Friday, 14 December 2018

2018 - Part 2

Phew... just so we are keep track in the first half of the year the horses and I had 33 outings!

July

July started out with getting lights put up in the paddock, and a pleasant ride to a local winery. Coolie and I went to the second Walliston combined training day and I was please with our performance, once again ending in the ribbons.

Henry went to a competition and was a super well behaved little horse, and I was proud of us for getting out and about. I talked about how I am looking after Coolie as he gets older, and the horses and I hired a jumping arena at the state equestrian center.

Henry and I attended our first Adult Riders rally, which was a good day out. Coolie and I went to the vet where we found that he was quite sound, but we got his hocks injected.

Henry and I came 4th at the Off the Track Showman Day which was so much fun, although I was really nervous, as our lead up to the event had been a bit exciting. I had a lesson that I never ended up blogging about because I think the nerves I had from the showman day got the better of me.



August

August saw a lot of rain, and riding up at the pony club. We had the saddle fitter out and I of course wanted the most expensive saddle, and Jonna came back for a clinic. I had a brilliant flatwork lesson with Coolie and I felt like a really big stretch goal could be reached. Henry had a good flat lesson but show jumping is where I think I had the most fun.

We headed up to Wooroloo where I didn't have a good weekend nerves-wise and it affected my riding. Overall I was happy with the weekend to be done, but pleased I had conquered a jump that I was really worried about.

We finished the month on a high, Coolie and I won our first rugs!



September

Coolie and I kicked off September in style, having a really successful weekend at the Wagin Gymkhanarama. We were dressage champions for the first time in our lives!

I was feeling short on time keeping 2 horses in work, I ran over my helmet, and Coolie and I trained some 1* XC lines.

Jonna was back in town and Coolie and I consolidated some skills, Henry and I worked through some things and I went to a wedding in between all the horse stuff! Coolie and I nailed the jumping, and I found out I was quite sticky in the saddle.

We finished off the month back down at Dryandra for the PC ODE. I wasn't happy with my dressage but SJ and XC more than made up for it and we finished in third place.


October

October saw another wedding, and lots of riding at home and Henry was a stand in for a lesson when Coolie was covered in bug bites.

Then I had a really sore neck, Henry got an abscess, and Coolie had to fill in for him at adult riders.

I started to feel very burnt out as we approached the last event of the season at Brigadoon and just wanted to go out and enjoy the last event. Sadly, it wasn't to be and Coolie and retired on the course, after jumping so well in SJ.


November

November started with another visit from Jonna where we really unpacked somethings with Henry and we had a discussion that had been brewing for a while. It needed to happen and looking back at all most posts I can see my confidence had eroded away over the year. The discussion I had with Henry has put to bed a lot of those fears and inspired me to crack on with my horse!

Henry went on a bush ride with our friend Tahlia and then won his show jumping round at a local show. We also had a show jumping lesson to work through some things and my confidence was sky high! We had a show jumping training day which was a really positive outing and I was confident and happy the whole time. No nerves what so ever.


Henry turned 5, we had another really successful show jumping outing and Henry was just the best little horse ever!



December

We kicked off December with Equestrian in the Park and a ride out with a friend. Jonna came to Perth one last time for the year and I had 3 great lessons, despite a fall. The rest of December is about Christmas and life in general. we have a beach trip planned but other than that the horses are going to have a cuisey time.

All up throughout the year we were insanely busy. I actually didn't realise how much we did and I went back and counted all the outings we had, and that's just the ones I blogged about, there are a few others that I didn't end up writing about. We went out more than 55 times in less than 12 months.

Looking back, I can see so much improvement in both of the horses, and myself as a rider. It was at tough year confidence-wise, even if I didn't realise it at the time. I guess that's why I write this blog though, as a useful tool to help me reflect and learn!

I must say I feel tired just reading about all that we did, and can understand why I was feeling burnt out. I think the horses are fine though, they had plenty of breaks since I usually only had one out at a time. Next year I will manage myself a little better!

I think to date Coolie and I achieved our best results, and I really did a heap with Henry too. I pushed the boundaries and met my goals, and we progressed way further than I thought we had. It was a tough year, but I think the highs out number the lows significantly and this perspective has been hugely helpful. I need to hang onto this for next year!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

2018 - Part 1

It's that time of year for reflecting, working out what exactly happened in the 12 month whirlwind of 2018 and planning for next year. Turns out 2018 was INSANE for me and the horses. Get yourself a cuppa and settle in, I split this into 2 because there is just SO much to write about.

January

We started out on a not so good note, spending January 1 in hospital having surgery. That incident saw my confidence at a low point, and we started out the year with low expectations. Turned out I broke my skull too, so much for no broken bones! At least we could only go up from there.

17 days after the accident I was back on a horse. I felt at the time I could have got on sooner but I kept my sensible head on and waited to get all my stitches out and healed properly. It also rained a lot for summer, we got 90ml in a day which is more than we get in winter!

My first ride back on both horses went well, and Henry was a good boy for having time off. We were cycling and running a lot, really working on our fitness. I had a lesson that picked on my position a lot, we finished painting and making jumps. Coolie was very wary of the new jumps and gave them plenty of air the first time we jumped them. My leg bloody hurt jumping and I was quite worried it would be a lasting pain. Henry was much braver about the new jumps and trotted over like he'd done it his whole life!

January was a very busy month, mostly taken up with healing. My accident was horrible and left me with physical and mental scars that I spent longer than I thought healing from.

February

February started with me checking in on my goals because I was smashing them out. Coolie and I had a great jumping lesson, a XC outing with a friend, and then a XC lesson. Our lesson was super productive and we smashed out some great jumps. Early in the month my confidence was starting to erode with Henry, and I was starting to get nervous, even if I didn't realise it at the time.

Henry and I had our first lesson, and he was fresh but settled. His self carriage was non existent but we got it by the end. The same day Coolie and I had our first competition, we went jumping indoors. We were entered to do 75 and 90 but he was fresh and I was nervous so we stuck to 75. We ended up coming 4th and had a really productive, fun outing.

Next up there was some dressage training, where Coolie and I got some valuable pointers from the judge, then I ran my first 5km, went XC training again and jumped Henry. Henry and I had our first lesson with Jonna, and it was very encouraging and beneficial!

Coolie and I had some great rides, including a fantastic lesson where my coach made things harder and harder and we just kept nailing everything.

Our eventing season started earlier than usual when we headed off to Capel where we had a really fantastic weekend, finishing in the placings!

March

After our first event, the first few weeks of March saw me doing lots of jumping and bush rides because flatwork seemed too dull! We headed back to the beach leaving Henry at home and had a really great day out.

Coolie and I had a SJ and XC lesson with Craig Barrett. We jumped some decent fences and got a huge confidence boost, tackling some decent sized fences.

Coolie and I also went to the vet because he had mysteriously swollen legs, but nothing was found and they eventually returned to normal. Henry and I had a really productive lesson and then Coolie and I went to a dressage and SJ training day where we had a discussion about how we do not get tense in dressage and had 2 fabulous jumping rounds.

Andrew took over the blog for a post that had one of the most hits, I continued to have wobbly confidence with Henry, Coolie and I had ago at camp drafting, and then Coolie and I had our second event of the year. Dressage was average but SJ and XC were a blast, and I got a video of our whole round.



April

We started off April the right way, with a ride out with Emily. Henry jumped his first oxer with some style and a lot of air, and Coolie and I killed it XC training, jumping some solid 105 combinations.

Manu came to Perth and the boys both had amazing lessons, we introduced the neck rope to both of the horses and I saw huge improvements in my position. I had to focus on lifting Henry's shoulders, and maintain self carriage. We had a similar message with Coolie, and my position was improved greatly in the space of the 2 days.

Coolie and I had our first event at 95, and while our dressage and SJ were average, XC was amazing. We stormed around clear, having a great time!

Henry jumped his first XC fences, and celebrated a year retired as a racehorse.

We headed to Moora on my Birthday weekend We had 3 amazing phases, and finished in the placings! I think this was a high point of my year!




May

May was another busy month, starting out with a dressage training day with Coolie which was really helpful. Our score were good and we had constructive comments from the judge.

We had a show jumping lesson with Craig and we jumped some big fences, Coolie was adjustable and I had a great time. I made some mistakes, but overall we had some awesome progression.

Henry had his first big deal outing at the Off the Track Clinic at the state equestrian center. Henry was a super star and took it all in with minimal fuss. He was nervous but tried really hard and we had a good lesson in a group environment.

Andrew and I volunteered to jump judge and had a very busy day out and Henry and I had another lesson, where he was a lot more grown up since his clinic. The difference was noticeable and we really worked hard on self carriage.

Henry had another first, his first dressage test. He was such a clever boy, he stayed clam and was very cute. He was wonderful in every aspect of the experience.

Andrew bought me a fancy new jump, and we jumped it! We rode in the rain at pony club, jumped some more XC jumps and I ran my first 12km run and set a great time!


June

June started out with a jumping lesson with Coolie, and then Henry cantered his first course! I took both the horses to the Walliston Combined training day and it was a mixed bag. Henry did a test and he was tense, but the test scored ok despite choosing not to canter. Coolie did a good test, and two really great show jumping rounds to win the combined training!

Coolie and I did an eventing grand prix and while I had high expectations, Coolie was over excited and not paying much attention so we had a stop at a fairly simple fence. I wasn't very pleased about it! We went XC training the follow weekend and proved that there are no holes in our training, I just have to get onto Coolie a bit sooner and ride the horse better.

I celebrated owning Henry for a year and looked back at his achievements to date. Coolie and I went to a dressage and SJ competition. I pencilled for dressage for the first time and Coolie and I placed in all our classes. I was very pleased with our dressage test.

Jonna came back to Perth and Henry progressed in jumping, and Coolie and I worked on landing on the correct lead. We got heaps of homework!

We went to Dryandra CNC, And had a good weekend over all 3 phases, especially XC!


Are you tired yet because I think my near death experience pushed me to want to do ALL THE THINGS!


Tuesday, 11 December 2018

XC training with Jonna

Sunday afternoon was XC time, and it was Henry's first proper time out where he would be in a group and I had expectations of him. He's been before in a group where I didn't expect to jump anything, we just went for exposure. This time though I wanted to participate.

As per usual Henry unloaded from the float and was very relaxed, I should really stop commenting but it still feels like a big deal. The rest of the group arrived and we tacked up and hopped on. Henry was relaxed walking out to the XC but then seeing anther horse out there and then our group starting to warm up he got tense.
What the heck is going on here?!
Our group was 4 horses, 3 dark bay OTTBs, and one grey arab warmblood. The baby OTTBs had all done limited XC training before, and Henry was the youngest. One horse had a total meltdown and the rider led it around a bit while it settled. Henry had no idea what was happening and found it all a bit much to cope with. I worked hard to get him to trot and to lengthen his neck and stride and he threw in a few pigroots for good measure.

We started out trotting up a little bank, and he tried hard and jumped up without much fuss, and eventually started to settle. The more settled horses jumped some other jumps, but we stuck to the bank keeping things nice and easy. By the time we were ready to move on Hen was his usual happy self.

Getting a lead through the water
We moved onto the water and Jonna explained how we were each going to tackle the water. We went one at a time, and Henry said no, as I expected. We got a lead from another horse and he went right in after that, and from then on was a star, happily trotting in and out. We changed the context and entered at another point without following another horse and he was foot perfect. We jumped a log before the water too and in no time at all he was settled and working happily. He was happy to work in the group, on his own and to stand all by himself when the rest of the group went to do something.


Our last stop on course was a ditch. Henry has trained over ditches before and has been super so I didn't expect any problems, but this was a fairly big ditch with a slope going down to it. We trotted the approach and he saw it, looked down and slammed on the breaks, sending my flying over his head and straight into the ditch! I jumped right back up and with no damage done hopped on to try again. We worked around the ditch a bit and the represented. Henry was really unsure but with a bit of convincing he jumped over and we did it a few more times without hesitation.
All by himself!

We finished our session there and while it didn't seem like we had done much, we made a lot of progress. Henry went out in a group XC. He was nervous but we worked through it and when he settled and was then his normal self. He tackled water, jumped different jumps in a new environment and conquered a ditch. The training that we did was correct, he wont have any holes and next time we will get  to do more. I also wasn't nervous and really enjoyed myself. In fact I think I feel even more confident because I fell, and I know next time will be even better.
Pretty sure I'm superman. 
As we walked back to the floats all three bay horses were calm and quiet... the grey arab mare was prancing about. Funny how naughty OTTB's can be...

Following Uncle Jonna!
Training young horses can be a very slow process. I see other with horses a similar age to Henry out competing, or appearing to be further along in their training. Henry is a horse who really needs to understand the expectations before he make an attempt. He needs to stop and work it out, then once he get's it, it seems to be there always. He isn't the easiest horse but slowly and surly we are progressing, and he is becoming more confident. Once day he is going to be seriously nice, with scope to burn and I am careful not to compare myself to others. I am grateful to have both of my boys in my life, and I think that very soon Henry and I will be able to go out and do the eventing thing.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Jumping Shenanigans

Well, it certainly feels like we have been doing all the jumping recently. We haven't really, it's just more interesting to write abut than we trotted endless circles, had a crack at shoulder in and travers, went for a ride in the bush, were generally lazy!

Saturday I got to have 2 lessons with Jonna, both jumping. I went really back and forth trying to decide if I wanted to jump Coolie, because a flat lesson would benefit us equally and you can never do enough flat work. I decided to jump though because it's the end of the year and fuck it, I'm going to do what I love to do the most! (although practicing half pass is also REALLY FUN. I know, I am actually insane).

We arrived, I stuck Henry in a paddock to socialise with two other dark bay horses so he could blend in, and got Coolie ready. Warming up he was so spooky, because it's Coolie who is in 'holiday work'. Everything was scary, which pretty much set the tone for the lesson.

I caught Jonna up with our latest stuff and right off the bat he gave me homework... I have to practice asking walk to canter on a straight line without flexion, just the leg aid to gauge Coolies understanding of the aid. This will help with our flying changes.

We trotted a cross rail, landing on the correct lead each time, then cantered a 4 stride line from the cross rail to a little skinny upright that Coolie has done before. Except Coolie promptly forgot he is gown up, educated horse, instead trying to make us believe he had NEVER seen ANYTHING like it in his life. I let him sniff it, then represented, and he jumped it with extra effort because it might eat him. We smoothed it our before moving on.

There was a magpie in the arena sunbathing in the sand. It was flat out looking like it was dead. Every time we trotted past it would suddenly leap up and move, spooking Coolie. It was HILARIOUS and the maggie refused to be put out by us riding past him. Silly bird.

Next up I trotted Coolie to a bounce. He has seen bounces before a billion times. Except he forgot that yesterday and once again sopped he first time. I rolled my eyes, Jonna adjusted it to make it easier and we went through just fine after that. Coolie was feeling so happy and kept celebrating his big efforts after landing. We laughed at him and Jonna told me that he was preparing me for when I had children.

We strung a little course together looking for relaxation and self carriage as always. This was hard to come by because someone was feeling very silly, but after reminding him about the half halt by doing a full halt, we got it. It wasn't a hugely ground breaking lesson, we didn't do anything really new because SOMEONE was too busy pretending to forget he is nearly SIXTEEN.

I think we both had fun though and it's so good to feel Coolie enjoying himself. He does make me laugh and he keeps things from getting too serious.

Henry came out feeling tense and fresh. I haven't taken the boys somewhere together for a while and I think it was making Henry distracted. He settled after a few minutes though and we worked on lengthening his neck and his stride. We trotted over a cross rail toward the skinny jump and made sure everything was calm and easy. We did it a few times, and  then added in the skinny jump. Henry was wobbly on the approach but he jumped it, with a bit extra. He got a bit worried on landing, so when we came around again I made sure to halt him quicker after the jump.

We spent some time working on getting him calm and steady over the jumps before we moved on. It didn't take very many repetitions, only 4 or 5 with a few walk breaks to help him process.

We trotted into the bounce next, and he put extra effort into the second jump, so we came around again and he was a little quieter about it. We did it off the other rein too, and then continued on to the cross rail and the skinny. We had to halt after a few of the jumps when he got a bit fast but for the most part things went well. We had to halt before the bounce too because he was running towards it but after a few tune ups we smoothed it all out.

From there Jonna really challenged us and had us come down the related line over the two biggest oxers Henry has ever done. Because I am a pansy I made Jonna adjusted them to look nice and inviting. I'm not worried about Henry stopping, I am more worried about staying with Henry when he jumps so big over them. I am getting better at staying with him but I still get jumped out of the tack on the regular. Athletic horse problems!

Really I shouldn't have worried because he was pretty calm, straight and made it feel easy. We did it a few more times, having to revisit the half halt but he was quite responsive to my small changes and the fences kept coming up well. Jonna put the jumps up and once again Henry showed me there was nothing to worry about.

We put the cross rail up to an upright at about 75 cm, and he popped it and was dead straight to the skinny. We kept the canter and came down the related line. Henry was great! I was so thrilled with him, I couldn't wipe the smile off my face and Jonna was like.. now you're in love with him!

All in all we had 2 very successful lessons, we all had a lot of fun. I love my boys!

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Rocket launch

With the last Jonna clinic for the year approaching, I decided the boys needed a midweek jump to tune them both up. Well, mostly to let Coolie get his sillies out!

I set up a small course and dragged out my flowers to pretty things up a bit and to see how the horses would react. I set the jumps to about 60 for Henry which is a first for me since I am usually a pansy, but I know the height is fine for him he just needs more practice. I also decided that kiddo needed to jump the barrel so I chucked that out too.

Henry was a SLUG to warm up. I had to really push him forward in the walk but he woke up eventually. Over our first few jumps he was still pretty casual though, he has worked out that little uprights aren't worth too much effort, just enough to haul our butts over.

We got cantering and Hen perked up a bit more, he had a nice steady rhythm, no rushing and just allowed me to support him to the fence. Henry is a clever boy, if he landed on the wrong lead, I would bring him back to the trot, and he would strike off on the correct canter lead without being asked as if to say 'oops! Got it now mum!'. My position felt really strong and I didn't hunt any fences, instead closing my leg and letting Henry work out the rest. Henry jumped the flowers like it was no big deal, and then we tackled the oxer.

The oxer was one of the bigger ones we had done, and while I wasn't scared I was a little apprehensive because I knew he would jump it big. I wasn't wrong and I could feel Henry thinking 'how the heck do we jump this?!' as we approached. He is an honest boy, and he moved up to the fence and jumped the shit out of it.

I put all the jumps together in a course and Henry continued to power over everything and really use himself over the oxer. We gave the barrel a crack too, and man, that horse can jump. It was the first time I have really felt him use himself and it was awesome. That horse is so athletic and I feel like I am starting to ride him much better and utilise all the power he has.


Henry got a bit tired and strung out by the end of our ride but we finished on a good note and had a very productive ride.

Coolie has only jumped once since Brigadoon and he still felt a little off after our XC retirement. I wanted to get a feel of how he felt because he has been going so well on the flat, and I also wanted him to get his sillies out because he can be a total porkchop after not jumping for a while.

He warmed up fine, and popped an upright well the first few times, and then we got into a course. He kept his sillies to a minimum, jumped super and really nailed the lines. The jumps were set at about 80, I just wanted a fairly easy session.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Wordy Wednesday

I was gonna do wordless Wednesday, but I have too much to say. I have many, many words.

I rode Henry last night. It wasn't a spectacular ride by any means, just a normal ride where we worked on normal things. He went ok, worked into the contact better, was in front of my leg most of the time, was better at the lateral work we have been practicing. I kept it short and when he ticked all the boxes I called it a day.

I asked Andrew to film it for me though, because I haven't seen us go on the flat for a while. I was looking for improvements, looking to confirm what I feel, and looking to see where I had let things slip.

One of the things I thought felt better was my position. These days I feel like I sit taller and stronger than I used to. Looking at the video, it is generally so much better. I get a bit floppy at the canter still, but over all I am stronger in the saddle. My hands are still a bit wide though, and I need to take more contact, but I will keep working on it.
February 2018


Secondly, I was hoping that in his growing Henry had also filled out a bit. Henry is about 16hh, but he is narrow, short in the back and has very long, supermodel legs. It seems to me that he looks the same size, if not smaller than Coolie in pictures with me riding him. Coolie, for the record is dead on 15.2hh but a little bit broader. Once again, my feelings were right, Henry looks to be taking up my leg a little better. I am hoping he is about done growing now and can dedicate some energy to bulking up a bit.
Our first lesson this year

We fit together a bit better now

I also wanted to see how Henry was carrying himself. He is a typical thoroughbred in that he is downhill and on the forehand. In another life I think he was a Western Pleasure horse, he would like to spend his whole life with his nose on the floor. I have been working hard to get him to lift his shoulders, engage his quarters and get the push from behind. Again, this is an area where there are definite improvements. Henry looks much more up in his shoulders and appears to be pushing better from behind. There is still plenty of work to be done, but I am pleased with the improvement. I will note that his canter is pretty much always uphill, and by far his best pace.
So downhill - earlier this year


Not the best comparison because he is cantering but he is more upright

Things to work on include my hands, and me actually having some contact. I like to be light, Henry likes to be light, and as such there is not a lot going on there. Henry needs to get more consistent across everything but really things are progressing nicely.

It's fun to look back and see just how much improvement has been made over the last 18 months. When you are the rider it can be hard to see the changes, to step back and see the bigger picture. He is really coming along and while progress can seem slow, we are getting there and I am hopeful that next year might see us out eventing. No rush though, he is only 5.   


It's getting to be quite a nice picture now!


Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Life in general

We are officially in summer and Monday sure felt like it... Only temporary though as the weather is cooling back to the mid 20's for the rest of the week which is just perfect for riding. Just as well as there is much riding to be done!

This weekend we didn't do too much riding at all. Friday arvo Andrew and I took the boys for a nice walk in the bush. It was relaxing a good way to end the working week. Saturday was more exciting but I didn't ride at all! Instead we were spectating at Equestrian in the Park, an arena eventing competition held in a city park (right next to where I work!). We had a really great day out, the course looked amazing and we caught up with so many people, and made plenty of new friends.

Sunday was another quiet day. Coolie and I spent the morning riding with one of our eventing friends. Coolie was a complete nugget, spooking at nothing, prancing and snorting his way a long. I think he's missed going out, Henry has been having all the fun recently. I had to laugh at him, he is just too silly. I told him he better pull his head in, Henry is better behaved than he is!

We did lots of exploring and paddled through the river. We climbed hills and negotiated terrain. It was quite a fun morning out!

In the afternoon Andrew and I did boring stuff that adults need to do, and put up our Christmas tree! I rode Henry too and he was really super, worked into the contact nicely and was forward, light and responsive. We have been struggling to put it all together recently so I was pleased that we got it all in that ride.

Monday it was 36C and humid, so I opted not to ride and instead did boring things around the house. We have our last Jonna clinic of the year this weekend and  Henry has a show jumping lesson and a XC lesson. To say I'm excited is an understatement. I'm also a tiny bit nervous but I know he is going to be great! Coolie is having a lesson too, one last jump I think. I can't wait!