After a non-season last year (we only managed 3 runs, 100% not my lovely mare Daisy’s fault) I was determined to hit the ground running this season and really get somewhere.
Before our season started we managed a couple of unaffiliated dressage placings at Sheepgate, one marred by me totally forgetting to salute at the end (oops, I really am out of practice, I just nodded to the judge and started patting the mare, which went down like the proverbial and got us a very bad final mark!), had an excellent jump lesson with Tiny Clapham, and we went to Great Witchingham BE100, managing a nice double clear.
Our dressage was still not going to worry Charlotte Dujardin but she stayed rideable and there were no errors, and I had a transformed horse in the SJ, one who was listening to me and also seriously trying to leave the jumps up, which helps a lot!
We’ll gloss over the 5 time penalties because I turned the wrong way after fence 2 in a serious blonde moment… not the horse’s fault. Cross country she felt great, jumping the spooky third fence nicely first time after slightly ‘putting her specs on’ on the take-off stride, feeling keen and ‘up for it’ but sensible, and loving every second of it – we cruised round. She jumped the jetty after the water better than anything else I’ve ever jumped it on has, which was very nice – it’s not always the easiest distance from the step but I think we got it spot-on and we finished very happy with each other!
The next week I had the chance of a lesson with Billy Twomey courtesy of a generous friend, Easibed and Your Horse Magazine, and in spite of it being a day of gale force winds, I intrepidly trucked up to his yard near Nottingham, the gusts miraculously avoiding my lorry. I arrived in good time, tacked up and hopped on, and followed directions in through the yard and then turn into the indoor school.
Disaster struck… as we did a gentle 90 degree turn in walk, Daisy put a back shoe on the metal grate that runs down the centre of the corridor, and skidded. I nearly bailed out but then thought moving might make things even worse so I just concentrated on staying central. She tried valiantly to stay upright, scrabbling desperately on the brick floor for what felt like quite a few seconds, and finally regained her feet, with a skinned left hock to show how close she’d come to falling. Everyone who’d seen it happen was a bit shocked but she seemed fine, and felt and looked totally sound, so I begged for some cream to put on it and carried on (there was a photographer, a small audience, and an internationally famous SJ waiting, after all). In retrospect (ouch) this was possibly not the best thing to do…
He worked us pretty hard, and she jumped well, just small fences as the indoor there isn’t large and it was of course a one-off session, but he gave me lots of good advice, so it was worth the trip. There will be a full report and pics (probably very unflattering ones!) in Your Horse magazine soon… could be embarrassing!
Here’s a few of his tips:
Warm up on a small circle (he had us circling repeatedly in trot and in canter on a circle of 10m or less) to get her really connected to the hand and off the leg, into the outside hand so that the inside can soften.
Just keep the rhythm, don’t fiddle on the last few strides to try to get to a good spot (I was a bit self-conscious about this, riding in front of a real Showjumper I didn’t want to go for ridiculous long Eventer shots, but I was told to leave her alone and I wasn’t told of for the slightly long spots, which was good!)
Make her reactive to the leg, don’t back off.
Look at the fence even earlier than I was doing.
Don’t worry about which leg you land on, sort that out later, get over the fence straight first!
Be strict about circling before AND after every round (I was being a bit soft and concentrating on patting my pony rather than finishing on a disciplined, balanced note.)
His yard and house are amazing, it was an absolute privilege to go there, so huge thanks to my friend, to Easibed and to Billy for the opportunity.
Driving home at one point the artic in front of us went decidedly sideways from another huge gust of wind, I braced myself to react but it never hit my lorry… very lucky. We arrived home fine, with no dramas, I jumped out of the cab to open the gates onto the yard and I nearly got blown off my feet… we’d had a charmed journey, very fortunately!
Off we toddled a couple of days later to Burnham Market BE100, for a dressage test which scored exactly the same as last time out (at least we’re consistent?!) but for which I managed to have Daisy SO relaxed that she snatched a bit of grass in the FWLR (HOW embarrassing?! The judge was amused but not impressed) and again after the final halt. Ooops.
But the SJ was a bit dire. She just wasn’t as careful or using herself quite as before, and had 3 down, feeling like a different horse, but not in a good way. We must be the only combination which can go to a top SJer for a lesson and get much worse! 🙁 🙁
However, she skipped round the xc clear with absolute gusto, feeling fantastic, making it feel very easy. As we weren’t in the hunt I just hacked round, but her gusto was very pleasing, again she hadn’t given me an anxious moment, so I entered our first Novice at Norton Disney, with great excitement, sure that a few SJ sessions in the meantime would sort us out and get us back in the groove.
In retrospect though, the different feel in the showjumping was an early ‘tell’…
A few days later we had dressage bootcamp, and lots of slow work as we worked on the absolute basics and fundamentally changed her way of going. Finally, true progress on the flat! I was ecstatic.
I eventually managed to get my back lady out to check Daisy after her slip. She still felt fine and 100% sound, but she’s an arrogant little toughie and I needed reassurance.
Uh oh… there was a definite reduction of the range of motion in her right knee. I withdrew her instantly from Norton Disney. There will be other events but only if I have the horse for them! (As a nice surprise, they managed to fill my place and I received a refund, so a very big thumbs up to Norton Disney Organisers, and a Thank You.)
At this point some heat started showing in that leg. Hmmm. Only a little, and only discernible on the 10pm check, but it was there. Arghh. I know far better than to ignore it.
So, Daisy has been on a very light exercise routine ever since, and our eventing plans are on hold until the heat has gone. I have an Op scheduled for the end of the month and 2-3 weeks with no riding afterwards (and dire warnings accompanied by a ferocious scowl from the nurse already, and I quote “I know what you horsey people are like” and “Danger of infection” if you go near horses and ride too soon) so it looks as though Daisy going to do pretty much naff all till around the end of June.
I had her scanned this morning to set my mind at rest and got the all-clear, huge relief, so can step up the work again, try to get the flatwork more secure, she can have a short hols while I am out of action and unable to at least lunge (not long I hope) and then we will crack on, everything crossed!
I know I must be delusional but I still think this little mare could be really good and could get somewhere. I’d only written my plans in sand this year… perhaps I should have just whispered them instead, but that’s horses for you!