So I am now closer to the first event of 2015 than I am away from my last event of 2014, and to say I am excited is an understatement!
2014 did not go totally to plan, especially with Lily and I cannot wait to put that right in 2015, she is so talented and I want to show the eventing world what she is really capable of! I am hoping that her love of hunting is going to transfer to self belief cross country and she will be away!
When I left off we had been show jumping and she felt great. Since then we have had some dressage and jumping lessons, been hunting a couple more times and been combined training, and so far all systems are go, as we enter the last week of 2014 I can admit I have learnt so much and it has not been easy, but I have never been more excited to start the New Year and the new season. BRING ON 2015!!
Back to the beginning of December and I had my first dressage lesson in months! Lily felt fab and showing her new found love of going forwards from the hunting field. I was able to work on much more specific things to perfect my tests rather than just working on getting her forwards off my leg, I don't think Jenny has ever told me to steady so many times in a lesson, so that must be a positive!
A couple of weeks later, we headed to Littleton for a jumping lesson with Ernest Dillon. I hadn't had a jumping lesson since May and it was long overdue. I couldn't wait to show Ernest how much Lily had come on and for him to help us with the next stage of our training. She was simply awesome. She was popping a 1.20m+ course for fun, and although she rolled a couple of poles, there was a simple and quick fix to the problem. Ernest picked up on the fact that a stride away from the fence I tend to relax the hand, this causes her to lose her balance in front of the fence slightly and as the fences get bigger this becomes more of an issue. We worked on keeping the hand to give her something to jump out of and it is amazing how such a small change can create such a large difference in the quality of the jump, but it did! I love my lessons with Ernest as I trust him completely and as he said to me 'I would never ask you to do something I couldn't get on your horse and show you' and it is this kind of relationship that really works when training.
To put the lessons into practice, we went to Felbridge for the Novice Combined Training. She did a much improved test, she was forwards and happy and although there were moments of insecurity, generally she was much more stable in the contact. This was rewarded with a great mark of 28. Onto the jumping and it was nearly dark, but this didn't bother Lily, she skipped round a decent track and I ensured I was keeping the contact in the approach, take-off, in the air, landing and the get away to produce one of the best rounds we have had to date and a confident clear. It caused plenty of trouble and we finished 2nd out of 11 in very good company - clever pony!
This weekend we went to Belmoredean for a dressage lesson with Damian Hallam on my dressage trainer (Jenny Watson)'s recommendation. It was the most fantastic lesson. He kept everything so simple and it worked, we focussed on keeping Lily 'in her box' meaning straight, forwards from behind and into the contact. I think it was probably the best she has ever gone which is very exciting for next season.
Meanwhile Coco is still coming back into work, so far his leg is holding up well but I am not saying any more than that (tempting fate!) He is trotting and will do another 2 weeks roadwork, taking it up to 12 weeks on the road, 8 weeks walk and 4 weeks walk and trot. Fingers crossed we can start to incorporate a bit of schooling soon, but he feels fantastic and considering he is a fluffy pony his coat is shiny and he looks amazing! He did drop a little condition once we started a bit of trot work but the addition of topnosh to his feeds morning and evening did the trick nicely and he was back looking his best within a couple of days - if you ever need a non-heating feed to help put condition on, I couldn't recommend topnosh enough - improvements are almost visible overnight!
On Christmas day, Lily and I took my cousin Katie and a livery Liv and their ponies Ellie and Connor on a christmas hack. Lily and I definitely won the fancy dress - Lily was a tree with tinsel, flashing lights and baubles, whilst I was an angel! You can see pictures above and below!
So that is it for 2014 but 2015 will start with a bang. We are going arena eventing at LMEQ on Saturday followed by BS at Merrist Wood on Sunday. I have got all my competitions planned between now and the start of the season and includes a mixture of the British Eventing JAS series, the new arena eventing series, combined training, dressage and hunting - bring it on.. As they say, failure to prepare is preparing to fail!
The will to succeed is important, but what's more important is the will to prepare...
So it may be the off season, but the preparations I do now are what is going to help me reach my goals next season. Lily is feeling the best she ever has done and I am so excited for next year already. I have a feeling it will be a good one.
I know I haven't written for a while but Lily had a few quiet weeks after our last event and we have only been out competing twice so I haven't had a lot to write about. As you can see in the picture, we have managed to get Lily out hunting. I felt that she lacks a bit of self belief cross country and that hunting may give her that confidence that she lacks, she is so talented and it would be a shame not to try.
She has been impeccably behaved every time out and absolutely loves it! She thinks it is the most amazing fun to gallop across fields and over fences and is taking the fences on more and more. We have been out with the Kent and Surrey Bloodhounds twice, once on Hound Exercise and then to the opening meet where we got to jump a few hedges, and she was super brave and jumped like a stag! We have also been out once with the Staff College and Sandhurst and again she was great. Since being out hunting she has been a different horse in the school. She is enthusiastic about her work and I am able to start working on more than just getting her going forwards, her medium trot is coming on and I am so excited, it feels like all the hours I have put in are paying off.
I took her out to Merrist Wood showjumping a couple of weeks ago, and despite there being 250 entries in the first two classes (I was entered in classes 3 & 4) they were clearly extremely efficient and I had got there at 3.30, jumped to classes and left by 6! First was the 1.05m, she jumped incredibly considering we hadn't been out anywhere for over a month and a half, she was confident and cruised round for a double clear (CLICK HERE FOR THE VIDEO). We then jumped in the Newcomers, it started really well, but I slightly lost my rhythm towards the end and then she had a cheeky stop at the last fence in the first round where she was spooking at the arena party sitting just beyond the fence, however I wasn't disappointed as she felt really good.
Today we headed out to Parwood for another BSJA show and again were jumping in the 1.05 and the Newcomers. Awesome is the only word I can use to describe her round in the 1.05m. She found it so so easy and is jumping the best she ever has done. After an easy clear where I didn't push her too fast as I still want to build her confidence, she finished 6th of 35 which was a great result. The Newcomers was a decent track but I needn't have worried as she took it on and reminded me why she is as special as she is. Again she made it feel small, we hit a lovely rhythm and maintained it round the whole course. Unfortunately she just rubbed the in of the double at fence 8 as it was the second part of a related distance with the low sun shining straight at us, I think as she suddenly saw the second part of the double, she slightly hollowed and rubbed the front rail of the oxer behind. That is the least of my worries because she was happy and confident and gave me the feeling that if the fences had gone up two or even four holes she still would have just been able to pop round! You can see the videos of the two rounds by CLICKING HERE.
She is still currently out over night doing her best field pony impression. She absolutely loves it so will try and keep her in that routine as long as the weather allows. Meanwhile we have increased her feed as the grass quality is starting to drop off and with her hunting as well she is looking very fit and we want to maintain her condition. She is being fed soaked Lucie Pellets and Greengold as well as Brewers Yeast and the new Flexibalance alongside her Linseed to keep her tummy happy. As you can see from the picture below, she looks very well.
Coco is doing well and has done one month of walking so far so is currently walking for 45 minutes a day. We are planning to do another month of walking to get him up to an hour a day before starting to introduce some trotting. He is very happy and is looking well. He has put on a lot of topline since he has been back walking and I still have my fingers firmly crossed that he will come back to event again next season as he just loves his work.