Thursday, 27 March 2014

Berrima Horse Trials Autumn 2014

Well, it's been a few days but I thought I should record the weekend's events, for posterity if nothing else!

It was a hectic weekend, as these things always are when you're doing a few things at once! I had hit up my friend Kim to see if she wouldn't mind if I stayed the Saturday night with Jedi and, after a bit of discussion with my good friend and regular penciller, Jo (who's looking for a dressage horse to buy), next thing Jo's coming to! It seemed like a good idea - I would get a penciller I love hanging out with for hours cooped up in the car, and Jo would get to have a look over Kim's very nice young fillies. And Jo would get to have a weekend away! Well, that was the plan.....

Berrima were great and put me on at 11:15am for dressage. I even got there early. I don't really know what happened after that....I plaited his tail which looked quite awesome for the first tail plait in 15 years. Then, I hopped on and got a bit lost trying to weave my way around various bunting and fences and, by the time I got to the warm up area, the girl before me was going in! Poor Jedi was a bit overwhelmed by it all - it's only his second event after all - and, with 5 minutes to warm up, he really didn't do a good test. I was kicking myself, but lessons are always learned the hard way!

We were sitting 21st after dressage and I do think the judge was a little harsh. Don't we all! But, no time to sit around pondering - we had 40 mins to get Jedi set up in a yard, down some lunch and find our arena to start 3 hours of judging one of the Prelim classes. We made it, but only just!

The Prelim guys had some really nice horses. I'd judged quite a few of them the weekend before at Canberra and it is such a pleasure to watch calm, obedient and confident-looking horses at this level.

After judging, I flew off to saddle up Jedi and get our showjumping out of the way. Most annoyingly, they weren't running to times or in numbered order. It was a blackboard, like a Jump Club day! Grrrrr. I was all set to jump at my allocated time, but when I turned up, there was at least 30 mins of horses in front of me. Really pissed off. I hate sitting around on my horse just's uncomfortable and potentially damaging to the horses to do that. So, I hopped off and just walked him around until I was allowed to head into the warm up.

The warm up was pretty good. He started standing off as usual, but with a bit of stern 'wait' orders, he was soon meeting the fences really neatly and confidently. I hadn't been able to walk the course since I'd been judging, but it looked pretty straightforward. It always is at this level, I guess!

Jedi jumped an absolutely super round. We had a rail down at the first of the double but otherwise he was rhythmical, calm, jumped really athletically and met everything well. He even shortened for me and waited when I asked - a great development, showing his growing confidence in both he and I. The rail came down because he saw the 2nd jump behind it as he was taking off and dropped his legs. Just needs more practice.

Off to walk the cross country after settling Jedi in with some hay and water. That horse goes through a lot of water at comps, I tell you! The course was very long with some lovely galloping stretches that would absolutely suit my little ex-racehorse. The jumps were all pretty straightforward, no doubles or related lines and I got excited about riding it the next day.

Then packed up and headed off to the lovely Kim' and smoked trout awaited us and Jedi was put up in a lush paddock next to the house. A very pleasant evening of horse talk and wine, then an early night listening to the rain coming down with the storms outside. I was thinking of what the footing was going to be like as I drifted off to sleep....

Well, poor Jo woke with the cracking headache she'd gone to sleep nursing. I urged her to head home after a couple of hours as we were just hanging around until my cross country at 1:30pm. Luckily, she took my advice and headed off. She was starting to look like death!

After an increasingly boring few hours waiting, waiting for my cross country (watching horses jump obstacles gets a bit repetitive after 3 hours!), it was time. I was interested to see if he would be less crazy in the XC warm up after he's complete meltdown at Wallaby Hill. He started to get really tense as soon as he spied the horses all cantering around in the distance....tongue started lolling out the side of his mouth, jogging....but not quite the crazy bucking attempts from last time. I ended up taking him off away from everyone and warming him up with some transitions, cantering - faster - slower - faster - walking, til he was responsive and calmer.

I thought I should head back to the warm up and start and found him vastly improved in the tension stakes. He was good enough that I could have a quick canter around and a jump, and then even walked around on a loose rein for a while. Very good. Next time should be even better!

Soon we were in the box and off! The jumps came up well, he was into it and we were going bloody fast. The ditch was the only one I thought might be messy and it was, but only because he noticed that it was a ditch just as he took off! I just sat back, slipped the reins a little to let him look and held my leg on to give him no doubts what he was to do and he kept going. There was an interesting jump involving a steep mound to come up and over, then a stride or two and over a fairly wide roll top. No hesitation from Jedi, just point and shoot the whole way around. Even cantered through the water!!

The footing was quite interesting from a barefoot point of view. I think this is the one time that I would have preferred having studs in. The going was really loamy in places, like riding on chocolate cake! We had a little slip here and there and I think if we'd had studs in we wouldn't have had a problem. That being said, Jedi was quite handy and didn't seem worried by the going at all.

What a little star. I was so pleased and it felt easy - we were 22 seconds under time (and earned ourselves .8 time penalties!). We had also pulled ourselves up from 21st to 13th - quite respectable and almost in the top half which was my goal for the weekend.

Given how good it went, I'm pretty confident about going up to Prelim at the next event. There's really no point hanging around at Intro with Jedi. Our dressage needs a lot of work, but the Prelim test is really nice and not at all hard. Wagga is the next event for us and I can't wait!!

"Can we go home now?"

The background of Berrima - trucks and floats as far as the eye can see!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Warning: Downer Alert!

Hey trusty Barefoot peeps. It's been a while so I thought I would at least post about the last few weeks on Dragonwood Farm.

There hasn't been much riding since Manu's clinic, I'm afraid. A pall of depression has washed over me, caused in large part by the (welcome) rain that's been bucketing down on an almost daily basis, and the tail end of daylight savings that causes us to rise in the dark at 7am!! Why do we have daylight savings drag on so long? Surely, by the time autumn has officially arrived we can just can it and swap over to getting up in the dayling again!

Jedi has been ridden fairly intermittently but has been, on the whole, pretty well-behaved. He's trying out some new conflict behaviours and my training hasn't been great, but we're always making a bit of improvement at the end of every session. Our jumping is way better, with a lot less head tossing and stressing.

I've focused a lot on being stiller and more forward with my seat and my hands. Not leaning forward, but thinking forward.My hands are my Charlotte Arms - straighter elbows, very still, forward but holding a contact. When he chucks or puts his head up I open my hands wider and he comes down - he doesn't get the reward of losing the contact from the throwing head that way. It's working nicely, but I have to be super-hard on myself about pulling back. It's the first thing I want to do when he throws his head and speeds up. But pulling doesn't work - he just pulls and gets tense and gets worse.

If I slow my body and hold the contact with wide hands, it gives him a really solid frame to come back into. It's been a big learning curve for both of us, but it does help with the fighting!

Otherwise, poor Rose has been a bit stiff, a bit funny with her dodgy elbows and her crooked pelvis. I got Robyn Larson-Shelton out to bodywork her and the prognosis was guarded. Essentially, the elbows will be permanent problems. They may cause her to be unsound or at least not 100% sound over her career. The problem appears to be lesions in the cartlidge of the elbow joint. No one knows how they come to be there, if it's injury-related or something else. And there's no treatment for it, though some things are showing some benefit - including particular joint support meds and, wait for it, barefoot trimming! So, if I can get Rose's feet back to how they were pre-baby, that might help.

I also had Rochelle Joyce the vet out on the same day and the feedback was the same. Give her some months off, wait a couple of months after we've weaned Uno and let her get some muscle condition back. We can try Glucosamine supplements now or wait til I'm looking at starting to work her.

Either way, massive downer. She was always supposed to be the horse I would ride through the grades and she's one special lady. Fingers crossed we can get her sound but I would never want to event her if there's any likelihood of it being painful for her.

Otherwise, we're just preparing for winter now. Finishing the stockwater installations, starting our rotation grazing proper and seeing the benefits. The fencing is pretty good now, just need some stand-off wires to go in, but they're all looking a million dollars with the green grass.

We're going to establish an equine geriatric care centre for people to bring their very aged horses (25+ years with high-care needs) for us to look after. It seems there might be a need for it and it's a good way to bring some money into the property using the things we have in abundance - time, care and experience. I'll keep you posted!

I'm going to be purchasing some barefoot trimming tools and doing the youngsters feet myself. Money is getting tighter and it's time I cut the trimming bill in half! One file isn't going to cut it though, so I'm trying to decide how to buy and what to get. I'll let you know how that goes too!

Next event is Berrima next weekend. It'll be fun, just popping around Intro and judging in the afternoon. It's such a fun event and I'll finally get to actually ride it!