|Highlere Castle – our planned seasonal debut|
Just weeks to go now until our seasonal debut at Highclere Castle Horse Trials (who does a seasonal debut in August?!), and a bit like the Australian WEG Team my own plans are a bit of a mixed bag at present.
The big white charger is actually coming along pretty well, fitness levels are up, weight is back to normal (perhaps a little too much), and show jumping nicely. One of things I’m desperate to improve our Dressage scores. Whilst he’s never going to be a Nureyev in the ring we have managed some decent low-mid 30s marks, and I’m determined to re-capture and improve on these good tests. As I don’t have a trainer on tap every time I ride, I’ve started videoing my flatwork sessions so I can review these, and start looking for the room for improvement.
I’ve just reviewed today’s session, and there’s plenty to do over the next few weeks! The video below shows the ‘best bits’ from today (I know, if that’s the best bits boy there’s lots to do!), and also one of my better tests.
I know we can do a good, square halt out on the showground, and he usually performs much better at a show, and doesn’t really like working in the indoor school at home, but I still struggle to get a good, square halt at home.
His canter work is usually pretty good and we can get 7s & 8s for that, his walk is very active and that usually produces 7s even if he does swing his head side to side in with the rhythm. My biggest challenge is probably getting a stunning lengthened stride in trot, usually something you can’t cloak from the judge as they sit at C and you lengthen across the diagonals.
Dressage is always the phase I’m most nervous about, far too worried about forgetting my test, and I end up hurrying the whole thing along. This is never a good thing as leads to ‘motorbike’ cornering in trot and fluffed downward transitions. More surprising is my nervousness about driving to events, as strange as that may seem, especially as I’m normally a sick passenger. I tense up worrying “is the horse ok back there” when I drive. Sit me on the other side of the lorry though and I’m totally relaxed.
In the last few years or so I done a lot to tackle these two items. I now have someone drive me to the events, so I can relax, and I make a concerted effort to slow down both my Dressage warm-up and the test. I draw out the test on a piece of A5 with a pencil and go over it a few times until I can draw it from memory. This piece of paper then sits in my jacket pocket in case I want to refer to it during warm-up.
Here’s where I’m having an “Aussie team selectors moment”, apart from my need to improve the dressage work by the end of the month, my driver/groom has had to pull out of Highclere due to work commitments, so I’m having to search for second best. Don’t you hate it when plans start to fall apart?
At this point I have to remind myself that he is due to be shod in a few days, so probably feeling his feet a bit. However there is only 4 weeks to go and I’m still praying for rain, so we can get a lot more cantering in, it’s such a pain having to box up to go to someone else’s gallops.
With the farrier arriving on Monday, next week will include a few sessions of show jumping, we both need the practice if we’re going to do a double clear (which we need to get placed). I also plan to work on my own riding position, with the help of a rod for my own back! I don’t have the best posture in the saddle.
Once the rain arrives, we’ll do a little cross country schooling, more for fun than necessity. If we trot round the schooling field, I can feel him sidling towards jumps, he just loves cross country – don’t we all!
Here’s the accompanying video: