Thursday, 14 March 2013

Ladies Day at Cheltenham [13.3.13]

Apologies for the rubbish photo but that is the super Sprinter Sacre behind :)
I am new to the whole race scenario, but since starting university I've found myself reading a bit more about it due to it being such a massive part of the equestrian world and going to Punchestown races whilst in Ireland really opened my eyes up to how entertaining it can be, despite the unfortunate incidences where horses fall badly. However, Cheltenham definitely hooked me and I wish I could go back! The atmosphere is truly incredible and getting to be close to some of the top race horses in the country, possibly world and seeing them race in the flesh is truly amazing!

Ruby Walsh riding Pont Alexandre
When I saw my university had organised a trip to Cheltenham, Ladies Day, I was in two minds as to whether to go but I am so glad I did! It was a day of great laughs, friendly atmosphere and horses - what more could you ask for? We had tickets for the Tattersalls stand, yet somehow myself and two friends never made it that far and somehow found we had spent the day in the Club area! No wonder we were so close to the horses! Also, as much as it was Ladies Day, I think there were definitely more men around but seeing the range of outfits worn by people was amazing, with some going casual and others more fancy with hats - though I think fur headbands were the winners (including myself)! 

Wayne Hutchinson riding Two Rockers
I would definitely recommend anyone to go to the races, whether you're into racing or not, though be warned - once you've been, you may well and truly be hooked! I definitely am and I can't wait until next year to hopefully go again! Fingers crossed I might win some money next time as well as I didn't seem to do too well with my horses either coming in 4th or falling at the last fence :/ At least I'm not a huge gambler! 

Has anyone ever been to the races, or even Cheltenham? I'd love to hear your stories!
Laura x

Friday, 8 March 2013

Ireland Study Tour [2013]

This is a bit of a late post seeing as we went 18th February - 22nd February, but better late than never, right?

We flew out Monday afternoon and stayed at The Gables Guest House, Newbridge. It's such a nice little guest house with a swimming pool, gym, jacuzzi, sauna, etc! 

One of their many arenas
Tuesday morning we went to Coilog Equestrian Centre. Coilog is a relatively large yard that caters just for competitions. It has 5 large outdoor arenas, a large grass field with the Derby style bank with various steep slopes and a large indoor as well as a nice canteen area and marque for further expansion for sitting and eating. All of the arenas are named after trees as the site used to be a tree nursery. They are further expanding their centre and hoping to make their already large indoor even larger! On Fridays they run an 'open schooling' day which means you can just turn up and use whichever/whatever arenas you want and then leave money in a box. They tend not to have people on the yard to collect the money so use a donations box which, surprisingly, they said works well and have only had two occasions in the past 4 years where people haven't paid which is pretty impressive! 

MRI Scanner
Tuesday afternoon we headed to Troytown vets which is one of the major vets over in Ireland. They have recently merged with another practise and although they now have 15 vets they reckon this still isn't enough! The vet that gave us a tour was so thorough and we got to see everything! The labs where they run blood analysis, foal intensive unit, intensive unit, the anaesthetic room where you could see a horse being operated on in the theatre through the windows in the doors which the horse is hoisted through from the anaesthetic room or back to the recovery room so that was interesting! We also got to see a little foal coming round in the recovery room after having being rushed in that morning for a ruptured bladder - he was such a sweetie and seeing him trying to walk to his mum in the stable with the vets support made us all melt! The vet also showed us all of the patients and explained what they were in for, how they go about their recovery, etc. They also have two horses out in a field which were donated to them to use for blood donations. We saw the MRI scanner, ultrasound, scintigraphy, x-ray, etc., and she showed us pictures for each to help us understand what they are used for and how they work, what they show, how useful they are, etc. This was one of my favourite visits as she went into so much detail and we really learnt a lot!

Wednesday morning we went to the Irish Centre where they carry out various things such a post mortems, biomechanics, microbiology, blood testing, etc. This trip was not as informative about what they did but more general chat about horse topics. 

Wednesday afternoon we went to Punchestown races where we had a tour before watching the races. Unfortunately, my betting skills are a bit rubbish and it's safe to say I most definitely did not win much money but it was a fun afternoon all the same! We even got to present prizes to Eddie Harty and Frank Berry for their horse 'Dressedtothenines' and the picture was posted on the racing post website :) 

Filly in the Whirlpool
Thursday morning was a very cold one as we went to Curragh gallops. I cannot believe how big the place was with different types of gallops everywhere! It was so nice seeing horses being galloped up and even saw one with an endoscope attached. We then spent some time at Tri Equestrian (a large tack shop) because no equine study tour is complete without a trip to a tack store! Our next stop was to go and see some horses swimming at Peter Kealtey Swimming Centre which was such a fascinating experience, seeing how the horses are walked round in the pool as well as in the whirlpool. 

The afternoon was spent touring round RACE (Racing academy and centre of education). At RACE they take on young people (about 16 to 18 year olds) to give them an education in racing and riding out so that they can go on to a career in racing. They ride out during the morning, then in the afternoon they have lessons with some being normal school lessons (ie maths, science) as well as business and communication as they interact with people who could be potential bosses or clients. They also have a gym and simulators and are taught the importance of correct fitness and diet. 

Friday brought the last day of our trip and the morning was spent touring the prestigious Kildangan Stud (Darley). Wow, was this place impressive! It is so big with acres upon acres of land. There are 20 yards/stable blocks set around the complex, a special foaling section which is monitored constantly. We saw a couple of foals with their dams and even one who had been born the previous night but unfortunately lost its mother due to a haemorrhage and so was currently getting used to its foster mare who was very protective. We saw their stallions and they pulled a few out for us which was so nice. My favourite was Iffraaj who got a bit excited at first as he thought there was a mare! We also saw Cape Cross, the stallion to Sea the Stars and Ouija Board. We also saw little Teaser Tom, a little grey pony used as a teaser for the mares. The stud is truly fantastic and so picturesque and impressive! We even got a little sneak preview at a recent development of theirs which is a room set out like a museum which is still undergoing development but looks set to be impressive! 

Overall, the week spent in Ireland was one of the best and so enjoyable and educational! I learnt so much from the trip which will be beneficial for my last year and a half left at uni (scary stuff!). I would definitely recommend anyone who has the chance to go on a study tour or visit these places in Ireland to go as it is well worth the money! 

Thanks for reading, 
Laura x

Monday, 4 March 2013

Competition Report [3.3.13]

Yesterday (3rd March), we were back to Houghton Hall for their winter dressage championships. 

Intro A:
I had hopes to place in this test with how Pea's schooling had been going lately. He warmed up nicely, and even when a little drama happened (someone's horse got spooked by the speaker and bronked the rider off before swiftly leaving) Pea was as calm as anything. In the test he rode nicely. There are still the odd bits that need working on but he is improving all the time and such a change from how he used to be! In fact, the transitions to walk for a stride and then trotting again and walk transitions were our worst as Pea now decides he'd rather keep trotting, something that before was unknown! We did get a few 8's, which is a bonus! The judges comments were: "Well done - nice pony. Accurate test for the most part, needs a little more hand/leg contact to bring frame together. Pleasing test with good rhythm and use of arena." I'm so proud of how far this little guy has come over the past year especially and we scored 61.3% coming 3rd so I was extra happy :) A video of the test can be viewed here

Prelim 15.
I wasn't expecting a great deal for this test after our recent canter issues. However, the two days prior to the competition I felt that his canter had slowly been coming along, though I don't think Pea agreed. In the warm-up, I used the outdoor arena as it was quieter so I thought he would canter better, however he decided to buck his way down the long side cantering and then rush off in trot...on both reins. I decided not to push too much because knowing what he's like he gets quite worked up with canter so I popped back indoors and worked on getting him back to me and listening before we went in. He started the test reasonably well, especially seeing as the test was in a 20x60m arena so aiming to stay straight down the very long centre line was a bit nerving but somehow we managed it getting the comment "good entry, straight and good turn at C (7)" so at least we got a good start. Once we hit canter it all went a bit downhill. I thought we'd be okay as it's canter in the corner, 20m circle, then along the diagonal so very little canter, but apparently Pea didn't like that. He bucked into canter, did half a circle before promptly stopping and reversing along a diagonal. Once he calmed down and we got moving again, we went back to finishing the circle in trot then attempting canter along the diagonal but getting the wrong lead. The second canter follows straight away and it went better...our circle was more like 15m than 20m and we lost some impulsion along the diagonal but hey ho! The rest of the test then went a bit messy as he was running off and not listening as much but we'll get there! The judges comments were: "well done, started well but went downhill after canter transition. good try but Paddy just didn't want to play along today!" Surprisingly he got 52.1% which is better than last time considering he added in his own movement and although we came last, the person who went after us got 52,6% so we weren't that far off! There's a video here

Now it's back to schooling at home to try and work on this canter. I am hoping to keep getting him out though as I'm not a defeatist and I know he'll get there soon. Patience is key! 

Thanks for reading! 
Laura & Pea x

Friday, 1 March 2013

[Monthly Review] February 2013

Is it just me or did February feel like such a long month, even though it's the shortest month of the year? I felt like it went on for ages and now I can't remember what happened! 

February has been a rather busy month for me so I haven't been able to ride much. At the beginning of the month we went over to Houghton Hall EC for dressage (posted about here) which didn't go too well! So after that I spent the weekend just hacking and having a bit of fun. The week after I free-schooled Pea which showed he is quite all over the place really and finds canter hard. I was back to uni on the 11th and now have 4 day weeks which means Pea can't get ridden but my dad goes down and does him on a Tuesday for me, bringing him in and grooming him whilst feeding him - he secretly loves it! I then get back Thursday and ride him then :) We've mainly been hacking and a bit of schooling but I think it's really helped him getting out hacking and letting him have a stretch and he gets so happy hacking, no matter how many times we go! 

This week I've properly cracked on with his canter work in the school after his walk trot work has been going nicely and fingers crossed we're slowly getting there! Yesterday (28th) I got him to canter round the whole arena on both reins without stopping. It may sound trivial and like nothing but for me and Pea it's a big step! I then decided to show him the water tray that was left out and he happily walked over it and then cantered over it! Definitely a happy ending after spending 5/10 minutes complaining at him for not listening! I schooled him again today ready for dressage on Sunday and focused on the test movements and whilst they're not great they were reasonable! 

One of the stallions at Kildangan
Last week I spent the week in Ireland with uni on a study tour! We visited various places such as Troytown vets, Kildangan Stud (One of the prestigious Darley studs), Punchestown races (where we got to present a prize), RACE, Curragh gallops and various others which I will blog about just as soon as I manage to get round to it! I will also have a competition report after this weekend where we are heading back over to Houghton Hall for their winter championships! 

Hope everyone's February went well!
Laura & Pea x