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Monday, 2 December 2019

November Round Up

WOW! I think November has been my favourite month of the year…in fact, IT IS! Despite all the rain with many fields, yards and arenas flooding, as well as some icy mornings thrown into the mix, I cannot believe what we’ve achieved in November. So here it is…our monthly round-up! Sit back and enjoy the month with us!

If you remember back to our October round-up, you’ll know Louie came back from his mini holiday in an almost totally different mind with his showjumping. I did too. I suddenly discovered a newfound confidence (& determination) for jumping. So at the start of the month, we’d entered into a really welcoming low key local jumping competition. The format was typical of showjumping – it’s called ‘Jump & Go’ and involves a group warm-up, before jumping one height as your first class, and then a bigger course next to it as the second. Anyway… I’d entered the 75cm and 85cm group. I knew the venue added fillers in at 70cm, so was confident it would give us some challenges in an environment that if all went a little astray, we’d have the help to resolve things and not simply be eliminated and leave the ring.

I really needn’t have worried because it was like Louie had been jumping for years, even tackling a wider brick-wall arch style filler. Around the 75cm were some fillers with a couple of fences also including planks, and the 85cm had brighter fillers under most fences. We went clear in both rounds, I was so impressed with how Louie took it all on! I’d deliberately entered this for a much bigger competition at the end of the month…

Now, isn’t it silly that I felt too shy to share with the world that we had booked to travel up to Morris Equestrian Centre at the end of November for our first EVER British Showjumping classes!? We’d booked a hotel for 3 nights, 4 days of stables, shavings, taken holiday from work and Andrew spent almost a full working day on cleaning the horsebox! I was terrified by telling everyone where we were going as I was convinced as soon as I did, something would go wrong and prevent us from going. I think the only people who knew I was going were a few people at work, a couple of people on the yard, Philippa and one or two horsey friends I’d seen in the week or so before.

Inside, I was brimming with excitement – I could have burst! First, I’ve loved all three weekends away with Louie that we’ve done already for dressage. Just loved it! But I’d also dreamt of one day being ready to take Louie to an affiliated showjumping competition, stabling away and joining in with the wider team that travelled up. It’s always sounded like such fun when Philippa has told me about her own adventures.

Anyway, so far, to this point, we’d jumped one 85cm showjumping course. I wanted to be as planned as I could, so there was every way it could be a positive weekend.

We’d booked in for a showjumping training session with Philippa first thing on 9th November. Yep, that didn’t happen. The first really hard frost of winter decided to join in the party, leaving the normally unstoppable Will2Win arena frozen solid. That’s annoying, so I quickly swapped my session with her on 23rd to a 1pm, so this time the frost would have time to thaw and couldn’t stop us. Remember this training…

We had a flatwork training session with Cathy on Monday (11th), where I learnt a very valuable lesson about when my perfectionism can creep in and become a big blocker. One mistake in my first trot-canter transition upset me way too much, and I spent the rest of the session completely blocked by how rubbish everything was, how untidy everything looked, and why it wasn’t 10 out of 10.

It was a big lesson to learn because I looked back when I watched the videos later that night realising that it wasn’t anything I had assumed it was, but it had meant most of the session was totally unproductive and I’d closed down from listening, learning and trying things. If you haven’t already read it, the training blog from the session goes into more detail, but as of that night, perfectionist Sophie was banned from ALL winter training!

The following week, we’d entered a dressage competition up at the lovely Alnwick Ford Equestrian. We’d had a very wet week leading up to it, so I was particularly looking forward to it. The horses had been in a few days before, and I only managed a 40-minute hack out the day before because of the rain and wind! Soaked and freezing…

As it happened, it was a dry day on Sunday. Not like us to have luck like this when competing, and we even saw some blue sky and sunshine during parts of the day. It was a Small Tour qualifier schedule, so there were only long arena tests available, but I actually quite enjoy them. I find that there is much more room and that they add a bit more excitement to doing the same Novice 20x40 tests over and over. My previous competition in October was the first in my saddle, and I’d start to settle in it now, so I was much more relaxed, giving myself one aim in both tests. KEEP A CORRECT RHYTHM that also enables activity and cadence. I came home really pleased with how we did, achieving two strong scores and two red frillies too!

A busy week at work soon passed, and our second showjumping training session was just around the corner on 23rd. I couldn’t wait to have a jump around a course, getting some last-minute confidence and technique tidy up tip from Philippa. It was less than a week since we were due to set off to Morris!

The blinking weather AGAIN! It was pouring with rain…pouring from the second I got up to the moment I went to bed. The session was cancelled, and to be fair, I’m not even sure I wanted to jump in that! I didn’t even go on a quick hack that day, despite Louie spending all week with no turnout! I was gutted though as the one thing I wanted to take from that training session was confidence, ready for the following weekend. Philippa had hired her arena to a local young coach who was part of her Will2Win team the next day, and fortunately, there was a space available. I booked in within seconds, and although a little nervous about going to a new coach, I just wanted to jump around confidently.

Grace gave me some really great pointers about my canter and trying not to close it down, something I do in between fences, on turns and when I really can’t see the stride coming into the fence. I left feeling filled with confidence and ready to make the trip up on Thursday.

With all the awful weather the week before and especially on Saturday, Louie hadn’t had turnout for over a week, and I didn’t want his fresh & spooky self to cause us to answer too many questions once we got to Morris. So I lunged on Monday evening…in the pouring rain. And to be safe, booked a local indoor arena that had gridwork set out. I had no plans to use the grids, but instead used poles on the floor to warm up, before jumping a small plank across the diagonal and an up-to-height vertical down the long side.

The arena was about 20m wide and maybe 45-50m long, so while I felt I was doing a good job with maintaining my canter into the jumps, I wasn’t. I didn’t get the smoothest of jumps all of the time, but instead of any issues, Louie just flew everything! I called it a day after a couple of jumps and was pleased he’d had a good workout and training session.

I felt ready to go to Morris!

I’m halfway through writing my post that shares our adventures at Morris, so keep your eyes peeled for that in the next day or so! We headed up on a good run on Thursday, and Louie settled right away into his GINORMOUS stable! I worked him in the collecting ring that evening, nothing too taxing after a long journey. We didn’t jump on Friday as classes started at British Novice (90cm) so we stretch his legs in hand during the afternoon and headed back in the collecting ring once all the classes had finished at the end of the day.

Saturday morning FINALLY arrived! We’d entered the Club 70cm classed and the Dodson & Horrell 85cm National Amateur Championship Qualifier on a day ticket. Louie warmed up confidently, and I headed in for the 70cm. I was determined to make sure Louie got round AND that I kept a good canter. I think the determination is visible…and the aim of the 85cm was ‘be tidier’. I was much tidier in the 85cm although felt I lost a little canter. Louie felt a bit tired towards the end of the course and had a couple of poles, but I was DELIGHTED!

After smiling pretty much all day (& in my sleep no doubt!), Sunday came. With Louie feeling a little tired the day before, I only entered the 70cm. This weekend was all about giving both of us plenty of confidence, and I’d have hated for it to go wrong by pushing him too far. I’d already achieved what I’d wanted in the first class the day before!  We jumped double clear and came home with a fourth-place frilly! I never imagined that, & Andrew definitely didn’t because a double clear left me with a rather nice sparkly present… You’ll see just what once the post is published!

So November has been full of happy times, milestones and learnings! I’m not all fired up for more winter training, but with a work trip away next week and my parents staying for ten days at Christmas, we’ll probably not get up too much in December, although we’ve already got one or two things organised to look forward to.

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