Sunday 9 September 2012

Trec Qualifier

The hot weekend of 8th and 9th Sept, I competed in a Level 2 Trec Qualifier.
Another first for me and Mr Fudge, we had been hoping to do a qualifier for a while, but somehow it hadn't quite worked out.
That weekend is the worst timing for a teacher, after first week back at school, so I had decided not to enter, and was going to do a different Trec at the end of September, which would have been even nearer home ... but that one that was cancelled.

So ... I was really brave and entered by myself (my usual partner's horse is still lame unfortunately).
This meant getting away ASAP from school on Friday, loading up lorry, and driving  into the depths of  Northamptonshire to get parked, and the corral up for Fudge before dark.
There was an accident on the A14 so we were stuck in trafffic for about 20 mins, but still made it with enough time.
No-one spoke to me at all (treccies can be an odd and cliquey lot), but I worked out by watching other people that I should take Fudge to the vetting check.
I was a little concerned about it being right after he'd been on the lorry for nearly 2 hours, but he'd just had a roll and pinged back up again so walked him around a bit and went for it anyway.
Vet very complimentary and all was fine trotting up  :-)

Sublime evening moment was eating my dinner, sitting on the lorry steps, watching Fudge settle in (he ate the grass in his corral the first night) in the sunset as the sun went down behind trees on the top of a hill.
Oh yes the glass of wine might have helped too  :-)

Saturday's POR (orienteering) we were due to start at 11.55 so I had a nice easy morning drinking tea, getting saddlebags etc ready, fetching water for Fudge etc.
The organisers were a bit behind by about 15 mins, but no problem copying route (had remembered my specs!!) and set off.
There was a lot of road work on the route, and speeds meant you had to trot a lot of it.
I decided to trot as much as we both felt up to, and not to push it for the time if it felt too much.
We got overtaken by a few people, but happy as we'd gone through some lovely countryside, on a lovely sunny day, and seen some pretty villages, and I was feeling confident with the navigating.

The speed on one of the off-road sections was 11 kph, but the route was twisty and was obviously going to take a lot of work and checking to get right.
At this point I found a few other riders going in all sorts of different directions  :-(
I took my time, chose my best guess (there were 3 possible routes all almost parallel), ignored other people going other routes, and ended up by a little wood and by a gate.
Careful map checking made me finally give in and open the gate (impossible to do from horseback) to go through.
This brought us into a gorgeous grassy field, and all the landmarks fitted the map - happy Cindy  :-)
However, even the opportunity to canter across this lovely field was interrupted by spotting a ticket, where I had to stop to look closely to write the correct number down.
It turns out I was correct going through the gate, but had made an error earlier, which gave me some penalties.

Anyway continued here, careful compass checking, met lots of other people who had taken different routes but got to the same place!
Finally found another checkpoint, only to find I had missed the correct entry flags which they had hidden out of sight. Grrrr.
By this time we'd been going a few hours, and it was 28 degrees, very hot, and no water for the horses.
The next bit was easy roads, and another checkpoint where there was a field full of horses and riders.
Two levels were using the same route, so we could not leave more often than every 5 mins.
I had an hour to wait here, and still no water for the horses.
It turned out that the Level 3 riders had previously had a vetting stop and there had been water there for them.
Us poor L2 riders has been going 3 or 3.5 hours (or longer if they'd got lost) and had no water.
Finally me and another rider persuaded them to phone back to HQ to get someone to come out with a bucket which could be filled from a little stream.
This turned up 10 mins before I had to leave the checkpoint, but thankfully Fudge did get a drink.

I then discovered why we had to be 5 mins apart - the next section had loads of gates  :-(
Some could be done from horseback (Fudge is pretty good with gates) but some could not.
Next checkpoint was by a farmyard, again I stupidly walked straight towards them, instead of being suspicious, so picked up more penalties (although of course I didn't find this out until later).

The last section went through a field that had a water trough, so we stopped for Fudge who was very grateful for a long drink.
Sadly the route after that had a lot more gates again. I was pretty fed up of them by then  :-(
We found the finish line, and then had about another 4 km back to the lorry park.
I'm afraid it leaves a sour taste that a 20km route becomes 24km, although Fudge felt fine, we just ambled back, and I got off and walked for the last mile or two.
We finally got back to the lorry nearly 6 hours after we'd started. A 20km route usually takes about 4 or so hours.

Fudge washed down and happy with haylage, I had a cup of tea and a snack, then went to walk the PTV (obstacles) course before dark.
Nice course, interesting variations, and some challenges to give a clear difference in the marks.
At least by now I'd met more people to talk to, at checkpoints etc, and whilst they were walking the course too.
Dinner, more wine, and then early to bed shattered!
Sunday morning vetting, I thought Fudge might be stiff, but he was in better shape than I was  ;-)
Vet very happy with him, but I did watch her fail someone else's pony who really was lame, even I could see it, and I'm usually rubbish at seeing these things.

Another leisurely morning then, also running late on the timings, but Fudge warmed up nicely and was keen.
Control of paces felt good in both walk and canter, thought they should both get a score (they did)!
Started the PTV course and Fudge decided he should be doing XC, and got faster and faster as he couldn't see other horses any more! Sigh.
We finished within the time, but the ridden immobility we got 0 for, as he wouldn't stand still at all  :-(
It took a while to stop him for that I could get off for the led sections ...
We trashed a couple of other obstacles too, but also scored some 10s, so happy overall.
The final obstacle was a log jump, max height for L2, Fudge flew it perfectly so we finished in style.
Nice cool down and chat to some other people, packed up and drove home.

Provisional scores on the Sunday put me in 8th place out of 12 competitors, talked to the organiser about where I'd gone wrong with the route.
At least I know what to look for in future!
I thought my score was quite low, but there were some much worse than me.
There had been 13 entries but one had got so lost and behind on the timings that she'd given up.

Final scores published last week, and I finished still in 8th place.
Bit disappointed with my score, but overall still very pleased that I went, and did the whole thing without getting horribly lost.
Another 2012 goal ticked off, I successfully completed a Trec Qualifier  :-)

Saturday 26 November 2011

BRC area dressage

Our turn to go and do dressage last weekend - a little apprehensive since we haven't done any for quite a while.

It was the riding clubs area qualifier for the winter championships, and held at Keysoe this yea,r so a good venue.
Fudge and I entered the team test to ride N24, and a warm-up test.
The warm-up was a choice (for me) of N28 or E42, and I'm a bit fed up of N28, so decided it was time we had another go at an elementary as we hadn't done one all year.
Thought it was worth an experiment, plus I get to ride in the double bridle  :-)

However, I forgot that because it was classed as a warm up test, it came first, whereas I'd have preferred it the other way round - oh well.
We were given times of 3.30pm and 4.08pm - good job Keysoe has lights!
Never had such a long lie in before dressage, even with the longer journey to get there, and being paranoid leaving extra time for getting lost, passport checking etc.
I cleaned my long boots in the morning before I went - unheard of!!
Fudge had feathers shampooed the night before though, and was left with strict instructions to stay clean - amazingly it worked!

Got there fine, one wrong turn on the journey but didn't add any time and found a space to park close to the collecting ring entrance.
So, we warmed up well despite a teenager falling in love with Fudge and throwing her arms round his neck for a cuddle!
Fudge was good and tolerated it, although he thought he deserved a few treats afterwards, and was most put out that she didn't have any ...

So, in to E42, very smiley judge, so I grinned back as we went down the centreline - nearly forgot to halt, whoops!
I must say I was very pleased with how it went, not much medium trot to speak of, and medium canter was just faster really, but that's where we are at the moment.
Fudge tried really hard in the canter loop back and counter canters, which are quite hard for us.
Finished on 58% so very pleased as last elementary we did was 53%, so a good improvement.
Nice comments from judge about us being a partnership, and a 7 for my riding  :-)

With hindsight Fudge was perhaps a bit tired by N24 even though he'd had a rest with a bridle change.It still went well though, another smiley judge and the sky was beautiful with a sunset to look at which made me smile inside.
Finished very pleased with my pony, and on our way out we got accosted by the area organiser who demanded that I let her know as soon as I've finished with Fudge as she wants to buy him! She said it nicely and admiringly so I was laughing, but she got told there is no way I'd ever sell him ...

I untacked, looked after Fudge, put him back on the lorry and went to get a cup of tea and piece of cake in the cafe and chatted to the remaining members of my club whilst we waited for the last few scores and results.
The warm up tests were finished first, and it turned out that we came 2nd in E42, although only out of 5 entries, and one of those had retired!
Beat my own riding club chairman who came 3rd - whoops! The one who came first was on 60% so we weren't that far off either!
Still, a rosette's a rosette  :-)

N24 we got 62.3% so also very pleased. The class was enormous because it was one from every team entered.Not placed, somewhere in the bottom half of the class, but a lot of the scores were very close in the 60-64% area, so happy with that too.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Alconbury hunter trial October 2011

Another long write up from yesterday's hunter trial.
We did one 2 weeks ago too, but I haven't got round to writing it up yet ...
Skip to last 2 paragraphs if you don't want the details  ;-)

So yesterday morning I got up at 6am (erk) to go to a local hunter trial.
One we did for the first time a year ago, and had one run out, but a very positive run, so I wanted to have another go.
Walked the course in the drizzle on Saturday afternoon thinking it was looking a lot smaller than last year. I was also thinking that the ground was quite hard, but had good grass cover on most of it.
It was a 75cm class that should have been a BRC area qualifer until BRC head office changed their minds about the hunter trial competition and decided not to run area qualifiers but make the championships direct entry for 2012!
Anyway feeling very positive about it, Fudge should jump everything well within our capability.
In fact I also walked the 85cm course whilst I was there, thinking that we could jump about 70% of it, but there were still a few fences to scare me!

The drizzle continued, and turned into lots of rain overnight, yuck.
When I got up (did I mention it was at 6am?) I did think I was mad to do XC in that weather and thought about going back to bed.
Glad I didn't though, by the time I'd got to the yard, fed Fudge and got lorry ready, the rain had pretty much stopped.
I drove away thinking to myself it's got 2 hours to soak into the ground rather than being slippy!

Fudge did his usual pipe and slippers act of being asleep whilst I did studs, boots, groomed, plaited and tacked up!
He ambled over to the collecting ring at the slowest walk ever, I started to worry there was something wrong with him, but actually I think he was still mostly asleep!
Collecting ring pretty busy as there was a mini XC clear round on as well, so lots of kids on ponies and adults on youngsters at first outing!
We avoided them all, trotted and cantered round, Fudge very responsive, hoorah he's awake then!
The class was all on time, so I had 10 mins left to hop over the 2 warm up jumps a few times, had another canter, and then ambled around again.
You aren't allowed a watch of any kind at this event and they are strict about it, so I took my watch off and gave it to Hugo to look after.

The competitor 2 before me could not get his horse out of the collecting ring and had to be lead, you have to walk between 2 hedges and through gates, and they lead him through there too.
I think he was given 4 goes at getting through the start and up to fence 1, but didn't manage it, poor man I felt very sorry for him.
So when I got through to the starter, he called out "can I start you in 10 seconds?" I called back yes, and trotted on towards him, approached the start line still in trot, and Fudge cantered off at 3-2-1 Go!
I love my pony  :-)

The entry form for this venue asks for commentator notes, so I wrote something like "Coming back for a 2nd attempt at this event, hoping to go clear this year. Today is the anniversary of when I bought Mr Fudge 10 years ago, so I'll be celebrating tonight whatever the result!" As we cantered towards the first fence, I heard the commentator start to say it all, and Hugo said he adapted my wording to include a mention of some champagne!

So to the course - Fence 1 little palisade, fence 2 tyres, fence 3 step down and fence 4 another bigger palisade turn right canter along a hedge line.
Apparently that's where the photographer was, but I never saw him, too focused on the job  :-)
Nice post and rail fence 5 with straw bales under it, I'm sure it was bigger last year though!
Big circle through compulsory flags, I kicked on here, fence 6 brush and right turn back on yourself, so we jumped it on an angle, I looked right, put my left leg back and we landed on the right leg beautifully - and caught by the photographer too!
Fence 7A step down sunken road and B step up again, kicked on again for fence 8 more tyres but bigger this time, turn to a really wide log fence 9.
On the wrong leg here but Fudge's counter canter is better these days, so he kept cantering where he used to go disunited  ;-)

Fence 10 trotted into the water, turn left in the water, and cantered out of it up the hill. Really kicked on here as it's up hill and I thought I'd been going too slowly so far!
Fence 11 first real full up height, square profile and much wider table - Fudge flew it  :-)
Kicked on again to fence 12 black pipe, jumped from usual canter stride, felt fabulous.
Fence 13 another turn left, got the correct leg on landing again, so we cut the turn through compulsory flags about a metre to the right of the white flag  ;-)
Fence 14 was a choice of 2 side by side, an open tiger trap a little lower than another square topped wide box jump.
Slightly down hill but Fudge in nice regular stride so I aimed for the box jump and another one he flew perfectly.

Through a gate way and yet more compulsory flags, 2 teenagers ambling their way round the course - teacher mode on, I shouted "Behind you!" whilst riding straight for them.
One jumped to the left and one jumped to the right, both shouting "sorry" after me!
Down the hill again, left turn through last set of compulsory flags, I thought we were a bit too fast and risking a slip, steadied up just a little, but as soon as we were on the level again, Fudge powered on towards fence 15 a very solid looking wide pheasant feeder thing! Slight up hill to fence 16 another tiger trap, Fudge turned for home down the hill without me steering at all, I just sat back, steadied him for the last telegraph poles fence which is still on the downhill, and couldn't help but "yee hah" loudly through the finish line. I'm amazed I had any breath left really by then!

I met a couple of people I knew on the way back through collecting ring and on the way back to the lorry, I must have had an enormous grin on my face as they all grinned at me and a small boy I'd never met before asked me if I'd had a good round. Took ages walking Fudge round, washing him off etc, had a cup of tea myself and worried that I'd been too slow, or had I pushed Fudge too much as he perhaps wasn't as fit as he had been last year.
Once he'd dried, had drunk some water, and was breathing normally, I left him on the lorry with his hay.
Went back to look at scores, only half of them were up as the class had only just finished. There were well over 50 entries in it.
Bought bacon and egg sarnies for me and Hugo, looked at photos, bought 4 of them  :-)

More scores up by now, and overheard a conversation between 2 other people about the optimum time. I'd worked it out to be something over 4 mins, maybe 4 mins 20secs or something like that, but given that you're not allowed a watch (and I never feel I can look at it anyway!) I had ignored it. These other people had decided the optimum time was 4 mins 8 secs as the class before ours was the same course, and the winner was on 4 mins 16 secs and had 8 penalties. They were pointing to the provisional scores which showed someone on exactly 4 mins 8 seconds. I nearly fell over when I saw it was my entry number!!
I must have squeaked or something because they turned round and said "is that your time?" and were very complimentary!
Anyway it took another 3/4 hour for confirmed scores and the presentation (we went back to the lorry in between to check on Fudge and put my photos away safely).
When we got back, it was confirmed that I had indeed won it - eeek!
What better day to win a competition like that, on the 10th anniversary of when Mr Fudge arrived in my life, I have to admit, tears came to my eyes.

Oh yes, and we won a sack of organic carrots (from a sponsor) and £22 - I've never won money before so that was great, I got my entry fees back!
Also a lovely red rosette with 3 colours of ribbon in it.
Poor Hugo got the job of carrying the carrots all the way back to the lorry  :-(
Mr Fudge got to eat some of them, and I left the sack at the yard for all the horses to share.
Actually we brought some home for our dinner too, they tasted great with the pink fizz I'd opened by then.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Sherwood Forest Trec - 13th August 2011

Mary and I went to Sherwood Forest to do a Level 2 trec competition.
We felt rather out of practice as it's our first once this year, but being in the school summer holidays we were prepared to travel a bit further for one.
We had heard that the group running this one have a good reputation for routes and organisation etc.

So on Friday afternoon we packed up the lorry and set off - in fact it took us about 2 and 3/4 hours to drive there which I thought wasn't bad at all.
It was a nice setting in the forest where they have a mostly grass extra parking area for trailers, lorries and corralling horses.
Not much grass though as it is obviously used a lot, but we had haylage with us.
Hubby Hugo set about cooking our BBQ dinner whilst we built the corral and found the toilets etc.

This competition had the PTV (obstacles section) out on the POR (orienteering section) which we had never done before.
We didn't know where it would be on the route, just somewhere.
This meant you couldn't walk the course in advance, but they did give us a list of what the obstacles would be.
They also said the time allowed was 26 minutes, which scared us, we are used to a PTV that takes less than 10 minutes!

Our map room start time was 11.50, so Hugo duly made us bacon and egg sarnies so we had eaten well but still had a relaxed time getting ready.
Sadly by this point they were running half an hour late  :-(
We heard stories that the route was long and complicated so people were asking for extra time in the map room (which you get penalties for) so they had time to copy it.
The route was drawn as 2 sections in different colours, as some of it came back the same way as you went out, but with slight variations.
As a pair we always do map copying so one of us copies forwards and the other copies backwards.
I only just managed to copy it in the 10 mins, Mary did not and so did not have the beginning of the route which was the forest section.
The map was then sealed in an envelope whilst we collected ponies and were given our maps back at the start line.
By the time we had done tack and equipment check and got going, it was about 3/4 hour later than we had expected to leave, and we now knew it was a very long route that would take hours to ride.
With hindsight what we should have done here was stop round the corner and for Mary to copy the forest route, but we didn't of course  :-(
The first section was straight forward though, and we got to the first checkpoint that was only about 3km into the route.

The next section was much trickier than it looked on the map, with the usual forest thing of lots more tracks in real life than were drawn on the map.
We took 3 goes to find the correct track, which probably wasted about 10 mins as we had to go far enough down the track before we realised it was not right.
We tried to catch up a bit of time, but then went wrong again. This time checking our compass and we were on a lovely wide track facing almost completely in the wrong direction. Boo  :-(
By the time we had re-traced, found the correct route, and trotted a lot to the next checkpoint, I worked out we were probably about half an hour or more off the time, and we'd done more distance of course, so we were concerned that the ponies would tire before the end of the route.
So we made a decision not to be too competitive about the next section, and look after our ponies.
This was a long section with roads, bridleways (stony or hard) etc and we had been given a speed of 8km/h, which we thought was too fast given the conditions.
We got to the next checkpoint about 15 mins too slow, which was in fact better than we thought it was going to be  :-)
This turned out to be the start of the PTV, where they were sending us out every 4 minutes. We had a  30 minute wait here, which helpfully gave me time to go for a wee behind some handy bales  ;-)
I found the long wait a bit frustrating at the time, but Fudge nodded off, which turned out to be good for him.

Fudge is usually a star at PTV obstacles, but this time he was more concerned at being separated from Splash.
However we did canter under the low branches without hitting them, and he did the ditch and 2 jumps OK.
Then there was a long canter section along 2 sides of a field, this really was a spread out PTV, I had to check my map to make sure I was going the right way!

Fudge annoyed me at the gate by spinning round on the spot having heard Splash coming, but I had already had hold of the rope to open the gate, and had to drop it again, so that was more penalties. Sigh.
He lead downhill beautifully, but then could not see Splash, so he jogged up it overtaking me  :-(
The mount was good, nicely on the side of the hill so you could be uphill, but I hadn't quite got on and both feet in stirrups within the time allowed, so zero for that!
Water crossing was into a river, along it about 20 feet and then out again - Fudge was perfect - hoorah! Then bending poles which again was great.
Meanwhile I took a look at my watch and realised we were nearly 20 mins in to the 26 mins allowed for PTV. Part of the problem was that the fence judges were holding us up when there was another competitor coming.
Oh well, across another field, when I overtook the couple ahead of me who seemed to be lost!
The rein-back, which Fudge trashed as he had gone back into Where's Splash mode rather than concentrating on the job!
Down a winding track, and canter across a stubble field for the last 2 obstacles, which were ridden corridor (cantered, but touched a pole) and ridden immobility (perfect).

Then the control of paces section, by which point we were really tired. Fudge did a lovely canter, which I knew would score (I got 13 for it).
His walk back again was good, Splash had appeared so he had something to aim for. We scored 8 for that, which is pretty usual for us.

Once Mary had finished her PTV and COP, we started back on the orienteering thinking we had miles yet to go, and they'd given us a fast section of 9km/h.
There was a winding track with low trees so difficult to trot, then a road section, under 2 railway bridges, and a road crossing with a pelican crossing so we had to wait for that too, so 9km/h seemed unfair.
We assumed we would catch it up on the next section which was a long bridleway, but no, having crossed a pub carpark (including the bouncy castle!) there was a checkpoint, who said he was the finish!
I was really confused, there was still another few km of route we had spent time copying at the start in the map room!
The checkpoint judge had to explain that was the route back, or there was a 1.5 km shortcut but it involved the main road.
Mary and I opted for the road as our 2 are sensible with traffic, and we'd had enough. Well I had  :-)
If we'd gone the long way, it would have been more like 28 or 29km rather than the 21km we did (plus the wasted re-tracing our steps in the forest).

Back at the lorry I was much improved after 2 cups of tea and 2 pieces of yummy cake (Mary specials), but by then I was so tired I was really grateful Hugo was there to drive the lorry home.
By the time we'd packed everything up (we had to bring all the poo home with us as there were no disposal facilities!!) it was quite late, and we got back to the yard about 10.45pm in the dark.

We are still waiting for the confirmed scores and results, but have seen some provisional ones.
As it turned out, they decided not to award any time penalties for the PTV to anyone. I am very pleased about that, as I thought it was very unfair.
Our times were something like 34 and 38 minutes, and we'd cantered wherever we could!

There were 16 pairs in our class so we are expecting to be last or very close to that.
Hard to tell on the day if anyone else got lost even worse than we did  ;-)

Monday 30 May 2011

Houghton dressage day

Yesterday I took Mr Fudge to Houghton International Horse Trials to take part in an unaffiliated dressage competition run under BRC rules. There was a team competition (2 riders rode P12, and 2 riders rode N34) and warm up classes as an individual competition.

The warm up area was on part of the cross country course, so we warmed up around the XC fences next to Kai Ruder  :-)

Fudge behaved himself as the superstar he is (I know, I'm biased) apart from one small strop when he bounced on the spot as a protest to me picking the reins up again after the 'stretch on a 20m trot circle' at the end of N24, silly boy! I giggled my way down the centre line at the end of the test as I was still laughing at him, we like to make the judge smile  ;-)

Anyway to keep this brief, we got exactly the same score - 64.6% in both N24 and N34, from 2 different judges, and it turned out to be 8th place in both, talk about consistent! The team I was in came 2nd, so we came home with 3 rosettes and a bottle of Norfolk cordial as a prize for the 2nd placed team. Very pleased with that, Fudge went well and for once I felt I rode properly!

Sadly it was not that well organised, it started about 25 mins late, and some of the arena markers were not in the correct places! Results were also an hour late coming out, but hey, it's the first time they've run it, and they said they will do it again next year and wanted feedback/ideas.

Thursday 17 March 2011

Toffee back to normal

Toffee is much better and almost entirely back to his usual self. As it happened, the vet was coming out to the yard yesterday to see another horse, so I asked for Toffee to be checked over whilst she was there. She says he is how he should be 2 weeks after the operation, and took his temperature which was normal.

Obviously we are still keeping a careful eye on him in case it recurs. The vet suggested the wound had sealed but getting him to walk round on Sunday opened it again so it can continue to drain by itself. He is still a little swollen, so there is obviously still fluid leaking out.