Overdue update

It has been a VERY long time since I’ve updated here – so much has been happening I’ve just not had chance! I’ve got a new job (start in two weeks), had a lot of stuff going on and a lot of things going on with Dan…

My last update was a super happy one with Dan and me debuting at Medium for our E-Dressage test. However, not long after that I was warming up for my lesson and, as I transitioned to trot, immediately felt that something wasn’t right. He felt really lame at the back, and luckily I had Carolyn on the ground too for a second opinion. Dan just didn’t look as if he was flexing through his hock at all (he’s already quite stiff in his hocks anyway, but this was much worse than normal!). I was going on holiday the following week, so I decided to give him some time off with a bit of Danilon and see where we were when I got back.

Unfortunately when I got home, Dan was no better, so I called the vet. She had a good look at him (I am so unfit – trotting a horse up several times is very tiring!) and did some x-rays so she could have a proper look at what was going on. It looks more like soft tissue damage rather than his hocks actually fusing – this had been her first thought. She thinks it’s mainly down to his age, wear and tear and his pretty poor hindleg conformation taking its toll. The vet came out again a week later and gave him a steroid injection into his left hind, with a large supply of bute to see how he got on! Dan had a week off after the injection and we have just started hacking again. So far he feels sound (but very unfit) but the long-term prognosis does not look good for schooling again 😦

I’m just pleased he seems to be very happy – he was really excited to go for his first hack again! I can’t ask him for any more, so while it’s disappointing I’m unlikely to be able to compete him again (especially as he was going so well), he’s done plenty for me in the time I’ve known him.

In better news, my blog has been nominated for an award! It’s Haynet’s Equestrian Blogger of the Year, sponsored by MirrorMePR. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take two minutes to vote for me 🙂 just click on the image below! I am very grateful for the support of my sponsor Caitlin Padgett – Portrait Artist as I wouldn’t have been able to do it without her 🙂

And in even better news, my lovely friends are being really fab and letting me get my schooling fix by riding their horses. I’m even going to take one of them to a little unaffiliated dressage on Sunday… wish me luck!

Nic & Dan x

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August E-Dressage

It’s been a long time since I’ve got round to updating my blog… apologies for that, but everything has been pretty busy recently!

Fresh from our success of debuting at Medium last month, I decided to go for the same level at E-Dressage this month. We’re really starting to work on the lateral work and collection a bit more in our lessons, so it seems like a good idea (well, maybe not good exactly, but ‘challenging’) to try and move up and become more consistent at this level. Dan has been going really well, but then the past couple of weeks have seen us encounter a few problems.

I can’t really get hold of the feed I was successfully using any more – I was gutted, as Pavo is the only thing I’d managed to find that kept Dan’s weight on. However, I spoke to Saracen and they recommended switching to Re-Leve, which they thought would also help with the spookiness. I’ve had a few issues during the switchover (to be expected) – Dan’s actually been spookier than normal and also lost a bit of weight, but he seems to have put that back on again and seems a little more chilled, so hopefully now he will settle on it.

We hacked over to use our trainer’s manege to film the test, as her arena is actually full size unlike mine! I really struggle to ride a Medium test properly in my school, especially as Dan is ginormous. But Carolyn’s yard is only 10-15 minutes from ours so it’s easy to borrow it. Dan worked in ok ish until the cat decided it was going to pop out from behind the fence just as we cantered past, and I sort of lost him then. He had been a little spooky before and not really letting go over his back, although I was starting to feel him chill when that happened! After the cat incident I felt like we’d gone back to square one in the chilled stakes, but couldn’t really warm up much more without completely tiring him out (plus he’s the sort of horse that gets spookier as he tires!). Dan has been in that school so many times and normally is great in there, but he’s just been on edge that little bit the past fortnight so I just had to ride the horse I’d got that day.

I’m disappointed with my test as I felt like I really did not ride it well. Dan struggles enough to work over his back anyway, and when I don’t have him properly through it makes everything a million times harder. He was just tense and not listening to me at all – as a result, my simple changes were not simple changes at all, the lateral work was a bit shuffly and he wasn’t forward enough. But, we rode the test and things were all sort of in the right place, but I’m expecting a horrific mark! I’m not sure why I haven’t felt like I can ride the past couple of weeks, but hopefully we can keep going and September will be better. I’ve got a lesson tomorrow night so we’ll be continuing to work hard.

If you fancy a good laugh at a horrific test, here’s the link Medium 71. Be kind…!

On the plus side, he was fab tonight and felt much more like he was getting back to normal – there’s still a Pokemon in the muck heap by the top of the school, but that I can deal with!

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Nic & Dan x

Debut at Medium!

Today was the big day… the day we actually rode a Medium test in front of a judge! The test itself was 63, which is quite a nice first Medium I think (although it still contains shoulder in, half pass and quarter walk pirouettes!). As I’d written last week, we haven’t had the best preparation given Dan’s colic and then lameness, but I was determined to do the best we could.

I had a fab lesson on Friday night where I rode through the test for the first time, and worked really hard on the lateral work in particular. Since I’ve been having lessons with Carolyn, we’ve really gone back to basics to get Dan’s way of going better, so we’ve left the lateral work alone! I was relieved to find that the buttons were mostly still there, but had to work hard to get him moving off my outside leg. I finished the lesson thinking we’d probably do ok and manage to get a solid 60%, which was my aim.

Fast forward to today and suddenly I found myself plaiting up at 8am! As soon as I started plaiting Dan started getting a bit excited/anxious about going to a party, so luckily Suzie was on hand to stop him fidgeting while I plaited up. The competition was held at Carolyn’s yard, which is only a 10-15 minute ride from ours, so we were hacking over. Dan was a doddle to hack over even if we were a bit quicker than normal! I was on about 45 minutes after we arrived, so I chatted to a few friends and then walked him round. The warm up was in an unlevel field so I felt quite limited as to what I could do in the warm up. I concentrated on getting him through, soft and listening, with a couple of shoulder in and half passes to get him listening to my outside leg (and to get my outside rein working).

We got called into the arena, so I set off into a big trot to send him forwards – and I could tell he was going to go well, as he felt really switched on. A full size arena now felt massive compared to my small one at home, so I felt like I had all the time in the world. I concentrated on sitting well, keeping my legs wrapped around his sides (I tend to stick my legs out!) and actually had time to prepare everything – half halting, positioning him and then moving into the lateral work. As the test continued I started to really enjoy myself, as I knew it was going better than I could have ever imagined! I was over the moon with how it felt and couldn’t stop grinning like an idiot as I cooled him down after the test. Going to a show environment seems to get him a bit more forward, which definitely helps keep him more connected and makes him feel very rideable.

We then had a bit of a wait to find out scores, but loads of my friends had also come over to compete so I left Dan with his haynet and water and caught up with them all over cake. I really enjoyed watching everyone ride their socks off in their tests and everyone did so well.

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Team Half-Passables!

Our scores came back… we’d managed an unbelievable 69%!! Our marks were fairly consistent throughout, with our lowest being a 6 and highest an 8. I managed a couple of 7s for our half passes (one for trot and one for canter) with comments that we could be braver in our medium work – which was better today, but could still be improved. The competition was a team one – my friends Emily, Suzie and Cate all were part of my team too and we finished a fab third!

Super chuffed with my favourite boy – he absolutely tried his heart out for me. Loads of photos because he’s so gorgeous and has helped me achieve a dream today 🙂 Big thanks to Caitlin Padgett – Portrait Artist for all your support, we wore our saddlecloth with pride!

Nic & Dan x

July plans

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, mainly because I’ve been ridiculously busy recently! I realise that I never actually updated anything about June’s E-Dressage, so here is the test:

Elementary 44

There were some good and bad bits to it, but overall I’m pleased that our overall way of going has improved so much the past couple of months. We scored a pretty decent 66% and I know once I get myself together and ride like I do in my lessons, we can break the 70% barrier again. I’ve been working really hard on riding into my outside rein and keeping Dan straight and through, which is really helping with all the rest of the work. Dan is definitely good enough, I just need to work on catching him up 😉

Unfortunately one of the reasons I’ve been busy is that firstly, Dan came down with some minor colic – luckily it just seemed to be a one-off, but I knew straight away he wasn’t right from when I got to the yard after work. He seemed to perk up pretty quickly, but had a few quiet days to make sure it had definitely gone. Then last week Dan had his new shoes put on and went lame! I think he’s finding the new pads in his front feet a little bit odd, he has really thin soles (which he doesn’t help by fence walking sometimes!) so he just seemed a bit sore. But we seem to be back in action now as he has been sound all weekend, so fingers crossed he’s over that hurdle now too. If it’s not one thing it’s always another with horses!

Our exciting piece of news is that we are going to attempt a Medium test this weekend. Our trainer is running a Team Quest inspired competition at her yard down the road, so me and a couple of friends have entered as a team. I don’t particularly feel ready for Medium but I’m not sure I ever will, so I want to push myself and give it a go. As ever, we really have not had the best preparation with Dan having at least 10 days off this month…! But we’re going to give it a go anyway. My plan is to probably stick to Elementary for our E-Dressage test this month, so we’ll see how we get on.

Finally, some photos to share because guess what, it’s FINALLY SUNNY! Love my little stalker pony 🙂

Nic & Dan x

Long overdue update!

I’ve been super busy the past month – been away with work, to some events and had family stuff all going on so I’ve barely had time to sit down, let alone try and write!

Although I’ve been really busy I’ve managed to continue having my lessons once a fortnight. At the moment I feel like it’s one lightbulb moment after another, which I think is a good indication that the training is worth it. Carolyn had been really working on my position, which I’ve also carried on off the horse – I’ve been in the gym to strengthen my back and core, as well as running to get a bit fitter to help with my stamina when riding a test. In my last couple of lessons, whilst we have still been working on my position (mainly now keeping my lower leg stiller and opening my chest more), we have started more work on Dan’s way of going. Although the adjustments we’re making to me are clearly helping him, Carolyn has been getting me to ride him much straighter, but also teaching me to feel when he isn’t straight.

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I have a tendency to not really ride with my outside rein enough, and as a result Dan drops out through his shoulder and in with his hips, which then makes me collapse to the left in particular. So we’ve been riding loads of diamonds, outside flexion and small circles to really get me to understand how I can affect his straightness whilst helping him use his inside hind and stay straight. We’ve also re-introduced some shoulder fore/shoulder in but I have to really concentrate on bringing the shoulders in. On top of all this, I’ve been working him in a lower, deeper frame to really encourage Dan to work over his back and start swinging. Now that I can get the straightness better, I’m also doing loads of transitions within the pace to keep him forwards and start getting his weight behind a little more.

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There have been a few struggles this month along the way – Dan still seems not 100% relaxed, occasionally he’s been fence walking again and he’s often quite spooky at the top end of our arena still (which isn’t helping when I’m trying to get him to relax over his back, instead I get a wooden tense horse!). I’ve recently put him on Hack Up supplements as I’d heard loads of good reviews. The joint supplement is amazing, he seems really freed up on it and it’s great value for money. However, the calming supplement doesn’t really seem to have helped (and I’m not sure if actually it may have made him slightly worse!). As the supplements are bespoke I’m going to see if they can tweak it for us to see if that helps (trust me to have a very abnormal horse :P).

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I filmed June’s E-Dressage today, but hadn’t actually had chance to run through it at all before. So I may re-film dependent on time, but at least we’ve got one if I run out of time! It’s Elementary 44 so quite tough for us as it’s got the 10m trot circles. It went fairly well except the spookiness at the top end really affecting the tension. I’m looking forward to being able to crack the straightness and suppleness over the back, which will hopefully help me ride through the spookiness. Token photos are of us riding through the test today in our lovely Caitlin Padgett – Portrait Artist gear as well, which is giving me loads of focus and determination to do well this year.

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Another update will follow shortly once I’ve actually entered June’s test!

Nic & Dan x

May E-Dressage

Me and Dan have had a much more successful couple of weeks 🙂 I feel like he’s finally come to terms with Sunny moving, and him and Tempi have now settled to being out overnight, another thing that helps Dan chill a little. He’s still a touch spooky in the school but generally is back to his old self, which is a huge relief. One of my friends and my trainer Carolyn, who don’t see Dan every day, both commented on how well he is looking so I’m definitely thinking he’s back to normal! I’ve recently started him on some Hack Up supplements – they’re a bespoke supplement company who tailor supplements to your horse’s diet, temperament and issues they may have. I spoke to a really helpful lady called Helen who sent me two supplements – one for Dan’s joints and hooves, the other as a calmer/digestive supplement. I’ll update on our progress with them soon, but the joint one in particular is already impressing me just two days in.

For this month’s test I decided to film straight after a lesson with Carolyn so that I could get the most out of being warmed up by her. I was really excited about filming this month as all of my really cool new sponsorship gear arrived, so this would be the first test wearing it! That said, I felt more nervous riding the test as I felt there was a bit more riding on it than just my own personal goals. It’s really given me even more drive to do better, so I can’t thank Caitlin Padgett – Portrait Artist enough for what she’s done for me.

After last month’s test I’ve been working hard on the suppleness and contact – getting Dan a bit more together, over his back and lower than before. Last month we’d worked really hard on the forwardness and straightness, forgetting about the front end, so now I’ve been able to take this and concentrate on getting him more through. I had a great lesson, I must remember to ride the left hand side instead of chucking my left rein away!! I also had a telling off for not riding my corners or half halting properly, so I’ve got my homework sorted, alongside generally trying to keep improving my position.

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I felt that the test itself went pretty well – the trot work in particular. The mediums in both trot and canter are getting better (I lose straightness in the canter especially) and the canter itself is getting some jump back. I fluffed up the right canter as I didn’t keep hold of my left rein, and his spookiness meant he backed off and I forgot to ride… oops! But I think the rest of the test went pretty well all things considered. Me, Dan and my lovely new sponsorship gear all got a bit rained on though!

Here’s the video for anyone wanting to see (there are two versions, Suzie filmed me in portrait mode and then someone at work very kindly (and magically!) switched to landscape for me):

Original – E42

Landscape version

Don’t forget that you can follow me on various channels:
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Thanks for reading! Looking forward to updating with my May score next week.

Nic & Dan x

Looking back at April

In my last blog I talked about my April E-Dressage test – the dreaded E50! Sadly we ended up with our worst mark EVER but we got some amazing feedback from the judge. One thing I really like about being a member of E-Dressage is that you don’t just get your test sheet back, you also get some video feedback from the judge discussing the test.

My April judge was Claire Ballantyne – a list 2A judge and Grand Prix rider. I really like being judged by Claire – she’s really difficult to please but that’s because she insists on the basics being there and marks really honestly. I was so disappointed with my mark, but felt much better when I read my score sheet and saw my feedback video, as Claire explained everything so well and was also nice about some bits that were actually good in amongst the rubbish! So my homework is to try and get Dan lower and more through. His high and tense neck used to be a big problem for us (it’s sort of his default position) and we’ve worked really hard on this in the past. I think with him being stressed and tense at the moment, this has just crept back. To be fair to Dan I was pleased we just got round the test after the spookiness and unsettled behaviour we’d had since Sunny moved. The photos were a bit blurry but I’ve been working hard on getting him to relax a bit more in our schooling now and trying very hard to keep the forwardness, but with more connection!

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I’ve also been working really hard at the gym to strengthen up my back and core, to really help me sit better and help Dan out a lot more 🙂

In other news we also managed to go for a couple of hacks, once on our own and another time we met my friend from down the road. I was really pleased with Dan as he kept his head and we didn’t have any silly behaviour like the last time we went out. I think he is gradually accepting that his routine has changed, so fingers crossed he keeps settled.

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Finally – I need to actually decide on a photo of Dan for my sponsor Caitlin Padgett – Portrait Artist to draw for me. Please help me decide! Out of the below attempts (he hates standing still lol) I like the top left best, but I’ve also got other photos (e.g. the one above) that I also really like! HELP

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Thanks for reading!

Nic & Dan x