Merry Christmas to you all and Happy New Year!
December is in full swing, sounds of the clippers purr in the air ringing like church bells, frosty mornings greet us before mucking out and sweeping up the yard under moonlight ends our days here at Hubbards Hall.
Alex Gingell has returned once again to our dressage arena to sprinkle some Christmas magic onto the event rider to transform me into a dressage rider in between the white boards. We have been working together on my position predominately so that I am in the right place to be effective and clearer with my communication with the horses, which is improving the overall balance and accuracy of the test. I had an involuntary movement with my hands specifically with my right hand, it had a mind of its own. I realised it changed the contact especially in sitting trot so it was difficult to keep a consistent rhythm which is the foundation block to any movement. I improved by having my hands closer together and swinging more with my hips, rather than the movement of the horse showing through by my hands moving up and down.
Recently after a break from competing, (the last show with the horses being Bicton International) we have been to our local dressage show at Wix Equestrian Centre to put into practice what I have learnt from the December RingCraft session. I competed Islington Red Faerie (Faerie) and Quizical Z (Quiz) in the Elementary classes. In dressage test Elementary 59, I scored 68.28% with Faerie to come second and I won the class on Quiz with 77%. Regarding Quiz’s test it just flowed and I rode the movements with positivity and accuracy. Also it was beneficial to have a judge who wanted to reward correct training and harmony.
As a rider I am getting more experience at achieving the feel of joining each Scale of Training together for each movement to form one outline, balance, contact and image that is consistent throughout the test, so the judge cannot take marks away. I like to think of the Scale of Training (rhythm, suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness, collection) as an explanation of what feel is and it helps to keep me aware of what is going on with the horses energy and body. I think to be the best rider and trainer you have to be logical and creative. You have to create exercises that are logical to the horse you are riding. Delving deeper, I love riding in an open field compared to an arena there are no walls, no boundaries, you can go anywhere, so I just get into the flow and really tune in to what my horses are telling me. I go off into my own world but if I didn't have the knowledge or the skill of explaining what is going on I would sound like a hippie, because at home riding the horses on a warm summers day whether jumping, hacking out or doing dressage it can be the most peaceful of moments.
Snapping back to Wix, I did Advance Medium 85 on Vintage Graffiti (Fritz) and Newferry Irish Mist (Misty). I am new to this level myself and having to get all the ducks in a row to ask for a flying change is sometimes a little tricky, especially as the last few years I have been trying desperately hard to keep counter canter particularly in the eventing Fei 2* and 3* tests. My horses always like to do a flying change when they are not meant too but don’t seem to mind to not do it when I need them too! Anyway I have been practicing and building up to it all over the last month for this competition. I scored 65% on Fritz and 63% on Misty, maybe not the highest percentages but I was really pleased with the effort. The flying changes still need work but we will get there. Also, I feel it is easier now to do trot half passes, I don’t know why I always feel a little awkward, but you have to remember it is the hardest lateral movement to do.
The dressage at Wix was the last show of 2021 and it has personally been a year of ironing out moments that have lacked focus and losing the baby feathers. I have achieved distinction with my Pony Club A Test which has been a big accomplishment for me and it has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to train my horses. I have jumped more double clears this season than ever before and on a different number of horses. However, I have had blips in my record. Not getting round Chomondeley Intermediate on Fritz and Misty was a unnecessary moment due to in my opinion poor course designing regarding a skinny on top of a bank being the C element in a coffin and it being pretty much impossible to get back to after a run out. Also, losing the Novice Regional Final on Quiz at Keysoe by going too fast cross country by one second, and finally making a bad judgement about a skinny at Bicton after a long hill where I didn’t let Misty have enough of a breather, as I was really up on the time with my minute markers so kept up the pace. But on the whole if they are the three things I can remember that really stand out as I am writing this blog, then it is not bad going and I am certainly not complaining as I stayed onboard this year!
The best achievement this year has been jumping double clear at the end of the season with Fritz at Bicton International as it has put us into a good position with planning to step up to Advance in 2022, and it is something I am really looking forwards to.
December has been a good month for social gatherings and going at a gentler pace of life. We had our yard Christmas dinner and it was lovely to have an evening with all the staff and liveries to say thank you for supporting us through out the year and celebrating the coming of the New Year. Also, I went to my Young Farmers Christmas meal which was very jolly and it was great to catch up with my friends. On the 16th of December it was my birthday and I turned 22 celebrating the evening with friends and family eating lots of Chinese takeaway and watching the Puissance at the London Horse Show on our TV.
Christmas Day we mucked out in the morning and gave the horses plenty of hay which they quietly munched away at whilst we had Christmas dinner. Absolutely stuffed full of Christmas dinner I was very much content skipping out the stables, feeding the horses and then to finish off I gave them hay and water. To finish off Christmas Day we watched my favourite movie of all time ‘The Mask of Zorro’ if you haven’t watched it is full of horse stunts which are hilarious and very brave, sword fighting, and great casting with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Banderas. It is a really fun film but slightly macabre what with Captain Harrison Love keeping his enemies heads and storing them in jars.
And that concludes the December blog. Thank you so much for reading, I hope you have had a lively festive season too.