Pipe Dreaming

Every so often, do you allow yourself to dream? I’m always hearing competitions on the radio – when you hear a song, ring in and win money. I never ring in. I don’t have a good track record of winning lucky dip competitions. I was always the grandchild returning from Weymouth carnival empty handed, before being given the teddy that Granny had won as compensation. The only competitions I’ve ever won are from hard work.

It doesn’t stop me from pipe dreaming though. What would I do with a sizeable lump sum of money?

I wouldn’t go crazy, stop working, travel the world, buy a brand new range rover or anything. But I’d definitely move house I think.

Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that what I want from our next house is enough space for Otis at the bottom of the garden. Just 3 acres or so. Enough for him and some sheep for company. Or possibly the pony. A slightly bigger house would be great – four bedrooms and an extra downstairs room to lighten the working from home burden. Detached. On the edge of a large village. I’d be very happy with that setup. Not too much housework, and a moderate garden. But space for Otis to join in family BBQs. Don’t worry, I’ve not forgotten Phoenix. She can come for any holidays. But she needs the facilities of a livery yard, and I like the social side.

But what if money were no object? What could I live with? It sounds such a hardship. But you know what I mean. What would be my utopia?

I love teaching, so there’s no way I’d stop. I rediscovered that today after a couple of weeks of feeling decidedly average in the coaching department. But I wouldn’t want the hassle of a livery yard. Or the invasion of privacy.

I’ve mulled it over and I think I would want a fairly small house – five bedrooms maximum. Not like these ten bedroom mansions I keep spotting online. A sensibly sized garden. Half a dozen stables. An arena – bigger than a 20x40m so it has more scope for jumping. And something like 8 acres. I could live with slightly less.

So what would I do with this? It’s too small to be a livery yard and I’ve not changed my mind on it being too much hassle. Instead, I’d have 3 permanent residents – Otis, Phoenix and a pony. Then I’d offer holiday, training and rehab livery for one or two horses. If anyone was on holiday, or out of action due to illness or injury, then their horse could come on a working holiday with me. If someone needs help training their horse, then I could offer a bootcamp, and if an owner is struggling with a rehabilitation programme – walking out twice daily or restricted turnout – then I could offer this on a quieter setting, which many horses would benefit from alongside the consistency I could provide. All alongside my freelance teaching.

I could run monthly clinics myself , or hire out the arena for Riding Club clinics and Pony Club rallies. Or I could just offer my arena for clients to come and have lessons with me. Offering clinics would then cover my need for social support with Phoenix. Equally, perhaps I have one livery who is a chosen friend who could provide some chore cover and be a friend to hack out with. Alternatively, a nice equestrian neighbour who I could hack out with would be lovely.

I think this would strike the balance for me between having privacy at home, and earning a sufficient income to cover the running costs of a small stable yard.

It slightly scares me how much livery fees are when I start thinking of the inevitable pony which will arrive in the next couple of years. Especially when you consider that during the winter small people often lose interest. If the pony could spend the winter at home with Otis (such as in scenario one) there would be less workload in terms of stable chores, less pressure to work the pony in dark evenings, and less financial pressure. In both scenarios, the pony could be ridden during school holidays and on fine weekend days either on little hacks or in the school. Surely when you factor in livery fees, this option is becoming increasingly economically viable.

Of course, it is a tie having horses at home, but with the world changing we’re spending more time at home and it wouldn’t be too expensive to have a house sitter for when we went away – solving both the cat and horse problem.

So if anyone knows a suitable property and can provide a lump sum, please get in touch! In the meantime, I’ll carry on daydreaming.

A Family Pony

When 14 year old me was given Matt as a two year old, I never envisaged he would become such a family pony. He let teenage me career around the country, have a go at anything and everything, yet also allowed me to be slightly responsible. Like the time I escorted 3 under 10s on a sponsored ride – now I think I was mad! He wasn’t a guaranteed red ribbon winner, although he did win a few unexpected prizes against the odds. And I was always guaranteed that he’d stop at a filler jump!

We did shows, sponsored rides, my first dressage competition, galloped up the field bareback numerous times, went to the Boxing Day Meet, the annual Christmas gymkhana, and he let me learn so much with him. Looking back, there’s definitely things that I would have done differently when backing and riding him. But with age comes wisdom. And I hope he doesn’t think ill of me for my mistakes.

When I turned my attention to Otis, Mum started riding Matt more. She had to build her confidence up after years out the saddle, with mainly hacking and flat lessons. It was a rocky ride initially, especially when I moved away and Matt was in less work but still young enough to have silly moments, like charging off across the school, or excessively spooking at a trembling leaf. However, he did settle into a quieter way of life and they now enjoy lots of hacking and sponsored rides.

Then when he was 15 he got the shock of his life coming out of semi retirement, when I had him back for a few months. What started as something to occupy me while Otis was lame, Matt gave me some of my proudest equestrian moments. Flying round sponsored rides, doing more jumps in one ride than he’d done in 5 years, his first hunter trial, scoring 78% in a dressage test, qualifying for the BRC National Championships, winning his arena and overall competition… His bromance with Otis, riding and leading them both for miles for Otis’s rehab…

I was actually quite sad to give him back to Mum, and do miss his cute face and secretly miss his quirky ways – although his separation anxiety can be a real pain in the bum.

Only a couple of months after the pinnacle of his career, Matt fractured his stifle from a kick in the field, which led to six months of box rest, various secondary problems as a result of his confinement, a long rehabilitation programme by Mum, and he thankfully returned to normal work.

Mum continues to enjoy riding him, having lessons, venturing out to local dressage herself, and hacking for miles. And more recently, Matt has taken on an extra role with the third generation.

He quietly stands (so long as he can see other horses) to be groomed from atop the mounting block. He lets a certain little person sit on his back facing forwards, backwards, lying down, hugging his neck, kissing him, and generally be loved. Then he allows himself to become a lead rein pony, doing short, gentle trots, ignoring the giggles and shrieks of laughter. Oh and doesn’t bat an eyelid with the emergency dismounts when a wee is needed!

After last weekend all I’ve heard is “I ride Matt. Matt horse my best friend. I trot! You teach me.” It appears he has a fan!

I’m actually very proud with how adaptable and tolerant Matt has become in his old age (he’s 18 this year. Or possibly 19…), and how he has taken on every challenge we as a family have given him, and how much fun he has given us. To me, he has become the epitome of a family pony, and is firmly part of our family. Roll on the next few years, when I’m sure he’ll have all three generations trotting and cantering around on him!

Today’s Gridwork

This morning I taught another riding club clinic. Last time, I found that a few of the horses lengthened and flattened their canter when there was more than one stride between fences in the grid. As there were some riders and horses there today who were also on my last clinic, I thought I’d address this issue.

In the first group I had an experienced gelding and quite a nervous rider. Previously we’ve worked on getting my rider to relax when jumping and not hinder her horse’s jump by fixing her hands. This horse was quite on his toes today, and tried to tank into the jumps. The other rider was on an ex-racer, and we’ve been striving to find the balance between the mare taking her rider into the fence, yet not being too quick that her rider can’t ride her to the fence which sometimes results in a dirty stop. Today, this mare was a bit lethargic, with a long, flat canter.

The grid consisted of a jump, one canter stride, second fence, three canter strides, third fence, one canter stride, fourth fence. After warming up in both directions over the poles and then building up the grid to four crosses, we could see the change in the canter. The ex-racer came off a short, half circle approach so that the circle did the work of bringing the hindquarters underneath her and my rider didn’t start putting on the brakes. However, the canter got very flat between the second and third fence so the mare jumped very flat and didn’t tuck up her front legs very neatly over the last two fences.

The gelding was now approaching in trot and picking up canter a few strides before the first fence. He was fairly steady over the first two but then locked onto the third fence and was unruly to the end of the grid. This made my rider a bit nervous.

For the ex-racer we had to rebalance the canter for the second half of the fence. For the gelding, we had to stop him locking onto the line of jumps and regain control.

The next part of the exercise would solve these problems. From the left rein, I got my riders to jump the first two fences and then ride a 15m left circle before re-entering the grid to do the final two jumps.

The horses reactions were really interesting. The gelding was quite perturbed that he couldn’t fire straight down the line of jumps and jumped the third and fourth fence very nicely because he was steady and listening to his rider. The ex-racer was much easier to bring off her line, and using the circle to stop her getting long and flat in the canter meant that she picked up over the last two jumps much more neatly.

We continued the session in this theme, alternating the direction they came off until the ex-racer was staying in a more rhythmical canter and could jump the four fences in a line without changing her way of going, and still making an improved bascule over each fence. The gelding stopped rushing quite so much, but his rider also started recovering quicker from each fence so she prevented him accelerating onto the circle which meant she kept the canter more consistent and then he popped the third and fourth jumps sedately and his rider felt much more confident jumping him.

My second group was quite a mixed group. We worked through the same lesson plan, but ended up with four uprights and also alternating between riding straight through the grid and putting in the circle to keep the horses on their toes.

One mare was quite similar to the ex-racer from the first group so we go a very similar result, and much cleaner bascules over the fences by the end.

One coloured cob, who was a new face to me, needed plenty of work to improve his canter so he was less on the forehand and could pick up over the fence more easily. With him we worked on creating a quality canter then putting in some impulsion so he managed to make the distances between the fences, and the circle was an opportunity to rebalance the canter. They did really well, and he’s such an honest trier of a horse. If his rider puts in the work on the canter on the flat she’ll start to notice the improvement over jumps.

The next horse was an experienced eventer with his sharer. Going through a grid, his rider can maintain the rhythm but when we put in the circle she tried to change the canter too much which resulted in her meeting the third fence on a poor stride. I tweaked her position to help her horse keep his canter energetic but not fast and then we used the counting technique to stop her altering the canter on the circle so it all flowed a lot better by the end. On courses, she tends to find fences off a turn tricky and doesn’t get the best approach, so hopefully the circle will help her in this area.

The last horse was another eventer, but this one tends to lock into fences and rush through. She also drifts slightly through grids. The circle stopped the rushing because she was waiting for her rider, but this rider had the added challenge of keeping the straightness whilst coming off a circle. Obviously the circle encourages the horse to drift through the outside shoulder, so plenty of outside aids were needed to guide the mare straight.

I think everyone found their horses more rideable by the end of the sessions, and I felt there was definitely big improvements to be seen from everyone.

A Grid Exercise

I did the following grid a couple of weeks ago on a clinic, so thought I’d share it with you.

Down the centre line I placed four jumps. This enabled us to work off both reins without having to shift ground lines or turn oxers around. The first jump was only ten-twelve metres from the track because I wanted to use the turns to balance the horses, to get their hocks underneath them to help them bascule. Sometimes if you have too many straight strides before a jump a horse will get long and flat in the canter so will find it harder to jump.

After the first fence, there was one canter stride before another fence. After another canter stride, was the third fence. Then after two canter strides was the oxer to finish.

The grid was quite taxing for a number of reasons. Firstly, coming off a half ten metre circle tested the suppleness and balance of the horse. If they drifted round the corner and lost impulsion then they found the grid very difficult to get through. If the rider wasn’t accurate on the turn then they risked drifting through the outside shoulder as they travelled through the grid, which would increase the distances between fences and so make it harder for the horse to negotiate.

Further more, the fact there were three consecutive fences with only one stride between is physically demanding on the horses, and tests their power, suppleness and gymnastic ability. Added to the fact most horses are coming back into work after a light couple of months and Christmas, it was more of a test.

As we built the grid up I used cross poles to help guide my riders’ eye to the centre. We focused on riding an accurate turn onto the grid, maintaining the energy through the turn and then riding positively through the grid so that the horses didn’t run out of steam and flatten in the canter.

Once the cross poles were flowing nicely, I started building the grid up into uprights, starting from fence four. With all the groups however, I ended up leaving the first fence as a cross, albeit higher than the initial jump they warmed up over, to ensure my rider’s continued to ride an accurate turn.

Finally, the last fence was turned into a parallel oxer.

We did find a couple of problems as we went through the grid: some of the horses tired towards fence three and chipped in a second stride. By ensuring they had enough energy through the turn and continued to ride forwards through the grid, these riders soon solved this problem. Other horses got long in their canter by fence three so either lengthened for a stride and launched over the fourth fence, or had one long stride then a shorter one between the third and fourth fences. We used the turn to help sit them on their haunches and then the rider needed to be conservative in the way they folded over the fence to encourage a smaller “pop” over each jump and to take a moment to breathe between each jump. This helped steady the horses without losing impulsion and kept the canter together more so that they managed two even strides before a clean bascule over fence four. If the horse still insisted on rushing through the grid then I got my rider to put in a circle at the end rather than to get into an argument and haul on their horse’s mouth. The act of circling steadied the horse and brought him off the forehand, back into balance, and led to him anticipating a turn rather than a race which meant that he slowed down through the grid.

The grid demanded a change to the shape of the horse’s bascule as they negotiated it. The first three fences, being in quick succession, required quite a steep bascule, with tidy front legs, and the hindquarters to work hard and to stay underneath the horse. Then the oxer required a longer curved bascule, taking off slightly further away and staying in the air for longer, from a slightly more open stride so that the horse could make the width of the jump. We had quite a few horses knock the back rail down because they weren’t quick enough to adjust their bascule shape.

All in all, it’s a grid which will test both horse and rider in a number of ways, and very much tests their gymnastic ability.

Gridwork 

One of the lessons I’m expected to teach for my Intermediate Teach Test is a group gridwork lesson. I only have 35 minutes to assess and teach a group of four unknown horse and rider combinations. Even if I don’t complete the lesson, I should have a clear idea of the progression of the lesson and have made an improvement to the riders.

Obviously this is a bit daunting as I need to quickly assess horse and riders, as well as manage a group environment. On a weekly basis I see the same clients, who are lovely of course, but I know them inside out and adapt distances automatically. I decided to enlist the help of my fellow riding club members.

This weekend was my second gridwork clinic with the riding club. I was surprised how popular it was; five groups of three or four riders!

I was a bit more on the ball this time, feeling more confident (it helped that I had a couple of familiar faces) and being more efficient with the warm up, assessment, and adjusting poles.

I still need to remember to check tack. I always look at girths and stirrups but I need to make more of a point of checking tack fit … I also need to remember to remove all cups from wings, as I tend to sort the poles out, make a correction to a rider as they pass, and forget to remove the cup…

Anyway, I could talk for hours about all the riders – what I liked, how they improved, what I would like to work on long term… but I’ll try to keep it brief.

I decided that the grid I would do was a cross pole, one stride, upright, one stride, upright, two strides, oxer. For the first group, at 70cm high, I did four short human strides for a non-jumping canter stride, on the basis that I could adjust it once I’d seen the horses work. After all, the jumps weren’t very big and the horses were likely to be lacking in the canter. Then through the day I could  adjust the distances between poles as necessary.

Each lesson had the same format. Warm up in open order, trot and then canter over the poles on each rein. Jump the cross pole in both directions. Then staying on the left rein, add in the first upright after the cross pole. Then the third fence. Increasing the height of the fences as necessary. Once the riders had mastered this then I added in the oxer. This filled each hour easily.

The 70cm group was one of two halves; two confident and competent riders on green or rehabbed horses, and two nervous riders on absolute gentlemen of horses. It worked quite well as the more nervous ones had more turns over the poles and initial jump to perfect the basics and build their confidence whilst the other two felt it was unnecessary to repeatedly go through once their horses had mastered the poles. Yet when the grid was completed the more nervous ones were quite happy to just jump it once or twice, and then observe the other two doing it a couple more times to correct and establish their horses through the four jumps. For me, in this lesson one rider who stood out was very nervous to begin with, almost walking over the poles, and ended up jumping from an energetic canter, with a huge smile on her face.

The first of the 80cm groups was a mixed bag too. One horse liked to gallop through the grid, but we sorted this out by using circles before and the rider sitting up quicker and using her position to half halt instead of purely the reins. Another combination was a rider who isn’t hugely confident jumping on a horse she’d only ridden once previously. Here we just worked on her not backing off the fences, and using her legs between the fences. Another rider was on her gentleman of a mount who looked after her and let her focus on allowing with her hands over the fences. The other rider was on a four year old who wasn’t quite off the leg enough on the approach and had to stretch over the jumps. So lots to occupy me, but I really liked the fact that all the riders were very supportive of each other and full of compliments. Each leaving on a high.

In the next group I had a mare who panics over jumps, but can also suddenly stop. Again, lots of circles after to rebalance, the rider calmly riding positively to the fences so the mare didn’t feel frightened over them, yet knew she had to jump. The last time through the grid she was actually very steady and calm, which pleased both me and her rider. Another rider was on her daughters experienced horse, and just needed to learn the ropes as her jumping was a bit rusty. They were good fun though, and I think with a bit of practice they’ll make a good partnership. One lady was on her young mare who tends to hang in the air over fences. The mare has a good bascule, but I think that because she is a little on the forehand and lacks the strength in her hindquarters, because as soon as the canter improved the grid flowed much better. That’s just developing muscles and strength though, which they will hopefully do at home. The other rider just needed to use her seat and direct transitions to make the canter a bit more punchy so the grid flowed more easily, but again these riders were all very supportive of each other.

In the last 80cm group there was a talented, yet explosive mare, who jumped beautifully but needed to approach in trot in order to contain the energy. I think the series of jumps were very good for her as she had to use her brain, which steadied her. Another rider on her Arab had the usual speed problem, but remembering to “think pause” upon landing (the horse didn’t like much of a rein contact so thinking about pausing uses more body and less hand so is a softer aid) gave them more space between jumps so it flowed and they didn’t flatten over the fences. This lesson was also the first time my striding didn’t work out. I couldn’t make the distance any shorter because the two horses I’ve just described needed every inch of it, but the third horse struggled to do the grid in one stride. I suggested that the rider rode a bouncier, shorter striding canter to enable them to fit two even strides between fences rather than a normal stride and then a very small one. It looked better then, but it’s a different style of riding, especially if you like to take a flyer over fences, so it takes some getting used to.

My final group, was the 90cm group, and I wasted no time building the grid up to height, and replacing the cross with an upright. One rider was on her very lovely new horse, so it was all about getting to know him, learning the brakes but he jumped beautifully and made it look easy. She’ll have a lot of fun with him! Another rider was on her pony, and we found it tricky to find the balance between the big striding canter, power, and not flattening over the jumps. He tried his heart out, and jumped nicely but I think where he’s not as fit as he usually is it showed up his weaker areas, and working on his medium canter would help. My other rider needs to work on her canter on the flat too because her honest mare just lost the energy and power through the grid. But they all jumped well and hopefully know what to work on at home.

I felt it was a really productive day for me, as well as all the riders and hopefully we’ll do more in the new year.

Oh Em Gee!

I am currently bouncing off the walls, like a child on Christmas Eve. The cats are giving me funny looks as they sleep through the fireworks, and even non-horsey husband has ordered celebratory pizza.

Let me tell you why.

When Otis was signed off sick and Mum asked me to take Matt on boot camp, I asked if I could do the riding club dressage area qualifiers with him. I needed a focus, and it should be an achievable goal – to ride a fair test.

Her response was, “when are the championships? I want him back at Christmas.”

“Oh you don’t have to worry about that,” I laugh. “We won’t qualify!”

Famous last words.

Matt’s jabs were out, so before he arrived he had his initial vaccination and then on 11th October he had the second one, which meant that all hoops were jumped through. I did wonder if I was going to too much trouble…

5 weeks after his arrival (i.e. Yesterday) we went to a hunter trial and did a pairs class with a friend. A textbook round, but a bit slow. However, we had lots of fun. Then today was the day of the dressage qualifier.

Matt is stabled at night because of the nearby fireworks and he isn’t impressed. It’s not cold or wet enough for him to enjoy being in, so he was very tetchy this morning – throwing his weight around, fidgeting, refusing to groom a disappointed Otis, pooping for England.

He practically trotted onto the trailer and before he could stamp his feet too many times we drove off. He travelled fine, but was keen to come off the trailer at the other end. So while Mum (who had come over especially for the occasion) held him next to his haynet – he only nibbled but when he did at least I knew he was relaxing slightly – I got ready in double quick time, whilst realising that we had left his prolite pad at home.

He was good in the warm up, focused and non spooky so we kept it light. My novice test (27) was first up.

Matt tensed up as we entered the large arena, gawping at the judge’s box, white boards and mirrors. But he relaxed as we started the test. I came away feeling that he had performed well overall. A couple of blips which I think were due to being slightly awestruck – wrong canter strike off, and inattentive halt as a person popped into view. But we scored 66%. Which is good when I felt it was definitely not our best.

After a hot chocolate and nibble at the haynet (he had the haynet, I had the hot chocolate) we had a quick warm up for Prelim 2. I didn’t want to overdo it so spent ten minutes wandering round chatting to another club member.

The Prelim test was in the smaller indoor school, with a netted side, where lots of people and horses pass, and a half open side where the riding school horses are tied (none there today thankfully) and some running water in the corner. We were a bit looky at the judge’s hut, and water, and kicked the white board to scare ourselves, but thankfully the judge was being offered refreshments when I entered so I had a couple of extra minutes to relax Matt.

Overall I felt this test was better. He was still aware of his surroundings, but he felt very rhythmical and forwards. We had a blip towards the end where we went from canter to trot too early because a horse popped into view, and our final centre line wasn’t as good as it could be.

We headed straight home after the test so Matt could have some valuable field time and then I got a message from another club member.

“I’ve triple checked, and you got 78%.”

I nearly fell over. Genuinely gobsmacked. But it hadn’tbeen our  best!

I sat on the edge of my seat, not doing a very good job of reading my coaching book, for another couple of hours, until the final results were announced.

We had won our class, and qualified for the National Champs!! We had 78.28%, second place had 74% and third place had 68%, so we were comfortably in the lead. I popped over to the venue to collect my score sheet this evening and had a read of the marks.


You can zoom in, but I’ll tell you anyway – Matt scored two 9.0s for his canter transitions! And the majority of his other marks were 8.0s! The final comment was “a delight to watch! Very well presented test.” Which is so nice to read. I know where to improve anyway – put blinkers on so he can’t stare at others, and practice my centre lines!

So yeah, Matt the super pony has qualified for the National  Champs with an awesome score! I’m so proud of him! Now I just need to negotiate terms with Mum …

A Very Rewarding Day

This morning was an early start. Still the middle of the night really. I went to the yard and fed Otis, who looked warily at me from the end of the field before coming over for breakfast. I decided not to poo-pick …

Then it was over to another yard to get the Diva ready for his big day – the Riding Club Eventers Challenge at Blenheim Palace! Due to Otis’s extended vacation I was left horseless and the team incomplete, so I called in a couple of favours and was allowed to take him. He’s done some eventing in the past, but it would be his first competition for two years. That’s fine, I thought I knew him well enough and he wasn’t totally green, that we could give it a go. Besides, what’s life without a bit of excitement?!

When we went on our sponsored ride he was too excited to eat breakfast, but thankfully he did quite happily today. There was less activity on the yard too. Well, it’s not really surprising at 6am! We even had to wake him up in the field! So travel boots on and funny dance complete, we headed to the trailer.

It took about 20-25 minutes of quiet encouragement to load for the sponsored ride, but the yard was busy and the Diva bounded up the ramp and it made a bit of a noise so he retraced his steps rapidly! We had lunge lines to quietly tunnel him in and he made the decision to load on his own accord. This morning, it took about ten minutes. It was a very calm procedure, and he definitely made up his own mind to load.

We arrived and he stood happily on the trailer while I walked the twisty course  over very undulating ground. It wasn’t too big, but the questions were in the terrain and turns.

When I mounted he set off at a hurried walk, but by the time we reached the warm up he felt settled. So settled I could remove my visible piercings on board (to everyone’s surprise I still had all the pieces in my pocket at the end!). Warm up he felt great, I had to really concentrate because he has such a big stride compared to Otis and his bascule is different.

All too quickly it was our turn!

He went in happily, then baulked at the arena party under a tree, but I managed to get him past them and cantering before the bell rang. Number one was an oxer going downhill. We took off great, but I think we did a bit of sightseeing as we went over as he was a bit lazy with his legs. Not a great start. But up the incline and around the turn to number two, an upright with fillers. No problem. A sharp left turn back on ourselves for the oxer at three. No problems again. Onto number four, which he unfortunately got a little long on the approach and just brought down. But he picked himself up for the dog leg to the oxer at five and then the sharp right turn and short approach to the larger oxer at six. Number seven was the double near the arena party, but thankfully they were gone from his mind and he gave both fences plenty of room! The double was slightly downhill, but there was a left turn between two fences before the upright at eight. Another downhill to the first cross country fence – a log. We were a bit close but I had to hold him together down the slope and it wasn’t a problem. Then a right curve to a roll top for ten. Here there were two routes to take across the arena. Unfortunately I was looking at the wrong one and we had a close encounter with a tree branch – perhaps I thought I was riding a pony?! I ducked and we were safely through with plenty of time to reorganise before another roll top. From eleven it was a dog leg to number twelve, and I was a bit unsure that I’d got my line right. I know I can adjust Otis’s nimble strides between fences, but I wasn’t so confident this time. We were good though, and had to cross the arena again to number thirteen. Not quite so close to the tree this time, I approached this roll top on an okay angle. But it was another dog leg to another roll top and I was definitely pushing my luck. I think this showed the lack of depth to our partnership. I couldn’t correct my line well enough and didn’t read him quickly enough to prevent him drifting left. Upon representing we flew it, but it was the two skinnies next. They were the biggest fences, and what had caused us the most problems at home – the odd run out or cat leap. It was also off an acute turn and downhill. So I locked on and prayed. He jumped them perfectly!

Upon landing over number sixteen it was quite a tight right turn to the joker fence, up a slope. I was so surprised not to have squeezed between the skinny fence and tree I wasn’t quite quick enough to sit him on his hocks for a showjump and we just knocked it.

I was thrilled with how he had performed. Yes, I’d had to work hard balancing his long strides for the turns yet making sure he had the power to clear the fences, and keeping focused on the job and maintain our rhythm for it. I abandoned my two point seat for the cross country part though as I was working on keeping him together for the turns, his canter is big enough that he made the time easily though.

We untacked the diva and gave him his favourite thing – a bath! He really doesn’t like being washed off. Maybe I should bring some hot water next time?! He seemed happy to graze after, which shows how relaxed he was feeling, and once we had gotten  him ready to load, and put the lunge lines out, we headed for the ramp. And he walked straight on! Without a moments hesitation! We were so pleased! He then stood happily for a couple of hours while we went shopping, eating his hay.

No rosettes for the team today, but  both I and his owner were very happy and proud with the Diva’s behaviour and performance. Next time, it’s her turn to ride!