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Feels Good

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Water web After our exciting ride at Osberton, detailed in the last blog, I had arranged to go back the day after (without the Pony Club Rally, or the car Rally!) to get done the work I had originally intended, but...... it snowed so we had to stay at home. We cleared the school, and Jay was then ridden all week on the school as I was working, and he was absolutely magic. Schooling has gone up a level, at Jane Bartle’s suggestion Jay has now started Half Pass. With his wobbly back end it is quite difficult for him, but he is putting in 100%.

We were then booked on indoor XC  training , but it was cancelled with the snow. Then we had booked a jumping lesson at Speetley, and I was keen on this as they have water and steps in the main arena, so excepting for snow we could at least practice them, but it snowed again (!) so we cancelled that too.

Which brings me round to our first planned event, Draycott, which was 2 weeks away. We had still not seen XC since 2011, I decided time had run out, and we withdrew. Until we got a break in the weather Jay and I couldn’t  complete the training or shows we needed  to, and I didn’t want to try eventing until we were both ready. At least we are both safe and well, and to me competition is just the icing on the cake, Jay himself is the actual chocolate sponge with butter cream filling. (Love that horse!).

So, today Jay and I went and built a snowman in the arena. With Jay snowed in there was nothing else to do!


Easter, and finally the weather was brighter. Jay went to two shows. I felt so confident with Jay that I decided to travel and compete on my own. The first show was quite eventful. I arrived and went straight to the office to enter to find a distraught lady who was waiting for the ambulance for her broken leg. Then, Jay and I went to the collecting ring to find a professional show jumper laid on the floor with his horse laid down beside him...... Once horse and rider scrambled to their feet we warmed up, 5 more to go, and the whole show was stopped for an hour for a lady with a suspected broken back in the arena, to wait for the ambulance......then a horse went loco in the collecting ring, and even the sedate Jay was upset....... Then Jay did a clear Brit Nov, and one down in the jump off, perfect gent.

One pointer from that show, I have decided to buy and wear a back protector for show jumping as well as for cross country. I had to buy a new one as my previous one was bright blue and yellow, and that is not allowed for show jumping. So, I now have a more sedate black and grey one, and so far I have been the only competitor in a body protector, but, you know, I am not in my twenty’s (or even thirty’s- or even early 40’s) any more. I have seen a whole lot of accidents show jumping, and I guess wearing a body protector is a small price to pay for extra safety.

Next I drove the lovely Jay , again on my own, to Bishop Burton, and again he was a gent, and we did the Brit Nov, clear in the first part and one down in the jump off part. But, it was all forward and smooth, so....... we entered the discovery, our first. I then got it wrong, and Jay pulled me out of the do-do. A video is below, not my best jumping, HOWEVER the video does show a very happy Jay Jay, helping his mum out, and getting it right, even when I do not. I guess it could be a LOT worse, at least we look like we are on the same team.


With the better weather I took  Jay back to Osberton, this time with no Rallies of any description. He was a bit wound up when we got there, I think he remembered being stressed last time.

We started at trot, just in a confined area, then increased the area, trotted up and down the wooded tracks and into the big field. In fact by the time we cantered (after half an hour of steadier work) Jay had settled so much we had a jump over some of the portable fences.

It was a nice ride out. We even went and found the small water jump, and Jay was astonished to find the water had a thin layer of ice on it, which started to crack and move. In fact it was so “out there” that Jay leaped out, straight up the bank. BUT, he came sensible straightaway, and went back in, and found that ice breaks up, and although it was noisy and looks strange as it floats ahead of him, it caused him no harm. 

I then dipped Jay into dressage, BD again, 2 tests, N28 and N30Q, 6 more points.

In the qualifier we had the same score as the winner, with a high enough score to qualify, but on collective marks we in fact came third. Jay was third in both tests, 3 points each test. I am disappointed as we could easily have won, but the sun came out, Jay fell asleep, and I then over-rode him and strung him out (just kicked on, forgot to actually hold anything in my hand)too fast for him to balance. I trotted his little legs off, and despite that he scored the same as the winner! Good horse. We both had a great day out, and that is the whole point.

Next was travelling to North Yorkshire to the farrier, and straight from there to a XC schooling course nearby. We shared a steep field with 100 sheep and some lambs. Jay is not a fan of sheep, he was astonished. Still, he settled and worked well, did some small jumps, the water,  and then went on the steep part to do ditches and steps. The ditches were fine, and the steps too, but Jay does find it frustrating to do standing around and stopping and starting, and as we had also conquered splitting the flock of sheep (including a ewe giving us a standoff as we had split her from her babies) I was happy to call it good. Just to ride through Jay’s frustration so we could finish on a good note we had a good old canter about on the flatter land,  jumped some more jumps, and went back through the water.

I was not happy that Jay had got frustrated with the standing around on the steeper part of the course, but it was good that with a good old canter about he had freed up again. Even more positive was that my back and leg were so weak from lack of use that when jumping a ditch or step downhill I  was sometimes wobbling, and Jay caught me every time, he is so kind, and so careful.

Jay is a bit fitter now, he looks so posh, his summer coat is coming through and with the extra work he is muscling up. Jay just takes my breath away with his stance, and his pride, and his newly forming muscles. Jay is just so “Jay”, it is great to just have him to play with.

Next up was a delay to Jay’s schedule, as my full time work became very busy and stressful. My employers were cutting my department by a third, and I would have to interview for my own post. Aaagh, I have not done an interview for 19 years! I have found that when I am stressed it is best to stay away from hard work with Jay. We did some schooling but even that did not go so well, it felt like Jay needed the dentist as he started to resist in his mouth, but it could have been that I was tense in my arms and shoulders and he was bracing against that. So, I backed off, Jay had an easy time.

The sun came out, and I decided to go have some no stress, fun Cross Country schooling. I like Grange De Lings Cross Country course at Lincoln, but although I am happy to go on my own, the venue insists on a companion, for safety. I had spoken to BE trainer Sue Ringrose on the phone before, and was taken with her bright and helpful attitude, so booked a lesson with her, explaining that I was a bit stressed currently, and just wanted to have a bit of fun.

Sue was great, got the situation, and asked if she could bring a horse to school, so we could play over the fences together, no pressure. We started with a trot and  a canter about, it is the first time I have cantered Jay upsides another horse, and Jay  was in total nanny mode. I had told Sue that I did not care if we jumped or not, I felt stressed and just wanted a day in the sunshine. Jay was great, looked after me as I bobbled about. When I am feeling vulnerable Jay jumps so carefully and flat, to look after me. We did some jumping, had some fun.

In fact after the great time, with no pressure,  I felt empowered to go enter our first event, Richmond. It was a bit short notice, the event was full, but I went onto the wait list. Meanwhile we went to  Sykehouse for BS (on a ticket). So many people commented on how well my horse looked, a really shiny summer coat, he was happy and relaxed. I pulled my finger out a bit and we got 2nd in the British Novice.  Jay is a total superstar.

Jay had a day off after his show jumping, then I rode him at home for some dressage bareback and in a halter, and he did some FAB leg yield and shoulder in. In fact he was so pleased with himself he had a canter with his head between his knees, not what I wanted with no saddle or bridle, but I was laughing as I knew he would not drop me. Jay is so cool!

Two days later, we were back XC training at Grange De Lings, with Sue Ringrose again. This time I was a lot more “together”, had a more formal lesson, and Jay shone, so playful, so careful, so clever, so stunning! Jay is great.

Finally our canter field was dry enough to go play. Nothing nicer than an early morning clop around the village then a gad about in the field. Jay was not turned in our fields as yet as they were too soft for him leaping about unsupervised, but  I had some work to do (revising for my pending interview), so I sat with him every evening and let him off to eat grass for an hour. Jay likes paperwork, apparently. He is great, standing over me snuffling at my papers, careful not to tread on  my legs! In fact some days I did my morning leg and back exercises in his field so he could have an extra supervised graze, Jay finds a yoga mat quite interesting too.

Jay did some more Show Jumping, the 95 amateur at Port Royal, and he was fab. It was a very busy collecting ring, Jay was a model citizen, in fact I am so relaxed in the collecting ring now that it seems funny how worried I was just a short time ago. I do get cross when people are silly, at one point a man walked right in front of the fence just as I was 4 strides out. I had to pull poor Jay’s head off to stop, and the man did not apologise or even acknowledge me, even though he certainly saw me.

In the ring Jay was clear, but had one down in the jump off. Just a roll behind, my fault. There was a long distance, then a short turn to a double. I lengthened OK for the long distance, did the turn, but killed the canter to get him back. Basically I pulled too hard, for too long! Jay needs to know that we have a snaffle so he can disregard my advice when it is wrong! Other than that the round was lovely, rhythmic, careful and it felt good. In fact even where we were wrong we kept rhythmic, but I just killed the power a bit too much.

With my Richmond event hopefully (still on the wait list) less than a week away I went informally XC schooling at Grange De Lings. This time I was looked after by Andy, he volunteered to have the head cam. Andy was also revising for job interviews, and time out in the sun was relaxing for both of us.  I seem to be getting my balance when riding more, my leg and hip are working better, and my core is more together, and then Jay feels he is allowed to move.

The video quality from the head cam is rubbish, but you can see that we are certainly moving!


So, only a few days to Richmond and I was still on a wait list. Then, I was in! Wey Hey, our first event since 2011!!!!

At Richmond Jay was great, in full nanny mode, placid and relaxed. I think an unskilled 12 year old would have had fun riding him!

This is Jay starting his dressage warm up- super cool....Dressage warm up

The dressage judge said she would like him to be more active. I would have liked him to be more active too!!! In fact he was slated for his FWLR, for a lack of stride length and rhythm, but the darned horse was trying to eat the grass!!!

SJ, he was like an old soak, just popped round foot perfect. Very good boy. SJ

XC he only got one practice fence, then someone smacked their horse in the collecting ring with a whip, and he was stressed, they needed someone to start, and at least he was full of energy, so I went while he was a bit zipped up! In fact they counted down to zero, and I was not even in the box. So, we started late. Then he threw a shoe at the first, but I did not know, and he went round a bit green at first, then magic for a while, then he got a bit tired, and I saw a rubbish stride, then he was a bit cautious for a few while he forgave me, then he got back in his stride and  I was so pleased as he JUMPED into the water at canter, despite it being a shallow ramp (!), and we were finished.

The photo on the header of this blog is Jay exiting the water, this was the very last fence...Last fence 11.5.13

I had the shoe bashed straight back on by the farrier, no cracks to his rather beautiful foot. We even finished on a double clear, and a respectable score.

You know, after all the preparation we have put in on these last two blogs, to be ready to event, the whole day was so enjoyable. No worries, we have taken apart every part of the event and examined where there may be glitches and worked on them one by one. Steady progress, slowing it all down when things had not been right, making enjoyment the whole focus.

I waited to enter until I felt ready to enter, no rush. I realised that the whole point of the day is to have fun, and felt no need to “prove myself” or Jay, we were out in beautiful surroundings, doing what we like to do.

My work interview was two days after the event, I guess eventing is a good prep, at least it took my mind off it.

First target of eventing completed, so, what next?

Well, since the event last weekend we already did a dressage clinic on Tuesday, and another show jumping yesterday.

The dressage was great, I was waiting for the telephone call to tell me the interview results, if I had kept my job, and I rode the backside off Jay. I think Jay puts in as much effort as I do, and with the tension over my job I put in a lot of effort. Jay did the lot, medium paces, collected paces, shoulder in, canter 10m circles, counter canter, whatever I wanted, fresh and clean, and quick and WOW. Jay is super cool.

After the lesson I got the news that I have been successful at interview, and remain as a paid, full time professional horse rider and trainer. It compliments my private teaching. What I learn at work is shared with private clients and vice- versa. The same with my adventures with Jay.

At the show jumping yesterday we had a great time, double clear with a happy Jay.

Next week we have our second BE event, at Shelford. I plan on sticking to BE90 for a few events, as Jay needs some mileage so he is not as astonished by so much! After all he has been mainly worked on an arena his whole life.

Then? Who knows? As long as we are having fun it is all OK by me. Whether it be playing with podiums, flags or snowmen; or dressage, show jumping or eventing; or hacking, cross country play or schooling; it is all about finding things that feel good.  

Right now Jay is doing something that makes him feel good. Finally our fields dried up enough, and just before Richmond Jay got to be turned out proper. Hours and hours every day with nothing better to do than eat lovely grass. Right now Jay is eating with the sun on his back, just like a horse was designed to do.

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  1. Ruth

    Hi, thank you Gail and Ruth, we have been having a lot more fun already, another event, more silly games, and learning too!

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  2. Ruth Drake-Chapman

    Another lovely blog Ruth. I so enjoy reading about what you and jay are up to. It is so apparent in the writting how much you love your horse. You are lucky to have each other, as you complement each other. Hope to see you soon.

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  3. Gail Fazio

    Wow, Ruth! I LOVE the shots from your event, especially the huge grin on the blog header! You and Jay have done so well, and I am so happy for you. And Congratulations on your job as well. I can only imagine how stressful that was for you, but go glad that they saw you for such an asset to keep you in your post. Can't wait to read the next issue of "The Chronicles of Jay and Ruth"! :)

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