Monday, 4 August 2014

I'm back!

Firstly, I apologise for my extreme slackness. It's what happens when you stop being so get slack about all the other balls you have up in the air. Well, that's my experience.

A little bit has been happening but in the freezing dark of a Canberra winter, it's really not as much as probably should be happening.

Firstly, the Sam Lyle clinic was a good confidence boost and has held us in good stead over the last couple of months of only intermittent riding and some motivation issues. Getting up to go riding in the dark has been a real struggle and sadly that has had quite a bit to do with Jedi.

Jedi had been getting increasingly tense and 'hot' over the past few months. I originally put it down to only riding on weekends, and I do think that has a little to do with it. However, he just seemed to be very stressed, weeing before rides, being difficult to catch and bucking and carrying on when we canter.

I thought it might be the ulcers settling and that has certainly been a noticeable improvement over the past three weeks. I've been feeding Gastrocoat (Kohnke's) and that seems to work well. No more kicking at his stomach and trying to eat all the time. Still a little humpy when I get on but getting better.

Julia from WOW came out to refit both saddles a week ago and commented that maybe I should stop feeding him Easiresult - it can make them a bit nutty. So, I quit feeding that, gave him Micrbeet instead and started on Equilibrium Blue to see if that might calm him down. I'm yet to see any improvement. :)

We had a really great Manu Mclean clinic a couple of weeks ago and it was quite a breakthrough. Straightness was pretty much the only thing we focused on and we tried a new technique Manu is teaching using the cheekpieces of the bridle as a guide. If you can see both cheekpieces, your horse is traveling straight. If one cheekpiece disappears you're heading for trouble and need to do an immediate indirect turn using the rein on the side you can't see the cheekpiece. So, can't see the right cheekpiece? Use your right rein to do a pretty sharp indirect turn. Keep going until the horse's head drops, he softens his body and 'gives' himself under you. Release and travel straight then ask for a bit more forward. It was working really beautifully in about 15 minutes.

Needless to say, it didn't stay that way. I find Manu lessons (or any lessons, now I think about it!) can be like going to the hairdresser. It doesn't work at home like it did in the salon!

But straightness got better. I only had three or four rides until the last comp - Harden Horse Trials last weekend. I think we didn't cement our straightness! Here's how it went down....

Warming up for dressage he was tense for the first 15-20 mins but gradually started to settle. He was coping pretty well with horses cantering past and was actually ok. A bit touchy, but ok. Certainly better than both Berrima and Wallaby Hill. And we hadn't been out amongst other horses for a while so I was pretty happy.

He was really crooked when he was tense but I did a lot of indirect turns a la Manu and he got straighter and more relaxed. Bingo, I thought. Computer says no....

It turns out the Harden officials had kicked off the Prelim showjumping in the arena right next to the remaining Prelim dressage. Like, 10 metres from the dressage arena was jump one. With the cantering and jumping and rails flying and heads tossing....Jedi saw this from a while away and I felt him start to get stressed again. My heart sank. And of course, just as we were walking down the long side to go in the horse in the jumping arena took out the entirety of jump one, right next to us. Jedi's little mind exploded and we just never got back on track.

Needless to say, our average mark was a 4. Probably the worse test I've ever done. He never settled from start to finish and threw in some completely awesome bucks just for effect. I was so disappointed and angry at the end. I just can't seem to nail this dressage thing, and especially as he had started doing some really nice work at home.

Ah, well, on to phase two, which is normally my alltime nightmare phase given how scared I am of showjumping. However, after such an awful dressage, the pressure was off, really. And I've started trusting Jedi to always jump, especially in showjumping. I concentrated hard on leaving him alone, keeping my hands elastic and up, sitting tall (Ben Netterfield) and letting him land and take a stride before steadying him (Sam Lyle).

Worked pretty well, though he was still a bit of a nutcase from the dressage. We had two rails down, both in the double to single related line. He hasn't really got the hang of related lines, yet, and tends to get a bit rattled by seeing the jump after the one in front of him. He gets flat and drops the first element (or two!) but clears the last. More practice required!

We were in last place though I didn't confirm this til the following day when a mate laughingly told me I had claimed the wooden spoon from her. Well, at least we perform a charitable service to other riders!

Cross country had walked interestingly. It was a funny course (as Harden really is), with a lot of twists, turns and drops, and the course designer has been a bit dodgy and simply not flagged combination elements that we really did have to jump if we were to be safe and training our horses correctly. Jump 8A-B was a pop up a little bank, over a rolltop and then down off a little drop less than a stride away. Didn't flag the drop so it was technically a double. Jump 10A-B was a post and rail which led straight to a big drop (at least Pre-Nov) two strides away, but they'd flagged the drop to the right of that (smaller) so you needed to angle 10A quite considerably to get a good line to the drop. Then a wrench around while traveling downhill to 11, a sizeable and spooky 'blackboard'. A bit of a challenge!

Even funnier were the two waters. The first was a little jump in, two strides and up over a little jump out (not flagged for Prelim but part of the course for the lower grades), then a few strides over the B element. Really a treble....The second water was quite technical for Prelim, I thought. A was barrels, two-three strides to a rolltop down into the water (B), through the water and out over a rolltop (C) and then only two strides away in a straight line was the Pre-Nov D element, a bigger rolltop. No way was I pulling Jedi off that - he already had to unlearn that when I did that to him at Sam Lyle's clinic. So, we jumped all four.

The going was pretty good, though I was worried about the mud on the very steep landings and the quick turns we'd need to pull off. I filed 3 'cleats' into each front hoof starting just at the base of the bars and working forward to end just on the widest part of his hooves. Worked a treat. No slipping at all, and there were some horses that fell right over. Go barefoot!!

The course was demanding for both of us - fitness is something I definitely need to work on! Jedi appeared quite fit enough, despite no fitness work (I DO love that about TBs), but he was really challenged by a lot of the jumping. Lots of things he hadn't seen before and not much time to process it. The jumps come thick and fast with no real stretches of easy galloping in between. It was hard work but he really jumped his heart out and we got around clear, though with quite a bit of time. I was happy with that for our first Prelim.

So, that was Harden. An exhausting weekend but great to get that first step up a grade under our belts. I'm going to take him to some dressage comps over the coming weeks just to give him more exposure to comps without the adrenaline of jumping too. No doubt it won't be pretty!! And I'll keep you posted :)