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Star Trec-ing!!!

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Jay on the beach twoWhat a wonderful experience the Indoor Le Trec competition was on 29 March. For starters the spring weather was kind, a lovely warm and sunny day. The people at the competition were kind too, the whole atmosphere was very friendly.

There was an organised course walk for new people, as well as posters telling you what was required at each obstacle. This was really useful as so far my research has been watching videos on Youtube from other competitions, and this does not tell you what was good or bad about each combination.

The first competition was an unaffiliated one, and despite his mother having to frequently pull up and confirm what was next (if you think learning a show jumping course or dressage test is difficult, this seemed harder to me), Jay was a total superstar.

Jay then did the two affilliated classes.

Last month I said this would be a test of where we are, and I had my answer. I had not reckoned on having to canter from one obstacle to the next, then do a slow and intricate movement in tight quarters, then canter off to the next. At the end of the day I was absolutely exhausted, as Jay was up and ready for any command, and the mental exertion of having my energy up, then down, then up, then doing an intricate movement with Jay, but being controlled in my adrenaline to be REQUESTING the manoeuvre with small signals rather than keeping large muscle movements normal of someone who is under an adrenaline shot.

It is in this part, I think, that we gained as a pair. Jay has not seen these obstacles before, I have mocked up some obstacles, but mine were different to those on the day. What we had practiced though was a language by which he could understand my requests. We have practiced energy up and down. We have practiced reversing off a light signal. We have practiced going forward and sideways, again with little fuss. We can change direction at speed, as Jay can hold his own balance and does not need to be "held" by his rider.

If there was one area that we needed more practice it was in that of a fast walk. The final obstacle was to walk as quickly as possible. Jay knew he was finished and strolled out in a very relaxed frame of mind. I know that it would only take half an hour or so to have Jay walking like lightening, but as that was not something we had practiced, and I was actually so pleased that he was so relaxed that I accepted his relaxed walk as his best work, and thanked him for what we had achieved.

Jay won both of his affiliated classes, with over 70%. I was delighted, not just at winning, but that it was such an enjoyable test of our foundation training.

The organisers were impressed enough that I got an invite to teach at their annual Trec Camp three weeks later. I accepted as I was interested  to see if I could help with my slightly different perspective of experience gained from both training Police Horses, and from working with Cowboys in America. My role was to train in ground working skills.

More variety the week after, Jay and I went Cross Country schooling in Lincoln. Jay was well up for it, but I was somewhat off song. Have you ever had a day where you know what you SHOULD be doing but in practice you revert to an unhelpful behaviour pattern? Well, that was me!

I was trying to keep us safe I think, but in point of fact I was holding Jay too tight, and causing him to be anxious. I was very cross with myself for doing this, but every time we approched a fence I could not see a stride, it felt too fast, so I took another pull. Then I could see a stride, but it was a short one, so then I had to keep a hold to get that short one.........

Thankfully there was then a bit of drama as a neighbouring horse got loose, and over the fence I could see the loose horse on the road outside. I managed to leave Jay with David, and go to stop the traffic while we phoned the owner to come and collect the horse. This gave me time out to think, and I knew that I would have to do something different.

When I got back on I had decided to either do smaller fences or to actually trust my fabulous horse to do the right thing, if I could only get out of his way. I did a combination, did some smaller fences and then tucked my right hand in the neckstrap. That way if I backed off I was pnly putting pressure on the strap, not on Jay's bridle.

What a success! Jay was fab, never missed a stride, and was happy.

The next  day we went to another venue to do some more XC, but this time the ground was quite uneven where the mud had dried in front of the fences. It was bad enough that we only did 6 fences a few times each fence, but we had a great time cantering about the grassy field. Again I re-discovered that Jay is great if I just set up the canter and leave him to it, rather than trying to micro-manage. Doh, I KNEW that, it is just with being out of practice that I had reverted to unhelpful strategies.

Next in the variety of life was a lesson and some Cranio Treatment from Julie Houghton. The lesson was fab, Jay and I have moved on yet another step. We have started to get some connection. To me that feels like we suddenly have a bundle more POWER when we do dressage, and at first it actually felt like Jay was running away from himself. Not literally running away as in going too fast, but the power can build and build, and with his bottom lowered and Jay poised for action it is a very different feel to the relaxed long and low that I usually am happy with.

It was not long after that Jay and I got to try our new connection, we did two dressage competitions in a week. The Tec competition had done me good in terms of my belief in our bond and training, especially in relation to powering up and down, and completing intricate movements  without me resorting to increased levels of force. With this increased confidence I decided to do just Elementary tests.

Jay was a star as ever, and from the Sykehouse Arena Championship Show he is now the Elementary Winter Champion. Good Boy!

To celebrate we went hacking at Osberton, and had a good old hoon around, jumping fences when the fancy took us. This time I felt more practiced in the art of setting the canter and letting Jay jump the fence, and we had a great time. The water crossings were a surprise to Jay, especially the running stream, but he took confidence from not being rushed and was soon flinging himself in and over.

The next weekend was the Trec Camp. It was a lovely day teaching people who had a real desire to understand their horses. I taught over 30 people, and was pretty much hard at it from 9am to 6pm.

The focus on my lessons was making sure that you and your horse have a language by which you can explain how the horse should move his body, and to confirm this before involving obstacles into the equation. The other theme was to have a full stop at the end of each request, a "release" or a reward so the horse knew he had completed each movement. This helps to keep the requests small in volume, so as not to end up manhandling a confused horse around.

The horses were of all types and levels of training, from very green youngsters to accomplished Trec professionals, and I had a great, if tiring, day.

In fact the day was so tiring that I was a bit stiff the next day, so Jay and I had an easy time playing. A friend has given Jay and I a set of cymbals on a  stand and some drums, with a foot pedal. I dusted off the clicker toy and Jay and I had a play. Within a few minutes Jay had got it sussed, and would pick up a drumstick and strike the cymbal. Ha Ha, he loves working problems out.

I also had a beach ride planned, taking myself, Jay,my husband and dog, and a friend. In fact I was so looking forward to cantering in the surf, jumping waves, that I was dreaming and forgot to put my lorry side steps up before exiting the narrow gateway to put the box on the driveway for loading. Ouch! The steps are not badly damaged, but it did suspend the day out until they are fixed. The photo at the head of this blog? Yeah, that is what happened last time, this time we did not get there.

What to do with an unexpectedly free day? Well, how about getting out the clicker toy again??? This time I got more props out, but in his excitement Jay was not quite as good at using the drumstick. I made a video of both days of training........

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiQqf9tMfV4&list=UU0lJP-CVlvm1ywFllb-umLQ

Other than that we have had a play at Show Jumping as we seem to have left that for a few weeks. We had a fantastic practice in training and then went to a show. For some reason Jay took a dislike to one of the horses in the arena, and was not settled. In fairness the other horse was pretty filled with energy, and was not at its best, so I sympathised with Jay. We waited until the collecting ring was a little quieter, and then he warmed up just great. As we got warmed up ready to jump, the horse that Jay did not like had a mishap in the ring, and the rider fell off.

You know, we could have jumped, but I decided to go home. It just felt right. So we did.

We went back to the showground the next day and Jay jumped a champion round around the same fences.

Next?

Well this afternoon we may go jumping, but it is raining so I am not so sure about that. In any case I now have a busy 3 weeks or so at work. I have 12 working days before I leave work. Yep, TWELVE working days. Most of them are longer shifts, so it is still a lot of hours, but after 16 May I will have left.

I have plans for this summer. I think, first,  a couple of weeks taking stock. I have been training Police Horses and riders for around 20 years, as well as competing and training my own horse, and training private clients. I would love to do more training privately, helping people to achieve their goals.

I plan a confidence clinic at Sykehouse arena, a full day where we meet for coffee and find out about each other, then have a private lesson in the morning to address individuals' specific issues, lunch, then an afternoon where people are free to be mounted and riding, or ground working, dressage, or jumping, de-spooking or watching. We can work on whatever people would like. Collectively or as individuals. I have participated in these relaxed groups before, and it is a great way of watching and learning, doing and learning, trying something new or not. An afternoon where you could be mounted for 3 hours or more if that is what you would like. An afternoon where you can just BE with your horse and see where the experience takes you.

Roll on the rest of my life!!!!

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