Baileys and British Eventing Jumping and Style

Yesterday Wanda and I were lucky enough to travel to Bury Farm, Bucks to compete in my first Baileys / British Eventing JAS competition.

We had entered the 100 class as this will be the level I will be eventing at this season.

The course consisted of 7 very twisty and strategically placed show jumps followed by another 11 XC style jumping efforts including a corner, 2 doubles and some skinnies. The Competition  is judged on a style mark and then clear rounds and the XC section is timed so time faults can occur.

I was quite confident that Wanda would jump well as she thrives on this sort of challenge. My main worry was not forgetting the course!

I was lucky enough to have the round filmed by my friend Michael from http://www.mdr-photo.co.uk/ 

I was really pleased with how we performed and really enjoyed myself. You can watch the round by clicking on the link below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhnEoUkUr0U&list=UUHsRRqg4aQMg6ckdop_EyAw&feature=c4-overview

I also filmed things on my hat cam which gives a very different sense of speed and perspective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SgufxspeDs

I was quite confident that Wanda would enjoy the course as it was right up her street. She was very confident and took the challenges in her stride very well. Our results were very pleasing. We had a style score of 11, which was in the upper band, a clear round but clocked up 6 time faults. The time was tight, I possibly could have ridden tighter lines but was very pleased with a smooth clear round. The time faults knocked us out of the top set but I was very pleased with our progress. Looking back at the videos I have loads to work on, including fitness and shifting baby weight 🙂

In hindsight I could have maybe ridden the 90 class first but feel that she doesn’t respect the fences at this level. It wouldn’t have really been a challenge for her and I’m glad I went in at 100 as this is the level I will event at, without a 90 warm up. Next year I plan to do the Novice and possibly the open.

So all in all a really fun day out and a great way to fine tune our jumping before the season starts.

Big thanks to MDR Photo and to Baileys and British Eventing for putting on such a great series of competitions. We will be back… and faster… next year!

 

More great news – Im a finalist in the ESMA’s

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On Monday I found out that I have been lucky enough to be nominated as a finalist in the 2014 Equestrian Social Media Awards. The ESMA team received 17,131 nominations from 5,109 individuals. Then had the tremendously difficult task of selecting 10-11 finalists in each category from over 395 entrants. So it’s a real honour to be up there with some of the amazing bloggers, Tweeters and Facebookers and social media experts that share the finalists roll call.

There are a range of categories to vote for and I’m in category 5, best use of social media by an amateur rider including the this  blog on https://bandweventing.wordpress.com/ Twitter accounts @The_Flying_Cow , @bandw_eventing and Wanda’s own Facebook page… Wanda the Flying Cow pony

If you have time to vote for me, or any of the other really cool individuals and brands that would be great. I’m pleased to say #TwitterEventing which I help to admin is also represented in category 15.

Voting is simple… follow the link and tick the boxes. Many thanks and hope you enjoy my blogging as much as I enjoy sharing my adventures with you. It’s the chat, random conversations, encouragement and shared interest that make equine social media so special and such a really enjoyable way to meet new friends and keep up with old ones.

http://www.equestriansocialmediaawards.com/finalists-esma

Jumping and trying to do it with Style

As I’ve been doing quite a lot of dressage training recently I have tried to focus on jumping over the past week as without realising the new eventing season is quickly approaching.

I decided to enter a British Eventing Jump Training (JT) competition which was held at Houghton Hall at the weekend. I hadn’t jumped in one of these types of competitions before so it was a new thing for me. Primarily I wanted to jump a couple of rounds at about 1m and as the competition has a large training element it seemed ideal for us both.

As a tune up to the competition I took Wanda to Waresley Park to jump a couple of rounds on their lovely outdoor school.  I had decided that I needed to school over some larger courses to prove to myself I was more than capable of dealing with the weekend’s event. As usual Wanda was firing on all cylinders and jumped two lovely rounds, a warm up of 95cm and then at around 105-115cm.

It was really useful to test ourselves over a whole course, with tricky turns and combination fences.

Coco, who helps us out with the horses came along to help with fences and we had some fun playing with my new hat cam which wobbled a bit but footage can be seen here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6pQn4NElx4

Here are a couple of pictures from the day – lovely Wanda making a real effort!

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We felt really well primed for the weekend’s competition. We had late times so I had a busy morning doing all the family stuff… swimming lessons, washing, cooking and mucking out.

The venue for the competition was Houghton Hall, about a ½ hr drive for me so really helpful. The venue has recently

had a massive facelift and was ideal for this sort of training competition as there is plenty of space and good quality surfaces.

The first part of the competition involved an explanation of the structure and a course walk with Tiny Clapham who was one half of the training team. Although I had show jumped a lot as a junior it was a useful experience to walk with a pro and consider lines, environment, distances and types of fences.

Following this we had time to tack up and warm up on the flat using Houghton’s huge outdoor arena. In Jump Training competitions you then have an allocated time for a guided jump warm up which was led again by Tiny. I have been lucky enough to have been taught by Tiny before and find her style really suits the way I learn and ride, so it was a really confidence giving experience and set me up well for the main phase of the competition.

The jumping round phases were led by Antonia Brown who was a new trainer to me. She invited us to jump the course, starting in our own time. I was a little nervous but once I’d started my nerves disappeared as I focussed on the course. Wanda jumped so boldly and I was really thrilled with my round, also considering I’d jumped one competitive round since last October!

I pulled up Wanda to have a break and a chat with Antonia. She gave some really positive feedback and I was quite proud of what we had already achieved. We spoke about how I gradually rode with more weight forward in my shoulders as the round progressed. Something I was aware of but still useful to note and definitely an area which I want to work on. I do attribute this to a lack of core strength post baby. I simply get tired and loose a bit of balance.

With this in mind I set off on round 2 of the course. This time I tried to ride with a light seat and softer, lighter shoulders. This technique really worked and I jumped even better than the first round… However it was not to be! Turning into the penultimate fence I remember feeling really tired and maybe didn’t ride such a balanced turn. As a result I really missed my striding, lost concentration and knocked the planks down. So disappointing after such great rounds and I felt I’d really let my little horse down.

Even more frustrating was looking at the scores and realising I had scored 8.5 out 9 out of ten for many elements and was lying on a very good style score of 18, but with an added penalty of 4 for the knock down. Sadly this knocked us out of the top qualifying 5, but within the top 10.

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I left home feeling very pleased with the day and our performance. We ended up jumping two really great, confident rounds which has set us up well for the start of the season. I’ve also got some really useful pointers to work on and have set about improving my core and cardio fitness. Id also personally like to thank the BE trainers Antonia and Tiny and the wonderful team at Baileys that Support and make this happen. This weekend sees Black and White Eventing travelling to Bury Farm in Buckinghamshire to jump in the Baileys / BE JAS 100. This is a combination of show jumping and arena XC. Another challenge for us both 🙂

Photo Courtesy of Baileys
Photo Courtesy of Baileys

Dressage vs. Eventing

While the thoughts were still in my head I have decided to jot down some observations that I’ve had while working on the flat with Wanda over the last few weeks.

She’s really coming into her own and is quite a little powerhouse. Always a pony that enjoys her work and tries her best for you which always leaves me with a big smile on my face.

I’ve been working with the Dressage trainer Matt Cox http://www.mcdressage.co.uk/ who comes to teach me at home where we are lucky enough to have a surface to ride on. I have a great working relationship with him and we have similar ideas and approaches for training. It works as he gives me enough time to work out what my arms, body and legs should be doing and Matt has the ability to make small changes if things aren’t working immediately so that both Wanda and I have a real feel for new lateral work movements.

Over the last 3 sessions we have been working on leg yield, shoulder in, travers and half pass in trot plus medium trot and canter and simple changes off 2 half 10m circles.

Wanda moves well off the leg and at first we slowed her trot tempo down a little so she had time to work out where her legs were going (and to help me ensure I was asking correctly). She soon was producing some really pleasing shoulder in and from that huge medium trot work with great transitions into and from the medium.

I’ve learnt even more about my little horse than I suspected. The flatwork has shown a big improvement in the quality of her canter which in turn has developed her balance around corners into fences. I’d also say that she is moving more softly in her carriage and really bending through her ribcage. I can also feel a difference in the way she uses her shoulders and there is definitely more freedom there – not sure if that’s a schooling improvement or through using a new Fairfax girth!

The main thing I’ve learnt is that Wanda does have what I’d call a ‘tipping point’. Too much medium work and she charges off down every long side… too much lateral and she can get quite strong. So this week Matt and I tweaked our approach. If she did something well we would leave it there or change reins and do the opposite. If there was something she was finding tricky, say left half pass, I would open her trot and frame up and trot a large circle or two, relax her and then continue.

This approach really worked for me and at the end of the lesson I was doing some of the best simple changes and canter-halts I think I have ever done. J

Today I was short of time as work and kids took over so I decided to lunge her in an Equi Ami http://www.equiami.com/  This is similar to a Pessoa lunging aid but is far more fluid and soft. She normally goes well in this and I wanted to watch her from the ground as I hadn’t really since I was pregnant.

It was a really useful exercise, despite being short of time. I could see that my hard work has paid off. Wanda has so much more balance and self carriage. Some really pleasing work again.

So I’ve been left with a slight confusion. Eventing is my first love but I’ve got really excited by doing Dressage and the schooling that’s involved. It’s hard to do both so  I’ve planned is a series of 4-5 BD competitions before the eventing season starts so I can try to qualify Wanda for Novice BD regionals (she is already doing Prelim Winter Regionals). Following this I will try to mix the dressage in between events and will definitely be riding her at Elementary level as I’d really like more of a challenge and I think we would thrive well under a bit more pressure. Exciting times for us both. Logistically it’s a nightmare trying to fit in work and the kids but having Matt as a coach has given me the confidence that we are more than capable of achieving a great deal.

Muddy Wanda lunging in the sun today
Muddy Wanda lunging in the sun today

 

 

 

2014 Fighting Fit Me!

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With the start of the eventing season only 8 weeks away and festivities almost certainly over I’ve turned my attention to loosing the 16lbs of baby weight I’m still holding onto, generally getting fitter and trying to get my core muscles back in shape.

Despite trying hard to focus on this it seems that my leg injury and family life have really taken over. It seems like now is the right time to make positive changes in my lifestyle so I can get the best out of my riding and also look great in my kit (vanity plays a large part here!).

To help me along my way I’ve been lucky enough to be supported by The Active Rider. http://theactiverider.com/

They provide Health & Fitness Solutions for Riders via workshops and programmes that help you develop your riding through simple exercises that you can do from home with just a mat, a band and a fit ball.

Apart from the fact that the course is home based and can fit in with family life the big draw for me is that the programmes are written by riders with expert knowledge. The Active rider team consists of two key members:

Carys Jackson, the strength and conditioning consultant.  Carys has been working in the Sport and Exercise Industry for over 10 years, spending nearly 5 years working for the English Institute of Sport as a Strength and Conditioning Coach, helping athletes prepare for Beijing 2008 and London 2012. She currently works as a consultant for the British Equestrian Federation, working with their development riders. Carys is also a mother to two little girls and clearly understands what it’s like to be a busy working mum.

She is joined by Helen Mathie, a physiotherapist for both riders and horses on the para-equestrian dressage World Class Development Squad.  She also works with the Performance squad riders and has accompanied them to the Beijing 2008, WEG 2010 and the London Paralympics 2012.
Helen joined the World Class team in 2007. In addition Helen is a National RDA Classifier.

Obviously such a strong team instils confidence and I have also worked with Carys personally when she helped me tone up before my wedding about 8 years ago.

To support me with my training goals Carys suggested that I worked through the online 12 week course. You can either by a hard copy booklet for £69 or follow a downloadable course for £59. To spread the cost you can also pay £25 per month over 3 months. Compared to personal training or gym membership costs the course is very appealing as I don’t have a lot of spare cash after I’ve paid for kit and entries.

I opted for the online course and was sent my first week’s programme over the weekend. Over the next 12 weeks I will be able to focus on warm ups, cardio, toning exercises and stretches. The really unique and stimulating part of the course is that the on the ground exercise plan is linked directly back to the work you do on the horse. Anatomy is explained in accurate but easy to understand terms and you get a sense of how your personal fitness will enable you to ride and compete more effectively.

Each programme includes a video so you can see the exercises in action, an easy to follow photo sheet and a weekly feedback email, helping you to stick to the plan. It’s all easy to follow and the exercise element is designed to be quick, another big draw for me.

So as from tomorrow (13th January ’14) I will be following the Active Rider Programme.

The first week looks like a great start. Nothing too intensive but some great exercises that look at the core, riding seat and shoulder posture – all areas I want to work on.

The start of week one has a great little lifestyle section, challenging you to make small changes to your daily lives in order to become more active and less stressed… there is also a little note about how it could boost your sex life (bonus!). Simple ideas like standing and walking while taking phone calls, having walking meetings or even timing yard duties and trying to work more quickly. All changes that are achievable and will help with fitness and wellbeing.

There is an interesting section on cardio vascular fitness in riders. Research has shown that experienced riders used 60-90% of their maximum oxygen consumption, whilst elite riders only used 38-58% (Westerling,D.,1983).  Add to this an increased heart rate caused by competition stress or riding a ‘flighty’ horse, or even having spectators watching you and it makes even more sense to be a fitter, leaner rider.

Before the exercise section of week 1 kicked off there is also a great section of core muscles and their importance. The term ‘core’ is banded about a lot in fitness literature but this small section really explains the muscle groups, the overuse of back and abdominal muscles and also the importance of a strong but supple pelvis and shoulders.

Lastly, week one’s pack contains a simple warm up sheet featuring some great stretches that will get your blood flowing. Following this are some exercises to get the pelvis moving, the core activated and gluts fired up. Finally, a section on stretching and the importance of finishing off a workout correctly.

In sum, week one is well thought out, engaging and exciting but not overwhelming. It’s also simple to read and understand, again great for me as I really don’t have much time to read lengthy instructions. Each weeks plan  is sent to you via an email. You simply click on the link which takes you to a Dropbox download. The great thing about this is you can download the programme onto several devices, so you could exercise away from home or read the theory while commuting or on a lunch break.

I’m aiming to complete week one’s exercises at least 3 times this week and have also made some changes to my lifestyle in order to get more active and lose some weight. I will be blogging about how I’m getting on and also Tweeting @bandw_eventing

Personally, with the eventing season really nearly here it seems a great opportunity and I am really grateful to The Active Rider for giving me the opportunity to take part on the plan.