Final Run Before Houghton CCI**

A really busy week but a good one...

Hot Bank Holiday and garden divots

Although the heat was enjoyed by all across the country, it’s not great for working the horses, so I gave the horses short training sessions on bank holiday Monday - it is really good to do this and they all worked really well. Dom - the 5 year old has now been let loose in the fields - We tried him some weeks ago after he arrived in February but he took fright and jumped out, ran all over our neighbours garden - not popular with us or them!!! Took us 11/2 hours to sort it digging up the divots or filling them in. Unfortunately for our neighbours someone else did the same thing about three weeks later but completely trashed the garden - apparently it looked like a ploughed field!!! It had been very wet before. They have now put up a gate!!!

We spent the afternoon mending some fencing - the wood was so rotten it was about to fall down - now all mended and the gateway is wider allowing bigger tractors in to roll and Harrow. This was followed by a fun BBQ - making the most of the British Summer.

 

Show jump course training and tips

We took Vinnie and Conquer show jump training with Chris Burton - 4* Australian rider who I spent some time with last winter - It’s great to have some course practice under tuition, they have a lovely big arena - both horses jumped really well and I picked up some warm up tips together with a suggestion of a different bit for Conquer as he always chomps away at his, playing with the lozenge - we are going to try a rubber Pelham for jumping and a vulcanite straight bar snaffle for dressage - will be interesting to see if there is improvement - we borrowed Chris’s for the lesson and Conquer certainly felt softer to the contact.

We had a Long hall home got back at 7pm. Then packed up ready for Aston on Wednesday.

 

Final Run Before Houghton CCI**

We had late start times at Aston on Wednesday so I was able to ride the others before we left - this is a relatively close competition - 11/2 hours away !.

As we had afternoon times we had time to walk the xc after the dressage - this always feels as though we have saved time rather than having to allow time before the dressage to walk it -  but in reality you haven’t!!

Had lovely comments from the judge at the end of the dressage sheet and he continues to improve - I have to keep thinking back to last year where he could barely string two movements together - it is easy to forget how the horses have come on. The change of bit definitely helped him relax more and be more accepting of the contact. He was on aeroplane mode in the show jumping and literally flew round with no penalties despite quite a dead surface. The Cross country was fantastic except for the first few fences where he seemed to still be in the sj arena but by fence 4 he had got into his stride and felt very smooth and easy and stayed in a good rhythm, as a result of the slow start we had a few time penalties. Next time I’ll have to rev him up abit more for the start of the course!! I always like the horses to be calm before the start box but maybe The Partner (Conquer) needs to be more in gear.  Really looking forward to taking him to Houghton.

 

Practice what your taught

Thursday bought another trip in the lorry but this time with Vino and Dom to have a bit of course practice - we took them both to Wickstead Farm Equestrian Centre and put in place some of the techniques I picked up from Chris on Tuesday. Dom is jumping so much better and not rushing into the fences and working well over them.  Vino also jumped well but we continue to work on a smoother round with him being more consistent in the way he jumps. - he is improving but it is a slow process that can’t be rushed. 

 

Chatsworth CIC*** -

Thanks to Immy coming in I managed to ride all the horses before leaving at midday to Chatsworth Horse Trials - we actually managed to leave on time but had a really slow journey with Friday afternoon traffic and eventually arriving just after 4.30pm.

Vinnie’s test wasn’t until just after 3pm on Saturday so it seemed we had a lovely day ahead to watch others and enjoy everything Chatsworth provides - in reality that never happens  there is always something to do - we took Vino with us for some experience so by the time I had ridden both - walked the course, plaited up and faffed the day soon disappeared. This was Vinnie’s best test yet and there is still definitely more to come -  just need a few more tweaks here and there to sharpen up. The test was very relaxed and so was I and probably for the first time I felt I had lots of time in the movements, which is strange as it is a busy test. I really focused on Vinnie listening to my aids and being soft over his back and making sure he was really listening to me - I do a lot of canter work in his warm up going from medium to collected to halt to collected to medium and also some canter shoulder ins - it really helps the hind legs. I also really focused on accuracy in the test and riding directly to each letter. When I finished the test I was really pleased but when I  looked at the video after I thought it felt better than it looked.!! However, we were only 2 marks off the leaders and lying in 11th after dressage so it must have been ok!

When we walked the cross country course - I thought it looked very big and the terrain made some of the fence more technical than if they were on the flat - there seemed little let up on the fences and not a course you could mentally have a rest at any point!!!

We were staying off site with some cousins so an early start on Sunday so  Vino could be ridden before I walked the cross country again with John, my coach at 8.30am. I had already walked the sj at 6.30am which was big and would need forward riding.

Having walked the cross country course again with John the points that we kept reiterating all round the course.

Keep in balance

Set up for fence where needed

Use your core

Use your legs - you have long ones so use them.

 

I had allowed plenty of time for warming up for the SJ but when I got down there there was only 5 to go in as they were running ahead of time - luckily it is a long ride down to the SJ from the lorry park so we had done some warming up on the way down. In hindsight I wished I had stuck to my time and not let the stewards rush me in - not that this affected Vinnie’s performance but would have preferred to have warmed up more progressively . The arena at Chatsworth has quite an electric atmosphere with shops all around, huge crowds milling around and watching and I hadn’t anticipated that Vinnie would take any notice of this.  He definitely lit up, of course it has been quite a time since he has been in an arena with that atmosphere. Luckily he was a good boy and I managed to get his focus back for the first fence, he jumped really well, sadly had a pole at fence 4 - I had seen a good stride into it and lightened my leg contact a fraction so he just didn’t travel over it enough.

Cross country was at 13.12 and there had been alot of hanging round during the day waiting for this. It played with my mind abit and I found it quite difficult to get my mojo  - particularly as I kept thinking about Belton where I fell off - I so wanted to get round clear and complete a 3*!! I started to over analyse every fence but once on course I was fine. Once we were in a rhythm it felt back to the good old days and Vinnie felt mega and I really felt at one with him. For the first time ever we got held on course just after fence 11 as a rider 2 ahead of me had fallen.  I had no idea how this would affect Vinnie and how long we would be held for - I kept walking him and the occasional trot - we had been stopped just after a steep hill so there wasn’t a great place to get a good run up when we set off again. Unfortunately this break broke our rhythm completely and Vinnie never really zoned back in for the rest of the course - we still finished with no jumping penalties but he definitely had switched off. We had plenty of time penalties as I was never planning on going fast as it is all about learning and development at this new level. However, I have now completed by first 3* and when I stop analysing everything I might realise what we have achieved!! I have had Vinnie since a 4 year old so started from the beginning of his development and now look where we are.

Vinnie lost both front shoes on the course - mum was standing by a  fence where one came off and another was handed in just as the farrier was about to put an old pair on we keep in the lorry for just such occasions - talk about timing. The ground was predominately good so hopefully he won’t be bruised.

We had taken Vino with us to give him an education in a more heightened environment - the first day he started off fine and when I rode him he was soft and relaxed - unfortunately he became harder to manage as the weekend went on - and more attached to Vinnie- which resulted in Mum or Dad having to miss watching a phase. This definitely added more stress to the weekend which was a shame  - It would have been much more relaxed if we had not taken him but they have to learn.

Now driving home and hoping for a good journey.

Next week a bit quieter and just taking Vino to Rockingham.

Lindsey Hopkinson