Believe in Yourself

Today’s post is a bit late, I’m sorry, but I didn’t get home until nine o’clock and then I needed to eat dinner and replenish my energy levels with the left overs of a giant yummy homemade cheesecake, in a too-small bowl as the washing up fairy hadn’t been…

Recently I’ve been very frustrated with my riding and general performance at competitions.

Dressage always used to be mine and Otis’s strong point, but this season I’ve had very average scores which has led me to be frustrated for a number of reasons.

  1. I know I can ride better that this.
  2. I know Otis can work better than this.
  3. I’m riding other people’s horses better than my own.
  4. Other people are riding Otis better than I am.
  5. What am I missing to get the higher marks?

I get intimidated quite easily in life, and usually compare myself to others and then feel rubbish in comparison. I can usually keep this under control, but combine it with the tension and angst I feel because dressage is letting us down, and it comes back with a vengeance.

I think I’m riding clients horses better because I don’t feel any competition pressure, but that doesn’t solve my problems with Otis.

So I decided to do something about it; either take a break from competing or get some serious help. After a couple of dressage lessons which made me feel like I’d started to go backwards even more I enlisted the help of a friend.

After a couple of sessions which positively focused on my weaknesses and left me with plenty to think about and everything started to slot back into place again.

So I’ve been totally focused on my riding this week; practising at every opportunity and being completely focused on this weekend’s ODE dressage test. Things have been going better with Otis, and I felt a bit more confident.

Then on Thursday I received a compliment. People always tell you to remember any compliments you receive and forget about the bad –  easier said than done!

Anyway, I was jumping a friends very green young horse in only his second proper jumping session. We worked through a related distance and although he wobbled between the fences he negotiated them well. I just had to stick close to my line between the fences. A livery at this yard, who happens to have represented her country in the 1994 Olympics was watching, and said “well done, you’re making a good of a very green horse.”

High praise indeed. Without being big headed, this was just what I needed. As I reflected on my ride I realised that I should believe in myself a bit more. That young horse wasn’t the easiest as he’s a bit small for me, wobbles towards the fences, and finds it hard to maintain the rhythm on both the approach and after the fence.

Things were looking up, but I was still really nervous about the weekend. I like competing anonymously, i.e. Not against friends. I think it goes back to my whole insecurity thing. A few girls were going to the same competition and I felt like I could be under scrutiny. However, remembering my compliment from earlier in the week and my new found confidence with Otis on the flat, I became determined.

So today dawned muggy and cloudy, with the threat of rain. I enjoyed my lie in as I wasn’t on until the afternoon. It drizzled whilst I warmed up for the dressage, but I found myself in my own bubble, totally focused on Otis and myself. It was intense, but I was relaxed too. We went in and when the horn went I began.

It felt good. It felt more than good, it felt great. Otis was relaxed, to a consistent contact, very rhythmical, and I found my position improved because I was just riding what I was feeling, not over thinking things. Looking back at the video there is room for improvement – deeper corners, rounder transition into walk, etc. but overall I was thrilled with his test. I hoped the marks would reflect this, and they did. 28.3 penalties, with 8s for my centre lines, and nothing below a seven. Comments were that Otis was a lovely, honest horse who needs to be slightly more supple on each rein. I was over the moon! I felt like I was back on track.

Unfortunately the showjumping was running very late, and the ground was beginning to get churned up. Otis warmed up well and jumped nicely until the final fence, where he took a hold towards home, got on the forehand and got too close. We frequently have a pole down so it doesn’t bother me particularly, but I did feel his technique was cleaner and the only reason this one went wrong was because we had a disagreement about the approach! It wasn’t ideal conditions but he jumped well.

With the cross country running even later, I was first out on course. Otis is always sticky over the first couple, but he felt fantastic. He negotiated the complexes easily, followed my lines to cut the corners and save time, leapt everything, and only came home without a shoe. We had a couple of time penalties, but galloping isn’t his strong point and with last week’s poor weather I hadn’t done much fast work. We’re getting closer to the optimum time though, and when he’s more confident over the 100cm fences he won’t slow on the approach as much, and jump out of his gallop more. This comes with practice though, and the fact he felt so confident around it was enough for me.

ElmwoodEquestrianODE 30_08_15

We finished fifth, which was great. However, we were a showjumping pole away from winning! Frustrating, but at the same time satisfying that we’re so close after the rubbish way that I’ve been riding and feeling recently! Today has also made me remember how lucky I am to have such an amazing horse who tries to please all the time!

Onwards and upwards, I now can’t wait until our next event in a couple of weeks.

Just remember everyone, that believing in yourself is paramount.

An all rounder

In the last three weeks I have done some showjumping; team chasing; and finally, this weekend, dressage.

It`s always more stressful doing dressage, you spend the week learning tests, practising movements, psyching yourself up for it. I always like a reader, although I do my best to learn the tests, and this week`s two novice tests were ridiculously similar; the same movements in a slightly different order. So a reader was imperative. My usual reader had lost her voice on Wednesday so I`d drafted in my non-horsey chauffeur, much to his dismay. Thankfully my reader`s voice has returned in time, so she came along. On the way to the competition we discussed the makings of a good reader, and all our experiences.

I think the worst one I ever had was when one of the girls insisted that she was able to read my test well. I hadn`t even semi learnt it so was relying on her. The bell rings, and she takes a deep breathe and says “AtAenterinworkingtrot,proceeddownthecentrelinewithouthalting.Cturnright.CBworkingtrot.Bcircleright20metresdiameterandonthesecondhalfofthecirclegiveandretakethereins…” You get the idea. She`d finished reading the test by the time I reached C! I fumbled through the first couple of movements when thankfully a loud, clear voice picked up the test and instructed me through the rest of it.
Afterwards, it was a laughing matter, but at the time I could have kicked myself for letting me be talked into having an incompetent reader!

A good reader has good projection, so you can hear clearly at the far end of the school; projection not volume so you don`t lose the clarity; be able to read the movement at the correct time, giving the rider enough time to prepare themselves, but not too long that they forget what they`re doing! I`ve had several readers who are telling me to turn left at B as I`m arriving at B! Others have missed out movements; I`ve had to teleport from H to A a couple of times …

Once you find yourself a good reader it`s important to keep them sweet; so that they come to every competition, and also extend their skills into being a good groom too! My little helper is indispensable; she`s got the horse ready while I`m still tying up my hair!

My chauffeur was instructed to listen and learn how to read a dressage test; so he can be my back up! I think he needs to learn a bit more about the layout of the arena and what each movement entails. So I`m going to use dressage diagrams to help him comprehend it all.



So, this week I read in Horse and Hound, the Bible of all equestriads, that BE is increasing prize money next year… but also increasing entry fees and membership. So, naturally, I thought I had better give my views.

Eventing is the one thing I really enjoy doing with my horse and now, at seven years, he`s ready. However, the big off-putter to me at the beginning of the year was the cost of eventing. I mean, after all, it`s much cheaper to stick to dressage. You only need one saddle for starters! But I was hooked two years ago when I rode a friends horse at my first event. This year I had made some new associates, who were keen eventers. From a privileged background, but very pleasant and helpful non the less. I didn`t have my own transport (the joy of passing my driving test after 1997) so was thrilled when I was offered a lift to Aston-Le-Walls to do the unaffiliated BE80. These friends also helped me in the training build up. I knew the theory, the BHS made sure of that, but it`s a bit different putting it all into practice. So off we went, both horse and rider travelling well, with no forgotten kit (helped by my numerous lists dotted around the house/car/stables/trailer) and we completed with a reasonable dressage score, clear showjumping and a few cross country time faults.

So from there I lined up a list of BE90s that we could go to. Then I had to start narrowing it down because, financially, it`s not viable to go to more than one a month. Lets add it up for a moment; £60 entry fee, £10 start fee, depending on where you go diesel lets say £40. That`s already £110. Then there`s obviously the photo you need to buy after, the bacon roll because it`s just not a competition without a bacon butty. And then on top of that the equipment (I mean, if you didn`t event, would you really need three sets of boots, bandages, jump saddle and dressage saddle, as well as the cross country colours and tweed outfit?) It doesn`t bear thinking about really.
But I enjoy it which is the main thing.

Let`s get back on track though; these ODE`s that I`m entering are unaffiliated. This means I don`t have to pay membership of £145 a year. Neither do I need to register my horse at £100 per annum. Now who, except those born with a silver spoon in their mouth, can afford this fee? Let alone when the fees go up! This will lead to eventing becoming an elitist sport, with semi-talented, but super rich people buying top class eventers and winging them round courses, interfering with the horse and causing an accident. Which is what we`ve seen a lot of in recent months. It means eventing is getting a reputation for being a dangerous sport, and course builders are leaning towards bigger and scarier cross country courses, which makes inexperienced riders panic, and instead of an event being a display of a well rounded horse, it is a “slap dash dressage test and as fast as you can round the cross country course” competition.
At least at the lower affiliated levels.

This hasn`t put me off eventing, it does however frustrate me that I don`t have a hope of doing really well for myself because I can`t afford to go beyond the unaffiliated level, neither can I afford a string of horses for each event. I think British Eventing need to rethink their policies and who their target audience is. I know there are hundreds of amateur riders who would love to do low level eventing but cannot justify the cost.

Next season I personally plan to continue to go to unaffiliated BE events (at least I know then that they are built and run to a great standard) moving up to BE100, but I already know that I will only be able to do a maximum of six or seven events as that`s all my overdraft will allow! It`s time for eventing to have a shake up!