Staying focussed, but not too focussed…

I’ve been neglecting Tom-related posts because there’s been other things happening. You know how it is. Life gets in the way…

So, this weekend William is coming in and we’re cross-country schooling at Ascot-under-Wychwood (yes, you can see the cross-country fences quite clearly, and if you scroll outwards you can see the rest of them in the next field!).

And next month is our first One Day Event.

Our JAS at Solihull was better than the mess at Hartpury (it could hardly have been worse!) and I learned quite a lot more about Tom and how he reacts to indoor competitions.

You would have thought that he’d be a bit used to the indoor experience, what with us schooling all winter indoors at home, but no.

It seems that the glitz, glamour, flags, bunting, scary fences/fillers and all that jazz unsettles him to the point where his adrenal glands kick in and, well, he gets nervous and therefore strong.

I can see from the photos at Solihull that I had far too much contact with his mouth over the fences, so I’m not releasing – which restricts him from making the bascule jumping shape and doesn’t help him do his job properly.

Why am I not releasing? Because it feels too bloody fast!

Show-jumping indoors is different to outdoors; the turns are tighter, the corners come at you far too quickly (especially on a large, big-striding horse like Tom!) and the spacing between the fences is far less generous.

The day before Solihull, we went to William’s place in Cirencester and we jumped brilliantly.

But 24 hours later we were tense, nervous, on edge and fired up/anxious and far too keen.

So I need to ease back on the fired up/anxious/keen – but not throttle back to the point where we switch off!

Fortunately I’ve got the Solihull photos, and they are a great training aid. But the bottom line is I need to give Tom his head over fences, and deal with the excess of speed between the obstacles, not in the air!

Fair enough.

I’m going to try to squeeze in a couple of sessions with Owen before our first competition too.

Looking forward to this weekend!

On having another go

Fresh from our awful appearance at Hartpury’s JAS (show-jumping and simulated cross-country) competition last Saturday, and fully recovered from all of the aches and pains that go with being soundly dumped (though, since the bang, I have been farting up a storm on an all too regular basis!), the weekend is almost upon us, when we try it all again.

On Saturday Tom and I are off to William’s for some additional show-jumping practice.

On Sunday we’ll trundle up to Solihull for a crack at another of British Eventing’s JAS competitions.

And, at this stage, if not as confident of success as I was before Hartpury, at least I’m not thinking this could be another disaster.

So what’s changed to instil the confidence?

The Bit.

I’ve reconfigured Tom’s bridle with the Snaffle piece, removing the nathe French Gag I tried at Hartpury.

I might be proved wrong in my logic, but after thinking long and hard about what went wrong, and after talking to a couple of very learned people, it’s entirely possible that Tom is such a sensitive soul (!) that the way the French Gag works could have upset him, even a Happy Mouth nathe gag.

The change back to the Snaffle will sacrifice a large portion of braking for forward-goingness, but at this stage of the game I want Tom jumping forward and freely and without being sensitive in his mouth.

I want to educate Tom not to tank off with me, rather than muck about with gadgets.  I realise that education is a longer-term objective, but I think implementing a quick fix will only bring more problems, not fewer. Although I will add in mitigation, I do know I need to use a Bit with a little more edge for the cross-country phase – a Snaffle isn’t going to cut it!

Anyway, Saturday is the ideal time to try my ‘back to square one’ plan and see how it pans out, William will, I know, test the pair of us quite hard.

Sunday is the time to make it all work ‘on the day’. At least we’ll be well ‘jumped in’ after Saturday!

We schooled on Tuesday evening and Tom felt fine; a little forward (keen!) but nicely balanced on his turns and working really well in to his transitions.

Didn’t ride last night, by the time I got home from work I was so ridiculously tired that we had a quick tea and were in bed by 9pm.

I’m going to make every effort to ride today. I would like a crack over the show-jumps in the outdoor arena if I can get my act together, otherwise we’ll have to jump indoors – though going by the weather forecast, jumping indoors might keep our bottoms dry; jumping outdoors probably won’t!

So that’s this weekend.

Next weekend we’re back at Allenshill for another Eventer Challenge; the following weekend we’re cross-country schooling at home.

Four weeks after that it’s our first BE Intro.

Must. Learn. Dressage. Test

The day after tomorrow Tom and I are supposed to be competing at Allenshill in the Eventer Challenge 90cm class.

That’s British Eventing’s dressage test #92 and approximately 19 simulated cross-country fences at 90cm height.

Except I feel that taking part in something as adrenaline-busting as Soph’s big book read (below) is marginally beyond my reach, performing the work necessary to compete with Tom is currently beyond the dark side of the moon.

Yes, sadly I’m still not 100% fit.

But I’m committed to going, on Friday, for more than one reason.

There are so many horses going to Allenshill from our yard on Friday that my lorry has been pressed in to service as a horse-taxi.

I’m taking three horses in my lorry and Owen is taking three horses in his.

I’ve decided that I’m still going to have a go at competing. After all, I can always retire if it’s too much for me.

The bad news is that I still have to learn the dressage test, and my brain is refusing to co-operate with anything associated with working.


The good news is that I’ve been offered a private cross-country training session with JP Sheffield on Thursday next week.


2010 competition schedule (v2)

So it’s changed already.

The first change is I had to drop going to Allenshill this Sunday because the weather is against us; I can’t even get the lorry out of the yard.

There are a few other changes but they’re just ‘tweaking’ the schedule. I’ve put Larkhill back on the list and dropped the pony club one day event.

The Wolverhampton gig will get dropped if Tom shows any sign of tiredness, I’m going to have to monitor his condition very carefully especially as the entry date for Wolverhampton will be somewhere around 1st June which is a couple of days before A-u-W (2).

These are the intricacies of planning an Eventing competition schedule!

Date Event Class Entries
22-Jan Eventer Challenge, Allenshill BE90, Test 92 08-Jan
28-Jan Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic 20-Jan
30-Jan JAS Hartpury BE90 11-Jan
06-Feb The Old Kennels Show Jumping 11-Jan
07-Feb JAS Solihull (2) BE90 11-Jan
20-Feb Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic 11-Jan
21-Feb Swalcliffe Park XC schooling 21-Feb
20-Mar Swalcliffe Park BE90 12-Feb
10-Apr Larkhill BE90 26-Feb
02-May Broadway 1 BE90 29-Mar
21-May Mattingley BE90 16-Apr
05-Jun Ascott-under-Wychwood 1 BE100 30-Apr
26-Jun Wolverhampton BE100 21-May
17-Jul Ascott-under-Wychwood 2 BE100 11-Jun
12-Aug Aston-le-Walls 3 BE100 08-Jul
04-Sep Goring Heath 2 BE100 30-Jul
28-Sep BCA N 23-Aug
16-Oct Broadway 2 N 10-Sep

Looking forward to it!

The 2010 Eventing Season is really close – given that the Entry date for competitions are so far in advance of each actual One Day Event.

And because I’m anal about planning things, I’ve designed a draft schedule which gives us three ‘training’ competitions before the season starts, and then leads in to the season ‘proper’.

In addition to these calendar instances, I’ll have regular help from Owen, and will also go out to school at other venues.

I’ve also mucked around with an incremental scale of increasing difficulty, but we’ll see how things go!

Wanna see?

ID Month Date Event Class Entries
T January 10 Eventer Training, Allenshill BE90, Test 92 27-Dec
T January 30 JAS Hartpury BE90 11-Jan
T February 6 The Old Kennels Show Jumping
T February 14 Eventer Training, Allenshill BE90, Test 91
T February 20 Ascott-under-Wychwood XC Clinic
1 March 20-21 Swalcliffe Park BE90 12-Feb
2 April 10-11 Larkhill BE90 26-Feb
2 April 10-11 Grafton PC ODE (A-u-W)
3 May 9-10 Broadway 1 BE90 02-Apr
4 May 21-23 Mattingley BE90 16-Apr
5 June 5-6 Ascott-under-Wychwood (1) BE100 30-Apr
6 June 26-27 Wolverhampton BE100
7 July 14-15 Upton House BE100
7 July 17-18 Ascott-under-Wychwood (2)
8 August 12-14 Aston-le-Walls BE100
9 September 4-5 Goring Heath 2 BE100
10 September 28-29 BCA N
11 October 16-17 Broadway 2 N

It’s Thursday but it feels like


I don’t know why. It just seems to have been a six day week already, and it’s not even F-F-F-Friday yet.

I had a lesson on Tom this afternoon.

Frankly, Owen worked me to a standstill. After 40 minutes, when he called a halt to the lesson, I slid off Tom and noticed in the mirrors that I was steaming as much as the horse was.

And this was flatwork, not jumping.

So I should talk about the show-jumping that we did on Sunday.

We had entered three classes, the 2’9″, the 3′ and the 3’3″.

Tom, in case you don’t know, seems to be part-Kangaroo because he jumps everything at the yard when he’s turned out. His latest escapade is to jump the 5’8″ post-and-rail *uphill*.

This is puissance material! And here’s a little pic of what puissance looks like.


Anyway, back to Sunday.

After warming up in the back arena, we cantered in to the competition arena. The bell went, we rode a 30m circle to the first fence and…

The bloody horse stopped.

Right in front of the fence.

Which is penalties for a refusal.

I wheeled him away and represented and we jumped the course without any further mishaps.

So Tom, the part-Kangaroo who leaps over 5’8″ post-and-rail in his spare time, didn’t like the look of a 2’9″ cross-pole-to-upright-spread?

Later, when the 3′ class was announced we went in early, just because I was bored with hanging about.

We stormed around the track.

In fact, after the second part of the first double (fence 6b) we were going so fast that I had my doubts that we were going to make the corner in time, and had visions of us hurdling over the post-and-rail and carving our own path through the lorry park.

Fortunately we stayed inside the competition arena and finished with a double-clear in 35s.

The story was pretty much the same for the 3’3″, a storming double-clear in 33s.

We were beaten by faster double-clears so we came home prizeless, but we had jumped two competition rounds successfully, and that’s pretty good in anyone’s book. Especially mine.

So fast-forward to this evening.

The obvious thing to do under Owen’s stare, would have been to polish our jumping further, but instead I tacked up with the dressage saddle and we concentrated on some fairly advanced flatwork.

And all was well (indeed, very well!), despite how hard it was.

I might hack him tomorrow, or take him up the gallops.

Vin didn’t get worked today but he got lots of carrots and a big grooming. He will get work tomorrow too, though.

I have a mountain of tack to clean again, this wet, muddy weather isn’t conducive to keeping tack clean, so that’s what I’ll do after tomorrow’s exercise.

Saturday is a busy day for us humans; up to Worcestershire for lunch, then down to Oxfordshire for evening drinkies.

I’ll probably try to ride both horses on Sunday, but we have the talented indie-band ‘inLight‘ coming in on Sunday evening, to be guests on the podcast.

On Monday the vet is coming out to give Tom his annual ‘Flu/Tet, and once that’s done I shall come back home and continue processing his registration with British Eventing.

The first of our planned One Day Events opens for entries on the 12th of February, so we need to stay focussed on our schooling and training.

A week Sunday there’s an indoor cross-country (?) competition not too far away; it would be good to take Tom as part of the warm-up for the 2010 Eventing season.

Suddenly, for the first time in many years, I feel as though I’m looking at the start of an Eventing season and thinking that this time it’s all achievable.

We have a draft competition schedule that begins with a few Events at Intro, then a few at Pre-Novice, a couple of Open Pre-Novice and then a couple at the Novice level to close the season.

Yep, this time it all feels right.

New kid on the block

After a lot of negotiations, Highland King (aka Tom) will be joining Dubious Deal (aka Vin) early next week.

For interested folk, Tom is a 10yo 17.1hh bay-coloured gelding by Rame-Z (Ramiro-Z) out of Hi-D, an Irish Thoroughbred.

The yard staff have pissed themselves over the fact that Vinnie Jones is being joined by Tom Jones.

And here he is:






El fin de semana

Here we are, halfway through the weekend (because you knew what el fin de semana meant, right?) and it’s already time to sit down and take stock.

Today’s been cool, hot, interesting and a number of other descriptives.

This morning I drove in to Oxford to meet half of inLight – the Oxford-based Indie band of musical goodness.

Because I’m a little OCD about time-keeping and travel-planning I arrived an hour and a half early.

So that’s just a little OCD then.

I parked in the underground car park in Gloucester Green and made a mortgage payment on a three turret castle, this being the fee to leave my car there for three hours.

As it was lunchtime I thought I’d pass some time by having a sandwich. Cheese and Pickle. And a Latté.

The first place I tried in St Giles was a little café.

‘I’ll have a cheese and pickle sandwich please’.

‘We don’t have any pickle’, said the dull woman behind the counter, in the most unhelpful manner possible.

‘OK, I’ll just have a Latté’.

‘We don’t serve just drinks during lunchtime’.

I gave a little ironic laugh and walked out.

The second place was just a couple of doors up.

They didn’t have pickle either.

WTF is this? Is there some kind of pickle conspiracy going on? Do the good people of Oxford consider themselves too posh for the humble pickle?

Or have the good people of Oxford not yet been introduced to the wondrous properties of said pickle?

‘But we can make you,’ said the woman from the kitchen of the second shop, fetched out by the mere stripling of a boy behind the counter, in response to my quest for the Holy Pickle. ‘A cheese and caramelised [something] sandwich’.

Where [something] is a thing that I didn’t quite catch.

Anyway, it had cheese and a pickle substitute so I said yes please, took my seat and waited for my sandwich and Latté to be delivered.

The cheese and caramelised [something] sandwich was Ambrosia; food fit for the Gods. If the Gods have a taste for cheese and pickle, for that is what it tasted almost but not quite entirely like.

I sat, ate, read, drank, read some more and then left.

Still having 30 minutes to kill, I sat out on a bench and read some more, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine as I worked through American Gods – an interesting piece of fiction from the very readable Neil Gaiman.

Five minutes before the appointment I sauntered in to the pub where we’d agreed to meet, got my book out and read some more. This rock’n’roll lifestyle is just so exciting!

About fifteen minutes later Charlie and Mike strolled in; they’d been waiting outside, I’d chosen to wait inside.

Oh well.

We sat and talked, like the Walrus and the Carpenter, about many things. But not about ships and shoes and sealing wax, obv.

I hope the meeting was helpful to them, it was to me.

Then K, the American D.Phil student who occasionally rides Vin arrived – I’d arranged to meet her there.

Charlie almost drooled over her.

The four of us chatted for a while and then she and I said goodbye, we walked to the car and drove to the yard where I did much gossiping with various girls whilst K groomed, tacked up and rode.

I watched her and Vin in the arena.

Vin looks more relaxed since his visit to the physio on Monday. Max had diagnosed a tightness in Vin’s point of near shoulder which he corrected; there was nothing else that needed attention. In fact Max was very complimentary about the general state of Vin’s physical health.


It was interesting watching K ride him, he stretches easier now and is far more relaxed on the right rein.

Afterwards I drove K back to Oxford, then came home.

Being the complete pair of total culinary experts that we are, Soph and I instantly decided on a Chinese takeaway.

Woo yeah, go us!

Not long afterwards we sat, ate, watched X-Fuctup and followed that with a triple set of Angel episodes.

While we were watching Angel I managed to type up the notes of the meeting with inLight, and emailed them out to the band. I seem to have some actions against me. How did that happen?

And now it’s bed, at 23.30.

Tomorrow I’m off to watch the third and final day of Blenheim Horse Trials; I’ve blagged myself a pair of VIP tickets.

Soph is off to the Christening of a friend’s offspring and, faced with such a difficult choice, it was only after a long and fierce internal debate that I decided the Christening would have to give way to the VIP tickets for Blenheim.

As Soph will be out of the county for the day I’m taking K. It’s very exciting, the horse owned by the woman who owns the yard where Vin lives (if you see what I mean) is currently sixth after the dressage and cross-country phases.

Under those circs, to have a VIP ticket for the show-jumping is a very special opportunity.

And so that’s it.

Tomorrow I will walk the cross-country course, watch a bit of CIC *** dressage and some CIC *** cross-country, and then watch the CCI*** show-jumping.

All very exciting.

Oh yeah, and eat much bad food – that’s a given at a horse trials.

So how’s your weekend going? And what do you have planned for Sunday?

Equine news…

The upshot of my email to the vet is, unsurprisingly, a swift diagnosis that Vin is a photic headshaker; he has a sensitivity to light. This diagnosis has been backed up by a second opinion from my former vet in Somerset.

When this condition is evident Vin shouldn’t be ridden. There are eye-drops which may possibly help manage the condition (and I’ve been sent some) and there is a nose-net which may conceivably help (I’ve bought one), but the bottom line is that because of the onset of this condition Vin’s competitive days are pretty much over.

My poor boy.

Except he’s not a poor boy, of course. He’ll still get ridden when the conditions allow and he’ll still get carrots galore shoved down his neck at every available opportunity.

He’s simply beginning premature competitive retirement; he still has a future as a part-time fun horse in front of him. And a fun horse he is.

However the goal of Eventing looks to have sidestepped me once again.


There’s a horse for sale I know about…

Best wishes

To fellow equestrian, my mate going back many years and occasional commenter here, Vicky, who had a fall with her horse Rupert.

Vicky has fractured her elbow and torn her liver. Rupert has bitten through his lip.

I hope you both take your time, get over it and come back when you’re both good and ready.