I hope you all have had a fantastic month getting ready for the competition season again. Ceaser and I have been preparing and he is just about fit and ready to go out and start doing our Veteran Horse Society showing qualifiers.
We had a jumping lesson with Lincolnshire’s very own James Arkley last week which was fantastic. I told James of my aim to compete in a BE80 event by the end of this year and after the lesson he told me there was no reason why we couldn’t and even aim for a bigger class. James got us working on approaching fences on different angles, using different tempo canters to get different striding and helping me sit up between combinations quicker. I really enjoyed the lesson and can’t wait for another.
The lesson with James really set me up for my university’s equestrian teams competition at our training venue of Witham Villa, Leicestershire. I am chairperson, A Team Captain and compete on the A Team too! I was lucky enough to get two of my favourite horses for both the dressage and show jumping phases and after both rounds I was 2nd on each of my horses and 6th overall. The university competitions work very differently from normal dressage and show jumping competitions and you have to pull your horse’s number out of a hat. Once you find out your horse you are then against the rider who also pulled out that horse from the other three universities competing on the same day.
The scores are worked out on penalties and the person on your horse with the highest score is given 0 penalties and then to work out 2nd, 3rd and 4th you take each rider’s individual overall score and take it away from the top placed rider’s score. The placings are then worked out for everyone, so altogether there are 16 riders. I was surprised to get lots of 8s in my dressage test which gave me a dressage score of roughly 78%! I then only ended the day on 4 penalties which put me in 6th place overall. Unfortunately the rest of my team didn’t get placed but we all had a fantastic day.
I must be mad and the next time I tell someone I want to do something extreme with Ceaser, the day before I intend to do an affiliated dressage event I want them to remind me of this very moment when I am lying in absolute agony.
Yesterday was fantastic. For a few weeks now I had been planning on going to the local hunt’s closing meet with Ceaser and seeing what he was like to hunt. I’ve never taken him before and was worried he would spend most of the time on two legs as that is usually what he does when excited.
Friday evening, not only did I need to bath and plait Ceaser but also had a massage at 5pm. Somehow, I managed to fit it all in and finally sat down for dinner late Friday night after going through my ‘to do’ list for the weekend just once more in my head to ensure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
Saturday morning arrived and I was quite excited. I haven’t hunted for a few years now and was eager to get back out in the field and join in. I enjoy hunting and think it’s a fantastic way to keep your horses fit, healthy and raring to go. As I mainly do dressage and showing on Ceaser, I thought it would be a brilliant change for him and enable him to have a good stretch of his legs. Rarely when we are out hacking do I allow him to have a good canter, let alone gallop so I was sure he would enjoy it.
Standing around before the hunt set off I was relatively surprised at how relaxed he was, especially when the hounds were let out as usually he hates dogs! It was only when we were signalled to set off that I realised just what was in store for me and did I find exactly how strong my pony really is!
As soon as everyone else set off I could feel him wanting to go. I was told previously to position myself at the front if he is the type to not like being left behind and so off we went closely following the Master. A friend had given me some typical hunting advice and said “If he tries to misbehave sit up, hold on and kick on!” so I did just that and I can honestly say I had the best two hours out I have had in a long time.
Usually whenever I take Ceaser places I’m wiping endless stable stains off, or re-stitching plaits in that have fallen out or wiping my boots off. It was nice to be able to relax a little and although we had to be turned out correctly I didn’t feel the usual pressures of the show ring.
Ceaser seemed to thoroughly enjoy the morning and only popped in a few bronchs as we set off but apart from that he was relatively well behaved. We even popped a few fences which felt amazing. The adrenaline you get from doing something like hunting is so different from that of showing and dressage and I really felt it was important for both Ceaser and me to go out and do something different for a change.
Although I say that I will still stay loyal to dressage and was booked in to do both prelim 13 and 14 at affiliated level the very next day.
Everyone I told that I was planning on doing two dressage tests after a morning’s hunting looked at me like I had suddenly grown two heads and told me I was absolutely bonkers. “Expect to enter A in working canter and bronch” were some comments and inside I was just thinking “Please don’t let me down, Ceaser”.
I honestly do not think he is the type to go out and do something and then come home very tense and fizzed up. I wouldn’t have expected him to do both in the same weekend if I thought much different.
On Sunday as my alarm started buzzing at exactly 7.50am I did think to myself ‘what am I doing?’ I could barely move for aching and a few extra hours in bed would have been welcome. No pain, no gain though right? So I shot up and in record time was dressed, ready to go and down the yard with travel boots on the pony.
In the warm-up he felt amazing. Maybe a little sluggish but that was to be expected. I haven’t mentioned before but Ceaser has a very sensitive pink nose and when it is sunny he sometimes nods his head a little. Sometimes I do wonder if it’s more of a habit than anything though as when he is really concentrating he “forgets” to do it. Today was a particularly bright and sunny day though and I was struggling with his head-shaking and my sore arms.
I felt both tests had gone reasonably well despite only being out hunting just 24 hours before. I ached in places I didn’t know existed and if Ceaser felt even half as achy as I did then we’d both done very well considering. Our final percentages came to 60.83% in Prelim 14 and 63% in Prelim 13. Admittedly not as good as last time but to be fair it was only our second attempt at affiliated level dressage. Ceaser is a pony that likes to be kept busy and prelims just aren’t busy enough for him. He works wonderfully in a Novice or Elementary so I think now I need to aim at moving up. Ceaser and I have qualified for the PetPlan equine summer Area Festivals!
I think what I will work towards now is becoming affiliated so I can do more than prelims and move on to tests he excels in rather than just walks through with his eyes shut! Saying that, it is always brilliant to get judged by different people, if you weren’t, competing would become boring.
Overall I have had a fantastic weekend and would like to take this opportunity to thank all at the South Wold Hunt for making me feel very welcome and especially to Kate for looking after both Ceaser and me.
Before I sign off I want to tell you all of an exciting new baby project I have coming. It comes in the form of having four legs, a mane and tail! “Frosty” has just turned 5, was backed and broken at 3 and then turned away. He is a 14.1h New Forest cob and is still very bum high so obviously still has growing to do. He is hopefully going to be for the riding school and Dad has given me a set amount of weeks to get him ready. Being a journalist I love deadlines to work towards and projects to work on. I can’t wait to update you in my next column on Frosty’s progress and I will hopefully have him out competing very soon!
To follow my updates please follow me on twitter at FurryMane and take a look at my blog: www.sianlovatt.blogspot.com
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For every article that I get published in a magazine in which I advertise their range I get a tub of herbs of my choice. This is a fantastic opportunity for both Ceaser and me, especially as I am particularly fond of two of their products and swear by them!
This will leave me more money to spend on training for both Ceaser and me that I would have been spending on supplements!
Thank you to Global Herbs!
Sian and Ceaser