Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Reserve Reserve two weekends in a row!!

I'm posting a slightly overdue update before I turn my mind to my family and Christmas for a week or two - although it won't be long with North Island Champs the second week of 2010! Seems all I have been doing for the past few is ride and work and take care of mum who had a hip replacement in Tauragna two weeks ago.

As you are probably aware I have had two shows - Waikato Champs and Auckland Manukau Champs. Waikato was to be Des' debut at Level 5, unfortunately he came up a little uneven a couple of days before so I decided to scratch him. Nothing serious, he is now fully recovered and back in full work but he was long overdue for a bit of a break anyway. It does mean that we will be attending Showfields on the 9th of January now just so he won't have his Level 5 debut at the North Island Champs!

I still attended these two shows with Gosh - his first outings since HOY in March. And what a season opener! At Waikato we were still finding our feet but managed to place 3rd in the Inter II and 4th in the Grand Prix in good company. The musical didn't go so well for us - the faster grass surface catching us unawares. However we still managed to come third overall in the GP section behind seasoned campaigners Charlott Bayliss on All Black II who are in their fourth Grand Prix season and Sally Isaac on Vincent St James who is a past National title holder ad HOY winner. And Auckland Manukau was even better. We were second in the Inter II, a very close 4th in the musical (just 0.1% separated 2nd to 4th) and 4th on a very tired pony (somewhat overcooked by his rider) in the Grand Prix. All with our best percentages to date and more than enough to qualify for Nationals, HOY and the Challenge Finals in one hit. Again we were pipped for the reserve by the same combinations - but this time even closer on countback - Sally's fractionally better performance in the GP just nudging them ahead. The fact we were 4th instead of 3rd in the musical on countback as well made it all the more frustrating! I managed to get a nice plug in for the sponsors in my introduction for the musical freestyle as well and it was a crowd favourite performed to Christmas carols. Below are a few pics taken by Geegees photography at Waikato Champs.

Overall I'm very happy with our performances. We really need to up the game for the seasons big shows but the basics have been well laid. With the mileage I intend to gain between now and then and of course some more training I'm really looking forward to a big finale for the season. I may have to re-evaluate the plan with Des and campaign him towards the young horse classes rather than the grade finals but both options are still open to us at this point. Will keep you posted.

One final thing I have to say before I sign off is to thank Sheena & Dermot & Pippa & Alan for being the most wonderful hosts. You guys are treasures, truly.

Have a fabulous Christmas with friends & family and I'll see you in 2010!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bruno's back!

Those of you who have been followers of this blog for a while may remember Bruno, my young yellow pony. Actually he is more of an orange colour but as I met him as a yellow ball of fluff, he will always be that to me. Bruno is a 4yo by Gryffindor who was broken in at Christmas time and then spent a spell on the West Coast with Toni Bryant being educated. As he had spent quite some time since then in the paddock and I'm no young horse rider I sent him to Mark Brooks to bring back in. He was there for four weeks and has been home here a week. Everyone has done a super job on him - he is obviously very green with balance issues, no bend and a rather uncoordinated canter strike off, but he is immensely rideable and adjustable and incredible confident to hack out. These photos were taken of his second ride at home last weekend. The aim is to bring him on quietly and maybe find a small show at the end of the season to debut him at.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Waikato's World!

Well, I've had my showie outing for the season and what fun it was! I always say that I go because it's a good day out for the young horses and great exposure for them in a 'no pressure' situation. All of that is true but if I were completely honest I'd also say I just love it - getting all dolled up, hanging out with so many people that also adore their horses and going out and showing off, with no repercussions if it doesn't quite go as planned. And I have to say that the Waikato A & P Association put on a show that will probably have me back next year for more. Fantastic weather, great setting, friendly atmosphere. Brilliant. The fabulous Lizzie Charleston and her gorgeous mum, Jocelyn, did a super job of keeping the horsey side of things running like clockwork, and managed to look stunning while doing it! What blew me away was the fact that this show was the weekend directly before the Melbourne Cup and that Elizabeth was also responsible for the Cambridge 'sister city' celebrations that Tuesday. Unbelievable - she has stamina to envy!
Anyway as far as the showing went Des was a super star. He was placed in his two conformation classes (the egg sized splints are always going to be an issue in these classes) and won his paced and mannered easily. I completely overlooked the fact there was a championship P&M class so didn't hang around for that... I also won my rider class but had a complete away with the fairies moment when I rode out for the championship class and rose on the wrong diagonal. Of course I thought this was hilarious - after all there's not much rising trot in upper level dressage - but my showie friends were mortified.
Ah well, a good day out and I'll be back next year - especially if they arrange the same weather pattern!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

BOP Champs - 24th & 25th October

BOP Champs was a really enjoyable and interesting show for me. For one thing it was great to get the chance to watch all the GP combinations go round. Usually when I'm competing at that level I just get glimpses of my competitors warming up or at best a test or two if I have an early draw. Vanessa Way and Arvan looked the class act of the show and in my mind thoroughly deserved the win. Even though it is just their first season they are looking quite established in the work and when Arvan brings his piaffe to game day they will be the combination to beat. It's always good to see a fellow Zilco & NRM sponsored rider doing well, too! The other find of the show for me was the delightful pairing of Nicky Pope and Fabarchie. Cute as a button the pair of them and with a bit of mileage under their belts I'm sure they will add that touch more power to make them truly serious. Plus its wonderful to see someone so happy to be there!

My own show went well. Des was mostly very good, just once getting a touch behind my leg and flipping me the bird when I attempted to correct a flying change that should have been a simple one. He was especially good the first day with a lovely amount of energy. He did have a wobble or two and at times was a little innaccurate, but I still have to say I was disappointed with the marks of low 60's. The second day he rode in a little flat and was against my hand and on the forehand the whole test. He did however stay in a consistent frame and rhythm and we were reasonably accurate in the movements and we were rewarded with a whopping 70%. I found this interesting and confirmation of something that Bill often states - that we are training a future GP horse, not one to win the lower grades. I want a horse that is electric and responsive and it is my opinion that in order to produce the consistency required to win at Medium I'd have to sacrifice some of that - or spend years at the grade which I think is counterproductive as well. Either way we're not hanging around long enough to find out - our next dressage start will be Waikato Champs where we will be having a crack at Level 5.
Here are a couple of pics, not my favourites but I do want to point out the positive disassociation in the first photo. Not strictly correct but at least you can see he is moving in an uphill frame and a whole lot better than the massive negative disassociation that is shown all too often. I'm sure this would be judged 'too open in the frame' as well... ;o)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Steffen Report

Well. What an experience. Just in case you missed my previous (not so) subtle messages I had the chance to ride with Steffen Peters last weekend. This was not a clinic, but a forum and I was one of 12 riders on a variety of horses from throughout New Zealand asked to come along and present our horses to Steffen for use in the forum. We drove down from our new base in Cambridge to Fielding, a drive of about 5 hours. We were all allowed to take a ‘groom’ who got access to all sessions F.O.C. As I’m not quite that flash and don’t generally have help I invited a friend of mine, Carolyn McCree, to fill that gap – an opportunity she jumped at... although I’m not so sure she’ll repeat it! We arrived to find that we had unscheduled access to the indoor arena – right then. So I threw a saddle and bridle on and went for a cruise. Des behaved impeccably in the unfamiliar environment and I was struck by the group of very, very nice horses that Dressage NZ had managed to gather. I only spent 20 minutes on him with a stretch at trot and canter which was commented on by another rider. It never fails to amaze me what people expect of their horses – we’d just travelled halfway down the country, and I’m not going to teach him anything new at that point!!

Anyhow, the next day was the big day – we all got to ride for Steffen and Trond Asmyr – the FEI Director of Dressage. These sessions were poorly organised with some having 4 horses in and others only one or two. It meant for clutter for us and unfortunately it lead to an identity mix up later on that had me riding in the incorrect session for the forum itself. Not quite sure how my not quite six year old baby Medium level horse got confused with Vanessa’s 11 year old Grand Prix horse but there you go. Steffen was very complimentary about Des, saying he definitely had the movement of a top level horse and about the way we had been working. He did say that he would have liked him to be more in self carriage and that it was obvious that his balance was a little immature at times. He talked about the some of the work he intended to do with me the next day including lots of transitions and also said he would be riding him. He asked if I had a hunter/jumper background – which I do – I only took up dressage 6 years ago. Apparently I need to keep control of my ‘wings’! But he did say I was an effective rider...
So the next day the forum itself began. Steffen was introduced by rider in on my friend’s dear wee GP horse to ‘Stand up’ and a standing ovation. Pretty cool. There were some interviews and then a session on fitness which we mostly missed as we were to be on first up. The first ridden session was on conditioning and training and it was very quickly obvious that we were in the wrong session when we were asked to demonstrate canter pirouettes and piaffe/passage. Now Des may be progressing quickly through the grades but come on! Steffen thought very quickly on his feet and used us for a little haunches in at the canter and some medium/collected trot transitions instead. I have to say that I was very proud of my pony. He coped so very well with the crowd (about 400 people on a temporary stand) and the giant TV screen which did produce a few hairy moments as it was constantly changing. The afternoon session that I should have been in was on the young horse and it was interesting seeing him work with those horses and see them change, albeit frustrating from the stand! His message seemed to be about raising expectations and sharpening response to the never ending transitions. He was very big on contact and about the rider choosing their contact and not allowing the horse to force the rider to accept more.

On Sunday things progressed to schooling the specific movements. This seemed to be aimed more at the higher level rider with half pass, flying changes, pirouettes and piaffe/passage being the order of the day. Steffen did have some very useful tips for the exercises; I particularly liked starting the half pass as a turn across the diagonal to keep the shoulders in front, schooling the single change from a counter canter on a large circle to prevent swinging, a secondary aid to add energy to the changes, and schooling the piaffe as a passage on the spot for the horse that becomes grounded and shuffles. Trond had some great insight from a judge’s perspective, I appreciated watching the pirouettes schooled as a controlled haunches in on a small circle but being ridden in a test situation from a shoulder in. They were both obviously enamoured with a couple of the horses, in particular Louisa Hill’s Bates Antonello has both of their votes for our 2010 WEG team.

By this stage I was quite frustrated. Of course I had loved the opportunity to be there and present my horse but I had definitely gotten the short straw of not much input from Steffen due to being in the wrong session. However all was not lost. Our Sport Manager had noticed the disparity and when one of the other riders arranged for a quick session to work on her pi/pa I was asked to tag along. So after everything was over on Sunday and with most people heading home we brought Des back in for our very own private session with the master. Just a short session but so worth it! Steffen chose to ride Des and with his long legs and male strength (not to mention his impeccable feel, years of experience and talent for the job) he had him looking like an Advanced horse. I then hopped back on my horse who consequently felt like a Ferrari and had a wee tiki tour around on him with Steffen murmuring his wisdom from the sidelines. Nothing earth shattering, nothing that reinvented the wheel for me, merely an increased expectation. I’m to stop thinking of Des as a baby horse and more as a baby Advanced horse. Steffen is big on ‘perfect practise make perfect’ and increasing the general manoeuvrability and ‘handliness’ (a term he borrowed from Trond early on in the weekend). Oh, and I really need to watch my wings!!

Monday’s session was closed to the general public, just squad members, their coaches and the riders from the weekend invited. Basically this day involved various riders riding tests – the higher levels for both Steffen and Trond and then the lower levels for Trond alone as Steffen held a video critique for the Grand Prix squad members that hadn’t been invited to ride. I rode through 4.6 which is the Medium level ‘Challenge’ test. This was a huge ask for us – Des had only had one Medium level start the weekend before and the work was far more advanced and once again he did us proud. I didn’t warm up particularly well – you know how it is when you get new tools – it can be very easy to thrash them to the exclusivity of everything that has worked for you up until that point but essentially it was a clear round nicely done. I got some good constructive feedback from Trond. I talked with him a couple of times over the weekend and found him to be an insightful and intelligent person, as well a downright nice guy. I think the FEI have done very well to appoint him as our current Director of Dressage. We are in good hands.

We packed up pretty much straight after this and headed home – it had been a long weekend, we had five hours to drive and I started work the very next morning in my new job! It would have been good to hear Steffen talking about organising a campaign but a safe trip won out.
The photos are all from Saturday’s session and my friend and commercial photographer Annie Studholme took them. There are apparently some photos of Steffen on Des taken by another friend and journalist Lisa Potter (you may have seen her by-line on some Eurodressage articles) but she has been completely slack in getting them to me! I also have video of Steffen up – will post that to youtube over the weekend and post here when I do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Training Photos from LVF

The first month after our move I spent a lot of time training at Little Valley Farm - the most amazing facility in Ohaupo. These photos were taken by a friend of mine, Kate Peddie, who operates as Geegee Photography. Thought you might like to see them!

Gosh in passage.


Gosh, happy to be out of the sandpit! And yes, we did jump.
Gosh - Medium trot.

Gosh, working trot - a bit tense.

Gosh - canter by the mirror.
Des in almost the exact same spot!
Des, working trot.
Des - concentrating!
Des in the light.
Gosh - going home.
I know you're all waiting for the Forum report and it is coming, I promise! It has been a crazy couple of weeks since we returned - I started work the very next day (fulltime - eeek!) and have had the in laws to stay. Will hopefully get it up in the next day or two, complete with pics. Till then...

Monday, September 7, 2009

First Show of the Season

The Waikato put on an absolutely stunning day on Sunday - clear blue skies and no wind at all with temperatures in the high teens. We had a draw that I'm sure will never be repeated - first test at 2pm - which was of great benefit as we had had a few people over for a welcome to the district barbeque the night before... Plus it was father's day and I need to at least show some appreciation of all the work David does behind the scenes!

Anyway Des was spectacular. For his first show since the Nationals almost exactly 6 months ago and a big step up in grade to Medium I couldn't have asked for anything more. He scored 63.646% in the first test and won and then a whopping 71.111% in the second test and was just beaten into second place by a hair. Of course he needs to develop his sitting and carrying power (his 6th birthday isn't until January!) and he made some baby mistakes such as confusing the half pass aid for a canter transition so to score the marks he did at this early stage is very exciting.

So a fantastic start to the season and a good confidence boost before we head down to the forum on Thursday. I have just seen that as well as most of the New Zealand dressage scene being there and the FEI officials there will be contingents from Singapore and Australia. What an amazing opportunity and I promise to share all the inside gossip when I get back!

Ciao for now.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

All settled in

All packed up and leaving West Melton.The boys dressed and ready for the last leg from Taupo to Cambridge.

Well, the trip was long but uneventful with 3 nights spent en route. The boys coped well with the trip - they travelled exceptionally well, once Des figured out each day he could actually turn around in the truck! He has this thing where he’ll load OK but then can’t figure out how to bend enough to make the turn – he’s as stiff as a board. Stupid really cos he has the ability to turn himself into a pretzel to scratch the inside of a hock...

After being here for two weeks I have to say I am more & more excited by the change. The property here is superb, with a fantastic soil type to run horses and a brilliant arena which is already being extended for me to fit a full size dressage arena. The end result will be very large - ideal for the young horses and plenty of room to jump if the mood took me. The tidy up of the boxes is also underway; in the meantime the boys are enjoying being in the paddocks full time. We are surrounded by top class thoroughbred studs and other equine operations. The sirens going off regularly were confusing until someone told me they were the 'bells' for St Peters college which is directly over the river from here - just a short flying fox trip for the kids when they get older!! (?)

I'm playing solo mum for three weeks as David has headed back to Christchurch to finish off his work however I've still managed to keep the horses working. I had the first lesson with Bill last weekend. Both the boys were stars and we’re looking forward to the season. Des has his first start at Kihikihi on the 6th. We’re doing Level 4 which is a bit of a step up but one he is capable of. Also the Level 3 tests are nasty!! Gosh won’t compete much for a while - he needs to stay at home for a bit to get more consistent. We have our debut season under our belt, now’s the time to get serious. We’re definitely aiming for a good showing for the Championship shows next year!

Apart from all this I also have Bruno in the paddock who spends his time hanging over the gate waiting to be brought in. He doesn’t have long to wait – I start work on the 15th and have to do two weeks fulltime to start (!!) but straight after that the aim is to get on and go with him.

The very exciting news is that I have been selected as a demonstration rider with Da Vinci for the upcoming International (FEI) Dressage Forum being held September 12th & 13th in Fielding. I'm so looking forward to the opportunity to ride for the visiting trainer Steffen Peters, who is the current World Cup Dressage title holder as well as the winner of every single big tour class at Aachen this year. Can't wait to hear what he has to say!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fenlands is on the move!

In two short weeks we will be crossing the ditch - 3 horses, 2 cats, a dog, 2 kids and a husband in tow - on our way to becoming North Islanders. We have made the call that in order for me to be serious about chasing the Dressage Dream I need be located closer to my trainer and also in amongst it a bit more with the competition. A huge undertaking and a logistical nightmare but hopefully we will soon be ensconced in our little piece of paradise just out of Cambridge and our marriage will also still be intact! Wish us safe travels...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Yellow Pony

Bruno is my yellow pony. A 3yo by Gryffindor out of a TB mare called Happy Talk. He was broken in over Christmas by Alan at Kauri who once again did a fabulous job, and for the last two months he has been living on the coast in Hokitika just generally being a horse. He is being ridden by Toni Bryant who starts horses and also provides a 'finishing' school for young horses where she exposes them to just about everything. Ideally situated right on the beach, she also does a lot of forest work with them, alone and in groups. Toni has a background in just about every discipline but lately has concentrated on Endurance with placings at National level. She sent me these awesome photos of Bruno, looking more like someones stock horse than my future GP dressage star! Bruno is due to come home at the end of the month. He'll have a bit of time off again and I'll bring him back into work proper, probably in October. In the meantime I can't help but think he has had the perfect start!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The season that was.

Well it's that time of year when I sit back and take a good hard look at the season that was. And as I look back I realise just how good it was. I think it is very easy to always be striving for more that sometimes the achievements we make are overlooked.
Da Vinci truly had a fantastic debut season. In 7 shows (5 dressage and 2 'showing') he was unplaced in just one class. He won both his tests at his debut show, and won Champion Novice Saddle Hunter at his first A&P. He travelled to both Auckland and Gore and even had the audacity to beat most of the North Islanders on their own turf by winning the reserve Champion Level 2 at the Auckland/Manukau Champs. He was second to the eventual overall winner in the 5yo YDH class at Nationals and third overall in the Level 2 Championship at that same show. In just 4 starts in the South Island he convincingly won the Level 2 Accumulator. He competed well and proved to be able to cope with atmosphere and distractions.
Gosh also had a brilliant season. His first year at Grand Prix he really is an exciting horse to ride and watch. What he lacked in consistency he made up for in quality. The highlights for his season were winning the Reserve Championship at the South Islands and finishing the season on a high with a 6th placing at the Horse of the Year Show, just 3% off the best in the country.
The reason for the review though is always to look forward. Now is the time to be goal setting and planning for the coming season. They each had some time off after Nationals & HOY and are both now back in full work (when the weather allows!) We won't compete over the winter, instead we'll focus on the training and take advantage of the fact that we don't have to make it look pretty for the judges for a bit... we'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Not sure what to call this - When the other one bucks? Truth be known I was on the other side of the (rather vast) grounds at HOY, in my civvies, when I was told I won a ribbon for my Inter II. I stole the nearest bike, hightailed it back to my truck to throw the top hat and tails on and then (longtailed?) it back for prizegiving... I did get some rather odd looks, especially as I cycling and texting. Not sure of the safety rules on that one!

Kelt Capital Horse of the Year 2009

We’re home! Safely after two days travel. The trip home was uneventful – the Cook Strait had been off limits to livestock for 24 hours before we sailed but in the end the crossing was a non-event with minimal seas. However it is still a very, very long way. HUGE thanks to those that put me up along the way, especially Maryanne and her family who went out of their way to be helpful and hospitable.

The show itself lived up to its reputation as an extravaganza of all things equestrian and was a fitting climax to an eventful season. I enjoyed being amongst the other disciplines and watching the best of the best compete, and also the opportunity to get to know some of the other sponsored ‘team’ riders. It was great to rehash the day with them – we may be in different disciplines but we all know the work and commitment involved in getting to the level we have done.

It was great to catch up with friends new & old and I have to say the social side of a horse show is more than catered for at KCHOY! Must be all those showjumpers.... ;o)

On the competition front I had a good show. The first day we started off with a hiss and a roar with our best test to date. We still made a few mistakes but quality of the work we did do was good enough to have us on 59.79% and less than 3% off the winners. The second day was the big one for me – the Grand Prix. We started exceptionally well in the test, especially the piaffe/passage and transitions between – the parts of the test we had had problems with at Nationals. I even allowed myself a ‘whoa! this is going good!’ moment… And then I made an error of course – went the wrong way. Not such a big deal but by the time a few other things had happened around that outside of my control, I had lost my composure and never really got it back. At our stage of training, if everything goes our way Gosh & I can foot it with the best, but we don’t have the experience to fall back on just yet when it doesn’t – unfortunately there is no way of hurrying mileage. The final day found Gosh very tired and tense. He was badly spooked by a wildly flapping flag just before going in and then had a plastic bag fly at him right at our entry halt. However we continued quietly and although his tension was apparent we again showed some very good work – good enough for the ‘O’ (Olympic level) judge from Germany to give us 61%!

Overall I am very happy with the trip north. The feedback has been incredible with many people saying what an exciting combination we are.

So what now? Well the winter will find us training on solidly. Des has had a few weeks off and after three rides feels pretty ready to get back into it. We’ll be pushing on with him – aiming for a few Medium (Level 4) starts next season. With Gosh we will be hard at work to consolidate the movements – working to get him happy and confident in all the work. Just how quickly it all comes together will dictate our competition programme for next season. At the very least it will be a concerted effort to have him securely prepared for this time next year when we will be looking to be in amongst it at Nationals/HOY 2010!

These incredible photos were taken by Kate of Geegeees Photography on the Friday (Inter II day). Just a newbie to the photography scene, her timing and composition are fabulous.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Game of Two Halves...

The Nationals are over and what a weekend it was.
Des was once again a rock star, having a very full weekend competing in the Young Dressage Horse classes and also the Level 2 Accumulator Final and Championship classes. He was second in the 5yo YDH class to the eventual Champion of Champions winner, second in the Accumulator Final, which was enough for him to take out the overall title for the South Island season and third in the two Championship classes to come third overall. He was beautifully behaved all weekend and gained many new admirers. I fully rate this horse and know he has earned a couple of weeks in the paddock. Actually he'll hate being left out - it'll only be a matter of days before he starts pacing although Bruno over the fence will hopefully keep him company.

Gosh, on the other hand, had a disaster of a weekend in the ring. A minor change I had made to his tack at the South Island Champs lead to a complete meltdown in the week leading up to Nationals. I changed the bit position back on the second day but his lack of confidence was apparent and lead to virtually non-existent piaffe all weekend. This was very disappointing as the piaffe is his strength – the one he did do scored very highly, but in these tests with the scoring weighted to 30% being piaffe/passage and the transitions between, this was extremely costly. Of course I am kicking myself, especially as he had been training so well (in a different bridle) in the lead up to Nationals. All I can do now is continue to do all I can to restore his confidence between now and HOY and cross my fingers we get a performance I know we are capable of. I am extremely heartened by a great schooling session today – I hope we are over the hump!

If you are at HOY, have a great show. If you see me, come and say hi - although not right before a class or you may not get such a gracious reception!! I'll be hanging around the food stands - hopefully the whitebait man is back...
Chat soon!

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's a long way to go to come second...

Sorry! An old family saying...
In truth we met or exceded all the goals I had prior to going to Gore for the South Island Champs. Both boys performed exceptionally well and travelled well. Des won the 5yo class, was just second in the first Level 2 test and won the challenge test on the second day. I had made the choice not to put studs in for the show, reasoning it wasn't that important a show and an unecessary cost. Des spent the first two days slipping and sliding all over the place but being honest with it, however but the third day he flipped me the metaphorical bird and wouldn't go forward. Made the test a little tricky to ride and when we made a couple of mistakes we ended up down the ranks in sixth place. This was enough to cost us the Championship title and even the reserve - although that was very close - we were just pipped on countback! Not the reason we went down to Gore anyway but it was hard for me not to be disappointed in not bringing the big ribbon home.
Gosh on the other hand coped well with the conditions. He went out every day and improved in some way. Three consistent, if not startling tests were enough for the Reserve Championship at Grand Prix level. This was well beyond my expectations going into the show - at this stage we are still after that happy experience in the ring - I need to get him comfortable with that intensity of work & questions before we ask what we are truly capable of.
I'm sorry there are no pictures - there was an official photographer there so I didn't get the slave to bring mine out which I should have done. Can you believe that after 3 days and 4 tests there were none of Des at all? None of the Inter II either - after that I lost interest in going over and searching for non-existant shots!
Gore and the Southland Dressage group put on an outstanding show, one I'd gladly travel to again. Now if we can just get them to work on the weather...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

My new favourite photo

Definitely not perfect, but I love this one. From our Musical Freestyle at the Grand National.

Just had the most amazing weekend training on both the boys with Bill Noble. That man is genius and so are both my horses! Looking forward to the trip to Gore this week. Wish us happy travels and if you're there, do come up and say hi.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Grand National Show

And what a show! I think the Grand National Show has to be my favourite of the season. It is well organised, friendly with fantasti facilities and the glitz and glamour that is so often missing. The entertainment is outstanding and it is a great chance to mix and socialise with the 'showies' that we see so little of throughout the season.

The boys were awesome. I took Des along just to expose him to the atmosphere. He was entered in the showing classes - he doesn't need to do anymore Novice tests. It did take a class or two for him to get used to the distractions - we were indoors with a large public gallery and there were lights and flags and mirrors and stages. He is NOT a show horse but still managed to come home with a fistful of ribbons and a whole new legion of admirers. I was especially excited to get placed in the Rebecca Peters Memorial class. This is a kind of 'Supreme' for the Novice horses and in memory of a very special person who was a show rider and jockey and who died in a trackwork accident 18 months ago. Her mum was there to present the award.
In the Novice Saddle Hunter title class

The Rebecca Peters Memorial

First Year Under Saddle Hunter Hack

Gosh was there to compete in the Grand Prix and the GP Musical Freestyle or 'Kur'. He did some good work in the GP but some unexpected mistakes - for some reason he wasn't keen to piaffe in the ring, he decided not to change in the pirouette line, I completely missed the count in our twos and of course our ones are still a work in progress. He also unblanace in his extension, which is unusual for him. However his lateral work was brilliant - we nailed the zigzag, which has been quite a difficult movement to come to terms with. And as usual his passage drew much favourable attention.

Yesterday in the Kur we really had some fun. He was still fragile in the piaffe, we had even less success with the ones and the twos were swinging but some still absolutely brilliant work, especially the half passes, the pirouettes and the passage. We ended up with an overall score of 62% which I'm thrilled with. We were 4th out of 4 but the highest score was just 65% so we are all very close.

So from here it is just mileage and training on. I need to work out how to keep him relaxed in the piaffe in test situations, we need to continue to work on consolidating the changes and just generally work on our arena craft. Des is almost on cruise until after the National Champs when we will start to push on with his training.

Next stop: Gore on the 13th-15th February for the South Island Champs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hi honey! We're Home!

2 days, four stages, 14 hours driving, one ferry and 1000 kms later...

Phew! It's a long way. The boys behaved perfectly and arrived home in great condition, thanks in no small part to the helpfulness and hospitality of Gayle, Carolyn and Angie on the way and the great company of Victoria. We were all very glad to be home and have slotted back in to the routine of riding and everyday life. It's only two weeks today until the Grand National Show and we have plenty to do!

The family holiday was fantastic - we played tourist and visited family & friends and generally enjoyed beng together. We saw glowworms and caves and kiwi and sharks and waterfalls and climbed mountains and swam in the surf and rode hydroslides and water-skied and enjoyed the hot pools and ate good food (including New Zealands best ice-creams at Pokeno) and drank good wine and fished and saw the New Year in in the rain under a leaking awning at the Raglan campgrounds (the rain stopped long enough for some incredible fireworks) and it was brilliant!
Some pictures from our holiday:

The kids enjoying a cart ride with Steve & Crystal from Brooklands.

Harper & Clive on the beach at the Raglan estuary.

Bridal Veil Falls, Raglan.

A shark eyeing me up off Motiti in the Bay of Plenty. No swimming off the boat for us that day!

The best ice-cream in New Zealand - Pokeno of course!

And while all this was going on I managed to ride the boys and had lessons most days. The training was awesome. The difference when there are knowledgeable eyes on the ground day in and day out is incredible. I am so excited by the future for both of them and just hope I can keep the momentum going now we are home. Bill is down next weekend again for two days which will help. There weren't many photos taken and none of Da Vinci, but you might enjoy these of Gosh.

Warming up in working trot.Some piaffe steps.Working Canter.

And just to prove that the hard work is universal, here I am training the pirouettes - with no stirrups!

And because I know you'll all enjoy this - I managed to fall off Gosh for the first time ever! Just a silly spook that caught me unawares, the only thing hurt was my pride. If you're unaware just how talented Gosh is at this unrequired movement, you may want to check out this old video.

I will leave you with that, I still have a horse to ride and boxes to muck and with two kids at home to entertain that's an afternoon full!