Its been busy busy busy round here lately as everyone comes out of their winter hibernation and ramps up for the start of the competition season!   Show clothes out of their covers, checking whether they still fit, deciding to cut down on the chocolate...   Horses being de-furred, bathed and trimmed.   I can't remember ever bathing this early in the year before and His Highness has all ready had three!

Roger's back to a good level of fitness now after his winter holidays and we've restarted interval training sessions once a week.   Felt a lot more forwards and ready to go after just one session and certainly more enthusiastic than he was last year about the whole process, and its nice to see that my fitness is able to cope with these sessions better this year too.

Training wise he's coming on well with his canter half pass feeling a lot more established now and I've started training towards being able to perform the canter HP zig zag which he's accepted really well.   This attitude change and trainability is still very novel as R's longstanding approach to life and work has been one of doing as little as he can get away with.   After about 9 months now of the new improved R I'm starting to feel it might actually be here to stay for a bit!

I'm aiming at entering some Dressage Anywhere competitions this year and we had a go at filming this month's test (Elementary 40) this week.   Unfortunately there were slight technical difficulties encountered with the filming which meant that on the run through of the test where all the transitions happened on the right markers and there weren't any mistakes or bits that I wasn't happy with, the chief camera woman accidentally missed off the first centre line from the filming (you'll also see the classy thumb partly over the lens effect if you watch it).   R was too tired to ask him to perform it again and we didn't have time to do another filming session before the end of the month deadline so we haven't been able to enter this month's competition after all, but I've added a gallery page to the website and put it on there for you all to see.   I'll also add that I injured my back the week before filming and look horrendously stiff still on the video clip.

If you would like to see the end result here it is! /gallery.html
Well, after the feeling last week that we were getting back into the swing of things, the weather and a bug (me this time) have conspired to keep me on the ground most of the time.   Did manage to ride in the earlier part of the week and R was working nicely, offering lateral work with a good bend in it following all the reinforcement of bend work I did the past couple of weeks.   We now have snow for the first time this winter, I suppose it is February and it was too good to last!   The horses aren't bothered about it at all as they have just moved on to new grazing and are far too excited about being in their favourite field to be put off by the weather.   After spending last night thinking I should go back out and check them again, as the snow just kept coming down, I got up this morning to find them refusing to come down to the yard and thinking me evil and boring for insisting they come in and have their breakfasts.

Teaching wise, I spent the week focusing on pole work and transitions, at the same time.   Had several clients working over lines of poles in their lessons, set at 12' apart from the baby horse that had them at 24'.   The main exercise once the horses were working over them in a nice rhythm was to perform transitions while going down the line of poles.   This is something I do often when I'm working over poles and really encourages the horse to engage the hindquarters.   I was very pleased with the baby horse as it was her first proper pole work session and she really got into the swing of things, doing both upward and downward transitions over the poles and listening to her rider even though it was all a bit exciting.   The more grown up horses were surprising though as they found the exercise much harder than I thought they should have, mainly wanting to bomb along the line not listening to their riders.   More practice is needed!
I had a big scare at New Year when Roger was ill for the first time in his life, he's only ever had a couple of minor injuries and here he was, obviously not well and at the start of the bank holiday weekend (isn't it always the case...).   Thank you to the staff at Spire Vets who came out to help, apologies for HRH's welshiness coming to the fore when it came to injection time (no, really, I am VERY sorry, he's such a good boy most of the time...).   Luckily the colic symptoms passed but he was laid low with a virus and had another week off work to add to his winter holiday time.

So, finally had time to get a ride in once R was better and had a couple of weeks of light walk work as by this time his holiday leave was at 6 weeks and counting.   The gorgeous dry weather didn't last long and we had to leave hacking and get back in the arena quicker than I would have liked, but he doesn't cope with wet, slippy muddy ground at all so hacking becomes quite dangerous for us, I really don't need to be crushed by a cob falling on me right now.

Decided that this is the year that we will achieve true bend.   This is the same ambition that I've had, on behalf of us both, for the past 10 years, oh well.   Something seems to have changed though.   I always struggle with being tight through the hip flexors which is something that is common with a lot of riders, so I've been doing specific exercises to release them and it seems to be working.   My leg feels to be in a better place and I can give clearer aids without getting tight and blocking in the hips - hopefully will be able to get the camcorder out this week to check if this is really happening or just wishful thinking!   So with the new improved legs in place, I asked for bend, and kept asking, quietly, persistently, until it came.   Took a lot more leg power than I thought it would and I realised that usually I micro manage positioning the neck and hindquarters around the middle section rather than insisting R bends himself from the middle, and of course its easier for him so he lets me get on with entertaining myself while he gets an easy life.   

Lots of practice later, bend in walk seemed to becoming quite established so we went for the trot.   Who would have thought that keeping the loose hips, legs in place and lower leg on would be so hard in a rising trot ;).  A couple of days practising this went quite well, but then of course we hit the "don't want to, shan't, you can't make me" attitude that always comes with R.   I do love the horse but he can be hard work at times.   So he went to the default mode of lock the lower jaw, lock the neck, but here was a first - he ran!   Now, R is one of the laziest horses to have ever strolled the earth and running he does not do.   We stop, back up, go sideways, occasionally throw a tantrum and throw ourselves on the floor like a two year old child, but RUN???   After a good few laps of the arena he settled back down to work and had a gorgeous trot and walk, huge steps, really stretching through his shoulders and right out over his topline into a reasonably nice contact.   

Unsurprisingly, given that he isn't fit yet and I wasn't planning on cantering for a couple more weeks, he was tired come the end of the week, so we finished the week with a session just in long and low, but he OFFERED bend.   I was so pleased with him!   Put the leg on to create the bend, and he responded instantly, and easily, and softly and calmly.   I'm so excited by this (which readers may just consider a bit sad, but hey ho).   Really looking forward to see whether we can maintain this now.
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