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! 🙂

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 😊

How did Dressage Dreamers come about?

I was tossing up the idea of having a Facebook page dedicated to my horse Arniwho, as there are several similar pages out on Facebook people have created to share their own journey with their Off The Track Standardbred, from track to hack for example. However, I’m not follow a trend – more hang out in the background watching and listening to what is going on!

So, I thought honestly is had come a time to break into the Facebook crowd, show off my Standardbred and our dressage journey. Because we all feel like we are all that little bit different from each other but share the same goal in promoting our special horses to that big wide outside world.

I can admit it, I’m so happy I decided to take that leap to create my page “Dressage a Standardbreds Tale to Success” to promote MY dressage journey with MY Standardbred. Since creating the page back in October 2015 we have slowly built up our audience to just over 1,130 followers – which is amazing! Honest to god I never dreamed of having anywhere near that amount of people following our journey, the support shown through messages and on posts is incredible.

As I’ve opened our little world to everyone through the Facebook page I decided to go that one step further and have a website. It wasn’t until mid 2016 once I had the website running a little more I started putting thought to keyboard and writing about our training, competition and just everything in between. This is how my blog developed and I named it Dressage Dreamers… for the pure and simple fact I’m a dreamer! But hey, dreams do happen am I right !?!

As the months carried on I became a little more tech savvy in the website department and make the quick decision I need to revamp the website, I need it to look a-maz-ing, it needs to be A1! I must admit there were a few touch and go issues, a few “pour another wine to get me though” moments but I can proudly say the website is awesome. I still have a few things I would like to add and change over time to make it that little extra bit extra special. But for now it’s something I’m proud to have on display.

As I continue this wild dressage dreamers journey not knowing where it will take me, I have (like most things I do) slowly developed an image for Dressage Dreamers. My aim (for the moment) is to transition the website into a directory to have boutique, one of a kind, support small Australian businesses listed in all areas in the world of dressage. It is important to support our local equine industry, I suppose you could say my aim is to create a “hub” of information, from businesses, information, articles and everything else in between.  After all dream big, right?

For the moment I’m enjoying the journey, the website making, the positive meme sharing and creating on Instagram and Facebook, the training, sharing my dressage journey with my Standardbred, the writing, the competition riding, beginning of my EA Coaching course, the designing shirts and rugs to show off! Because this dreamer likes to look professional 😉

 

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.

It’s not about being the best, it’s about being better than you were yesterday

I always feel super my first ride at home after a lesson, I have that “don’t worry, I’ve got this” feeling when I get on. Honestly I’ve been having so much fun working with Arnie lately, time literally passes so quickly in the morning.

My day usually starts out jumping out of bed energetic around 5am knowing I have enough time to ride Arnie before I’m off to work. Best way to start the day.. Am I right !?! Don’t worry some mornings are a real struggle. I’ve put it down to these are the days Arnie has off and therefore not motivated to get out of bed. Arnie and I are most defiantly creatures of habit, we have a set time in the morning that we work. We are usually all over the shop on a weekend when our rides are in the afternoon, it’s just not part of the routine! We are both a bit lazy I guess you could say 🙂

One of the advantages to working Arnie straight out of the stable early in the morning is he has energy and lots of it, I just have to direct it! Without a doubt I have a bit of a laugh to myself when I ask for our first walk- trot transition its huge, it’s a power lift off see ya later moment. So, since my lesson it’s been great confidence boost to keep playing with the tempos. I have to be honest he pretends not to register what I’m asking for the first dozen strides. Then he soon comes back and listens.

I feel like we are in a good place at the moment with our training, I feel slowly we are getting everything together bit by bit. Can’t rush these things right!? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind, Arnie and I are going to be part of the life after racing display on Miracle Mile night at Menangle Paceway. Can’t wait I’m super excited! I got interviewed as part of an article coming out in The Land this week too! Oh My Gosh! I was so nervous I honestly cannot recall what I even said, so I’m a tad nervous to read the article when it comes out. I just hope I answered all the questions the best I could, I kept playing the questions back over my mind a few days after thinking geez I could have had such a better answer to that! It was my first interview I’m pleased the way it went, if I ever do another interview I have some great answers lined up now – lol!

Not only have we got the promotion of the life after racing happening at the moment, I decided to bite to bullet and enter for Equifest.. Why? Honestly I have no idea, I’m probably going to get the biggest wake up call. But the other side of my brain is saying, well why shouldn’t we enter. Arnie and I have been working super hard and everything is falling into place bit by bit each ride, each week I feel like we are getting stronger and getting somewhere, getting closer to achieving those scores I’ve been visualising about.  Nevertheless, it’s going to be a huge learning curve one way or another!

I just have to remember each day. It’s not about being the best, It’s about being better than you were yesterday. Such true words.

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