Friday, 27 July 2012

Fairy tales and nightmares at Iping

Saturday was Hectors first BE Event and for those of you that are following Hectors progress, Saturday was a fairy tale with a happy ending. He was simply fantastic. So chilled, he just looked like he enjoyed every moment. That little horse put in a 29 dressage, which was just fantastic, there were some tense moments still but he gave me so much more than I ever dreamed he would at this stage. In the show jumping, he jumped in a perfect, calm rhythm all the way round. He did have a pole but it was a momentary lapse in concentration and who can blame him with so many people around. Then the XC he did not look at a thing, really good rhythm, controlled all the way round. We went quite slowly because this is about training him and getting it right. We incurred time penalties but still came 2nd. It was a dream come true. So excited for his future.

Sunday, well we went from fairytale to nightmare!

I’ll start with Yara. 33 dressage which we were quite pleased with, I have been working on slowing her down which then meant that although we had impulsion it was perhaps a little too slow, but we can gradually increase and lengthen. I was just pleased she did not rush it. The she had a clear show jumping – this is a phase was have been really working and she struggled with before she came to us, so I am very pleased. The unfortunately she incurred 20 penalties at the first water in the XC. Later we discovered she lost a shoe, but she can be sticky at water so not sure what it was or maybe it was the combination of the two things.

Photo: You can see the full gallery and lots lots more on Harriet's website:

Photos taken as part of a Competition Photo Shoot - Find out more at

Then came the mull man.
Well we certainly did some fancy footwork in the warm up of the dressage, all looked good, we had to wait a while to go in to the test so Mull was a little past his best but still did a decent test we ended up on a 31 even with a buck in the middle of it! He was certainly full of himself, rearing 4 times on the way back from dressage. Then the show jumping. Oh God – what happened. Jumped superbly in the warm up and then when he went into the ring, he became so strong, I struggled to hold him together, he spooked at everything, then because I couldn’t getting him sitting back, he got too long, flattened  most things in his path and then did a last minute slam of the brakes on. That was when I ended up on the floor. No harm done, little bump to the head. Pride dented. Back to the drawing board. I felt even though he was being naughty, I could have ridden it better and was a bit cross with myself but Alice and Sarah both said was a difficult horse to jump, they have been very supportive, given me some excellent advice and I am determined not to let it get the better of me. Since last weekend we have been out twice show jumping. He has had a bit change and some other tack tweaks and we are back on form – fingers crossed! 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Rocklodge Nasdaq - The first 6 weeks

It has been 6 weeks since Hector (owned by Sarah Millard) came to Upper Barn and what a difference a few weeks can make. If Hector can consistently get his brain in the right place he might just be one of the most talented horses I have had the pleasure to ride.

Hector's past is unknown, he came over from Ireland a year ago, he oozes star quality but look carefully and you will see he some tiny scars around his face and some marks on his body, and boy do you have to work to earn his trust. What luck that Sarah Millard happened to be over in Ireland visiting friends and spotted him over a stable door.

We have taken everything really slowly, he is sensitive and is a horse you cannot rush, one wrong move and we go two steps backwards. He loves to be loved and when he trusts you he is a very affectionate horse. When I first got him I had a lesson with Tina Cook, she asked what he was like when I take my feet out of the stirrups, well he leapt across the school and then galloped off, (I stayed on) but again another example of a confidence issue. I am pleased to say that I can now take my feet in and out of the stirrups, when I am in the school, when I am out hacking and he in absolutely fine.

To begin with we have worked on relaxation, he can get quite stressed particularly in dressage, so for the few weeks I just worked him long and low, gradually he stretched his neck lower and lower and started to really stretch over his back. To compliment this Mum gradually introduced him to a Pessoa, he has been lunged in this once a week, he wasn't sure at first but now he goes beautifully. Currently we are working on engagement of the hind quarters, oh my goodness this horse can really move. As he is getting stronger he is getting this more and more consistently. He certainly can have the wow factor when he gets it right.

Show jumping was also little bit of an issue, he tended to rush at the jumps and become very strong, with him it was definitely confidence again, when he rushed, he didn't listen to me and crash went the jumps, which of course then frightened him and then he rushed off. After a couple of weeks of this, even at cross pole stage Mum decided to loose jump him. Well he was foot perfect, with perfect rhythm and cleared each jump. So after giving it some thought  I decided to try and emulate that when riding him. I let him have his head, gave him a loose rein and did not fight him. What a difference, he slowed right down, got a perfect rhythm and the jump came very easily to him, he didn't rush off afterwards either. So this is what we did for 2 weeks. Canter pole either side of a cross pole, I let him take me to the jump and I just sat in the centre of balance and had reins like washing lines. Gradually his confidence built up and he let me take more and more of a contact and started to listen to me, He has the most incredible jump, he almost suspends in the air and clears everything by a mile. We decided to put a martingale on him so that should he decide to put his head up and rush I would have more control. This also had to be done slowly, I put a breastplate on him without the attachment and schooled and hacked him in that, then we started lunging him in one with the attachment, then I schooled him in it very loosely, then I jumped him, then each time I rode him I tightened it up a hole and now it is completely normal to him. He still has his moments but each time he jumps he gets better and better.

My first time with Hector XC was caught on camera by my sponsor Micheal Rogers of MDR Photo. We went over to Littleton Manor and took it quietly. He was fantastic, jumped everything. I kept it all pretty small and low key. With the bad weather we haven't been able to get out until this week. This time I took him to Coombelands. It feels like we have the perfect partnership, he just floats round the xc in perfect rhythm. We did all the pre-novice jumps. He was so bold, I had to check I was riding Hector and not an impostor!

No one can believe the difference in this horse, Tina was amazed, Mel Breen (dressage instructor) who saw him when he first came to England was amazed and most of all Mum and I are amazed. I cannot really put into words how much I have grown to love this horse. He tries so hard and has been so rewarding. Tomorrow is our first competition, it may all go backwards and I wouldn't blame him if it did, the important thing is that we know he can do it, Sarah Millard believes in him, we believe in him, we just need him to believe in himself.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Bigwood Bootcamp!!!!

Wow wow wow, last week Fiona very kindly offered to have Mulligan and I over to help with his medium trot, something he finds difficult. Well I can tell you I have never ached so much in my whole entire life!

In my first lesson on Tuesday Fiona had me really collecting him and asking for the hind leg to come through, we did this for a few steps and then let him trot forwards without letting the frame lengthen. Then she asked me to show her our medium trot and she saw that the problem was he wasn't powering from behind and he was running on the forehand. So she taught me to really prepare him before the medium trot, collect him and show the difference, whilst riding the back end and keeping a rhythm.We then ran through the dressage test that I will be doing in a few weeks time and she (really) drummed into me about my bad habit of not going in to the corners (this isn't new to me and something that has been mentioned before but I always seem to concentrate on my riding and not on my ring craft, hopefully I have learnt to do both now)! She got me to be really accurate to gain as many marks as possible. 
After riding Mulligan I got to ride Lionel for the first time who I was competing on Thursday, he was lovely, he was really easy to ride. We got on well, he had lovely movement and Fiona felt confident for us to go ahead and compete that week.

Then Mulligan got to stay on a sleep over in 5* accommodation, frankly I think he was disappointed to come home after being there (although he did give me the death stare as I left him)!

I went back on Wednesday morning. Fiona rode Mulligan to start with, she said it was the first time she had ridden an event horse! It was amazing to see her ride him, how she stayed so soft, yet he moved so beautifully, it just seemed effortless. It was really good to watch her because it meant that when I rode Mulligan I could visualise Fiona riding him. When I got back on him he was like a different horse, he was really light.  We didn't spend as long on the collecting because we had it sussed and we just ran straight through the test. The medium trot was the best I have ever had it and the best Fiona had seen it. I really started to use the arena and the test ran through smoothly. Proof will in the pudding in a few weeks!!!! I hope I do Fiona proud.

I had another ride on Lionel to familiarise myself with him again ready for the following day, although we never got to practice the test.

Thursday's dressage at Henfield

Lisa who grooms for Fiona brought Lionel and we met her there, I was a bit busy as I was also riding Pearl in two tests as well as Lionel, but I loved it! Lionel was the star though, he has never been to a competition before yet he was so calm, he never spooked and he pulled a win out of the bag in his first ever novice test and first ever competition. What a lovely sweet horse.

Next update: Jon Pitts  - Fit to Ride