October 2016 Dressage Competition

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.


Reply to BD forum comment!

This is the reply I wrote on The British Dressage Forum when someone had asked “What is Contessa like as they want to perhaps go to ride the advanced horses”
There were a few replies, one saying it was good but expensive, another said she had been to us and was good but she didn’t think the horses was going forward into the contact enough and was told that was ok, but she still managed to ride tempi changes ( so couldn’t have been too bad to be able to do that!!) and then a lovely one from a very, very longstanding client that recommended us very highly, thank you Sue.
My reply.

Thank you for the comments on my yard….. Contessa Riding Centre. We do have some lovely horses that people can come and learn on inc Advanced Lusitano Stallion Schoolmasters along with their W/B friends. These lessons are after an initial assessment on a well trained lower level horse. What people do have to appreciate is that these horses have either finished their competitive career or they are not able to compete anymore due to perhaps and old injury or they are just mature but can still give client a correct feel of the movements even if they can’t be “pushed” too hard. Their experience is invaluable to the advancement of the aspiring rider.
I have trained all my staff and I trained with Arthir Kottas for over 20 yrs and that training is passed on to all my students.
At Contessa the horses come first and as I have had many of them from very young horses they are like family and therefore loved very much. When you ride with us we want to to form a partnership with the horse you are on and work to get the best from that horse on that day and if you are able to produce some, piaffe, passage, single changes up to tempi ones then that is fantastic but if you can’t quite find the buttons then it may take a little more time to find them than you initially thought, as THAT’S HORSES for you, they are not machines!! Only way to find out if you can find the buttons if to come and have a go!
As for the cost of the lessons, these horses are expensive to keep and I only ask them to do a limited amount of lessons each week and I think the level of instruction and their quality justifies the cost, we all know that keeping any horse is very costly these days anyway.
Tina Layton BHSI


Competition time.

Tomorrow is a big day for our vaulters. It is the first competition of the year, we will be taking Fergus to Cambridge for seven young vaulters to take part. We are doing the Walk Individual and Walk Pairs. I would like to wish them all the very best of luck and very importantly to have fun and enjoy themselves!!imageimageimage

Stallions having fun!

The clean side!

The clean side!

Jumping for joy with Charlie looking on.

Jumping for joy with Charlie looking on.

That's high Unico.

That’s high Unico.

Go Unico!

Go Unico!

Xairel, very happy boy.

Xairel, very happy boy.

Lovely to be able to let the boys have some fun time out. Not sure their super groom Lucy thinks the same as they love rolling!!
It is not easy to be able to turn the stallions out as they have to go by themselves and they would rather have company! Hence they may jump out off the fields.
Xairel had a great time on Tuesday in the HP spending most of the time rolling. Unico had playtime in the arena and got up some frightening speeds, I shut my eyes!! But like any horse or human they must have some ME TIME!

Sorry about the Shrieking

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.


Strictly Come Dancing

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.
Keep dancing riding. 

Didn’t we have a lovely time the day we went to Keysoe

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 😊

There’s no such thing as too much tinsel.

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!

Extreme Dressage

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.