Fortunately January has been competition free, which has given me time to start breaking my new boots in, its taken a lot of adjusting too, but they are now feeling much more comfortable. Leonie even offered to wear them in for me at one point so that she didn’t have to put up with listening to me moaning, how many trainers would do that for their pupils?? I personally find any change extremely difficult to adjust to, but can be hypersensitive to materials etc, it took Mum years to get me out of cotton stretch jods, so wearing hard boots is quite a big leap for me.
January is always a challenge for training, as without the luxury of an indoor school we are left at the mercy of the weather conditions. Luckily we haven’t had any snow as yet, but we have had really sharp frosts that even our generally perfect arena couldn’t withstand, meaning we have had to either rearrange sessions or modify them. In some ways its a good opportunity to work harder on the walk elements of my tests, so you can probably guess that I have been going giddy with all the walk pirouettes we have been practicing over and over again. They are the most difficult movement for me to perform, but they are getting so much better, Prince has them nailed now and doesn’t get stressed out by them like he used to, and neither do I any more. I still need to be clearer with my aids and communication to him for him to produce the pirouettes he is capable of for me, but I am really pleased with the progress we have made with them and look forward to seeing if we can squeeze a bit extra out of the judges scores when the competitions begin again.
The other thing Leonie likes to do it to work the horses in hand from the ground, which is also useful on days when the arena is a bit too hard and Prince is feeling a little fresh. I think the in hand work really helped Prince especially well in the early days with the pirouettes, as Leonie was able to teach him the aids from the ground without him trying to balance a rider at the same time as trying to make sense of what was being asked of him, which in turn helped him to become more relaxed about the whole process. I love to watch them together on the ground as Prince seems to have an expression of a deeper concentration on his face, and I think he loves learning new things. We have been together just short of a year now, and in that time he has never once come out of the stable in a grumpy mood about work. He always seems really happy and willing to be doing what he does, which is what I love most of all about him.
Our first competition of the year is on the 4th February at Mount Ballan, so the rest of the time has been focussed on trying to learn the movements from the new tests that have been released for 2017. The Individual test has changed quite a lot, and now contains leg yielding in trot, the whole test is packed with one movement after another, which come up really quickly, but we actually really like it as they flow really well and really make sense in setting you up for the next movement. I panicked when I first saw the test as it contains lots of voltes, and I didn’t know what they were, so was extremely relieved when Leonie told me they are basically circles. I am quite pleased with how the test is going at the moment, so it will be really good to get some feedback from the judge at the weekend on how we are actually doing. The new test is here if anyone would like to read through it 2017-grade-iii-individual-championship
Also Leonie had some new markers made especially for me when we split the arena down to a 20 X 40 for test riding, which I thought was particularly nice as she used Pink, my favourite colour……not.
The other thing the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed is along with the new tests for 2017, is that I will now be classed as a grade 3 rider! Its going to take some getting used to calling ourselves grade 3 but actually nothing has changed………they took the decision to remove the 1a and b label so grade 1a is now just 1, grade 1b is now grade 2, grade 2 is now grade 3 and so on, but no one has actually changed in terms of classification or disability, nor have the tests in terms of the new grade 3 still wont perform canter in the set tests………still sounds strange though.
Prince is feeling great at the moment, pictured below chilling after his monthly physiotherapy session from sue Palmer, I think the correct work and maintenance programme makes for a happy and supple horse. Plus we are lucky to be supported by BettaLife who supplement Prince’s diet with PharmaQuin joint complete, which really helps to support his joints, take a look at their website for more details. http://www.bettalife.co.uk/
Anyway wish us luck for Saturday, and I will let you know how we get on next month!