Jessica Leroy, our south-east brand ambassador, tells us what she’s been up to recently in her latest Equo blog.
After a quiet month following my last BE event at Littleton Manor it’s suddenly all systems go at the yard! In October I decided to give Smokey a break from jumping and galloping until the end of November and purely focus on his flatwork. Doing this gave me a chance to bring Hektikos back into work, as he’s had the summer off due to ongoing injuries and physical time constraints (there’s just not enough hours in the day).
So, on Saturday we had the pleasure of visiting Eden Equestrian – one of the first venues established on Equo! Eden EQ is a small yard nestled in the heart of the Kent countryside. The venue and facilities are truly excellent. Smokey and I had a private clinic with the very up-and-coming international dressage rider Luke Baber-Davies. Luke has recently moved back to the UK following a few years training in the Netherlands and is now based in West Sussex with his string of dressage horses.
I’ve never had a lesson with a pure dressage rider before and it was fascinating! We were working on strengthening our canter and more specifically establishing collected canter. This is something that I’ve never attempted with Smokey.
Luke made a couple of very interesting points. He suggested that it is better to work with the base of Smokey’s neck much higher than I’m used to. This is because Smokey has quite a weak back end, so by working him longer and lower it enables him to pull with the front rather than push from behind.
Luke also noticed that Smokey is quite stiff to the left and as a result can really fix himself against me. As a result of this we worked on getting Smokey to give and and have a soft left flexion – which I’m pleased to say we got… and much quicker than I ever have ever managed before! In order to do this we worked on a circle and focussed on bringing Smokey’s head round with a lot of quick asking with the inside rein and a lot of giving and retaking.
One thing that I especially liked about Luke is that he also focuses on the rider, for example pointing out when my reins got too long – I am a self-confessed culprit of the ‘washing line rein syndrome’. Luke also made sure that I kept my core stable and he was very quick at picking up if I dropped my outside rein. I found this very helpful.
The final point of the lesson, that I found particularly interesting, was how quickly Luke advised that we asked for upward transitions if Smokey got in a muddle and broke his canter. When Smokey found some of the tougher canter work harder he occasionally dropped behind my leg and broke back to trot. Normally I rebalance the trot and then ask for canter again when we’re ready… but not with Luke! We were straight back into canter and then rebalanced in the upward pace, which we were meant to be in all along. Now that I think about it this makes a lot of sense! Check out my video blog for a short interview with Luke and some footage of our lesson.
I must also say a huge thank you to Eden EQ. After our lesson we discovered that the lorry had a flat tyre. Eden very kindly let us borrow a stable for Smokey and supplied us with numerous cups of coffee while we waited for the recovery service to come out and pump up our tyre!
On Sunday it was time to put our lesson into practice with a trip to Cobham Manor for some dressage (entered through Equo, of course). We have never been to Cobahm Manor before, so I thought it was about time that we headed down there.
I entered Prelim 18 and Novice 27 for both horses – so there was a bit of head to head competition between them! As Hektikos has not been out for over a year and has only been back into work for a month I was not expecting much from him. I would have been pleased to just complete both tests while keeping him soft and engaged throughout. However, I was completely shocked at his performance! He was so happy to be out competing and strutting his stuff that he really pulled it out of the bag and came second in the prelim with nearly 68%! He even got an eight for his first centre line. Hektikos then continued to enjoy his day out and produced a very respectable third place in Novice 27.
Smokey also did us very proud. He would have been placed in the prelim was it not for a dozy rider forgetting the test half way through… oops! On the plus side we did do a beautiful halt in the middle of a serpentine whilst I rebooted the ‘rider sat nav’. Luckily in Novice 23 I decided to have a caller and Smokey did everything that I asked of him and surprised me with how soft he was on the left – our lesson the day before really made a difference. We were over the moon to find out we came second in the Novice, especially as Smokey has not done many Novices before.
I’ve just entered the next dressage competition at Cobham Manor in December and following the success of this weekend we are doing both Novice tests and stepping away from our comfort zone of prelims!
Overall I’ve had a great few weeks and an especially a great weekend. As Luke said in his interview – ‘go out, have fun, but most off all enjoy it’… and that’s exactly what we did!