Graduated and Raring to Go: Best laid plans

You know what they say about horses and plans... here's Heather explaining what she's been up to in the past few weeks - including having a go at online dressage.

Remember how I signed off last month saying how I wasn’t sure how I was going to fit anything competitive in this month?

Turns out, I was entirely right. We couldn’t make any BD competitions, any unaffiliated anything, or even much training. Boo, hiss.

It's looking like a duvet month for Socks 

It's looking like a duvet month for Socks 

Finding jumping fun again

As we all know, I’m not one for dropping the ball. I get jittery if we’re not doing anything. Luckily, trainer Petros was at the yard two weeks on the trot to sort us out and give us some things to work on!

With doing some dressage in mind, I'd originally planned to have a flat lesson, but, as I arrived at the yard after my early shift to see that the girls had got out jumps, fillers, the whole works – well, I just couldn’t say no, could I? “Oh, go on, then,” I said.

I always love when we have clinics over half term. The whole yard watches each other, cheers each other on and takes videos and pictures for each other.

It’s especially great getting to see the riding school ponies having such a blast – Brandy, our gorgeous Exmoor pony, stunned us all by gracefully leaping over a metre spread. I love ponies!

Conquering the pink and purple menace 

Conquering the pink and purple menace 

Socks usually jumps like a dream at home, so this time I thought I’d test her. She doesn’t normally like gates, so in one went.

For some reason, she hates the colour pink. So in went a pink and purple filler. And so on, and so forth.

All in all, I'd say our lesson grew in confidence. We had stops the first time we came to the scary fillers, which I expected – I know, I know, we need to sort this out for competition. It’s on my list of things to do!

But this time, what I was really interested in was rhythm. By the end of the lesson we were jumping around 95-100cm out of a lovely, bouncy canter and no taking off afterwards and it felt fantastic!

But, what was my favourite part? The flipping lovely simple change executed to sort out the canter. Evidently, I can say I want to event all I like, but it’s obvious where my true loyalties lie…

The next day was another one of glorious weather and I had Socks for the morning.

Right, I thought. We’re not wasting weather this good. So we put our brave pants on and went for a five-and-a-half-mile hack to one of the local villages, ON OUR OWN.

My friend Mia was away for the weekend cycling to Amsterdam (how dare she), but as it turned out, we actually make quite good lone wanderers. Especially as this time we didn’t meet any lorries. Hurrah!

What a beautiful day! 

What a beautiful day! 

Dressage with no pressure, apparently…

Our second lesson with Petros was a bit of a mixed bag. We decided to improve our lateral work to boost our flatwork up to proper Elementary level, and so got to work on shoulder-in, and rein back as well.

It’s funny how learning something new can make you feel like you haven’t been riding for most of your life, isn’t it! It’s worth it, though, when you finally get it right, even if it’s only one step.

Figuring out shoulder in... 

Figuring out shoulder in... 

It was after this lesson that I thought (again) about whether we really couldn’t fit in any competing this month.

As I said, I hate dropping the ball and I thought we were improving – I just wanted some impartial proof!

And then it came to me: online dressage. I’d wanted to try it for years, but never got around to it.

That settled, we got to work. There was one day both mum and I had free before I went on holiday, so we had to nail it. It’s only Novice 24, I thought. We can do that easily.

Turns out, Socks had other ideas.

We set up an arena in the paddock next to our school so the dimensions would be right, and got started.

It all began absolutely fine. Fantastically, in fact. Visions of judges’ comments full of superlatives and rosettes in the post bloomed in my mind. And then, everything just got a bit… scary.

People putting buckets down on the yard. Sophie clearing jumps away in the school. A completely nondescript patch of grass near M. All of them meant that Socks just had to leap sideways. Well, it had been some lovely work.

I’ll say at this point that, granted, a source of the tension may have been a reoccurring argument myself and my mother have about the whereabouts of the centre line.

She’s always convinced I’m wrong, insisting I should be about four feet to the right of A. The only time we agree is when the centre line is mown in for us.

Either way, I’ve worked with Socks for long enough to know when to call it a day, when she’s just not in the mood.

Honestly, it’s just not worth the hassle or stress for either of us and she knows that if she can start an argument with me then that gets her out of work.

Shrewd, Socks, shrewd. I knew that she wasn’t really frightened, she just wasn’t in the mood today – and that’s perfectly okay. She’s not a machine.

Call me unsympathetic, but my suspicions that Socks’ spooks weren’t entirely genuine were confirmed when, back in the stable, she knocked over her washing-off bucket with a clatter, scattering brushes everywhere.

Did she even flinch? No. (The fact that I was making her dinner at the time may have been an influence. Maybe.)

So, competition (for me, anyway,) was put on hold for this month, which was possibly a good thing considering everything we have planned for July.

I might have struck out, but find out how Mum got on while I was away on holiday in my next blog!

See you then!