Friday, 31 December 2010

Review of 2010

My 2010 goals were:
- take Fudge on riding holiday (went to Norfolk in summer)
- do JumpCross training and competition (did one of each)
- XC/ODE (did 3 hunter trials)
- more Trec competitions and try level 2 again (did one L1 and two L2's in a pair with Mary, plus a winter indoor)
- stay overnight in lorry (3 times)
- get more than 60% in Novice dressage (according to my sheets we did that 4 times, all unaffiliated)
- do Elementary dressage (did it twice)
Plus it wasn't a goal at the start of the year, but doing more SJ got added part way through the year with a goal of jumping the dreaded 85cm which we managed by qualifying for BRC Festival of the Horse Combined Competition, so I jumped a course including many 85cm fences 3 times, and had numerous jumping lessons too  :-)
Phew, we managed to fit lots in there!!

Then in December I bought a foal ... which also hadn't been a goal for 2010, but has been on the back burner for the last few years ...

Anyway - goals for me and Fudge for 2011:
- more level 2 Trec, hopefully a qualifier if we can get to one on suitable dates, as they are supposed to be much more difficult, and possibly including competing as an individual if I'm feeling really brave
- long distance riding, Suzanne and I are intending to ride the Mary Towneley Loop this summer
- JumpCross competitions (do Intro level again, then hopefully have a go at the next class up)
- arena eventing (a local venue is running some this winter)

Goals for me and Toffee for 2011:
  - lead properly  :-)
  - pick all 4 feet up willingly - it turns out that someone else had taught him this (I assume his breeder) as he did this perfectly for me last week, and we haven't looked back since!
  - gradual separation from his fellow foal companion as they are now inseparable ...
  - become a gelding - him, not me  ;-)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Toffee's arrival

I've been rather busy over the last couple of weeks, and here's why.
Today we collected my new boy, Toffee.
Photos of Toffee's arrival on Photobox
Photos on facebook
He is chestnut and white, but we think the brown bits will turn roan. His passport says roan.
I am a sucker for white legs and belly splash, and a big white blaze  :-)
His Mum is TB and his Dad is ID x Hackney, bizarrely!
He should make 16hh to 16.1hh, or so his breeder reckons.
Very proud Mum  :-)

Saturday, 23 October 2010

JumpCross at Wittering

Fudge and I entered a JumpCross competition at Intro level (2' to 2'6") which was my last remaining 2010 goal. Thankfully they gave me a nice time so I didn't have to get up at stupid o'clock, just normal early ...
When I walked the course I thought it was all jumpable, but some tight twisty turns and I was not going to attempt the joker fences. Although I did walk the lines, the joker fences were enormous! There were 3 on the course, a double, and the last fence which was skinny, parallel and enormous! It took me 3 goes through the rulebook to work it all out, but basically your score is your time in seconds, refusals (+50) and knockdowns (+20) are seconds which get added on to your time as penalties. The joker fences are -40 each if you clear them, and +40 each if you knock them down. First competition, so I was just doing it to have fun.
Fudge bless him was half asleep in the warm up, he did the bare minimum to walk, trot and canter, and jumped the warm up fences. He cleared them positively so I was happy that he was just conserving energy (wise boy).
They don't count you down in a start box, it was an automatic timer, so they called us over, and basically Fudge cantered off with me when the starter in the hi-viz coat waved us through   :-)
Ah I was right, he was just conserving energy - he flew through the start, his ears pricked towards fence 1, a nice cross pole start. Thankfully Fudge then realised he didn't know where he was going, slowed down a bit and asked me where was next  :-)
Fence 2 was an arrowhead shape, on a slight uphill, no problem, then up a bank, sharp turn down it again, pop over a cross pole at the bottom. Canter erratically downhill (never been my favourite thing, and we had to slow up for the first bigger fence. More downhill to the lake and streams, basically all the water. Skinny fence 5, tiny but Fudge thought it was too small to jump, so he knocked it down! Turn back on yourself, down a bank, through a stream, up a bank with skinny fence 6 at the top, proper jump this time. Down the bank across another stream. By this time I was grinning like a maniac, it's such great fun  :-)
180 degree left turn, x pole into water fence 7, canter through quite deep water. All was going so well, then I noticed the swans calmly floating across our path. Fudge put the brakes on fast, I shouted at the swans, they looked at me as though they owned the place. Fudge shot left, I lost both stirrups and nearly fell off, grabbing some mane to hang on, I was not going to fall off into that smelly water! The swans reluctantly swam away, and Fudge trotted out of the water with me still hanging on to his mane with no stirrups. Once on dry land I pulled him up, got stirrups back, took a deep breath, and set off again. Our time was b*ggered anyway, I might as well enjoy it!
Another turn back into water (no swans) fences 8 and 9 with water between them, no problem. Negotiate narrow path with a sharp right turn to fence 10 which was a bigger upright out of the water, still no problem, Fudge had got back into a good rhythm. Even managed to jump fence 11 to change leg up another steep bank, sharp turn back down through the hedge, canter across the open, tried to make sure I was breathing still. Fences 12 and 13 I thought was a very tricky line when I walked it, but Fudge thought it was obvious and very easy, what a good boy. Downhill again to fence 14, a pole diagonally across a ditch. It was optional at this level, you could cross the stream and up a step instead, but I felt confident. Fudge flew the ditch  :-)
Then I forgot all my decisions about not jumping any jokers, after all, we'd had one knockdown and had lost time with the swans. I thought, what the heck, they don't look that big from here ... Fudge did a beautiful turn and locked onto them, so we went for it! I reckon part A was 2'9" and the spread part B was 3'  - both of which feel very big to me. Fudge eyed them up, popped part A, realised he was a long way off part B (only one stride between), and took off anyway. I slipped my reins and tried to stay on as we flew through the air - it worked  :-) I was grinning like a mad thing, telling him what a good boy he was, then I realised I had no reins to steer. We almost missed some compulsory flags and had to turn a circle whilst I collected my reins.
Across the stream for the last time, up a steep bank for fence 16, another big one but again I needn't have worried, Fudge had it all sussed out. Up the hill for the last time to offset rails, I had heard on the tannoy a lot of people having run out at part B so I planned a careful line and jumped part A on an angle, and Fudge realised straight away that part B was next. Big fence 18 straight ahead of us, and then the last fence 19 to go. I remembered I said I wasn't going to jump jokers, and decided not to risk it. Jumped the usual one, which was big enough anyway, and crossed the line yeehah-ing in my usual style  :-)
I walked Fudge off, he was dripping from all the water, and from sweat as he needs clipping again, but it didn't seem fair to clip him before this, as I was going away for a week. There was a chilly wind so I put his rug on (for once he seemed grateful) and left him with hay whilst I had a cup of tea and chatted to the girl who'd ridden after me.

JumpCross is such good fun, I enjoyed it enormously.
Then scores were announced, and we'd come 7th out of about 25 in the class!! I was over the moon. If only we hadn't had swans, I might have got a rosette! But then if we hadn't lost time with swans, I might not have gone for the joker fences double, which of course had taken 80 off my time.
Anyway a fab first go at it, they pack up for the winter now, but I hope to do it again next year.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Alconbury hunter trial

Anyway today we did a 2'6" hunter trial I have been trying to get to for about 4 years!
Each time (twice a year) it has run, the day has clashed with something else, or they turned it into a qualifier for something and didn't run a 2'6" class.

So today we made it, and got round on a beautifully sunny day  :-) When I walked the course yesterday I was happy with it, apart from a couple of fences which were up to height and one quite wide too, very flat topped. I was concerned about a sloping narrow on the side of a hill, which was the penultimate fence, as we have never jumped anything like that. It was called 'helsinki'  which meant nothing to me, but I have looked it up since!

On the day Fudge was happy warming up and seemed to realise it was XC day, he's a funny old horse really, he's done enough now I suppose to recognise the different situations. Today was studs and brushing boots, so that means XC  :-)
Anyway he was up for a good fast canter warm up, even though it was a hot day and he really needs clipping again, which can often make him sluggish. He jumped the warm up fences happily too, and was keen to trot through to the start, tanking off with me to get going!
I had to pull him up as the lady doing the gate spotted I had my watch on, which is not allowed, so I had to stop to take it off. She helpfully put it in her pocket for me saying that was better than being disqualified for wearing it!

We had about 3 mins walking around by the start, and then cantered up to the start line as they counted down the last 5 seconds and jumped the first 3 fences (palisade and 2 logs) confidently which settled my nerves. Fence 4 was a step down (they called it a ditch but it wasn't) close
to fence 5, Fudge backed off a bit down the step so we weren't on the most forward canter towards the big palisade (my least favourite type of jump) but I needn't have worried, he just popped it, and we even managed to land on the correct leg (I remembered to ask for it) to
turn a sharp right to fence 6 straightforward rails which I reckon were only 2' high.
Fudge decided he could go faster here and flew it, thankfully landing on the correct leg again (I forgot to ask this time) to go in a large left handed loop through compulsory flags around the field. We galloped this bit, Fudge was telling me these fences were easy and he could make the time if they were all going to be like those   ;-)

Fence 7 a small brush which he popped over, then turn back on yourself to the sunken road fence 8ab which was fine, Fudge decided to trot and I said that was a good decision. He continued to trot after it, I think he was a little confused because there were 2 C elements that he could see, but neither were on our course.
Off we cantered again heading for the tyres that he's jumped a number of times before when we've done Trec competitions at this venue. As he locked onto the tyres he picked up speed again  :-) So tyres for fence 9, another loop to a log fence 10, water fence 11 (trotted in and out down and up a sloping bank).

Then you turn up the hill to a table for fence 12, which I thought was up to height yesterday. So did Fudge, he backed off it and took off perfectly to clear it. I love my horse. Then fence 13 straight on but all still up hill to a chair, where the photographer was - another lovely jump, I shouldn't have worried even though it felt a big fence to me.
Fence 14 a beehive still straight on up the hill although levelling out now. Not such a good jump, I thought he would go from further back and Fudge put a short one in. I belive I squeaked!! Then fence 15ab nice inviting telegraph pole rails, not big, but horribly offset and of course you can't circle between A and B. I thought we had a good line, but Fudge didn't quite understand me, and just glanced off left to run out of the B element. I started to circle round, then had a blonde moment and shouted to the fence judge did I have to jump both parts again, and she shouted back yes! I know this perfectly well, I was fence judging myself last weekend at a coffin ABC fence! So we came round again, and this time Fudge realised what I had intended, and did a textbook angled jump over A, and a little turn to B clearing them both. Turn back on yourself and head back downhill though more compulsory flags.

By this point I was puffed and Fudge was dripping, my reins were covered in frothy sweat  :-) Fence 15 is really cleverly placed as you're both tired or tiring from doing the big up hill section, just after 3 of the largest fences on the course, and you are 4/5 of the way round the course. Fence 16 on gentle slope down was another big wide table, Fudge took off ok, I just heard a hoof tap it on the way up but we were fine. Then a nice cantering section along the top of the hill and more downhill through the last set of compulsory flags (8 sets altogether on this course!) which gave us a much needed breather. I got my head together, I steadied him up for the next turn, and told him there were only 3 more fences to go - did you know my horse can count?
Anyway fence 17 a larger but inviting fence, they called it a pheasant feeder but it was more like a house to me  ;-) Then fence 18 the helsinki I was worried about, which Fudge thought was the easiest thing he'd ever seen  :-)
Turn downhill to the last fence, a pile of telegraph poles with a blue plastic top. Fudge flew it and took off rather further back than I expected, so I slipped the reins and hailed a taxi. We cantered at high speed (still downhill) through the finish line with me yahooing as loud as I could manage!

Needless to say it took us a long time to cool down. Fudge got a bucket of water chucked over him, some walking off, sponged off, more walking off, and then drank half a bucket of water for good measure.
I got a cup of tea and a pain au chocolat sitting in the sun on the lorry ramp  :-)
We didn't get placed as of course we had 20 penalties, I worked out we came something like 14th out of 25 in the class. The optimum time was 4 mins 32 secs, and we completed in 5 mins 30 secs, so with the run out and extra circle, we would have been on a good time, so a shame really, but today's objective was to complete this hunter trial we haven't done before, so that got a big tick  :-)
Very happy with my pony, he earned himself parsnips and apples and a day off  :-)

Oh yes, and yesterday was the anniversary of the day Fudge arrived with me 9 years ago, which I put on the entry form for today's commentary. I've never entered anything that needed a commentary section filling
in before, so I wasn't sure what to put. The commentator basically read out everything I wrote, word for word!

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Combined Competition - BRC Festival of the Horse

Fudge, Suzanne and I went to the BRC Festival of the Horse for our Combined Competition championship.
I got up at 5am (erk) and was at the yard for 6am only seeing 2 other vehicles on the way. Had to get out of the car to open the farm gates, shut my thumb in the car door (ouch). Thumb throbbing but not seriously injured, felt like a bad omen after I'd left poor hubby Hugo in bed after a day of throwing up and worse (yuck).
Oh well, tried to be positive, sorted lorry, went to get Fudge - hoorah he hadn't got muddy even in the rain overnight as I'd shampooed feathers and tail the day before he was still looking good, but rather dusty. Suzanne arrive to help get him ready, I plaited his mane and we set off for Aston le Walls.
I had allowed 2 1/2 hours and in fact we were there in about 2 hours 5 mins as the roads were so quiet. Plenty of time to get passport checked, go to the loo etc, and feel relaxed as there's plenty of time. It had rained a lot overnight there, so put studs in as it was all on grass. It was humid, but not yet too hot, so I didn't mind getting stock and tweed jacket on at this point. Riding Test 8 was first, got Fudge tacked up in dressage saddle, that's him ready, then me.
So I got on for our planned warm up for the riding test, walked Fudge up and down in the lorry park, not feeling quite right. Tried trot instead, it felt awful. Was the saddle slipping round, or had I got the stirrup leathers different lengths? My left foot felt lower and I was struggling to keep my foot from slipping out of the stirrup. Got back to lorry, checked stirrup hole, no it was in the correct hole, but the leather was slipping off the bar! It looked all wrong, I couldn't understand the angle the stirrup bar was at, so I hopped off. Suzanne and I peered under the flap astounded to see the bar was hanging off. The join of tree and stirrup bar had sheared across !!
So then panic change of saddle, it's a good job I was jumping too, or would have gone all that way and not been able to ride at all! White dressage saddle cloth doesn't fit the GP saddle so well, and I only had a brown girth as I was using a brown numnah for jumping - argh!
Now feeling stressed that I was late to warm up, and doing flatwork in my GP - I don't feel anything like as confident about my position and so on. Tried to calm down and concentrate on warming up. Then the sun came out, and it was boiling hot and high humidity, Fudge's least favourite weather   :-(
He felt like a slug, and I'm not allowed whip or spurs in riding test (until 2011 ...) - sigh.

Tried my best pony club kicks to wake him up before we went in to the arena, then the judge kept us waiting for ages, I think I went round the outside 4 times before the horn went. Anyway it felt OK, but not great, Fudge was poking his nose out and not helping me out much, although there were some nice moments, and he was obedient, just no spark. Suzanne walked him round for me afterwards whilst I stripped off hot jacket etc and cooled off myself. 2 hours between riding test and jumping, and they'd just finished building the course. Went to walk it, some tricky turns and a couple of (to me) seriously big fences, up to height and spread. Nothing bigger than we've been jumping in lessons though, so should be OK if we could get changes of leg etc.
Went to check scores, RT we got 70% and were in 3rd place  :-)
Apparently I can ride in my GP then  ;-)
Youtube video of Riding Test is here.
Had lunch, tried to relax whilst still planning jumping round in my head. Went over to the collecting ring in plenty of time so run through the warm up routine my jumping instructor had given me strict instructions to follow! Thankfully Fudge woke up properly at this point - hoorah jumping, not that boring dressage stuff!
Suzanne was great with putting poles up/down etc. Watched 2 other people jump to see what lines they took, then it was our turn.

You tube video is here - Style jumping
If you want to watch with the scores - nice approach very happy with fence 1 (8), straight to fence 2 (7), turn completely round the other way - Fudge went disunited and took some convincing to trot to get the correct canter again, so fence 3 (6) - hmm spotting a pattern here. Dog leg to fence 4 which was smaller, felt a nice jump and I was in the right place (7). Landed on wrong leg for the double fence 5, so trot to change again - big jump in over the spread (6) and struggled to get myself sorted for the B part (5 - comment 'behind movement'), good turn but canter feeling flat now, so fence 6 (5 - same comment), and the last spread fence 7 (5 - same comment).
Photo of jumping fence 1:
The judge gave us 7's for the canter before and after the round, a 6 for my security of lower leg (I know that needs work), and only a 5 for upper body position (again I know this) and also an interesting comment about being tense through my arms which I hadn't realised, although could have been nerves. We had 4 time penalties, the changing leg via trot probably accounts for that, but I was so pleased with Mr Fudge, he jumped so much better than in the qualifier and cleared everything. The jumping lessons have really been worth it.

There is video of the riding test too, but it's longer and I haven't had time to upload it yet.

So all over, I chilled out properly, made a cup of tea, and waited for the scores, expecting to drop a number of places as there were some very good and stylish jumping rounds. When the scores went up, we had only dropped one place so came 4th overall. Very pleased with Mr Fudge, he was a star  :-)
A gorgeous green rosette and an unexpected prize of a £15 voucher for the NAF stand, which I promptly spent!

We set off back just after 4pm, but by 4.30 had to pull over with a nasty burning smell - the front brakes had stuck on and were tryting to set fire to the wheels, well they were pretty smoky and very hot. Sigh.
We waited a little, I phoned Hugo who said throw water over them to help them cool faster. We did that a bit, and phoned for recovery ... So after 2 hours in the lay-by waiting for breakdown recovery ... I'll try to cut out the boring bit, we eventually got home much much later than planned. I was shattered and went to bed as I had to get up early today - 1st day back at school, mad year 11 revision for their GCSE exam this afternoon so a rather full day.

Tomorrow I may get 5 mins to myself to think about the broken saddle and lorry.
That was my Sunday.

PS. Big thank you to Suzanne for being so supportive all day, video-ing our rounds and keeping me sane during lorry traumas. She was a star too  :-)