Posts in Uncategorized

Creating Partnership

September 29th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Creating Partnership”

Currently I have a lot of horsey work to do as well as my day job of running the company that is TestPro. So things are a bit hectic and tempers can sometimes be a little on the short side and horses being horses decide at the moment that you are lacking in time that they are going to ‘play up’. 

You know the scenario, they decide they are not being caught, or pretend they are a kite flying in the sky or there is a monster in every bush or wheelbarrow. When I was having a particularly difficult time with leading a yearling colt of mine and being bitten whilst my back was turned for the third day in a row, my temper was definitely lost! He was growled at (for this read some particularly tasty language) and pinched back on the neck, I pondered why we seemed to be going backwards in our relationship and training. I adore this boy and he is one of my homebred so I want to do the best for him. 

I realised a couple of things (been here before I promise I am not that dumb) one that getting cross wasn’t helping and the other was that he was teething and guess who was the nearest he was going to get to chew on. So we have been trying some new ways of leading and talking to each other which is helping us both. His preferred thing to do is chew the end of the lead rope or the chain part and we now start our journey to or from the field with a bit of a cuddle and a scratch. I realised that in my rush to get things done I wasn’t spending any ‘quality’ time with him, yes I know that sounds all mushy but a yearling colt is just as ‘needy’ as a human one!!! So far this new regime that has been going a week or so is working really well, keep your fingers crossed for me.

With the older horses I was watching a rider school a week or so ago and was a bit shocked by the use of hands and the aids in general. It was obvious that the rider was both frustrated and annoyed and the horse was getting ever more tense. Now we can all get ‘holier than thou’ and say why didn’t they do X or why didn’t they get off but if you have had a bad day or your horse is not in the right frame of mind to learn it can happen. So what should you do? I like to take a break and have a walk, just allow both horse and rider to have some downtime in the schooling session whilst I reflect on what is going wrong and what the horse isn’t understanding. Then pick the reins up again and do something that the horse finds easy and reward the good behaviour. If you have calmed down by this point then maybe go back to the exercise that was causing the problem and break it down into small learning chunks. Reward every bit of progress, and importantly ignore when it goes wrong. But make sure you are ready to analyse your behaviour, your body language and also your aids before you criticise and get angry with your horse. They can only learn what you teach them so be kind and patient. 

Supporting our sport

September 16th, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Supporting our sport”

This year has been rather bizarre and confusing for all of us equestrians. Our governing bodies are facing difficult times and are having to be flexible enough to stay within the ever changing government rules, our competition season has been chopped to about a third of the year (fingers crossed) and we are unable to treat a competition as a chance to catch up with our horsey buddies. 

In addition we have seen the worrying development of the loss of a crucial venue and we will possibly see more in the coming months. Hickstead as both a national and international venue has been a most amazing fixture in our calendars. I have never competed there, which I am massively disappointed about, but have spectated and also been lucky enough to be behind the scenes. I have no idea about the back story apart from a lack of support whether financial or in terms of administrative or volunteers and I don’t pretend to know anything apart from what has been put out over press and social media. But isn’t this an extremely sad reflection of the current state of high profile shows and venues? It’s such a shame that the venue couldn’t be saved.

Then we had the news that the British Dressage Supporters Club (BDSC) would be shutting its doors. I have been a member since the beginning, and in fact remember going to a meeting with about a dozen other people at the founding of the club. Later I became a life member and enjoyed many trips abroad with like minded people to some epic championships. The BDSC have provided support at competitions with prizes and sponsorship that many riders have benefited from. Is it really time to lose this? Will we all just drift away and organise our own trips instead of providing that mass of Brits at international competitions to support our teams?

I looked at how British Eventing manages their supporters. It has a separate membership for people that want to support eventers and also get the inside track on visits to rider yards and also trips abroad. Perhaps this is the way forward? British Dressage are you thinking about this? There are lots of people out there that would love the opportunity to get together with like minded enthusiasts can we get this going???

It seems to me that for too long in dressage we have relied on a few people to provide the infrastructure, enthusiasm and money to keep internationals and clubs going. Maybe it is time for the masses of us out there to take up the baton? Any takers?

Are you gelled?

August 19th, 2020 Posted by General News, Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Are you gelled?”

What follows isn’t meant to be a full blown rant! It represents some of the scenarios that have happened to me as a coach and I just want you all to think about your next lesson and whether you are being a good pupil. So often we talk about what makes a good coach/trainer but not often do we set expectations of the client/pupil.

As some of you know I do train people in my limited spare time! I used to do a lot of coaching (note I prefer coaching to teaching as a term) and I never worried whether people were just starting out in their first walk and trot test or were aiming for the high levels. Coaching is very rewarding and I love to see horse and rider out enjoying themselves no matter what level and what goals they have. 

But what did and still does get my back up was the attitude that people bring to their session. Now I know that we are not all on our ‘A game’ all the time and that life has a tendency to get in the way of our horsey time. However you have a bit of a duty to your coach/trainer to listen and involve yourself with the session that you have paid for. What is the point of bringing negativity or combativeness into your training session. You may have had an argument with someone but that should be left in the car. Otherwise isn’t it a waste of your money and the coach’s time? 

Then there are those people that turn up and expect you to fix everything in one session just before they are off to a competition. Really? I mean I think trying to solve the incorrect lead in canter and get your horse moving like Valegro in one lesson may tax even Carl or Charlotte let alone humble me. Coaches are human and we cannot turn your lovely happy hacker into a grand prix dressage horse overnight. It takes years of work and dedication, do you have the work ethic to train your horse? As coaches we enjoy long term relationships with horse and rider not the once in a blue moon people. 

Then we have the clients who consistently turn up late, don’t turn up at all, or cancel at the last moment.  Obviously things happen, horses go lame, children get sick, roadworks appear out of nowhere, but please consider your coach and the fact that they have put aside time in their diary to help you. Yes I know they are receiving money but they have mentally prepared, thought about lesson plans and what they are going to do in your session so it is downright rude if you treat them as an after thought. 

What about when you are in your session? Are you a chatterbox? Do you do a great impression of a sulky teen? Or do you lose focus when riding and start thinking about work or what you are cooking for dinner? I know as your coach I must make our time together interesting, challenging and fun, however I would also expect the same high standards from you. I want you with me and taking part not just going through the motions or turning every exercise into a battle of wills. 

So for your next training session with your coach I would like you to think about whether you are prepared;

  • To be open to new ideas and have realistic expectations, 
  • To get involved with the session, 
  • To make sure you are on time, 
  • To have a bit of a plan of what you want to work on
  • To make sure you have looked after yourself and you are awake, hydrated and have had some food
  • To make sure your horse is well, has shoes on(as appropriate) and is in his/her normal tack

And if you find after a few sessions that you are not ‘gelling’ with your coach and you feel that you are putting in the effort then maybe you are not right for each other. But finding a new coach is a whole new Blog!! 

FOMO or FOGO??

July 2nd, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “FOMO or FOGO??”

As competitions start my thoughts turn to when I would like to take a horse out.

Wales, where I live, has taken a slower pace to opening up than England and Scotland so we are still in a strange half life and I have not even ventured to a training clinic yet.

So I sit here with a small amount of FOGO (Fear of going out) debating with myself about when to enter a competition, when to go to a clinic. There is that element of anxiousness, not about the virus per se, but about how I will feel in the new ‘normal’.

My new normal revolves around looking after the horses, working, online meetings and very little face to face contact with the outside world. The occasional foray to Lidl, other supermarkets are available (!), and that’s about my lot. So to actually organise to go to a competition seems a big thing at the moment in my mind.

Am I alone? Should I get a grip? ‘woman up’ ? Are the questions in my mind legitimate ones? Well I’ve discovered that there are a lot of people with doubts right now, if you are with me on this we are not alone. There are plenty of people in the FOGO camp!

Lockdown has been a time for us all to reassess our priorities. Mine have changed in a few ways partly due to lockdown and partly due to Elena having sinustis resulting in a stay at Rainbow Equine. With my girl now seriously unfit, although Denver is in the wings, I realised I haven’t missed competing much. I love the training, and being with the tribe but all the faffing about and travelling is not looking very appealing at this moment in time.

But after reading this article https://whateveryourdose.com/life-after-lockdown/ I feel that I am on a journey, and the competing will happen when I am ready. I am going to get back to keeping a journal to write some thoughts in. I already have some goals (competing at PSG) set out in it, but I think writing everything down helps so much, it seems so much more achievable when it is written down!

If you are in the FOMO (Fear of missing out) camp, then Yay!!! I will be cheering you on and watching your progress in those competitions. I hope you enjoy your outings and I will see you soon within those white boards!!

Is that Essential?

April 2nd, 2020 Posted by Uncategorized 0 thoughts on “Is that Essential?”

How our lives have changed in the past few weeks. The cessation of competitions, daily briefings from the Government, horrendous news on all outlets about Covid-19, and increasing regulation of our lives.

And then this word crept into our daily conversations – Essential. We are living with the dilemma of stay at home, save lives, protect the NHS and what is or isn’t essential that we are allowed to do. Instead of simply walking out the door, getting in the car and ‘popping’ to the shops we now check the surgical glove supply, weigh up how much hand sanitiser will be needed and think about how much energy we have to queue up outside a shop to be let in.

Is it essential that I go to the shops? The government posted that we should only go if necessary and for the shortest period of time. Obviously Boris and cabinet haven’t tried to get a delivery slot at one of the supermarkets recently. You try to get a slot less than a month away, what are we supposed to eat until then? The loo rolls that I haven’t hoarded???

Do you find yourself discussing whether walking the dogs on the road outside is your daily exercise or is dog walking separate to our once a day exercise? Do you rant at the TV when you see some dog walker get stalked by a drone? Do you agree with the police? I’m not sure I do.

Consider this – is it better to walk from your door go to the park and try to socially distance away from 100 others in the park? Or is it better to take a short journey by car (5 miles) and walk somewhere with not a soul around? We live on a little lane yet recently it has become like a mini motorway of families, prams and dog walkers from the local village. On sunny days it is tricky to find a ‘slot’ to walk in without having someone near you. So won’t be doing that thank you, I am considering my health and if someone sneezes you need to be a lot further than 2m away folks.

Yesterday I saw a photo on Facebook of people buying paint for their houses and general decorating stuff. There were plenty of people ranting about how it was non essential. Well hello there! I didn’t look ahead and think in April I am going to have lots of time to re-decorate the house so I will buy in some paint. How is going to the DIY shop to buy paint any different to going to Tesco (other supermarkets are available) to get hair colouring? Both could provide the person with a sense of positivity. Both could help your mental health, isn’t that important too? And so I come to the elephant in the room, or should this be horse???

To ride or not to ride. Some organisations have come out with their interpretation of the government advice and said that they ‘strongly advise’ that you don’t ride. Or as BD put it “Government has not issued any restrictions on riding but we would continue to urge everyone to carefully consider the risks and what is ‘essential’ and not ride.”

So ‘essential’ appears again. What if essential means you need to ride for your horse’s health? What if essential is fundamental to your mental health? Somehow lunging my horses doesn’t have the same ‘feel good’ factor as riding does, no pleasant feeling of tiredness, no mental high when you have a breakthrough. So yes it is ‘essential’ to me.

With all of the restrictions, most of which I totally understand and totally agree with, I feel we are about to take a retrograde step in our development as a species. We have just handed over our entire lives to the police, government and an increasingly draconian state. We have given up our ability to be intelligent and take responsibility for ourselves. A large proportion of us are being paid not to work and to sit on the sofa.

I wonder where this will leave us after Covid-19 has departed. Will we be worried about human contact, have children that lack social skills, be fatter, and mentally fragile. All I would say to you is take charge of your mental and physical health, make thoughtful decisions about exercise and what risks are involved. I suspect that after this is all over the mental health of the nation and the cost of other lives lost might be what we are talking about rather than whether we survived Covid-19.