Sarah-Jane Brown March Blog
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Well I am pleased to say March was a busy month after the injury in February and short blog. I will break it down into some of the highlights.
Horsequest Arena Eventing Championships
A seven hour trip to Aston where we represented the Threewaters Riding Club at the Championships. I had qualified both girls individually after winning the qualifiers at Bicton Arena.
There were good bits and bad bits from the weekend. The weather whilst in early March can never be expected to be perfect was pretty far from it! It was bitterly cold, very windy and at times wet (we even had snow), staying in the lorry or even venturing out to watch wasn't that much fun. On the plus side there was great camaraderie from the Threewaters team (the 80 team had qualified as well).
So onto the important bit the competition, I was quietly hopeful that both girls had the potential to be competitive but sadly it was not to be although both learnt loads. The competition at Aston used three arenas, starting in one arena by the stables and lorries moving out through some gates and into the next arena via the water jump to the cross country space. I didn't really anticipate how green both my girls would feel having not done a competition like this where you move arenas.
Fliss was on first and the 90 course was lovely the only concern I had for Fliss was leaving the first arena and going straight into water. It didn't help that the water at this time had small waves as the worst of the gale force winds were buffeting the event, She jumped a nice clear show jumping round and was confident over the first cross country fence, she was surprised to leave the arena with purpose and then taken aback to see the water, she stopped half spun and then with leg on worked it out and trotted in. Sadly though a disobedience as far as the competition was concerned and 20 penalties. She proceeded to be a bit green in the arena but actually very genuine and jumped nicely round the rest of the course this included another water question which she did without hesitation.
Video of the 90 round. The pink colours are not my new colours for the 2019 season but team colours sponsored by Woof Wear.
Even without our 20 penalties we would have been slightly slow to have been placed. Really good education for her though.
Ellie was doing the 100 course and I thought this asked some questions, fence 3 was a decent brush ditch, fence 5 had a couple of decent steps to a palisade and fence 7 was a big skinny. I didn't ride the show jumping very well I was a bit backward and that caused a pole to roll at the double. She too I could feel was slightly green leaving the arena but her greater experience came into play and she worked it out, she jumped a super round and cleared the joker which was strategically placed at the bottom of the slope. Although the pole would have been influential disappointingly the biggest influence was the time. Considering the time should have been quicker than Fliss's class we were 20 seconds inside the time despite not pushing it, in fact the majority of the class were inside the time. When I walked the course the day before there had been an additional couple of fences in the course and these were removed on the day I wonder if they hadn't adjusted the time accordingly! Anyway it is irrelevant and with a pole down we were never going to be in the top few anyway.
Austin O’Connor Boot Camp
Without doubt the highlight of our time away. I had been feeling a bit demotivated and this was just the kick in the right direction I needed! We travelled from Aston directly to Austin who was only an hour away.
Last year our few days with Austin really kick started our year and helped pull me out of the doldrums and it was great to come back to be pushed to the next stage. For anyone that doesn't know Austin is based at the fabulous Attington one of the premier training facilities in the area. An indoor school, huge outdoor arena is complimented by the most fabulous all weather cross country schooling facility.
I think the yard we are housed in probably has housed stallions in the past with big solid high doors which Ellie in particular has to stand on tip toe to see over. We were lucky that Monday was beautiful weather and having met Austin in the school and discussed what we wanted from our few days training we decided to make the most of the weather and use the cross country arena.
Fliss was first up and I said we were aiming to start the season at BE100 and hoped to move up to Novice later in the season. We schooled with this aim in mind. He asked me to just pop a few fences to get a feel of how we were going. Once we had popped a few simple ones he asked me to ride a little more quietly and allow the fence to come to us and for Fliss to work out what was needed, he was happier at this stage for us to pop extra strides in and very much ride to our eye. We walked off some simple steps and trotted through the water (no hesitation). We gradually increased the difficulty of the exercises until we jumped some decent fences both into water and over some big ditch combinations. The video shows the progression through the session.
Ellie also made use of the cross country and we spoke about the plans to take her Novice this season. Austin was very complimentary about Ellie and how well she was going. She did a few more advanced lines and fences than Fliss and enjoyed the challenge again finding easy answers for the questions asked. I couldn't be more delighted how well she went.
So day two was less kind and the weather turned we were lucky with Fliss and generally got away with it, yes it was windy but it only spat with rain, by the time it was Ellie's turn the heavens had opened!
In a lot of ways both horses worked on similar things in both flat and jump elements. On the flat it was very much a case of getting the horses forward into a soft contact, a slightly longer rein and working on the nose out and forward particularly with Fliss. Focusing on them carrying themselves and balancing themselves and not sitting on the hand. Using the gears in trot and canter and the medium paces to open them out and then using the seat and body to collect them back up again. You can see in the video how this has really helped Fliss's trot.
Jumping wise we did a number of athletic exercises. We focused on a couple of fences on a turn that walked four strides but with Fliss we did it in five thinking all the time quietly. The video shows how we progressed the exercise. Austin was very keen I didn't do too much for the horses and let them make their own mistakes. With Fliss he felt the odd canter pole, v rail or other things to focus the jump would be useful. Whilst she has a good jump she has enough scope that she doesn't always need to use it and therefore we need to focus her far more to help her develop and strengthen.
Sadly as I said Ellie's session was not recorded as the rain was horizontal by this point! This is disappointing for a couple of reasons, mainly it is lovely for me to look back and recall what we have done and hear Austin's wise words, equally it is nice to show off when they have done something spectacular. In this case the medium trot Ellie found was amazing and the fact she jumped an upright of 1.30 was jaw dropping. I will admit we did tip it a couple of times but once her eye adjusted she soared over it.
We worked on the same exercises as Fliss with similar requirements to ride quietly and let Ellie make her own mistakes. Overall I was delighted as Austin was very complimentary on how well both had been produced to date and felt rather than repair any problems he was helping us move onto the next level and have confidence in our progression. I am desperate if possible to try and make time and finance for another trip to see Austin this year as a further push forward.
Chard and Pontispool Weekend
So a very productive few days away at Chard with some XC schooling added on for Fliss. Sadly Ellie isn't quite right at the moment and we are working to get to the bottom of the problem. Whilst I am quite happy to be very honest about this, at the moment I don't know what the precise nature of the problem and I don't want to speculate or do anything that may prejudice any likely insurance claim. Sadly though I think any plans in the next few months may be on hold. I promise I will update when I can but suffice to say Ellie is feeling very well in herself and mightily upset at being left at home while Fliss has had all the fun! I was quite tearful when driving away with Fliss whilst Ellie was whinnying at the gate!
Chard has to be one of the nicest show jumping venues and it is always exciting to see new developments on each visit. Very excited that another new arena will be in action later in the year. The courses at Chard are always top end for the level and I was delighted how well Fliss is coping and making the levels feel comfortable. Sadly whilst jumping clear rounds seems achievable I am struggling to be fast enough for the frilly's at the bigger levels. We only had one pole in four classes jumping the 1.05 and Newcomers tracks.
So I kindly gave Fliss the 3rd day off show jumping! Instead we headed to Pontispool for the first XC schooling of the season on grass. Can't believe how much she has come on. We jumped a variety of 100 and Novice fences and had her jumping confidently into water. We had a green moment when she didn't lock onto a triple brush (see video) but jumped genuinely on a represent. Good reminder to me she still lacks a lot of mileage cross country.
Very proud of how Fliss is progressing.
We are now looking forward to our first BE events in April with entries in the 100 classes at Bovington and Bicton.
Also wanted to say a big thank you to Suregrows support again this year. My fields are looking fabulous and part of the reason my horses are in such good condition is the nutrition gained from the grazing which has survived the winter well. I have just received some CSM and fertiliser which I will be adding this month.
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April 9, 2019 | Share: