Wednesday, 10 July 2013

5 years on

Today, 10th July 2013, I have owned Pea for 5 years, and wow, time has flown! It seems like just the other week that I went down to the yard to find him standing in a stable after my parents had collected him as a surprise whilst I was on my way back from France. The journey I have had with Pea has been far from easy but I think it's safe to say that he has taught me so much and I wouldn't change him for the world, no matter how many arguments we have! Luckily, I don't think I would be able to sell him anyway seeing as as soon as someone goes to ride him he automatically starts misbehaving, so I think he's decided I'm stuck with him!

Looking back, I don't really know what made me buy Paddy if I'm honest. When I went to try him I think he was one of the first after the mare I bought turned out to be lame and ended up being loaned as a broodmare after just a couple of months owning her, safe to say I made sure to get my next horse vetted! When I went to try Paddy, the girl first rode him and in trot he constantly stopped to buck, but they were only small and I decided to hop on. He was as good as gold for me and I walked, trotted and cantered him. I should have popped him over the small jump but instead decided to leave it - crazy I know! We then got him vetted, but unfortunately I was ill and the girl was at school so the vet had to ride him! It was quite a sight, especially as the owner made him wear a body protector much to his dismay! Again Paddy let out small bucks but I was undeterred, wanting a slight challenge anyway and back then I thought it might be tricky for a few months but it wouldn't be long before we were out jumping and possibly doing BSJA in the future! How wrong was I? When I first got him home it was a few days before I could ride as I had to wait for the saddler to come out to check the saddle we had fitted him fine. When she came we had a walk round, then started trotting but after a 20m circle he started napping and bucking and it was difficult to keep him moving. Luckily our then saddler said the saddle seemed fine. I started having lesson with my yard owners daughter as we could hardly trot a few strides before he started being naughty so she suggested lunging before riding each time. This seemed to help settle him slightly, however once I was on him we would still have issues and be unable to trot even just the long side of the arena without him bucking and it wasn't long before I started to feel like giving up and I would hardly ride, trying to make excuses. After falling off twice in one lesson I seriously questioned my decision but my instructor turned around and said: "well if you can't ride him then you might as well not ride at all" and this made me realise I had to keep persevering!

Over time we finally managed to build up the trot work without him being naughty and as I got more confident thinking we were cracking it, he then went and started throwing in new movements such as a few rears or fly bucking. Again, my confidence was lost and again I questioned my decision but something made me carry on and again I got more confident at getting him past his naughtiness and making him carry on working. I then decided to start jumping him and although he had a lovely jump it was obvious he hadn't been jumped much or was slightly uneducated as he would often get in too deep to the jump and then try to clamber over it or take half a stride out and launch, not very comfortable! As we progressed and tarted jumping bigger fences I started adding in fillers and that was when we had issues again. I was used to my old loan pony who would jump anything that was pointed at him but Paddy was very different and if he wasn't sure then at the very last second he would run out causing me to come out the side door so once again my confidence diminished. I took him out show jumping a few times and we would do well at 2ft and some 2ft3 but any higher when fillers were involved I'd get scared and wouldn't want to jump as I wouldn't ride properly to the fences. Over time I slowly jumped less and instead focused on flatwork.

My instructor then stopped teaching and I tried someone new, however after a few months things weren't working out as we would spend lessons doing the same thing which soon made him bored and therefore start being naughty. Eventually I decided to try another instructor in order to keep Paddy improving and that is when I found Emily, my current instructor. She straight away understood what Pea was like and instead of telling him off each time he was naughty she suggested changing what we were doing which meant that he didn't know what was coming and therefore his brain is actively thinking about what is coming next rather than being naughty. Slowly but surely, more of the time spent working was of him being good and he was continually improving. We then got his saddle and back check and it was found that he had deep muscle issues which could have been from an incorrect saddle before we got him which we knew about and other things and he also needed a new saddle. Since then we've never looked back, apart from the brief period when I took him to uni and he hated the individual tiny turnout and refused to be ridden but once he was back home he was like a different horse!

Since the beginning of last year when I started competing him at dressage more seriously and getting him out most months he has always come home with a rosette apart from at the UK Riders final where he was just one place off. His scores are still varied as we still have a long way to go and there are still times when I feel disheartened but I just have to remind myself that even 2 years ago I couldn't trot around an arena without issues and now I can do 45 minutes work with him working well. Each day this horse does something that makes me smile, whether it's nibbling my ear when I'm trying to groom him, or slowly develop his outline more and more, and there's never a day where I wish I had a different horse as I doubt I will have learned from them what I have learnt from him such a patience, better balance and that the times I want a relaxing hack are the times he's going to test me the most!

I think that if you have a horse which you find is difficult then just try to stick with them, it can be hard to see how you're ever going to get through to the horse and get them doing what you want, but when you do it is so rewarding! I also found that it's best to ignore what others may say, my first instructor and someone who had been 'helping' me with him in the beginning told me to sell him before going to uni as he wouldn't do what I wanted and others have often looked down at us but since then he has continuously improved and I have no doubt that by the end of this year we will be able to do a novice dressage test as although we still have some slight disagreements over right canter at the moment, he gets good scores for his trot and his marks are improving each time overall (discounting our argumentative moments).

Sorry for the sappy and long post but thanks for reading,
Laura & Pea x

Sunday, 7 July 2013

[Competition Report] Vale View 7.7.13

Today, Myself and Pea (plus my trusty groom/driver - Dad) ventured over to Vale View Equestrian Centre for the dressage. We haven't been there before and I was supposed to have gone last week, however due to an illness/injury (doctors think it was a virus that affected my muscles, was not fun not being able to move my arm at all due to it hurting) I didn't want to risk riding so pushed it back to this week. We entered Prelim 14 (getting rather bored of this test!) and Prelim 18. I wasn't expecting a lot as it was very hot and Pea gets rather lethargic and annoyed in the heat and also we are having issues with right rein canter. Before it was left rein, but now that's fine and he's decided he cannot canter on the right rein on the correct lead, not even on the lunge...oh the joys of horses! He warmed up nicely for both tests, he was still a bit funny in canter as he always is in the warm-up, but he was quite relaxed though spooky at times with it being a new venue. I didn't give him a long warm-up as it was so hot, plus he tends to go a bit better with a shorter warm-up as it means that he doesn't get bored. I also allow him to have a minute or two to walk round on a long rein just before we go in, again to relax him as well as myself so that we don't go in all tense and argumentative if something happens. 

Prelim 14:
Our centre line was nice and straight, and for once I actually felt like it was straight as I normally think it's awful when it never is, however we slightly ruined the ending as we had to turn left and he lacked the left bend but it will come with more time. The first few movements were quite nice and he maintained a reasonable outline, though there were some comments of him possibly being more rounder, but he's come a long way and he's getting a lot softer! The first canter was to the right so I knew we would have issues and he struck off on the wrong lead which I tried correcting but it was still a bit iffy. On the 20m circle he broke and had a small argument and then went off on the wrong lead again causing him to get a bit tense but I am sure with more work he'll eventually soften. His left canter was better, though he went a bit 'heady' as I call it and got quite stiff round the circle. He then finished very nicely with a straight centre line and square, obedient halt (getting an 8 - yes!) which has been something we have struggled with lately so I'm very happy! Think maybe the heat helped a bit there! The judge wrote: "Paddy needs to improve his canter work but he tried hard and with more work marks could improve." I am very happy with these marks as he truly does try his heart out despite his 'Paddy' moments and I'm sure with time he will get a lot better, he just needs to learn to relax more for the canter as I think it's more psychological as he had a massage the other week and no problems were found, his saddle fits though I do need to get his teeth done. Overall he scored 59.58 and although essentially came last (7th) he still managed to qualify for Trailblazers second round again for next year. The video can be viewed here

Prelim 18:
Our second test didn't go as well as I think the waiting and the heat got to him as he was a bit argumentative in the warm-up and as it was such a hot day quite a few people withdrew so we didn't have much of a warm-up. His centre line wasn't as good and he drifted to the left. For the majority of the test he wasn't as soft as he had been in his first test and occasionally swung his hind quarters in, which again is another problem we have had. His right canter was very argumentative and he stopped and had a bit of a nap, then carried on on the wrong leg. He was also a bit more reluctant about left canter and swapped leads on the circle so not very helpful. Luckily he finished with a nice square halt..eventually! The judge got out of her car at the end to say that I rode nicely and asked if he was often naughty, haha! Her comments were: "quite nice natural paces, needs more suppleness and roundness. Very naughty at times in canter. Quite nice position." He only scored 52.92% but that was to be expected, and as so many withdrew he came 5th (last). The video can be viewed here

Overall, although it didn't all go according to plan, he is getting better with his frame in trot, and he just needs to learn to relax in canter which I am sure will eventually come (though when I'm not too sure!) and he also needs to bend more to the left as he often gets a bit stiff and therefore falls in and bends to the right. I am very proud of this boy though and feel incredibly lucky to have him as he has taught me more than I could imagine and he tries his heart out most of the time and will always have his 'Paddy' moments. This coming Wednesday (10.7.13) I will have had this special boy 5 years which has literally flown by! 

Thanks for reading, 
Laura & Pea x