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  1. Puppy meets JayOh dear, I missed a blog! This tends to happen when a LOT is going on, and in the past two months I have hardly had time to draw breath, let alone shape thoughts in writing.

    First of all Talos arrived. A beautiful 8 week old German Shepherd puppy. Talos kind of took over the place, he is intelligent, a clean sheet, such a baby, and is already shaping up to be a lovely faithful dog. Meanwhile, with a busy work schedule and the heat, Jay took a bit of a back seat, having some low key schooling and hacking. In fact from being my “focus” last month, Jay became my relaxation, my “time out” for a while.

    In fact Jay and I were so relaxed we had a play where I took the bridle clean off and did <BLOG_BREAK>some walk/ trot and canter. There is a video on Youtube of our first time, but I will not feature it here as there are some BETTER videos this month!

    One day we hired Sykehouse arena to attempt a full course of showjumps with no bridle. We have not jumped a course of fences since before Xmas (nearly 6 months ago), so we started with a course of X poles with the bridle ON. Then, we started to video, off came the bridle, and this is his unedited jumping. It is on youtube, follow the link.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hunVtlWVW74&feature=youtu.be

    Jay surprised even me at how happy and relaxed he is, and how he looks after us both.

    Later that day I was still in the mood for play, OK, twice playing in one day. We have been playing with "nuisances" for the year that I have had Jay, today we tied some of them together, did a bit of play acting, took the bridle off, set it to music, and Jay is the star of the show........ Or maybe David is the star of the show, he is SUCH a good actor! Jay is the “Orange Panther”.....with no saddle OR bridle.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heyWYJ9iJH4&feature=channel&list=UL

    We did also do some more serious stuff, one weekend Jay did his first Elementary dressage competition, it was quite a difficult test and Jay was a superhero.

    Then, at the end of June.....Jay’s jumping saddle arrived, and Jay approved!!!! Gosh, saddle fit issues, so upsetting and expensive, but we now have 2 saddles that Jay is comfortable with (dressage and Jumping). Celebration, and JUMPING! Not too much though, I have also been involved in the Olympic preparations, both in training horses, and in three of the torch relays.

    Part of “training horses” involved a training session where I had to conduct the session and “compere” for a large crowd in a training/demo session, all good fun and experience. There were refreshments sold, and several photographers! I had to “play the crowd” and it has been suggested by some that I should be a children’s TV presenter! Its all good fun, luckily I have learned not to be too shy!

    So, back at home Jay was still in the back seat, but we have still found time to play…..  Jay has been "familiarising" with the skipping pipe for a while now, and one day he gave me the "green light" to play mounted. So, I dragged David out of the house with a camera, and had a play, just at walk. Jay was his customary superstar self, even when I whooped him up his bum with the pipe.

    Gosh, that skipping pipe is HARD WORK to swing around, and watching the video I realised that, although Jay is a perfect gent, he was not really enjoying the experience. There is a video of me as a VERY clumsy mummy wielding a pipe around a VERY patient Jay as we “walk through” the exercise. Bless the horse, he deserves a medal!!!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mT0mTb9fvd4&feature=youtu.be

    We did do some more serious work, in fact so much so that I have made a “discovery”. A few months ago I attended at the Andrew Mclean clinic (I blogged about it at the time…), and in that clinic I was SURE that I remembered that for jumping the best results are consistently achieved when the horse canters at a regular 105 beats a minute.

    Andrew demonstrated a phone “app” that was a metronome, that would beat at a predetermined speed, and the rider could ride whilst listening to the beat to keep the stride regular. OK, well I am a “technophobe” but David kindly downloaded a very simple “app” onto my mobile phone, and that evening I went into my school to canter at 105 beats a minute……. NO. No No No.

    105 beats a minute is, like, Benny Hill Silly Speed. It felt so fast a canter that it made me laugh to try to achieve. Hmmmm, I went back to the notes I took and saw that for walk the beat is 55, for trot it is 75 and for canter 95. I decided that I must have remembered wrong, and set about cantering to a regular 95 beats a minute.

    I was surprised to find that even that felt fast. I also noted that it is not easy to keep a canter so controlled and regular that you can keep to a steady beat. I tried it at the arena Jumping, and found that Jay slows down on corners. I was breathless in my efforts to keep the 95 beats a minute. BUT….. our jumping was BETTER!

    So much so that after a few “goes” I decided that I was ready for a jumping lesson, which I have with Phillip Curtis. He had nagged me last year that I needed more rhythm, and I had not really understood what he wanted. With this metronome I could up the pace (but NOT the stride length), and Phillip liked it! In fact he said that he would like it even faster than the 95 beats. With a herculean effort I had Jay jumping round at 100 beats a minute, although it was with some disbelief that I REALLY needed to ride with even MORE pace, as the canter felt so fast and powerful already.

    The proof of the pudding was in the way that we jumped. With an active short stride we met each jump well, no problems, no sticky moments. Even if we were not quite “right” Jay was so engaged and active that he could sort it all out. More surprisingly I started to be able to “see a stride” from 8 strides away, around a corner. PLEASE let this be me learning one of the great mysteries of the equine world, how to see a stride!!!!!

    Meanwhile Jay did another dressage, he is very reliable at dressage now, he has been in the top 3 placings for every competition this year so far. 1 July 2012wOtherwise our work has now been curtailed somewhat by the RAIN. It has been mainly arena work. At least that has left me with some time to construct a new skipping rope made of 2 lunge lines and some hosepipe. It took some work to have Jay agree to have two lunge whips simultaneously Whooshing around his ears…..

    Nearly to the present day for this super-long blog; last weekend I  reserved a full weekend for myself to take Jay to a clinic with Manuela Mclean, wife of Andrew Mclean, both of whom started the Australian Equine Behavior Centre.


    Jay has never gone so well. He is connecting, and strengthening, not the same horse that Manuela saw last year, it was nice to see the comparison to last October and luxuriate in the progress.

    I learned to improve our rein back with “pedalling”, to shorten off my outside foot, to slow off my inside thigh, to be flexible with bend, and we started some more lateral work. We worked mainly in walk and trot, with Manuela just having a look at his canter to plan tomorrow’s lesson. All that in one lesson.

    On Sunday; in the morning lesson we refined the above, and got stuck in to the shoulder in. This has been Jay’s downfall, and just as it started to go right he threw a fit. It was almost like a last ditch mental instinctive fight against the whole idea of shoulder in, and it was over almost as soon as it started, and then he did the shoulder in with a big sigh and release. We changed the rein, and again Jay threw a fit, and then released his tension and did it. After this he would shoulder in at will, quite nicely actually.

    I think it helped that Manuela is so clear, the shoulder in is almost entirely ridden by guidance from opening and closing rein aids. There is little leg, unless the horse slows or stops. The shoulder in has been a bit of a stumbling block for us, and it was good to have such a productive result.

    We then moved onto canter, and lengthening and shortening, faster and slower, all independently. At one point Jay produced a canter worthy of a canter pirouette. We practiced flexion in the canter, and walk/ canter/ walk. Finally we taught Jay a flying change. Jay liked that!

    In the afternoon we changed to the jumping saddle for a jumping lesson. On the first lesson I had confirmed that we should be moving at 105 to even 110 beats per minute whilst jumping. That felt like a silly target, in fact on the Saturday night I had gone back through our videos of Jay with my metronome phone app, and found that we have been jumping at a mere 85 beats per minute. 95 beats felt good to me this month, but more?

    Manuela set her metronome going on the loudspeaker, and she encouraged me to ride at that pace with short strides. Jay was initially his lazy old trout persona, but once he was in gear he loved it. In fact whenever we rode a loop he was showing off his newly acquired flying changes, with gusto.

    With the jumping, well, quite frankly, it scared me. No, Jay was not naughty. Nothing happened. It was just SO GOOD, it scared me! We had a proper “show jumper stride” to the bottom of the fence, as Manuela described Jay was snapping his knees up so fast and well, he was nearly snapping them in  half. He was then rounding like a champ, and activating his hind end to clear the pole by a mile. Then, landing back into the exuberant, 105 beats a minute, canter.

    Jay was enjoying it all so much he was actually squeaking.

    The jumping I found so off putting that we went back to practicing the canter alone as the enlivened canter felt alien enough, without the whoopee jump too. By the finish of the lesson we were both happy. Gosh, who would have thought one 90cm jump could be SO exciting.

    Work this week has been super busy with Olympic prep. Jay had Monday off, and then Tuesday we went to the farrier. On Wednesday I needed some more “time out”, so we worked at...... skipping.

    This session Jay conceded that the whooshing lunge whips were not in fact harming him in any way, so we “went for it” the full game, skipping at canter. Once again it is uncut, all the trials and tribulations, as well as some fine skipping for his first attempt.

    To improve we need to get a better rhythm, but to do that we also need to trim some trees back, as the dratted skipping rope kept catching in the tree branches and getting tangled in his ears!....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Q9pgpsIup8&feature=channel&list=UL

    That’s about up to date, I intend to keep it low key for the next week or so as next Thursday I am off to London to work at the Olympics.

    To get into the “Olympic Mood”, here are two news videos of South Yorkshire Police Horses preparing for their deployments in London.....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vcdos3WIrJ4&feature=channel&list=UL

    Right, I’m off to walk the puppy, who is “chillaxing” upside down on the rug right now. He looks like he has been here forever, impossible to think that 16 weeks ago he did not even exist!





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