Everything Else

From Clueless to Eventer (hopefully!)

Who would have thought that improving the canter would also improve the horse’s jump? This was my thought to myself (I was expecting this to be the outcome, but it’s always nice to be proven right) as I was suddenly sat on a horse which could actually jump rather than its previous attempts to jump which were nothing like what I knew the horse was capable of. With this new found power from behind has come the realisation that there is more time to get the front legs out of the way.

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I decided to go hunting on Boxing Day, it wasn’t one of my more sensible and rational decisions to take a cheeky little horse out on the busiest day of the year but sometimes it’s sanity vs finances and finances will win as there is no cap on Boxing Day with all the money you donate going to hunt servants. I gave the horse a good ride on Christmas Day in order to at least attempt to take the tickle out of his feet and all in all Frank was a good chap and behaved himself. We only had one camp head shake while cantering across a field which was a great result considering that the hunting field was his previous down fall in bad behaviour and why he ended up with me. I jumped one rhyne (Somerset word for ditch) on him where I felt this extraordinary amount of power come from behind, I had no idea he would jump so big over it. I came away from that rhyne thinking, ummmmm so this horse has a lot of power and yet this is not coming through over uprights.

A couple of days later I went to Pontispool for some arena cross country where he was unfazed by anything but did not feel overwhelming in the process. I want ping, athleticism and generally feeling like they will be exciting for the future.

Slowly muscling up

Slowly muscling up

I went for a grids session with my poor, harassed regular trainer who knows me very well having managed to put up with me for 10 years. One of my weaknesses as a person is I am a realist. Some might call it pessimism but I prefer to be honest and realistic about things. At the moment Frank felt like he might just about to scrape round BE100 and he did not feel very careful as he slinked over his fences. Jo gave me the same advice she gives me every 6 months (yep, this is a regular conversation had over a lot of horses now!) that I need to be patient and that I am not riding £20,000 horses and that I should stop looking at them on the internet and having unrealistic expectations of my own. So with that we got on with some grids and the little horse kept on jumping and he was not really making any effort. We finished on a fairly meaty bounce to upright to square oxer to upright sequence at about 1.10m. I looked quite stupid at the end of this session that I was doubting this very green 5yos ability doing an exercise a lot of more experienced horses struggled with.

So I had a think and decided to spend some money on training, especially on the flat. I have no arena so riding during the week and schooling is incredibly limited. The money that I save on livery I then put into training. So after a month of just doing flatwork and hacking, I went and had a jump and the results were great. We suddenly have power from behind and the only poles we have are where he has not been paying attention or gets distracted.

I went back to Pontispool for some arena cross country and the horse was awesome. I came away very pleased with him and his attitude. My last horse was a fabulous cross country horse but I always felt like he was doing it to please me and knew no different rather than genuinely enjoying it and being excited by it. I was never sure how much further he would go after Novice but as things turned out I never had the chance to find out. Frank seems to enjoy it so far.

Lots of hillwork

Lots of hillwork

Meanwhile, between my jumping highs, I attempted to do some dressage. I hate going to dressage shows. I find them about as scintillating as watching paint dry. I really love dressage training and schooling but I just cannot get excited about dressage shows. I put myself down for a walk and trot test and P7. The scores were ok, both tests were 64% and above which are fair for where he is at the moment. Everything is there but the straightness is a big work in progress and that reflected in his marks. The main thing is the horse did not change from the warm up to doing the test which is great news as it means you are not suddenly sat on a mule which won’t move or a tense fire breathing dragon. We won’t set the world on fire today but it’s all about a step towards tomorrow.

In other foolishness, I have agreed to run an unaffiliated one day event on the Easter Sunday in Somerset. I thought I had got away with not doing it but to my dismay it’s back on the agenda. Somehow I have to conjure up 90 volunteers and make sure they are in the right place at the right time. Yeah! I have also agreed to do some working hunter judging in the summer. I hate judging showing. I don’t mind the odd bit of ride judging as find it quite interesting but doing non-riding judging does not offer that interest. If you are wondering why I have agreed, it’s because I have asked to get arena time in return! I am also organising a camp for 40 people at Pontispool in May but that is pretty much done and dusted as managed to fill it in 3 weeks. In case anyone is wondering, lunchtimes at work are spent doing horse admin and organising.

As for Frank, the plan is to go off to one of my wonderful trainers for 2 days and then an unaffiliated one day event in March which is run to a high standard. After that, I am hoping to get him out at BE90 in May. As usual my plans are written in sand and adaptable!

About the author

Lucy

An amateur rider who produces all her own horses. I have competed at novice level and sadly never got further due to bad luck with horses but I am still ambitious to achieve a lot more. I have a riding qualification in UKCC2 and a diploma in NLP. Sports science and particularly the mental game fascinates me. For a day job I work for a large multinational brand.

6 Comments

  • Hi, I enjoyed reading your article and found it interesting. I thought I would include a photo of my 4yo as she is very similar in looks and stamp to your baby! Flicka is learning to jump round 80cm courses at the moment and has a good jump on her. She is entered for her first jumping competition on Saturday (an arena eventing at Dallas Burston) and I hope she will be a very good eventer for the future as she really can move on the flat. Good luck with your baby and I look forward to more updates, how is he bred, just out of interest?
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10203709937125820&set=p.10203709937125820&type=1&theater – this is a picture of my 4yo mare, Flicka!

  • I enjoyed your article but you don’t explain how you improved the canter other than working on flatwork. I have the same issues with my ISH and would be very interested to know what exercises you did to improve the canter. Thanks.

  • Lots of circles were done in canter, lengthening and shortening the stride on the long/short side of the arena to help with balance and shortening the stride. We have been doing a lot on transitions in particular as both upwards and downwards need a lot of work. Now he is responsive to the voice to help understand what is required which has produced a clearer upward transition into canter and a downward transition which remains forwards into trot rather than just ending ubruptly. We use a click for up and a whoah for down. Though the canter has improved and is stronger its still a long way from adjustable, good in the contact and soft which is the ultimate aim. The next stage will be keeping the roundness in the transitions as he tends to hollow which means the quality disappears and it ends up with more of a skip into canter rather than a smooth jump into canter. Hope this helps and I will try and be more detailed in future!

  • Brilliant, thank you!!! Mine tends to hop into the canter sometimes too! Really useful. Will give these a go when my field is rideable again!