The Competition Checklist

It might seem so simple to some but having a checklist before a competition could be a life saver! Well… for me anyway!

When I’m doing my daily (yes that’s right daily) scroll through nominate on the upcoming competitions, what is coming up soon to add to my calendar of events, tests that are lining up to the work I’m currently doing at home.

The different clubs and locations trying to see where I want to go for the tests on offer and the quality of the grounds. Of late I have become a little “fussy” on the grounds on where I compete my horses, Arnie I can take anywhere do anything kind of horse however, he is a little fussy on the grounds. I do enjoy the grounds that have sand arenas which also can be a negative if they are too deep for him to work in. So, you could say my daily scroll through nominate is a little limited on what I can enter.

What I like to have running in the back of my mind while I’m scrolling through is the grounds and what tests are on offer, but also if I enter that competition is that benefiting towards my dressage journey. Is this helping me achieve my goal?

I guess you could call this the beginning of my mental checklist.

  • Club location and the grounds of the competition
  • By entering this competition is this benefiting towards my dressage journey goal
  • The test on offer is what I am working on and achieving with our work at home

Arnie is currently competing EA novice, he has achieved so much. I’m super proud of him and we still have so much more to work towards. I’m 100% comfortable with the 2.1 and the 2.2 but if I see that 2.3 at the moment I go back to the events page and keep scrolling for another comp! The only thing now that I feel is holding me back is that bloody canter loop! The leg yielding with the two 10m circles I’m comfortable with. But that canter loop I feel the depths of Mordor open up ! I shouldn’t sell myself short…. Our canter loops are O.K…. However, we have much to work towards with these! Canter loop left and even our counter canter left, tick, tick. Happy days! Canter loop right and counter canter right… mediocre tick. Which is completely fine and acceptable with our training, it IS something we are working towards. Once we start becoming more confident and achieving our training goals there will be more things for us to achieve and become more confident in our work with.

So, once I enter the comp that I feel confident with I have the test diagram saved on my iBooks on my iPhone. Which I refer to about 20 times a day, I mentally ride the test while I’m on the phone to customers at work, I mentally ride the test while I’m drifting off the sleep at night and I even mentally ride the test while I’m driving around.  If I can’t mentally picture myself riding the test it just won’t happen for me. Visualisation is a strong powerful tool.

As the competition starts to get closer and closer I start to run through the daily list leading up. Two days before I like to have a good long ride really running through the tests and ironing out the kinks that I need to. Leaving that day feeling pretty good A+ workout. The day before the competition I like to have an ‘easy’ ride making everything I do damn achievable, I have this overpowering sense of perfection days leading up to a competition (I’m certain I’m not the only one 🙂 ) that’s why I came to the realisation that the day before needs to be a relaxing one, I’ve put in the hard yards leading up before I enter the competition, I’ve put in the hard yards once I’ve entered the competition, I have a strong feeling on what areas of the test I need to pay more attention too and ride better and more accurate.

It’s always the night before I feel a little stressed, bit flustered, it’s the day I clean my gear, pack the car, wash and plait Arnie. I’m bound to forget something ! Don’t worry I have! I like to visualise, when I’m packing the car I make sure I visualise all the gear I need for the day. Saddle – check, what else goes on the horse. Girth- check, saddle cloth – check, half pad- check, bridle – check.

This is why I have created (a very brief version) of a competition checklist, for all the dressage dreamers out there! Who are just like me  🙂 We are all here to help and inspire each other.

Please  CLICK HERE to download the checklist.

There will be more resources available soon for everyone to share. 🙂

 

Happy Riding 🙂

Where did the Standardbred originate from!?

If you have a Standardbred like myself, you’re probably wondering where the breed originated from. I’m sure we have all had comments on our beauties having a striking resemblance to a Thoroughbred or even an Arab. If we are lucky even a Warmblood 😉

I thought to do a little research and a quick summary on the Standardbred history, even though I’ve lived around Standardbred’s most of my life I always find it amazing when I learn something new or even just refreshing my mind.

So,  let’s go back to a horse called Messenger (1780) an English Thoroughbred imported into the United States back in 1788. Who once on arrival into the United States was bred to mares of every type, description and variety. Messenger is the grand sire of a horse called Hambletonian (1849), who’s blood flows through our present-day Standardbred’s. Another standout was a grey mare Lady Suffolk who became the first trotter to run a mile in 2:29 1/2  this was in 1845. Lady Suffolk had previously trotted 2:26 mile under saddle, this wasn’t uncommon to see both harness and saddle races.

While the Standardbred has influential breeding from the Thoroughbreds, there is also quiet the influence from the Morgans. With producing horses, such as Ethan Allen, Justin Morgan and Daniel Lambert. Who produced many fine trotters back in time, however the Morgans had a few faults of their own. They were well known for their small size with most only topping at 14 hands high, also, being trappy-gaited, trotting with virtually a straight up and down action.

Another big influence early on developing the Standardbred was the Barb, influential family of the mid-19th century was the Clays who descended from a Barb stallion what was imported from Tripoli in 1820. He was called Grand Bashaw, from a mare of thoroughbred breeding including one cross to Messenger.

But why are the called a Standardbred?!

Quite simply really, as the breed began to mature and eventually reach a point where it became obvious that something new and exciting was bursting into the equine world. A dedicated farmer John H. Wallace created the American Trotting Register which was first published in 1871. There had to be a standard within this register for all the horses, which, if the horse could meet the standard of speed, trotting a mile in 2:30.

The Standardbred was born. 

The Standardbred breed characteristics reflects similar to the Thoroughbred. Standardbreds don’t stand as tall, on average around 15.2 however with a slightly longer body then the Thoroughbred. The head is refined set on a medium sized neck, the hind quarters  are muscular but sleek. With clean legs, set back well.

As you may have noticed there are two types of Standardbreds, we have trotters and pacers. Pacers are most commonly bred through out Australia.  Paces move their legs on one side of their body in tandem, left front and rear, and right front and rear.

What’s on my bookshelf

I have to admit I’m a bit of a horder.. Especially books. To be honest I use to hate reading back at school, personally I think it’s because those topics never interested me. But now anything about horses and for my own personal growth. I’m all for it. With age comes wisdom right!?

I’m not really an impulsive person either, it’s been 12 months since I have decided I wanted to do an equine body work course. I must admit I did to a taster early last year and passed with flying colours, I don’t know what is holding me back pressuring my dreams. There are many types of courses out there that I would just love to do.. and I want to do them all!

So, over the last 12 months my collection for books has grown… a lot. I love to expand my knowledge, I want to learn something new every day, even if that is learning from my mistakes in my training. I always want to be pushing myself to be a better rider. It has been just over 12 months I really have made an honest commitment to expand my knowledge by starting with understanding the mechanics of the horse. To learn, understand and appreciate on how the horse moves its body, why and how I can achieve the best out of them.

Currently I have the well-read edition Equine Injury, Therapy and Rehabilitation by Mary Bromiley, it honestly looks like I’ve read this every day for the last 10 years. Well partly because I took this book away on holidays to Botswana in my backpack last year, but it is also a well-read book. Which it is, I use this as a reference all the time. When you have that fantastic book that pretty much covers a-z is a good feeling. Explaining the musculoskeletal system, injuries – causes, effects, a well detailed therapy section (great reading by the way), rehabilitation and common rider injuries.

I enjoy to have a few books in the mix to quickly glance over before I go to sleep. I honestly enjoy reading over Equine Massage (A Practical Guide) by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaigt he is amazing. I even downloaded a few videos! He honestly explains everything you need to know in great detail that you can relate to. He covers everything about massage, stress points, hydrotherapy, areas of stress specific to each discipline (FYI for our dressage horses depending on the work, hind end, shoulders, chest, upper neck and even the base of the neck) and a great chapter on saddle fitting.  I also enjoy flicking through Stretch Exercises for Your Horse by Karin Blignault this is a very detailed book. Extremely easy to follow and find what you are looking for, its great I honestly never thought of a few of these stretches and how they can help improve the horse. (if only I had the patience to follow one for humans!)

Now the best book I must admit which I LOVE to read although it is my very own journal from Brett Parbery’s Intelligent Riding Retreat. I know that might seem a little strange being my own notes, but it was a wonderful opportunity to attend the retreat and what I have learnt I will (hopefully) remember and put towards my training for many years to come. I have a few pages that follow on from the retreat when I had my comp with Arnie last year, I have noted down what I need to remember for the test. Each part of the test I would struggle with. Pace Control- Set up lengthen, go forward rock him back into working canter/trot. Watch Feet Control- set up my leg yields, straight, over, go forward, reward.  Don’t go too deep into the corners coming out of the movement but use the corner going into the movement.  The best part is I have ENJOY after all my notes, at the end of the day you need to enjoy yourself and the horse needs to enjoy himself.

I should admit I am a bit of a rugby fan and a huge admirer of Richie McCaw (umm who wouldn’t be!?!) After watching the movie Chasing Great (totally inspiring regardless if you are a rugby fan or not) It was then I got the idea to write down my notes for each comp the day before then review them on the day before I ride. This is what Richie implemented into his rugby matches knowing the opposition, having a strategy for the set plays, the breakdowns, knowing what he could get away with and best of all Richie always wrote enjoy at the bottom.

After watching the movie, I really thought to myself wow maybe I can create the same way of thinking towards my dressage competitions. I found it helpful writing down my weaknesses. Having them on paper to review then while I was riding thinking about what I have to do movements before. Making sure I was on the ball, setting up all my movements making sure it was flowing. It really paid off as I achieved my goal of 65% and first place, fingers crossed I can transfer this from a training day result into an official competition result.

Just thought to share a picture of all my books I currently have been reading through!

Happy Riding 🙂

3 Things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

Arniwho_Standardbred

It has been an amazing journey so far with my beautiful Standardbred boy, but I STILL feel like I have yet so much MORE to accomplish!!  I PLAN to accomplish so much more! Remember no such thing as “I can’t” !

I swear every 3-6 months I look back and reflect on our training and progress, I feel like I know so much more in that 3-6 months then the prior 3-6 months… and so on…it’s a continuing cycle of knowledge.

I honestly feel that Arnie is that “one in a million” horse for me, I’m not talking about scores I see on the result board (that’s a bonus). I’m talking about the journey as a whole, I have never come across a horse that has taught me so much & shaped me into a better rider and still continuing to do so… Also, he has that  “I wanna be human” personality that brings a smile to the stables every day 🙂 Yep he’s pretty cute !

Arniwho_ Standardbred

So here are my three things my OTT Standardbred has taught me!

1. Patience 
Yes patience, it might seem so simple… But patience! Teaching an individual his new career after racing in harness is exciting. BUT it also made me want to pull my hair out at times! In the early days when I just thought to myself… WHY, why can’t you just understand what I’m asking !?! It honestly can’t be that hard!?!
Why can’t you move your shoulders this way, why can’t you leg yield this way and why do you struggle so much cantering on this lead!?!
But as I have learnt over time bring it back to simple terms, simple to me means most effective!  Short and simple! After all it’s all NEW to him!
I have to say one thing to my fellow standardbred riders… DO NOT stress about the pacing, its natural. It’s up to you as the rider to teach them when to use it.
Think of it this way, I’m asking a question and he’s giving me a multiple choice answer. His first answer might not be correct but it’s up to me to let him search for the correct answer and reward.
It might take that little bit longer for him to understand how and why you want him to move his body in this way. But he will soon figure it out, the light will turn on, the penny will drop. It all takes patience, every individual is different, this goes for both horse and rider! Everyone has a different learning style. 🙂
2. Relax and enjoy the training and the progress
Relax, probably a thought far in the back of your mind when things are all going pear shaped. Those sloppy transitions, those pacing strides in between canter and trot…. But funny enough when you relax take that deep breath and think about what you are doing, the hose relaxes.  Just remember to SMILE, it helps 🙂 trust me ! He is only reverting back to what he feels is natural and what he feels is correct!
Thinking about WHY you are asking something and HOW you are asking.
Does he UNDERSTAND what you are asking, make it achievable & enjoyable.
Keeping the aims within reach each session and keeping it positive definitely helps boost his confidence.
For example for me at the moment leg yields and shoulder-ins. Don’t make it hard! Pick a few strides at a time, pick a line, choose an achievable angle, control the pace- keep the impulsion going in a positive way. There is always NEXT time round to start asking for more angle.
3. Reward, Reward, Reward!! KEEP IT POSITIVE !
I always want things to be PERFECT, it frustrated me not having everything “perfect”. . NOT everything is perfect really ate away at me…I use to dwell on my rides, It really did! All I wanted was perfection!  I wanted perfection without putting the hard yards in!HOWEVER as I have learnt over the recent years….nothing is PERFECT, no horse is perfect, no rider is perfect. You have to TRAIN and WORK HARD to make your self close to being perfection!I NEVER use to reward, crazy isn’t it. Such a simple training aid and I wasn’t even considering having it part of my riding!?! Needless to say I reward so much more now! As it has given me more positive results !Even the small things, for example an ordinary transition. Still ” gooood boy” followed by a pat, he tried.. the effort was there, the intention was there.
99% chance it was the rider (yes me!) not setting up and/or asking the transition correctly. As one wise rider (Charlotte, my idol) would say it’s the case of pat the horse slap the rider. BUT I will do the transition again, and again until we make progress or should I say I make progress and it reflects in the horse!?!
I ensure each time I make that effort to reward, rewarding to me is encouraging the horse, letting him know YES you are doing a GOOD job! You want to encourage him with his work, after all it’s a foreign language to him.
Riding isn’t suppose to be a chore, you are to enjoy the journey… otherwise how is your horse suppose to enjoy it!?
Happy riding 🙂
Arnie & I always enjoy a selfie 🙂
 Arniwho Selfie Standardbred