I am just surfacing after a Christmas lock down of no work, no phones, emails, Facebook etc.! However, becoming a communications hermit is not always a good idea as when technology catches up with you again, there is a backlog and, oh no! Not another party invite!!
Now is the time to look back on last year, capitalise on successes and learn from mistakes. Well what a year it has been! Each horse has had a 100% completion rate; they are truly amazing athletes and it is humbling to think how much they give of themselves to achieve my ambitions. Even Wizard completed his one and only ride successfully and made a dressage appearance. Dilmun put so much effort into his season winning the 50kms ride in Dorset, being best Brit in the 1* class at Euston Park and successfully completing the 1* at Keysoe – not bad for an older boy! Chiara has had an awesome first season successfully and easily completing all her FEI novice qualifying rides and upgrading from Novice through to Advanced. The distances she has completed have been no problem for her at all and at each competition she has finished looking for more. Lastly Fantom: well he has certainly excelled himself. Okay, only two competitions: 64kms in Dorset achieving his usual grade 1 and coming 2nd at a good speed in the CEI 3* at King’s Forest in Norfolk back in July which qualifies us for the European Championships in Brussels this year!
All this should put us in good stead for this season. There is work to be done and aspects to improve on but also a lot to emulate, especially in Fantom’s preparation for, hopefully, the Championship ride of his life (obviously, we need to get selected first and we need our share of luck). I hope EGB will take a leaf out of the great Yogi Breisner’s book and make the selection for the Euro squad 2017 early, rather than later as he said “I wanted selected riders to be able to plan their season with the championship in mind and peak then, rather than having to peak to get selected”.
There are several things to work on with Chiara this winter. She has now come back into work. Walking work with Chiara is a joy and every time I ride her I smile and it is always very, very interesting! Normally, Chi walks faster than the speed of light on a loose rein with her head up and alert. However, we have achieved a few strides now of actually lowering her head and taking slower strides. When I say lowering her head, I mean to the height a normal horse would have it in walk out on a hack but it’s a distinct improvement. Chiara has now completed about three weeks of walking and, after approximately 8 weeks off doing very little, this amount of walking is probably sufficient and we have now introduced a little trot work and schooling. It is fairly slow progress in the school with the focus being on calmness and rhythm and lots and lots of walk, trot, walk transitions. Work has also begun on a little leg yielding on a circle which is useful to gain her somewhat wayward attention.
Well, another attempt at dressage with the ancient Wizard and this time far from successful. Wizard was (and is) on a mission to cover the ground with enormous strides as fast as possible and walk is a gait he has conveniently forgotten! To say I was a passenger, was an understatement although this time we went approximately in the right direction at the right time!
At the beginning of December I had decided to work on my own fitness whilst I only had two horses in work and there was that little, teeny weeny bit of time left in the day for this mission. To this end I embarked on a five week fitness programme comprising some really fiendish exercises designed specifically for horse riders AS WELL AS running each day.
Now to decide; should you ride first, do the exercises, ride again and then run last? No, that can’t be right, by the end of the day my legs were on fire trying to run up the hills, indeed trying to run at all! OK, so what if I run first? Well, by the time I had ridden both horses and put in a few hours at my desk, the idea of doing exercises was not appealing at all! What to do? I eventually decided to mix it up a bit, trying to intersperse these periods of intense exercise with sitting behind my desk so that my poor legs could recover a bit. Why did I allow myself to get into this sad state and now have to suffer the punishment?
I am not really physically designed to be a runner and not now in my first flush of youth (second flush of youth though!) but I reckon that this is the best way for me to get my cardio vascular exercise which is absolutely essential to prepare myself for the ambitious 2017 season I’ve planned. I also feel that this form of exercise gives me an insight into how the horses feel at a competition. I am not a great road runner and prefer to run off road over rough and varied terrain. However, I have learned from running how important it is to avoid injury by warming up the legs properly before tackling any of the rough ‘tracks from hell’ around here and this has translated into the horses’ preparation.
In a week’s time, I am off for the annual skiing holiday; two weeks this time so early preparation of the horses will be delayed a little but detailed plans for this season are still somewhat vague and nothing momentous is planned for the early season so this little extra horses’ holiday shouldn’t be a problem.
Happy New Year and thanks to my wonderful sponsors Feedmark who have helped me so much in 2016. With a team like that, it’s no wonder my horses performed so well in optimum condition!