New Year’s Resolutions

I might be a bit late to the party getting my resolutions for 2018 down on paper, but you’ll have to bear with me as it’s been a manic turn of the year this time around. For personal and shiny new job reasons I haven’t had much chance to sit down since before the New Year!

So here we go, my equestrian New Year goals:

  1. Schedule more time with Ginge, and stick to it! Starting a new job, moving to a yard with no indoor school and having Ginge on part livery has had an adverse effect on how much time I spend with my boy. I’m disappointed with myself for letting this happen. To fix this, I’ve joined the Top Barn 12 Week Challenge on Facebook to help get us focused over the next 12 weeks. We’re doing the silver level, which means 5 hours of horsemanship activity (riding or ground work) per week plus two mini challenges over the 12 week period. If you stick at it, there’s a chance to win a mini riding holiday at Top Barn. I think it’s a great way of encouraging people to get pony time in the diary and stick to it over the last of the winter.
  2. Work towards a Dressage Anywhere Novice entry! Ginge and I have had a pretty good year on Dressage Anywhere, qualifying for the online champs at Intro and Prelim, with steadily increasing scores and lovely comments at both levels. We even got a lovely ribbon for Intro one of the months. Now Ginge is getting stronger in the canter, I’ve decided to focus on our Prelim tests at the beginning of the year and work towards successfully completing a Novice test by the end of 2018.
  3. Compete at a BD competition locally. Dressage Anywhere has been a brilliant confidence giver for me, we’ve already had List 1 and 2 judges watch videos of our tests and not hate us. It feels like time to get out there and ride a Prelim test at affiliated competition “live”. There are a few BD venues nearby at varying levels of friendly and massive, so the plan is to get the diary out and head for one of the friendlier options to start with. I still don’t have my own transport, so forward planning is key to figuring out the availability of in-laws or friends with transport or getting a hired trailer booked in.

None of these sound like a hugely outlandish aims, after all the key to goal setting is that it’s achievable or you’re setting yourself up for failure before you even begin! Organisation and a strict schedule are going to be key to success this year, so I’ve treated myself to a beautiful Dressage folder and 2018 diary set from Leroy and Bongo (highly recommended if you’re a fan of stationary). Now to crack on and get some riding done! Ginge was like a train to ride yesterday, full of energy after two weeks off so we just need to harness this energy into beautiful dressage activity and not just charging around. Easier said than done, right? Happy New Year everyone!

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This blog is part of the January Equestrian Blog Hop hosted by Bridle & Bone. Follow the link to discover other wonderful horsey bloggers and their goals for 2018!

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In the ribbons: dressage diva motivation

Ginge and I have had a brilliant end to the summer and it was just the boost we needed after a manic season and a brief setback due to rider injury. He can definitely be a grumpy beast at times when we’re training, but when it counted this month he really pulled it out of the bag! Our horses can be so tuned in to us as riders that I’m sure they know when they are on show and their performance really counts.

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The first test for us this month was a return to Dressage Anywhere. I love the DA concept, it is perfect for people who don’t have their own transport and for people who are a bit nervous or those with young or inexperienced horses. I think ginge and I tick most of those boxes so it’s ideal. The best bit is all the judges are BD listed, so you know you are getting consistent and top quality judging. We definitely aren’t brave enough to head out to any affiliated competition yet, but this way we have top quality judges in the comfort of our own home! We tried DA once before and our comments then had given us plenty to work on. Well, it looks like our hard work paid off: our second try at DA saw us score 69.35% at Intro B and come 9th in a massive class of 71! Our first time on the scoreboard and I couldn’t be more thrilled, it’s a real validation of our hard work and the bond we’ve built as a team. We also submitted our first ever Prelim test, after some encouragement from other DA members. Prelim 7 is quite a nice test and I felt like we had managed OK despite one or two rider errors and a questionable second transition to canter. I was so nervous submitting the entry, but to my surprise we scored a respectable 63.41%! The judge’s comments were very positive and particularly complimentary about our trot work (it’s no secret that our canter still needs work). We even managed a championship qualifying score, so we have no choice but to enter both prelim and intro again this month in hope of the magic second qualifying score.

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With the incredible confidence boost of our DA performance in our pocket, we were given the offer of a lift to a local show hosted by the Stroud Pony Club. We jumped at the chance and entered Prelim 2 and the 60cm Open ShowJumping. Dressage was first up and meant an early start. I’m not the best at plaiting whenever I do it, but Ginge was particularly unimpressed by my efforts at 5:30am. Despite our dodgy plaiting, the horrendous weather and crippling nerves on my part, our very soggy dressage test impressed the judges for another scoreboard finish with 2nd place and a mighty 70.5%. It’s probably fair to say the scoring was generous compared with official BD scoring, but we had lovely comments and some points to work on nonetheless. Feelings at the yard about generous scoring are mixed. The dressage divas label it false encouragement and criticise it as setting people up for disappointment if they take these scores as the nod to go affiliated. Other grass roots riders have said they think it’s nice and what’s the harm in a little encouragement – do you really want to mark strictly at pony club level and potentially put kids off dressage for life? I think there’s merit to both arguments, I’ve come out of the experience still realistic about our chances at scoring 70% at any affiliated competition and since the scoring was generous across the board the placing remains valid, so it doesn’t feel like there’s any harm done. We also have a beautiful photo in the house now, courtesy of Top Shots Photography (apologies to the lovely photographer we nearly crushed while spooking at the white boards)!

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As a bit of fun, since we were at the show for the day anyway, we also entered the 60cm Showjumping class. Our round was entertaining to say the least. I think we were the only horse in a class of ponies and jumped out of trot as the slippery grass was worrying us. However, my darling dressage boy managed to leave almost all the fences standing and bravely tackled his first ever wall and TWO doubles, which he normally finds too stressful. We managed only 4 faults and qualified for the jump off! Sadly, I had no idea we were in the jump off, so no rosette there for us. I thought that was for clear rounds only and the weather meant I couldn’t hear the announcements! All a learning experience, next time we brave leaving the ground we’ll pay attention in case we have a jump off to attend!

Onward into September: we’ve still got plenty to work on, but this confidence boost is welcome motivation as we get schooling ready for the winter season. Here’s hoping we’ll get a few more lifts and outings, but you’ll be seeing us on Dressage Anywhere either way!

Review: How to get your leg over (Diary of a Wimpy Eventer) by Victoria Brant

Over the last few months, I have been sporadically entering “retweet and follow” Twitter competitions. I never really expected to win anything, but it is worth a shot, right? Well, no one was more surprised than me that I ACTUALLY WON when Haynet offered the chance to win a copy of the Wimpy Eventer’s brand new book. Sometimes these things happen for a reason and I think this book found its way into my life at exactly the right time.

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Have you ever found yourself having a crisis of confidence? Doubted your abilities, even over something you used to be able to do with your eyes shut? The Wimpy Eventer has, and she has opened up about her decision to look fear right in the eye in honest, humorous and heartfelt fashion. It’s difficult not to fall a little bit in love with Vic, and her superstar pony Pat, after she lays her soul out on the table for her readers. The journey to regaining your confidence and trying to jump in with both feet when you’re paralysed with fear is not an easy one – and this book doesn’t pretend it is. You find yourself rooting for its author every step of the way, laughing along with her and celebrating her successes (both large and small).

Somehow, by the end, you find yourself believing in yourself a bit more. I have a number of books written by professional dressage riders that were supposed to motivate and inspire me. Sadly they have primarily left me feeling a bit inadequate and apologising to the ginger one for failing him as a trainer. This book is different. Its author is an every day rider who works several jobs to fund her expensive horse addiction, has zero transport to facilitate competition entry and is often convinced that she just is not good enough. Yet she is getting out there and smashing it. And she makes you believe that you probably can, too.

This book arrived in my life at just the right time. After 5 weeks off riding due to injury, I was definitely having my own crisis of confidence. What if all our hard work recently has been forgotten and we are back to square one? Post reading this book I have done two things that terrified me: interviewed for a part time groom job at a professional event yard (still convinced they’ll throw me off the yard as a fraud any moment) and got back on my horse. Do something you are afraid of every day. There will almost certainly be non-death to celebrate at the end of it and, you never know, you could come home with more success than you ever dreamed of. It works for the Wimpy Eventer after all!

And they’re off…

This is my (or our) “Hello World” blog. Since it’s traditional, we’ll begin with an introduction!

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This is the ginger pony, he’s a French Trotter who was imported to the UK as a two year old when it became clear he had not inherited his grandfather’s skills as a racer. In his first few years in the England he was lightly backed; broken to harness; accidentally became a dad; and then was mainly left to his own devices for a year or two except the occasional drive out with his carriage.

When I first arrived at his field it was to help school a 5 year old dressage potential, but a few twists of fate brought me together with the gangly 8 year old field ornament who has now definitively claimed a corner of my heart. Six months later, I had to move away and the ginger beast came with me to start a new life in the Cotswolds – luckily for me, his owner felt it would be cruel to separate us and that he “might as well have a job to do”.

That was two years ago, since then we’ve been battling with dressage and teaching each other to jump. After a recent lesson, my trainer commented on how far we’ve come in the last two years and that comment is what brings me here, to this blog. It can be tough to keep perspective on how far you have come when you are in the moment, so this blog is going to be a record of our successes, failures and, hopefully, gradual progression (undoubtedly with a few detours along the way). Join us for the ride, it’s always more pleasant to hack out in company after all!