Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Petplan Area Festival at Richmond - we are through to the Winter Championships

Quite a lot has happened since the last post. I had a lesson with Spencer and we spent the time getting Grace to stretch down because she came back into work a bit tense and stressy. Following this, we went over to Croft Top to compete in the Prelim (P17) and Novice (N33). She did two lovely tests, and more importantly I remembered them too as it was the first time I did not have a reader in a long arena!

She came 2nd in the Prelim with 66%, her highest affiliated percentage and then did a safe Novice and ended up with 63%. The judge’s comments were all very fair, they both said she was on her shoulders too much and not finding her own balance enough. This was exactly how I felt she was going.

I explained all of this to Jo when I went for a lesson on the Sunday, and we did a few exercises which really seemed to get her sitting back on her hocks and off my hands. All week I worked really hard on what we had been doing, but she came into season on the Wednesday and was just spooking at everything and felt like a steam train on my hands. To be honest, I went to my lesson on Friday quite down about how she was going. Because of this, we did not get very much out of it as I persisted in looking down at my hands and therefore not giving her the chance to get off her shoulders. Jo gave me a really good shouting at, which I deserved and helped get my act together in a way teachers used to at school.

After the lesson I was determined to look up at the Areas if it killed me. We set off at 9.30am and arrived at Richmond just after 11.30am. Grace travelled really well, and was incredibly relaxed at the show ground, munching on her haynet outside the trailer while I found out where we would warm up, ride the test and where the toilets were.

As soon as I got on Grace I could tell she was a bit ‘hot’ so I warmed her up with the exercises Jo had given us in the lesson the day before. These all worked straight away, and within 15 minutes I felt she was working the best she had ever worked. I did lots of walking around long and low because it was so warm, but this method seemed to suit her. We went in to the P16 test, and I felt very confident in her ability to do a lovely test. She spooked a little at the two judges’ cars but then did not get a chance to look at anything else as they tooted the horn as we passed. I took a deep breath and trotted her towards A.

I felt the test went really well. Grace was listening to me all the way around and her canter was very ‘up’, more so than I had ever felt it before. I came out with a huge grin on my face (partly because I had remembered the test too) and walked her around in the collecting ring to cool her off. I was second to last in the class, so they started reading out the people needed for the prize giving. There was no mention of my name, so a little disappointed I walked her back to the trailer. I was just about to take my saddle off when I realised Andy had the tack keys, but Mum had walked over with me so she set off to find him. Suddenly, I heard “Rider 84, R.McNair and Graceful Addiction” over the tannoy so I jumped back on and trotted off to the arena. As I got there, still frantically buttoning up my jacket, I did not know where I had been placed. When I found out I had come 2nd I just burst into tears and hugged Grace’s neck. We got 69.5%, and one judge gave us 72.3%!!!

Slowly, I began to realise Grace and I had qualified for the Winter Championships at Hartpury in April... I could not believe it, and I still cannot stop smiling every time I think about it. I am just so proud of her and am amazed at how far she has come since I started riding her in November.

Grace stood quietly in the trailer while me, Andy, Kevan, Sue, Mum and Dad (oh and Tia) had coffees, teas, lemon drizzle cake, Settle’s custards, vanilla slices and sandwiches. In fact, we forgot she was in there she was that quiet.

When it came to warming up for the Novice I decided to only give her 30 minutes because it was still warm. Unfortunately, the class was running 30 minutes behind so she was getting a bit tired by the time we went in for the Novice class. She did a really nice test; it felt the best Novice test I have ridden her in. She had one error where she did two flying changes in the right medium canter, but other than that she was listening, was jumping into her transitions and the counter canter felt great. She came out with 64.3% and was lying joint 4th in the Novice when we left, but it had not been split into Restricted and Open at that point.

After such a successful weekend, she deserved a few days off work. Unfortunately, on Monday afternoon she sliced her shoulder open in the field. She had two stitches (typical, she had to have a call out on Bank Holiday Monday) and has been in for two days. She is not lame so can still be ridden, and this afternoon she had a few hours out in the field because it was such a nice day.

Our next competition is in a few weeks time... until then we have a few lessons to keep us occupied and a learning day with Richard Maxwell too!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Abscess, abscess, abscess

The picture was of Grace competing BD at Arkenfield just before she went lame that weekend. She came a very respectable 4th with 65%, but I did feel she did not work as well as she could do. However, it all became apparent on the Sunday when I got back from the Richard Maxwell Forum Weekend. She came in from the field absolutely hopping lame, and when I brought her out for the vet on Monday morning she could barely put any weight on it.

She was off work for just over two weeks with an abscess, and because of it I am now an absolute expert at polticing. Hannah has never suffered with an abscess (touch wood) so I was not one hundred percent sure that I was doing it right, but they all stayed on and I kept the opening incredibly clean.

The farrier came up the following Tuesday to put her shoe back on as he knew I had the Petplan Area Festival at Myerscough, but she was still quite footy when I trotted her up on the Tuesday night. However, Wednesday morning she looked level and sound, so I got on her that night and was very conscious of her paces as I was convinced she would still be unlevel when worked. She was completely sound, and so far she has stayed sound now for four schooling sessions that have gradually asked a bit more of her.

On Wednesday night when I rode her, some of the girls from the yard were hacking out. We had just finished schooling, and they asked whether I would like to go. I just though, “Why not?” and set off with them around the Street. It was a lovely night, the weather was beautiful and Grace really did me proud. She led the entire way around and only had a very small spook at some rubber matting that had been left on the floor. Several motorbikes went passed us, and although I felt her tense a little, I asked her to walk on and she complied.

Spurred on by this success, yesterday morning (Saturday) I was having a bit of a battle schooling her because there was a digger at the other side of the fence and she was being a complete prat. She was sweated up, snorting and very ‘up’. Rather than cool her down in the school where she would have continued to get herself stressed out, I decided to walk her to the end of Slacks Lane where there are only 6 houses or so and hardly any traffic. Before I knew it we were at the end of the lane, turned onto the main road and trotted a little while to get her listening to the leg. She was very stressed out, but motorbikes went passed us and she listened! I was absolutely thrilled with her and feel a lot more confident in taking her out now.

We have a very busy week ahead of us. On Tuesday we have a lesson over at Arkenfield, then a BD competition (P17 and N33) on Saturday and a lesson with Jo Graham on Sunday morning. This is all in preparation for 25th August we have the Petplan Area Festival over at Richmond, North Yorkshire. The top four horses for each section go through to the finals, so we have a lot of work to do before then!