So Hartpury PL, one of the biggest, and to add to this we were following Charlotte in the Inter2! Daunting to say the least, but it cant be helped, I tried to warm up in a similar way to our second day at Sheepgate, and it went quite well. Into the big indoor at Hartpury, and I love riding in that arena! Wonky kept much better balance than at Sheepgate, but dropped off my leg as the test progressed, which was frustrating because there is so much he does well, he is very secure in the work, but his nerves and sensitivities means that the way of going suffers, which is expensive and frustrating. But I'm confident that in time we will overcome this, it will just take time, and we have to keep putting ourselves out there.
Today I went to a TTEST clinic with Andy Thomas, the most amazing physio who works with the elite athletes, he works on rider imbalances and symmetry. It was such an informative session, he assessed me, gave me a few exercises to do, then reassessed me and the difference was huge! I went home and rode, and oh my goodness, the difference!! My seat felt so much deeper and totally equal without effort, whenever I moved my lower leg back it felt so much more stable, and I rode the best pirouettes of my life, it was extraordinary. I will do these exercises every day now before I ride, so I really hope I can continue this improvement, I am already booked in to take Wonky to the next clinic and I'm really looking forward to it. I have also booked little Ziggy in for his first lesson next week, exciting times ahead!
I decided to take Wonky back out to a quiet local venue to see if that restored his confidence at all, he warmed up well, but dropped his balance again in the test, he got 65+% in the Inter2 with very fair comments, all variations on the correctness of his work but needing to be more uphill. I'm finding this so frustrating as he is doing the work well, finding it easy really, but internally something is affecting him which is causing the loss of balance and/or energy in the tests. Its very hard to know how to fix something that only happens in a test, but he has done this before, and we have got through it, so I'm sure we will again.
Ziggy time! His first lesson, I took him to Dan Greenwood, who also trains with Carl, he is only an hour away from us, and hugely experienced, and such a beautiful rider. I discussed it with Carl and we both thought Dan would be perfect for starting Ziggy's career. I was so proud of Ziggy, he loaded and travelled well, I led him round once, and got straight on no problem, and he walked off on a loose rein. It was a really useful lesson, Dan really liked him, and was very happy with where he is in his training, and he used some of the same exercises we already do, but he asked a little more than I do, which was great. He asked to ride more with my seat, and basically not to baby him too much, which is always one of my faults! We also got some more exercises to use that are great, and we finished by riding with another horse and Ziggy was perfect with that too. I am absolutey delighted with our first lesson, especially Ziggy's attitude, he really tried for me, and thats all we can ever ask. He came home and went back in the field tired, but was very bright and cheerful the next morning.
More training, and I love it! We have started to put chunks of the GP test together in our lessons, its daunting riding parts of that test, especially while Carl watches, but its really going well. Sheepgate PL for two Inter2s, as ever Wonky is a delight to stay away with, he is so settled and easy, and its lovely to be able to focus on just him. The first Inter2 was not good, Wonky really struggled in the bigger atmosphere, and just was not able to keep a good uphill balance and positive energy, this combined with two big mistakes meant our mark was a disaster. It can be hard sometimes to regroup after a rubbish test, but I took Wonky off for handgrazing and just spent some quiet time with him which made me feel so much better. Day two was boiling, but luckily Wonky copes well in the heat, and I did a shorter, sharper more positive warm up and rode a much better test, still not good enough, and nowhere near what we are capable of, but a big improvement on the first day and we finished 6th.
Home for an easy couple of days, then off to Hartpury PL for another Inter2, I'm pushing both Wonky and myself into more of these bigger atmospheres so we can both learn to be braver and feel more confident in these environments.
More training, Carl is working his magic on us and we are both learning so much, working on the GP under Carl's tutition almost feels like learning to ride all over again, its fascinating and fantastic, and we are hoping to do some Premier League Inter2s next month. Little Ziggy is coming along very well, he lives out and is ridden three or four times a week, his attitude is lovely and he is doing everything I want a horse of his age to be doing; nice basic school work, cavelletti and raised poles, and hacking out very happily. He even did his first arena hire at Moreton Morrell and behaved impeccably, such a good boy, he is a pleasure to work with.
I also had a hard decision to make regarding Nooey, her BD membership was up for renewal and after much agonising I decided not to renew it. She is 17yrs old, fit, well and in full work, and I feel it is a privilege to be able to retire a healthy horse by choice and not be forced into it by ill health or unsoundness. Nooey has never even had a joint injection and is totally sound with no chemical help, but she doesnt love competition and I am in her debt, so she gets to stay in full work at home, but no more competitions. I am looking forward to riding her for many, many more years.
Another little outing for Ziggy today, I took him to Addington for their arena hire using the big indoor all set up as if for a show, so boards, letter, flowers and judges table, none of which Ziggy has ever seen before. But Ziggy was as brave and brilliant as ever, he was very interested and looked at everything, but without any stress or spooking, then he worked just the same as he does at home. By chance a friend of mine was hiring the arena after us, so she very kindly came in a little early so I could walk off in company, as that is something we havent done much of yet. Ziggy was perfect as ever, walked round on the buckle while the other horse worked and then back to the lorry without any hesitation, he really is just an absolute pleasure to deal with in everyway.
April is Hartpury time, and unfortunately their outdoor arena still holds demons for poor Wonky, he was beautifully behaved in the stable, in the warm up, but in the test arena he really struggles, I think it probably takes 5 to 6% off him, which is very frustrating. I think I will have to rethink our competition plans as there is no point qualifying him for a Championship in a venue he cant cope with, despite this he still managed 7th in the Inter2. Mini break in the field for Wonky, then back to work to prepare for our first GP freestyle in Gaynor Colbourn's music demo. We had a brilliant time, Wonky coped so well with live music, an audience, and even people taking selfies with him! He did some piaffe passage to some improvised music, and also went through his test, I was so proud of him!
Brilliant start to March, I went to Tanglewood and had my first proper ride on Ziggy! It was so lovely to get to ride him, and he was such a good boy, nicely forward thinking, sensible, steady to the contact and good from my leg. Will and his team at Tangewood have done an outstanding job, I'm looking forward to bringing Ziggy home in a week or so and starting our journey together.
I felt the need to have another run thrugh of the Inter2 in competition with Wonky before Hartpury as we have so far only done the minimum three tests necessary to qualify. I'm so glad I did as we learnt a lot, firstly I overdid the warm up, I just rode him for too long and he tipped over into stressy, and unfortunately stressy for him means that he couldnt do his ones, this is very frustrating as usually his ones are so good and reliable both at home and in training. He has only lost them once before in competition, its such a shame as he is so good at them in general, and in our first GP he just pinged through them, so I know they are there. The piaffe passage felt very substandard to what he usually does, but still got 7s, so just think what marks are there when he really feels confident to do it to his usual standard! We also got an 8 for the first centre line which is a big thing for him, as he struggles with that usually, so we finished on 65.8% which I am very happy with as I feel it shows the progress we are making even when things are not quite going our way. We have also been asked to take part in a dressage to music evening with the great Gaynor Colbourn, we have a GP (!) floorplan, so we just need to hire an arena and film it before the end of March, I'm really looking forward to see what sort of music Gaynor chooses for Wonky.
Ziggy is home! I am delighted, its so lovely to have him back, he loaded and travelled perfectly as usual and was really happy to be home, it was like he has never been away, head down eating in his usual field happy as can be. He feels like such a grown up now he is a Tanglewood graduate, I cant thank Will and his team enough for the wonderful job they have done. He has been fabulous to ride so far, very well behaved and I had forgotten how much I love working with the babies, its just so rewarding. Even better he has already been asked to take part in a demo with Stephen Clarke in September, I would absolutely love to do this, so its something to bear in mind for later this year.
I was absolutely gutted to cancel our lesson with Carl last week due to high winds, I agonised over this decision, but ultimately the safety of my horses is always the most important thing, so, with regret, we stayed at home. Thank goodness for Carl's generosity, he managed to fit us in for a lesson today as I really wanted his help before the Winters, and we had a fabuous lesson! Wonky went so well, and our pirouettes have improved so much since Carl gave me some tips on the positioning last time, I'm so pleased! He also told us to start doing Inter2 classes at Premier Leagues, part of me is so excited that he thinks we are ready to do this, and part of me just thinks not in a million years!!!
Regionals time! Wonky and I went off to Addington for the PSG Regional, he warmed up very well and then got rather too cheeky in the test and improvised a little too much, not surprisingly the judges did not appreciate his creative imput and we finished on 65.9% with marks ranging from 4 to 8. It was a good lesson for me, as I just let the connection slip by half an inch and that was enough for him to come off my aids in moments and improvise. But on the positive side it was still a good mark to get with expensive errors, and very nice to know we can get 8s at Regional level.
Back to Carl again, and another great lesson, he made a couple of tiny tweaks to our positoning in the canter pirouettes and it made such a difference, its these tiny details that are so important. The tempis were great, and we did very steep half passes in both trot and canter, and it really felt effortless now. The piaffe passage work just gets better and better, the transitions are so much more confident now and Carl could really see the the improvements, I couldnt be happier with how we are progressing.
Happy New Year! A somewhat mixed start to the new year, the horses had their annual vaccinations, and poor Wonky had a bad reaction for the first time in his life, it was horrible to see, but fortunately some bute and rest and he was back to his usual cheerful self in a couple of days.
Luckily he recovered in time for our first lesson of the year, Wonky worked so well, he is still slightly tricky in the piaffe to start with, but once he finds his rhythm he is amazing, and piaffes for a 9 according to Carl! What pleased me most about this lesson was that Carl noticed and praised the difference we have made in a few movements. When you have a horse at this level its impossible to work on everything all the time, obviously the basics are worked on everytime, but not all the movements. So I pick a few movements every month to focus on and try and improve, and this past month we have focussed on improving ground cover and expression in the one tempis, lift and balance in the trot half passes, and not allowing him to sit behind the contact in passage. I hadnt told Carl this is what we have been working on, so when he praised and complimented the differences in those exact movements I was so chuffed!! It really means the world to me that I am able to make these changes alone at home to the extent that Carl appreciates. I can feel my riding changing and improving under Carl's tutition, and I couldnt be happier. A second lesson in January, fabulous! A lesson a fortnight is just fantastic, Wonky was feeling very pingy and energetic which is so lovely. The tempis are looking good, and weirdly, the ones are best of all which is great. We also looked at the pirouettes, the left one is good, but the right one is still tricky, its absolutely my fault not his, but I find the positioning to the right so much trickier - lots of homework for me. Trot was excellent, at time positively Olympic according to Carl! Passage so much better to the contact and the piaffe is best when I think about (but dont do) the transition out, it really allows him to swing and relax in the piaffe, I couldnt be happier with how he is progressing.
We also got a wildcard for the Inter1 at the Winters to join the Inter2 qualification he already has, really starting to look forward to that now. Little Ziggy has gone off to Tanglewood to be backed, I was so proud of how well he loaded and travelled going there, and so sorry to leave him there. But he has been there a fortnight and has gold stars for his behaviour so far, so hopefully I will be able to have my first ride on him in a few weeks, exciting!
The best way to start the month, a Carl lesson! Wonky was fantastic, lots of transitions which work so well with him, getting more and more power especially in the piaffe passage work. We began and Carl said the passage was no good, it was only worth a 7 (!!!! a 7? I'd be chuffed with that!) so we worked on it and then Carl said it was worth an 8 or an 8.5! Wow, it felt amazing, as did the one tempis, a really productive lesson, it showed me how much more I can ask for and how much ability Wonky has for the GP.
Best Christmas present ever, Wonky did his very first GP!!!! Its an incredible feeling to have had him since he was a foal, done absolutely everything with him myself, and now he is a GP horse, I'm so, so proud of him. We got 66.8% (even with one utterly dreadful pirouette that earned us a 3) but he really tried, and I feel I've learnt so much about how I need him to feel to do this test really well. We need to improve pretty much everything, but the good news is, we have plenty of time, and he really is a 70% GP horse once we have done some more work. So no more competitive GPs for a while, and lots of homework, and I cant wait!
No competing for us in November, my focus is on getting the GP work better, we have been back to Carl's again, and Wonky was so good, Carl said we are ready to start putting parts of the GP test together, so exciting! Its so much a question of strength and confidence at this stage to really improve the work and we both need to become more familiar with the work. After the problems we had with the feed change last month I spoke to Saracen about what to do, and we decided Wonky should start on some of their Competiton-Fit range, and so far so good. I also had the fantastic Helen come out from H M Performance Saddles to tweak the flocking in Wonky's saddle which made a big difference. All the little details are so important, and if I expect my horses to work at the highest level, its my responsibility to make sure they are as comfortable and healthy as possible.
Back to Carl's! A lesson a fortnight is amazing, I could get used to this.... Carl told me that Wonky is a very talented GP horse and I didnt know whether to cry or run around screaming!! He did amazing work, especially the piaffe passage, and finished with the most extraordinary trotwork, Carl said it was the trot of a National Champion. The next day I could feel my core muscles ache a little, I havent felt my core like that after a lesson for years, it just shows the quality that Wonky was producing. A little while after this brilliant lesson Wonky was a little unwell, he felt very flat, and his legs filled slightly, I was so worried, I just cant bear it if my horses are not well. The vet came and blood tested him, and to my surprise all his bloods were totally normal, I really thought about things, and realised the only thing I had changed recently was the addition of the competiton mix, so I have stopped that, and Wonky is feeling so much better and his legs have stopped filling! I cant explain just how happy and relieved I am to have my healthy horse back.
I have also started working with three year old Ziggy in preparation for the backing process, I am sending him away to be backed as I dont have any help at home, but I want to prepare him as best as possible. Ziggy is such a star, he is happily lunging and hacking out in the long reins with a bridle and very loose side reins, he is a total joy to work with and I cant wait to start riding him.
Carl again, more progress, Carl was happy we have made improvements which is brilliant. We worked on how to prepare the pirouettes on the centre line, and how to keep the super expressive trot in the lateral work. The piaffe passage is getting more reactive which is brilliant, but he still needs to develop more strength in this work to make it even better, he is such a star, and I'm so, so grateful to have this incredible training with him.
We finshed the month with a quick trip out to hopefully comlete his regional qualification at psg. We had one of those tests where I didnt entirely agree with the judge, but dressage is a subjective sport, and these days happen to everyone. Nevertheless, we did enough to achieve our regional qualification which is great but more importantly he felt fantastic! It felt like one of his best ever tests at this level, and I managed to keep him properly into the contact all the way through the test, which I'm so delighted about, as his favourite trick is just to drop slightly behind the contact in a test which makes him difficult to ride. But today I kept him totally with me every stride so I'm very chuffed!
We started with a Small Tour Championship qualifier at Keysoe, I decided to do the PSG rather than the Inter1, as this show came at the end of a very busy week for him, and I wanted to keep it easier for him. I think it was the right call as he felt pretty flat and tired, but he tried, and did enough to quallify for the Championships in December. He then enjoyed a very well earned week off! I also started him on competition mix to help keep his energy levels up now he is doing the higher work. Another trip to Carl, and we focussed on refinement in the aids in the GP work, the theme was "less is more!" Each lesson is more fascinating than the last, I am learning so much, and Wonky is just astounding, his ability for the highest work is amazing and so natural. Carl gave us some goals that are both exciting and scary, we'll do our very best to make them a reality. We finished the month by going to Widmer Area Festival Final where Wonky won the Inter2 and secured his qualification to the Winter Championships at Hartpury next April!! He also came third in the Inter1 and has a good chance of a wild card in that class too.
More training with Carl, the Grand Prix is getting closer, and thats where our main focus is now, I'm learning so much, this work is transforming us both, and I'm loving every minute. We also had a rather difficult trip out for another Inter2, we got stuck in the most awful traffic and only had a 15min warm up, which obviously wasnt enough! But despite the problems due to the lack of preparation I was delighted with Wonky's attitude, he still tried for me ad we got 63%, and I was so proud of him, as he did his best for me despite the difficulties of the day. Next up was the PSG at the Summer Music Championships, a frustrating day, he warmed up very well, but he got tense in the atmosphere in the test, he needs more exposure to bigger atmospheres now, but I was cross with myself as I dont think I handled it as well as I could. We finshed the month back at Carl's with fantastic work, twenty two ones on the wall, and big chunks of the GP test, the piaffe passage is getting better every time, he was a superstar.
Poor Wonky's cough turned out to be a pollen allergy, this heatwave has caused him to react in an unusual way, but luckily its easy to fix, and he was back to his lovely best very quickly, just bad timing to miss the one PL could do this year. We went back to Carl for another fabulous lesson working on more aspects of the GP test, we also did bits from the Special which Wonky absolutely loved and powered through so easily, he just keeps surprising us, this level of work really is his forte. I've upped the frequency of the horses massage treatments due to the level they are working at, I'm really feeling the benefit, and the horses are loving it. July ended with a pretty big day for Wonky, his debut Inter2! I wasnt sure if I was rushing things, but sometimes you never know until you try, so we gave it a go, it was very hot, but Wonky never seems bothered by the heat, so I was pretty confident he would cope weatherwise. Rock star that he is he more than coped, he was brilliant, I kept him on half power, and he had a couple of little nervous moments, and a couple of green, wobbly moments, but no real mistakes and a win on 68.15% which was amazing for a first time!! I am utterly delighted and so, so excited for our future.
No competing in June, buts lots of sunshine, lots of training. Also another little outing for Ziggy, I took him back to Charlotte Dennis, and he was so good, traveling, loading and unloading were all perfect, he was great with the other horses, he focussed and did some lovely groundwork, I really couldnt be happier with how he is coming on. Wonky went back to Carl, and we were told that Wonky's problem is that he finds the GP work too easy!! As problems go I'll take that one. We had a fantastic lesson, great piaffe passage transitions and lovely confident tempis, such a good boy. The plan was to do Sheepgate Premier League, but unfortunately poor Wonky started coughing three days before we were due to leave, so frustrating, it was the only PL I had planned for this year, so a real shame to miss it. But these things happen with horses, so I just have to get him back to his usual robust health as soon as possible.
Finally some sunshine! Sunshine also brings time for turn out at Wrestow Stud, and that means time for Bingo to come down from Scotland to join his new friends at Wrestow. I was so excited to meet Bingo, he is just a yearling and Ziggy's half brother, and my goodness he didnt disappoint, a big handsome boy with a beautiful character who is a real mover. I'm utterly delighted with him, and I cant wait to make friends with him. I took Wonky to Carl, and David Pincus was also there, I have so much respect for David, he has forgotten more about training horses than most people ever learn, Wonky was backed at Sheepcote under David's watchful eye, but he hasnt seen Wonky work for a few years now. He asked how Wonky was going and I said he has all the GP work and hes going very well, so David promptly sat down next to Carl to watch our lesson, no pressure there!! Thank goodness Wonky was absolutely brilliant, he really rose to the occasion and did some amazing work, so much so that David declared himself impressed, and surprised that Wonky has turned out even better than he thought he would. I was absolutely on cloud nine at this, and after the lesson both Carl and I shared our relief at wonderful Wonky.
After the judges comment on our too easy canter work in our psg freestyle, I rewrote it to include very steep half passes, and changes on a curve out of the pirouettes, and so we went off to a show to test it out, fortunately it worked well and we won on 73+% a pb for us at this level!
We finished the month with another Carl lesson, we started with Carl saying how much Wonky had impressed him last time, so I was happy before we even started! We had such a constructive lesson, I'm learning so much abut how to improve all the GP movements, it really feels like a whole new level of training and riding is opening up to me, and I am loving every second of it. I really feel like Wonky is appreciating this and improving at an incredible rate, I feel so blessed to have this amazing horse, and even more appreciative of my star Nooey, who achieved all she has despite my lack of knowledge.
Its April, so its time for the Winter Championships!! This is my favourite show, I love everything about it, and riding in the indoor arena there just feels incredible, the atmosphere is so special I love it. We went up on tuesday because I wanted to do as much arena walking as possible due to Wonky's longstanding aversion to the outdoor arenas at Hartpury, we walked outside for about an hour and a half on tuesday before he finally started to relax. Up bright and early (and cold) to do yet more arena walking on weds morning, he was anxious again, but he coped, luckily we were last to go in the PSG Silver class, and I really hoped everyone would have gone home by then to make it quieter for him. He warmed up well, went to do his test and I just concentrated so hard on keeping his focus with me every stride, we started the test, and I was pleasantly suprised when he managed to halt, after the trot tour I couldnt quite believe we were still in there, but I worked hard to make sure I stayed with him mentally, we just kept going, and although the work could have been better, there were no mistakes and we completed the test! I was so unbelievably proud of him, he made me really emotional, it was the first time he has allowed me to override his fears and he really tried so hard to stay with me. When I found out we finished 3rd in the PSG I was totally gobsmacked, we went to the indoor for the mounted presentation and I honestly have never been happier with him, I fell asleep beaming.
Up very early again the next morning (in the rain) for more arena walking ready for the Inter1 Silver later that day, this was also outside, but in a different arena to the PSG, unfortunately Wonky thought this arena was scarier, but yet again he tried for me. He felt more anxious this time and a few times he really felt like he wanted to make a run for it, but each time he held his nerve and stayed with me and did a very tense but again mistake free test. Understandably the tension affected our mark, but we still finished 9th, again I was utterly delighted with him, and after he had a little rest I brought him home to sleep in his own bed. He then spent all of the next day in the field, he was more tired than I expected, but loved his day off. He was bright again the following day, but I just handwalked him and handgrazed him before heading back to Hartpury for the final day, he settled well, as always, and we got up early for our arena walk, but we were indoors this time, so he was much happier. Again he warmed up well, and I have to admit to a somewhat surreal moment in the warm up with the riders with flags on their jackets and horsey parents in their ear pieces, and then me, who grew up in London on the horse I bought cheaply as a foal. We went down to that awesome indoor arena to do the Advanced Medium Gold Freestyle, Wonky felt slightly more tense than I expected, but indoors his tension feels very different, and he can translate it into more power. I absolutely loved riding our test, a few minor blips crept in with the tension, but I really didnt care, he coped better than many, and I just loved it! We finished 13th, so in the top half of a National class full of International riders, it was brilliant end to an incredible Championships, which I think has brought our relationship onto a whole new level.
Wonky had a week off after Hartpury which really enjoyed, then came back into work to do a PSG Music as I would dearly love to qualify him at this level for the new Summer Music Championships. I really enjoyed going to a show with him again, he made it feel very easy and won on 70%, but the judge commented that the canter tour needs to be more difficult now, so I need to do a little rewrite!
Best start to March, Wonky got a wild card for the Advanced Medium Music at the Winters!!! I'm so excited, we now have three Championship classes, I am really looking forward to it. Wonky is feeling fantastic, he did his first ever line of fifteen ones today grand prix is getting closer and closer....
Amazing Carl lesson, we worked on a lot of the Inter2/GP work and Wonky was so good he even impressed Carl, he said how easy and natural the GP work is for him, its so good to hear that from someone with Carl's knowledge and experience.
Very happy me! Took my best girl Nooey back to a show again, I wasnt sure if this would ever happen again after last year when she really didnt feel right, but it turns out she had a virus, and shes better now, and feeling amazing at home, so it was time to test it at a show. We did an Inter2, and she did some really good work, and we made a few mistakes too, but we finished on 66.45% with a few 8s and I'm just so happy to have her well and fabulous again.
Then Wonky had a late night trip to do a psg and a psg music, he was really good, but a little frustrating; his work has improved so much recently, but I cant quite maintain it consistently in competition yet. He felt incredible in the warm up, then the fours went wrong, I dont know why, but it was enough to lose the awesome feeling, we did the music first and he felt ok, not awesome but ok, but the fours were a car crash! He felt great in the warm up again for the straight psg and we got the best trot we've ever had at a show, so cadenced and connected, he felt amazing. Unfortunately this made him a little too fired up for a good first centre line, but we did manage to get the superstar trot back for most of the trot work. We hadd one mistake in the fours, and one pirouette was a little too big, but I was pleased with a lot of the test. We won both tests with 69+% in the music and 68+% in the straight test, I was very pleased with him, but I am really looking forward to the day we can maintain the superstar work properly.
Wow! Wonky and I had the most amazing lesson with Carl, he said it was the best he has seen him go, and then Carl said he was impressed! I can die happy now. I am so proud of Wonky, it really feels like we are making good, strong progress now.
Next up was Addington for the Winter Regionals, I was really looking forward to this, I love Addington, and it was a beautiful, sunny day, and we were doing the advanced medium music, which I also love. I just had a happy day enjoying my wonderful Wonky. We came 5th on 70.28%, unfortunately I miss timed my first halt which caused him to fidget a little, but everything else went to plan, and I'm very pleased with him, it really feels like we are making great progress. He didnt drop his balance which he can do in tests sometimes, he stayed calm, and trusted me, it feels like we are on the brink of the next level of quality in his work, and thats exciting.
Happy New Year! We started the new year the way we ended the last one; with an awesome lesson with Carl, we worked on piaffe passage transitions with Carl for the first time, and it went very well, Wonky also showed off his one tempis, such a brilliant boy! Little Ziggy also had his first trip away from home, I took him to see Charlotte Dennis to start to learn to be a model citizen, Ziggy was so good, loaded, unloaded and travelled like a star, and he is such a quick learner, he is a pleasure to work with. I have no intention of backing him until the end of the year, but its great fun working with him to get him used to all the little things in life and building trust and a relationshp with him. Well, Wonky and I did our first show of the year, and it didnt really go to plan, Wonky was pretty good, not amazing, not awful, but our marks were terrible! I'm not entirely sure why, so its one to chalk up to experience and move on. On a much brighter note Wonky got wildcards for both the PSG and Inter 1 Petplan Finals at Hartpury, I'm delighted, its my favourite show so I'm looking forwards to it already.
Snow! The heaviest snow for a few years, the horses loved it, I loved it less as it scuppered day two at Keysoe for the Small Tour Championships. We made it for the first day despite the absolutely freezing weather that caused us to miss the first class as I was worried about driving in ice. So we left a little later and arrived for the PSG class for the STC, Wonky was such a good boy, a little edgy as it was very busy, but he settled and stayed with me. I was delighted with his test, a massively better first centre line, and a much better consistent balance throughout the test, the pirouettes were not as good as usual, and I started the threes too early so they were not centred enough, but overall I was very pleased. Sometimes its just about the feel the horse gives you that really matters, and it just felt like a very positive, constructive test, so I was very frustrated that the snow prevented us from doing our music on day two. But we were 10th in the class, so not too bad, and a great platform for us to build on next year.
Then just before Christmas we had our last lesson of the year, and Wonky was so good, he tried so hard, and even impressed Carl, who said he really has a gift for the GP work.
Oh my goodness, I must start with a huge apology for neglecting this blog, please remember you can always keep up to date with my horses on a day to day basis on my Larkfield Dressage facebook page. Things are going well, all the horses are good, and Wonky is getting closer and closer to Grand Prix, all being well I hope he will do his first within the next year! His piaffe passage work is stronger all the time, and he is up to nine one tempis, so he is well on track. He has also qualified for the PSG class at the Small Tour Championships at Keysoe next month, and I am looking forward to it. The other horses are all going well, and little 2yr old Ziggy has come home from stud for the winter, its so lovely getting to know him better, and my goodness, he is just a sweetheart. He is so beautifully behaved, affectionate and very quick to learn, just a joy to work with, I have introduced him to a bridle and roller and he hasnt batted an eyelid, I want to introduce him to a few little things like this, then leave him alone until he is backed this time next year.
We are home from Hartpury Festival of Dressage, I love this show, and so do all my horses except Wonky 😞 So I decided to take Wonky to try and get him over his fear of the big outdoor arena. We arrived on Tuesday, and I got straight on to work him gently outside, and do LOTS of arena walking... This plan seemed to go well, yes he was tense, but the more I did the more relaxed he got, so it was a good start 😊 We had two advanced medium test to do early weds morning, and it was still very quiet, Wonky's first test was in the arena he fears the most, the one by the bank, and he was super tight and tense, but he kept going, lots of mistakes due to his stress, but I was so, so proud of him 😍 He really tried, and that's all I can ever ask. His second test was in the other arena and he was more confident, still not his normal self, but a lot better than the first test. I was absolutely delighted with him, as it was the first time he managed to complete tests in that big outdoor. Then today was the young horse psg, and the quality of the class was scary! Wonky worked in beautifully, but then he found the outdoor much busier than yesterday, and I could feel how scared he became, his heart was banging against my leg, and he visibly shook 😞 he couldn't make his first halt, but I got it eventually, he moved off well, powered across the diagonal in a ginormous medium trot, then when he turned onto the short side he just couldn't cope anymore and started to spin, so I retired him. I felt so sorry for him, as he is such a good boy pretty much everywhere, but for whatever reason, he is genuinely terrified there, it's such a shame. So a show of two halves.
Good day today, delighted with Wonderful Wonky today, 2nd in the Inter1 Area Festival 💖 I am so pleased with him, it was only his third ever Inter1, and he got 69% from one of the judges 😁 I have been working really hard on my position recently, and I really think it is paying off, his balance in this test was significantly better than it has been recently, so I'm delighted, as we have really been focussing on this in the last couple of weeks. I was also really chuffed with Wonkys attitude, he was much more confident, and I really felt he tried his best, such a good boy. I am also happy with how I rode in both the warm up and the test, I was able to pay attention to my position, and really concentrate on the detail and take my time in the test. All these things really add up, and whilst we had one disappointing mark, the other two judges were very positive, with the 69% from the List 1, so I feel we are going in the right direction. Very proud of my Wonky boy.
We've just a had fabulous week with two training sessions, I love training! Wonky went to Carl, and we had one of the best lessons ever, Carl was happy with us, no positionial corrections at all, Wonky did all his tempis and even did a few ones! We also worked on his piaffe and preperation for the pirouettes, such a good lesson, and a huge confidence boost for me. Second training session of the week was taking Poppy to Charlotte Dennis, we did some liberty work for the first time, absolutely fascinating, I am learning so much with Poppy. She then showed off her new found relaxation under saddle outside, I am so proud of Poppy, she has really turned a corner recently and I am loving riding her again.
Kingswood Area Festival with Nooey, one of my favourite venues with my favourite girl for the Inter 2. Nooey is a little short on competition fitness and work at the moment, so I was a little in two minds whether to take her, but I trust her big heart, so off we went for a very late night test. I could be very excited and say we won the class, but it feels somewhat fraudulent as we were the only people in the class! But we also got over the required percentage, so we are through to the next round. It was not one of our best tests, the piaffe lacked confidence, and the ones were small even for her, but as ever, she tried her very best for me. I feel so priviledged to have my awesome girl, I have total trust in her in any situation, she has the biggest heart, and never fails to try her best.
After a very late night, we were off again the next day to Allens Hill with Wonky for a PSG. He warmed up well, and I was really delighted to get a compliment on his progress from another rider that I have huge respect for, and has seen Wonky on and off for the last three years. He did a nice test, very smooth trot work, didnt really relax and let go in the extended walk, a cheeky mistake in the fours, really good threes, and I got braver and tightened up the pirouettes, which he found easy. He finished 2nd in his section on 66.71%, its a little frustrating as his work is becoming more confident all the time, but I am still not getting the same good uphill balance and carriage in a test that we get everywhere else. It feels like thats the last piece of the jigsaw that we need to get the really high marks he deserves, I'll have a think about it, and ask Carl later this month too, I'm positive this is solveable.
I decided to try and get an Area Festival qualification at Inter1, so we went to Bury Farm with the idea of doing the Inter1Q and the another Inter1 in the PYO to try and get the qualification done in one go, I thought this was a clever idea, but then it was 30 degrees on the day and my idea didnt seem quite so clever! Fortunately Wonky really doesnt seem to be affected by the heat, even in a very stuffy indoor school, I kept the warm up short, and he went in and just popped thrugh the test feeling very relaxed and confident, no real errors, just still needing a better uphill balance. I walked him off briefly, then got off, loosened his girth and noseband and washed and scraped him, and stood him in the shade to keep his temp down, and only got back on five minutes before his next test. He felt great in the second test, if anything slightly better, unfortunately I got a little over excited in the two tempis and asked him to make them bigger and bigger, and poor Wonky managed five of the seven before it all went horribly wrong! A slap the rider, pat the pony moment, sorry Wonky. I thanked him with excess polos and a very through washing off, and he was very jolly, as was I when I found he had won both classes with 67.76% in the Qualifier, and 66.5% in the PYO, easily completing his qualification, clever boy.
It was still very hot when we headed off to Carl's, but I had confidence in Wonky's ability to cope, and he did brilliantly, he really didnt feel any different to ride. He worked so well, Carl was pleased with our start at Inter1, Wonky showed how much his collected work in the three P's (piaffe, passage, pirouette) has improved, and we got compliments and homework, so a super constructive lesson. Carl is just so inspirational, I have to pinch myself that I am lucky enough to train with him, its been almost two years now and it still feels surreal.
My plan was to do one more PSG with Wonky so we had two Area Festival qualifications, so off we went, feeling positive, and Wonky was just a little stinker! He was strong and argumentative from the start, and did an appalling test, changes on the centre line breaking in the extended trots, freestyling in the tempis.... So naughty. I have to admit to being very disappointed with him, and I racked my brains trying to find out if there was anything wrong with him, but I drew a blank, and historically he has done this periodically throughout his career. He hasnt behaved this way for ages, so I assumed he had grown out of it, but apparently not, just a day to remember that he is not a machine, and not to dwell on his occasional dodgy days. So I did my best to put it out of my mind and move on as we had an exciting day planned.... Wonky's first try at Inter 1! I was going hc as I wanted a nice easy, low key run through the test just as a marker of where we were, as no matter what you do at home, it is never the same as producing the work in a test. He warmed up very well, back to his normal lovely self, and he had a good go at the test, a little green and wobbly in places, the pirouettes were a little large, smart boy did nine twos instead of the required seven, and I rode him on half power to try and just pop through the test, and this meant he lost a little self carriage as a result. But I was delighted with his attitude and very happy to finish on a mark of 66.71%! A very good first try at the level, such a wonderful boy.
Wonky went to Solihull next for another PSG and he was very good, massively more positive and relaxed, he won his section on 66.44% with another silly mistake in the threes, but an improved overall quality of work, it really feels like we are getting somewhere now! Then it was Carl time again for Wonky, and it was fantastic, Wonky was positive and uphill from the start, Carl could tell the difference in his work, which was so rewarding. Wonky proved me wrong of course by pinging throuh all his tempis with no mistakes after I said he kept making mistakes in tests.... We did a bit more on the piaffe which is getting much stronger and felt like sitting on a trampoline! But it resulted in some super powerful trot work to finish, clever Wonky. I made the most of the Carl effect by taking Wonky to a show a week after our lesson and he did his best PSG to date comfortably winning the class on 68.42% with no mistakes, so chuffed! Nooey has had a little hacking time as now she knows the work so well I find it helps to refresh her and boost her fitness with more hacking now the ground allows it, and we both enjoy ourselves. I also had a really interesting day at BD's Judging Convention at Addington, I learnt a lot watching such educated judges explain aspects of their craft.
I started off March by taking both Wonky and Nooey to South Staffs, I had an idea of how I wanted to slightly tweak Wonky's working in after the Regionals, and there was also an Inter 2 for Nooey. Wonky was 2nd in the PSG on 65.8% which I was really pleased with, I was a little more committed in the warm up, and really insisted on him staying out to the contact, he made a lovely positive start to his test, but got a little curled up in the canter work, but I kept riding him and managed to rectify this within the test which I was really pleased about. Unfortunately our mark was kept down by a silly mistake in the threes, but on balance I was very happy as the test felt like a positive step in the right direction. Nooey had to face her worst nightmare of competing in a strange indoor arena, which made her too withdrawn to really show what she is capable of, but she still won the class and achieved another Area Festival sheet, so a good day.
I have been struggling a little with Galinda, my lovely 6yr old, so I started taking her to Charlotte Dennis who is excellent with groundwork, as I feel Galinda needs a slightly different approach to help her achieve her potential. I have learnt so much, and Galinda has been challenged in a very postive way, and come through it with a massively improved attitude to her work.
Time for Wonkys first show after his training break, historically he has always been rather naughty his first test back, but he is so much more mature now, I thought he might have grown out of this habit. Unfortunately I was wrong! Thank goodness we had a little pre regional outing, we just did the AM98, and he amused himself hugely by ignoring me and freestyling, but despite this, he also showed some very good quality work. At least that first show is over and done with, so now we can look forward to a better behaved Regionals. Merrist Wood was our first Regional, we did the Advanced Medium Gold, so the 98 again, and I was aiming for a nice tidy under control test, it was also a new venue for Wonky, but to his credit he wasnt bothered at all, and did exactly what I asked. A correct test, no mistakes, but in aiming for safety I had taken out some power and this meant he lost a little expression and self carriage, but he still came 7th in a very hot class with 67+% and I was delighted with him. Nooey went out next to hopefully complete her Area Festival qualification at Inter 2, she warmed up best ever, she felt beautiful, really on my aids and gorgeous. As ever she lost a little confidence in the arena which especially showed in the piaffe, but she did lovely passage and happy tempis, and finished on 63+% which completed her qualification and made me very happy, shes just such a superstar. Then Wonky went back to Carl, and he told me I wasnt allowed to be safe anymore! He said Wonky was capable of so much more and I have to ride for it, and use the Grand Prix work to make him more obedient and on my aids. We used the piaffe to get him really sharp and hot, but also swinging through his back, he felt amazing, and Carl said he looked it! We ran through 4s and 3s with no mistakes and made Carl happy, then we worked on creating more suspension in the trot and that was so exciting, I've never felt anything like it, I cant say how much I am loving out lessons with Carl we are learning and developing so much. So we went to Addington Regional feeling confident, Wonky warmed up brilliantly, went in for our first test (AM Music) feeling great, the test started well 7.5s and 8s for our shoulder in on the centre line, but then tension started to creep in, we lost some swing and he was trying to curl up in the canter and we fluffed one of the changes. We finished 13th on 68+% and I have to admit I was frustrated, it was not a good representation of his work at the moment, and he is capable of so much more. I pulled myself together and we warmed up again for the PSG Music, again he warmed up well, and I took a little power out to try and keep him soft and relaxed. The test started well, the trot work was very nice and he relaxed well in the walk, but then the canter really fell apart. He was very tight in the zig zags, the 4s didnt happen at all, and the last of the 3s was a 2, weirdly the pirouettes went pretty well, but again I felt really frustrated, we finished 12th on 65+%, and to make it worse that mark would have placed him between 4th and 9th in every other Regional. So not our best work, and I'm really not sure what I could have done differently, I'll talk to Carl about it next time, and in the mean time just continue our training and keep my faith in my dear wonderful Wonky.
Happy New Year! January really is an uninspiring month, but I have been keeping positive with the help of my superstar horses. Wonky and I have been back to Carl for another great session, we got the best pirouettes he has ever done, and tried his first passage transition to piaffe which went very well! I am delighted with how his work is progressing, and Carl is happy too, which is even better. I took Nooey out again for another Inter 2, and this was much better than last time, she remembered that actually she can do this stuff, and did a nice test with a few little wobbles for 64.47%. I was so pleased when I spoke to the judge afterwards and she said that Nooey is one of the most supple horses she has ever seen at the level, I was so happy, as I do pay a lot of attention to all my horses suppleness and flexibility, so to have this recognised by and experienced List 1 judge was hugely appreciated.
The focus now is training over the winter, I dont want to compete Wonky again until the Regionals, Poppy is building her strength and with it, her ability to control her power, and Nooey is doing the opposite, and is going to start competing again after her summer break from competition. I took her out to do an Inter2 as an easier starting place, she warmed up really well, but lost her confidence in the arena. This was frustrating, as whilst this is something she has suffered from through her career, she had got over it, and was being fantastic in the spring, but hopefully another show or two and she will feel brave again, her work at home is just brilliant at the moment. Wonky and I had an amazing lesson with Carl last week, Wonky has been feeling great, but it was so good when Carl said his work has gone to whole new level! We also got some brilliant tips that transformed his piaffe, it was a spectacular lesson, and well worth missing the Small Tour Championship for, now we need to consolidate the training and build strength for next year.
Off to try to complete Wonky's PSG Music qualification, we went to Keysoe and Wonky was a little on edge and did a rather tense test with a few mistakes, but fortunately it was enough to qualify, so he has all his winter regional qualifications sorted now. I was gong to leave the competing there for him, but I decided to take him out one more time to do the Small Tour Qualifier at Solihull, its a new initative which is a brilliant idea, so I wanted to support it. We had a good day, Wonky did a good PSG, lovely trot and walk with a nice collection of 8's, but I allowed the canter pirouettes to be a little large, and he lost confidence in the tempis again which brought his marks down. However, one of the judges had him 3rd which was lovely, the other judge had him somewhat lower though! But we had a good ride in the PSG Music, and he felt great, one minor blip in the threes, and large pirouettes from me were are only issues, and both judges had him second in the music on a smidge under 70%,and this high placing brought him up to be placed fourth over all. Even though only three qualify, I was still really chuffed with him, he had a long day with over three hours in between tests, and he behaved beautifully, and came out with his ears pricked trying his best each time. Today we got an email awarding us a wild card for the Small Tour Championship next month!!
Great start to a busy month, I realised I hadnt got round to sorting out Wonkys Advanced Medium regional qualification, so we popped up to Witham Villa to do the 85 and 98. I would say he won them both, but as we were the only combinations in the classes that wouldnt be strictly true! But I have told Wonky he is a winner, as he got 72.8% in the 85 and 71.71% in the 98!! I am delighted with him, he did lovely, fluent, relaxed tests, and in the 85 he didnt get a single mark below a 7 which I was especially pleased with. Next up is trying his first PSG Music.... Off we went to a new venue to us, Rodbaston, to try our PSG Music. Lovely venue, and Wonky was a total star winning at his first attempt on 69.37% I really couldnt be prouder of him, but I am annoyed with myself as I didnt ride his trot lateral work well enough which lost us a few marks, totally my fault, not his. He was brilliant, did his best tempis yet in a test, and just gave me a lovely feeling, my floorplan worked well, so now we just have to get one more qualification mark to complete our regional qualification. Wonky finshed the month with another great lesson with Carl, he helped me so much with a few tweaks to Wonky's warm up routine, and also to how I position the canter zig zags, tiny details that make a huge difference! Then it was the turn for Galinda and Aronique to also go training with their visiting Danish trainer, Galinda hasn't had many lessons, so it was great to feel her progress and to be given some slightly new directions to try with her. My darling Aronique was her usual brilliant self, and we worked her her collection and my positioning of the canter pirouettes, I was delighted with her, and I cant wait to compete her again soon.
After Field House I decided I wanted to try one more Area Festival with Wonky, so we popped out very quickly to do Addington and Allens Hill and got scores of 64/65% to complete his qualification. Then we spent our time at home consolidating the work, and he is feeling so much more confident, I'm really delighted with how he is feeling, and we are off to Carl next week, so I really hope he can see a difference! Aronique has had a little break from competing and we have done lots of hacking, making the most of the summer, as a result of this she is now super fit and feeling fabulous. Her work is feeling fantastic, and I'm really looking forward to taking her out again soon. Galinda, the 5yr old seems to have finally stopped growing for five minutes and as a result of this her work is progressing so well, she makes me very excited for her future. I know she is a horse that will take a lot of time, as she is so exceptionally powerful it will take a lot of time for her to gain the strength to control and balance that power, but she makes me smile all the time I am riding her, and thats always a good thing! September has also brought a new arrival; I have bought a gorgeous yearling colt from Emma Brooks at Barnhill Sports Horses in Scotland. He is called Ziggy, a black colt by Zack out of a De Niro x Prince Thatch proven mare, he has gone to a stud very near me to grow up in a herd of yearling colts, I think it is vital for youngsters to grow up in groups like this, and to be left alone to be a horse, so far, so over the moon with Ziggy.
Wonky and I had an incredible Carl lesson, developing him towards Grand Prix, his piaffe passage work is improving all the time, and with Carl's help Wonky showed us glimpses of his new International trotwork! After this we went to the Area Festival at Allens Hill, Wonky was super chilled, possibly too chilled as he felt a little tired as it was only a few days after our lesson, but such a good boy, he still tried his best in the PSG. The trotwork was good, picking up 7.5s and 8s, he was instantly relaxed in the walk, but unfortunately felt a little flat in the canter, I made the pirouettes a little large to accomodate him, and he didnt go from from my first aid in the tempi lines. This was unexpected, and threw me a little and it meant we had to squash his changes into a smaller space than I would have liked, these likke mistakes brought our mark down to 64.74% which left us 3rd. A little frustrating as we missed out on second, and qualifying, by a whisker! But I cant be anything but delighted with Wonky, he is only 8yrs old, and so new to the level, and he needs more strength and confidence to show what he is capable of.
Bit of a mixed bag competition wise, Wonky went to Keysoe for his Advanced Medium Regional, sadly the atmosphere got to him and he was very difficult to ride. But the positives were that although he felt like turning tail and running away, he didnt actually do it! He trusted me and stayed with me, but still felt extremely fragile, and became very tricky in the contact as well, but he didnt make any mistakes in the test, just the way of going was not good enough, so we finished on 65.88% and finished about in the middle of the class. Its frustrating when we have days like that as I know how capable Wonky is, but because he is usually so good I sometimes underestimate how sensitive he is too. I had a little rethink about his bridle as well, and changed him into a drop noseband and NS starter bit, and this has been very successful, and has made him much more settled in the contact, and also taking the contact forward more which feels great. So his next outing was Field House Area Festival, and this was a very positive outing for him, big, outdoors and busy, all the things he finds difficult, so excellent practise! We had a chance to do an arena walk which also helped him, he started off on his toes, but settled well, then he warmed up well, and did a slightly patchy test, but lot better than Keysoe! The trot work was good, 7.5 and 8's for the lateral work again, but an unfortunate change coming out of the right canter pirouette was expensive, but I was able to bring him to walk, pick up counter canter again, and do the flying change at C. But his left canter pirouette got 7's which I was delighted with, and 7.5's for the walk pirouettes too. We finised 10th on 64.58% which I felt was fair, and it was a constructive positive experience for him.
A very exciting day! Wonky did his first PSG, and he won it on 66.71%!! I am so proud of him, he is only eight, and the best bit for me was how confident and happy he felt, lovely trot work, with the minor exception of him jumping a shadow at the end of his medium trot! We had a little mishap in the canter transition as a large metal gate clanged loudly which spooked him briefly, so we got a deserved low mark for a very easy part of the test. The canter pirouettes went well, as did the fours, we had a blip in the middle of the threes, but I just took my time, settled him and he finished with some lovely threes, it was just a green moment, but he stayed with me and got back on track very quickly. So to get a nice mark like that with those mistakes is great, and I feel so excited for his future, next time I plan to be less cautious and let the handbreak off! Wonky went out again for another PSG, to try and get a second score for his Petplan qualification, we went to Solihull were Wonky has often been naughty, and I was delighted at how well he behaved, he didnt put a foot wrong! He did lovely trot work, really relaxed in the walk, and was mistake free albeit a little hesitant in the canter work, I was very pleased with him, but somewhat confused with the mark. This does happen occasionally, but it never gets any easier, we got 59.74% which I really think was not deserved, and not enough comments to help me see why it was all so bad. But I made myself focus on how pleased I was with the feel he gave me, and trust my trainers and training, and so put it behind me. I took him out again quite quickly to Beaver Hall, and Wonky was great again, and won the PSG on 66.57% I was so relieved by this as it confirmed everything I felt about how he is progressing. Again the trot work was great, collecting 7.5s and 8s especially for the lateral work, he was a little tense in the walk and needed more confidence in the canter work with a mistake in the threes. Even better the judge found me afterwards and asked about Wonkys age and experience, and said how much potential he has for the higher levels once he felt more confident. I really couldnt be happier with him, such a good boy.
Time for Wonky's Advanced debut, so we went to Allens Hill to try the 102, Wonky warmed up very well, he started to feel a little tense when we went into the arena, so I dropped the power level down to half just to relax him and keep in on my aids. This worked well, and he immediately softened and settled, he stayed nicely with me and did a comfortable test, with just a couple of green moments, he popped a couple of ones in after the single change on the centre line, and made his last of the three tempis a two! So just a little over enthusiastic in places, but he did make it feel very easy, so I was delighted with the win over 3% ahead of the rest of the class. Next it was time for our monthly Carl lesson, and Wonky was amazing! Carl was his usual incredible self, he helped me find the rhythm again in the piaffe, I had reverted to my old bad habit of trying to make the steps too quick and rushing poor Wonky out of his rhythm, but Carl fixed it quickly and Wonky was brilliant. Our changes were bigger, canter pirouettes better, and trot spectacular, finding and increasing both swing and suspension, so all fabulous!
Time for another GP with Nooey, and we had the very big positive of getting both the zig zag and the ones correct! So far we have managed to get one or the other correct in a test, but this is the first time both have worked in a test, counting is difficult!! But there are far too many places to make a mistake in that test, and unfortunately I over rode the single change inbetween the pirouettes and dear Nooey started off doing ones! She is obviously thinking ahead and practising for the Special already, so a nice mistake to have. We still have so much to work on and improve, so we will keep training and get better. I am so honoured to be working with my wonderful mare, and she is just the most generous girl that never stops trying for me.
As a total contrast, the next show was the first one for Galinda, my 5yr old, so an early start and a prelim! Galinda has a lovely character, and it showed as she was very well behaved, stood still for me to get on, walked on a long rein and coped well with a busy warm up. She did however go very green and wobbly and whilst she tried hard her first test was a very wobbly affair! We did a second test as I thought it would benefit her to get back in the arena and hopefully be less looky the second time, this plan worked, and she was certainly more settled in the second test, but still wobbly in places. I feel that she now needs to just go to a few more local shows just to see the world a bit more so she can learn to relax in different environments, but a good, positive first outing.
Winter Championships! One of my favourite shows, and although I was so sorry not be taking Wonky, I still had my darling Nooey for the Petplan Inter1 Championships. I was determined to enjoy every moment as this was Nooey's last time at these Championships as due to her percentages at Inter2 she is no longer eligible for this class. I am really hoping that the Petplan Championships will continue up to GP one day, so we can do them again. But Nooey has been to these Championships for the last six years from Novice to Inter1 and she has been top ten five out of six times, so we really cant complain. Nooey warmed up well, and did a really nice test, the only mistake was in the two tempis, Nooey decided we needed to do the nine changes required in the GP rather than the seven we should have done, as mistakes go, its a pretty postive one! I was delighted with her, and even happier to finish 6th in a strong class despite our counting mishap, a lovely way to finish our time at these Championships. I just couldnt be prouder of my beautiful mare.
Wonky's training has been going really well, Carl is very happy with our progress, and I am delighted! I took him out yesterday to complete his Advanced Medium Music qualification, he needed one more result, and bless him, he smashed it! A win on 73.76%, 4% above the rest of the class and the highest percentage of the day, he felt really lovely to ride, probably one of the best tests he has done, he was on my aids in a soft, positive way. Now its time to consolidate his work so he is ready for his PSG debut.
Well this really wasnt our Regonals at all! Wonky and I went to Houghton Hall for our final class, the open advanced medium, he warmed up well, started the test well, heard a funny noise at the start of his shoulder in and totally froze! I have no idea what affected him so badly, but he started to shake with fear, and I could barely get him down the A end of the arena, so frustrating, but he was genuinely distressed. His work going towards the C end of the arena was very good, nothing below a 7, but going the other way we got 2's and 3's, so we ended up on 62%, but we did get such lovely positive judges comments which I really appreicated. After an unfortunate test like that, I think its really important to try and put it behind me, I have gone over and over it, and I feel confident that there is nothing I could have done differently, it was just one of those things that happen with horses. So I had to just forget about it, and be happy that all the judges could see the quality of Wonky's work in his non terrified moments, and also that although it was a frustrating day, what Wonky felt was genuine fear, not naughtiness, and given his fear he tried his best to trust me and work with me. What really helped me the most was at the end of the month, we had another Carl lesson, and Wonky was amazing! Carl was very complimentary about how much we had both improved since our last lesson, even asking us if we had sneaked off to Germany for secret training!! We are getting ever closer to Wonky's PSG debut, and I am so excited about that.
February means Regionals, we had a great start with a fantastic lesson from Carl, so then off to Addington Wonky and I went, unfortunately this was not our finest hour! Our first test was the Open Medium, Wonky warmed up well, and then the test just wasnt very good, his balance wasnt great, and it just felt like a very rare off day. Wonky is usually so consistent, but even he is allowed an off day, just rubbish timing to have it at a Regional, so we finished 12 on 66+%. Second test was the Medium Music, again the warm up went well, and the test started really well, then I was a total idiot and over rode the first trot extension and caused poor Wonky to break into canter. I was livid with myself as the rest of the test went really well, and we finished 6th on 69.83% and whilst I was delighted with Wonky, I felt like I let him down by my stupidity. We came back for more on the second day, and did the Open Advanced Medium Music, it wasnt a bad test, but we had a couple of minor wobbles and we cant afford them at a Regional, and we finished about halfway through the field on 67+%. I did think that in such a strong class Wonky's youth and inexperience at this level showed, and only time can cure that. We still have one more class to go at Houghton in a couple of weeks time, so hopefully we can do a test to be proud of! I also have to admit to a slight pang at not taking Nooey to a Regional, its the first time since I have had her that she hasnt done a Winter Regional, and its simply because the classes dont go up high enough for her! So now she is a Grand Prix horse no more Winter Regionals for her, its not a bad reason to miss them, I have to admit. Another little outing today for Wonky, we went out to do a couple of Advanced Mediums, Wonky got 69+% in the AM85, thus completing his Summer Regional qualification in just two tests. We also did the 98 and we had a little unscheduled bronc in the middle of the serpentine when, I think, low sun caught him in the eye, but he recovered well to finish on 68+%. Not spectacular, but solid tests. I have to admit to being rather more excited by his work in the warm up, I took advantage of being able to play in a 20x60 with markers... We did the GP trot half passes as it is in the test, and he found it effortless, Nooey couldnt have done it any better! Then he did some beautifully confident half steps and passage, these moments make me so excited for his future.
Happy New Year! January has started well at Larkfield with a lot of teaching, and some new clients too, I am delighted, as I really do love being able to help people and give a few lightbulb moments along the way. I am also following up my (slightly early) new years resolution, which is to make sure I have more lessons myself, so Wonky had another session with Carl this week which went so well, we were praised on our homework, and Wonky is improving all the time, its so exciting! Then Nooey and I went out today to have another try at the GP, she has been going so well at home, I just wanted to try and improve her confidence in the arena. I have to admit to a little frustration at the difference in her work from home to test arena, but bless my lovely mare, she always tries so hard for me, and I know in time she will become braver. Not a bad test today, we finished 2nd, on 62.3%, we so nearly got the zig zag too! Nooey just anticipated one of the changes, so we did 6, 5, 6, close, but no cigar! The first piaffe was too timid, but each subsequent piaffe was better, which is positive. I was absolutely delighted to get some lovely comments from the judge, and even a compliment for my riding! Good to start to 2016. Then Wonky had his first show of the year as I just wanted another run through of AM98 before the Regionals as he hasnt done it very often. We went to Moreton Morrell and Wonky warmed up very nicely and went in and just popped round the 98 making it feel very comfortable, showing me just how much he has strengthened and improved over the winter. He won with 69.89%, so barely a whisker under 70%, I couldnt be happier with him, he got 8's for some of his changes which was great as we have been working wth Carl to make them more expressive, and I got an 8 for my riding too, which always makes me happy! Bless Wonky, he finished 2015 with an advanced medium win, and he starts 2016 the same way.
No competing so far in December, but lots of training, starting with Poppy, who is the giant baby 4yr old. Poppy went to Worton to have her first lesson with Serena Pincus, Worton is a pretty busy place, and it was only Poppy's second ever trip away from home, so she was a little gobsmacked! But bless her, she settled well and did some nice work, also working with other horses which is such a good education for her, really happy with her, and Serena commented on her great character and attitude, which is lovely to hear. Wonky went back to Carl's again and did some fantastic work, he is just getting better and better, its so exciting! We got some incredible comments from Carl today, I really think I can die happy now. We ended the year with the Bury Farm High Profile Show with Wonky, I had written a new advanced medium floorplan for him, and I wanted to have a little pre Regional test run, so off to Bury Farm we went. We had a fab show, the floorplan worked well, and Wonky won both his section and overall on 72.33% over 2% ahead of the rest of the class, super end to our competing year!
Well, November might just be my favourite month! First, the very exciting news that Wonky and I have started training with the Dressage God that is Carl Hester, I still cant quite believe it, but we have had a couple of lessons so far and have more booked so it must be true. I am still training with my fantastic long term trainer Serena Pincus, but now we have the added bonus of Mr Hester as well, I really do feel like the luckiest person on earth. As Wonky has all his winter regional qualifications done I havent competed him for a while, and will just mainly concentrate on training over the winter.
Now for my superstar girl Aronique, we went out today to do our second ever GP, and it definately felt better than our first try, I was delighted to get 63.4% and I know when I learn to ride better the marks will definately go up. I know I need to ride the test better, but Aronique is doing me proud, she is growing in confidence every outing, and starting to show what she is showing at home, I couldnt be happier with her.
Aronique and I went to Allens Hill to do the Inter2, we are still going HC at this level at the moment, as we are both new to the level, and we have so much to learn, its definately harder because we are both learning this together. Its frustrating for me to not be able to help Aronique enough when she needs it, but she is so generous and always tries her best for me. She is starting to gain confidence now in the arena which is fantastic as she is so capable, but still gets too introverted when doing new things in competition. I am also finding it intimidating competing at this level, in the warm up today we were the only combination with neither a flag, or a trainer present! But other rider/trainers are so welcoming and positive, and its really helping me feel braver, and not quite so out of my depth. We only had one small mistake in the one tempis today, the rest was a clean test with some of the passage work gaining 7's and even a 7.5! I do think I need to look at Aronique's energy levels now for this higher work to help her maintain her best activity and engagement consistently throughout the test. But a good day, learnt more, and as ever so proud and thankful for my wonderful mares huge heart.
Super start to September, Aronique went to Kingswood to do the Inter1 Area Festival, and bless my lovely girl, she won it! So happy with her, she was first to go, which was nailbiting for me, but she did a nice confident test, with only one small mistake in the two tempis and it was enough to win. This qualifies her for the Championships next year at Hartpury, and I really couldnt be happier with her. Super September continues, Wonky went out to finish his Medium qualification, and did it in style with a 75.34% win, a personal best at the level for us both, then he came 2nd by 0.1% to a rather gorgeous horse in the Medium Qualifier. So all his winter regional qualifications are done, and we can concentrate on his PSG prep for the rest of the year, after he has had his little holiday of course! Just delighted with my fairy dust ponies.
Its August, so it must be Regional time! Nooey has qualified at Inter1, but I have decided to take her to do Area Festivals instead, so it was just Wonky who went to Keysoe to do the Open Medium and Advanced Medium. I decided to stable overnight, as he has often been a bit spooky at Keysoe, and I wanted the chance to do the arena walk. This turned out to be a good decision as we had two totally spook free tests, a first for him at the Regionals. First was the Medium, it was an incredibly hot class, and having seen the start list, I thought we would have to really be at our best just to get a top ten placing, unfortunately Wonky had other plans; he was very wild in the warm up, trying to get away from me all the time. In order to have any control, I had to kill all the power and therefore he was not at all at his brilliant best, we did a clean test, but I was disappointed as it was a long way from what he is capable of. No time to dwell on it as I then had to prepare for the Advanced Medium, it was a big ask for him as it was only his third ever test at this level. Thank goodness he felt like Wonky again, warmed up well, and started the test well with some lovely trot work, a little tension in the walk, and then had a very uncharacteristic mistake when he struck off disunited into canter, this unsettled him a little, and it took a little time to reorganise him, so he started the medium canter slightly too late. This was very expensive as to lose marks on two movements he normally does well was just too much, he also went a bit green in two of the changes, which considering his inexperience at the level was a very understandable fault, but he tried and felt very geniune, so I was very pleased with him. Imagine my surprise when I checked the results and found we had come 9th in the Medium on 66.9%, I was totally gobsmacked, and immediately wondered how well we could have done had Wonky been his usual lovely self, still top ten on a bad day isnt too bad. We got 65% in the Advanced Medium, which was very fair, but out of the top ten, so no Nationals for us, but a lot of positives to take away from the show. Onwards now to complete his winter regional qualification at these levels, and to continue working towards the psg. Back to getting Winter Regional qualifications now, Wonky went to Witham Villa to complete his Advanced Medium points, clever boy won both the AM85 and AM98 to easily complete his winter regional qualification at this level. Then we went to Vale View and he won both the M69 and M73 to make a very good start with his Medium points. Four wins from four is nice work from my lovely Wonky boy!
Wonkys turn again, I wanted to try out our flying changes in a test again to see if there was an improvment, so we did an Advanced Medium Music test, and I just used our medium floorplan and substituted flying changes for simple changes. It was also his first test in the double bridle, and he was very good, he stayed nice and soft in the contact, did two relaxed clean changes on my aids in the test, and won on a super score of 75.3%!! So happy with him, he really is such a star.
June began with a bang for Wonky with three outings in a week! First up was a lesson with Serena Pincus, and it was so exciting, we decided to work on Wonkys piaffe and passage, and I was apprenhensive as whilst Wonky and I have worked on piaffe and passage we have done it home alone with no one watching but the dog! So to show it to Mrs Pincus was a little scary as I was worried in case I'd made too many mistakes. Fortunately Wonky did his thing and Serena was delighted, we got lots of positive comments and a few tweaks, but overall she was very happy with how I'd taught him, and she agreed with me that he has a really exciting talent for the piaffe passage work, which made my year! Then we went to Wellington Premier League to do the M73Q, as although Wonky has already qualified Medium for the Summer Regionals, I feel he still needs more experience of the busier outdoor shows, and I was right; Wonky got very overexcited and somewhat tense and came 6th on 66+% with an unplanned rapid reverse in the canter work. He also did some very good powerful, expressive work too, so I was happy as it was all part of his education, after all, he cant learn to cope with these shows by staying at home in the field. He finished his busy week by going to Bury Farm for his Hickstead Masters Semi Final at Medium level and winning the M75Q on 70.94% the only horse in a big, strong class to break the 70% mark. He still had a few tense moments, but they were brief and he still listened and tried for me. He came home looking remarkably chirpy after his action packed week, and he has a week off now and a massage to help him recover, next stop Hickstead!
Hickstead was a great adventure, both horses settled in very well, Wonky was a little wild on our first ride, but I brought him back out the next morning, and he was so much better, and when he came out for his test he was super good! It was the M61 and I just tried to ride a nice neat under control test on half power, and he let me do just that, he concentrated so well, and just made one little mistake when he popped in a flying change after the extended canter. An expensive mistake in terms of marks, but a very nice mistake in terms of training, so I was absolutely thrilled with him, as we achieved everything we set out to do, I was especially pleased with the way he improved everytime I rode him. He finished 8th in a strong class on 68.88% such a clever boy! Next up was Nooey to do a PL Inter1, she was so good and did some lovely work, but unfortunately she freestyled a little too much in the 3's and we still struggled with the consistency of the balance to bring her mark down to 64.47% to finish 15th in a large class. I was very pleased with them both, we had a good show, and an excellent educational experience for Wonky.
Well May has got off to a very exciting start, I took Wonky to the lovely Witham Villa to have a try at his first ever Advanced Medium tests, Wonky is still only 7yrs old, but his changes have been very good at home, so I decided it was time to test them out in a competition situation. We started with AM85, and he was feeling very hot and one his toes, he did some super work, and when I asked for the first change he threw his head in the air and ran away! Naughty boy! I got him back and got the change, but right by the marker, way past where it should have been, but he did it, so big pat and when I asked for the second change he did it well, so a very positive learning experience. Fortunately the quality of his work meant that even with this one blip he still won the class on 70.73%. My aim for the second test was to keep him small, neat and under control, with no wildness as the AM98 is quite demanding for a big, young horse like Wonky who is very new and green to the level. Well the plan worked and he did a nice test, still a bit green in the changes, but he tried his best, and I was so proud of him, he came second by a whisker on 68.28%, and clever boy that he is, has qualified for the Summer Regionals at ad med at his very first outing at the level! I am so excited for his future, he just keeps getting better and better...
Nooey's turn next, with another try at Inter 2, I really tried to be braver in my riding, and possibly overdid it slightly as she made a mistake in the two tempis which as usually so reliable, and I also pushed her out of her rhythm in the second piaffe. But despite these two rather large mistakes we still got 66.05% which I am delighted about! Next time maybe I need to go for slightly more controlled bravery, but we got 7.5 for the trot zig zag and a few other movements, and 7 for the passage, so things are definately going in the right direction. I am loving learning so much about how to ride at this level, and I so appreciate the generousity of my wonderful Nooey who is learning with me and putting up with all my mistakes along the way.
Aronique and I decided to do one last outing before Hartpury, so we went to Allens Hill to do our first official Inter2, bless my girl, she tried her best for me and did a safe clear round, even getting her one tempis! We got 65.92% from one judge, and unfortunately somewhat less from the other judge, but nevertheless she finished 2nd on 62.5% so we have our first points at Inter2 which is very exciting. Having thought about it and read my sheets, I think we both just have to be braver and more positive at this level, I feel that we shouldnt really be there, and I know Aronique still needs more confidence to be able to perform the work like she does at home. So we need time and bravery to improve, but on a positive note we are doing all the movements and we have come so far together, I'm sure we can continue to improve.
Hartpury time! Off we went to contest three classes, Aronique in the PP Inter1, Wonky in the Open Elem Music, and Open Elem. We arrived on tues afternoon in time for Aronique to do her arena walk, and she enjoyed it as much as I did, so we did a fair bit of arena passage rather than walk, it just felt so good to be there with my darling mare, I beamed, and she passaged! We all settled in well, and then got up at silly o'clock for Wonkys indoor arena walk, last year this was rather overwhelming and explosive for Wonky, but a year older, he was super chilled, looked at everything, but in a very relaxed manner. Next up was the Inter1, I am so grateful my trainer Serena Pincus was there to help me warm up for all our Championship classes, her help was invaluable. We trust Aronique to be able to do all the movements, so we concentrated on improving and maintaining her uphill balance, she tried her absolute best for me, and she did a really nice test, no mistakes at all, but just a little too inconsistent in her balance to achieve the really high marks. She finished on 65.57% which left us in 9th place in a very tightly marked class, less than 2% off second place. Then it was time for Wonky to put his dancing shoes on for his music class, he warmed up well, marched into the main arena, took hold of the bit and was off like a steam train! He wasnt naughty or off my aids, he was just giving me more and more power, unfortunately it was more power than we needed or then he could really control, resulting in a few lapses of balance. It left him 10th on 68.4%, but I was thrilled with him, as his reaction was so good, and the time will come very soon when I am so happy that all he wants to do is give me more power! We all slept well that night, but had another silly o'clock start for a second arena walk for Wonky. His class on the second day was the straight Open Elem class, and after the music, we decided to aim for a small, neat test, and bless him, he was so rideable, he let me create the soft, easy accurate test I wanted, and I dialled the power down so he was able to maintain his usual excellent balance. He did a lovely test for 68.75% and 10th again, I was absolutely delighted, he was so grown up, and just a different horse from last year, and handled everything so well. We came home, shattered and chuffed, both horses tried their best and are within the top ten Nationally at their respective levels, it doesnt get much better than that!
PATCHETTS REGIONALS, well they didnt quite go to plan, we had a very early start, but despite leaving the yard not long after 5am we got stuck in traffic within hacking distance of Patchetts, so frustrating! Thank goodness for Antonia, the super helpful organiser who managed to find us a later time for our first class. So we started with the Open Medium which was outside, it was also very cold and windy and Wonky found this a little too exciting. Despite this he managed some excellent work, interspersed with some rather wild work, he finished on 65.22% and 16th, but only 2% behind 2nd place, given his greeness and wild moments I was pleased with him. Then on to the Open Elementary, which was indoors, unfortunately he was still feeling a little too tense from his exciting Medium, and I just didnt quite have the time to fully settle him, so he felt a little fragile. However he still tried for me and did a good test with a couple of silly, expensive blips due to tension, he finished on 70.15% and 6th, the judge at C had him on the same mark as the winner, which was lovely. On the whole it just felt like a frustrating day, when we tried our best but things didnt quite go to plan. But looking back on Wonky's five Regional tests, he was top six in four of the tests with marks ranging from 70 to 73+%, and he always trys for me, so I'm delighted with him.
Well, despite me thinking we had a frustrating day at Patchetts, BD phoned to award us a wildcard for the Open Elem! So excited to have two classes to contest at Hartpury, but I have to confess to being a little disappointed to have missed a wildcard for the Open Medium Music, we missed out by 0.06%, close but no cigar. I need to focus now on the classes we are qualified for, Inter1 with Aronique, and Open Elem and Open Elem Music with Wonky.
Next was Nooey's turn, and we went to Bury Farm to try and finish her Inter1 qualification for the Summer Regionals, she feels very relaxed with the Inter1 test since we have been concentrating on the GP work. Despite this I managed to make a horrible mess of the zig zag, but dear Nooey popped through the rest of the test to be 2nd on 65.7% and completed her qualification.
I decided to take Wonky to one last show before Hartpury to try and finish his Medium qualification, we went to Swallowfield for the M75Q, we only needed 2 points, but Wonky being Wonky did a nice comfortable test to be 2nd with 70.14% and 6 points. Very pleased with him, he feels more grown up everytime we go out, so more training and I'm really looking forward to Hartpury.
Wonky's saddle came back as quickly as promised, and we had two days work then we were off to Moulton College for his first pre regional show, and his first show since Vale View in October. Last year his first show back after his winter break was wild to say the least! So I was a little unsure of how he would behave, but apparently he is a grown up now and he behaved immaculately. We did the M73Q and after warming up beautifully he got a little stage fright in the arena and tried to drop behind me, but he still managed a reasonable test to win on 66.7%. Next we did the Medium Music and this time Wonky remembered his job and powered round the test like a superstar! I enjoyed every minute of it and he won well on over 71% securing a very early winter regional qualification for 2016. Next we went to Moreton Morrell where he did M61 in the outdoor arena, where historically I have never been able to get him to finish a test as something about that (very nice) arena sends him nuts. But yet again grown up Wonky appeared and he did a very nice test to be third on a whopping 74.14%! Then we did the M75Q indoors, as he hasnt yet done the 75 and as its the Championship test I really needed to have a ride through before the regionals. I was absolutely delighted with him, he felt perfectly comfortable and confident with it, a couple of minor wobbles but nothing that concerned me, he got just under 65%. It was one of those days when I felt the marking was a little hard to understand, I felt he was overmarked in the first test and undermarked in the second, but it all evens out in the end, and most importantly I was very pleased with how he felt, he is currently enjoying two days off in the field, then bring on the Regionals!
ADDINGTON REGIONALS! Well, it was an ambitious plan, doing all our music classes at Addington, but we pulled it off! We went back and forth and did a class a day, starting with Wonky in the Open Novice Music; I warmed him up for a little too long which caused a bit of tension to creep in, but he did a nice test for 71+%, which left him 4th in a very large class. Unfortunately there were only three direct qualifiers, so we have to hope for a wild card. Next day was Wonky again for the Open Elem Music, and from the moment I picked him up he felt awesome! He went and did a superstar test for 73.72% (one judge had him on 77.8%!!!!) He was 2nd and has qualified for the Championships at Hartpury, I'm so excited!! Day three was Aronique's turn in the PSG Music, she warmed up beautifully, and coped very well with her nerves, but just got too deep in the test, especially in the canter, which was expensive, so she finished 7th on just under 64%. Feeling rather weary (me, not Wonky) Wonky and I headed back for the fourth and final day which was the scarily strong Open Medium Music, Wonky felt a little green as he is very new to the level, this was only his third ever Medium Freestyle, but as ever he tried his best and did a super job to get 71%! This left him 3rd behind two International riders, so, so proud of him, unfortunately only two qualified directly, but with a percentage like that his wildcard chances are high, so I'm crossing everything as I REALLY want a wildcard for this class! So, a very successful show, couldnt be happier with my fairy dust ponies, now a little rest, then prepare for Patchetts and Regionals round two!
Happy New Year! We have started the new year with a bang, Aronique went to Bury Farm to do the Inter 1 Qualifier as I wanted to drop down a couple of levels after our GP to give her confidence. It worked well as she felt very positive and attacking and won on just under 67% with some very nice judges comments. Then we went back to Kingswood to try another GP, we went HC again as I just want us to take time to learn without feeling under pressure. She definately felt better and improved our mark by 4% which I was delighted by! The piaffe was much better and she got all her ones, which was brilliant, but the passage wasnt as good, and the zig zag totally fell apart, but again, she tried her best and finished feeling really strong with the last centre line all on 7's which was so encouraging. She is feeling amazing at home now, she just needs more confidence in the arena then she'll start to show what shes really capable of, it'll just take time, but I am so, so proud of her. All Wonky's wonderful work at home has had a positive effect on his body as he has got so much stronger his saddle has had to go away to be widened. Its cutting it a bit fine before the Regionals, but due to the amazing Tiffany at European Saddles its being rushed through and I'll have it back soon in time to do a couple of prep shows to hopefully ensure good behaviour at the Regionals. This month has also seen a new arrival in the shape of a 16.3hh 2011 mare by Voice (De Niro), Galinda is a big gawky, gangly baby with a lot of potential, and a real sweetheart who I look forward to working with. January has ended very well with an email from BD awarding Aronique a wildcard for the Petplan Inter1 Championships at the Winters, I'm delighted as she really deserves to go through, looking forward to Hartpury now!
December has been great fun, despite the fact its winter, my most hated season! Wonky has been training, with no interruptions for competing, this has been so constructive for him, and his work has come on massively. I am excited everytime I ride him at the moment, we are doing lots of stretching and suppling work, and I can really feel the benefits of this, as he feels so loose and fluent in all his work. His half steps are improving all the time and he is building up to what will be a very good passage one day, also his flying changes are getting very secure now. The more demanding the work is becoming, the better he feels, this is such a positive time to just be able to play around with higher work without being disturbed by competing. Aronique and I achieved a real milestone this month, we did our first Grand Prix!! I couldnt be prouder of her, she has allowed me to achieve one of my dearest ambitions, which was to ride at GP on a horse I have trained myself from the very beginning. My adored mare tried her absolute best for me, and she didnt get tired, but she did get worried as the test is so relentlessly demanding. But all the errors were mainly down to a lack of confidence on both our parts, so I feel there is a massive room for improvement from both of us which is so encouraging, we will continue to train hard, and we will also go out and do a few Inter1s just to regain and build confidence in the arena. But I couldnt be happier with Aronique, just because we actually did it! A really lovely way to end the year.
Whilst Wonky was enjoying field time, Aronique and I went off to Arena UK to contest the Inter1 PetPlan Area Festival, unfortunately her test was held indoors in a very glamorous spooky arena which she hated! She just got so tense and tight which was such a shame, due to tension she struggled to concentrate and made mistakes in both tempi lines. I did feel very frustrated as she has been working so well recently, and I know that had we been competing outdoors it would have been a very different test. I feel this tension is something I know I have to work on now as it is really inhibiting her performance. I know how genuine she is, and I can feel she is trying for me, but her nerves are getting the better of her, we finished 8th on 61.27% which was disappointing, but fair. We need to move on now and do a few more Inter2s and then do our first Grand Prixes. I am delighted with how she is working at home, especially her piaffe passage work, which made the Inter1 result even more frustrating, but horses are all individuals and these things happen. We have to put this result behind us and move on now, she is such a wonderful, talented horse, and we have a great relationship, so I believe we can move on and learn to cope with the worry in a positive way.
Aronique needed two more results at Inter1 in order to do another AF, as she was a close second at Burrows Court, which isnt enough to guarantee qualification. So we went to first Weston Lawns, then Allens Hill to get this done. I rode quietly as I was just aiming for easy clear round on half power, and bless her this was exactly what i got, we were 2nd at Weston Lawns, and then won at Allens Hill, sadly she also came in front of the same judge as Wonky at Allens Hill, but her mark were still good enough to give me the necessary qualification for an AF. I also wanted to build on Wonky's Medium debut, so I took him to Allens Hill to do a couple more, I was absolutely delighted with him as he felt so much more confident and comfortable at the level and gave me two beautiful rides. Unfortunately we were in front of a judge whose marking was somewhat disappointing, Wonky did win both classes, but on scores lower than I feel he deserved. I realise we always think our own horses are wonderful (!) but several riders and a watching Listed judge all came up to me afterwards to tell me what great tests Wonky had done and how wrong his marks were, in addition to this a few other riders were going to lodge complaints about the judge. Despite this i did feel my confidence was knocked slightly by these marks, but i had a very kind Grand Prix rider give me a very nice talking to which made me feel a lot better!
Confidence was on its way to being restored yesterday with a fab day out at Patchetts, Wonky did his first Medium Music class which he won on a super 72.66%, a clear 5% ahead of the rest of the class! He felt lovely, soft, swinging and relaxed and I really enjoyed myself, and he got some wonderful judges comments. Then it was Aroniques turn and she did the PSG music and was 3rd on 67.12% behind two beautiful horses, this also completed her Music Winter Regional qualification, so a very sucessful day all round!
Well, The Dressage Convention, what can I say?! I was so appreciative to have been given this opportunity, and it really lived up to all my expectations. Wonky and I arrived on sat evening, and he settled in like a pro, and I got to watch the fascinating evening performance. We were up bright (well dark actually!) and early on sunday morning to do the arena walk, it was a lot to look at, with flowers, tables, cameras and a giant tv screen, I let Wonky walk for about 20mins on a very long rein to let him look at absolutely everything. Then it was time for some beautifying then a brief warm up, and into the arena now absolutely packed with people, about 1200, certainly it was an environment way beyond anything Wonky has ever experienced before. I felt his heart rate rise and his back stiffen, but he was brave and went straight in, and I got him trotting as soon as possible because I knew that would relax him, and it did. He was such a star, once working he didnt look at anything at all, just totally put his trust in me and tried his best to do everything we asked of him. I was fortunate enough to have an incredible session with the one and only Carl Hester, and it was so inspirational, he immediately highlighted Wonky's weak areas and helped me to improve them very rapidly, I was able to take so much away from our session that I know will make such a difference to Wonky's progress, a truely unforgettable experience, made even better by the lovely things Carl said about us. When we finished the audience clapped, and Wonky just stood absolutely still and stared at the audience, Carl loved that, and said " it shows that Wonky is a winner, winners stand for their applause!" I gave Wonky a mountain of polos and left him with his hay, whilst I went back to watch and learn more. I was so suprised and so grateful by the amount of complete strangers who came up to me after I had ridden to say such lovely things about Wonky and me, to everyone who spoke to me, thank you so much, you really were the icing on the cake of an unforgettable day.
After the incredible time at The Dressage Convention it was back to reality at Vale View with Wonky, he came out very sharp and wild, I think his time with Carl went to his head! Fortunately he managed to just hold it together in his first test and won the M61 on 69.66% which was a relief. He did seem better in the second warm up, but then did a very tense and expolsive second test for 63.97% in the M73Q, at one point he even did a rapid reverse across the arena! Fortunately the lovely List 1 judge was kind enough to get out of her car and say what a gorgeous boy he is, even if he had a somewhat tricky day today! She was also kind enough to praise how I had handled him. It was good for me to have a reminder that despite how brilliant he is, he is still only 6yrs old and is allowed to have his occasional wild days!
We went back to Vale View for the last show of the year for Wonky at the High Profile show, bless him, he put his sensible head back on, and I tried to just ride him quietly on half power to give him confidence and help him keep his balance as he is still very green at Medium. I was so proud of him, he didnt bat an eyelid at the beautifully dressed arena and did two calm, relaxed tests, it was exactly what I wanted from him, he had a couple of green wobbles, but tried his best and had a lovely positive experience. I was delighted to come 3rd in the M69 on 66.6% and 2nd in the M73Q on 66.7% the marks were very close and both classes were won by a very experienced combination, so I couldnt be happier with Wonky. He has some time off now, then training at home to polish his flying changes and he wont compete again until just before the Winter Regionals in February.
Aronique was first out in September to Patchetts to do the PSG Area Festival, I decided to do it as we missed the PSG Regional, so I thought we would do the AF instead. Patchetts is such a lovely show and Aronique and I enjoyed ourselves, although Aronique possibly a little too much as she decided to improvise in the four tempis by doing pretty much every kind of tempi except fours! We ended up 7th on 64.04% which was very fair, I have decided not to do anymore PSGs with her as the test really doesnt suit her, and I want to focus on moving upwards and doing some more Inter 2s and hopefully a GP before the end of the year. Wonky also had a good day, going to Bury Farm this week for his debut at Medium, its always so hard to know when a horse is totally ready to move up a level, as the work at home always differs from the work in a test situation. However, I neednt have worried as Wonky was a star and won both his tests with a fab 69.81% from a List One judge in the M73Q! I was delighted with his attitude as he really tried, the tests felt a bit green and wobbly, and there certainly is a huge room for improvement, but it was a very good start. Next for some very exciting news, Wonky and I have been chosen to be guinea pigs at The Dressage Convention and we get to work with none other than Carl Hester and Richard Davison!! We got this amazing opportunity through Horse and Rider magazine and I am so grateful as this really is an once in a lifetime opportunity for us both. It will be a big step for Wonky to cope with such a busy arena complete with giant TV screens and miked up presenters, but I hope his experience earlier this year at The Winter Championships will help him deal with everything, I cant wait!!
August is Regional time, and Wonky was first up going to Keysoe to do the Open Novice and Open Elem, he warmed up for the Novice very well, on my aids and i put some power in and he felt amazing, unfortunately he just boiled over in the test. I really dont know why, which is very frustrating, possibly because i had asked for power and that made him a little wild, or possibly he just still isnt reliable in the bigger shows with a bigger atmosphere? Either way, i have to admit i was disappointed, he is so talented, but he threw that test away, trying to bronc and improvising with flying changes, so he got (and deserved) his lowest ever mark of 65%. But the judges comments really did cheer me up, as all three judges said how much potential he has and what an exciting future he has, he just couldnt hold it together in this test. I did my best to focus on the next days Elem with positivity, and so we were up bright and early and back on the road to Keysoe again the next day. I warmed him up with less power this time, and i had him a little more under my thumb! He warmed up beautifully, and made a massively better start to this test, lovely trot work, walk was a little fragile which betrayed the tension he was still feeling, canter was goodish, it was a bit more negiotation than riding, but we got through it without any major mistakes. It was a very definate improvment on the day before, but i had the feeling that it really wasnt quite good enough. I was proved right and we ended up with a mark of 68.65% which left us 8th in a big, strong class. Again the three judges were overwhelmingly positive about him, and they praised how i had managed him, which was very nice. I was pleased that even on a patchy day he is still top ten at Regional level, but still a little frustrated as qualification would have been easy for him, had he behaved like he usually does. But he is still young and has a very bright future ahead of him.
Aronique had qualified for both PSG and Inter1 at the Regionals, and I had decided to do the PSG Regional, and Inter1 Areas, but at Regional time she just didnt feel quite right, so sadly i withdrew her, shes too special to risk. Fortunately a week later she felt terrific so we went to Burrows Court Area Festival to do the Inter1, she was on good form, and did a lovely clear round, just lacking a little self carriage at times. I was delighted to come 2nd on 66.32% in a very strong class, one judge had her to win, which was very nice, and she felt great, so a very happy outing for both of us.
Next i wanted to get Wonky out again to make sure he did some calm tests after his wild Regionals, we went to Swallowfields to do Elems 43 and 57Q, he was super calm and relaxed which was both very good and very frustrating! He won both classes on 74.14% and 72.85% respectively, which completed his Winter Regional qualification in just three tests, such a clever boy.
Hartpury was as fabulous as ever, the Festival of Dressage there is such a wonderful show! Wonky had qualified for the National 6yr old Championship, we went there the day before so I had a chance to ride him there before the test. He worked beautifully and then I took him all round the outdoor warm up, and let him go up and have a good look at the main International Arena. I was so proud of him, last year he was totally unable to cope with all the views outdoors at Hartpury, but this year, whilst he was slightly on his toes, he was still rideable and focussed on me. After this, I was so pleased with his progress, I didnt care what the test was like! The test was in the indoor arena, and he was fine with his, the 6yr old test is quite demanding, shoulder-in, half pass etc and it all comes up quite quickly for young horses. Wonky was very good, he remained in forward, soft and swinging throughout, and I really enjoyed riding it. Unfortunately, due to size (17.3hh) and the heat, he was not strong enough to maintain his uphill balance consistently through the test, and this brought his mark down. But I really dont mind at all, I know its just a question of time to allow him to develop his strength, what matters more to me is his lovely positive attitude. When I went back to check on him after his test, I found him flat out asleep in his stable, I had a lovely time sitting with him with his head on my lap, then I left him in peace to sleep, it just shows how hard he tried for me. We are safely back home now, and he has a week in the field to recover, then we can start to prepare for the Regionals.
Wonky went to Wellington PL to do the Hickstead National 6yr old Qualifier, after a rather hysterical outing at Addington PL I wanted him to do a nice, soft, relaxed, obedient test, and bless him, thats exactly what he did. He came 5th on 76% with an 8 for his way of going, so i was delighted with him, and felt it was a really constructive outing for him. Next stop was Keysoe for both Wonky and I to do the E59, its the Championship test, and neither of us have ridden it before, and i didnt want our first time to be at the Regionals. I was delighted to win the class on 72.19%, it was the busiest test hes done so far, and he made it feel easy, even better, the List 1 who judged us said that he will be my next grand prix horse! Absolutely thrilled, and after a few days in the field its time to start our prep for the National 6yr old Championships at Hartpury.
Header images copyright of Hoofprints Photography , Nathalie Todd Photography and Catchitquick Photography.