Blog Highlights

Blog Highlights

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Olivia Wilmot
Olivia Wilmot

Olivia's career began with the amazing and tiny cob Patris Filius, who she competed from Pony Club to Badminton '08. She has since been successful at 4* level with double clears at Badminton and Burghley on Axil!

27 October 2016

Rest is an illusion!

The last month has supposedly been much quieter but somehow it doesn't really feel like that! I now think that 'rest' for me is an illusion! My horses are all out on holiday having a well deserved rest. I can't wait until my holiday - just over 2 weeks to go and then I get to see some sunshine to help see me through those long dark winter days. The horses have been out in the big field 24/7, I find this is good for them as Axil doesn't switch off when he's going out in his normal paddock during the day and coming in at night - he can be such a rascal, if it starts raining he whinnies and canters up and down fence line (he's not really a 'precious' at all, as if I was to compete in the rain he's totally fine!) and once he's out, if he sees any people near the field, that's it.... he wants to come in and there's not a chance you can bring another horse in from the field before him!

Axil decides how he goes out for, some days he lasts all day like 7-8 hours, sometimes it's only an hour or so! But when he's out in the big field he knows it's holiday time so he copes with it. Obviously, he is rugged up and fed every day! They will only go out for a week or two - depends how long the weather holds for. I don't like them to have too long off as I like them to have another break over Christmas. I have found this works well for me and for them. And that way they never lose too much fitness, especially as the field they holiday in has a really steep hill!

Before they went out on their holiday, I let them down gently - as they have been in so much work, I don't think it's fair to go from that to nothing. After their last big events they had a few days off, then they go on the walker and I ride them a bit so I know how they feel. They both felt good. Zeb took a bit longer after Blenheim to get himself back to normal and he saw the physio' a few times too. I think when he slipped he slightly tweaked himself. But he's back to his normal self now.

Just before they went out for their holiday, we had some Horse Scotland training which included seeing Russell Guire from Centaur Biomechanics and the saddle fitter and their team. They focus a lot on rider positron and the way the horse moves. This is the third time I've seen Russell and it's been a huge help. At the time it's quite intense and everything is scrutinised. It is all videoed and we watch it back there and then and quite often in 'slow mo' too - which is not always that flattering! But it's really good to be able to track progress and changes. Russell's thinking isn't to change one thing by 100% but 100 things by 1% - so lots of small, little tweaks here and there make all the difference.

At the Horse Scotland training I also see the physio' and fitness trainer and I'm often sent away with homework, which I haven't been too bad at doing. They have both really helped me and it's great being able to see them regularly. I have started my fitness regime now for the winter. It's been good, well tough at this time of year as this is when, in the past, I have grown into my own 'winter (fat) coat'! But not this year. I have been having to keep a food diary as well, so that is interesting.

As much as I have been quieter on the riding side, I have been really busy teaching and catching up with other things that I tell myself can wait until the end of the season - dull boring things like paperwork and getting myself organised! The good news is we are getting going with my new stables and arena at the new house, so hopefully all will be in before next eventing season. I'm very excited about the prospect of my horses being at my own house! At the moment next season seems so far away. But as it's only 8 weeks until Christmas, it's going to fly by. I'm hoping for next season that not only will the horses be at my house but Rocco our homebred will at last make his debut!

Hamish seems to be growing up so fast and is quite a character as most two year olds are! Unfortunately, he has managed to learn some not very good language and is good at using it, which is not ideal! I'm hoping it's just a phase that he will grow out of quickly. School holidays have never featured in my life but now they are, as Hamish goes to playgroup which runs during school time so I now have less free time in school holidays.

For now I need to get my horses fitness plan sorted out, now as we have Horse Scotland selection trials in a few weeks, so winter dressage, show jumping and training is on the cards!

Sharon Edwards
Sharon Edwards

Sharon Edwards has ridden up to Grand Prix dressage and represented GB at Small Tour. She combines training with teaching and has started her own breeding programme with the aim of riding homebreds at top level.

4 October 2016

Proud is not the word!

This month has been one of unexpected bonuses and much excitement. Rivaal was awarded a wild card to the Nationals for his fabulous efforts at the Regionals. Anyone with me at the regionals will know that this was definitely not what I was hoping for; in fact for the brief period of time that I was in the lead, the most worrying thing was the possibility of going to the Nationals! That may seem strange, as although I am totally thrilled to have him back competing only a year after I thought his riding days were over, he is a high maintenance horse to take to bigger shows without disgracing himself in the warm-up and we are still left with some evasive behaviour learnt from before I recognised he had some physical problems that precipitated his lay-off.

Dressage youngsters

Of course, once I received my wild card, being the stubborn person that I am, we were going!! I have learnt that you never know what is around the next corner with horses. Events can blindside you and throw you off your best laid plans within seconds, so my motto is 'make sure you enjoy the good times'! What followed was a fairly gruelling three weeks for me, finding the time to give Rivaal exposure to as many different venues and situations as possible, to prepare him mentally for the atmosphere at Stoneleigh and the local show jumping venue (for one) was surprised to see a beautiful dressage horse training between their show jumps!

He has been to Stoneleigh twice before, the first time I ended up riding him for three hours in an attempt to calm him down before the test. We nearly wiped out a number of innocent spectators and my husband, would sing the line "crazy horses" at the mention of Rivaal's name for months after! The next time he was decidedly better, but it is not an easy competition for him; he loves his job but we have yet to learn how to help him control his adrenaline surges in the warm-up.

Rival getting ready for his test

I knew I had to prepare him as much as possible. We travelled up two days before our test, with the plan of showing him the arena on the first day. The M25 had other ideas though and a journey that should have taken a maximum 3 hours took 6, so we weren't allowed in the arenas on the first day. The next day was a well-planned regime of hand-walking and short rides in the warm-up next to the main arena. In the past I have discovered that you will never wear this horse out, in fact the longer you stay on him the more hyper he becomes. So it is a case of holding your nerve and not warming up for to long, even though he feels like an unexploded bomb. My plan B, if he was unable to cope with the main arena warm up, was to stick to the more distant warm-up, and just hope he coped going into the ring. Obviously that runs the risk of the atmosphere freaking him out, but at least I would be able to warm-up.

Sharon and Rival at the Nationals

Proud is not the word! Even though he was barely back to competing, he coped the best yet with all of it. We warmed-up in the main area, with only the briefest of misdemeanours. I made an error though as we waited to go through the arch into the ring, I lost my nerve that he was about to boil over and got the girls to feed him polos. I think that, combined with tension caused me a problem, as I trotted around the ring he got his tongue over the bit, and it stayed there until I dropped the contact in the walk. He was moving beautifully, but we had some issues with the frame and contact throughout the trot - all credit to him though he carried on trying hard. As soon as he could correct the tongue, we had some stunning canter work, and he was 100% with me and on his job. That is quite an achievement!

We scored over 66% despite the tongue issue with some very positive, sympathetic comments from the judges, so I couldn't have asked for more from a horse that wasn't even supposed to be there. I loved every moment, and maybe that is the wisdom of getting older. I am still ambitious but I make sure that I enjoy the journey wherever that takes me.

Taking a moment after the test!

Another comeback moment less than a week later was with the gorgeous gentle giant Brina. I purchased her as a three year old in foal, and ironically I was later offered the competitive ride on her sire Benvenuto. So we have three generations on our yard, which is a lovely situation to be in. After breeding two gorgeous foals from her I decided to put her into ridden work as she was still young, a lovely mover and a divine character. Less than a year into her training, however, she somehow fractured her pedal bone and the vets said it would either heal and cause her no problem or she wouldn't come sound..... Thankfully, she has returned to full work successfully and we made our debut competing with two Novice test over 71%. I can't wait to compete this mare more, she is talented and uncomplicated, I could do with more like her!

The following week I took her out again, once more I was thrilled with her test, only one minor spook but she felt lovely. Just in case I was getting big headed though, I was brought back to earth with a disappointing 64% which sums up the mystery of dressage, it is so much the opinion of the individual watching.

Also, the week after the Nationals we took Carenzo out to try to qualify for the Winter Small Tour Championship. I hadn't been to the venue for well over a decade, and what a great job they have done at bringing it right up to scratch. Super surfaces and a well run show. This qualifier was the combined results of the straight Prix St Georges and the PSG freestyle, with the top three qualifying for the Championships in December. Carenzo was still not fully fit thanks to the low grade virus he carried for the second half of the summer, so I was unsure if we would have enough 'petrol' for two tests.

We prepped for the Freestyle using some music I used previously, but went with the attitude we would only do two tests if he was up to it. He was feeling bright, even a little spooky in the first test and scored a very pleasing 68% leaving him in third place after the first leg of the qualifying round. So we had everything to go for in the Freestyle. I had designed the choreography to show off his stunning half-passes and balance in trot, but had to keep the canter a little more simple as he is not yet established enough for complicated lines in the tempis. Instead, I concentrated on the symmetry and flow in the canter work, playing to his strengths.

Knowing I would have limited energy, I warmed up for just ten minutes, and had only had only had the opportunity of practicing the Freestyle test once before the show, so it was a decent 'ask'. He didn't let me down, but there was a distinct hesitation half way through the test when I felt his energy ebb. One judge loved him and had him to win with a super 72%, the other was not so keen but the amalgamated scores left us third. I was so pleased and utterly exhausted, to earn a place at the Winter Freestyle Regionals as well as the Small Tour Championships. On the way home I worked out that in the previous ten days I had been away competing five of them, so no wonder I was weary!

Unsurprisingly there has been little time for anything else in life, just keeping the yard running as normal around the hectic show schedule. But as I finish this blog I am literally on a plane heading for Santiago, Chile for a short break. So another adventure starts.....

Karen Morris
Karen Morris

Karen started as a professional show jumper but has since turned to scurry driving. She won the Scurry Driving Points Champs '07 with Suited & Booted and was third in the European Championships in 2010.

13 October 2016

A distant memory!

We took 6 out of 7 scurry ponies down to the winter field the weekend after Newbury show, to turn them out for their well-earned grass rest. Jerry went home to his owner and we have to keep Flora at the yard because I cannot trust her not to kick the other ponies. Pepsi is also at the yard as she needs to start doing some 'sanity' work over the winter and she is too fat after her year off!

Daisy at two days old!

We caught the youngsters Daisy and Wilbur to come back to the yard but the others were so happy to be out and were galloping and bucking that we had trouble hanging on to the pair of them. Poor Veronica got dragged everywhere by Daisy. They just wanted to join in, bless them, but they need to work over the winter and hopefully Daisy will be broken for next season.

The ponies in the field are huge (ie. fat), even two weeks later, except Tom. I don’t know whether he finds eating grass difficult or if it is a digestion problem. It always looks as if he has his head down, but he has actually lost weight. So I picked him up last weekend and he is back in his stable at night now on lots of hard feed. Fingers crossed he will pick up a bit but he does always struggle over the winter.

Last weekend I found an old harness pad to put on Daisy. It is falling apart but will do the job and I like an old one to leave on for a while, so it doesn’t matter if it gets scratched or damaged. She has had a rug on which I find always helps when you start breaking but the girth is now a little bit tighter. I put her out in the paddock with Pepsi and she had a couple of bucks but nothing much at all. The next day there was no reaction to it. She has always appeared to be very confident, even when she was two days old so I hope that she will be like that when we break her. Looking at the pictures, I cannot believe the difference from bright orange to roan! I know she will turn out white grey but I hope that holds off for a few more years yet. Next week, I will find her a small bridle to start bitting her and teaching her to lunge.

She has made her mark in her stable though and appears to be just like her mum. She hates being away from the others (even though they are all in stables overnight) and gets in a temper rather than being nervous. She 'slam dunks' the walls and picks up any buckets and flings them against the walls too. Oh and stamps on them! How can she learn that from her mum when they were separated so long ago? The moods must be hereditary.

Daisy now at three and a half years old with a roller on in the field

We have decided that everything we put in her stable for the moment will be rubber! The first two weeks, her bed was wrecked the next morning and totally dug up but I have now had two days where it seems to be a lot tidier. She needs to get used to being put in a stable for when we are away at shows.

Ponies on their winter break!

I had a night out and went to the cinema last week with a couple of friends to see Bridget Jones Baby. It is the first time I have been to a cinema for years but we could not stop crying. It has to be the funniest film I have ever seen.

I have started working on the show list for the Scurry Driving Association for next year and on top of that, work has been manic. Talk about coming back down to earth and reality with a bump! The show season, although only three weeks ago, now seems a distant memory. I keep dreaming of a lottery win so that I can just do ponies and have an early retirement from work, but I may be waiting a while. In the meantime, the winter job list has started, the lorry has been booked for its annual test and the 'project ponies' will be targeted!

Jackie Bennett
Jackie Bennett

Jackie Bennett represented GB at the European Trec Championships in 2010. Combining her love of the sport with running a business, she is aiming for selection in 2016 with her horse of a lifetime, Bradley.

18 October 2016

An indignant dismount!

It feels like a lifetime ago that we returned from the Worlds, not just five weeks. Life is so busy at the moment, that I took the decision to give B some down time until I have got on top of everything, he is currently only working Tuesdays, Thursdays and one day at the weekend. Slowly I am getting there, the vegetable garden is back in order, the soft fruit is weeded, the hay we left on the trailer in the barn when we went to Spain, is now stacked; I have completed the year end in my business accounts and just about finished work on the international riders accounts. I have de-kitted and fully cleaned, inside and out, "Flash", my big trailer and put his new cover on for winter.

Steps under construction

The winter paddock is progressing well, we have had the digger back on the odd Saturday to carry on with the grading of the soil, getting the track in and fencing. If only we didn’t have to work all week, things would be done so much quicker! Martin Has put a jump out of the paddock on one side and is progressing well with the box and the two steps on the other. The surface is perfect for schooling on. I cannot believe how much it has improved things during the week. To be able to get home, walk the dogs and go straight into the paddock to school is so much easier. Suddenly the evenings are not a mad rush to get down the road to the school and back again to cook dinner.

At the moment we are focused on making life easier; I am determined to not keep getting bogged down and taking too much on. The new approach is to just do one job at a time instead of several. It’s taking time but I’m working on it. We bought a paddock topper before going to Spain. This will save me a whole lot of strimming and my 'best buy' recently is an automatic opener for my ducks' door, I show everyone who comes near how good it is. Now this may seem like a small insignificant thing to most people but I am a firm believer that if you have pets, whatever they are, you have to do your best by them.

Almost finished!

I blame my father; he has always let the ducks out in the mornings for us, as we leave at 6.30m for work. But we have just moved my father to a smaller property so he is no longer around in the morning. I then had the worry about letting the two ducks into the field in the dark when 'Mr Foxy' could be around. I would just worry all day so with the help of the wonderful world of the internet I found an automatic duck door opener, well it was for hens really, but hey it does the job! Fantastic bit of kit and as you can tell I am very excited by it, but I am easily pleased!

B and I have only had one trip out since our return from Spain. Former blogger, Anna Weston, contacted me to see if I wanted a bit of end of season fun doing a 240 minute score TREC at Winwick. The score TREC runs on the same sort of principle as foot orienteering. In our case, you plot the grid references and decide which ones you want to visit to get the most points in the 240 minutes. The intention had been that we would not be competitive and have some fun! That was never going to be the case, fun it was but as for the non-competitive bit, that just didn’t happen! Being set in Northampton there were lots of lovely grassy tracks that you could progress at speed on, what a blast!

B at 240 minute Trec

Wizzy and B get on well together, Wizzy is a real character and if B gets in front he pulls such faces at him! The top surface on the tracks were, in places, slightly greasy from the heavy overnight rain, at one point B slipped on a corner to which I boldly stated that it did them no harm and taught them to keep their feet. This, of course, is only the case if the person on top is equally balanced! Anna and I were having a lovely progressive canter along a grassy headland when B started to slip, the horse was a star and kept his feet but unfortunately, I was not equally weighted and ended up hanging on around his neck. You know when you have that inevitable feeling that this is not going to end well!

My biggest worry was that he would panic and either shoot off or start bucking. The inevitable happened and I ended up crashing on the floor right in front of him. Not good with a horse at speed but to be fair to B he stopped dead and didn’t touch me. To add insult to injury, my training partner Lynne Mabbit was coming the other way on Jigsaw. Luckily for me she did not see the indignant dismount just the resulting rider on the floor! No harm done and, remounted, we continued if not a little slower! I have never done a score TREC before and although I feel it would never replace TREC for me, it really was excellent fun and I certainly would do it again!

Cleaning - everything!

Now I am getting on top of things, I need to turn my attention to training for both myself and B. As I have said, we are working in the winter paddock two evenings a week, I am having lightweight jumping poles for my birthday in November, so I can easily move them in an out at night after work and will also set up my TREC obstacles in there to school on. I have taken a lot away from the Championships in Spain and will be working on a number of things. Ideally, I need to get out and do some POR work and also practise map copying. As I came out of the map room in Spain, the Spanish Chef d equipe (who is incidentally English) said to me that in Spain they have a saying which translates into "Copy once, copy right and copy well" or something along those lines. I think that is valuable I need to work on it for the new season!

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