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Tuesday, 1 August 2017

July Round Up

July started with a weekend off for Louie. Well he’d actually had the full week off at the end of June, following a couple of great competition days out and a trip to Copenhagen with work. But we were soon back to it, enjoying some fantastic schooling sessions, as well as some long relaxing hacks out on an evening after a busy day in the office.

Team Tunnah Eventing - July Round Up

Near the start of the month, we attended an unmounted workshop run by one of my coaches, Philippa McKeever Curry in partnership with a local vets, to talk about the conformation of sport horses. It was a very insightful couple of hours, learning about the correct conformation of front legs, hocks and overall body. Philippa also brought in five of her own horses to have the audience’s critical eyes scan over them, allowing any questions about them to be directed to the vet, before loose schooling each one on the flat and over a jump.

I came away from the workshop having learnt a new way to view a horse and understanding why a conformational defect can play a major role in the horse’s lifetime. But also how some non-conventional conformation may in reality never affect a horse.

Poor Louie was scrutinised while eating his tea that night!!

The vet delivering the talk also talked through the pre-purchase vetting, which was very comforting. I’ve often wondered about whether these are in fact a waste of time – I neither want my horse over-vetted for what I will do or what it is, nor do I want it under-vetted. The vet spoke about vetting for purpose and for the horse. For example, a 20 year old horse being vetted for a quiet life, plodding around fields, is not going have the trot up of its flexion tests analysed in the same way that a 5 year old bought for eventing would. It was very reassuring to hear that a pre-purchase vetting should accommodate the needs of both the buyer but also consider the facts about the horse.

The next day we were booked in to have a showjumping lesson. We’ve worked really hard on our showjumping over the last few months, not so much jumping big fences, but trying to build up Louie’s confidence over fences that were more than just a pole. However, over the first week of July, this all seemed to go to pot… 😔

Why? Well, in a nutshell, Louie began diving off to the left and running off through the bridle. It wouldn’t happen always before or always after, and didn’t happen in trot, nor when we weren’t coming into a jump or cantering away from one. It was very odd!

So, in our lesson, my coach very kindly leant me a saddle to try, as Louie’s ballooned this summer – some fat but mostly just coming into himself – and she wondered if the saddle was a bit tight on his shoulders. I didn’t have to ride around for long to discover that he moved completely differently in a saddle that allows for a much more expressive shoulder – massively different. In her arena, Louie will be tense & very “excited” for about the first 20 minutes of any lesson. Today, no. He still had plenty of energy, but he was relaxed in his back, swinging and expressive in his paces. He felt a dream!

He still had his moments, but were nowhere near as severe so we avoided the hotspots in the arena that seemed to trigger them. If the horse was in any pain, he would show this reaction at any point when asking the same – he didn’t.

I booked a saddle fitter that made this particular saddle to come and have a look at Louie, and fortunately could get an appointment within a few days. I did try riding in my current saddle the very next day, but could instantly feel how stilted Louie felt in front. It was strange to have never notice something that was screaming me in the face just 24 hour later…! So, after 6 or 7 strides of trot, we gave up on our flatwork lesson.

That left us without a saddle… But after speaking with my physio who advised not to waste the weeks without a saddle, but instead use it to lunge Louie, get his shoulder built up and help his overall condition and strength.

I wasn’t looking forward to 3-4 weeks of lunging…

It’s one of the best things I’ve done this year with Louie!! I will most definitely be carrying it on at least once or twice a week from now on.

I have seen a MASSIVE improvement in Louie – not necessarily a physical thing to see but his balance, forwardness & responsiveness to voice aid have all changed within the few weeks I’ve been lunging.

I went from having Louie, who when you asked for a canter circle on the lunge, bent his head and neck round to the inside, and would often fall out behind leading to a change behind, & who also struggled to balance on the right rein, often striking off incorrectly. Now, I have a horse who can canter circle after circle STRAIGHT, strikes off correctly (you can even seem him ‘juggle’ his legs when he knows it’s wrong to make sure he goes off correctly) & who knows the difference between STEADY, WHOA & OUT. Simple things to some.

Lunging with a Kavelkade Ho
Enjoying the evening sunshine lunging on the grass

It just goes to show you what you can achieve in a very short space of time. I set no goals for any of the above, except to improve Louie’s shoulder muscles where they were dipped from a blocking saddle, and yet feel like I have achieved so much!

It was also my birthday in the middle of July, and it was amazing to have my sister come & stay for a few days. I haven’t had her to stay for over 18 months!! I took a couple of days off work…& wow, I picked good days! 25+ degrees on two of them – I spent a whole day say on a beautiful beach in Northumberland, as well as fishing off the Amble pier until 10pm, and eating fish & chips in the sunshine of the harbour, as well as showing off the stunning Northumberland coastline to my sister.

Craster, Northumberland
Craster, Northumberland
Cresswell Beach, Northumberland
Cresswell Beach, Northumberland

My favourite card that I received on my birthday had to be from my sister...


The last weekend in July was Burgham Horse Trials. I’ve never been to the July event as a spectator so we decide to go for a day out to enjoy the CIC3*. It was a warm day, with a couple of downpours but nothing that could spoil a well-run event, with some of the world’s best here on our doorstep in the heart of Northumberland.

Ludwig Svennerstal at Burgham Horse Trials
Ludwig Svennerstal & Louis in their CIC3*
showjumping round

We’re starting off August with a bang… the saddle fitter is heading back with our brand new saddle later today (1st)!! Fingers crossed all goes well and we can get going again, just in time for the Northern Riding Club Championships at Bishop Burton at the end of the month! Stay tuned…

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  1. Lovely! I am going to become certified in saddle fitting because I feel it is so important to the fitness of our horses, and it goes well in hand with massage. I do agree with you that while you may miss riding, groundwork is so incredibly important. It tends to fall by the wayside at my barn, and it would be so beneficial to the horses.

    1. A correctly fitting saddle is SO important! I've enjoyed lunging, and like I say, will continue it, but glad to be back in the saddle! :)


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