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Whip Crack Away!

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Jay made of VelcroYay, the sun is shining and I feel we are now ready to come out of hibernation.

We have been lucky not to have been involved in the terrible flooding, but all the same since my last blog there have been gale force winds, dark mornings and evenings and a general malaise around being out and about.

For Jay, he needs to be well "worked up" to be able to go competing, and with long shifts it has just not been possible to have consistent work. I have seen a lot of people who have fallen into trouble with their horses, feeling that they "should" be doing..... whatever.... but horses being uptight and overwrought.

For myself and Jay, we kept our balance by Jay having a few days off, then a day lunged, one schooling at home, the third day a hack or "outing" to a competition or outside lesson venue, and then some more days off. That way we are building up to exciting adventures in bite sized steps, Jay stays confident, and I can still safely have my few days off at a time to hibernate.

Just before Christmas I had Jay see Roy Midwood, who looks at joints and muscles. Jay has never been lame, but he is a bit unusual in his movement when executing static turns, and I wanted Roy to  take a look, as the usual Physios and Chiros have agreed that he is a bit unusual, but that there is nothing actually wrong.

Roy did a lot of work on Jay, both before and during ridden work, and then Jay had a week off and in straight lines. When I started to school him again I realised just what a difference it had made. Suddenly Jay felt elastic, I think that is what had been missing before. There was just more movement in trot, and lateral work doubled in its ease. The jumping was the biggest difference though, Jay was so elastic that he was double the athletic man, and I went from being happy at up to  1.10 jumps to squealing in fear at 90cm.

Not that Jay was doing anything wrong, he was just bouncing to the fence, spring boarding off the floor with enthusiasm and springs in his heels, and boinging off on landing. So, we stopped competing at all, and started right back down with low jumps while I learned to ride the "new Jay"!

Some days we were going for a lesson, jumping just a few warm up fences and four or five in a course and going home. It just felt that different.

Jay has been very much alive and happy generally, and although I am happy that he feels this way he is giving me a lot more "bang for my bucks" than I am used to, so slowly does it as I have found that when Jay is good he is very very good, but when he does something wrong he becomes really upset with himself, and we are in effect forging a new partnership.

The one thing I was not expecting was Jay becoming PLAYFUL. For example one schooling session Jay was just walking away from the mounting block when he spied his Jolly ball, and pounced on it. Jay leaped upon it, kicked it and scuttled away.

That made me laugh, so I looped him back and he launched on the ball again. Soooooooo, I don’t know if you will find it funny, or hold your head in your hands in shame for the posh horse turned family pony, but the schooling session degraded into a silly play session even before it begun.

I have done a bit of Western riding, and we had a barrel in the school, so we played at barrel racing round and launching back on the ball. When he jumped the ball we then barrel raced around before doing a sit-stop (not up to slide stopping yet) right up to the fence, before rein back and a spin and leap back into canter to attack the ball. Jay got so good at the launch start that I needed the neck strap. Clever horse, very playful and very happy.

In between play we also did some shoulder in and traverse in trot and half pass in canter, but as soon as he recognised the he was working on the serious stuff and died a bit inside we went for the ball, a barrel turn and a sit stop at the fence……..

While staying with jump lessons to bring us back up to height we decided to try our hand at British Dressage again. The first competition Jay did great, but I forgot the test. Doh! The second test a nice lady called for me, and Jay scored his first Qualifying Points for his regional Final. Yay!

Enthused we then entered another competition. On the day it was gale force winds, and the venue was new to me, and on a hillside...... and our first test was in gale force winds with horizontal hail. Myself and the other competitors were laughing and we christned the new sport "extreme dressage"! As we went round during the test, first we were blown sideways off the centre line, then the wind kept grabbing the back flap of my show jacket and shaking it like a cracking whip.


Jay was sharp when we got him, and we have done a whole lot of de-sensitisation, but I held my breath as the noise was loud enough to make me jump. It really did sound like a whip cracking repetitively on my backside, and I wondered if we were about to be "Gone with the Wind".  To my relief Jay put on his resigned face, and said to me "Oh mum, you NEVER brought a flag to wave to DRESSAGE did you?" and carried on without turning a hair.

I was very happy that we have done such a lot of schooling, and yes a whip cracking jacket does sound a lot like a huge flapping flag if you are waving circles with it while cantering around..... who would have guessed???

When the results came in Jay had won a 1st and a 2nd, won £38 and 10 more points to his qualification.

Time for another competition. This time we just needed 3 points in each test (over 65%) to complete the qualification in just the three outings. I was pretty confident when we entered, as Jay has never scored less than 3 points in any test that he has done, even those where I have forgotten the course!

The first test was great in very spooky conditions, 4 points and 2nd place. It just needed us to get over 65% in the second test to finish our qualification for the Regionals.

However..... there was a problem.....

Last week I have been mainly in bed with a bad cold, bunged up ears and dizziness, coughing until I was almost sick and having a fever. It took hold again between tests, I was dizzy and shaking, sweaty and all breathless and off balance. I wanted to do the final test, after all Jay has NEVER failed to score 3 points in a test, and it was the same judge who had just given us 4 points……

Well, I did it wrong. On the third move I tried to go a bit wide to be deep into the corner to gather us up for the Medium Trot, and instead I steered him straight into the arena side, causing him to trip on the white boards, which then concertinered up, causing him to have to jump the remains, and canter on landing.

Good old Jay, he went back to trot, and completed the test, but was a bit upset with himself, and as the judge said was hurried, not relaxed and a bit against the hand. I guess it is testament to him that he was still 3rd and scored 2 more points (63.6 %) , but too low a score to count for qualification.  I felt awful as I was really too ill to ride, and despite me running him into something he stayed calm and kept me safe, completing the test.

Still, there is time for another outing......

Today was brighter, we did a SJ lesson at Bishop. Still all bunged up in my ears, so kept it to 1m, but Jay was on top form, had a big trunk on his nose (his “I am enjoying myself” facial expression), skipped around for fun. I am now all tuned in to his new way of boinging around jumps, he is power cantering, it is great.

It is getting lighter in the evenings, but with long hours at work we are still in hibernation mode; a few days off then a build up to "something" whether that be a hack out, a lesson or a competition. With the warmth in the air we will soon be back to Summer Mode, where Jay becomes super cool, and Mr Plug and Play. Mr "Whatever".

Only a few months to go and I will have left my full time work, and will have more time for my horse and private teaching. Fingers crossed for a great year!

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  1. Ruth

    Hi and thank you Ruth and Gail. We are looking forward to getting out and about again too. Yes, boinging is a very good description, and I am even learning to enjoy the boing!

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  2. Gail Fazio

    Very interesting that even with all the body work you've had done there was still something ... but so glad you gave it another try and seem to have found the answer. I was chuckling at your description of the boing, picturing Tigger bouncing from his tail! And playing with the ball sounds like a wonderful time! Looking forward to hearing about your successful competition season, as you definitely have put the pieces together. Hope you're fully recovered from your illness!

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  3. Ruth

    So glad the hibernation has finished was getting withdrawals from not reading your great blogs. i will have to come and see the boinging Jay.

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