Thursday, 28 May 2015

Overcoming Fears

Some of you may not know this but I actually bought Pea with the plan of show-jumping him. I used to have a loan pony who jumped anything that I pointed him to and would happily jump 3ft+ courses and I even did a 4ft fence on him without too much thought. So after I outgrew him I wanted another horse that I could continue that with and hopefully affiliate. Funny how things change! 

I'm not 100% sure how much jumping experience Pea had before I bought him. I knew he was a bit naughty but that they had had someone jump him for them and she would pop him over 3ft fences which he was fine with. However, when I bought him and started to do a bit of jumping on him, he would bury himself deep and ditch me out the side door if I wasn't confident enough. Slowly I lost all confidence jumping him, especially when I had people saying that I needed to jump him higher because his rushing was just because he didn't have to concentrate. Pea is the total opposite of my old loan pony in that if I'm not confident and I take my leg off (something I seriously need to work on) he'll just run out, but at the absolute last second leaving me on the floor. Eventually I stopped jumping him and focussed on his flatwork, occasionally popping the odd little jump. 

However, that being said, Pea does enjoy his jumping and I just think he needs to gain
more confidence (which he has been doing) and I need to kick myself into gear and jump him more regularly. After falling off in the middle of a dressage test at the weekend it made me realise that I need to overcome my jumping nerves and let him jump more often. I mean, if I can fall off in a dressage test yet think nothing of it, then surely I can put that perspective into jumping.. Easier said than done, but I'll never know if I don't try. 

That's why on Wednesday I decided I was going to pop Pea over a couple of fences. (Afterwards it wasn't quite such a great idea seeing as I damaged my knee falling off and clearly riding has made it worse but hey ho!). I'm hoping to try and jump him at least once a month and hopefully I'll overcome my nerves and who knows, maybe I'll get him out to some more show-jumping competitions next year. All I need to focus on is myself and Pea and not think about others or the height of the fence or anything. I'm planning on keeping the fences small (2ftish) and work on keeping him in a nice consistent rhythm and ensuring that I use my leg! At least with small fences it takes away the complication that he might run out so I can work on counting down my strides and also using my leg to communicate to Pea that if I can do it, he can do it! Then, once I feel more confident, I can increase the fence height, maybe incorporate fillers at the sides, build up to longer courses, etc. It might be a long road and I'm sure that we're going to have a few testing times but as long as he's happy then I'm happy :) 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Monday, 25 May 2015

[Competition Report] Rutland Riding Club - 24th May 2015

It's a jolly good thing that I love Pea, because some days (i.e. today) he really does like to test me! It's been about a year since I last took Pea out competing due to his time off, then coming back into work and then dad's car slowly dying but we finally managed to get him out to a local dressage venue today to have a play at an Intro and Prelim.

I think Pea really didn't want to play dressage ponies because he came in with one leg absolutely plastered in mud (& then objected in needing his legs washing again!) and then had a bit of a grumble when I was trying to put his travel boots on being the most unhelpful by fidgeting... Luckily he was an absolute sweetie to plait up and stood there so well behaved for a change when normally he shakes his head! We then went to load and Pea wasn't too impressed! He had a few 'nope, not doing it' moments before eventually loading! 

Peas really good in that we can go somewhere and he takes it all in his stride really well! He was rather confused by the people riding the polo ponies and leading others - very odd in his eyes! He also freaked out a little bit later on when someone was bringing in three ponies and had a German shepherd herding them along - clearly not a fan of that! 

I popped on a few minutes early to give him a walk round so that he could get used to his surroundings but he was completely fine and didn't look at much at all! A few people had withdrawn so we ended up going in slightly earlier than planned but he had still had a good warm up with me trying to get him to open up a bit more. He was a bit lethargic in his trot work and not really moving forward but I think that might be a bit from being out competing for the first time in a while... 

Pea took a bit of an objection to the boards and the small gap between them and the fence at the start of our Intro test so I had to walk him along before turning up the centre line and trotting as we entered which meant that I didn't get the greatest trot to begin with. He then looked at the boards as we went down the long side but soon relaxed more and started to focus on what I was asking of him rather than what might jump out at him! Some work was really nice whilst others weren't so much as he didn't bend properly but overall it was a semi-decent test, in my eyes, and for his first outing in virtually a year I guess I couldn't ask for more. He scored all 6's and 5.5's and some of the comments I didn't 100% agree with such as the 20m circle in trot allowing the horse to stretch - I thought Pea did this quite nicely but the judge reckoned there was no clear stretching shown... Her end comments were "horse now needs to be more submissive to both of your aids, more in front of your leg, and more accepting of a contact. Then his way of going will improve and he will earn the higher marks he deserves." He scored 58.91% and came 2nd which I was rather shocked at!!

Our prelim test is one that went a bit oops! In the warm up he started cantering reasonably well - I need to work on getting him to canter better in a warm-up arena environment as he gets a bit silly with other horses cantering near-by! He did have a bit of a buck but then carried on well, if only a bit stuffy but like I mentioned, I think the environment of having the other horses near-by was a bit too much. We started off alright, well I thought it was okay, and then we hit the first canter. He started well until the 20m circle when he decided that a few bucks were in order, so cue a bit of a stop and then I got him going again in canter fine, just not entirely straight or anything. We then had to change the rein and went off to canter on the other rein and I thought 'it's fine, he's got it out his system' but no. Four strides into right canter and he decides to chuck in a rather large buck and hide his neck so I just went flying straight over - right in front of the judge may I add! So cue a bit of an embarrassing walk back into the warm-up (which is right next to the tests so everyone saw). I did decide to get back on and give him a bit of a trot round but opted not to try canter - we'll save that for at home! However, the comment from the judge made me laugh: "what a shame - bad luck - naughty pony today."

So all in all, a bit of a mixed day. I think for a first competition in 11 months it was half decent, just not the dismount..

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Monday, 18 May 2015

[#LBEqFit] Join In!

I am currently on a mission to get fit as it is rather embarrassing just how unfit I really am! I often work Pea quite a bit in order to keep him fit but I've realised just how unfair I'm being expecting him to be fit for his work and work well when I am far from riding fit! 

There's a bit of a vicious circle when it comes to riding and fitness. If you are aware of BEF's Hoof initiative (I worked on a collaborative project with them for my dissertation) then you will be aware that one of their 'selling points' in order to get more people riding is by saying that it gets you fit. In some ways I suppose it does, just like any sport. However, I've been riding 15+ years and whilst I suppose I'm fitter than if I didn't do any sport, I'm not fit enough for the riding I do. I'm guessing it's maybe like a majority of other sports in that if you just ride a few times a week and nothing major, maybe just a hack, then I suppose you don't majorly need to do anything else to get you fit. However, the more you ride and the more you focus on it such as competing or schooling or trotting the majority of the hack route, then I think maybe riders need to be fitter?! It's hard to explain in a way and I really hope I'm not offending anyone but as I mentioned, I'm seriously unfit so...

Therefore, I've come up with the hashtag LBEqFit on instagram & thought I'd let anyone else join in because, as they say, it helps to have people join in with you to keep you motivated. Now I just want to say that you will not see hundreds of healthy food posts or gym pictures or anything like that because a) I don't really eat as healthily as I should, plus there's too much of that around and b) you are highly unlikely to ever find me in a gym - I'm to self-conscious for that so I'm more likely to drag myself out in the fresh air for a run or attempting a workout in my home! This is just something I've come up with for anyone who, like me, needs that little bit of motivation. You don't have to be a hardcore fitness fanatic (though if you are, I highly salute you!!), even just going for a walk helps. I've signed up for a 5k that I'm doing in a few weeks and I'm also thinking of doing a 10k in September (pshh, I can't even run 5k at the moment! haha!) so that's currently my motivation to drag myself out running a few times a week even if I've been on the early shift at work & then done Pea & all I really want to do is collapse on the sofa eating chocolate and watching films. 

So, if you're on Instagram (my username is @lauracb_93) and want to join in by posting pictures of your scenic views or food options or anything really then just put #LBEqFit in your description box thing of the photo and I look forward to seeing them :)

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Friday, 15 May 2015

[Product Review] Nettex Tack Conditioner

Riders are always told that they should regularly clean their tack, suggesting that it should be done after every ride in order to keep it in top condition. However, many of us don't. It's time consuming and a slight pain. I'm awful at cleaning my tack, I can leave it for weeks before cleaning it but then I came across this product! 

Net-tex Traditional Tack Cleaner is a "simple to use spray on and wipe off formula which provides efficient tack cleaning that removes dirt, sweat and grease whilst also waterproofing the leather." This means that you don't have to faff around with wiping the leather down with water first, and then applying the soap, etc etc. Instead, you simply spray on and wipe off with a clean sponge or cloth. I use this once a week on my tack (keeping the bridle together) and then I don't have to worry about it being neglected! I will also strip my bridle once a month or before a competition and give it a 'deep clean' with saddle soap, but at least with this I can give my bridle a quick go over with no hassle!

As you can probably see, I paid £4.50 for this little bottle which has lasted me a few months as you don't need to use endless amounts - a small squirt goes a long way! On viovet they have a 200ml spray for £3.99 and 500ml for £5.99. I would highly recommend this product if, like me, you aren't quite a tack cleaning fan and need something that's quick and easy whilst still being highly effective! 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Monday, 11 May 2015

[Competition Report] E-Dressage Intro A; April 2015

Helloo! I'm back from my holiday & now blogging can resume! Before I went away, I entered E-Dressage's Intro A test & I had my score sheet waiting for me when I returned (though I admit that the envelope confused me as I thought it was a card of some sort & it's not my birthday for a while! haha!). 

Pea scored 69.13%, coming about 16th I think! I had planned on doing the Prelim as well but Pea had a few arguments about canter so we decided to stick with just the intro. I am pleased with the comments we gained, especially as the test we filmed was after our canter tantrums so it wasn't the best! We had started off indoors & did a nice run through but I was talking as I thought I'd gone wrong due to going in the opposite direction of the letters so dad could film with decent lighting. However, the outdoor came free so we moved out there which Pea wasn't best pleased about but hey ho! 

He scored a majority of sevens with two sixes (one for the first CL as we were slightly left and the other for free walk as we're still working on encouraging him to stretch in it) and then an 8 for the halt. The judge's comments at the end were: "Rhythmic & obedient test. Nice activity & attitude but could work more over the back into a softer, rounder outline." I'm really pleased with these comments, especially the obedience & attitude comments as previously it was the opposite when Pea decided to add in his own movements (ie handstands). We are trying hard to work on him being softer by incorporating lots of flexing as well as lateral work to loosen him up so fingers crossed we'll get there!

I would definitely recommend entering E-dressage if you are unable to get out and about competing as it's stress free and easy to do. The results are given quickly after the closing date & the score sheet arrives promptly too! It's simple to upload your video and you can wear whatever as long as you're smart (ie you don't have to be in show gear!). They do all levels from Intro to Elementary as well as a Freestyle to Music class. You can also become a member which includes various benefits. Check out for more information.

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Monday, 4 May 2015

[Monthly Review] April 2015

Woah, how fast has April gone?! I know I was late posting my March review but I cannot believe we are already in May! We are literally flying through 2015! 

April has been a pretty good month with Pea. He is so enthusiastic with his schooling (even if he doesn't always look it when he's waiting in his stable!) and his canter is coming along really well. As I mentioned in my post following my lesson (read it here), I need to learn to push him more in the canter and not worry about him bucking which I've previously done making me back off. I have focused on this for the past few weeks, which has included a few pony club kicks being involved when he's really tried it on with me, and we are slowly getting better at increasing the length of time we spend cantering. 

I've also been working on flexion and getting him to bend more. Some days Pea is very cooperative and goes really nicely, other days he pretends that he's got a wooden board attached to his neck and that he can't possible flex and bend! However, small progress is better than no progress and the majority of the time he does go well! If he does act up, it's for a short while during a schooling session and I need to remember to keep soft and relaxed and not argue with him about it as then he becomes more stubborn! 

I also try to lunge him once a week with the side reins on just to get him to learn to soften and move
forward - quite a mean feat where Pea's involved! He is getting better with the side reins as before as soon as they were on he'd just shuffle along but now he's learning that they are not preventing him from moving, it's just to give him something to think about. He still mucks about and fell over one week with them :/ Luckily, he was completely fine and I think it made him realise that he cannot motorbike round the bend when he's cantering which he tended to do in one particular corner when on the right rein but since that episode his canter on the lunge has improved drastically! 

April has also commenced Pea's 'lie-ins' which he does every year during summer and refuses to get up! All of the above photos were taken during one week! The first one he was actually laying up when I went down, and after a photo and cuddle he realised he was going to have the headcollar put on so flopped down instead - a common trick with Pea! Luckily, Bailey's treats came to the rescue and he got up fine but that didn't work for the next two! He's such a pain when he's lying down though as it can take me forever to get him up! I've been in the field for over half an hour before attempting to get him up and even had other horses come to pester him but he still refuses! Such a lazy boy!

I'm thinking about popping Pea over a few fences in May as I've not jumped him properly in a year and feel that he's long overdue a jump! We're also going to see if Dad's care is able to manage towing the trailer to a local competition but we'll have to wait an see! 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Friday, 1 May 2015

[Product Review] NAF Off Citronella Tags

NAF off citronella fly tags are a must have product for me during the summer. I find them highly effective and pick them up each summer (this is my third year of using them I think). They are easy to use and I attach them onto the bridle (you can just about see it in the photo above). As I am going on holiday Saturday, I am planning on plaiting one into Pea's mane for the week as he suffers badly with the flies and often ends up with a few bumps from fly bites. I find that when Pea is wearing one of these when being ridden, he is very rarely bothered by flies - especially round his head. 

According to the NAF website, the tag contains citronella oil which is "contained within a special compartment of the tag which makes it durable, waterproof and convenient to use." I have trialled with various fly sprays over the years but never found them truly effective and Pea would still get a bit bothered, especially out hacking, however with the tags he's perfectly happy. They do have a strong scent (when you first take them out the packet and place them where you want you will smell it for the rest of the day) and they last for about 4-6 weeks. 

They rrp at around £9-£10 and you get two to a pack. I normally only use them on the bridle but as I mentioned above, I will be plaiting one into Pea's mane for whilst I am away and I know some people from my yard have used them this way and got on well with them. They take up no space at all and can be attached on the bridle, headcollar, plaited into the mane or tail or I suppose you could even hang them in the stable. Being waterproof means you can happily plait one into the mane and turn your horse out with them without worrying that they will lose effectiveness as unlike fly sprays, the rain won't wash it away! 

Do you have any fly products you recommend? As mentioned, Pea suffers quite badly so I'd love to hear about any products you love!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx