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Variety Performance

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gymnasticsAs in my last blog, Jay has been super at Dressage, he is now getting mostly 4 and 5 points a test. We did an outing at Port Royal to complete his regionals qualification, although when I entered I did not realise it was a long arena test. Jay is OK with long arena, it is just me who gets a bit lost with the extra markers. Still, we only needed one test to complete our qualification, so I just entered the one and with only one test to learn it did not seem too daunting.


I did learn the test, but at the venue the lovely lady who had read to me the last time I was here volunteered to read for me again. It was not our best test ever, I think I trained a bit hard the day before and Jay was sound but maybe a bit stiff when initially warming up. Because of that I maybe rode a bit too forward to encourage him to use himself. No worries, it was a bit too forward, and we made a couple of mis-understandings, but generally it was active and happy and Jay achieved more then 68%.


Yay Hay, that is us qualified, so we can give Dressage a rest and go do some other stuff. Not that I don't like dressage, it's just that there is such a variety of fun stuff to do that it is nice to sample everything!


I have entered Jay for a Le Trec Indoor competition next week. It is like a handy pony competition for adults! There are many obstacles, such as a wooden bridge, bending poles, tarpaulin on the floor, a jump. I even have to dismount and leave Jay unattended and he is expected to Stay!  


We had our first Le Trec practice at home last week. It was after Jay had been off for a few days, so to be confident we just did refresher stuff. I filled the school with “stuff” and brought him in on a long rope. Jay recognised his “toys” and was frantic, went and jumped on all of the equipment, whinnied and woofelled, ripped the tarpaulin sheet, knocked the barrels over, dug up the plastic walkway.


I then mounted up and tried to warm up, but Jay kept swerving towards his toys, he even did a canter entry onto his podium (don’t wish to repeat that!). I had hung the plastic flappy fly curtain, but it was not hung evenly so all the flappy bits were hung in a clump. We trotted on to it, and I thought he would just duck his head to one side, but no, Jay knows he is supposed to go THROUGH the curtain, so he aimed his head AT the curtain, and once he was covered he stopped there and wore the plastic flaps like a huge hippy wig.


I finished up by insisting on some decorum, he was obliging enough, but when playing with his toys it is almost like he is hormonal!


We have also been out competing at Show Jumping, this being only our second outing show jumping since September. It was at Bishop Burton, which is one of my favourite places as the main arena has a real sense of occasion with the swags of material lining the grandstand bank of seats for spectators. It was after Jay had been on days off, and he had just a quick lunge round in the morning before we left, for sanity.


Whilst walking the course several competitors warned me about  how a surprising number of horses were spooking at some placards in front of the first fence, and I had replied with confidence “Oh, my horse is not spooky!”. Silly me. Jay did spook, but still went to the fence and did a clear round, although because he was upset with himself we got 4 time penalties (although David pointed out that at least three time penalties would have been earned whilst coming to the first fence sideways). Jay knew he had gone clear and insisted on a Polo, and was NOT impressed when he had to wait until we were back at the lorry.


Mental note to self- have a polo or two in your pocket when show jumping.


The day after the show I decided on more “compliance training” as this has been effective at stopping Jay from being spooky in the past, and the exercise I planned was more preparation for the Le Trec competition.


David removed the store room door and we made Jay a See Saw from it. It is to teach horses to trust different and noisy surfaces, and with the see saw effect it is also to teach horses to slow down and think when unsure, not to leap blindly forwards. Most horses have a moment or two learning this, but Jay was FAB throughout, very thoughtful, even when the door slipped.


I have used this door before as it is incredibly strong and it has not been slippery. For Jay it was slippery, the door kept slipping on the pole underneath. If we do this exercise again I will invest in some new equipment. The final "footbridge" in the video is likely to be an “obstacle” next weekend.


The video..




For variety, and to start to prepare for a summer eventing, we hired the Gallops at Osberton. I worked him in Mark's indoor school before heading out, just to make sure Jay's head was in the right place. Jay was super cool both in the school and on the gallops, trotting and cantering with a low head and using his back. The only surprise was when we were cantering along the back straight, where the gallops run alongside the road. Suddenly I had an ear in my mouth, and we were going very fast. He can’t half shift! I think he may have been racing traffic. No worries, after 100 yards I had stopped exclaiming at the hairs in my mouth enough to return the Orange one to a steady canter, and all was well.


Yesterday we had a jumping lesson with Selina. I was keen to get us moving and rhythmical again after the Bishop Burton time faults. The jumping was great. I managed to keep Jay more or less in front of my leg. Jay is so responsive it is like he reads my mind, when I am carefree so is he, when I am relaxed so is he (to a fault!). If I come around the corner to the fence and internally back off as the fence looks big, then so does he (and the wonderful stride pattern that was available disappears like mist in the morning!).


I kept the jumping part of the lesson short as I wanted to introduce Jay to the warm up and new entrance for the Le Trec competition next week. I have advised a lot of people to do this when doing something new with a horse, or with a young horse, to practice each individual piece of the day so you are just tying it all together in competition, not doing "new stuff".  Jay likes Selina's arena as a rule, but on a competition day you enter through the warm up and through a different gate. Jay always is a bit suspicious of this second entrance, mainly I think as it tends to sway in the wind and bang at random moments while we work, and he has never been in the warm up arena.



Jay was cautious to go out of the entrance, and once in the warm up was somewhat wound up. It was a windy day and the outside arena has a huge 50ft Poplar hedge alongside. Jay likes Selina's yard and lessons, and although he was not worked much in the days before we went I am always confident that he behaves here even when light of work. That changed in the outdoor arena, the swirling hedging, the horses in the background, the dogs in the hedge bottom....... it all came to a head with the scary jump blocks hidden in the hedgerow.


Jay talked himself into it, gave me a heap of warning and did nothing too bad, just changed course to avoid the horse-eating blocks. I know Jay well enough to just laugh at him, slowly have him come round to my way of thinking, and overcome himself.


For the competition next week Jay is now prepared as he ever will be. I don't know how it will go. Jay came as an extremely spooky horse, he has by enlarge overcome this and in 99% of situations he is confident. Even when he is not, it is just a blip, not the massive explosion that he did previously. I know he can do all of the obstacles, I know he can travel on the box, I know he has been in and out of the arena. As to putting them all together, I don't know how that will go. It is just for fun, that is what Jay is about for me, having fun and learning.


One of the things that I have been turning over in my mind this month has been accepting Jay for what he is. Quite often he is spookily quiet, as that is what I like from him, especially after I injured my hip. Sometimes I ask him to be himself, and when I do he tends to be a bit "too much" for what I want, and if it worries mehe packs himself away again.


I guess in the Le Trec competition we will see where we are, how much he bends to me and how much I accept him. It is all about working it out together I guess. What suits me may not suit another owner. That's lucky as Jay does not have the fictional "other owner", he has Me. And we are going to practice working  it out.

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  1. Gail Fazio

    It's wonderful to see how much more confident he is now! Everything is looking so easy for him .... keep up the good work!

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