Wednesday, 29 July 2015

[Volunteering] Dressage Writing Tips

I've dressage written a few times now and when I got an email yesterday asking if I could spare a few hours tonight I gladly went along. Dressage writing is actually quite beneficial if you compete yourself as you get to hear first hand from the judge as to what they look for and how they mark differently across the levels. 

You don't need to have lots of dressage knowledge or experience to write for a judge. Just drop your local centre an email asking if they have any competitions coming up that they would like help for and they'll most likely contact you when they need someone! As it's on a volunteering basis, you don't get paid, but some centres might give you some vouchers for a free arena hire or competition entry or even just a bottle of wine! Some may not give anything, but hey ho! At least you've learnt some valuable dressage tips ;) 

I thought I'd also give a few tips for anyone wanting to write. It varies depending on judges but you often end up needing to write quite a bit and very quickly! This is especially true in higher levels when the movements come up a lot quicker and there are more marks up for grabs. You don't necessarily get to see much of the tests as you'll be so busy writing, but you do get to see a few glimpses!

As I mentioned, you have to write things down quick so writing shorthand is helpful. I'm awful at this as it's engraved in my brain to write longhand all the time but below are some shorthand versions that are helpful!

- when talking about a circle, literally just draw a small circle/o. 
- similarly when talking about a square halt (or if the circle is a square) draw a square!
- instead of writing multiple words, shorten them to just the letters:
               - centre line = CL
               - give and retake = G&R
               - self-carriage = SC
- some words will be repeated often and it's so much easier just to shorten them:
               - obedient = obed
               - transitions = trans
               - balance/unbalanced = bal/unbal
               - impulsion = imp
               - forward = fwd
               - forehand = 4hd
               - rhythm = rthm

There's probably a few others as well but it's up to for what you find is best! However, if you have any other tips then please do share them!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Saturday, 25 July 2015

[Laura Loves] Equestrian Themed Bedrooms

It's been a short while since I did my last interiors post (read it here) and so I thought it was about time that I did the second post in the 'series'. This time, I'm focusing on bedrooms which is one of my favourite places! Below are a few of my favourites from Pinterest...

This one is probably my favourite. I love the simplicity of the whole room but the canvas is just amazing! I love photos where the subject is to the side rather than central, and although the background is grey and the horse is grey it works really well! It goes well with the whole room as well and makes it easier to coordinate the room. You could also use any colour you like for the accessories such as cushions and bed spread - I think I would definitely go for a bolder colour such as orange! 

I don't actually like the darkness of this room nor do I really like the lights shining on the photos but it is the photos which I love! In fact, I'm actually working with a friend to hopefully do a photoshoot with Pea and maybe recreate some images similar to those above as I think they would look great above the bed. I like that they are close-up images which makes them a bit different and I think they would actually work great with the first image above! 

This is probably more for a teenager as it does actually feature quite a lot of horse themes with the canvas, wallpaper and light but I secretly love it! I probably wouldn't go for the wallpaper but the neutral themes work really well and it's nice to have the canvas elsewhere in the room as opposed to being behind the bed. 

How amazing is this wall?! Probably slightly over the top for many people and I'm not sure that I would personally go for it, but I think maybe for a child's room it would be amazing! Especially if it was recreated from a picture of them jumping their pony! I love how it looks like they are genuinely jumping over the bed frame! You would definitely want to then tone the rest of the room down with more neutral colours but I just had to share this!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Massage Time!

Pea has been well and truly pampered in the last month! He has had the physio, farrier, saddler, dentist and on Wednesday he also had a massage. Oh the life of a pampered pony!

After my lesson with Cathy last week where she felt it might be an idea for him to have a message, I booked him in with someone from my yard who is an equine sport masseur. Unfortunately  I had a meeting and work so I was unable to be there but I had a message from Angela once she was finished to let me know what she found and also a write-up was left at my stable.

She  noted that he was tight in his back and round his shoulders though she feels that his fly rug may be contributing to this. She also picked up on his hind leg stiffness and has given us some exercises to do regularly such as polework and also walking through the stream. She suggested just walking over random poles that are out in the arena when I first get on him to encourage him to pick his feet up (he fell over the first one we did - clearly wasn't awake!) and also  suggested an exercise in hand of getting him to step over  a pole with his front legs before making him wait. By making him wait for 10-15 seconds and talking to him, his proprioception receptors switch off and so when I ask him to walk  on, he'll  know there's a pole there but won't remember how high it is.  This results in him really picking his hind legs up which will help him to loosen up! We're to start with a standard pole  and as he gets good we can then start raising it.

Peas definitely felt better since and even worked well today in the  rain which he normally argues about! His canter Was also a lot  more forward today and he was better with the turns so fingers crossed we're  on the right path!

And for once, I've  also had a treat in having a massage as my mum booked us a spa  break for my birthday!

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, 18 July 2015

[Lesson] Leanne Jackson 18.07.15

I took Pea to a nearby venue today for another lesson (poor guy, two in a row now!) with a dressage rider - Leanne Jackson. We had a bit of a nightmare trying to load him, including him breaking my lunge line, and I was about to call to say we wouldn't be going when he finally decided that actually, maybe he would like to go on an adventure! Luckily, Sissons Farm is only about 20 minutes from us and Laura, the organiser, told us that she was going to have a 10-15 minute break anyway so no need to rush. 

I gave him a walk round so he could get used to the venue and a quick trot before heading into the arena for our lesson. I explained to Leanne a bit about us and how he's a bit stiff and tense so she watched us trot round and noticed that he is really tight in his shoulders but that he also doesn't like to work properly through his hocks. She bought us onto a 20m circle to help encourage him to use his hind end a bit more and also told me to keep a hold of my outside rein. She noticed that I tended to release the outside rein a bit and it's quite a common thing as apparently she'd been telling no end of people to hold it and said she even does it at times as well! 

Leanne also explained that going round corners, I slightly crossed my reins and kind of rode like a bike as in both my reins would go in the same direction when turning. In doing this, she said I was asking for bend but not getting it because there was no where for Pea to actually go as I didn't have hold of the contact. She also told me to open my reins up slightly to give him a more stable contact to go into. A good analogy that she used is to compare it like a tripod - when the legs are kept close together, there's no stability. However, open two of the legs slightly wider and it's a lot more stable. 

We also did some leg-yeild which is a really good exercise in getting him to loosen his spine. It also ensured that I held onto my outside rein! For the first 10-15 minutes of the lesson Pea was throwing his head around like a crazy fool but Leanne told me that that's when I really need to keep hold of the reins and just put my leg on to encourage him into the contact. Him throwing his head around is just his way of saying 'I don't like that, let go!'. Towards the end of the lesson he was a lot better at accepting the contact though he was still rather heavy in my hand. However, that is just because it's something new and hopefully after a few more sessions he'll start to lighten up. 

Overall it was a really good clinic and I'm so glad I managed to squeeze in a last minute place! I'm definitely thinking of going to some more that she holds and hopefully I'll start to see a lot more progress with Pea's way of going over the next few weeks!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Friday, 17 July 2015

[Lesson] Cathy Lammie 17.07.15

I was slightly apprehensive about having my lesson today as Pea's had the past two days off due to me working 14 hour days and he was a bit manic Tuesday when I schooled him! However, I'm really glad I did have my lesson as I learnt a lot about why we're having a few issues and I have lots of new exercises to work on!

As I haven't had a lesson for a couple of months, I explained what had happened since - so about falling off out at dressage, having the physio and the saddler, etc. She straight away suggested that we did some different pole work exercises to loosen him up but also give us some variety in our work. 

Whilst Cathy set about putting some poles out, I started to warm up Pea. We had a walk, trot and canter round and Cathy noticed how reluctant he is to move forward when warming up, especially in canter. This then leads to him getting slightly argumentative if I ask for a bit more. She's suggested that I look into getting him either a hand held massager or a magnetic rug so if anyone has any recommendations then that would be great :) I'm also going to have a chat to a woman at my yard who is an equine masseur and see if she can give him a session. 

We started by working over some long poles (about four human walk strides apart) in walk, just to see how he was picking his feet up and help to loosen him up slightly. We then did the same in trot and there was a slight bit of difference in him moving forward but still lots more to do! 

Cathy then moved the poles to be closer together so that they were more like the standard trotting poles. For Pea they were about 4 and a bit feet heel to heel. We repeated the exercise the same as above - so walking over the poles a few times before trotting them. Once he got the hang of it and started to loosen up more, we moved to raised poles. Using two poles at the side to raise the poles onto and then raised alternate poles. She also moved them slightly closer together as he would be going higher and so not quite as far. We started in walk and the first time we did it, he half fell on his knees over one of the poles. We walked them again and this time he picked his feet up and learnt from his mistake so we progressed into trot where he was foot perfect. We only did the raised poles two or three times as Cathy explained that it's a lot of work for him as he has to really pick his feet up - a bit like running up the stairs a few times! 

The fourth exercise was one completely new to me and consisted of the poles being set up in a square, about 14 human strides apart, with one side being three trotting poles. For this exercise, Cathy explained that it was to get him to loosen up laterally as the straight poles had loosened him up longitudinally. She explained that you can trot round the outside of the box, ride inside of one of the poles and then outside the next, inside all of them in a circle, etc etc. It was actually a really good exercise but she did tell me that I have to let him make mistakes. Everytime he got a bit close to the pole due to not listening to me asking him to bend round my leg, I corrected him. Instead, she told me to leave him and let him knock the pole as it would teach him to listen more and therefore work properly. Similarly to when he fell over the raised pole, he learnt from it and picked his feet up the next time. This is definitely something to work on as I do tend to over-correct him and so he carries on doing it, rather than learning from his mistake! 

This has given me lots of new exercises to try out and she suggests that I do pole work at least once or twice a week. She's also suggested that I don't have to do them ridden and instead do some in-hand work over the poles or lunging over the poles. I'm also going to long-rein him with a bungee on and then progress to lunging with two lunge lines as she thinks using a pessoa might be a bit too strong for him at this stage. She's also suggested jumping him on the lunge as he needs to work on picking his feet up a bit more and not necessarily with me on board. 

It was also good to have a chat with her as I've questioned things lately about how I've had him seven years but felt like I've not achieved a great deal. Cathy was really good and reminded me that Pea is a really quirky, opinionated horse and that things aren't ever going to be easy but that we do need to work on getting him more confident about opening up and working more forward which will hopefully also help me get more confident that he's not going to keep attempting to chuck me off. 

We're out for another lesson tomorrow at a yard nearby with Leanne Jackson. It will be our first lesson away from home but it will be nice to get him out and also get a second opinion. Fingers crossed he behaves!

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Friday, 10 July 2015

7 Years On...

Today equals seven years with this lovely little pony so here are just a few of my favourite photo's over the years! No matter how many times he's chucked me off, nearly kicked me and made me want to scream in frustration, at the end of the day he has also made me laugh, smile and taught me more than any other horse. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

[Top Find] Origami Pony Necklace by John Greed

Origami Pony White Gold Plated Silver Necklace
I first saw this necklace on a beauty & fashion bloggers blog a month or so ago and I fell in love with it then. I've recently re-found the site and still love this piece! It's by John Green & costs just £19.95, yet I thought it would be way more! 

There are other designs in the collection, featuring other animals, but obviously being an equestrian blog this is the one I just had to feature! Plus, it's my birthday in less than a month and this would make an excellent present ;) 

Thanks for reading,

Friday, 3 July 2015

[Product Review] NAF Citronella Wash

I have been using this product for a few months now and it's a perfect way to cool your horse off after exercise and also helps to keep the flies at bay. Having a grey means that when Pea sweats, all the muck embedded in the coat comes to the surface, and so this is a great product that helps wash that off without him needing a full bath. 

I just add one capful of this to a bucket of water and apply with a sponge before using a sweat scraper to remove excess water. This is such a quick and easy product to use because you don't need to rinse it off or hose before hand, saving lots of time! It's also great because Pea can sometimes be iffy about a hose going up his neck and as that's where he gets really sweaty, using this product causes less stress! (And it also means, I don't get as drenched!). 

I'm not entirely sure how effective it is at keeping flies at bay or how long it lasts. I tend to leave Pea in during the day to keep him off the grass and he does seem to have a few flies on him when I go to turn him out, but he hasn't had any more fly bites so...

Along with the NAF tags (reviewed here), I would recommend this product for others as it's a great way to cool your horse off after a ride and does reduce the amount of flies around - at least for a couple of hours after use! 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

[Monthly Review] June 2015

Unfortunately, with my new job, I seem to have found myself with less time to blog! If I'm doing an evening shift then my morning is filled with riding and dog walking/running and if I'm on an early then the evening is filled...well with the same! It's a shame as I do actually miss not blogging regularly and I seem to be not riding so much either which I really hate!

June has absolutely flown by! It's been a slight rollercoaster of a month with Pea in that some days have been great and others not so much - not because he's been naughty, just that he's not enthusiastic and just feeling a bit niggly. After our disastrous dressage outing, I booked him on the physio list just to make sure that there wasn't anything majorly wrong. However, following the competition he had a week of a bit more lunging than usual as I damaged my knee badly and although I attempted riding once, my knee was an awful lot worse after! Cue a week of limited work for Pea (not so much for me, don't think running up and down hotel stairs helped!) and I finally got back on board with no more pain - hooray! Pea was a saint to school then, absolutely foot perfect more or less! This led me to question whether he needed the physio or if it was purely just him being a monster. However, it's better to be safe than sorry so on the 15th, Etti Cook (our physio) came and had a look.

She found that he was unbelievably stiff down the left side of his neck and was really reluctant to loosen it up! Eventually, her strong hands and a bit of laser therapy did the trick and Pea was much looser- as well as fast asleep! She also noted that he's quite stiff along his back where his saddle sits so I have now added him to the saddler's list - though unfortunately we have to wait until the 8th July for him! It's definitely worth always getting the physio out on a regular basis, or if you ever have any suspicions about your horses muscles. I used to rarely have anyone out to Pea, and it's only been over the past 2 years that it's been a regular thing. Whilst it means I have less money, I now have a happier pony who is working a lot better than previously! Previously, I would have ignored the bucking and put it down to naughtiness, and whilst that probably was the case in the majority, at least getting the physio out showed how much he needed the saddler too!

Since Pea's had the physio, I've decided to not do quite so much canter work as he was starting to be a bit short which is due to his saddle and the tension it's causing in his muscles. Pea doesn't always seem to quite agree with me though! Just the other day, I spent our usual 15 minutes warming up in each pace before doing 30 minutes of solid hard-work in walk and trot. I then went to cool him off by lengthening the reins a bit in trot, but instead of Pea relaxing down into the contact, he decided we simply hadn't finished as we hadn't cantered so took it upon himself to canter! However, on other occasions he's been really reluctant to do much and this recent heatwave we're experiencing has made him even more reluctant!

Fingers crossed that once the saddler's out, Pea will be back on form again! (Plus. I'm really hoping it cools down a bit! Breeches + hot weather = overheating!). I'm also thinking about getting a dressage saddle to help keep me in a better position as I was chatting to Etti about how when he gets a bit tired he really pulls me forward & my GP doesn't help at all! She also noted that as he's quite short & then also bum-high, he does find it extremely hard to work uphill so does tend to tire slightly easier! 

Thanks for reading,
Laura xx