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Heat of Summer

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gymnasticsI knew that Jay was bred nicely, but I was never very interested in his breeding, I just knew that I liked the horse. With Jay having a few outings I have been asked a few times how he is bred, and I felt a bit silly not knowing. Google is a wonderful thing, and I found his daddy, see the link..... “Daddy of Jay”..... http://www.hiltonviewstud.com/pages/our_stallions.htm .... Wow! Oh, and I had no idea Jay was half WARMBLOOD! Ha Ha, explains his one track attitude on occasion.

I emailed the stud, just to say that I had son of Hermes De Reve, not expecting a reply, just to let them know that Jay is a wonderful and much appreciated horse.

One morning at the start of June we had a 7am hack in a howling gale, and we had freaky winds while we were on the back lane, and the trees were creaking and reaching to touch us, and bits were falling off and hitting us, and Jay really wanted to run. Whenever he is stressed I just ride off the neck strap, and all credit to the man, he stayed with me and did EXACTLY what I asked for, even though secretly I wanted to run through the scary lane too!

To lose the stress we turned off on the way home for a canter in the field, he was a gent, then as we got level with home I found it was the neighbours’ lad’s birthday, and they had hung 4ft high inflatable numbers on the waving washing line. Bless the horse, he knows to stand still if scared, so he did, the he realised it was like a different type of fitness ball, and he can cope with those, so he walked past, only to be confronted with the neighbour coming right at us wielding a huge array of balloons, noisely bashing together in the wind. Jay is such a hero, again he stood still, and she tied them to the gate, and all was well.

It left it in my mind to do some more training with things that are both visually scary but noisy as well, like things flapping in the wind, plus stuff that reaches out and touches him as we pass.....

Next up – Shelford BE 90, our second event this year. Jay was super cool, the weather was kind, it was in fact a lovely day out. Dressage was OK, obedient but maybe a bit lacklustre. Show jumping was FAB, after a small blip with a child in a pram at ringside, well not so much the child, it was the man blowing raspberries at the child in the pram that caught Jay’s attention. He came straight back to work for a beautiful clear round, good boy. Obviously we need pram and raspberry training too!!!

Shelford sj web

Cross country was our weakness. Jay feels supremely confident in dressage and Show Jumping, after all we train and compete at this all the time, at many different venues. Cross Country is where we have encountered difficulty in training with the weather (firstly snow, and now baked hard ground) and distance to travel. Also, to train XC you need a companion, and people are busy so it can be difficult to get organised to have the all round education.  The only time we compete XC is at an actual event, so it is not surprising that Jay feel a bit green in this area.

Jay was a hero, we had missed strides as we are not used to approaching fences in a XC canter, but he was very honest and jumped everything I put him at. In fact he would have been placed had I not been so excited to have nearly finished, and got the wrong side of the string marking the course. We had to pull up, and backtrack, and so got 10 time penalties. 12th place, good boy. What was also nice was that I had removed the martingale, and he was polite and easy to control.

Shelford Web

The next week I set about “proofing” Jay against more “stuff”. I actually got the idea from when I hired Sykehouse arena for a bit of schooling and jumping, and he carried both his saddles across, and with my jacket also tucked inside his neckstrap he looked a bit like a “buckaroo” horse. I went and bought a “Buckaroo” game, and had Jay model it. He was very happy to play the silly game, and is a very professional and patient model.

buckaroo web

More excitingly, I had an email from the lady who bred Jay, Joanna Curran. She has sent me some photos of him as a baby, and we have caught up on his life history. Seems he was sweet from day I, easy to back and playful from the start. He has ridiculously long legs in his baby photos!!!

Work became a little fraught, and as I have said in previous blogs, if I am stressed then I give Jay an easy time, so we did a bit of hacking and some light schooling until a couple of weeks later I had a jump at Sykehouse Arena, and jumped a course to 1.10. Jay was confident and competent, and I was....... well I was there too!!!!

Just got our jumping back together for......... Skipton BE90. I had intended a XC lesson beforehand, but the ground was very hard so we did not. We did an indoor show jumping lesson with Selina instead, which went fabulously. This would be his 3rd BE 90 this year, and I felt confident we would get round XC, so away we went.

The event was great, but because of flooding last year the whole thing was arranged on a much smaller footprint than when I have been before. This meant horse walkways right beside the Portaloos (Jay proved Portaloo proof, even when they were opening and slamming shut their mouths) and the marquees, with banners and scary “stuff”.

 Jay was his normal cool self, looked after me and warmed up well, and then promptly went to sleep in the ring. Not a bad test, just again a bit lacklustre. Having said that, having previously owned a “fire breathing dragon” horse in dressage there are worse things than a steady, safe dressage test!

Skipton Dressage web

Show jumping, well, I am not quite sure what happened there..... Skipton is a fair old journey from us, and I think Jay needed a wee. He is still not proficient at weeing in public, and he was a bit laboured. We went to the SJ, and I did a trot and canter around, and turned for the X pole, and oooooh, nearly had a calamity through Jay being half asleep. Yep, I nearly had a mishap over a tiny X pole. Jay stayed earthbound, I took off, he realised and came to join me, caught me mid air, and all was well.

We got back on the same page, and jumped a nice clear round.

Cross country started well, he had a surprise at a ditch under a fence, the water astonished him too, he came right back to walk in fact, and then we had a stretch where everything went very well indeed. We had rhythm, it felt good. Right up until the last fence. The final fence was a brightly coloured thing, whereas the others had been rustic. I think it may also have been that the fence was built to also be a Novice fence, with a wing for a back rail, and the back rail had been removed for our class.

I think Jay thought it must be a magic, suspicious, invisible back rail, as at first he tried to refuse, then when pushed jumped big and the right shape to incorporate the invisible, magic back rail into his fence! Phew, finished, double clear again. If we had not walked into the water (4.4 time penalties) we would have been placed, but at the moment we are concentrating on confidence for the long term, not speed for the score today.

As soon as the lorry was shut up (all nice and private) Jay had a nice, long pee. He needs lo learn to do that more readily.

My next event was to be Aske BE 100, a step up in class for the Jaystar. I made a decision to wear spurs. I did use spurs with Jay the first year I had him, but with all the extra schooling I had hoped not to need them. The majority of the time he is very responsive to the leg, but he can be so laid back it is hard to tell him that NOW is the time for action, not tomorrow. I felt very confident for the dressage and SJ, it was just fingers crossed to get some more training for the XC. It looked promising though, rain forecast to soften up the hard ground.

Hmmm, rain forecast, maybe we need some umbrella training ready for umbrella weilding spectators? Jay and I had a lesson with Karl Pacey, and he was very generous to teach 20 minutes of the lesson carrying an umbrella.

Hmmm, no rain yet, one day I went to Helen Bell’s complex in North Yorkshire. The ground was baked hard nationwide, but Helen has all weather gallops, so we hacked, picnicked, cantered on the gallops and had a splash through the water. I felt that we “needed” to do more to prepare for the upgrade in class, but I also know that jarring a horse up on hard ground will make him NOT want to jump, so my hands were tied.

I reasoned that if I walked the course we could always withdraw, or retire if we did not feel equal to the course. Aske is near Scotch Corner, so even if we just did the dressage and SJ it would not be a wasted trip.

FINALLY...... it rained!!! Karl came to give me a lesson,  as it was raining he took some photos, this time with Jay and the umbrella! That lesson was also with spurs, and the work was much better for it.

Jay stays dry

Show jumping the next day with Selina was up to height for the 100 class, and a bit more. Jay and I in good style 5cm above the height required, with spurs. It was improved with the spurs, mostly they do not touch him, but if he drops off (as in off my leg, although some days it does feel as though he has actually dropped off as in gone to sleep) I can bring everything back together.

With the ground a bit softer we did manage one XC session with Sue, near Lincoln. We were straight into it, lesson of the day was to keep Jay in front of my leg and keep myself off his shoulders. We didn’t jump anything I have not jumped before, but there was a lot more emphasis on being correct, and straight, which gave Jay confidence.

The day of Aske, it looked like it would rain all day, but it did not. I went with Andy, who drove, supported and also took some FAB photos. Walking the course was very confidence building, I have been round Aske a time or two, on all 4 of my other horses, including a couple of Novice runs. Hence, the 100 course looked OK, inviting even, when I walked it.

The dressage warm up was interesting, it was on  quite a steep slope. I could see horses becoming unbalanced on the hillside, and riders frantically trying to help them balance. I also saw a lot of tense horses, possibly a bit frustrated at being held and ridden strongly as riders tried to balance them......

I informed Andy that I had a new warm up strategy, as Jay lives on the flatlands and is not good with hills at all. Jay will need training to work on hills, but the time to do that is not in dressage warm up. So, I decided that today we would warm up Jay’s joints, allow him to sneeze etc, but otherwise not bother him unduly. The actual dressage arena was reasonably flat, so I would disregard the quality of work on the hillside and just get him listening.

It worked, we did very little warm up at all, and did a lovely test. Our best BE dressage yet, 31.5. Good boy!

The show jumping warm up was frantic, quite a small arena, on a slope. Horses were not going well, so we did the minimum, 4 fences and in. The show jumping course itself was not over height, but it was tricky as it was also on a slope. Jay was the pro I have come to expect, and jumped a beautiful clear round.

Cross country, as they were bigger I had made a conscious decision to go slowly.  Jay is a very careful horse, who likes to be organised, and does not like to touch a fence. In the 90s we have gone a fair gallop, but at this height I decided not to scare him, and to slow it all down.

Before XC

The whole XC round was steady but confident. Jay did a very slow entry to the water down a step, very careful, like an old man getting into a bath, it made me smile. At the rail/ditch/rail he jumped the ditch as if it were a 5 bar gate over it, the commentator said “well sat” but it was not really, I knew he would do that, he has been doing it in lessons too. We did our first competitive corner (in fact we did our first corner the week before with Sue), and he was bold and straight. By slowing it down a bit Jay was gaining confidence all the way round.

Jay fence 17 Aske

We finished for another double clear, with time penalties. Good Jay.

Next event is Stafford BE100, I hope to make good the shortfall in XC training by then. Not looking good though as the sun has really come out and everything is baked hard again! I also have a weekend clinic with Manuela McLean, who is a total magician at explaining cause and effect to and with the horse.

Meanwhile, already we have done some more “scary thing” training this week, with a fly curtain. Through the curtainNice photos, thank you Karl. Yesterday we did another dabble in dressage, BD,  N27 and long arena test N38. It was so hot (over 26 degrees, and working on hot sand – and I had to wear a jacket) I employed my new “less is more” warm-up to both tests, and only mounted up as the one before me went in. So, Jay got 6 minutes warm up for each test. Even so he added 7 more BD points to his tally, placed in both with over 65%. This tactic will be useful at the start of an event, if I don’t have to run his legs off with 2 more sections still to run.

Today I did plan to play XC, but it is baked hard. Second plan was to go SJ, but it is almost 30 degrees here. We had a 7am hack, and now today is a day to stay cool, write my blog, and watch the Men’s final at Wimbledon I think!

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  1. Gail Fazio

    Bravo, Ruth! Double clear with time penalties is a much better option to allow your team to get the confidence you'll need for the long-term. You've made so much progress together and he's lucky to have you for his loving mom! Your approach to dealing with "issues" is wonderful and I just love reading about your new adventures. I'm so glad you got information on him as a youngster. It's so cool to see how they've grown up and to know a little bit more about him.

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  2. Jo Field

    Loved reading that. Some smashing photos on there too. I love how you manage to balance professional achievement with bucket loads of fun and patience !

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