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First Season Eventer – Making it Happen!

So from my last blog I haven’t actually managed to get out to much BE during the summer months but I did enter West Wilts and Treborough in August so let me give you an update on how things went

West Wilts was my first attempt back at a BE90 since my abrupt parting of company from Riley at Broadway in May in the Show Jumping.  Having worked through mine and Riley’s confidence issues over the summer months I felt we were back on track albeit and after a bit of a stern talking to from my trainer, Jo May, about using speed into a fence instead of creating power, this was 1044816_10151578271383323_630376996_nthen followed by some even sterner training sessions!   My jump training sessions were generally based on me being yelled at because I have a tendency to override just before a fence which unsettles Riley and in turn results in him producing a crap jump over a fence and him getting unsettled.

Riley isn’t a naturally brave horse he’s a thinker and can be, at times, quite spooky.  I have to hold his hand at every step of the way and if I let go of it then that’s when it all goes wrong.  I have had to learn to sit and ride quietly and when I put my leg on it doesn’t result in a change in speed but results in a change in impulsion from Riley which then gives him the power to jump a spread with a better technique and gives him confidence.

My dressage training has been going from strength to strength over the last 8-12 months.  He’s really got the idea and is now building up the strength and muscles required to produce 3 good paces.  When I bought Riley 2 years ago he really could not walk trot or canter at all well, to the point I have been told a few people – in the nicest of ways, that they did wonder what the hell I had bought when I first started getting out and about on an overweight gangly legged grey horse.  However he has transformed through lots of work and he just has a great brain when it comes to training,  at the start it may not always look pretty but once he understands what you are asking of him he is just awesome and dare I say it I almost enjoy dressage now!

As always West Wilts produce a beautifully presented XC course which had a few trick questions. However there was nothing on the course which I particularly was overly worried about, some fences were of a good size but I thought it was a fair course which should ride nicely as long as horse and rider rode the course with the respect that it deserved. Looking back I think it was a bit of a deceptively easy looking course however the results did show that it caused problems for some.

I gave myself a good 40 mins to go warm up for dressage but uncharacteristically Riley was on his absolute best behaviour and quite honestly he was warmed up within 10 mins and I would have loved to have just got on with it, but it was all running on time so I had to wait.  My only criticism, about the whole event would be that the score collectors came zooming through the dressage warm up on quad biked and my lovely dressage pony went from well behaved to freaked out in under 5 seconds.  Moan over…..we then went on and done a what I thought was a lovely responsive dressage test, so happy with that I went merrily off to take a look at my nemesis phase the show jumping.  I was too late to walk the course so had to watch from the side lines and to my dismay 2 of the first 3 riders which I saw got ditched through refusals.  So this was not filling me with any confidence what so ever however I did decided that maybe I was maybe a little precious at Broadway when I got thrown off as those riders which did have an unfortunate show jumping round at west wilts both got back on and continued – so Kudos to you ladies!

I went to warm Riley up and it didn’t start to well as when I went to jump a small cross pole he refused in the normal Riley “what the “f” is that stripy pole thing” way! Sometimes this does happen when we do our first warm up fence. So taking a deep breath we went an attempted it again and he went over and then continued to warm up well.  We got called in for our round and bar having a good look at the first went it was all going well until 3rd from home when he tapped out a back rail with his hind legs, grrrr.  But the main thing was that I got round and felt good about it and Riley seemed to enjoy himself.  We quickly moved on to XC as there were no starters and literally I jumped 3 warm up fences and then we went to the start box.  The starter gave me a 20 second count down so I went to walk into the start box and then Riley’s spook brain took over and the white rails and fake grass wrapped around them was all too much and he planted all 4 hooves firmly to the ground and refused to walk forward.  After plenty of persuasion I managed to get the big grey beast to move forward and just as the starter got to 5 seconds I managed to get him into the box, although the resulting leap forward from Riley through the narrow start box entry nearly catapulted us out of the front of the start box but I managed to stop Riley before we got that far! So off we went, Riley was fairly fit and West wilts being flat I knew I could push on a bit so that’s what we did, we had a great XC round but it all so nearly came to an end 3 from home when the delightful fence builders put 2 cushions on the bench fence.  I now have to apologies to anyone in the Melksham area as I am sure they could hear me shouting at Riley a few villages away! But as I know vocal encouragement works very well with Riley and he went over it.  So we came to the end of the course a little bit puffed but we got a clear.  We ended the day on a good result.  Our dressage score was a decent 31.5, (a costly) 4 for show jumping, and a clear inside the time XC round which gave us 11th place overall.

Treborough was only a week and a half after West Wilts so we set off for the lovely location on Exmoor and I did the usual warm for my dressage.  Riley felt very different from West Wilts he was excited by seeing the show jumping and XC going on so getting him to concentrate and knuckle down was a bit of a challenge but with a bit of time and patience we got there and went across to our arena which I can only say from Riley’s point of view was surrounded by Monsters! I don’t know you spend half an hour warming up to then have it all go to pot because of white boards and some hay bales, I am sure I will never understand how a horses think but we did manage what thought to be an ok if a little tentative dressage test. The showjumping was on grass and somehow in my head the jumps always seem to look bigger when they are on grass so I was a little apprehensive but I tried to put as many negative thoughts as I could to the back on my mind and just try to remember my training as we are perfectly capably of jumping around a 95cm course. I think it’s just a case of mind over matter and I tend to worry and overthink everything. The wait for my showjumping  round seemed to take forever but I eventually got called to the ring and we jumped the first two fences well but the third fence took a lot of encouragement Riley aa was going to stop so the whole of Treborough heard me trying to get him over it and we did get over it albeit not in shall we say such a professional manner as everyone else. Riley then seemed to properly focus and crack on and somehow we got round and left every fence standing. Our first BE90 show jumping clear, I was so pleased and relieved! So I went off to walk the XC course first fence was nice then there was a bit of an awkward line to the 2nd. 3rd, 4th & 5th fence were straightforward and then we got to number 6 which was a corner off a turn so the horse wouldn’t see it until last few strides. The rest of the course progressed on nicely, with a good variety if fences including a good water complex, a rather deep ditch to brush fence and a bank. The Course was quite long and undulating and Riley’s not built for stamina so I was a little concerned we might run out of petrol 3/4’s of the way round. So we warmed up and then went to the start box, this time it was made of nice timber and the entry was fairly wide so Riley didn’t even look at it.  We set off at a good pace and Riley jumped the first 2 nicely, he took a bit of riding at 3 and 4 as in his mind they had monsters coming out of take offs but we got over them, I steadied him up to a trot to turn for fence 6 so he had the best opportunity to see the corner and he popped over it like a pro and then to cut a long story short, as I’ve written so much already, he flew round the rest of the course – the water, ditch and bank he didn’t bat an eyelid at and he was still galloping at the end. So we got a double clear and we were in the time for the XC. As always I don’t like to know my score or look at the score board until I have completed, so I went to have a look and found i had finished on a competitive dressage score of 31.5. So we just had to wait until the of the results were up, as I knew I was in touch with a placing, eek. Eventually the results were finalised and to my surprise we came forth! We actually tied on a score with 3rd place but the other rider got closer to optimum time.

I was so chuffed with what we had achieved and I hope to carry on in this positive way. I’m off to Pontispool and Bricky next however horses being horses like to throw a spanner in the works. Riley’s been suffering with a skin condition which has how spread to his back which means currently I cannot put a saddle on him so we may have to pull out of Pontispool if things don’t get better in 7 days. I’m going to keep him going on the lunge but the prep for this event won’t be as good as others so I will have to see what happens. I will report back soon and I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of the season already! Wondering if e-Venting will let me continue writing a 2nd season blog???……

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Claire

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