The remains of the day

That’s how it feels.

I am totally wiped.

The word ‘knackered’ doesn’t even come close.

I’ve caught the sun while I was out too, can feel my cheeks burning.

It’s been a brilliant day.

Soph gets back from her weekend in London in about three hours.

I hope I can stay awake long!

For the record, we were unplaced today; 60% in both tests whereas the tests were won with marks around 68%.

I feel we could have done better but given the total lack of flatwork schooling we’ve done lately… the result wasn’t unreasonable.

And now I’m probably going to fall asleep on the couch for a few hours.



After all the show jumping we’ve done lately, I chose to give Vin a hefty dose of flatwork schooling on Wednesday evening.

How brilliant it is to be able to school in total daylight – to leave the floodlights off!

The bulk of the work concentrated on walk-canter and canter-walk transitions, this being an exercise that Jo’s particularly keen on; it teaches Vin a number of things but as importantly it builds on his confidence and balance.

I got home that night feeling brilliant, elated; he genuinely tries, he loves trying.

We have a very busy month lined up for April; two cross country schooling sessions with Alan Noble, two show jumping sessions with Mandy, a dressage competition (P10 and P12 at Allenshill) and a flatwork lesson with Jo.

In early May I’m planning on hiring a local venue (probably Allenshill’s show jumping arena and get Mandy there to work on our ringcraft.

Vin’s first BE looks like it might be June – all being well!


Competing again

Fresh from our success with Matt Ryan last Sunday, on a fit of upness I entered a couple of dressage tests at Allenshill.

I love that place, it’s all so chilled and relaxed.

The first thing that struck me as I drove towards the lorry park was that the burger stand was gone!

Oh no! This is a crisis of massive proportions! What am I going to do without my many mugs of hot chocolate and, ahem, fried egg sandwiches?

We rolled to a halt, I switched off, got out, lowered the tail ramp, patted Vin and gave him a slice of apple and went for a Recce.

The first thing I noticed was that the burger stand had merely been moved.

Waves of relief washed over me as I watched the guy setting up for me his many customers throughout the day.

Our first test – P7 (or Prelim 7 if you prefer) – was at 09.38 and that, my friends, was the sole reason The Lovely S wasn’t with me; she’d worked all day Saturday and I didn’t want to drag her out of bed at 06.00 on a Sunday.

We worked in, went forward, did our test which although wasn’t brilliant it didn’t feel bad, considering we’ve not schooled as hard as we should have – prior to a competition.

Our second test was at 10.30 which meant Vinnie got rugged up and a light snack and I visited the burger bar for, ahem, a chat.

Both refreshed we worked in, went forward and did our second test which – given that P14 (or Prelim 14 if you prefer) is a horrid, start-stop sequence of movements that come up very quickly – actually went very well.

Vin felt brilliant for both tests, but he was much more relaxed during the second.

Back at the lorry I untacked, groomed, rugged up, put him in the lorry and gave him his haynet, then I visited the burger van. Again. Ahem.

I had a quick chat with Max who co-owns/co-runs the place, she said she reads this drivel!

Picked up our marked sheets for both tests – we were placed in P7 but P14 was still going on so don’t know how we did there.

Closed the ramp, drove back to the yard, unloaded, swapped Vin’s rug for an outdoor one and put him straight out in the field with his buddies.

I think I may have startled Jodie with my version of Mr Brightside by Killers – I didn’t see her in the barn and I really was belting it out fortissimo! Dang these iPods! 🙂

Back home by just gone 13.00.

Showered, shaved, clean-clothed and in to Bromsgrove for a hot chocolate and slice of cake with The Lovely S.

And now – 17.51 – back home where, after a spell of eyes closed, deep and rhythmical breathing whilst I contemplated the nature of the universe for half an hour, it’s still daylight outside.


Sundays should always be this good.

An email has just rolled in from the Riding Club asking if I’m happy with a 14.30 slot at next weeks show-jumping clinic.

More than happy.

Bring it on, that’s what I say.

Bring it on.


Horses: chiropractor, vet’s bill and competiton news

After last week’s ‘sticky but got gradually better’ experience at Bissell Wood cross country course, schooling young Vinnie, I felt things weren’t quite ‘right’ with the boy wonder (in a ‘can’t quite put my finger on things’ kind of way).

So on Tuesday afternoon Richard Maxwell came to the yard – and Vin and Beech were on the list.

With Vin he found a slight tightness in both shoulders but his poll (neck/head joint) was so far out of alignment the people in the next county could hear the ‘crack’ when it all slipped back in to place.

Max said it would have affected his way of going because he’d have been so uncomfortable – not enough to make him noticeably unsound or lame, just enough to make him reluctant to work.

Which sums up his performance at Bissell Wood.


Yesterday we schooled lightly – flatwork – in the arena and he felt good, back to normal.

Today we went to Allenshill for two dressage classes; Prelim 10 and Prelim 18.

And the judge I sat with last Sunday was judging today!

Bottom line: Vinne was a superstar and we have two more rosettes for our collection; a third for Prelim 10 and a fifth for Prelim 18.

In fact the three horses that went to Allenshill today from my yard kind of cleared them out; we came first, second and third in the P10 and first and fifth in the P18.

Pretty good, huh?

At the moment I’m toying with the idea of taking Vinnie cross country schooling next weekend at Bissell Wood again.

Meanwhile back at the yard – when we arrived from Allenshill – slightly (!) annoyed that I couldn’t put Vinnie’s dressage saddle and bridle away.

Some total numpty had managed to put the combination lock on the wrong way round so that one can’t get the correct numbers (or see when the correct numbers) are in position.

And no, turning the lock around doesn’t help because turning the lock around is impossible – the lock being encased in a five-sided cube to protect it from nasty people with bolt cutters.

So Vinnie’s dressage saddle is sitting on the spare chair in the lounge, his bridle is hanging up in the cupboard under the stairs and the girth to his saddle is in the car.

What is it with some people?

Are they incapable of working out the correct way of threading a lock through a hasp?

Back to Tuesday again…

I also asked Max to look at Beech because he’s crabbing sideways again.

Surprisingly he found nothing significant, a slight tightness in an off-hind hock. So I don’t know what the hell to do to correct this; need to think about it.

Meanwhile the bank manager will be rubbing his hands with glee; Beech’s bill for his broken leg treatment has arrived.



Anyway, I’m off to bed now.

With the competition at Allenshill it’s been one hell of an action packed day.

And we managed to watch all of Saturday evening’s ‘catch up’ episodes of Heroes!


Sunday went like this…

a quick lunchtime post; sorry about the sandwich crumbs – lunch at my desk…

Sunday went like this… after the earlier than planned start:

‘Dressage is a subjective sport.’

This has been stated by many people (myself included, on a number of occasions) but the truly subjective nature of dressage was best summed up by the brilliantly talented Three-Day Event rider, Andrew Nicholson.

Andrew was competing at Badminton Horse Trials (where three judges mark each test and their score is flashed up on an electronic scoreboard) one year.

The marks for two of the judges for Andrew’s test were unsurprisingly similar, but the third judge’s marks were so low that the crowd booed and whistled.

Andrew walked in to the offending dressage judges box and told her to “stick your dressage marks where the sun don’t shine.’

Brilliant Andrew! Well done – and thank you for making many an Eventer smile.

On Sunday morning this particular poacher flip-flopped and turned gamekeeper; I assisted with the dressage competition at Bromsgrove Riding Club.

I turned up slightly early, checked the arena for size and that the markers were in the correct positions and then clocked in with the secretary.

A familiar-looking car pulled up as I was introducing myself. The driver got out and walked over to us and was introduced to me as our dressage judge – my colleague and companion for the morning.

We got in the car and drove to the ‘C’ end of the arena where we parked, made ourselves comfortable and I got out the sheets we’d been handed.

The tests we were officiating on were:
* D1 (Pony Club) Walk & Trot
* Prelim 7
* Prelim 10
* Prelim 13
* Prelim 18, and
* Novice 33

The first thing I noticed was that the first five tests were to be ridden in a 20×40 arena whilst Novice 33 was a 20×60 test; I pointed this out to our collecting ring steward.

The competitors started coming through on time.

As we sat, observed, commented and scribbled my companion and I talked about what we were looking at.

She was an immensely experienced and able judge; her scrutiny was detailed and total.

And I learned a lot from her.

In the break between the first two classes she asked what I did with my horses. I told her what Vinnie and I have been doing this year.  When I mentioned ‘local dressage and combined training’ she asked if she’d ever judged us.

I admitted that she had – on at least five occasions (hence why I’d recognised her car when she’d arrived).

Between each class we chatted about horses and how to improve their way of going; during classes we discussed what we were looking at and awarded marks and comments accordingly.

She stated several times that she was inclined to be generous with her marks as this was an unaffiliated competition; she wanted to encourage competitors, not put up barriers.

After the last Prelim class my colleague moved the car while the arena was resized and the extra markers were brought in.

There were only two competitors in Novice 33 so our day was over by 12.15.

We shook hands, said we expected to bump in to each other again (later that day I noticed it would be sooner than expected!) and I drove to the yard.

I sat in the living accommodation of the lorry, ate my sandwiches, drank a hot chocolate, read, got changed, prepared the lorry for a trip, then loaded tack.

Vinnie looked pleased to see me.

I fetched him in, groomed then loaded him then we set off for Bissell Wood where we were going cross-country schooling.

The plan (cunning or otherwise) was to see how things went at Bissell Wood and, if everything went well, go and compete at a Hunter Trial at Hilltop the following weekend.

At Bissell Wood things started off very stickily (does that word exist?). We schooled over various jumps and things gradually became more fluent, our partnership improved but the bottom line is that we’re not ready to compete over fences.

It was early evening when we got back to our yard, Vinnie had treats, lots of praise, a good grooming and got turned out.

Later a couple of us were joshing around and Young Laura looked me straight in the eye and announced with a poker face that she had an itch. Honestly, that girl! I don’t know what it is but she and I seem to enjoy winding the other up.

Later that evening I fished around on the interweb and found a dressage competition for next Sunday; two tests that Vinnie and I have done recently so they would be interesting benchmarks.

It was only after I’d submitted our entries that I realised the dressage judge for both classes would probably be the person I’d sat next to in the car, judging at Bromsgrove all morning.

How interesting!


Sunday’s combined training at Allenshill

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

Boy did Dickens get it right when he penned that beginning to Tale of Two Cities!

My age of foolishness peaked (I’d like to think) with the thought that Vinnie and I were ready to step up a gear and tackle a more competitive environment.

Not ready enough, it would seem.

The Lovely S was on hand (bless) to capture some pretty excellent dressage.

This photo shows he’s pretty relaxed with the whole thing and that he has an unexpectedly extravagant trot movement (for a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse):

The second photo shows he can be extravagant (though less so) on the right rein too:

I like this third photo, it shows he’s relaxed right down through his back and he’s working in to a really soft canter:

And finally the last movement – ‘Halt, Imobility, Salute’. Unfortunately Vin is supposed to be doing his ‘bit’ of the salute – standing in an outline ‘on the bit’ with his head toward the judge. Sadly he seems to have seen an unguarded pint of cider in the other direction and he’s gauging his chances of quaffing it before I notice. Ah well, horses, eh?

Unfortunately the dressage was the high point of the day.

He just didn’t want to know anything about jumping.

The Lovely S didn’t seem to bring back any photographs of our attempt to hurdle the Allenshill show-jumping track at 90mph. I think she had her hands over her eyes.

But – being positive and optimistic – Vin’s competence in dressage continues its upwards climb. Saturday’s marks show the trend improves with every competition.

So there’s some good in the day as well as some not good.


Let’s have another go…

Fresh from our gloriously non-competitive outing at The Deer Park on Sunday it’s time for another go…

This Sunday there’s another combined training competition at Allenshill – Prelim 7 this time.

So Vinnie and I are entered (isn’t this internet-thingy wonderful?).

We’re going to do two classes.

Punishment and glutton.

The last time Vin and I did P7 we were placed so we’ve got a very tangible target to beat this time – 125 points.


I received a text from Sue at the yard this morning to say that Beech is having his (hopefully final) x-ray on Wednesday.

Fingers and crossed.


Combined Training


The Lovely S and I got out of bed more or less on time.

We did the usual stuff then left the house more or less on time.

We arrived at the yard on time.

I loaded the lorry.

Groomed a surprisingly mud-less Vin.

Put him in, gave him a haynet to munch on and we…

Left the yard early (shock horror!).

It didn’t rain (more shock horror!).

Arrived at Allenshill way ahead of schedule (so much shock horror that it defies description!).

Had a cup of tea from the excellent refreshment stand.

Watched a small group of horses working-in.

Walked the show jumping course.

Walked around to the dressage arena and watched three tests.

Got very confused because the first test we saw wasn’t the one I’d learnt!

Realised that that test belonged to an earlier ‘dressage only’ class.

Watched the first Prelim 18 competitor.

Watched the second, just to cement the test well and truly in my head.

Got confused all over again!

The second competitor rode a movement that I hadn’t learnt!

Dashed back to the lorry to check that I had learned the correct movements after all.

I had.


Got Vin out of the lorry, ran a body brush over him, tacked up.

Put my show jacket on, slipped the smart silk on to my hat.

Put on my riding boots and gloves.

Mounted up and walked in to the warm-up arena.

And began working in.

Vinnie (bless) was brilliant; laid back, supple, obedient.

Until, about 10 minutes away from our test…

I asked for a right-lead canter.

And he blew up.

Minor rocking horse action accompanied by a couple of bucks.

One of the other working-in combinations were so spooked by Vin spooking that the rider fell off!

I didn’t.

We got called forward and rode in to the arena.

I felt we executed our dressage test pretty damn well.

With one exception.

The second canter – right lead.

Yep, he had an issue with it again and let me know, again.

I asked three times for the correct canter lead and three times he told me where to go.

In the end I ignored the unasked-for counter canter and just resolved to finish the test.

Back at the lorry we swapped tack (jumping saddle for dressage saddle).

And began working in: canter-work in a forward jumping position.

Then rode in to the jumping arena and popped the practice fences a couple of times.

Announced we were ready and…

Went for it.

Vinnie jumped like a star (even if the star in question had a resemblance to a stag on speed).

No stops, no poles down, no crookedness, no hesitation, (in fact lots of quickness of the almost too variety).

I don’t know where we finished in the placings.

We had to leave Allenshill as soon as we’d jumped â- a prior commitment with Harry Potter.

But I do know that Vin was a total star.

We raised our Prelim 18 points by a further 20 on our last Prelim 18 outing – brilliant improvement.

I also know that today’s competition filled both of us with confidence and elevated our partnership to a new level of trust and understanding.

I just hope that the whole thing wasn’t too boring for The Lovely S who accompanied us.

Combined training, Sunday


Dressage at 12.22 and show jumping as soon as we’ve changed tack and worked in.

Need to be at Allenshill at 11.00.

Which means leaving the yard at 10.15.

And that means arriving at the yard at 09.15…

Therefore, leaving the house about 08.45.

Ho hum.

So much for a Sunday lie-in.