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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 11M ago

On Monday the mother and I took both ponies out to a local in hand showing show. This was mother’s first ever competition, and also possibly her pony’s first ever competition as well. Everybody did really well, and it was a nice low key event to hopefully give the mother a taste for showing.

It was an early start for some of us, while others got more of a lie in. I was up at 4am, to be at the yard for just gone 5am, as I had both ponies to get ready. Mother was going to meet me at the show in time for her first class at 10am. As I’d been working the day before, I hadn’t had a chance to do any of the usual pre show prep that I would normally do, ie: bath, plait, tack clean etc. It didn’t help much that I finished work late on Sunday, not getting home till 9pm, instead of just gone 7.30pm, so my plan of being in bed for 8pm went out the window, so I didn’t get as much sleep as I’d wanted to.

As it had rained on the Sunday evening, both ponies came in Monday morning looking like wild, muddy yaks, and I only had four hours to get the pair of them looking like show horses. I succeeded in the task, but not without a bit of a struggle. Nas does not like being bathed, and really didn’t appreciate having her mane and forelock washed, but after much arguing in the pre dawn gloom, I finally got her clean. Plaiting her was another issue, as I’m going to guess she’s never been plaited up before, and she’s a little head shy. Having the plaiting bands snap while trying to do the top plaits didn’t help much there either. But we got there eventually.

Brevan gave me different issues to deal with, including him deciding to go to bed while I was dealing with Nas, and he didn’t look best pleased when I kicked him out for his turn at bathing. Thankfully he was actually quicker to get ready, but it helps that he knows that he has to stand still while being plaited up. Though once plaited up, he kept scratching his neck, and I had to redo a couple of the plaits about three times before we eventually left.

I had meant to leave at 9am, as I was walking both ponies to the show, but I was running a bit late (as usual), and didn’t leave until about ten past. I had just over two and a half miles to walk the ponies, and had given myself forty minutes to do it, but ended up taking fifty minutes, so I got to the show at 10am, instead of the 9.40am that I wanted. We just about had time to get mother and her pony ready for their first class, but she was the last one into the ring, and had got herself a bit stressed.

The first class was Prettiest Mare, and mother was nervous as she didn’t know what to expect (even though I’d explained how these classes normally run), and she was worried about having to run. Thankfully she didn’t need to run and trot Nas up, they just had to walk round. Mum was over the moon to come second out of the four put forward, and the expression on her face says it all!

The next class was Most Handsome Gelding, so Brevan’s first go in the ring. There were five put forward including Brevan, and we were pulled in third. I may not agree with the judges decision, but then I’m biased, and the judge was definitely a cob man, not a native man. But that’s showing, and at the end of the day it’s only one persons opinion on that day.

The third class was Veteran, which Brevan was only just eligible for, as it was for animals of 15 years and over, and Brevan turned 15 earlier this year. The other two horses in the class were both cobs, one being 36 years old. Considering the judge was a cob man, I was quite surprised that he pulled Brevan in, in first place ahead of the cobs, but I wasn’t going to complain.

The following class was Hunter Type with eight in total entered including Brevan. We didn’t do so well in this class, only coming seventh, but the judge said afterwards that Brevan was too small and light for a hunter, though I’d happily take him hunting (if I was brave enough to go in the first place).

The next two classes were Best Turned Out and Native Breeds, with only Brevan and Nas entered in both of those classes. Brevan came first in both the classes, though I’m guessing that it could have gone either way for the Best Turned Out, as I’d put as much effort into getting both ponies ready. I had expected Nas to win the Native Breeds class, as Brevan has splints on both front legs, and he’s not up to breed standard as I have his feathers clipped off. Between these two classes, I did need all the help from my support crew (husband and friend) to take out the plaits from both ponies, and I needed to change Nas’s browband to a plain one, more suitable for natives.

Class seven was the Coloured class, which included duns, palominos and roans, so I’d entered mother and Nas into this, as Nas is just about a roan. They came fifth out of five, as the judge didn’t think Nas was coloured enough.

The last class of the day was Young Handler, and I’d managed to borrow a friends daughter, who has been riding Nas a few times. Ella came third out of three, and she was a bit disappointed, but mother and I weren’t bothered about her placing, we were just chuffed that Nas had not put a foot wrong, and that Ella had handled her so well, being the only one to get a proper trot from their pony. I do wonder if the pink hat and lack of a jacket may have counted against her, but it was her first ever show as well, and I wasn’t going to get her mum to fork out for a proper hat and jacket for just one show.

Both ponies went into the championship, but didn’t come anywhere, but that was fine, we’d all had a good day, and I was really happy with both ponies and the mother.

We were all done and dusted by about midday, so as mother had brought enough snacks to feed an army, we all had a bite to eat for lunch, including the mother in law and nephews who had turned up in time to watch the last two classes and championship, before I got ready for the walk home, which was mostly uphill.

Mother met at the yard when I finally got there, and she had almost finished the poo picking in the field for me. So we literally just rugged the ponies up and turned them straight out, even though it was a few hours early.

Both mother and I were tired, but very happy with the days results, and I’m hoping to persuade her to do it again in the near future.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 1y ago

What on earth is all this hoo ha about on social media this week about pony painting parties, and some woman in Manchester wanting to get them banned? Supposedly it is abuse on the ponies and teaches kids to objectify horses and that we can do anything we like to animals. PLEASE!!!

From what I’ve been able to find out (sorry, I can’t seem to find the Facebook post I read yesterday morning), quite often this is being used as therapy for kids with autism or various learning difficulties.

Lucy-Anne Petto, who works for Therapeutic Equine Assistance Learning (TEAL), which has worked with companies like My Happy Equine to offer therapeutic events for people with disabilities, says the horses she works with are free to join in the groups or stay in the barn, but 99% of the time, they will come out.

She said: “I’ve worked with adults who have anxiety and who are trying to overcome problems, the paints can be used alongside team-building activities with the horses, so express how the anxiety makes them feel, what it looks like, and physical representation that often helps.”

“We are so grateful to have my happy equine as our sponsors, they make a huge difference to our sessions here at Therapeutic Equine Assisted Learning CIC we work with young people and adults with disabilities and additional needs, not only are the specialist paints really fun to use so a great way for young people to engage in our sessions, they also really help with fine motor skills, imaginative play and being able to express emotions in a physical way that you can see, we also regularly use the stencils and glitter tattoos, hair extensions and glitter hoof balms. Our therapy horses are often looking fun and colourful, great thing is the paints brush off easily too. I can firmly say our sessions are highlighted with the use of My Happy Equine products, our clients aged between 2 – 70 years old really enjoy using them!”
– CIC

Even if being done as part of a standard pony day/party, I still don’t see any particular problem with it, as long as the ponies are well treated, the kids supervised and it’s being used in a way that teaches the kids something by equine professionals. We’ve been painting horses for educational purposes for years, Horses Inside Out is a prime example. they paint the horses skeleton and muscles or even the digestive system onto the horses coat, so that people can see how the inside works in relation to what we see on the outside.

Admittedly, this isn’t something I’d do with Brevan, but he’s a grumpy bugger and doesn’t like being groomed at the best of times as it is. Nas probably wouldn’t object to it as she seems to enjoy being groomed and having the attention. She would however object to the washing off bit at the end, as she’s not the biggest fan of bathes or water.

People also regularly paint their horses for charity events and fancy dress classes at shows. It does the horse or pony no harm, they don’t know any better, and as far as they’re concerned, their human has just spent a lot longer grooming them than usual. Or are the do-gooders going to try and say that that is abuse as well?

The claims that it’s a welfare issue are just frankly ridiculous, in all the photos I’ve seen, the pony is half asleep or happily munching their hay, without a care in the world. The greatest welfare concern I have there, is that a lot of the ponies look like they could do with a bit of a diet as they’re a little on the chubby side, but then, a lot of other ponies are through the summer months. The paints that are used are non toxic and often chalk based, and are easily washed out afterwards. I think some show horses have more “paint” on them for competitions than some of these ponies have daubed on them by the kids. Any of the glitter used in some of these paints is edible glitter, similar to that used in cake decorating.

Another claim that this is stressful for the ponies, I think is also ludicrous. Just look at the photos. They’re half asleep, does that seem stressed to you? No signs of stress to me, and I’ve been around horses for 20 years. The people running these events, are going to be highly conscious of the ponies welfare and stress levels, as even a Shetland could flatten a small child (or not so small child) if it wasn’t happy. The kids will be taught the correct way to approach and handle the pony before being let anywhere near it (at least I would assume this would be the case with any reputable company or riding school).

One stable owner and party organiser says they understood the concerns. “I’m sure there are people executing this in a less controlled way, but that isn’t us, or the majority of the professional centres.” They offer children the chance to do non-toxic finger painting on their ponies – which they liken to “grooming and cuddling” – for five minutes at the end of an educational experience. “I am constantly monitoring [the pony’s] behaviour to make sure she is not distressed. Only two children are around her at one time.”

And the whole thing about it teaching kids to treat animals like objects that are purely there for our pleasure, well sorry lady, that boat sailed a long time ago. Or have you missed all the ads about “a dog is for life not just for Christmas” and other things along those lines? PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) are also objecting to these pony parties, but these are also the guys who also object to horses being ridden in the first place (along with other laughable ideas), so sorry, I don’t hold much faith in their claims. They want us to enjoy horses “in all their natural beauty”. Sorry, there is nothing “natural” about the modern horse, most domesticated horses wouldn’t last a year in the wild having to fend for themselves. Humans have bred horses specifically for various jobs for thousands of years, ever since early man first found that you could ride them. If we didn’t ride them, they would either be another meat animal like cattle and sheep, or extinct. The sad fact is that across human history, if we can’t use something we destroy it, be that plants, animals or resources. I’m not condoning this treatment, just stating a fact.

In the grand scheme of things, painting ponies in a controlled and educational setting, is nothing to get your knickers in a knot about. If the pony patting brigade want to get up in arms about something, then maybe they should try concentrating their efforts on real welfare issues or animal abuse, not something that helps to teach kids something worthwhile.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 1y ago

On Wednesday we went out competing at our usual local venue, as we needed two more qualifying scores of 60% or more at elementary level, to qualify for the Native Breeds Championship in November. It wasn’t our best day, but we did just about squeak in with two qualifying scores, so I’m happy enough.

It wasn’t too early a start, as we weren’t getting picked up until 9.30am, so getting to the yard at 6am, I had plenty of time to bath, plait and prep.

We got to the show in plenty of time and had a leisurely brush off and tack up. I then got changed, and even managed to stay clean once I was on board. An old school friend and her children came to watch, and they got there before I got on. It is nice to have spectators sometimes, as I don’t get them very often.

Both my tests were very close together, with only ten minutes between my start times, which meant that I only had one opportunity to warm up.

During the warm up, I tried to keep in mind what Maddi had taught me at our boot camp the other week, and Brevan went really nicely. He was soft, supple, relaxed and listening. We got some lovely leg yielding, and some super medium trot. Even our simple changes were on point for once. Our transport lady was quite impressed with how Brevan was looking in the warm-up, saying that it was the best she’s seen him going for a while.

We went into our first test, which was Elementary 43, with me trying to remember to breathe and relax (it’s a work in progress), and everything started off fairly well. The trot lacked a bit of impulsion, but it was soft and relaxed and Brevan was swinging nicely through his back, so I just left it along. It started to go a bit downhill partway through the canter work, as Brevan decided to object to someone stood by the arena edge in our first counter canter. I did manage to keep the correct canter (I could feel him desperate to change, but managed to fight him for it), but in the process he hollowed, tensed and did a good impression of a giraffe. He then stayed tense for the rest of the canter work which lost us a few marks, but otherwise he behaved. I was very pleased, that even with the errors and tension, we still managed to get a good score of 65.8%.

In the five minutes I had before going back into the ring for my second test, I walked Brevan around and tried to relax him again. The second test was Elementary 59, which is quite a fiddly test, with everything coming up really quickly. We started off really well again, and I got a bit more impulsion in the trot work. Yet again the canter work let us down, as again, Brevan decided to be really spooky, this time at the cafe. The cafe was shut, so the lights were off, but one of the organisers was in there while we were in the ring, and Brevan just found the moving shadows in the dark way too much to cope with. So for the second time, the canter was tense, hollow and rushed, with Brevan completely ignoring what I was asking of him. We almost missed the first canter, trot, canter transition as he was paying too much attention to the cafe. We fluffed the simple changes as he just wouldn’t come down to a walk, and he changed in the medium canter, all of which lost us precious marks. I wasn’t expecting much with the score on this test, so I was pleasantly surprised that we just about managed to squeak in with the final qualifying score we needed, on 60.93%. I was honestly expecting a sub 60% score with our performance.

All in all it was a fairly good day, and we are now qualified for the Native Breeds Championship at Novice and Elementary levels. It could have been a better day, but that’s horses for you. I’ve got to find something to chill him out and reduce the spooking, as it’s starting to get stupid now! Any suggestions welcome.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 1y ago

I’d like to introduce you all to my friend and new sponsor, Laura Campbell of Get Ready, Get Fit. Laura qualified as a personal trainer a few months ago, and has actually been my sponsor for a month now (I was waiting til I had enough photos to be able to do this blog justice).

Laura has been my riding instructor for about a year now, and knows my issues inside out, so our PT sessions are aimed at helping me improve on the ground, what I struggle with in the saddle. Laura is also my best friend, and has known me and Brevan for nearly four years now I think. She knows exactly what I’m capable of, and how far she can push me, and probably pushes me a bit harder than someone I don’t know would, just because she knows when I’m just being a wimp, and when I’m genuinely struggling with something.

I have come to the conclusion that Laura is more than a little sadistic, as I swear that she enjoys torturing me way too much! Saying that, it is starting to pay off, as I have noticed that I am starting to get a little bit more flexible, though if I actually remembered to do my stretches at home that I should be doing, I’d have noticed a bigger improvement by now.

The other week Laura did a postural analysis on me, and it confirmed that I’m tight through my back, neck, chest and legs, while I’m weak in my shoulders, bottom and core. So we have lots of core strengthening exercises to do and lots of stretches for my back and hamstrings (the main one being the PNF stretch in the photo above. Big hint, it hurts like hell, and I scream, a lot).

I am definitely not appreciating the journey so far, but I’m trying to keep my focus on what we’re wanting as the end result, which I will appreciate a lot, as hopefully that will eliminate most of my lower back issues and pain, as well as improve my posture and effectiveness in the saddle.

I hope you’ll all enjoy and support me on this journey of self improvement, and I hope Laura will forgive my swearing and insults! Lol.

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Rocky Road to Dressage by Rocky Road To Dressage - 1y ago

On Saturday afternoon my friend came to visit Brevan and me with her two young children, Ella and Jake. They have visited before, but this time I had a pony each for them to ride.

We started off having a picnic lunch on the yard, with the kids playing about while Sarah and I had a bit of a catch up. We’ve been friends since school, and even though we drifted apart for a number of years, we drifted together again about two years ago, and Sarah was one of my bridesmaids at my wedding last year.

Before we let the children ride, they had to do a bit of work first to earn their rides. When I’d poo picked the field earlier in the morning, I’d noticed that a fox (probably) had dragged a bag of rubbish into my field and scattered it. So, I decided that one of their jobs was going to be to help me pick up the rubbish from the field (I didn’t really want the ponies trying to eat old cat food pouches).We grabbed one of my old feed bags (I’m so glad that I don’t just throw them away, they do come in handy sometimes), and wandered up to my field to clear up after the fox.

Once that job was done, it was then time for the kids to groom their ponies. As Ella is taller, she was going to be riding Brevan, while her smaller brother was going to have Nas. It turned out that the adults did a lot more of the grooming than the kids did, they ran off and played round by the chickens. Well, we got the ponies all scrubbed up and looking presentable, with minimal injuries, Nas managed to stand on Sarah’s foot! Oops.

When tacking up, I had to borrow my friend Vanessa’s shetland pad to put on Nas, as there was no other saddle for her. At least it meant that for once, Jake had stirrups that were the right length for him. Ella had two twists put into Brevan’s stirrups (I really will need to invest in a pair of childrens stirrup leathers for these two, I don’t like putting twists in) before they were the right length for her.

Once the kids were kitted up, again in borrowed hats and hi viz, Sarah and I took them out for their hack. We went for a lot longer walk than we have done in the past with the kiddies, but in the past we’ve had one of them walking while the other was riding, and had to swap over partway round. This time we didn’t need to do that, so we went for a nice walk round the block, which took nearly an hour or thereabouts. It was a lovely sunny day, but a little warmer than was comfortable, and the horse flies were out in force and bugging the hell out of Brevan.

When we got back to the yard after surviving the horse flies, Ella wanted to have a ride on Nas, so I quickly untacked Brevan and put him in his stable, then took Ella into the school with little Nas. It all went well until we asked for trot. I think Nas’s stride was a lot shorter and quicker than Ella was expecting after riding Brevan, and I may have let the pony trot a little too fast, but long story short, Ella bounced out the side door and fell off! Oops! On the plus side, she did jump straight up and demand to get back on again. So I’m really pleased that the little tumble didn’t knock her confidence. After that we did manage a slower trot, where Ella was able to stay on happily. We even managed a whole lap of the arena in trot. I need to hurry up and teach Ella to ride properly so that I can get her off the leadrein, because that lap of trot was definitely not as fun for me as it was for her.

Hopefully the kiddies will come up again in a few weeks time, when my weekend off coincides with a day that they’re free as well. I’m going to try and teach Ella rising trot on their next visit.

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