Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Central Dressage Camp

We've just got back from Central Dressage camp which was held at Wellington Riding. It was set to be a busy weekend with plenty of lessons, talks as well as the Gala evening on Saturday night which Buddy and I were featuring as the guinea pig riders. We arrived on Friday evening and, as usual, B wandered straight into his stable and was a total star. He had a very cute mare next door who was flirting outrageously with him and B was very happy to give her snuffles.

Making new friends
We got given our itinerary and we had two sessions with Matt Hicks and one with Charlie Hutton as well as our evening session with Andrew Gould and Spencer Wilton. I took B for a hack around the estate and B was wired! I was hoping that it would chill him out a bit before our lesson but that wasn't quite the case! He was rather forward and a bit tense and so after talking to Matt about what we were doing he got us warming up and focused on the suppleness so there were lots of transitions, 10m circles and on and back within the paces. When B gets tense he completely blocks me through his body and I tend to back off a bit and lose control of the shoulder and quarters. Matt wanted me to focus on shoulder in and leg yield to try and get B to give and he was super on the right rein but the left rein was a bit trickier. It's both of our 'bad' reins and so when things go wrong it's always highlighted there. It didn't feel great but luckily my lovely fellow BUBD Lucy came to video for me and the work looks mainly good despite the tension showing in canter (breaking early and picking up the wrong lead) and shorter choppy strides in the trot. I know I do not help the situation by becoming tense when I can't 'fix' the tension  so I also need to be aware of that and work on chilling out!

Hacking at Wellington
It was then time for a quick rest and then to start getting ready for the gala evening which meant that we needed to plait and look smart! I was starting to feel really nervous as I've never ridden in front of lots of people and I have had huge issues with people watching me in the past so this was a big test. Plus as Buddy wasn't really totally on side I knew it would be a tough evening but was looking forward to having Spencer and Andrew help me find some ways to help in those situations. I was happy that B was very well turned out, we had our new pad from Zecora Photography and I'd been scrubbing my bandages so that they were gleaming too! There were 115 people sitting in the Dukes Hall and the butterflies were in full flight. I wasn't allowed to speak to Andrew or Spencer before the session as the plan was to treat it like a genuine 'first time' coaching session so the first time they knew anything about B was the moment we stepped in front of everyone. We walked in, B saw the huge crowd and just carried on regardless. Love him! We walked around to get him used to the atmosphere and he was tense but still on side and wasn't freaked out completely. We then shared a bit about ourselves and I debated whether to tell them B's story but I decided not to so carried on like normal. A & S asked me to warm up and there was a bit of debate as to whether that was as I would at home or at a competition - S agreed with me that a competition warm up is very different than one at home due to that added pressure. They went on to have a bit of a debate and I felt a bit silly so just kept wandering and then one of the audience had a question and as there were no mics we couldn't be heard so I had no idea what they were talking about.

Looking smart before the demo 
B had started to switch off and was getting a bit more tense and so S got me to work around him on a circle and we did lots of transitions trying to get him to relax a bit which was great. Then we worked on the canter. I told them at the start that B had a big canter which I sometimes find hard to control and it gets long and flat, especially when he's tense. Right canter was good and then we moved to left and B was just not listening to my left leg and was blocking me and striking off on the wrong lead. He was also swinging his quarters and not stepping through correctly which made him look short behind which the audience immediately picked up on. A explained that he was swinging his hind leg rather than placing it straight and in the same line as the foreleg and it was tension not soundness that was the issue. I was finding it really hard to manage him on the left as he completely blocked me and I didn't feel like I was given any new tools to manage the situation. A then wanted to highlight how switched off B is to my leg and got me to leg yield to the right and left and it was clear that B blocked me completely on the left as I couldn't even get him to react. It was embarrassing and I did finish the session feeling pretty rubbish.

During the gala session with Spencer and Andrew 
People were also asking questions during the session which I couldn't hear (which ended up being a good thing) but right at the end someone said that all my problems with suppleness would be sorted with shoeing. A rubbished that statement and so I then ended up saying why he's not shod and what happened. Spencer seemed interested and just as I was leaving he asked if he could have a word with me. I completed my story and then S told me that I should put shoes on B behind to help 'support' him. I asked why he thought that and he said that a shoe (with lateral extension) would increase the surface area and make him use his hindquarters immediately. I asked how he thought a U shaped piece of metal would give a larger surface area than the frog and sole but he missed the point a bit and we started going round in circles! As I was already a bit frustrated and upset the last thing I wanted was a conversation on shoeing and so said I appreciated his opinion but I would not be putting shoes on Buddy. He looked shocked so I jumped off, picked up B's front foot to show exactly why shoes will not work for him and both S & A agreed that it wouldn't be right for him and that he had the freakiest feet they'd ever seen which made me chuckle as I'm pretty confident B's feet wouldn't even grace Nic's top 10 freaky feet chart!!

June 2016 vs August 2015 B is looking hench!!
I left feeling incredibly disappointed and frustrated which was not the end objective I'd hoped for. There were some really mean people in the audience who thought I was too fat for my horse, too unfit and couldn't ride. I was so upset about it at first and nearly put B in the lorry and went home but I guess if you put yourself out there then you have to expect there will be people who have an opinion and that might not be positive. I decided to stick my fingers up at them, I'm definitely not perfect but I'm on a journey and this is all part of the process to getting better and at least I'm trying!!

Sunday dawned and we had an awesome lesson with Charlie Hutton working on our medium trot and controlling the quarters when he goes a bit tense. He gave me lots of things to try to help me in those moments which was a huge boost and I got lots and lots from the session with him. B worked really hard and I was delighted with him at the end. Then our final session was with Matt again. Matt is a really lovely guy and gave me a real boost which made me feel much better again which I really appreciated. We didn't want to work them too hard so we focused on the suppleness again and I noticed that B was working more uphill faster so the weekend definitely helped me with that process. Then we started walk pirouettes which B actually found quite easy! We were only doing very baby steps to start the process as neither horse (or rider) had done them before so that was another great tool to have.

Overall I got a lot out of the weekend, both good and bad! I found the demo to be really hard on me mentally but actually I have realised that I'm far stronger than I was as although it hit me hard to hear the horrible things people said and I had a hard time on the Saturday night by Sunday morning I realised what they said says far more about them than me and there is no point in letting them drag me down. I want to improve and get better and can only do that if I keep pushing myself harder and working on pushing those boundaries.


  1. Oh, good grief! First, you are NOT overweight. If you were any tinier, you'd be a toothpick in riding boots. What a bunch of unkind dolts. Secondly, at the :30 second mark, I like the way Buddy canters; he looks very uphill and strong. Good on you for putting yourself out there and getting in the ring.

  2. Thank you - yes I thought it was very mean but onwards and upwards! His canter is his best pace and is improving more and more, I'm very excited about it.