I was absolutely delighted to attend the 4th leg of the Ros Canter and Caroline Moore, 4 years to 4* tour at Vale View Equestrian last night. I have taken away so much from just 3 hours of learning and I hope you find it useful too.
Credit : Rupert Gibson Photography
Caroline Moore, British Eventing National Coach to our GB Junior Squad and co-owner of the world’s leading event horse Allstar B, gave me a behind the scenes insight into some of the exercises used to train a horse up the levels.
I won’t spoil it for you all because Horse&Country TV will be airing the footage on 18th December, but I will tell you about my 3 favourite exercises from the evening and the top 3 nuggets I am taking away from it.
A bit about the set up
The arena looked something like this:
Let’s get one thing STRAIGHT
So, there are 2 oxers and 3 skinny brush fences set alternately on a straight line. This is a test of accuracy, balance and straightness. The horses they used for this were incredible young horses but I cant wait to have a go. TOP TIP: Walk your horse through the skinny wings without a pole or brush so they get used to having a small gap to fit through.
Caroline talks us through this exercise here:
This was probably my favourite exercise of the evening. Yes I loved seeing Ros and her accuracy over the huge shoulder brush corner BUT…. where I am at right now, this exercise will help BOTH my horses and me to focus and re-group.
3 sets of 3 raised trotting poles on 2 turns (see arena diagram). So simple but I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made to both horses in the arena. Trot over 3, turn, trot over 3, turn, trot over the final 3. This will help focus attention of both horse AND rider, balancing the horse for the turn will teach collection and engagement, and the lift they need for raised poles will certainly build great muscle tone and also encourage an active hind leg. I LOVE this and I cant wait to have a go!
Watch the exercise as Caroline tells us about her magic list…
My next favourite was a VERY simple figure of eight teaching the horse to respond to your weight balance and land on the correct canter lead.
We received a physics lesson from the ever knowledgeable Caroline where she explained how your weight can directly impact which leading leg your horse lands on after a jump and this exercise is excellent for that. TOP TIP: The jumps can be tiny for this but remember, Eyes UP!
Just turning your head and weight, looking and bending the horse in direction you want to travel will have a direct impact on the leg they land on after the fence.
See Ros and Heidi having a go:
My TOP 3 Nuggets
Nugget 1: Ros has changed so much about her riding in the last few years and she put a lot of emphasis on not riding with too short reins and getting out of balance up the horses neck… I do this A LOT and I’m going to practice lengthening the rein and being more in balance.
Nugget 2: There were some great tips for SPOOKY horses last night and I definitely need to get on top of this. Ros talked a lot about firm and fair training and I am going to insist a bit more often that Pat pays attention to ME not the slightly off brown leaf on the fence 200m away.
Nugget 3: Learning to love going fast to a fence… I’ve got much better at this but practicing galloping in the field and going quicker than I’d like to a jump would stand me in really good stead for XC riding. Not in a hurry to tackle that MASSIVE shoulder brush corner though!
I really cannot tell you how great it was at this demo. They are full to bursting with knowledge, the pair of them. I am almost certainly going to book in for a lesson with Caroline, she has such a huge toolbox of skills and I really look forward to improving my horses using her training methods at home too.
Massive thank you to Caroline, Ros and Heidi and also to Jump 4 Joy, Stierna and to Justine at Smiley PR for allowing me to cover this event. I can’t wait to get practicing now!!!
CREDITS: Header Image by Rupert Gibson Photography
So, a lot of you will have seen a new arrival to our family in the last few weeks. She is a little 15.3hh dark brown, 2004 thoroughbred mare called Pea. BUT.. this is not the first time Pea and I have crossed paths.
Her dam: Smilingatstrangers and her sire: Tragic Role.
Tragic Role – Pea’s Dad
Pea and I first met in 2013, my battle with nerves was in full flow and I wasn’t in a very happy place. Pat went out on loan whilst I dealt with some financial and emotional struggles during the breakdown of my first marriage and it was Pea that kept my eyes bright and not full of tears.
I had met her then owner Linda on a training clinic with the Wey Valley Riding Club and after a few weeks we had got chatting about this little horse. Pea was then on sales/training livery and was costing poor Linda a lot of money so we agreed she could come to me and I would have her on loan with the idea of schooling her on and eventually selling her, doing us both a favour!
For 6 months Linda and I shared her costs and I took her out hacking, jumping, XC, dressage, you name it…it was the first time in years that I was absolutely LOVING riding again to the point where I looked forward to it EVERYDAY and felt sad about giving her a day off! We just got each other, I never expected too much and she always over delivered. I taught her to jump courses and she was so trusting of me that I felt more capable than I have ever felt before.
More importantly, she taught me to enjoy riding again, and that schooling and dressing ponies up in matchy was not fun deep down and cantering down stubble fields and jumping was indeed what we both loved.
Pea and I did all the usual RC activities, we qualified for The Festival of the Horse finals in 2014 which was sadly rained off. She jumped clear so many times I lost count. But she just trusted me, never the most athletic or the most straight, but we had our way and that worked for us.
The Prodigal Son
In 2014 Pat came home under a black cloud of bronching with his loan mum, I had had a brilliant year with Pea and was all set to take on life with both of them but I just couldn’t do it. The day Pat came home I was launched into orbit when he bronched me off. The next day Pea and I jumped 2 clears and qualified for the L&SE champs… but it was the start of a rocky road for sure. It was him I should have sold. It was him breaking my heart every damn day. But he was mine, she wasn’t.
Very sadly, Pea went to another loan home not too far away, a friend of a friend but for one reason and another, that didn’t work out there either. Pea became a Feral Beryl. Turned away for 2 years not doing much other than escaping for jaunts around the village or into people’s veg gardens but she was well loved (and well fed) by Linda!
I brought her home to Lincolnshire on Thursday 20th September. A week in, she had shoes on and we got her checked over and given the all clear to start bringing her back into work.
Week one she did 3 days lunging on large circles in loose side reins, mostly in walk and a little trot so I could have a look at her and make a plan. Week 2 she walked out 4 times, three times off the lead from Pat and in walk with a little trot, still in the roller and side reins and once ridden. I rode her in the field that week for the first time, bareback because she had got a sore from the girth on the first walk out, but we worked on bending the whole body, moving off my leg; freeing the tightness in her shoulders, neck and rib cage, which is what I do every time i get on her now.
Week 3 I walked her out 3 times (1 ridden/2 on the lead), lunged once and schooled once. All of this work is done with her stepping through in as low a frame as she is comfortable. The muscles across the top of her neck and her back have started to develop more now, but they were very weak and she could only do 20-30mins maximum per session. Its important that she is happy and if she’s not, I’d take the pressure off.
Week 4 Was more of the same only her ridden hack, Daddy Carrot got on and walked her to the pub! I cantered her on the lunge for the first time too, BIG circles and only 2/3 on each rein. She also started a little more trot on the lead rides just 30sec/1min stints (x4 per 40min ride), still all in the loose side reins. I also introduced poles into lunging to get her lift through the back a little more.
Week 5 She was definitely back in work mode, she wants to please so much and the end of the week we popped a little cross pole, only in trot but she had a great big smile on her chops! We also added a little canter under saddle and she felt very nice and balanced. Definitely seeing the benefits of loosening her up. I have also introduced an old fashioned (very loose) Harbridge. This is acts like a martingale only it is elasticated and clips to the bit rather than looping on the rein. I find it helps me not fret about her head placement and I can concentrate on just getting her swinging forwards – it is absolutely NOT for people wanting to tie their horses heads to their knees and I suggest if you want to try one, that you get a knowledgeable chum or trainer to have a look at the fitting and necessity!
Week 6 (last week) she hacked twice both 30-40mins introducing a little bit of canter, schooled once in the field and lunged once. The muscle is really starting to come now and I’m really happy with how she feels.
This week we are heading out for the first time to Hill House for a pole lesson with Jo. Just half an hour but it will be enough for her. I gave her a clip yesterday too and she is much happier not being so crusty after work!
Like Pat, she lives in a field 24/7, has hay every evening and a feed of Alfa A oil and micronised linseed.
I wouldn’t give a fat rats ass if this little horse never went out to another show again, she owes me nothing but while she loves her work and loves to jump, we’ll carry on and see where 2019 takes us. She is the safest horse I have EVER ridden and has the best temperament, I just LOVE her to pieces.
I cannot thank Linda enough for letting me have her and I hope we continue to make you smile for many years to come
This is most certainly the hardest event report I’ve had to write all season. Even now, the morning after, I’m still so emotional about it…. it’s a sport, a hobby damn it!! Deep breath, Here goes….
We spent the week hacking, running through my test and the usual, nothing out of the ordinary and as we had stepped down to the 80 as a last confidence building run of the season, I didn’t stress too much that we hadn’t got out for a jump anywhere.
Now, I also entered the 80 because I am teaching all day today (Saturday) and Sunday’s I can’t really do (nerves, husband commitments), so it was either the 80 or the 100 on the Friday!!! Daddy Carrot ? took the day off and we trundled down to Norton Disney for our 1pm dressage and to walk the course beforehand.
The course was fine, we had loads of time too. We sat in the sunshine, just the three of us, drank tins of pop and I reflected on how lucky I felt…. LIES!!!! I sh*t my pants as usual!
WARNING!! GRAPHIC CONTENT ?
I warmed up with the most awful pain in my nethers… that one you get when you’re greeted by a sodding period the day before a show, the one that not only reminds you that you’re still not pregnant but also the one that means beige breeches are risking dark red leakage!!! The pain was from a very unfortunately positioned string, one that I couldn’t fix whilst on a horse and one that rubbed my skin so raw it felt like I’d been massaged by a cheese grater… anyway…. *ahem*…
I got on with it and in the ring, he was a total tit. I struggled to get him down towards the judges car and the struggled to hold him together as he wanted to run from it!! Either way, I wasn’t thrilled with the outcome and thought I deserved about a 33.
With the string issue resolved, I changed tack and warmed up for the jumping. This has been my absolute weakest area for years and whilst I can’t afford loads of training or many jumps to have at home, I’ve worked hard in my monthly lessons and practiced getting a good canter on the flat too.
In the warmup he felt a bit flat but I like that, “flat-Pat” doesn’t scare the living bejeezus out of me like “buzzy-in-the-ring-Pat” …. in we went and he brightened up somewhat. Instead of sh*t myself and cling on, I used the energy to push forward and he was flying. A positive canter makes the world of difference for us and it certainly did today… WE WENT F*CKING CLEAR!!!! ????
I properly welled up and felt seriously proud. My husband looked at me with that admiration I can’t even put into words. That, right there, that was the proudest moment of my 2018 season.
We also learnt that in a section of dressage scores in the late 30’s, by some miracle I was on a 29!!!! Putting us in first..
Here’s the deal Mr. Winter, you’re either cold, dark, p*ssing with rain or blowing a bloody gale or all of those things on a really great day! But … if there were no seasons how would you appreciate the few flakes of snow that might appear on Christmas morning? Or the first snowdrops that pop up on my front lawn giving us a glimmer of our saviour, Lady Spring? Or long balmy hacks after work in late August…. we’ll be moaning about the excess sweating, hard ground and rising hay prices then I can tell you!
Essentially, the only way to fully embrace winter is to LOVE it. And I do… I love dark nights, bonfire and Christmas parties, mulled wine, pumpkin spiced lattes, big cosy jumpers, fluffy horses, heck… I don’t even mind mud if I’m honest! I love lighting the fire every night, chasing daylight hours on my ride home and layering up ready for overheating on a Saturday hack to the pub.
Now, here’s the deal… the more you loath winter, the worse it will appear. Embrace it for what it is; colder, darker and more filthy!
I’m very fortunate to not work full time in an office anymore but for ten years I managed just fine. Realistically, unless you’re heading to the olympics, it doesn’t matter if you only ride Dobbin at weekends, if he is covered in mud and crap until April …. who cares! Don’t stress about these things. Poo picking can wait, deep littering stables is also acceptable and not clipping saves you a fortune on rugging. Stop conforming and you’ll love Mr.Winter so much more.
Ask yourself, do you really need to clip just because old Fanny in the stable next door is bald as a coot? I’m not clipping this year… unless by some miracle I pull my finger out and start hunting (unlikely). Do they really need to come in? If you have the option of 24/7 turnout… utilise it, they won’t thank you for being “snuggled up” indoors I can tell you. My two THOROUGHBREDS live out all winter and remarkably, do not die. Don’t make life difficult just to have something to moan about, enjoy the time you spend with your horses and grab yourself a large Malbec.
What a brilliant summer it’s been, we heard from the lovely Amie and Raven so here’s a little update from the rest of my amazing Team Wimpy ladies… they make me very very proud.
Susan our polo queen!
Pataca and I have now completed the 2018 grass polo season! A whole blooming season, DONE! We rounded off on such a high by playing in my first ever tournament. I was so nervous about taking part in a proper competitive match against much more experienced players, but once I was on the field and the whistle blew something kicked in and I felt it was the best polo I’d ever played. I scored a goal. Me! The Wimpy One!
I can’t believe the difference a year has made. Very, very happy. Come play polo, fellow wimps, it is FUN!
Nina and Lara: a laugh a minute!
Nina has us all laughing night and day… she says: I’ve not done much as I lead a very boring life apart from making myself look a complete idiot jumping as a turkey. She has me literally crying with laughter!!!
Jess our super trainer!
I’ve had a really busy couple of months coaching! I’ve been working away on my ukcc level 3…this has been a huge learning curve and whilst I’m not sure I’ll pass the assessment and it’s been a lot of hard work, I’ve actually thoroughly enjoyed the chance to meet up with coaches and spend time with our fab coach educators Hannah Moody and Harry Payne!
I’ve held a camp at willow banks with a great bunch of ladies! And then I’ve had a great time at Burghley admiring those riders…although why anyone would want to hurl themselves over fences that size I’ll never understand ??!
Liz, True and Spirit: the big move
So in the last 6 weeks the horses have had an easy time… True is turned out until I have time to keep him in proper work and therefore not so scary, and Spirit is on gentle tick over. We have moved house, and have a fab garden now, and are currently in the process of transforming a 14 acre wilderness into a tidy yard… no liveries, just for us!
I’ve also started a ‘proper’ job working for a veterinary practice part time, so major things have been happening, just not involving competing. I’ve written off the idea of anymore eventing this year, but hope to do some of the Riding club winter qualifiers!
Sharon and Jack: fun and learning
Over the last few months Jack and I have been working on our partnership. Sometimes with success and sometimes not but HAVING FUN!
Sharon has worked really hard over the summer getting Jack going forwards and jumping consistently at 80cms and riding prelim tests… she annoyingly never gives herself enough credit for how far they’ve come!!!
Becki and Buck: smashing it!
The last few weeks have been very busy for buck and I! We have started doing affiliated BE and moved up to 90! Buck has been really enjoying the step up and has been absolutely storming round the cross country! Our big crazy dream now is to move up to BE100 at the end of next season! Becki also completed her biggest competition to date doing the riding club eventer challenge at Blenheim palace international and I know she wouldn’t say it herself, but she really is bloody amazing and doing so so well!!!
So happy for them all, and massive thanks to them for being so amazing so far xxxx
In the spirit of equestrian blogging, I have decided to dip in and out of the #horsebloggers Blogtober topics when the inspiration takes me. Today it took me…
I’m going to bring you my 3 Autumn essentials that I, or anyone else shouldn’t be living without.
Now, I expect you’re about to click the home button or the Facebook shortcut and disappear from my site assuming that I’m going to rave about some over priced gilet filled with the hair of Indonesian badgers, well think again.
There are things that no money can buy you in this world that are worth far, far more than hairy badgers. And God knows, I love new horsey products A LOT, I have 2 attractive horse models and I’m not bad with a camera … but it’s only temporary and superficial happiness. Take note, these are the things you really shouldn’t be without;
Number 1: Social Media Curfews
Snore… you’ve heard it all before, the “I’m taking a SM break” or “No phones after 7pm” bullsh*t! But the thing is, YOU’RE MISSING OUT ON LIFE!!!!! Yes, I’m an active social media user, but I never let it dictate my life. I cannot stand it when people use their phones at the dinner table or in a restaurant even… Going out? Leave your bloody mobile on the kitchen side, in the car, anywhere but in front of your face when your eating, please!
What if your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend dies at midnight tonight, would you regret the time you spent scrolling through the all too fake lives of other people that you barely know?! Too bloody right you would!
Stop for a second, think about lifting your head, looking around and enjoying your surroundings. Ride without posting on Instagram, see how amazing that feels to just be alone with your horse. It’s something I’ve done more and more and felt so happy for, which is why it’s my absolute number 1 thing to do this Autumn!!
Number 2: Minding your health.
This year I’ve been plagued with almost constant niggling pain for the first time in my 32 years. I know the relief of this pain requires at least one operation which I’m putting off for fear of it getting worse (no guarantees!). Taking care of your body, minding how many service stations you stop at tipping gallons of saturated fat into yourself, just how many cigarettes you toke on each Friday night and how many wine bottles smash into the bottom of the recycling van on bin day, will all amount to you not living as long or as well. FACT!
For the first time in my life, I’m doing something about this. I’m eating better, drinking less and I’ve started vaping instead of smoking. Yes, I feel better. Smug in fact!
But reality is, drinking too much is a slippery slope into depression and I’ve teetered here before so let’s be mindful of that and live healthier.
I’ve made a plan, I’d like to get the scales saying 9st something, that means exercising, good diet and drinking water instead of wine at 4pm on a Tuesday. I do feel better for it already.
Number 3: Laughing
I cannot stress enough how important it is to laugh, but not just in a weird, insane, alone laughing type of way. There are ingredients to laughter that will make your life better and your mind healthier.
Good people- ones that make you warm inside, ones you can be yourself around, people who don’t judge you or have hidden agendas. Those people will have you laughing like never before.
Lightening up- yes I use “f*ck and sh*t like a comma and a full-stop, I’m controversial, sarcastic and have wavering tact but I’m myself 99.7% of the time (obviously I wouldn’t swear in church or in front of my Mum!) Lighten up Brenda, it’s not like I said c*nt!
Appreciation of stuff you take for granted. Now, you might not roll about laughing when you realise how fortunate you are to have found half a Bounty in your coat, but making sure you appreciate just how lucky you are to be alive will make laughing about trivial crap much, much easier.
And that’s all I really have to offer on the subject. Don’t waste your life on things that are neither important nor worthy of your concern. Be kind, don’t judge and make light of things that don’t matter.
You have the power to be amazing… why aren’t you using it?
So, you may have seen that in August I offered one lucky book buyer the chance to win a GOLDEN TICKET! A Wimpy Wonka if you will… this ticket entitled the recipient to a day with ME! I would come to their house and terrorize them for a whole day! And that’s exactly what I had planned!!
Daddy Carrot selected the winner from a spreadsheet of names collated from my August orders and the lucky winner was a lady called Suzanne Pockley. Now, I will add that at this point, I had absolutely no idea who this person was or if they were a serial killer, arsonist, wimpy-napper, etc. but having firmed a date with Suzanne over Facebook, she (and her trusty steed, George) didn’t seem the murderous type.
By the time the day arrived I was on to plan C of the activities I had in store for poor Suze. My first plan of a polo lesson fell through as the ponies had all gone on holiday to the Caribbean or similar, Plan B was a trip to the mechanical horse and riding assessment, but alas… this was also not meant to be and had some technical problem… So I opted for Plan C.
En route to East Yorkshire, after papping my knickers going over the MASSIVE Humber Bridge, I stopped off at the supermarket for chilled booze and croissants only to need a jump start to get me back on the road again!! GREAT! – I obviously took Daddy Carrots car because mine is definitely not fit for passengers that would prefer not to catch E-Coli. After being propositioned by my golden toothed, jump starting helper, I made it to Suze’s yard and to my relief, she was so lovely and welcoming.
We had a good chat and a couple of glasses of Bucks Fizz before tacking up George and getting started on some confidence building in the arena.
DISCLAIMER: I am going to add in at this point, that I am no Yogi Breisner or Emile Faurie, I have no real formal qualifications to teach other than some ancient BHS PTT and Pony Club tests, but, I am insured and I know damn well that I can instill confidence in people to do things that they didn’t think they were capable of. I know that people trust me and I also know that I swear at them until they do things that ordinarily might seem impossible. If you have ever had me for a lesson, you’ll know what I’m talking about!!!
Now, Suze is a BRILLIANT rider, she is quiet with her hands, correct and balanced in her seat, she doesn’t hinder or flap, she has feel and skill… AND NO BELIEF IN ANY OF THAT WHAT SO EVER!!!!! I wanted to hit her with a spade. George, is a 14.3hh coloured cob that Suze bought as a 2 year old and backed herself. I renamed him ‘Just Enough George’. He is lazy at best and getting him to go forward and enjoy being a speedy sports cob was the aim of the morning.
We worked on getting him going off the leg in all 3 paces, shortening the trot on the short sides and lengthening on the long ones so Suze could practice using the GO button that we newly installed in George! She did a brilliant job of this and he was moving very nicely indeed. We then looked at straightness and riding a straight centre line, actually FEELING what straight feels like and not just riding a line. So, we were forwards, straight and in balance… perfect green lights for jumping!
Suze definitely turned a little green when I put the jumps up. She doubts herself so unnecessarily and I wanted her to see and start believing what she and George are capable of – I could see it a mile off!! So I popped up a high sided cross pole to focus George’s attention and keep them straight, followed by 2 uprights on either side of a 20m circle. The idea being to do very little over the jump, get straight before the fence and keep George FORWARDS! She nailed it!!! I mean really nailed it!
Trust is vital when you are teaching someone that lacks confidence and I hope I’m right in saying that, at this point, Suze trusted me (or she was in fear of being sworn at some more!) when I popped the jumps up a bit. The high sided cross pole was back and this was teamed with a little oxer to get George being straight, careful and also having to focus him going forwards a bit more for the spread. She rode this so well, I knew there were limits to her confidence but there were less to her capability… it was all about getting her to realise this. Quite often, people are far more capable than their confidence allows them to believe – I know this better than anyone!
So, with George and Suze thoroughly pooped, Suze’s Mum hopped on (helped by a glass of prosecco and mild bullying) after 20 years of not riding, to cool George off. This was a really special moment for me. The bond between Suze and George is like no other I have seen, he dotes on her, following her every step as she walked with her Mum around the arena. I had to slope off and put the jumps away before I flung my arms around them all and sobbed with pride!!
After all that hard work, we popped George in the field and headed off for Afternoon Tea at a lovely hotel. We chatted for hours and ate our body weights in miniature cakes and finger sandwiches before heading to the SPA!! Almost losing track of time in the Jacuzzi, it was time for Suze to go for her massage and facial, before a final drink together in the hotel bar.
I dropped Suze home around 7ish and made my way home so full of pride for her and so happy with the new friend I had made.
I cannot thank her enough for having me and being so welcoming. I know she was jumping again this weekend too, which makes me SERIOUSLY HAPPY!!! I can’t wait to see her and George progress and get out to some shows next year. What a brilliant Golden Ticket day, something I will definitely love to do again.
Love as always
One thing I that I couldn’t leave out is this AMAZING curly George Moustache…