Despite the weather conditions in the morning and all the lovely grey horses being yellow by the time they had warmed up in the outdoor arena, a great time was had by all at Contessa’s unaffiliated dressage competition on 16th October 2016. There were about 50 entries on the day which kept the judges (and writers!) and stewards very busy. All the school horses and ponies and those who visited on the day looked amazing – if Charlotte Dujardin ever loses Alan as her groom there are some serious contenders to replace him. All the riders scrubbed up well too, albeit most were a bit mud-spattered.
I brought Giuto (aka Mr G) for his first competitive outing and entered him into two classes where he behaved impeccably. I was pleased with the lovely comments about his trot but acknowledge that the canter can be a little “expressive” at times. We’re working on it!
As ever, the whole atmosphere was really friendly and encouraging, with competitors supporting each other throughout the day. Whatever their score, I know that everyone will have gone away with some really positive comments on their test sheet and some helpful pointers of what to work on.
So, believing every day is a school day, what did I learn?
• You should always be prepared to have a go – that’s what days like this are about. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter if you get a rosette – it’s about doing your best, being delighted with the good bits and then finding out what you need to work on for next time.
• Always pick a brown horse – they are easier to keep clean 😉
Thank you to all the Team for putting on such a super event.
My Easter Sunday lesson happened during one of the infrequent periods of sunshine between visits from Storm Katie. Sundays are traditionally “play time” with Leila and I think Real really enjoyed it today because we went from light-seat canter straight into a lovely flying change. And then, to prove it wasn’t a fluke, we did another one later in the lesson which is when the shrieking happened – the first one with delight at having done it and the second one with surprise as he followed up with a Real trademark star jump. I was so pleased with him – and me. No tension from either of us. The secret seems to be doing big, bold “eventing changes” and not anything quite as controlled as a dressage change. Sorry Joao and Dawn, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Those Schoolmasters better watch their backs. And apologies to those who happened to be sharing the indoor school with me for the noise.
The first weekend in March presented the opportunity to indulge in a bit of Dancing with
Wolves Horses. First up was a bit of piaffe practice on Real. He’s a bit of a late starter with this tricky stuff (he is 18 now) but I think he was probably Rudolph Nureyev in a previous life as he quite likes the opportunity to do a bit of pointy-toed ballet dancing. Sometimes he even offers a few bounce-steps when I don’t really want it … Anyway, on Saturday we decided to try it on purpose and managed a few proper grown up steps. I was delighted with him and his efforts until Joao Cavaco – always striving for better – reminded me that we had been trying to perfect this for a whole year now. Whilst for me 2 proper steps are better than none, Joao wants 4. If we were in the equine equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing we might not make it past Blackpool, but we are certainly not in the John Sargeant / Ann Widdecombe camp!
The second act was courtesy of my own horse – Giuto – who went out hacking with Jack and Faffa for the first time. Giuto (aka Mr G) is a little bit more contemporary in his choice of genre and gives full vent to his Latin roots – he is a Lusitano from Portugal after all. He favours a free-style approach which shows a creative flair. One description I found on line says: “Pioneers of contemporary dance believed that dancers should have freedom of movement, allowing their bodies to freely express their innermost feelings.” He most definitely did that on Sunday at times!
Finally, returning to the Strictly theme, Wanda Bendisch took on the role of choreographer to my and Leila’s Anton and Erin as we performed a pas de deux on Unico and Xariel. Despite our protests she videoed our efforts which, to be fair, were not too shabby in the end, although this was about the 4th time we had ridden the routine. Sadly the short clip is too big to attach here. We might have warranted a generous 7 – but definitely not a “Ten from Len” this time.
Today Real and I went out competing with Jack and Faffa to Keysoe in Bedfordshire. We went out a handful of times in 2015 and had mixed fortunes. Real has had a sheltered upbringing and doesn’t really do different and at times he has been more like a dragon or Bambi than a horse. It’s all a bit overwhelming, but each time has been a little bit better. This time he warmed up beautifully once he had got over the fact there was a door in the indoor arena which might’ve had a tiger or worse behind it. We even managed to be reasonably relaxed in the outdoor warm up area once we’d been past the advertising boards and the judge’s hut a few (many!) times. There was a moment just before we started our test when I thought we might revert to Bambi mode, but we Just about held it together – so well that I hardly managed to wait until the end to give him the hugest pat ever. He did his best test to date and came 2nd in his category. Blue so suits him! And I bet none of the other horses have a day job in a riding school. Thank you Tina for letting me borrow him. We need a Contessa saddle cloth so we can do marketing 😊
Had a great afternoon at the Contessa Christmas show. Although there were lots of classes I was only entered for one – Pairs with Michelle on Tarik and me on the lovely Toby. Toby was very excited at the prospect and, urged on by the length of blue tinsel that kept stubbornly following him, executed some lovely piaffe steps and then an amazingly forward travers all down the long side as Michelle struggled to match our speed on the opposite side of the school. I for one was relieved to get to the end of our little show still in the tinsel-bedecked saddle. Somehow we managed to come second and pick up yet more blue decoration in the form of a rosette. Nice one Toby! Next up were the Wednesday evening kids’ club doing their demo. This time it was six riders and horses sporting just about every length of red tinsel in the county. Although Suzie and Ted both looked vaguely terrified when they came into the arena – there was quite an audience – Steph and Viviana did an amazing job of keeping them calm. Olivia had an impeccably behaved Toby (maybe he’s just not that keen on me) and Mia on Milly sported a smile wide enough to brighten the dullest afternoon. Zac on Riache and Libby on Axel did a great job as lead files and the overall performance was truly amazing. So proud of them all. High Five guys!
Maybe a sextetrille? Whatever you call it Kids Club were amazing tonight practising for the Contessa Christmas Show. Go Zac, Libby, Olivia, Stephanie, Mia and Viviana.
Today we did Extreme Dressage! It was a touch blowy at Houghton Hall – more like the Tundra than Cambridgeshire . Faffa and Real loaded like the lovely boys they are and off we set. Jack and Faffa did their first Elementary test and came home with two rosettes they should be very proud of. Not such a successful day for Real. He first made a bid for freedom in the car park and had to be apprehended by Jack in his socks … thank you Jack. If not for you Real might still be somewhere in the Cambridgeshire fens. Then he had to find a friend to follow to the first warm up arena – which he then refused to leave. I was starting to work out how much money I had on me and if I could afford a week’s livery. Faffa (who is just 5) had to escort Real (who is just 17) out of the outdoor arena and again into the indoor school where he did lots of lovely supple, over the back work ….. until the actual test. Once more he had to be escorted into the arena by his little friend where he was very spooky – as noted by the judge. Maybe he was just protesting at the products being advertised around the walls. To be fair, the first thing he did when we left the arena – having managed to walk all the way down to the judge at C even though he couldn’t get that close during the actual test – was to have a HUGE wee. No wonder he couldn’t focus. I also think he just doesn’t like being in an arena on his own. Jack and I will have to find somewhere to do Dressage Pairs! Although we didn’t come back with any ribbons I was really pleased with him though. It’s all miles on the clock and there is always next time ……. To top off the day Real managed to trash one of his travel boots on the way home. He must’ve felt in quite a destructive mood today. 1 x bungee tie up. 1 x travel boot. 1 x dream of being asked to do a celebrity demo at Olympia …… Never mind. Huge thanks to Louisa again today. Not only a super groom but also an ace driver.
It’s always nice to be able to report bouncing achieved on purpose rather than the alternative. Had a super lesson on Real with Joao on Saturday working on our piaffe, ending with a few “proper” steps that we were really pleased with. Then, managed to show a bit of it off to John Bowen on Sunday. See – it’s never too late to teach an “old” horse (or rider) new tricks! 😊
Real and I got to ride with Kids’ Club this Wednesday evening and boy are they good. I’ve watched their progress over the last year and they have all improved loads. Well done Stephanie and Libby and Viviana and Zac. And Joao for teaching them. I hope you think we’re good enough to join your group from time to time.