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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 3M ago

A couple of months ago I started changing Brevan over to a new feed, which seems to tick more boxes for me than the Keyflow feed did. I am now feeding Brevan and Nas Pure Feeds. Brevan is on Pure Working, and Nas is on Pure Fibre Balance. I am liking the fact that these feeds are molasses, alfalfa and cereal free, and that they are complete feeds including the fibre element, so that means I don’t need to buy chaff as well as a mix.

Pure Feeds claim that their feed that is “convenient, cost-effective and contains all the ingredients your horse needs for a healthy, happy life. The feeds are formulated by equine nutritionists and made only with natural ingredients, Pure Feeds are palatable and high quality. ” Well, I’ll certainly agree that the feed is palatable, both ponies lick their bowls clean every time.

The Fibre Balance that Nas is on is packed with fibre and a more concentrated ration of their balancer. This makes it an ideal feed for good doers. It gives your horse all the vitamins and minerals they need plus fibre (grass chaff, oat straw chaff and unmolassed sugarbeet) to promote gut health. But it is low calorie, so perfect for horses that do not need a lot extra, put weight on easily or are fizzy. Being low in sugar and starch, it is suitable for laminitics and horses with Cushing’s or gastric ulcers. Having the chaff and balancer in one bag, does make it very convenient, both for buying and feeding. Because it is served in smaller quantities, one bag lasts a long time making it excellent value. Nas is on literally a double handful per feed, so a bag should last about a month or so.

Pure Working that Brevan is on is similar to Nas’s Pure Fibre, in that it’s a complete feed including fibre. “Pure Working is ideally formulated for horses in regular work such as taking part in riding club activities and competing. It is also good for horses with laminitis or Cushing’s who need to gain weight in a safe way. It is low in sugar and starch but contains a higher energy and protein ration. In addition, you will find it a great feed if your horse is at rest or in light work but needs to put some weight on.” The main energy sources in this feed include rapeseed oil and unmolassed sugar beet pulp, so there should be no concerns about fizziness. These provide slow-release energy which gives controlled performance. As well as helping to avoid fizzy or excitable behaviour, Pure Working contains their high-quality balancer, which means that this one feed contains everything your horse nutritionally requires. This includes vitamins and minerals, plus amino acids which helps with topline and muscle development.

At the moment, I’m still trying to work out if this is more cost effective than what I was feeding previously. I think it is, as it works out at the same price per month as the mix I was on, so I’m saving myself the price of a bag of chaff each month. It may not be much, but every penny counts.

Both ponies are looking very well at the moment on this feed, if anything they’re looking a bit too well considering the dry summer we’ve had.

All in all, I think I’ve finally found the feed I’ve been after for a long time. It definitely ticks all my boxes of what I want in a feed. Long may it continue.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 4M ago

This week I took Brevan to dressage boot camp with British Dressage accredited coach, Maddi Burchell. My transport lady dropped Brevan down there on Sunday afternoon, ready for our first lesson on Monday morning. I was quite pleased that Brevan settled into his temporary new home with minimal fuss and histrionics, even though he has stallions next to him.

Day one of bootcamp was definitely hard work, for both of us. The morning lesson consisted of Maddie watching how we normally warm up, commenting on how I can improve it and make life easier for Brevan, and then working on our trot work. As I already knew, Brevan is a naturally lazy horse, and likes to do as little work as he can get away with, while making me do as much of it as possible. We worked a lot on straightness, as it would seem that Brevan is leaning his ribcage on my inside leg to avoid working. So we had lots of yelling for inside leg. To get him off my inside leg, we did lots of shoulder in, shallow leg yields and spiralling of circles with shoulder in on the circles. We did get there, and the quality of the trot improved dramatically once Brevan was straight and not leaning. He was then able to carry his weight more evenly from behind, which allowed his back to swing in the trot, and that then helped make the leg yielding so much easier for him. We were both dripping and shattered after our first lesson, and I knew that we had a second one to come in the afternoon still.

Brevan was less than impressed when he saw the saddle come out for the afternoons lesson. The look on his face was a “you are kidding me??!!!?” type face. After warming up like Maddie had advised in the morning, we cracked on with working on the canter. Brevan has the same sort of issues in the canter as he has in the trot, he leans his ribcage on my inside leg, and doesn’t take the weight evenly on both hind legs. Maddie said that he also has quite an earthbound canter, which is why we’ve been struggling with trying to get flying changes, as he needs to get more height and spring in the stride. He also needs to stop leaning on the rein and come off the forehand more. After a bit of work (and much puffing and panting from both of us), we got Brevan straight in the canter and started to get some self carriage as he came off the forehand. The spring and height in the stride improved as well, so I’m confident that if we can keep this up, we will improve his paces and then hopefully improve our dressage scores. By the end of that lesson Brevan and I were both dead on our feet. He was blowing like a steam train and dripping like you’ve never seen. We went for a nice amble round the hay field to cool down and stop puffing, before taking him back to the yard to wash off and put to bed. I think Brevan slept rather well that night!!

Day two had a bit of a change of plans due to the high temperatures, so rather than two sessions of an hour each, we did one session in the morning of two hours. This was very hard work for Brevan, as it was already warm when the lesson started at 9am, and I think he was still a bit tired from day one. We continued the work we’d started the day before, and Brevan was a lot softer to start with, and we got the nice swinging, relaxed trot a lot quicker into the session than I had expected. Brevan grasped what we wanted of him pretty quickly, with no arguments or stropping. We did the spiralling circles with shoulder in again, and this worked really well. We started on a 20m circle and spiralled in to a 10m circle, while trying to keep Brevan’s ribcage upright. Once on the small circle we then leg yielded out to a 15m circle, then did shoulder in on the 15m circle, continued to leg yield back onto a 20m circle and then did shoulder in on the large circle as well.

We also introduced leg yielding in the canter as well in this session. We used the same method as Maddi had me use for trot leg yielding, which is ride as if you’re just going across the diagonal, and then ask for the hind legs to step over. Brevan found this method so much easier, and had a lot less tension and and resistance and a lot more swing through from behind. So for now, we will continue this method of leg yielding and keep the lateral work shallow and allow Brevan to build up more strength and flexibility in his hind end. By the time we finished, Brevan was dead on his feet and well and truly dripping (as was I). I think he slept well that afternoon.

On the third and final day, we again did a single two hour session due to the heat, but this time we started even earlier, at 6.30am. Brevan warmed and suppled up so much quicker, with almost no tension this time, and we got the nice swinging trot almost straight off. We did more work with shoulder in and leg yield in both trot and canter, on circles, down the long side, across the diagonal and down the three quarter lines. As Maddi says, until Brevan’s straight and supple, we won’t be able to do any of the higher level stuff. After just three days, Brevan’s canter has improved, and has more height off the ground and lift through the shoulders. We are starting to get the beginnings of self carriage in the canter at last. Maddi and I were pleased with how Brevan was progressing in this session. About three quarters of the way through the lesson, we were giving Brevan a walk break, and he just stopped, and refused to move another step. Brevan had downed tools and just gone “nope, no more”. He was so tired, and had worked so well, that we decided to let him get away with this and call it a day.

Brevan got a good cold shower after our final lesson, and put into his stable to rest until our transport was due to pick him up that afternoon.

I’m really pleased with how Brevan went this week, it was hard work for both of us, but I feel we got a lot out of it. I’ve learnt some new tools to help me get the best out of Brevan, and hopefully this will show in our next competition. I’d love to be able to do this again soon, but the chances are I won’t be able to afford it again until next year.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 5M ago

I’m so pleased to introduce you all to my mum’s new pony, Nas (otherwise just known as Princess), a 13.2hh Welsh Section A (or possibly a cross) of somewhere between 9 and 14 years old.

Mum has been umming and ahhing over getting a horse for as long as I’ve been riding and around horses (that’s about 20 years), and has finally bitten the bullet and got little Nas on loan from a local rescue.

Being a rescue, we don’t know a huge amount about Nas (almost certainly not her original name). The rescue found her a few years ago in a very bad state, and shortly after getting her, she had a foal. After the foal was weaned, Nas was loaned to a family, backed and used as a leadrein pony for their kids. I think she then went to another family where they progressed her training on to being ridden off the leadrein. Last year my friend Vanessa took Nas on for her daughter Issy, but Issy has lost confidence in Nas as unfortunately the pony seems to have a tendency to buck in canter, and had her off a few times.

Other than the bucking in canter, Nas is the sweetest little thing you could ask for, and doesn’t put a foot wrong anywhere else. I have a large soft spot for this little pony, she’s so much more cuddly than Brevan is, and will follow you round the field for scratches and just to be with you. Brevan doesn’t want to know you unless there’s food involved!

I think Nas will be perfect to help mum increase her knowledge and confidence around horses, as over the years due to her health, mum has lost a lot of the confidence that she used to have. This is why at 13.2hh, Nas is great, as mum doesn’t want to ride, just pat and play with something that’s not going to try and kill her.

As mum is still nervous at the moment, the plan is that she comes up a couple of times a week when I’m not at work, so that I can dedicate a few hours each visit to just mum, to help her learn and gain confidence. The hope is that mum gets confident enough to be happy up the yard on her own, without needing help, and maybe even confident enough to handle Brevan as well.

Basically, I now have two ponies, but only pay for one! Winner! Lol. I’d love if between me, mum and various friends small children, we can get Nas out doing some local in hand and leadrein showing classes next summer, or even at the end of this summer, but we’ll have to wait and see.

I can’t wait to update you all with mum and Nas’s progress over the next few months, and hopefully years.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 5M ago

After a bit of a break from competing (mainly due to lack of funds), we finally got out again last week. It’s been two months since we were last out at Blue Barn strutting our stuff, but we’ve been training hard in the mean time, so hopefully we are slowly improving.

Wednesday wasn’t too early a start, as my first class wasn’t until 10.40am, but I did still need to plait up before we could go anywhere, as I wasn’t going to leave Brevan in the field overnight with plaits in, as they probably wouldn’t have still been in by the morning. I’m not sure how much Brevan appreciated being plaited up at 6am, but it was better than the alternative. I managed to get everything done that needed doing before we left at 8.30am, though I did manage to leave my white saddlecloth at home after having finally washed it. Thankfully I had my old competition saddlecloth at the yard, so I just used that instead.

The journey was nice and uneventful, and Brevan travelled well (as he usually does). We got to the venue in plenty of time, so I went to let them know that I was there, and to grovel for a caller for both my tests. I managed to tack Brevan up and get myself changed with no mishaps, and even managed to get on and still have clean white jods. Annoyingly though, the zip on my boots broke, so I had to do the whole competition with one boot mostly undone.

My new instructor, Emma, came to help me warm up, and we managed to get Brevan going quite nicely in the warm up arena. We may have gone a bit better, if Brevan hadn’t decided that the cremello Lusitania foal in the field next door was the scariest thing in the world. It didn’t help that said foal decided that Brevan was the most fascinating creature going, and kept trying to follow Brevan up and down the fence line. Between us we were eventually able to get Brevan to concentrate on the job in hand , with only a couple of minor histronics.

Our first test was Novice 38, which I’ve done I don’t know how many times, but I still hadn’t learnt it. Thank god for being allowed a caller, I don’t know what I’d do if we weren’t allowed to have one. I was really pleased with how Brevan went in this test, he was still a little tense and tight in places, but at other points, he was really starting to relax and work well. As a bonus, I didn’t go wrong at all, and there were no spooks or anything daft. We finished on a really good score of 65.80%, considering this was under our least favourite judge (as she never seems to like Brevan and always scores us quite low), even managing to get an 8 for our first movement!

The second test was Elementary 43, and this didn’t go quite so well. We only had half an hour between our tests, so there was no point untacking or anything, so we just chilled for a few minutes and then went back in to warm up again. This time there was a young stallion warming up as well, who was rather excited and distracted by the mares and foals in the fields next to the outdoor warm up arena. This unfortunately made Brevan a bit distracted and tense, and I wasn’t able to get his brain back before we were due back into the main ring. This meant that the tension was still with us doing our second test, and there were a few little errors ( one or two being pilot errors, but thankfully there were no major mistakes), because of this. Medium canter to collected canter didn’t really happen, as Brevan was just bowling on and not really listening to me to come back and collect, which then meant that the collected trot wasn’t all that good either. So we got plenty of comments of stiff, hollow, tense, insufficient bend etc. I don’t think we did too bad considering, with 61.724%. I was rather pleased with the leg yielding though, as Brevan was less tense than normal for this movement, and wasn’t over bent to the side like he normally is. Again, we had a few nice moments where he actually carried himself properly, but not as many as we had in the first test.

All in all, I was pleased with our outing. We managed not to embarrass ourselves, and I felt that this was the most positive competition under this judge to date. There is still plenty to work on, but for once I’m feeling positive that we can overcome our issues and finally bring out the inner dressage horse that we’ve been getting glimpses of at home, but hasn’t yet materialised at a show. It will do one day, and then I think he’ll blow people away.

Being a midweek show, it wasn’t very busy, with only three competitors in each of my classes, which is why I haven’t mentioned my placings yet, as they are irrelevant to me under the circumstances. We came first in the Novice ( was the only one in my section), and second in the Elementary (there were two in my section). I’m a lot more interested in our scores and marks rather than placings at this point. Being so quiet did meant that we were back home by lunchtime, and by mid afternoon you’d never have known that we’d been anywhere.

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