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Wednesday, 5 February 2020

January Round Up

Wahoo! I got through January without even a glimmer of January blues, and it didn't seem like many others suffered with them either...Well done everyone for keepig them at bay! 💪 So with such a positive start, what did we get up throughout January to kick start our 2020!?

Well, it's been all go that's for sure, but I'm so happy as I haven't felt rushed or under pressure once this month, so it really shows I've got all-round balance struck up pretty well. From cold & crisp morning hacking, to dressage competitions and showjumping training, we've managed to pack it all into the last 31 days!

Is there a better way to start the new year than this...seriously!?

I've never been a big fan of new year's eve, so by 10.15pm after a bottle of Champagne, a delicious fillet steak dinner at home, made by Andrew, I was fast asleep in the snuggle chair. Yep, snoring my little socks off... But isn't it great to wake up at 7am on the first day of the year, when it's a clear sky, cold and frosty and just wander out on your horse for a couple of hours to set you up for the new year?

OK, well perhaps that's only me...

I was keen to progress in our training - it's one of my goals for 2020. But without piling on the pressure to both me but also through to Louie. So I dug out my two favourite books that I've have over 10 years and get sporadic use, but my gosh, when I use them, I LOVE them.

101 Schooling Exercises and 101 Jumping Exercises.

I find the exercises in these really progressive and easy to work into an everyday training session at home. Rather than me becoming completely fixated and overthinking the building blocks to getting the end result. It stops me being disappointed with anything less than perfect even on my first attempt.

If you haven't got a copy, they are well worth investing in. I think you can now get ebook copies so you take a look while in the arena on your phone!

I started off in the arena early in the month with a flatwork session, where I really worked on shortening the canter, being able to do a correct half 10m circle up the centre line so that I had more space to play with working on my counter canter. I've also been working to Elementary level at home so that we can start 2020's affiliate year moving up a level.

I still need to re-affiliate to British Dressage. I have the worst renewal time - mid December - as it's right when I don't do anything and have the huge expense of Christmas to worry about! Anyway, February will be the month...!

I entered a local unaffiliate express dressage, which was actually the day before my session with Cathy. What a great format - turn up, do two tests almost back to back and have your results posted to you. No waiting around in the freezing cold in the middle of winter 👌

I entered two Novices and was fortunate that we had lunchtime slots, so I washed Louie's legs and tail the night before, and just plaited on the morning. I was flying solo, so didn't manage to get any videos of my tests, but I got some super photos from the photographer that was there!

There was a bit of a delay to my times, so I ended up warming up for a little longer than I'd have liked, and felt like I'd lost my enthusiasm and probably some of Louie's energy. But I was over the moon to find out we'd won both our tests, by over 3% for both Novice 27 and Novice 28, with scores of 70.71% and 73.54% respectively!

Perhaps I suit a delay in my warm-up!

The next evening, I headed to The Pegasus Centre (just outside Morpeth) to have our first 2020 training session with Cathy. It wasn't the best set up - we nearly got wiped out by a Polish plated lorry at a roundabout. Honestly, I think a hair wouldn't have fit between his side and my passenger side nose as he decided to turn right from the left lane across us (going straight on). Anyway, the main thing is, they didn't touch us.

It was also ridiculously strong gusty winds. So we tacked up in the horsebox, which always takes a few extra minutes especially when you open your tack locker and anything lighter than a saddle flies out, or while you're trying to see through the whirlwind of shavings blowing around you and your horse while figuring out which boot goes on which leg...

Never mind. And I had a really productive session with Cathy. It was the first one for a while that I've really felt like we were beginning to push on, and unbeknown to me, at the end 10 minutes Cathy recited Elementary 44 and ran me through that. I thought as the movement and direction from her was coming thick & fast, and kind of started with a centre line, that we were doing some sort of test, but never did I think it was an Elementary. We had little planning and prep to each movement, and although was rough around the edges, it didn't feel a million miles off, nor did it look shoddy when I watched the video back.

At the very start of the month, I had a showjumping training session. Philippa had set me the goal to go to Morris at the end of January for the British Novice classes, so I wanted to boost my confidence over fences around 90cm-1m in preparation. It went SO well, and I came away with a piece of work to keep my leg softly on, no more partying into fences, and work on keeping my hands low.

I'd noticed that as we were becoming more confident and balanced in our jumping, Louie was becoming much better in changing to the correct lead over the fences. So later in the week, I set up a very simple exercise at home to help work on coming off tighter circles or turns, putting my leg on to support, waiting for the pole, keep my hands low and ask for a change of direction and lead.

I'd say about 75% of the time we nailed the change, which considering I'm a perfectionist, I was surprisingly happy with. I found that piecing together all the parts really gave me a good setup to the pole and enabled me to stay in balance and ask for the change of lead. I was super motivated by just how well this session on our own had gone.

The week after, I set up a classic 'Y-shape' line of poles to see if I could get the same. This was much harder to contain the balance from the first straight pole to the curving line to the second, and I'd say we probably dropped success to about 20%. I was still pleased as working on rhythm, my hands, and waiting for the pole were all getting better, even if we didn't quite get the full change when we needed it every time.

My Mum was staying with us that weekend, so we took a chilled on, just enjoying a long ride out on Saturday morning watching the sunrise as we started out, and a trip up to the farrier on Sunday morning (planned, thankfully!)

The following weekend was a session back with Philippa. It had been three weeks since we'd jumped, and British Novice height and width was still pretty new to me and Louie! I was keen to have a good session.

Now, looking back, it was a good session, just plenty to tweak up and improve in the mid-term. On the day itself, I left so disappointed and so negative. Louie knocked poles, I put him on awful strides and lines, and just generally it wasn't as successful as the one at the start of the month.

Thankfully, I gave myself a good talking to and soon saw plenty of positives and that it was a good run as preparation for going to Morris a few days later.

Finally, a few days later, it was time to get on the road and head up North to Kilmarnock and to Morris Equestrian centre. I'm not going to go into all the detail as I've already posted a full post on how our weekend away showjumping went.

Our weekend led us straight into February, where we've plenty more planned in. This week, Louie is taking some downtime, while I spend a couple of days in Hamburg with work. I'm also MEGA excited that I'm going to Murrayfields on Saturday to watch England v Scotland in the Six Nations. I cannot wait!! So stay tuned to see what we're up to throughout February once I'm back in the saddle!

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