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  1. YHL2

    Gosh, since last month I have been busy. Firstly I did all of my talks at Your Horse Live, survived, and even ended up enjoying the experience.

     

    As soon as I arrived at Stoneleigh it was all a bit surreal. I had borrowed my husband’s “mid life crisis” car so I would arrive in style, and was ushered into the car park for exhibitors that is right up close to the centre. Then, greeted by security, and welcomed by a member of the Your Horse team. I had a walk round to orientate myself, and at the major entrances I could see big posters, with<BLOG_BREAK> Oliver Townend....... Geoff Billington..... Laura Bechtolsheimer..... Ruth Dickens....., all listed on the same poster.

     

    Saturday was packed, my first talk and loads of people came and listened. I guess Riding with Confidence on the Roads is a topic that resonates with a lot of people. As they turned up and filled the seats, filled the cafe behind and also filled the walkway at the side, standing and sitting on the floor, I suddenly felt a rush of nerves. This is not good when you are giving a presentation on “confidence”!!

     

    Ha Ha, I reframed the “fear” into “excitement”, made a “ring of confidence” around the whole area, triggered a “resource anchor”, “grounded” myself, “greeted” the feelings, did some breathing exercises, slowed down, and all this whilst getting to grips with the microphone for the sound system. You know, I often reckon that in my approach to confidence I do not use these “techniques”, preferring instead to take myself out of the emotive and allow myself to be in a place where I can think more logically, but in the heat of the moment it was reassuring to see that my “safety net” of secondary techniques was there, and kicked in good and strong.

     

     It was funny, I felt like I was in unfamiliar territory for the prepared “talk” bit and had to rely on the techniques, but when we got to “questions” I was off and running. A friend said it was like looking at me with a “Rubik Cube” as I asked the questioner’s name, repeated the question via the mike for everyone to hear. By that time I had sorted a possible course of action and was away. For the “Talk” I was quite straight, on answering the questions I was more free, and even had the “ministry of silly walks” when describing how horses can be different when at the rear of a pair, or in front, on the road!

     

    I have pondered the difference in how I felt, and think it is because “giving a talk” is very one sided, you are more talking “at” people, there is little interaction and feedback. I am not getting to know the audience as people. I could work on this further, as I believe great speakers give the impression that they are speaking to each audience member individually. With the questions I was far more interested in actually connecting with the person who had a problem, and my skills of presentation were taken over as I had a desire to connect.

     

    The Sunday was quieter generally, in the trade stands and everything, and in my talks too. The photo at the head of this blog is of the first talk on the Sunday, with the not as nice shirt as I had on the Saturday! Photo courtesy of Emma Reeve, thank you.
     

    Giving the three talks has further helped me to crystallise in my own mind how I tackle confidence issues. Each talk was different, I was learning as I spoke, my desire to help other people helped my own connections and understanding. This has to be a win/win situation.

     

    Jay has been having a quieter life, we have been schooling at home, and jumping in a hired arena at Sykehouse once a week. After a few weeks Jay seemed a little “Arena board” so I hired a Cross Country course in North Yorkshire. Not to do serious Cross Country training as Jay is no longer shod up with stud holes, it was just as a safe place to run round and have fun, the objective being that Jay came away feeling good, and as if he is the “bees’ knees”, as indeed he is!

     

    He has been a bit sharper as winter has bitten, but nothing too bad. However this day I did have an uncomfortable time. They train race horses at the same place as the course, and Jay is always a bit fresher there. Add to the mix that it was extremely windy, and Jay was a bit sharper anyway. Then I forgot my neck strap, but thought that it would not matter. Well....... The neck strap did matter!

     

    No, I did not fall off, but Jay was sharp with the race horses, wind an’all, and when he did the odd spin or two......without my neck strap I caught him in the mouth! Gosh, he thought I was being short tempered with him I think, he did not realise that I was just a bit loose in the saddle, and he got all upset with the situation. When you hire that course you hire the entire complex, so I went back to the arena and worked his backside off, to get him thinking forwards, accepting the bit (as in the bit is a communication aid, and mummy was not using it as a means of punishment...).  Soon Jay was going better, and right at the end of the hour we did some nice XC work too!

     

    The next day I took him to dressage at Sykehouse, and he had not forgiven me for not having the neck strap the day before. He was a bit sharp on the warm-up, but then realised I DID have a neckstrap, was not catching his mouth, and went on to quite the nicest dressage test we have done yet. All relaxed and swinging. Still a lot to improve, but hey, I was pleased!!! I bought a photo, and this is him. It shows his rather iffey clip. I am good at clipping reluctant horses, but my actual clipping skills are doubtful! Photo courtesy of Country Pursuits Images, thank you.
    Dressage27Nov11R 

     

    Jay has since forgiven me and settled right back down. We have jumped, and Jay is being very understanding. Also, at home Mum bought me a lovely sheepskin bareback pad for Xmas, and I have used it already. Naughty I know ,but it was to do with Jay mistaking me losing my balance with punishment. I know that when I rode both Sherlock and Charlie with a bareback pad they started to have a sense of responsibility, like if I would slip to the right they learned to actually move to “catch” my balance. They also both learned that it was better all round to move in a soft way, to work with the rider rather than bracing against.

     

    Of course this can only be learned if the whole experience is started from a steady perspective, so we started slowly. Even so, the first time I mounted Jay was surprised by the different feel of my backside on his back, and by how close my legs were. We started with 20 minutes of walking, only moving on when we were both comfortable and confident.

     

    I have since used this pad on Jay 4 times, and he is indeed starting to realise that mistakes can be made, he can help, and so far he has acted very responsibly. In fact this is a photo of us practicing our canter/ trot transitions. As you can see, at home I am a style guru, with jogging bottoms, steel toecaps and a checky jacket (Matalan £9.99, bargain!)!
    bareback pad style guru

     

     This month I also went and spent a day as an assistant trainer on a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) course, it was for the same company that I took my NLP practcioner’s certificate with last year. In fact I contacted Christine as I was so impressed that the techniques she taught me had laid in the background, but when I needed them most at the Your Horse Live event, they had jumped into the foreground.

     

    It was good to be classroom training again, and as assistant trainer I was at a unique place to learn so much. I was able to study the main trainer, Christine Dawson, whose business it is, and how she sets the day up for success. I was also able to study the group interaction, watching people make changes. The NLP course is about making changes to the way we think, and even the BHS is embracing the concept, so it must be now considered mainstream.

     

    The day I was training was the one that made a big difference to me last year, where you have some interventions to drop fear, anger etc, and most importantly for me I dropped the limiting decision that I “was not good enough”. It was good to be able to help other students through. Plus I was able to reflect on how much I have changed myself over the last 12 months. Plus I got a free lunch for giving up my time, and a free lunch is never to be sneezed at!

     

    This week I also had my medical to continue and renew my HGV licence beyond when I am 45 years old next month. Now THAT made me feel old; however I passed all tests so that is good. I have been offered some work for Eddie Stobart’s, as a Temp Driver, which is tempting, but with everything else I feel that may be one commitment too much.

     

    The Eddie Stobart thing has not been entirely dropped. I have no ambition to drive for them long term, but it is such an iconic firm. I can see me in years to come, a little old lady in my old folks home, telling people of my life, and I can just see the rolling eyes as I say about my life experiences “and then I went to drive for Eddie Stobart”. Ha Ha, they would think it unlikely.

     

    A friend of mine has a small son, and when they travel they always play the “Eddie Stobart game”. You drive down the motorway and as soon as you see one of those wagons you have to shout out “Eddie Stobart”. You keep score as to who sees them first. Unfortunately her son can’t say it, and shouts “Eddie Snowbart”. When we are out and about she makes me play the game (she always wins as when I am with her is the only time I do it, whereas she is an expert!), but of course it is the “Eddie SNOWBART” game that we play! Did you know they name all of their wagons? I wonder if they have a “Ruth Elizabeth”???

     

    Gosh, isn’t life just a buffet of possibilities??

  2. Jay on the beach twoHa Ha, a fine end to the season! And yes, I was right, by the time we did our last event the whole idea of competing was overtaken with the wonderment of learning new stuff.....

    I went to the Andrew McLean lecture, mentioned in the previous blog,  and also to a clinic where I had a private lesson. Jay was great, by the end of the clinic we had a full set of <BLOG_BREAK>gears to go up and down, we could lengthen, shorten, quicken, slow, go directly between gaits, phew! It was like magic, but then again it was very simple.

    Then, Oasby event. The dressage was great, in fact there is a video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Gv9ZILI18U&feature=related. Still a lot to work on, but Jay is moving forwards off the leg, concentrating and making progress. After the dressage I walked the XC course and there was a fence Jay and I have not trained for, and I had 3 hours between dressage and SJ, and it was quite firm underfoot, and we had another event the next weekend, and ran on firm ground the last weekend, so I withdrew after dressage.

    Instead of SJ and XC, Johnny brought Sherlock to visit, so I had a social with Sherlock (and Johnny of course, but then we do catch up by phone too). We had our camera so we took photos. Sherlock looks WONDERFUL!!! It was so good to catch up. I love to see when a horse and rider find each other and make a good match. Johnny and Sherlock

    Straight after Oasby we had the clinic with Manuela McLean. Jay had woken up and got gears after previous lessons, but we had lost some straightness. This clinic we worked on that too. In fact working on this kind of tied up all that I had learned.

    A lot of things the Mcleans presented I already knew and practiced, but they were explained in a slightly different way. Like with a different focus, or from a different angle. With more ways to look at what was happening I was able to piece together a bigger and clearer picture.

    I liked the way the McLeans started with just about all of the horses in hand, on the floor. Firstly they ensured the horse knew that the handler’s hand cannot be moved. That would be not to be pulled around, but also to teach the horse to move forwards or backwards from a touch on the headcollar or rein. They used a schooling whip to teach the horse to move first, then superimposed the behaviour to the rein aid. This made the horses really light and responsive. The horses had also already started to calm down, they were having to really concentrate and tune in. Once the horses realised that the handler was immovable, and they could lightly respond to pressure for forwards and backwards, they achieved a mental stillness that was good to see.

     

    Then, the horse was taught to “park”. The horse was not to associate moving with the handler moving their feet. The handler could walk away, even run away, forwards or backwards, and unless the horse had the aid from the rein or head collar he was to stay. Andrew commented that most horses are trained to follow the rider, which creates confusion when you then step round to tighten the girth, and the horse will try to follow and be told he is wrong. Or, if you have the horse following you then go to a wall and tie the horse up, then walk off and leave it, the horse will try to follow and then find that he can’t. Or perhaps worst of all we have him follow our feet and put him in a trailer and then walk off, leaving him feeling that he can’t follow and he is trapped. By having the horse only respond to pressure on the head collar or reins, the signals become more consistent, the horse is in some ways more independent, and quiet inside.

    We then mounted up.

    With Andrew he has it all set down, like riding by numbers. This I don’t usually like, but on this occasion it seemed to work. I think I like to think it is all so much more "touchy feely" and emotional than "ride by numbers", and essentially it is a very "feely" skill, but the horses do need consistency to be able to work it all out.
    Briefly, the aids I was taught were:- To go from halt to walk I use a 2 stride squeeze. For a faster walk a light 2 stride squeeze. To go up a gait to trot I use a stronger 2 stride squeeze. If the horse does not give the response then I go up a gear to teach them not to lean on the leg. As in, if Jay did not give enough “more walk” then we went up a gear and into trot. And repeat. Ideally repeat within 5 seconds as the horse won’t connect if the transition is longer spaced than that. So, quick fire transitions until the horse has moved off a light aid!

    For a longer stride then I lengthened the seat follow, along with a touch every 3 strides with my leg until the new desired stride length was achieved.

    To slow then I squeezed the reins for 2 strides lightly. To gait down then I squeezed the  reins stronger for 2 strides, the transition to be within the 2 strides.

    If the horse resists and becomes heavy in the hand, then you transition down extra than you intended. Ie, slow trot not achieved off a light aid then I transition to walk. Trot to walk not achieved with a light soft respose, then I transition to halt. Heavy to halt? Then I rein back just one stride. As the horse takes the step back he will find the release of tension.

    I learned not to use hand and leg together......ever.  I have a contact with the rein when using the leg, yes, but not to pull and squeeze at the same time. If the horse is truly soft to the rein and leg response then he will move softly forwards and “melt onto the bit”.

    It was presented in such a slow methodical way, with each stage thoroughly completed before moving on. Very clear and deliberate. No confusion.

     

    On the Monday after Oasby with Manuaela, we did straightness. Jay was not straight. I was told that this was because he was leaning on my right leg. Funnily enough I have a history of problems with straightness with myself, and have had chiropractic treatment etc to correct this. This has set up a self fulfilling prophecy in my horses as when they maybe don’t go straight, I believe this to automatically be my fault (which it may or may not be), but then I set about compensating for the problem. I set up a whole load of “corrections” to make the horse appear straight. In this case it was just Jay leaning on my leg, so once this was identified I knew to.....transition one up!

    So, if Jay leans on my leg we have more trot, or a transition up a gait, until he learns not to lean. In this way even if I am not completely perfect in my physical structure I am not building a whole drama around it. In fact Jay can learn to move quite straight even if I am not quite straight, it is more important that he remains responsive and relaxed in his mind. That is not so easy to achieve if I am screwing myself up inside trying to “make” my body perfect.

    I don’t know if you read the recent Horse and Hound article on our hugely successful Para-riders? I guess if a rider is missing an arm they will not feel quite “straight and level”, but they have trained hard and have such understanding that the horses are responsive and light, relaxed and able to complete beautiful dressage tests. The Horse and Hound article did question if a lot of riders have missed something in their training, and I think this is it. The absolute concentration on the correct response from a light aid every time. Consistency at a new level.

    The reality of the situation was that by then end of the lesson we were moving straight, turning accurately onto a centre line off either rein, staying relaxed and swinging along with each other.

    Attention to the obvious details, but proper, honest attention. This riding is taking “being in the moment” to a new level for me.

    After the clinic Jay and I had a week of work implementing what I have learned so far, and then we had our final event. On the previous two events Jay was just a bit more “frisky” than perfection, but when I looked at the work he had done, on both events I had been working the day before and Jay was just lunged. This time I took the day off before, and worked him well.

    I worked him too well in fact, he was a bit tired, but calm and obedient. We finished on our dressage score, and were placed 7th. To my delight Jay was unconcerned by other horses, tents, flags, whatever. He was happy in himself and took it all in his rather beautiful stride. Placed on his third ever BE run, even David was happy! J5

    That was on the Sunday, and I intended to give Jay a rest after the season closed, but there was just one more thing that would make my first 6 months with Jay complete. We had to go to the beach. Those who have read my previous blogs will know that Sherlock and I had a “bit of a to-do” on the beach, and it is indeed a challenging place to ride. I wanted to see if Jay and I had built trust enough to tackle this place and go have some fun!

    On the day I went with Andy, who magically took some lovely pictures. In fact Andy has started a new website and there are a while load of photos from this day on the website, along with other photos, including the last clinic in America..... http://andrewcooper.zenfolio.com/p762259842

    We chose a day with quite a rough sea, the noise was loud even in the lorry. As you will see from the pictures on Andy's website I was very careful, at first I even just let Jay view the sea from the safety of his lorry before getting him out and working him in hand. Once out and about he was beautifully behaved, but somehow I did not feel like I really wanted to ride him just yet. Nothing I could put my finger on, but he was just doing that stiff legged walk, maybe a little pushy, not quite relaxed.

    I had a quote appear in my e mail today, and I will repeat it here as it is appropriate...

    We would never move forward in the face of negative emotion. There are many people who would teach you otherwise. They say you've got to face fear to get over it. And all they do is desensitize themselves to the point that they get themselves into situations where they have no idea what's going on, and the end of them comes rather abruptly... And then everyone calls them brave.

    --- Abraham

    I think that is one thing I learned a long time ago now, to listen to my own wisdom, even if I cannot put my worries into words. I believe that my ability to listen to myself is one of the reasons I feel confident.....

    So, I confidently decided that it would not be fun to ride Jay at that moment, and instead took the saddle off and put a lunge rein on. Then, as you will see on the photos we had a good, fun time exploring the concept of “the sea” together. In fact this was the MOST enjoyable part of the day for me. Me and Jay, playing in the sea. Jay on the beach

    I learned how much he had learned too. At one point a wave took him by surprise and it looked as if he may run me down to escape, but no. I would like to think that Jay loves me so much he would not hurt me, but in fact I believe the exercises we have been doing have installed a belief in Jay that I cannot be moved, so he did not try. In fact the wave “got him” as he worked out how to move away without taking my space. It was all very safe and controlled. And fun!

    On the way back to the box this time I could not WAIT to ride Jay. This time he was different, Andy said that before he could not see why I didn’t want to ride, but by comparing the way Jay walked back the first time to how he did the second there was a stark difference. Jay was happy, relaxed and fluid in his movements.

    We tacked up, and went on the beach, and had a GREAT time. One of the things I have learned is that just because you appear to have something worked out in a training setting does not guarantee that you have it worked out when under stress. I think this is what my “feeling” was telling me, so we took the exercises back and worked it out. I proved consistent to Jay in a stressful environment. Once that was sorted, then the environment did not seem so stressful.

    Happy horse, happy me!

    After this day Jay did have 5 days off, and poor Jay found that in winter he is confined to being turned out on the arena. To compensate for the lack of grass he has sugar beet and carrots added to his diet. So, Jay was fed more, exercised not at all, and had restricted turnout. Then, one morning I fancied a ride. So, I did!

    We had a lovely ride out, no problems. For some reason, on that day, we were on the same page and it was OK. Funnily enough the next day it would not have worked, so we played with a tambourine and a flag instead.

    This week Jay had the Chiropractor and the Dentist. I was not expecting any major problems as he saw both as soon as he arrived. I was looking forward to the chiropractor as she treats both of us, so if we have been affecting each other it can be worked out. There were no major problems, Jay has a stronger back end then before, although he still has an abnormal rolling pelvis movement. I have been given some exercises to mobilise my left hip....the usual stuff.

    It was the dentist that was interesting. Jay had a fractured tooth, and in fact as the dentist examined it he managed to pull the loose chip off. Nothing serious, he probably bit down on a stone when grazing, but the abnormal tooth wear has left him with a small ulcer on the opposite cheek. I was glad to be able to clear that up for him as a wobbly tooth and ulcer would be distracting and annoying to say the least.

    Last night Jay ran the gauntlet of some nearby fireworks. I left his lights on, and although I was at work Jay was watched and he spent the evening circling his stable, and talking to his mate in the mirror. That mirror was the BEST thing I have bought for Jay! When I got home he was a bit sweaty, but otherwise OK.

    This morning I was intending to ride, but there was shooting nearby. The sound of a shoot does not normally bother him, but after the fireworks last night he was a bit more nervous so we spent some time clearing up some leading issues. Again, this proved to be a blessing as we have cleared up another “hole” in our relationship. Jay is great on the lead rein, unless you want to trot. Well, we worked on it, Jay gave me several incorrect responses to pressure, I stayed level, he kept trying, and after 20 minutes or so Jay was like one of these cars with a fancy auto hydro something gearbox, with seamless acceleration and deceleration, no leaning on the bit, and by the finish he had got so happy with it he even forgot to scowl!

    After all this work he was cool, calm and collected so I did ride some, and we practiced the whole “zero tolerance” to pushiness, as in pushing on the bit or on my leg. The work was good and joyful. Hmmm, I do wonder if part of the reason a lot of horses slide in their responses is due to our politeness. We are so “PC” that it is not natural for most people to say “No, not right”. I see a lot of riders, me included, who will think a transition is not good, but will cheerfully ride on, intending to maybe do it better next time. However, today I worked hard at examining if the response was correct or not, so I could make the feel right, right now, even if that meant transitioning up or down to get it.

    Did I ever say? I LOVE learning!!!

     

    Not long to the Your Horse Live talk now. I have had a couple of phone calls telling me that I am advertised in the magazine, the local newsagent has sold out, I will get a copy next week. Meanwhile it is all on the internet,

     

     

     

     

  3. XC2RGosh, after my last blog Jay settled right down again, but he is different all the same. It was like he felt unsettled, and he had to see where his place in life was. After the few incidents of the last blog, they just stopped happening, I think we just worked it out. Jay explored the option, I did not react, the work still got done, Jay settled down. Simples! 
    We did some more XC practice soon after the event, and rode out again in the beautiful North Yorkshire Countryside from the Farrier’s forge. Jay is changing so <BLOG_BREAK>much. It is like when he was younger he packed his little personality away, and hid it from sight. Now Jay is emerging, and he is no more mature than the young man that went away. He is more “alive” in everything, even in his stable, even at the farrier. He was bursting with vitality actually at the farrier, he had gasps of admiration when he lit up a bit when an old pony that was finished left him. But, they commented that Jay was still good o handle, softened up some when they went to actually do something with him.

    I was a little sceptical of how he would behave when we rode out from the farrier’s forge, but once he was tacked up and given a job to do Jay was great. I deliberately did not try to make him “quiet” as Jay was not in a quiet frame of mind. Instead we had a jolly good trot out over the bridle ways. Then we had a walk, and he even managed the “Troll Bridge”, the opposite way to last time. He stopped and stuck for about 20 seconds while he looked to see if he could spin to the left. I asked him to stay straight but did not try to stop him from spinning, I just decided that if he did spin then we would deal with that, but Jay has to make some choices in life. He stood on the brink, then breathed, so I requested “forwards” and got it, at a walk and with no fuss.

    Jay has been so much better with schooling too, offering some energy, but when I took him to a competition at dressage Jay was a bit nervous, and when he is such his first thing is to become withdrawn and shut down. I decided to keep happy with him, not to tell him off, and we just did a test. Jay was calm and obedient, but we would have been quicker if I had got off and pushed!!! The funny thing was that after the few incidents we had I prepared “just in case” with a XC saddle, shorter stirrups, neck strap and crash hat, and in the event he was slower and more sensible than ever. I just think the more established he becomes at offering energy at home, then he will start doing that at competition. At present he just does not see the point in dressage!

    After the dressage we did a blast round the XC course. He is a great horse. The jumping raised his interest more! When we got home Jay usually goes into his grooming bay, but this time he INSISTED on exploring the yard. He went to see the passage to Mum’s garden, looked in the hay store, and insisted on going into Charlie’s stable.

    Jay just did not do this before.. He was kind of small on the inside. Now he insisted on looking, and I let him in the other stable, and he was alive and round, and pumped full of his own importance. But, as the farrier remarked, when I tell him “c’ome on now Jay” he softened up again and complied.

    I guess I want a compliant Jay, but not at the expense of his personality. But, I guess he will overstep the mark a few times while we sort it out.

    Later that week I rode Jay in the dark. It was windy and he thought the shadows of the swaying branches in the wind were entertaining, but he was very well behaved. In fact he did some good work. Another day we went to the arena over the road, and we did some canter poles to a fence. Just so I could gauge where an even stride was, as I seem to be pushing him out of our stride. That was productive, and at the end of the session I was actually riding and helping Jay, and he was sailing over 1.15 as though it was a X pole. To him it is like a X pole!

    Jay is great. Happy horse, Happy owner. Next weekend we had more XC practice, and again it was just a day out, in fact it was good as Jay looked at his surroundings and just seemed to think, “Oh, OK, Cross Country, I can do this”. I kept it simple, but what we did do we did well.

    Then some more SJ lessons as I seem to be putting too much effort into the jumping, whereas in fact with Jay we can both stay quite relaxed. We did not jump above 1m, but we are getting it together, making it so that we each know the role the other is playing, making it predictable what will happen so we can feel comfortable with each other. Right now I just wanted us to get to a stage that we can do some BE events right at the end of the season, to see the format and get it together at this lower height. Then we will have all winter to improve technique, and come out to go a bit bigger next year.

    We have done so much concentrated schooling that the week before the first event I slowed it down, we had time with each other, played with Jay’s toys, including having him walk through a plastic hoop. Jumping through hoops In fact the day before our event I did not even ride, instead we did the dressage test twice, once at walk and once at full speed, which does not sound so strange until you know we did it on the long lines. I was blowing even though Jay was not!

    Then....our first BE Affiliated event...

    Jay was great. Better than his event at Aston, he did not be silly at all, all day. We did have a trick up our sleeve, we put Jay a mirror in his lorry (unbreakable stainless steel), and every time he entered the lorry he whinnied a greeting to his pal. Silly soft horse, but no stress in the lorry, so his pal made him feel better!

    Jay had impeccable manners. His dressage can be viewed on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FM2YZ6BlByUAs you can see he is calm and obedient, but again, he could do with a bit more Zap!

    In the show jumping he knocked just the one down, but I was fairly pleased with the round as there were banners and tents all around, and they are not his favourite.

    In the XC we were clear, but with 10 time penalties. The ground was quite hard, also he nearly jumped me off once and another time I was a little left behind, both times involved steps up or down.

    The day felt wonderful, a previous owner of Jay had told me that they did not think he would event as he was so spooky and sharp, and there he was, eventing.

    After the event the weather then went mad, really hot and sunny. I have some photos of Jay David and I having a play with some balls! Yes, really, inflatable balls. 1This was good, Jay finished up being able to kick even the biggest ball around. Later that week it turned very windy and I had the pleasure of schooling Jay with the balls blowing all around us, and when one got in the way of his centre line, he just kicked it out of the way!

    I needed to work on the jumping up and down steps thing that had caused me concern at the event, so we had two XC lessons in the next two weeks. The first lesson made a breakthrough on my understanding of steps. The second lesson initially looked unlucky, Jay just sheared a nail and one of his shoes moved ¼ of an inch, so I asked for an arena based lesson instead of working on the firm ground. I had not told the trainer about Jay and his shut down in an arena setting, and she was amazed at how he was different, and that was what the lesson became about.

    During the lesson she asked if I had heard of Andrew McLean, and I had, in fact I am booked to see his lecture on equine cognition at the British Horse Society on 11 October. She said that was lucky as he would be the man who could help me to help Jay enjoy his schooling. The work we did made sense to Jay and we finished with some good work.

    When I got home I “Googled” Andrew McLean and found that he and his wife are from Australia, but are taking some clinics while they are here in England. I was so impressed by what I had heard about them that I have booked Jay in for a lesson with each of them. In fact this seems even more important to me right now than how we do at our events.

    Yesterday Jay did his second event. He was more alive again, and scored better for his dressage (33.5). We had just the one down for his SJ, there is a video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EwAPYC6dZw

    Jay again went clear XC. In the XC there was a definite difference. In fact for the first 3 fences he was a bit too keen, but I realised that even though he was a bit free with himself, when we came to the fences he listened and was thoughtful. In fact as he went round he was becoming more and more confident, his confidence showing by him being happy and looking at the fence to see how to jump it best. This being different in feel to him looking at the fence as if it were going to jump out and bite him. He was nicely enthusiastic!

    We are booked on two more events before the end of the season, we will run if Jay feels good and the ground is good too. For me we have already fulfilled what I wished to do competitively this year, success! I was asked by a few people to blog about buying a horse and preparing it for his first event, well, that is it, completed, success!

    Other news, I am a guest speaker at the Your Horse Live event. It is an honour to be asked by the major magazine Your Horse to be one of their “Experts” and to speak at the two day event. More details are on their web site, pages    http://www.yourhorse.co.uk/Your-Horse-Live-2011/

     http://www.yourhorse.co.uk/Your-Horse-Live-2011/Whats-on/Improve-Your-Riding-zone/

     http://www.yourhorse.co.uk/Your-Horse-Live-2011/Whats-on/Improve-Your-Riding-zone/Ruth-Dickens/

  4. mountedflag1Gosh, a few short weeks since my last Blog, and so much has happened!

    Firstly the event..... for me it was not about competition, it was about Jay’s first event, and keeping him level and even, as this was most intense outing, possibly ever. I will freely admit I was a little stressed, as Jay came with some serious <BLOG_BREAK>history, and although he has been great for me, this day would push our boundaries.

    Jay went a bit silly in the lorry when we first arrived, there were hundreds of lorries, and a very busy atmosphere.  It did not take long for him to sort himself out. I then went to walk the SJ, and it was fine. I then walked the XC. Gosh, it was a bit more technical than I was expecting, a corner at no 4, an offset two stride double at no 5, a curvy one stride double that invited a run out at no 7. I was still confident to go though, until we met fence no 9.

    It was a house, one stride to a drop step, one stride to a step up, then a couple of strides to a skinny. Wow! I knew instantly that we did not have the technical skill to achieve this today. Jay worries when we do a step down and I lean back, he then runs, and I could see a step up and a skinny not being achievable. So, I did not walk the rest of the course,  I decided to do the first 8 fences then retire. The reason for not walking the rest of the course? Well, I also know that if we were running well then I may have been tempted to just try it, and I also knew that this would be the wrong course of action.

    Jay was excellent in warm up. I firstly took him for a walk in hand to explore the atmosphere and lunged for 15 minutes, then warmed up mounted but in shirt sleeves, and then went back to warm up proper (as in fully dressed despite the heat) and compete. Jay cannot see the point in Dressage, where are the jumps for goodness sakes??? HOWEVER he was foot perfect in behaviour, he socialised, he went to his arena, he did a fairly lacklustre test, but was quite accurate and obliging and scored 38.

    In fact there is a video of his first event dressage test on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6j7EvxNhs0 . You will see he is not really moving off my leg, so I end up riding from front to back instead of swinging forwards. Hey, we have not done so much dressage as yet, I am more than pleased!

     

    Show jumping he was great, he was a bit dozy to warm up, but then he had been got out of bed at 3am, travelled 4 hours, had 3 dressage warm-ups, and was now expected to jump! We only did 3 practice fences, and he carried me around the SJ like a pro. We were not together at fence no 6 and I was a bit left behind, and I was still thinking about that at fence 7, and in fact at fence 8 I was holding the neckstrap, but Jay sailed over despite me! Clear round. Good boy. Again, there is a video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7IE0_DMhgQ

     

    Then XC, Jay was a bit startled at all the galloping horses. The ground was hard, and Jay could feel it, so we did just one warm up fence, and went. Jay has never competed XC before, and he maybe hung a bit at the start, but once he spied the first fence we were up and away. Jay loved it! In fact between fence 2 and 3 we had our first gallop. Then I remembered to check for the corner fence at fence 4. I also remembered that I would have to angle the approach, but I forgot which way, and angled it the wrong way. Doh! Jay again carried me over. Once he was onto the fences he was great. Before he “locks on” I found that if I “coasted” then he would look at stuff to spook at. But, I was on the ball enough to keep the engine running and Jay enjoyed his XC, lovely and clear over the first 8 fences. This is a picture of Jay’s first ever competitive XC fence....
    first XC Jay

     

    After no 8 I patted him as if he had just won the Grand National, and pulled him up to a trot. Jay was still looking for extra fences, but I trotted a short cut back to the finish, and Jay was very pleased with himself.

    Happy horse and happy rider.

    All smiles. Jay was fine the next day, in fact when I turned him out he was all swagger. Hmmm, he was also all swagger and importance when I brought him in. Tuesday, and when I turned him out he was again Sooooo important, again that evening, Jay obviously felt that he was “Cock of the Yard” and we were all his minions! I had planned that he have 2 days off, but this new “attitude” needed addressing, so I got out a flag to play with. I like a flag as it gives Jay something mildly worrying to address, and I can help him with it, and that puts me back in the leadership role. Supposedly anyway.....

    In Jay’s case he saw the flag, stalked it, took hold of it, took it off me, and then would not give it back! See the pictures.....
    Let Play commenceLet play commence....
    Sharing the burdenSharing the burden....
    Going it alone Going it alone........
    Give it back now, Jay OK, give it back now Jay!!

    Now, I am happy with this, Jay being good with flags is good, right? But, it did mean that my objective of me having helped him with a problem had not been achieved.

    The next day Jay was lunged in the morning, and he was still very Cocky, so when I got home that evening I rode him to our canter field and worked him at trot and some canter, engaging his body and mind. After this he seemed more level, so we went on a rider out. Evening sunshine and stubble fields riding a good horse, does it get any better than this?

    On the way back in Jay was taken by surprise. There was a gap in the hedge, and on the other side, suddenly in view, was a huge cow. Before he knew what had happened Jay had spun round, whoops. This has happened a couple of times before, and usually I can pull up, turn round and everything is OK. Not this time, Jay was suddenly fired up, as if he was scared that he had spun round, and then he was threatening to rear.

    Jay did not actually rear, but this is the first time we have even had to have this discussion. I know that Jay has a history where rearing featured heavily, he can stay up for 20 minutes, he is an expert.

    I was not mad at Jay, he just reacted to a scary situation, and then was scared of the consequences. I had to explain to him that he was in no danger, but, by the way, we WILL be turning right and walking up the road.

    In the event, Jay settled and realised quite quickly that I was determined to turn right, but I was not mad, and we inched back up the road and tackled the scary cow together. I realised though that it was not really the COW that was scary. Jay was scared that he would react, then be in trouble. In consequence he felt stressed and reactive, and therefore more likely to make a reactive action. Horses eh?

    Gosh, 3 months with no problem, then a simple cow caused a ruckus. It seems to be connected with Jay feeling “the man” after his event.

    The next week Jay had some concentrated XC schooling, we went three times in one week, just planning on half an hour each session, at Osberton. The first time he did spin at some water, and throw himself around a bit, but again I stayed level, and let him know that we WILL be looking at the problem, but we will NOT be getting violent with each other. He quite quickly complied, and we had a lovely session, finishing with cantering through water, jumping in and out of water, just a good session.

    Jay was still feeling less than settled around the yard, if I were to be very observant I could see that he was pushing on me a lot of the time. There was nothing rude, he was just stepping into my space while I was grooming, a bit far ahead while I was leading, maybe knocking me with his head if there was something he wanted to look at. I decided on a more challenging “flag training” session, to allow me to actually carry a flag while mounted. This to show Jay I am here to help him, when riding as well as on the floor.

    I did a further session with the flag from the floor, really swinging it around so it makes the “popping” noise of a flag on a windy day. Then, one evening I took Jay to his field and worked on the flag when mounted. Jay was great. When he felt a little overwhelmed he gave a little whinny, as if verbally asking for help. There are some photos for this too, and I even made a greetings card with the caption.....

    “Jay could not understand why the other horses thought being ridden under the British Flag was so difficult......”

     

    “..........when he tried it he thought it was quite easy!”

     

    One photo is on the title of this blog, the other shows a happy and proud Mum and Jay...
    Mounted flag 2
    Then, more XC training back at Osberton, and this second time we concentrated on steps and ditches, making it so we could WALK up to and up/down/over with no stress. So we can do the exercise in a calm state of mind, rather than needing to be all "Gung Ho" about it. When the step got a bit bigger Jay was a bit unsettled, but we held the exercise at that level, and walked and walked off the step, until he learned to drop his head and pivot off the step rather than launching.

    We need more practice at this yet, he would step and pivot down at walk, but when we did it at trot he reverted to launch. This was a lovely session, horse and rider working stuff out at a level where we could both think about what we were doing, no ego, no pressure. Mistakes allowed and new things explained.

    A few days later and back to the water training. This time we started with running water in a small stream. I have noticed that Jay is most reactive when he is unsure of what to do, he is afraid of making a mistake, and with this small stream he did not know whether to go over it, or step through it. In his indecision he refused either, panicked, spun, and then threw a fit!

    Oh yes, now I know what Vere was talking about with the rearing, sinning, bouncing. Jay can really throw himself around! I was pleased to note that I do not think he was trying to harm me. He did not want to face the problem, and he seemed to be keeping me too busy to take any action other than cling on, but he did not try to actually finish me off.

    Also, unlike some horses I believe Jay knew what he was doing. As in, even in the midst of his fit, he would not have fallen off a cliff if one had been around.

    I was able to keep telling Jay that we WOULD be turning right, and eventually he did, his body followed his nose and we were facing the stream again. There followed about half an hour where Jay and I felt around the problem, he was feeling too reactive to think around the problem, I did not particularly press the goal of going through the stream, I pressed that he listen and follow direction to turn, and stand, and face the problem.

    This was really useful information finding for me. I could finally start to find out how much pressure Jay could take, and he could start to trust that even in the midst of confusion I would have a clear objective, and not lose my head in turn to get it.

    After that half hour we could cross the stream, even if it was with a bit of a leap. We went on to work in the big river, jumping in and out of water, jumping in the water, and then back to the stream. He did try the spin, and sometimes succeed, but he learned that I would always keep asking, and in fact by this time I had put my whip down as I had no intention of using it.

    That lesson went on for an hour and a half, and by the end we were communicating, when Jay was unsure he could ask for guidance before he spun, and I could request he not spin, and we did it, tacked the problem together, no spin. We did 2 more new water crossings, and Jay was a superstar!

    The next day we had a dressage lesson, and I was unsure if Jay would be fit after the excitement of the day before, but he is a tough young man, and he was fine, so we went.

    The lesson was at Yorkshire Riding Centre, and it is a busy atmosphere. To my surprise I was the most confident I have ever been on taking Jay anywhere, I realised the hissy fit the day before was SUCH a relief! He came with so much history that it was spooky that he had not put a hoof out of place in three months. In fact it had felt like I was riding round carrying an unexploded bomb, with no sign of it going off. Now it has happened I KNOW what will happen, and I dealt with it, and it did not freak me, I was able to breathe, talk, think..... everything. I liked that he was still thinking, and I did not feel that he was putting me in any particular danger.

    I made some lesson notes, this is an extract.....

    I really wanted to bottom out this crookedness we have experienced. I understand now that in an effort to “use” my left leg (I know it is weaker after injury) I have over used it! I draw it back and use it too hard. I am now to release the leg when I am sitting, and only close it when I am standing. If I just try to leave it “off” then it will naturally come on as I stand up, or else I would fall over!

    Then the rest, I tense up to shorten my inside side. In fact I have “lost” where straight is! I must keep my inside hip forwards, and my inside shoulder back, but not down as well as back (I think this is where the tenseness is stemming from). When I drop my leg and straighten my seat, then my hands also become level, and the poor horse does not have to proceed in a contorted shoulder-in!

    Oh Gosh, coming back here has made me see the huge improvements from the first time. At first Jay would not move off the leg, now he can even go quite cheerfully. We can have a contact without him thinking this means STOP. Although if I ever say “good boy” this does still have the effect of slamming the brakes on.

    The walk/trot transitions were mostly good, no leaping off the floor into tranter when I go walk/ trot.

     

    Canter- I have not got any connection here at home unless I allow him to go back to his old very low and strung out outline. I have practiced cantering with the higher outline, but mostly he is blocking my reins. I did a lot of time this lesson in canter with short stirrups. When I sit on the canter and try to urge with my seat Jay does a mis-step and stumbles behind. When I am up off his back he can move forwards. I cantered off his back, I was not allowed to jump up and down. I was allowed to brighten the canter with my feet, and hold the front end with a consistent contact. I felt like I was consistent, but apparently I was not. I eventually got a semblance of consistency by pressing my hands into his mane. That also helped ease the white burning pain in my “bingo wings”!!!  After some time like this, with trying to get shorter strides, Jay did come more pliable in the rein.

     

    After the lesson I walked through the water jump. Jay hesitated slightly, then walked straight in. It would have been a harsh fence judge to give us 20 penalties, as it was only a slight hesitation while he summed up the problem. We had a splash about then finished.

    Today Jay was his normal calm, gentlemanly self. Bliss!......................

     

    All’s well? Ah, not quite. Jay had a couple of days off after this lesson, and the next time I rode him was in his own school at home. I just wanted to do a bit of schooling to confirm what we had learned on our lesson. Well, I had been told that Jay was as bad at home in his own school as anywhere, even so, after 3 months of foot perfect behaviour I was NOT expecting a spat at home despite the warnings, but I got one. Jay decided not to walk past the “E” marker, and he spun and caught me off guard. I took him back and told him what was what, but this time he spun, reared, spun, leaped, threw himself around.

    This time was different. Previously Jay had been caught off guard by something, and then panicked at his own reactiveness. This time Jay was displaying a really unhelpful pattern of behaviour. I could do without this becoming his new habit, I understand it was previously his habitual way of going, and we need for this not to be repeated. Jay was not really scared of anything, he was looking to FIND something to react to. Jay was “On One”!

     

    In the nicest possible way I kicked Jay’s ass! I did not hit him, but I put him in the bridle and kicked him to stay there, and maybe tickled with the stick to back that up, and each time he tried to back away from his bridle I firmly put him back in there, and he then did the BEST work we have achieved so far together. I mean he really put his back into it and tried hard. No violence, no upset, no “punishment”. Just, if he had energy, I knew how to put it to good use. We both went to bed happy. Jay in fact felt back to his submissive, liquid gold self.

    The next day I had planned to just lunge Jay, but after Friday’s antics I felt the need to see if we had worked out who was the momma, so I rode again, and Jay was straight into compliance mode, worked well and hard. Superstar, happy and content.

    To yesterday, a new show venue for Jay, we went to Port Royal, on what was a VERY windy day. The collecting ring was full of frisky horses, shying and rearing, and I am glad to say that Jay was not one of them!!!
    I was glad we had worked with the "popping" flag, as there was a row of flags, all "popping" in the wind! Jay was great, even when he did not feel confident, like when a leaping horse passed too close, he looked to me for guidance. He was cool, calm, and collected. Ah, collected, well maybe not collected, but that was my fault, not his!

    There is a video of his beautiful clear round http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHi1JP764mg

     You will see that I am again doing too much, making his canter too long, making him too lively. Jay can really jump, he does not need to go like that! In my defence we have not done any SJ for weeks, but I have decided to stick at this height until I have had some more lessons to learn to do Jay justice!
    So, do I think all out problems are over, forever? No, I guess not! Jay and I still have some "stuff" to work out. In a case like his I would prefer to do more work on the floor, with disengageing his back end, so I can have him step under and through, both on the floor and mounted. In Jay's case he has some difficulty in stepping through, which is a physical issue we are working on.
    Do I feel positive? YES, I DO! Jay is great. We are feeling it out, he is teaching me to be ever more observant, to clear up stuff like pushing on me on the floor, to make me face myself.
    Jay is a horse who looks right into your heart. He did that on the day of the "Scary Stream". He looked in to my heart to see how far I would go, how I really felt. In doing this he makes me look into my own heart. Makes me face myself. Face my fears and ego, he is deep!
    This afternoon we are off XC schooling again, to go play in water. Andy is coming, in preperation for some spectacular rearing and leaping he is bringing a fast memory card for his camera. Do I think that will happen? No. probably not, but if it does there will be more stuff to learn. I love trips out with Jay, he is great!
    After that? Oh yes, I have bought a day ticket with British Eventing, and we have entered out first BE Event! Near the end of September.
    Bring it on!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  5. Grange De Lings HedgeI guess the thing we have most worked on this month with Jay is his Cross Country training. In the first section of owning him we just played at a bit of everything, then we did not have a jumping saddle, so we had a phase of just Dressage and hacking, then the third “stage” we got a saddle and we did show jumping.

    Our first time Cross Country Jay was <BLOG_BREAK>a star, but I found that when he jumped XC fences he launched like a baby, and I could not sit to it! I think we both got a bit upset with ourselves, no “bad” incidents, just frustration. We did have a look at steps and a ditch, but did not touch water. In fact Jay was spooky just to be in the same field as a water jump, and as things were not feeling relaxed and happy we just did not go there.

    For our second outing we went to Newton, and I asked Sherlock’s new owner, Johnny, to come too. I knew that Johnny would not have any predetermined ideas as to what we should or should not do. I was right, he brought his dog, and came for a walk with Jay and I, and we had no agenda between us other than to have a nice day out.

    In fact we took a lunge rein to the schooling area with us.  Although Jay has always been a gent to me, I was aware that Newton was the one schooling ground that he had been to in 2010, just the once, and he apparently spent the first 20 minutes on his hind legs. So, just in case he “remembered” the experience we had a lunge rein so if it all got out of hand I could work him from the floor, and have him thinking in a logical way before re-mounting and working in a more productive way.

    I need not have worried, Jay was quite excited, but very well behaved. We warmed up, and although he scooted forwards a couple of times when some other riders were having a good time and squealing and laughing, and galloping about, he did not back it up with any vigour. Once we were worked in we started to jump.

    With the XC fences I found that if I rode at them a bit “gung ho” the Jay would jump them, but he was again launching. This time I had taken the precaution of a neck strap, so I could at least stay with him! My mistake came with the water, I decided to cross a ditch to approach from the easier side, I was not afraid of ditches, we had done them. HOWEVER this time I jig jogged to the ditch without purpose, just presuming we would step over, and Jay nearly stopped, so I slapped him to go, and this was his first slap, and he was AGHAST! He leaped, and shot off, and was very upset with himself, and stood spinning at the water’s edge. Poor Jay, I had to laugh at his horror as it was so theatrical!

    We walked around a bit until he was more settled, we “made up” and then he deigned to walk through the water. Then trot through the water, then even canter! When we went to the second water complex he was dithery but he went, first time and without fuss. I was so pleased I dismounted and made a huge fuss of him, and we went back to the box!

    The weekend after we went XC schooling again, this time with Andy to Epworth. Andy had not met Jay before, and he was a bit taken aback at just how small Jay is! Again, we had no agenda, just out to have a nice day. We warmed up, and Jay was very dozy, we have only been to Epworth to do Dressage before, and Jay finds dressage a bit uninsperational. He perked up once he realised we were jumping though.

    This time Jay was much easier to sit to on the straightforward fences. We did have a spin at a ditch, a spin at the water at first attempt, and a near run out at a very narrow fence, but all was completed on second approach with good humour. In fact there were some photos....... Thank you Andy!
    Epworth Water
    Next week, another XC course; next was Grange De Lings, again with Andy. This time Jay seemed a lot more confident from the outset, as in “Ah, cross country”. Again lovely photos, and I think we now have ditches sorted out.
    GDL Ditch and rail  GDL ditch

    This was the first time also that Jay went straight into the water, no spin. We just walked and the first step he tested it with his foot, and you would have thought that it was electrified, but he steadied himself and went in. Good Boy!

    Oh no, this time the trouble (well it has always been a trouble for us, but this time it was the major one) was with a step down. The course had a step down then a few strides later a skinny fence. I tried to trot to the step steadily, but Jay does not like this, he spun off. If I come at a strong canter he would jump it, but he then LAUNCHES off and lands on all four feet. This made me shaken up and he ran past the skinny fence!

    Poor Jay, he knew he had been naughty, he ran a circle as fast as his legs could carry him, and pulled up once he noticed that I was not so annoyed. Hmmm, we went back and just did the skinny fence, and he was so upset from the first time he ran past it again. We re-presented and he did it, and was made a fuss of. No demons Jay, we are all just here to have fun.

    There was a smaller step on the course, like a podium on and off. This was better as he was up and straight off, no time to launch. We did this a few times, but I still found that if I leaned back as I should, Jay is scared as I am in an unusual place on his back. When he is scared he shoots forwards, and I was in danger of sliding right off the back of the saddle! Hmmm, need to think about this.

    We jumped a simple fence to finish on a happy note, and I went to think about it. The hedge on the title of this blog was from this day.

    In fact I knew the answer. I need to have Jay walk off a step in a calm and happy way. It is no good to me if we have to be “Gung Ho” at everything. We can then “practice” Jay seeing and feeling me wobbling like a Weeble on his back, we can work the mechanics out together, where I have to sit, and how he can just drop his front end off the step without also launching outwards. Once we are comfortable with the stakes and movement low, then we can go for bigger steps, and then trot off, then build it up from there. No gung ho, no danger. Suits me that way!

    Next weekend was to Sommerford Park. I competed there last year, but I had no idea how big and busy the yard area was. They have a load of facilities, and there were about 20 lorries there with day visitors; lorries were arriving and departing all of the time. In addition there must have been about 70 stables; horses and people everywhere. A busy place to take Jay on my own, a long way from home.

    I had just hired the “farm ride”, which is 6 miles of all weather track, with XC fences at 70cm and 90cm, water, steps and ditches; running all around the estate. I tacked up, and a second set of horses was in front of me, Jay was a bit fidgety to mount, but was good, so we set off and then two more slotted in about 100yds behind. I did not know where to go, so I just followed between the turnout paddocks. It was all very exciting, and Jay did think about spinning, but he did not. We had some emergency stops while he took in all the excitement, but then he walked on when told, what a star.

    The front pair went on to this grassy lane, and just as we got to the grass too the pair in front promptly galloped off and jumped the fences. I was a bit concerned as to what Jay would do, and he was VERY excited, but he held it together, and I decided to walk to the first fence to see what it was like. I did not like the thought of doing what they had done, to mount up then go gallop and jump, so I decided to trot back to the start, then canter to the fences. As I trotted back the pair that had been behind me started to go, and cantered at speed past me, again Jay was a super super star, and stayed with me.

    Once we started though he was silly and theatrical, the initial fences were against the hedge, and Jay did not want to canter near the hedge, he KNOWS things can jump out and attack you from the hedge, so for the first few fences we were cantering sideways and he was jumping like a 3 year old learning for the first time! He does make me smile.

    When we got to the water jump there were 5 of us there, and he was magic, we took our turn to walk, trot and canter through the water, and the only major problem we had was with a pair of human sized bunches of balloons belonging to the house next door. As we exited the water for the first time, we cantered up the slope, he saw them and FROZE. There was a mile of bunting and these huge balloon creations blowing in the wind, and Jay got stuck, like a statue. Unfortunately a girl chose that moment to come crashing through the water behind us, and I was urging Jay to move his royal backside out of the way, and the pressure as all too much. He did a bit of sideways canter in excitement, but all in all he was brilliant!

    The other horses all left us, and we had the water jump to ourselves so we could work a bit on the steps. As I said, I have found that Jay will do steps if I am all Gung Ho about it, unfortunately he then launches, which I do not like. Previously if I dilly dallied to the step (or water, or ditch) he would lose courage on the way, and spin round. After our last XC I decided that Jay will learn to walk off a small step or two, then learn to jog to it and step. I do not “do” Gung Ho very well. So, we spent a bit of time walking off the step firstly onto dry land, then into the water We managed to trot the water and canter up the step the other side, and I was done!

    Hmmm, the balloons were guarding the path to the rest of the course, and Jay froze up as we approached, but I just let him take his time, requested that he did not spin, and every few minutes he offered a few more steps, and soon we were past them and away!

    We then did a run of jumps from a rhythm, and Jay is teaching me why Sherlock would jump to the left with me! I always thought it was because my left leg is weak and does not work so well, so I try to weight that leg so I can use it better. Jay has taught me that actually in my attempt to weight it I shift my bum to the left, then cock my shoulders to the right to then balance on the jump. I knew the last bit, but did not know that the root cause was not my weak leg, but me perceiving that I needed to counter the weak leg, and doing it in the wrong way. So, over these fences I tried to shift my weight to have him jumping straight, with fair results.

    As I did not know the route I was surprised to find the coffin, on a curving line, but we zoomed over. Yes, it seems that we have “sorted” ditches! Then a staircase down and up, and again I did not let him “tackle” it at speed and launch, we went at walk and stepped off the first, jig jogged the second and trotted the third, then cantered the steps on the way up. Good boy.

    After this we needed a breather, and when we walked I dropped my whip (doh), but Jay was a gent while I dismounted and picked it up, he then squizzed over to a jump so I could re-mount. The next bit of the ride was non jumping, but lovely riding in beautiful sunshine in FAB countryside. We then dropped down into the main Event XC part of the park, and there was another line of jumps to jump in a rhythm, and it felt great, much improved.

    Then.... the river. There is a river, that goes quite deep, you go in, turn right and go about 100yds upstream, and it is quite quick flowing. Jay went into the water, as he is an obliging chap, but when it got over his knees he lost courage a bit, and stopped to dither. I just sat, and asked him not to spin, and not to go back, and bit by bit he gained trust to go forwards, and we did it, did the full 100yds. Then we did it again, and the second time he dithered but did not stop. The third time he swaggered up the river, feeling very pleased with himself, so I left that there.

    There were a whole load more jumps, but I just did a couple, then I found that the soft sand with fairly big stones in that made up the all-weather surface were making him a bit footsore, so we just walked back. He went round the field where they were setting up for the event, and he saw the tents and stands, and was a good boy. He then stood tied to the lorry while I washed him off. I was so tired when I got home, it was a nice place, but a bit far to go to on a regular basis. Especially on my own.

    Other than that we have continued our showjumping. One lesson we went up to a course between 1.05m and 1.10m. Gosh,  I had Jay so slow that it was scary to me, as I have always kicked on a bit at this height. I was told to sit still, and Jay makes it easy, and in a one hour lesson we did not knock a single fence down. Yeah for JJ superstar!!!

    We have also done 2 more British Novice classes at BS shows. The last one we could have done a discovery, but I had to go to work afterwards and did not have time to wait. For an Intro event it is only as high as British Novice anyway. One of the shows we had a problem with the “scary cafe” where Jay could see people inside. We cantered 3 illicit circles, but it was before we started, so it did not count. In fact, once we were “on course” the cafe was not half so scary as he has his mind on the jumping.

    We have also been hacking. I travel Jay to Harrogate to be shod, and one day I was up early, threw Jay into his lorry and was into Harrogate by 7am for shoeing. After Jay was shod I tacked him up and took him for a ride in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside.

    We had a FAB time, we even did the same “Troll Bridge” that caused Sherlock such consternation (and over an hour) to cross. As with Sherlock Jay got half way over, then saw the drop and water through the open slats and slammed into reverse. I knew what would happen when we exited the bridge, so I already had a hand through his neckstrap before he spun left, and because I was quite inert, and laughing, he was soon back to relaxed Jay. I then dismounted and lead him over the bridge, so I could show him it was safe. On the other side I was confronted with the fact that there was nowhere to re-mount (not off the floor please- I am over 40!), so I led him back over, remounted off the fence and rode him over in the original direction. First time OK, it was as though he said, “OK Mum, you showed me it was OK, I trust you, I can do it”. Superstar.

    Later on the ride Jay was attacked by a small flock of sheep that had escaped, which made me laugh again. He would have spun, I think, if he could have worked out which way to spin for the best! Unfortunately he usually spins to the left, and the sheep were.........to his left! Aaaaaaagh! He scooted forwards instead, I just looped my hand through his neckstrap and he was back to walk within a few yards, trying to regain his air of self importance. Not easy when a few sheep have scared you half to death!

    Finally we met a family group who had a little boy who rushed to Jay very wildly, waving his arms and shouting, and Jay tensed and I did not know what was going to happen, but he was calm and gentle. The horse is a saint!

    Other than that Jay has been his normal characterful self. This is a photo I took of him this morning, jumping the fence we have lowered so he can feel clever and self important without jumping the steel gate all of the time. We have bought a whole load of wood to higher all of his fencing to 6’6”, I only hope that this will stop him!!!
    Jaymonster

    As all is going so well I decided to enter an event, at Aston le Walls. It is an unaffiliated Intro, and it is on SUNDAY! I have not had Jay in such a busy place yet, there will be both tannoys for Cross Country and Show Jumping, and I believe we have to cross the Cross Country course just to get to dressage! On Jay’s history though he will turn to liquid and hold my hand and see me right.

    If not, we will take the lunge rein and I will just play around in the atmosphere to help him feel more at peace with it all. No pressure. Just there to have fun!

 


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