test and designed two courses with different requirements, and it was really tricky. it's a skill that needs a lot of practice.

It wasn't exactly what I expected but a lot of the information will be useful for when I am walking a course. I definitely have a better understanding of what a designer is planning now, and a lot more respect for the job they do. It's huge!

Friday, 8 February 2019

Hot

The hot weather has set in this week, and I can't say I have missed it. It's fine though and I am thankful it's just hot as other parts of the country are facing much worse conditions (drought, fire, flood, it's basically the apocalypse).
It was raining when I took this picture!

Anyway it means that riding after work is out since it's just too hot. Instead I have been riding before work, which according to the horses is just the BEST. Or not. Our rides have been going well, and even Henry (sir I don't do mornings!) has been getting on with it.

On Thursday he was full of fire, but knuckled down and got to work. It seems he is becoming quite the grown up, he didn't chuck a wobbly once. As I was riding around on my young OTTB who felt like he had fire in his belly I thought to myself hmmm, I wonder how he would go in a novice test. Now that was one of my goals for the year and I did not intend to do it early in the year but I think we will!
We are doing it!

Today Coolie was tense, it was so windy it had both of the horses on edge. I was not hopeful for our ride at all but it turned ok pretty good. He settle really well and did some good work. I realised I had been slacking so I lifted the bar back up again and got some good work. I have also realised I need to add more half halts into our rides to help balance and set him up better. So I am being more conscious of that too. At the end of the ride Coolie suddenly got really fresh and it took a bit to work him though that. He is an interesting horse to ride that's for sure.

Tomorrow we have a dressage training day and our first test is at 7.16... am! A very early morning but we are done before 9.30 and home before it gets hot. I don't have high hopes for our scores, I imagine Coolie is going to be feeling very up for it. We will just do our best and enjoy it!
I've been using the downtime to clean my gear. These are my winter boots. They were gross. 

Sunday Andrew and I are off to a SJ course design seminar and hopefully staying out of the heat!

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Pre-season Pony Maintenance

It's that time of year to get everything shipshape for the new season, aka time to spend all my money!
Weeeeeeeeeee

After a big weekend, on Monday the boys both got a massage, lucky them. Well, they were both very skeptical at first, Henry not having had much massage before and Coolie being very suspicious of new people! Henry was sore through his lumbar and hind quarters but after he got the idea he settled right into it and loved it. He was grooming me when his new friend got a good spot, which was most of the time. I think he likes his new Aunty Viki! When I turned him out after his whole body was relaxed and his expression said he felt a lot better.
Jonna said, I bet you he wont take a big jump in...

Coolie was not sore, just a bit tight which was spot on what I thought. He was very unsure about the new massage lady, having taken years to warm up to his Aunty Kate. His face the whole time was a conflict... he was enjoying it but not trusting of the new lady.

The saddle fitter is booked for Friday, and next week they are both getting their teeth done. We have been having plenty of lessons, they are both feeling fit and fantastic. I need to clean all their gear again, and make sure everything fits, check if anything needs to be replaced and make sure I have everything we need for the season ahead. One thing that is high priority on my list is a new saddle for Henry. If I had all the money in the world I'd get a dressage and a jump saddle, but for now we are just needing a dressage saddle.
Coolie jumped on the weekend too, and he was awesome!

The only problem I have now is which events to do on which horse. Decisions, decisions!

Monday, 4 February 2019

Kid is a XC genius

OMG, my horse is amazing. Oh also I'm feeling pretty damn good about me too, just gonna put that out there!

Today we went XC training. For those counting this was Hens 3rd time out. The kid came out relaxed and ready to work. He was all business once again and although he was tense he was completely on board with the whole XC thing. We started off with the water and Henry and I went first. He trotted straight in, and then out the other side. Then he gave a lead to the other horses . The horses that hated getting his feet wet was the lead horse. Who knew!

We tested his confidence with the water by halting a few meters before the edge and asking him to trot straight in. This tested how good his forward response was with a bit of pressure. Henry was great and trotted right off my leg aide. Clever boy!

We practiced jumping out of the water, then into the water and he was so game. He jumped right in without an issue at all. Then he gave a lead to the other horses too, before they dropped in. I know... amazing!

We moved onto a bank complex and he was a little backed off up the first bank, but he got into the swing quickly and soon enough was jumping up and down with no worries. Jonna asked me how I rated us out of 10 considering our line, impulsion and self carriage. I said 8, so then Jonna made us be the guinea pig by trotting up a big bank we hadn't tackled, off the smaller bank, turning around and doing it the other way. Henry was a little uncertain to jump up the big bank but he went up the first time, then jumped off it with no issue! He was the only one to do that too.

Lastly we tackled ditches. I wasn't at all nervous, I was very determined to not end up in it! Some of the other riders went first but when one of them had an issue, Hen gave a lead. He hesitated because the other horse wasn't going, then he jumped over when I added leg. Clever boy.
'It's ok Ned, just follow me!'

After that it was so easy, he jumped it happily and wasn't worried at all. Then we added an upright jump after and he sailed over. So pleased with him.

On our way back to the car we revisited the jumps we had done and Henry confidently jumped everything.

It was an amazing, Henry was so willing and happy to be out there. He tried so hard and stepped up when he needed to. I was so proud of him, and me. I was confident and I rode him so well the whole time. I supported him when I needed to and there was no traces of being nervous what so ever.

Henry's training is solid, his basics are all there and it allows us to start building on more things. It just goes to show slow and steady pays off!