Blog

What is your Riding Ambition? – Equestrian Blog Hop

I’m delighted to join in and be part of this month’s Equestrian Blog Hop run by Bridle & Bone. The topic for November is, what is your riding ambition? Do you have one? As I sat down and thought about what my riding ambition is and if I have a riding ambition, I started doing a little research and reading about ambitions.

 

Ambition is defined as “a true desire to do or achieve something”. Now, after some reading I believe if you have a passion, such as riding, there is no doubt that you would have a desire to go out and be with your equine partner. You do have ambition and desire to achieve the best you can.

“Ambition and love are the wings to great deeds”- Goethe.

You could say my ambition started from an early age. Being surrounded by horses, riding and competing at shows, qualifying for royals. The desire to achieve my best in the show ring soon developed into my harness racing days. My ambition shifted to become a better driver and achieve the best for the horse. Again, my focused shifted as I made the change to get back in the saddle again after a break. This is when I found dressage, which has become my love and passion ever since. I have found a discipline that allows my riding to grow and develop into a better rider.

Arniwho Riding ambition

The early morning alarms, saddling up while the sun is rising just so I can get a good 30-minute ride in before heading off to work. Walking through the front door after the sun has gone down after exercising horses after work. Falling asleep on the lounge after dinner while watching TV. Non-equestrians really sit there scratching their heads wondering why on earth we do it and what possibly could we gain out of it.

Love is why we do it, ambition keeps our head in the game. The ups and downs, tears and laughter, equestrians wouldn’t have it any other way. No matter what discipline we are all set out to achieve something.

 

Riding Ambition

For me where I am with my dressage journey, no matter how far down the path I go. It’s the burning desire to become a better rider that keeps me heading on my merry way. The path will never come to an end, you will never stop learning. Most importantly, you are never too good to learn.

How do I stay on the path? I have two main things that help me.

First one, I currently I have 12-month goal set out on a poster written up the very top. I have the months broken down underneath in headings, I plan out parts of the 12 months. Such as, lessons, competitions, time off, body work etc. Basically the building blocks heading towards that end goal.

Second one, surrounding myself with like minded people. Whether you surround yourself with positive like minded friends or even having your social media feed positive and inspiring. Chatting to the other dressage girls inspiring and motivating each other to keep striving to do our best each ride. Or simply following the top riders and trainers in our sport, aiming to be that person you follow religiously online.

 

It begs the question, what are your riding ambitions? What is your burning desire with your equestrian partner?


My Trip Across The Ditch

My trip across the ditch

 

Earlier this year the family purchased 3 lovely fillies from the Yearling Sales in Christchurch, all 3 lovely fillies and 3 very different fillies! Making our latest team 5 Kiwis in total, sounds like we have an addiction! I was fortunate enough to hop back on the plane across the ditch and see how they were going after the breaking in prep. With New Zealand winters not favouring the horse training, a little too cold and wet. It was nice to see the fillies back in work after their winter holiday, still a little scruffy with their winter coats.

trip across the ditch

Friday

I arrived in Christchurch on a beautiful Friday afternoon, sun shining, spectacular clean crisp New Zealand air. We are so fortunate to live in this part of the world, especially when Middle Earth is only a 3-hour flight away.

We were in for an absolute treat on the Friday night with Addington races having a table in the members room with beautiful food and watching an action-packed race night. It was a spectacular experience, especially witnessing the running of Heat 3 for the Sires Stakes series. It was amazing to see Chase Auckland get the win in the heat, who went on to win the final. You can see Chase Auckland’s Heat win here on Harness Racing New Zealand website.

We retreated for an early night after the ninth race knowing we had a jam-packed Saturday!

trip across the ditch addington

Two reasons for the trip across the ditch, first one was to see our fillies and how they are developing after their breaking in prep. But also, to have a peep at Equidays NZ and to sit in on an incredible masterclass with Kyra Kyrklund. You can read all about the recap here with Kyra in my earlier blog post here.

Saturday

With Christchurch weather still on our side on the Saturday morning, it was time to drive some fillies! We watched Spider (Betterthencheddar) a nice little compact filly with a striking part white tail- workout first. At this point with her training she can be a little head strong and is a little opinionated!

trip across the ditch spider
Spider

Next, it was Libby (Sportswriter) and Misty (Shadow Play) turn to work out, I managed to steal the drive on Misty. I became rather attached to this big black girl this trip. I had an amazing experience driving Misty first up on Saturday, pushing her through a few gears with Libby. Who might I add was exceptional to watch, Libby has an amazing turn of foot. She really does look impressive when she finds that next gear!

trip across the ditch misty
Misty

I defiantly chose the right horse for me, managed to get the phone out for a quick snap on the way back in!

 

Trip across the ditch Misty Shadow

 

 

We also had a treat to see a filly who was only born several hours earlier! This stunning little girl is half sister to Spider.

 

To top off a wonderful horse day in Christchurch we visited Equidays, a pre- visit to Kyra’s Masterclass on the Sunday and to do a little shopping. I purchased a snazzy new Spooks vest and bought a matching pink one for my mother who was unable to join us on the trip. We finished off an amazing day with an absolute feast at the local Tai Tapu pub! If anyone is travelling to that area, I highly recommend the pork belly. 😊

Kyra Masterclass

 

Sunday

As it was only a short trip across the ditch, when Sunday rolled around, yet another beautiful clean crisp day. I knew it was going to be a jam-packed day. First up we attended Kyra Kyrklund’s Masterclass at Equidays, full details can be viewed here on the previous blog.

I was excited to take the reins on Misty again on day 2, she is such a straight forward filly to drive. Leading the way out on the track with Libby on my tail we pushed the fillies through the gears. We were extremely impressed how the fillies worked today. I was very chuffed with Misty, we both performed better together today over our first drive together on Saturday .

 

trip across the ditch
Misty and Libby

I just can’t believe how wonderful Christchurch’s weather can be, we were incredibly fortunate to experience sunshine over the weekend. Some of our previous visits all we have had is rain, wind and more rain!

Can’t wait for the next trip next month to take the reins with the fillies again! 🙂

Masterclass with Kyra Kyrklund

Kyra Masterclass

One could say I’m addicted to learning and attending masterclasses. Another 3am start to a rainy Friday morning on my way down to Sydney International Airport ready to depart on my early morning flight to Christchurch with Air New Zealand. I was excited to be attending Equidays, especially to sit in listening to Kyra Kyrklund. What an opportunity!

I visited Equidays briefly on the Saturday afternoon following on from my own morning horse activities, Kyra had a 45-minute demonstration in the main arena. I thought this was a great opportunity for a sneak peek with the masterclass the following day.

In the short demo Kyra focused on the rider position and balance, which I find absolutely fascinating, I feel this is one subject that is left untouched. Ensuring the riders were sitting even in the saddle. Not slouching to one side, forwards or backwards. It’s amazing to see how much the body influences the horse and their movement. Getting the riders to turn their heads to the outside and ride a smaller circle, using their body, influencing the horses body to ride the smaller circle. It sounds like a simple exercise, but it was rather effective with the riders on the day. This was only a very short insight on what we would be installed for on Sundays masterclass.

Kyra Masterclass

With a few ideas in my mind from Saturdays demonstration, I woke to a beautiful sunny, crystal clear Sunday morning in Christchurch. Equidays opened the gates early for all the keen Kyra fans eagerly awaiting a morning of learning.

The morning kicked off with the first rider, Kyra following on from the short session on the Saturday about the rider’s body position and balance. If you are learning to one side the horse is going to want to fall to that side to support the riders weight. Kyra made an interesting training suggestion, all the riders who rode on the day were asked to use a monkey grip. Which she pointed out what a great training tool this can be for the rider. With the rider using it with their inside hand, allowing them to keep a still, steady and soft contact with the horse. Whilst having the outside hand controlling the tempo of the horse, remember to pat the horse with the outside hand. For two reasons, one, allowing the rider to relax the outside rein aid and two, rewarding the horse.

Whilst the focus of the first rider was about body position, this might not seem fascinating to all riders. But Kyra gave some important tips:

Head down only focuses on the front of the horse

Don’t stare at the horse’s neck, learn to look around

Repetition is the mother of learning – Which I couldn’t agree more.

With the second horse now entering the arena, the rider previously mentioned to Kyra that she really wants to ride a good shoulder in! Didn’t my note taking go crazy with this horse. First up, Kyra worked through the leg yielding, in walk down the long side. Changing the bend into renvers and keeping the hinds on the wall.

When you reach the end of the long side, move the hind leg with small steps and turn on the fore. Kyra expressed to the audience how valuable the turn on the fore really is to our training. Several trainers and riders do not use this as a training tool with their own training as it can be difficult, which she also told the audience this is probably why you do not see it in many dressage tests these days.

Moving on from this exercise along the wall, it was time to put it to the test down the centre line. Walk down the centre line, leg yield, turn on the fore. As Kyra lightly mentioned “he is not a supermarket trolley, you do not need to push all the way”

By taking the horse through these exercises you learn to take the hind in and put the hind back. Having that control. Kyra quiet clearly pointed out to the audience shoulder in you take the front in not keep the hind leg out. She made a comment with the position of shoulder in is if you wanted to take your horse off the wall to do a circle. Then travers is when you ride a circle but you think not to finish it. Sounds simple doesn’t it. She also mentioned that using the walk as a large half halt, make the horse listen and think.

The third horse rode into the arena, Kyra is on point with keeping the theme of the rider’s position. This time it was all about the rhythm and tempo. Learning to slow down the tempo with your body and not from the rein aids.

While the rider was trotting around in rising trot, Kyra got her to think of slowing her rise down. This helps the horse bring back in the trot. She then went on the explain when you are sitting trot, think of slowing down the bounce to get the smaller trot strides.

Kyra Masterclass

Kyra had a great exercise for the crowd, she had us all stand up straight and see if we could get out knee up high around our belly buttons. I admit this was a little difficult! Then she asked us to round out backs and see how we could get our knees up. If you’re not standing up now and trying this I’ll let you in on a secret. It is A LOT easier! She pointed out how the horse needs to be round across the back for the hind legs to come up and through, riders who have their horse round across the back are making it very difficult for themselves.

I honestly enjoyed every minute of Kyra’s masterclass, she left the crowd eager to learn more. You can tell why she is one of the best trainers.

Here are my main training tips from Kyra’s masterclass at Equidays in Christchurch.
  • Leg yield not rein yield
  • Horse needs to be round over the back for the hind legs to come up and through
  • Repetition is the mother of learning
  • Think of shoulder in “do I want to do a circle”
  • Think of travers “do I want to finish my circle”
  • Bump slowly in sitting trot to bring the horse back.

 

Thank you Equidays NZ for bringing Kyra so close to Aussie shores for us to be able to attend such an inspirational and educational masterclass.

Our Hot Reading for October

our hot reading for october

It is no secret, I love to expand my knowledge, I enjoy reading multiple articles that stumble across under my nose on all my social media platforms. What I enjoy the most is sharing the great articles that I come across!

What I have enjoyed over the last few weeks with my own riding is focusing on myself as a rider. How to be the best rider I can be in every aspect. So, I thought I would share the top 3 articles that I have stumbled across lately that have really stood out to me and helped me learn a bit more to become a better rider, well what I feel is more an intelligent rider.

What are the hot articles for October?

I have narrowed it down to my top 3.

  1. Improve body awareness for a better seat

I have read this article by David Thind with Annie Morris for Dressage Today Improve body awareness for a better seat. Very insightful, in-depth article, breaking down self-image and body awareness with the rider.

“Self-image and self-esteem go together. Many of us have experienced being praised in a lesson, and the boost in self-esteem improved how we thought of ourselves and therefore enhanced how we rode. You can do this for yourself. Realize that your body has the potential to move like anyone else’s body”

 

  1. How to fine tune your dressage aids with Steffen Peters

I stumbled across this article by Steffen Peters with Beth Baumert  How to fine tune your dressage aids with Steffen Peters while looking for more articles to help my own riding. Wow, what detailed read about the rider’s aids. In depth explanation of the rider’s seat, leg and rein aids and what Steffen calls the remaining aids.

“The experienced rider makes dressage look very easy. The reason for that effortless appearance is simpler than many people think: The experienced rider has high expectations. He expects a certain reaction from the horse when he uses light aids. And because of the rider’s mental clarity and high standards, his horse understands what he wants.”

 

  1. How to build core stability in the saddle without becoming stiff

Loved reading this article How to build core stability in the saddle without becoming stiff by Susanne Von Dietze, I know with my own riding and training how difficult it is to have core strength. It is something I always put towards the back of my brain. Learning about positive and negative tension, how a rider can improve their own tension.

“The easiest way to distinguish between positive and negative tension is that positive tension expands. It makes the body longer, while negative tension shrinks and shortens. More collection requires and reflects more positive tension.”

 

 

As you might have guessed I’m a huge admirer of Dressage Today, their website is easy to navigate and is full of endless articles to suit all riders at all levels.  If you haven’t had a chance to get nose deep with information about all aspects of dressage then I highly recommend for you to sit back have a coffee (or wine, depending on the time of day!) and visit Dressage Today.

My challenge for you is, what is YOUR hot reading for October? What has helped you realise something with your riding and training, or could it be something that has helped the penny drop with your current training?

Happy Riding 🙂

 

Inspirational Masterclass of the Year- Part 2

Who doesn’t want to sit in on a masterclass with Charlotte Dujardin? I was fortunate to travel to the Brisbane CDI to witness what would be the masterclass of 2017. If you missed viewing part 1 of the Inspirational Masterclass of the year, you can view it here.

It is amazing to see the consistency with her teaching throughout the levels, keeping everything simple and breaking it down. Nothing seemed complicated and Charlotte was getting the best out of each horse and rider combinations on the day.

With the next horse in the arena training advanced, Charlotte brought to our attention that it is important to ensure that us as riders, we are looking up at our line and not looking down. Discipline is key with every horse, every transitions count, every movement practiced need to be to the horse best ability. Throughout this level of training, our half halts should be invisible, you should not be able to see a good half halt at this level!

However, we must remember not to hold and kick at the same time! We need to allow the horse to move forward, you can’t have both the break and the accelerator on at once! Charlotte tells us how she prefers to do the canter work first after warming up. She finds it helps the horse and make them more supple in the trot.

It is also a refreshing reminder, as riders we should be doing exercise off the horse. We should be going to the gym working on our own fitness and core strength to help us ride independently. It’s so easy to forget, we train our horses day in and day out we have set out the best routine for them to ensure they are on the right path to achieve the best in the arena. The horse is classified an athlete, as they should. But is it so easy to forget to work on our own fitness off the horse, our diet, our fitness program to ensure that we are also achieving the best we possibly can.

With this level we stated to look at the canter pirouette exercises, on a circle start riding travers then into shoulder fore, then back into travers again. By moving the horse in and moving the horse out, we are controlling the horses body. Another exercise we witnessed, K X half pass right. On the centreline move into shoulder fore, half ten meter circle right in travers to the long side. Then back into half pass right to X again.

As we progress with the horses training and the advanced movements, we must remember to give the horse a break.

The next horse we see in the arena for the Riders xoxo Masterclass, a beautiful mare that is currently training and competing Small Tour. Instantly Charlotte mentions during warming up, to do easy lines, use leg yielding to get your leg on, especially on a hotter horse. At this level the sideways movements need to become a lot steeper. By using a steeper leg yield, we can prepare for the steeper half passes.

At all times during our training the rider must be in control of the horse, not the horse being in control of the rider. We need to keep asking the horse questions during our training. We need to change it around, ride on a bit and ride back a bit, we need to create the rideability of the horse. Charlotte mentions through out any part of the horses training the rider must be so disciplined, we must never accept anything that is less than the best of the horse’s ability.

The crowd witnessed more canter pirouette exercises, this time starting to work on the canter working forward and working back, testing the horse. Charlotte explains as riders we mustn’t let the horse take over and start to turn when we ask for a smaller canter. She also explains to the crowd, who might I add have their eyes glued to the center of the arena taking every single word in. That even during the canter pirouettes when the canter gets smaller, we must keep the canter jumping, keeping that hind leg active.

Moving on from the canter pirouette exercises, Charlotte works the combination through a few trotting exercises. The crowd witnessed a breathtaking extended trot from the beautiful mare, Charlotte mentions that in the extended trot we need a good push from the hind leg and a good reach with the foreleg. The extended trot must cover ground.

For a horse that wants to collapse in the downwards transitions, it is handy to ride a lot of half transitions then go forward. This encourages the horses from anticipating the ‘stop’.

Our next and final horse we witness at the Brisbane CDI Masterclass is the Big Tour combination.

Charlotte ensured the crowd that Grand Prix movements are very difficult! Especially if the movements are worth double marks, a mistake could be very costly. The movements come at you quickly, the rider must be thinking quickly. It comes down to your training, and making it a habit to be on the ball, thinking quick. In particular, with your training, the training is so important leading up to this level, you do not want to be fixing mistakes! As Charlotte pointed out, you are NEVER too good to learn.

Charlotte worked the combination through the half pass, she insisted the shoulders need to be leading at the start of the half pass. In the trot take the shoulders first then think to slow down the forelegs just slightly. Then to work on keeping it parallel during the movement. While working on the canter zig zags, she mentioned as a rider to think of sweeping up the school not sideways.

While Charlotte was working on the passage, she mentions to keep the horse quicker in the hind legs not slower. Think of changing your leg aids to both, alternating between left leg and right leg. While working from passage into piaffe, it is important to have a smooth transition, ease in and ease out of the movements.

Charlotte tells the crowd to ride forward in piaffe, not just an on the spot piaffe. It is so important to be in control and to have gears. Keep it forward thinking while developing an on the spot piaffe.

 

My top tips from Charlotte from the Advanced to Big Tour horse:

Remember as rider to exercise off the horse to work on your core strength

Half halts should be invisible

Look at your line

You can’t have the break and accelerator on at once

You are never too good to learn

Charlotte masterclass

For anyone who attended the Masterclass at the Brisbane CDI would agree when I say it was the more than an inspirational masterclass of the year. We are so fortunate Charlotte made the special trip back to Australia to fill our minds with knowledge and to leave us inspired with our training and goals.

During the day, Charlotte made a special point on how Dressage is an individual sport. But it is most important that we work as a team. Having someone to train with, if you don’t have someone to train with mirrors are extremely useful. Or having someone on the ground videoing your training can be beneficial. With Charlotte explaining how each and every day when she trains with Carl, she feels inspired by him day in and day out. It really makes you appreciate all the hard work and dedication they have towards the sport. True role models for all riders around the globe.

The spectators on the day were under strict instruction there was to be NO photographs of the riders or of the Masterclass.  Photos are before the event commenced.

Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred: Part 1

common myths surrounding the standardbred

I have long wanted to write about the most common myths about Standardbreds. Having grown up my whole life around them, enjoyed seeing their whole life. From breeding, breaking in, race prep, racing, retiring and starting under saddle.

Which I consider myself fortunate to be a part of many aspects of the breed during their life. I have an understanding about the breed, the mechanics of the breeding and have an understanding and respect for training after racing. Which is the main reason why I have held off for so long on having my opinion about what I believe are the myths about the breed.

Common myths surrounding the standardbred
All Smoked Up and half brother All The Rhythm

I’ll be honest, it used to grind my gears reading the absolute hogwash on social media about the breed. It is unfortunate to witness this hype as many people out there that know little about the breed are quick to pass judgement.

I have learnt to just keep scrolling past, when it comes to any discipline with horses you always are going to find people who are completely left field to yourself. You must learn to respect their way of thinking and way of training, and just put your block eyes on, keep hustling and focusing on your training system and your own horses.  For me this has taken a lot of time and self-discipline to be able to achieve.

So, I thought to myself, why not just put these myths on the table for discussion. I wanted to break down what I believe are the top three myths surrounding the Standardbred over three separate posts. Covering each myth in a bit of detail. I have previously posted a quick overview on the origins of the Standardbred, which I always find fascinating!

-Most common myths surrounding the Standardbred-

-Standardbred’s are trained to pace and trained not to canter-

I hear this one way to often.

To begin, Standardbred’s are a 5-gaited breed. Walk, trot, pace, canter and gallop, naturally they can canter without difficultly. The standardbred is a special breed of horse, thanks to scientists at Sweden’s Uppsala University who discovered a gene called DMRT3. Explaining how Standardbred’s have this DMRT3 gene which allows them to have the ability to pace. New York Times has an interesting article about the discovery of the DMRT3 gene.

Over the last few years learning about self-discipline also my own personal development with my training system, my reaction has changed. I used to dismiss such claims that ‘Standardbred’s would never make a riding horse as they do not have the ability to canter’.

But as I have learnt we are all different, we all have our own views nowadays, I just nod and smile and keep on scrolling on social media. If life has taught me anything thus far, all riders train differently and all horses learn differently. However, you cannot go past the fact that scientifically the horse is a 5-gaited breed.

I hear this comment from two different groups.

One, people who are not involved with the breed and have formed a misconception of the Standardbred.

Two, people who are involved within the breed but only from an “after racing” situation.

What we should remember (or learn for any new Standardbred fans) is when the Standardbred is in race training they’re not hoppled seven days a week forced to pace around and around the track forever and a day. Depending on the trainer and where the horse is up to with its training, they can be “fast worked” 2-3 times a week.

This is mixed up during the week with various training such as incorporating jogging up, swimming, galloping and a day off etc. With the various exercises the Standardbred becomes a fit athlete, capable of trotting, pacing, cantering and galloping.

I believe that many Standardbred riders out there are all individually trying hard to promote the breed with life after racing.  That’s why it is important that we support each other with our journeys, because it is damn hard to get the rest of the equestrian community to sit up and take notice. Especially to take you seriously in open competition.

common myths standardbred

Looking forward to sharing the next two parts to common myths surrounding the Standardbred.

Happy Training 😊

Lessons learnt during our September competition

Arniwho APD

What a month September was, time as seriously flown by. I was fortunate enough to attend the SPPHA NSW Training Day with Kate Taylor-Wheat, Kate is our coach who I try and have lessons with at least every 2-3 months (time slips away a little too much!). I always look forward to a lesson, I love to see how far we have come from our previous lesson and where we are currently at working towards our goals. Plus Kate makes Arnie feel very clever! Such an amazing horse to work with. During the beautiful day at Suntori Park at the SPPHA NSW training day, we worked through our lengthening movements. You can read the full lesson recap here. 😊

So, when it came to our competition the following weekend I was more than ready to set my goals! I entered two unofficial Novice tests with 3 main points in mind.

  1. Improve our scores with our lengthen trot
  2. Improve our scores with our lengthen canter
  3. Improve our marks for the 10 m trot circles and 15 m canter circles.

I’m so proud that we managed to tick 2 out of the 3 off from our competition! We improved our lengthen trot to get both 6 & 6.5 in our tests put a smile on my face! Our circles were pretty sharp also 😉

Unfortunately,  while I was reading over my test paper beside the car before we left the grounds this sad feeling came over me when our overall score sunk in. I thought Jesus, can I not catch a damn break. Why can’t I get a better score? Our tests felt better, I feel like we are slowly turning a corner and getting somewhere. I’ll admit, it did take a few extra minutes (or maybe it was the car ride home) to evaluate the test and realise what areas really let us down.

It was point number 2. Our lengthen canter. In a novice test, you are scored on the lengthen canter but also on the transition back to working canter. If you don’t show a nice bold lengthen canter,

A) you won’t achieve a great mark and,

B) because of point A, you won’t get a great score for your transition back to working canter.

When I saw a nice 7 and 6.5 then followed by a 5 or even a 4, its EXTREMELY deflating. BUT what I set out to achieve at the competition I managed to score better than my previous competitions. While i was reflecting back on our rides during the day I realized it’s one of the main reasons why I love training and competing in dressage, I have my goals each competition that I wish to achieve. To keep training and improving our work to keep ticking our goals off! I always have to remember at the end of the day, did I achieve everything I set out to achieve?

Arniwho APD

I appreciate techniques of different sportsman and sportswomen, I follow and read about so many different individuals… Including Rugby players. What I love is the different techniques and how I can apply them into my riding and competition training. I mentioned briefly in my previous post “what’s on my book shelf” about Richie McCaw. Huge fan, naturally own his book and watched the movie Chasing Great. The most important thing I learnt from his movie is how he mentally prepares for each match.

I adapted it to suit, I mean I can’t convince the judge to take the 5 back and give me a 7 😉 while smiling….. (non Kiwi rugby fans might get that!) Before each competition I go through my tests, the night before I write down key points on what I want to achieve. I have my overall score, and I also have key points such as the 3 mentioned above.

Arniwho APD Cuddles

How have everyone’s September panned out? Let us know!

 

Happy training 🙂

Improving your dressage scores

improving your dressage scores

It might not be the end of the world, but it might not have been the best performance at the last competition . It might be the fact you could’ve ridden parts of your test better. Just because you ride that circle a little lop sided, or just that your horse isn’t soft underneath you during your transitions. We all tend to be our own worst critics, especially when we are out under the watchful eye at a competition, which can be both a positive and a negative.  Trust me, it is not the end of the world… even if it might feel like it!

But if a few things didn’t go to plan I guess the first thing we need to evaluate is why? (even after a few tears and before the glasses of wine) Why did you ride that terrible short side? Why didn’t you set up properly for the next movement? It’s easy enough to walk out of that arena and to have that attitude of “I knew that was going to happen because he does that at home”. Well honestly, what else would you expect if you are allowing these mistakes from home hang around with you on your competition day.

Think about it, we all enter a competition with the aim of achieving something. It could be the aim of scoring a certain percent, the aim of scoring certain marks in movements, or if we are on young or green horses, the aim to get around safely and have a good relaxed warm up. It is important we stick to these aims when we enter ourselves at competitions.

Sure, we can over commit and aim above and beyond of what we are capable of at the time of our training. But that is also when expectations harshly meet reality, if we are not prepared to take that next leap in our training. As we all have that desire to be the best rider we can possibly be, at times we may have taken that leap into the next level a little too early.

So, what do we do when we don’t achieve the results we desire. I mean, we have all been there throughout our riding careers. Frantically reading over our test marks and comments, and I’m sure a few of out there have re added up the scores on the test. (Yes, I totally do this. I have been correct on one occasion. Which was my first elementary test!) You know, just to check the scorer did a good enough job. Taking that deep breath, carefully read the judges’ comments and digest the remarks made picturing that moment in your test they are commenting on.

If the scores and comments are a little deflating-  I can speak from experience it can be hard to be motivated to get back in the saddle and train to aim for the next competition. This is when we need to put our emotions aside, roll our sleeves up and nut out a plan on HOW you can achieve that desired mark.

Decide commit succeed dressage meme

The big question, HOW. Well, for me I’m a visual person. I LOVE to write everything down. I feel very old school, I have a poster and textures and I write it ALL down.  Considering how terrible my hand writing is, I decided to create a printable PDF. I enjoy breaking things down bit by bit.

I have created this awesome Improving your dressage scores printable (totally free, don’t stress!) I enjoy sharing what helps me with my riding and training with others. By breaking down your marks one by one I find it incredibly helpful just WRITING down parts of my tests I need to work on. Helps bring it into reality when you jot down those words.

You can download the PDF from the store by clicking here. 

Inspirational Masterclass of the Year- Part 1

You could call her the queen of dressage, but if you have had the privilege to sit in on a masterclass or have read any articles about Charlotte Dujardin, you know she has worked bloody hard to get where she is today. She deserves every success.

This is why without hesitation I jumped out of bed at 3am to make my way to the airport to see what would be THE masterclass for 2017. I loaded myself up with coffee eager to catch that early morning flight to Brisbane.

Once I arrived at the Brisbane CDI patiently waiting in line for the gates to open with many like minded ladies, wondering what spoils of knowledge we will all walk away with at the end of the day. As I was standing in line the first thought that crossed my mind was ‘have I really been awake for this long, I hope to god I don’t look as bad as I feel!’. But as I had the courage to look around with my sunglasses on, it was the amazement of the amount of people who came out to see Charlotte. I mean she is the golden girl of dressage, she is number one in the world. It’s crazy to think that person, that figure I follow religiously on social media I’m going to see in the flesh.

Us crazy dressage fans, us strong Charlotte supporters couldn’t be more thankful for the fantastic opportunity from Dressage Queensland and Brisbane CDI to invite Charlotte back out to Australia to show this part of the country what her training system and frankly really what dressage is really all about.

I must admit I was a little envious on how beautifully turned out all the horses and riders were, this is all thanks to Ridersxoxo, there really isn’t a substitute for quality. I was fortunate to have window shop around at their trade stand and unfortunately for my bank account, I have a very large wish list! A very large KEP Helmet wish list actually..

Masterclass Charlotte

The morning commenced with two beautiful young horses both four-year olds. Charlotte explains her training with the young horses, not ‘sitting’ on their backs keeping the rising trot. The horse isn’t strong enough to carry the weight of the rider yet.  It’s the trainability of the horse that you need to look for when purchasing a horse, it is so important, you need to find a horse that is willing to work with you! Once aspect that Charlotte loves about dressage is there isn’t a “type” of horse that can-do dressage, it is for all horses which are all different shapes and sizes and that’s the joy of it. It’s the training system that makes the horse amazing.

It is interesting to hear that Charlotte and her team don’t aim for their horses to compete in the young horse classes, you need to build their confidence and make the arena a positive experience for them to go out and work in. She mentioned that herself and Carl take their young horses out to clinics and demonstrations for experience in different atmospheres as they do not want to over compete at this stage.

At this age keeping the training sessions nice and short 20 minutes is enough, but we must remember the walk is not just a break, you must keep training the walk. After all it is worth double marks in a test. Hacking a horse out is a great way to develop the walk, making them walk out up hills and helps mixing up their training.

Building a solid foundation at this stage of the horses training is most important, you need to have a house with good strong foundations otherwise it will tumble down.  Keeping everything simple for the horse, after all they don’t understand what you are asking. Making all your aids and transitions very clear and positive. When you need to make a correction, must be quick. Thinking one step ahead. Make that correction and let go again.

Charlotte makes a valuable point that you don’t ride the young horse backwards, they have their whole life ahead of them to collect, it is important to develop the willingness to work forward.

Next in the arena we see the next level up into the Elementary/Medium stages, first Charlotte covers the importance of leg yielding. It is the first lateral movement we teach, we must remember no bend. Just sight flexion moving the horse off your inside leg, it is important we don’t lose the horse through the outside shoulder by having too much flexion.

Charlotte explains how beneficial leg yielding is at the canter, most of her canter work is leg yielding rather than working in half pass. It helps keep the horse supple through their whole body. The best way to start training the leg yield is on the diagonal line, a few steps then go into leg yield.

It is completely acceptable to ride your lateral movements in rising trot at the start of your sessions. Next, Charlotte works through exercises with shoulder in and travers. What we must remember as riders that it is shoulder-in not hindquarters out! It was great to see transitions ridden within the movements. Ride the smaller trot in shoulder-in then transition into riding a more forward trot.

This could quite possibly be my favourite quote of the day “If it’s not easy, work on it, make it easy”.

My top learning tips from Charlotte from the young horse to the Elementary/Medium Horse:

When finding a horse, train ability is the most important

Transitions, transitions and more transitions!

Dressage is for any horse, any shape or size

Shoulder in not hinds out

Train the walk

 

The spectators on the day were under strict instruction there was to be NO photographs of the riders or of the Masterclass.  Photos are before the event commenced.

 

Brisbane CDI Charlotte

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Charlotte Dujardin Masterclass 🙂

Happy training !

Training day: Working on that Lengthen

working on our lengthen

Last weekend Arnie and I participated in the SPPHA NSW Training day at Suntori Park. The training day was with our super coach Kate Taylor-Wheat. It was a beautiful spring morning in Arcadia with a stunning backdrop behind the arena to match.

Arnie was excited with an extra little spring in his step, he seems to feed off new arenas, especially with mirrors at every corner. Personally, I think he just enjoys big fancy arenas and looking at himself!!

I’ve been super focused on our lengthening work, after a few of our last tests, this really hasn’t been ‘shown’. I really want to improve our marks with this work, as we really are lacking! With a horse that has a slightly more than average trot it really is all about controlling his body and compressing before and after the lengthening. Making that clear difference within the trot and transition.

Our Lesson

We went over a few exercises on the 20-meter circle, compressing his body, making the distance between his poll and tail slightly shorter. Never thinking backwards, but for him to think lift his front legs a little higher. After the first 10 minutes, he really had me working up a sweat! We worked through a few transitions into a forward lengthening trot and coming back again.

Thinking tuk, tuk at the girth to go forward. I have the worst habit (if you could call it a habit, it feels very unnatural!) in not moving my legs forward or back enough. Recently, I had a video of my ride a few weeks ago and I thought I was really moving my leg back, but on the video, I would have only moved it a few centimeters. I guess I can feel a little relieved that I have more control over my legs then I think I do! 😊

Arniwho Training Day Standardbred 1

Working on our canter

We had a look at our canter, which I must admit in tests it can feel very big and up front. When I look back on photos or even some videos it doesn’t look ‘as bad’ as it feels. So, I was excited to work on our canter and work through things that I’m doing, and how I can help Arnie a little more.  It was super clear in our canter work to think slight shoulder-fore, soften on the inside rein. I have this huge desire that comes over me to let the inside rein just sit there, (perhaps have a cup of tea) and to let my outside rein do all the work.

Arniwho Training Day Canter

Much like our trot exercises, to think go forward, tuk, tuk at the girth. Boy, oh boy. Did this feel unnatural, putting my legs forward thinking ‘forward like you’re going to touch his shoulders’. No I didn’t touch his shoulders but did we get a super controlled lengthen canter! All about thinking of him coming through. Everything started falling into place.

It’s amazing on how much our bodies influences the horse. We also touched on our leg yielding, I have this horrible right shoulder that really, and I mean really, enjoys coming up and thinking it belongs somewhere around my ear! It’s always on my mind to put my shoulder down.

Sometimes after I ride, I have this niggling pain in my shoulder. I think to myself, what on earth have I done now. Oh yes, that’s right, putting my shoulder down to where it’s supposed to be… next to my other one! Kate told me something that made complete sense. ‘Just think to yourself, is the distance between your ears and shoulders the same?’.

So, naturally with my wandering shoulder, my body turns the opposite direction. It was extremely helpful thinking in the leg yield to have my shoulders pointing the opposite direction we are travelling. This helps Arnie to stay straighter in the shoulders instead of falling into the direction of the leg yield.

Arniwho Leg Yield

Overall, I was so proud of our achievements in our lesson- like I always am. I’m feeling confident for our comp this weekend, it is unofficial to give me the confidence in our work before stepping up to official again. But we are starting to feel great and slowly turning a corner. If we can keep chipping away at our work and achieving our goals, who knows one day (before we get too old!) have an Elementary start! We are starting to get pretty darn confident in our counter canter.

Happy Riding 😊