Graduated and Raring to Go: Stepping up a notch

A photoshoot and their first BD test - it's been far from a quiet couple of weeks for Heather and Socks...

It’s autumn. Officially. Socks has undergone her winter colour change – I now have a dark bay horse, and Winter Socks tends to have many more opinions of her own.

I’m not sure if it’s the constantly changing weather, the slight shake up of routine or the fact I’m possibly asking a bit more of her than I normally would, but the buzzword for riding Socks at the moment is definitely “tactful”.

 Socks having a snooze while having her back sorted… winter colour change complete!

Socks having a snooze while having her back sorted… winter colour change complete!

So, with a horse who's at best unpredictable and at worst a hysterical plonker, what better to do than invite Amy from the Your Horse team over to take some pictures?

It was lovely to meet Amy and Matt, the photographer, and really interesting to get more of an insight into what goes on behind the scenes at the magazine.

And Socks, contrary to what we thought, was a model bear. She didn’t fuss or demand attention during the downtimes, and positively posed for the camera!

Even the tripod wasn’t as scary as we thought it would be – that is, until I asked her to canter toward it. Bless her.

Her most “Socks” moment came when we took some shots show jumping. I fell victim to what Matt called “Kodak Courage” and went straight from a cross pole to an 85cm upright with a filler.

In my defence, the Riding Club showjumping areas are coming up and that’s exactly what I’d expect her to be able to do in a competition situation.

What she did do was canter up to it, spook, stop, and then while standing at an angle in front of it, decide that it actually wasn’t that bad, and jump it from a standstill. Excellent.

I told her that if she can jump like that she’s got no excuse to ever stop ever again! Still, we have progress from the last time Socks decided to spook at a fence. Progress is good.

 Socks strutting her stuff on the road

Socks strutting her stuff on the road

Look out for us in Issue 433!

27th September: BD Dressage, The College Equestrian Centre, Keysoe

As it happened, the whole “doing our first BD dressage test” situation crept up on me, somewhat.

Although we didn’t get a chance to practice Novice 39 in a long arena, I was quite confident in our chances.

That was, until I put my show jacket on, wondered where my felts were and realised I’d left them on the tweed jacket.

The last time I went out to compete was back in July - I’d honestly forgotten that it'd been that long!

Socks showed no signs of being over the top though, even keeping it together when other horses cantered past her in the warm up arena. We warmed up well, and I was confident we’d do a test I wouldn’t be ashamed of.

That was, until we had to walk over to the arena.

There were WHEELIE BINS. There were PEOPLE WATCHING. There was a HEDGE. I’m not sure what got into her but suddenly, she felt like a pogo stick that at any minute would bounce off without me. It immediately became clear that this test would be a case of damage limitation.

Although, tenseness aside, the first mistake we made was entirely my fault. The thing with not practicing this test in a long arena was that I hadn’t quite realised just how long a medium trot from F to H was. We got just past X, and we’d shown some correct(ish), if not very exuberant, strides.

‘Oh, we’ve got miles to go yet,’ I thought. ‘We can do better than that!’

And I put my leg on more.

Why did I do that? Why?

My nice if not very impressive medium trot became a very jumbly canter. The word that came to mind began with B and sounded a bit like “udder”.

Luckily our second medium trot was much nicer!

The one movement I’d stressed about (and, I’ll admit, Socks and I might have had a couple of disagreements over) was the walk to canter on the left rein at C.

To be fair to Socks, my hips aren’t straight or level, no matter how much Magical Hannah my osteopath sorts them out, so any canter aids are probably a bit garbled.

I do think, sometimes, that she might deliberately feign aid-deafness, but since I’m not a horse whisperer, I guess I’ll never know.

This time, we approached in a lovely even walk with no rushing, and simple as you like skipped into a wonderful canter on the correct lead! Hurrah! And then, thirty seconds later, picked up the wrong lead after a canter-trot-canter transition. Ah, well, two out of three isn’t bad.

 One of the better moments!

One of the better moments!

In the end, we came out with 60% and, being the only combination in the Bronze section, technically won it! I’ll take that as a win for our first BD…

But, we can do better. I always knew we’d have to work a bit harder for the marks at affiliated level, and far from downhearted I’m raring to have another go as soon as I can. I’m determined to do my little bear justice!

Saying that, Socks needs clipping. And Socks hates being clipped. As in, even more than she hates pigeons or bicycles.

Over the last couple of years we’ve weaned her off of being sedated, and this is the first year where we’re going to try and do it ourselves in the hope that if we do it, Socks might realise we’re not trying to chop her ears off. Or tickle her to death.

So, we’re looking forward to jumping over some things next month – both coloured things that fall down and rustic things that don’t!

See you next time to find out how we get on, and what kind of clip Socks ends up with which we’ll be trying to sell as a new fashion for thoroughbreds… wish us luck!