A few weeks after the end of the event season, I’ve had time for some reflection. On paper, this season with my mare is no great shakes, I’ll happily admit that.
To the onlooker, a rosette-less year (unless you count a rosette and money at Little Downham hunter trial in the spring!) probably looks totally & utterly rubbish. Fortunately, I’m one of those people who isn’t very competitive any more (I used to be, honestly!) but who takes an inordinate amount of pleasure from ‘the journey’ – from making a horse. I just love teaching a horse to enjoy its job and, hopefully, eventually, be successful at it! The rosettes, and points, and prizes, I hope, are in the future… 😉
So, we did 8 events, 6 of them with xc runs (at the other 2, the ground was too firm for my liking, so I w/d before xc) and we stepped up solidly to BE100, where she was feeling so good that I was seriously contemplating a Novice run before the end of the season came round inconveniently soon. The pretty un-admirable black-and-white results are here for your amusement.
The dressage results are telling – at Great Witchingham (a couple of days after a really good first lesson with Sharon Hunt) Daisy was rideable and accepting, surprisingly so, but at every other event she had better ideas than I did in the dressage ring, and argued. There was a lot of spooking at the (in)convenient dragons-in-the-hedge, too. Is this extreme spookyness caused by her tension, or does her over-imagination cause the tension? I’m really not sure.
Extreme tact was required. Perhaps we need to nearly run into a judge’s car to get THAT particular penny to drop too, as well as needing a lot more training, which just hasn’t been affordable this season, unfortunately. I really miss having my regular trainer over every month or so. I am confident that it will come together. Daisy’s never going to be Valegro, any more than I’m going to turn into Charlotte, but she’s perfectly capable of a very nice test if she lets me ride her and I do the right things!
The fences we’ve had down here and there SJ don’t actually worry me – she is jumping confidently and happily, it’s just that she’s got a bit too much gusto… she is quick through the air and doesn’t always give herself time to make a better shape, plus she doesn’t usually throw her hind end away, it’s just not (unfortunately!) her natural style. I wouldn’t exactly call her ‘allergic to wood’, either. 😉 😉
If I try to slow the whole thing down she fights more, throws her head up, and things get a lot worse. There are reasons why I let her bowl along a bit more than probably looks ideal!
She skews here and there, and stiffens her back too, especially if a bit tense in the air. I still haven’t found a bit that she truly accepts for more than 1 or 2 rounds, which makes things more tricky.
It will come, I am sure of that. The SJ rhythm got better and better through the year (apart from our last round at Oasby, where she suddenly decided she hated her bit, 5 minutes before our round), but the round I’m most proud of, in spite of the spooking and sudden inability to land on the correct leg, is this one:
At the start of the season, Daisy was having the odd weird moment on the XC, usually due to her initiating a major argument at the worst possible moment. If I gave a slight steadying aid on the approach to a fence, she might accept it, or she might just say “NO!!!!!” and shoot sideways in extreme protest. This happened twice at Great Witchingham, at simple fences, the one time all year that we were in a competitive position after the SJ. Sigh. 😉
Her whole attitude seemed to be “How DARE you try to tell me what to do?” (Of course, this only happened in competition, it didn’t happen at home or xc schooling… hmmm.) She’s a very self-possessed and arrogant mare, she rules the roost in the field in spite of not being the oldest mare (by a long way), and she obviously thought that SHE was taking ME xc. In her mind I was relegated very much to the back seat, her whole attitude said “just sit still and shut up, don’t interfere, I’ve GOT this.” Unfortunately the back seat is not exactly my favourite place to be, especially on a pretty inexperienced horse!
At Shelford Manor, she took this to the nth degree, responding to my straightening-out aids (after she spooked ultra-violently and totally unnecessarily at a Novice log we had to go past) with a dramatic sideways “SHAN’T!!!”, just as we went down a slight slope. The resulting total loss of balance and steering put us face-into the flag at the end of the small step we were supposed to negotiate next, and she very nearly head-butted it, coming to a jolting and confused stop, with nowhere to go. I patted her, turned calmly away (inwardly seething, I must admit!) and trotted to the step up, which she popped obligingly. The cogs were whirring… and I am SO glad that I don’t carry a whip on her usually. If I’d had one, I might have used it, which would have turned her attention (negatively) back onto ‘her versus me’. As it was, she realised that she’d messed up, by fighting the aid instead of accepting it, and I honestly think that giving her time to take that in, without punishment, was really important.
The 20 penalties we received for that major misunderstanding were totally worth it for the brain-shift that resulted. I am sure I felt the cogs in her brain click into a new place after that rather eeeeeek ‘moment’. “Uhhh… hang on a minute, I got stroppy and it all went horribly wrong… uhhhh…. maybe, just maybe, you were trying to HELP instead of just annoy me…”
Sorry, I know that is risibly anthropomorphic, but in that one crystallising moment I honestly believe that her attitude xc changed, and she started accepting my input instead of being violently offended by it. I am very glad that we didn’t both have to end up on the floor for her to learn that particular lesson, as I have seen happen!
I broke my golden rule and stepped up a level next time out in spite of the previous xc blip, as her rideability around the rest of the course after our ‘moment’ had really impressed me. Sure enough, she took the bigger fences at BE100 more seriously, and gave me a really good ride. She went a little green at her first ever pallisade on top of bank, and skinny brush, but she wanted to go between the flags, accepted my input, and was definitely getting the hang of it. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Here’s the vid:
At Keysoe she jumped a few of the fences a little tensely (especially the trakhener – she always goes first time but you can see her tension in the shape she makes in the air) but she did a pleasing clear, a good one for the confidence bank, as it was a very educational course.
Our final run of the year xc at Oasby was all I could have hoped for. I over-rode the first fence horribly, I have no idea why, too long waiting around by the start box while they scraped up a faller maybe (!), but Daisy accepted that interference very graciously, and from then on we had an absolute whale of a time. We agreed on every spot, she locked on to every fence, jumping with complete confidence and enthusiasm, making a far better shape in the air, she didn’t spook at a single thing (this is a MAJOR accomplishment for her) and we both finished with a huge smile on our faces, wanting more, and bigger, jumps. Could really not ask for any better.
Unfortunately her pelvis, always a problem area, was not right after this run. She was crooked and sore, and so on the advice of my McTimoney Corley practitioner I withdrew her from our final planned run of the year. Frustrating, but so it goes… far better to finish on a really good note than to risk running her when she wasn’t quite right.
Now we have the winter to work on all 3 phases. Lots of work will be done. Roll on next season, I can’t wait!