Jessica Leroy and Smokey have been extremely busy over the last few weeks. Find out how they got on arena eventing and in their cross-country, dressage and showjumping clinics.
Well, I’m not really sure where to begin with this blog – January and February have been so busy and it really has been all systems go!
Most people’s New Year starts with a hangover and a fuzzy memory of the night before. Mine started with a 7:30am jumping lesson…A very good jumping lesson I should add.
Something that we’ve been working a lot on is bounces. I would say that bounces are our jumping weak point following a horse fall a year and a half ago, which resulted in a big splint for Smokey and broken bones for me (not to mention a large mouthful of dirt and sand for both of us).
It has taken my trainer Sharon nearly a year to get us going over a bounce and I’m really excited to say that on New Year’s Day we were confidently jumping three bounces on a curve, and, just this Saturday gone we were pining down a row of not one, two or three, but six bounces!
The jumping progress that we have been making at home is really starting to show when we’re out and about competing. In January we managed to get to Felbridge Showground for their combined training and also went to Littleton Manor Equestrian (LMEQ) for our first ever arena eventing attempt. This is as well as a lesson with Luke Baber-Davis, a cross-country clinic with Nick Gauntlett, several pilates sessions and a rider straightness assessment with Emma Foyle from Focus Pilates. Told you we’d been busy.
Our trip to Felbridge’s combined training was on the coldest day of the year so far; I was so thankful for my Equo jacket and I think Smokey really appreciated his competition sheet too. We decided to enter the 90cm class as it dawned on me while doing the entries that we had not actually jumped a course of fences since October 2015! The day didn’t go quite as well as I had hoped but nonetheless it still ended with big smiles all around.
We had a fantastic lesson with Luke Baber-Davis at Eden EQ a couple of days before Felbridge and Smokey felt a million dollars in the lesson. Unfortunately I think that I now know that Smokey does not need a lot of working in. If I’m totally honest I think the excitement of being out competing got to us and I got on him too soon, which meant by the time that it was our dressage test he had pretty much switched off (as had I!!). However, we gave the test our best shot and got a mark of around 36. Not our worst mark by a long way, but quite far from what I know we are now capable of.
The disappointment was very quickly forgotten with a fantastic clear round over the showjumps. It was a tough and twisty course and a lot of poles were coming down, as it was causing a lot of problems. I think a lot of the horses competing that weekend (like ourselves) had not been jumping for a while.
Keeping in the jumping spirit we then headed off to a clinic with Nick Gauntlett at LMEQ. Nick’s clinic was part of my Christmas present from my wonderful parents. I think that the time has come to start having someone on the ground pushing us across country.
I’m ashamed to say that to date we have only ever had two cross-country lessons together as a combination. One of those was with the wonderful Lucinda Green and the other was with local trainer and eventer Sam Jennings.
Nick’s lesson was incredible! He really understood what we needed to improve on and really helped us work on our galloping speed and taking fences from a good forward rhythm. Unlike Hektikos, who being an ex-racehorse never struggled with the time across country, Smokey is a little bit more cautious and takes a lot of riding to make up those precious few seconds.
I think that if I had to sum up the lesson I would say that Nick was able to push us out of our comfort zone, but in doing so also managed build our confidence over the more technical fences. Something which I believe is quite difficult for any instructor to achieve!
Our lesson with Nick was great timing, as the following weekend it was time to attempt arena eventing for the first time at LMEQ. It is a phenomenal amount of fun – why we’ve never done it before I shall never know. It really feel like we’ve missed out!
Smokey jumped his little heart out for me and was pinging round, making light work of the 90cm course with a super double clear. We even managed to put what we had learnt into practice from Nick’s lesson and got a great forward rhythm over the cross-country elements of the course! It was a huge class of 45 for the 90 section and I was over the moon to find that we had come 14th.
I’m very excited to see that LMEQ have arena evening at the end of Feb (it’s on Equo!), so if all goes to plan until then I think we’ll enter the 90 and 100 class…
Overall our January has been fantastic and a huge learning curve. I’m really excited to see what happens over the next coming months and also thrilled to say that we have entered our first BE event of the calendar and are heading off to Tweseldwon in March!
Speak soon, Jess x
Want to find out what else Jessica Leroy and Smokey have been up to? Check out their other Equo brand ambassador blogs.