Laura: That’s horses for you!
So the last few weeks have flown by and I find myself writing my second Honeychop blog, with a mixture of highs and lows to report! But as a friend always tells me “that’s horses!”.
So, lets start at the beginning, last month as I signed off my blog I was heading to a two day intensive training camp with Adult Training Camps over at The College Equestrian Centre at Keysoe, 2 lessons a day across the 2 days, it was our first time properly back jumping since the hamstring injury back in May and so I was a little nervous to see how we would fair, but we had a great time, it felt great to be back jumping and I particularly enjoyed being back on the XC course, we made light work of the steps, the water, and after a first attempt needing a lead managed to ping back and forth over the ditches. We met some lovely new people and after a couple of cold nights spent sleeping in the horsebox I headed home tired but happy. Onwards and upwards!
Next up was a 2 day intensive dressage camp at Twin Oaks Eventing in Mursley, again 2 lessons each day over a weekend with Oxfordshire based dressage rider and trainer Tom Graham, Mikey went really well, and it was nice to hear from Tom that things had improved since I had seen him for a lesson a few months before. Another good weekend spent in the saddle. The horses that attended this camp also got to try out some free Honeychop which went down particularly well – the calm and shine range seemed a firm favourite amongst the dressage riders that attended that weekend.
As regulars at arranged camps through riding clubs etc. a few friends and I arranged our very own pony camp at my friends new yard set in Duns Tew Oxfordshire, Day 1 was focusing on our jumping with Swedish Eventer Dag Albert and Day 2 Tom (Graham) came and put us through our paces on the flat. If you haven’t ridden and jumped a grid recently I highly recommend it – if nothing else it shows you the areas you need to work on in your jumping, grid work was my first lesson of the day (ride the canter forward, get a response when you ask him to go, keep straight and don’t cut the corners as you land! Not much to try and remember haha!) When we moved on to jumping a course, the preparation and feeling I had got out of the grid lesson really set us up well – Mikey felt great and was flying round the course, taking me in to the fences and no chipping in (which is the problem we have been trying to address). I was thrilled with our progress – big tick! Day 2 for the flat was also more of the same areas I have been working on, getting Mikey off my leg, and more responsive, particularly focusing in on leg yielding away from my leg, moving left to right came easy, however right to left was a bit more tricky – more practise needed there! The riders at this camp also bagged themselves a free bag of Honeychop, which yet again the ponies were more than happy to receive. All in all another great weekend – the black and white pony did good.
So, after having some great jumping lessons and feeling like progress was being made on the flat, I entered my first hunter trials at Elmwood Equestrian in Bampton Oxfordshire, our first XC run since May and first time out jumping since the injury, it was a two hour journey to get to the show and for the main part I was surprisingly calm, a friend came over to help me warm up and all went well, until we left the start box! Mikey became really nappy, wanting to head back to the warm up and sadly after a couple of stops at the fourth fence we were eliminated. I have to say, I took it quite badly, having put so much time and focus in the weeks leading up to the event preparing I was gutted to get eliminated so early in on the course, but as a friend always reminds me “that’s horses for you!” So, I brushed myself and made a plan, having taken lots of advise as to what I can do to fix the problems, the napping which was causing issues with our straightness and the backing off the fences and ignoring my leg which led to the stops. So firstly I have committed to solo hacking – I know a lot of people find this quite scary and I am no exception to that but to get Mikey listening and forward going off my leg, trusting me and letting me tell him a bit more about where we should be going (instead of him telling me!) we need to do it! So I am pleased to report we have been out for our first solo hack and all was fine, as with most things in life the idea is far more scary than the reality – more of the same to come. The other suggestion that came through from friends was to go hunting, and I can hardly believe it, but we have been out hunting! In fact we have been twice. I can honestly say I didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to do it, but we went, and had a great time, if you have a horse that needs to be more forward, and as a rider you want to become braver then hunting is the thing for you. I even managed to jump a few decent sized jumps, one of which a friend later went back and measured at a metre high!! Me – jumping a meter
, wow, I couldn’t believe it, the only shame being no one was there to take a photo to prove it!
This month we also got to meet our sponsors Honeychop and spent a day with Tim Page at his yard. It was a great day, and very inspiring to watch Tim ride so effortless with such great end results, I was also encouraged to see some of the exercises I had been doing at home (or variations of at least) Tim does as part of his training. I talked to Tim about what I can do to help eliminate the stopping and chipping in of short strides, and he said to carry on doing what I am doing, lots of grids, use canter poles before and after the fences to help show Mikey where he needs to be taking off, and it seems to be working.
The first exercise set by Tim Page was to jump a series of jumps by riding through a figure of eight! Great for rhythm and keeping a consistent stride the very two things Mikey and I struggle to do over one fence let alone eight! Not to mention mid-way through the exercise a change of lead is needed to take you round the second half of the circle.
I decided to start the exercise by cantering through the figure of eight with the poles flat on the ground, I did this to try and find a rhythm and to work to get our canter established, it did seem to help get us warmed up however once we moved in to the exercise with the fences up and jumps coming up thick and fast the exercise really highlighted the areas that we need to improve in order to start to successfully jump round a course of jumps.
The areas that I noticed we seemed to struggle were:
- Canter – we need to have a more forward canter off the corners to keep the momentum and not get “stuck” before the jump or between the fences.
- Last few strides – I simply stop riding! If I cant see a stride or am unsure, I freeze, this exercise showed me (yet again) that this up as a real problem area for us and something we really need to work on, the consequence of me freezing those two or three strides out is that Mikey has now started to stop at fences, or (which is the problem area I identified when I asked for help from Tim and Honeychop) he gets right up to the fence and chips in a tiny stride before taking off. I tried really hard when doing this exercise to ride a more forward canter – sometimes with success sometimes without!
- Landing on the correct lead – This exercise is a great eye opener for ensuring you are landing (or not as the case may be!) on the correct lead.
I will definitely try this exercise again as I think over time it could become a key exercise to help me develop a better feel for a stride in to a fence, and with the fences coming as quickly as they do I think it will sharpen my riding, and highlight really quickly to me if I don’t have a forward enough canter!
Here’s my Youtube video attempt why don’t you have a go yourself
So that’s enough from me for now, a busy few weeks for us, and a firm reminder that you win some, you loose some, but we will keep trying and hope to have some more adventures for you next time.
Until next month.
Laura and Mikey x