Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Dressage Report!

We finally had a show that didn't get cancelled due to bad weather! It was the Hinckley Dressage show held this past Sunday at Blaby Mill Stables where we FINALLY got to do our Prelim 1 test.

We had been schooling regular since my last lesson with Lili and we have been working OK but not brilliantly. I'm still struggling with the right rein and my right shoulder back and it's not helping that Hattie is moulting and coming into season which causes her to not concentrate!! We had one episode during schooling where she tried to gallop around the school because the a goose flapped it's wings in the goose run next to the school despite her seeing it EVERYDAY. I was side saddle and had to pull her up quick as she slipped and went to go down with me on top of her. Grrrr...

I booked the indoor school at Blaby Mill on the Saturday to get one practise there in before the show but Hattie's mind wasn't on the job (ears pricked forward, looking for her boyfriend Charlie who was left at home) and my right shoulder wasn't co-operating either so things didn't bode well for Sunday.

Things didn't get much better on Sunday as Hattie wasn't playing ball that day. We hacked to the show and Hattie wasn't even forward out hacking. I was frustrated so my position went to pot during my test but we managed to get through it without mishap with the exception of Hattie not wanting to pick up the canter on the right rein at H. In the warm up, all she wanted to do was race around in a trot with her head up and ears forward looking at everything and this spilled over into the test.

I HATE it when she gets into that mood as I usually take her for a gallop around the fields near me to get it out of her system so she can concentrate. No one has been able to ride on those fields at the moment due to gypsies keeping their stallions and mares on there illegally. There has already been two accidents with the herd charging at people who have tried to ride in there so for now, it's off limits until the council gets them removed.

Our marks weren't too bad, got a 7 ("fairly good"), five 6's ("good") and three 5's ("sufficient")for an overall score of 58%.

Our collective comments were "A nice partnership! Just needs to be more supple in the bend and have cleaner canter transitions (these are things Lili and I working on). Well tried."

Here is our test:

There are also some photos taken by the show photographer here (I am in the second row from the bottom) and some candids here (second, third and fourth row from the top). It looks like I am looking at the camera in some but I'm not, I was watching the tests after me, lol!!

Despite everything, we didn't actually do to badly. We came 7th out of about 10 or 11 riders which surprised me as I thought we'd come last (I was first in our section) as with each horse and rider combo that came after me, my heart sank a little lower as there were some seriously nice horses and riding going on! There were also quite a few riders using our class as a warm up for the higher tests so Hattie and I proved we can hold our own against the big guns with only one leg on the side, lol!

I am pleased how we did and the comments reflected the things that Lili has been working with me on so we shall continue to work on them (I need to strap my right shoulder back!!). It's good that I've had a lesson once a month and Lili has been drilling these things into me as we probably would not have done that well on Sunday if she hadn't so we'll get there one day!

On our way back home, I let Hattie gallop for a bit along the grass verge as she tried really hard today. Unfortunately, our rosette went flying off of the bridle so we had to stop and have a dog walker pick it up for us!!

Hattie back at home with the rosette safely back on her bridle...

I think that is it for dressage for us until the fall though as the showing shows start in March and the family that own the stables were Hattie is kept, generously said that they would bring me to some shows this spring and summer depending on their schedules. We are hoping to get to the Burbage Riding Club show on March 25 all being well, so fingers crossed!

Hattie and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE showing shows and plan on doing Best Turned Out, Style and Appearance, Best Riding Club Horse / Pony (this class has one jump in it so best start working on our jumping again), Best Senior Rider -over 14yrs old (this may have a jump in it and I will have to check to see if I can enter this class side saddle), In Hand Best Condition and In Hand Best Veteran 15+ (Hattie is 16).

I only had one bridle that I used for shows and side saddle schooling but on Friday, I decided to treat myself to a new show bridle for Sunday's dressage show (and for the shows this summer) and got myself a new Jeffries flat hunter bridle for a BARGOON price! The tack shop near me, sells "factory seconds" components for Jeffries bridles so I sat down and pieced together a bridle for Hattie as she needs a full size crown and browband, cob noseband and pony sized cheek pieces. It took me an hour and a half to make up a bridle as not all the size and color combos were available but managed to luck out with getting all mine to match eventually so basically got a customized £100 bridle for less than half price just because some of the stitching *may* be crooked or there is a tiny scratch somewhere. Just need to save up and get some nice extra long show reins now.

Looks nice, doesn't it?

With the pelham...

With our show snaffle...

Monday, 13 February 2012

It's Not You, It's DEFINITELY Me!

Had a another brilliant side saddle dressage lesson today with Lili Brooksby and we ironed out some of the kinks we'd been having in our Prelim 1 test. Most of it, was due to me not sitting central enough and my right shoulder creeping towards the left which was confusing Hattie. I knew I was doing something that was affecting her but couldn't put my finger on it. I was getting tense with the shoulder turning to the left and this was having a domino effect.

Lili also got me to think of my outside rein as a "side rein" like you would use when lunging to help me keep a nice steady contact and to help me give with my inside rein, to think of it as if you were holding a champagne glass. I can also play with my fingers on the inside rein a bit too to help soften when needed. Another helpful visualization to help with all of this, if to think that on the off-side of me, that there is a wall guiding me when the actual wall of the school goes away like when riding on a circle or going across the diagonal.

I think it sounds strange, but the "wall" visualization really helped with keeping my shoulder back and keeping Hattie going nice and forward where I wanted her to go. She was nice and forward and our canters were nice and rolly with her starting to work in a nice elastic outline. I'm going to have to keep "WALL" in my head all the time now, lol.

Lili pointed out in the mirror for me to look at Hattie as she was carrying herself beautifully. Hattie can do it naturally, I just need to sort myself out so she can get on with it as Lili said that by the end of the year, that she wants me to do a Novice level test. EEEEEKK!!!

Since I don't have any photos of my lesson today, here is another image from my collection to appease you all. It's a stereoview from c. 1862. This image has always fascinated me due to the white bridles and martingales. Look at the tall stove pipe hats the ladies are wearing too!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

New Acquisition!

The weather has been atrocious here in England and I haven't been able to ride for the past week due to having a frozen school and sub zero temperatures (plus I've been poorly with my low blood cells and now have a stinking cold due to low immunity from my crappy blood!).

We FINALLY got to do a bit of riding yesterday and today as the school defrosted a little. Even though wood chippings tend to be slippery, at least you can still ride on them when it's cold as they crumble apart from each other rather than becoming rock solid like sand. Still couldn't do heavy duty riding in the school due to the frozen footing but we practised a movement from the Prelim 1 test where you walk on a loose rein from K to B then to H (like a V) before picking up the reins and a medium walk at H.

Hattie's free walk on a loose rein is better (not so much "lacking purpose" as before), but when I pick up the reins at H for the medium walk, her head goes up, ears forward and she is busy looking concentrating on everything except the job at hand. Grrrr....

We did this for 30 minutes yesterday and started to make a tiny breakthrough at the end so decided to "reward" Hattie with a canter down the long sides of the school where it wasn't frozen. She liked that.

Today that particular movement was a little better and she started to concentrate more at H but still her mind is on her boyfriend in the field!! We did a bit more cantering today and picked up a nice canter in the corner where it had defrosted with Hattie using her back but then we hit a bit of a hidden slippery spot in the school at the next corner so called it quits to end on a good note. Roll on summer...

I have my side saddle/dressage lesson with Lili tomorrow and will ask her if she could help us work on our Prelim 1 test which is in 2 weeks. Our entries for last Sunday's cancelled dressage show got transferred to March where we will be doing the Prelim 7 test on March 11 but I'm not going to worry about working on THAT test until this month's dressage is done and over. My brain can only handle so much at a time.

The farrier is due out this week (that reminds me, I have to call him) and will get my Beck Morrow head rebent AGAIN. I hope the iron can take it!! I'm hoping the saddler will come out this week with my off-side to test out the panels as well as I'm anxious to start riding in it.

I also have a new acquisition in my antique side saddle photograph collection, an 1880's CDV photograph showing a lady riding in an off-side side saddle!

The image has not been flipped as her bodice buttons on the correct side for females (you can see the seam where her handkerchief is tucked in) and you just just make out the throatlatch buckle beside the cheek piece buckle on the nearside.

The rider is identified as Grandma Jenney nee Ovendon with Walters scratched out. I did Google the name but nothing for that name or time period shows up for England. Maybe one day I will stumble across some information on her like I did with my off-side side saddle. I wonder where Jenney's saddle ended up? Note the lack of balance girth!

If I EVER get to show at the Nationals, I'm going to make a copy of this habit and ride in the historic costume class with this photo as my supporting documents. Hattie is dark like the horse in the photo, getting a double bridle would not be a problem and I already have a bowler, straight cane and the off-side side saddle!

December 25, 2012 Update, here is the other version of this photo which turns out to be Princess Alexandra taken in 1882...

 Photograph | Alexandra, Princess of Wales, on a horse, copied in 1882 | II-65981.0.1

Sunday, 5 February 2012


Our schooling was better yesterday on the waxed sand surface in the indoor school that we booked at the stables down the lane from us. I definitely think Hattie is not keen on wood chippings at our place as her nicely rolly canter came back and she was a lot more forward. I still had to remind her to "make it happen" but it all in all it was good. She was a bit stiff on the right rein and our right rein canter transition was a bit rushed but I'm wondering if it's me as I realized yesterday that I was very tense on this rein and tend to get heavy handed. I'm wondering if the pain in my right hip has something to do with it. I caught myself doing it yesterday and it shocked me. It will be interesting to see what happens when my off-side comes back and I'm riding off my good pain-free hip.

I got my show pictures from the December "fancy dress" dressage show when I dressed as the Snow Queen from the Chronicles of Narnia and one of them made it into the January edition of Equestrian Life Magazine. the results were posted on their website as well (not my pic however). This is my favorite photo out of all of them that I bought and I plan on framing it...

On the Snow Queen theme, we had a good snowfall yesterday evening so it was probably best that Leicester Dressage did cancel their show for today. They are transferring my entry to next month's show so I've got to memorize the Prelim 7 test which has lots of cantering and "free walking" in it.

Pabs, Charlie and Hattie (on the right) about to canter off this morning...

Hattie in the snow...

Roll on summer...

Friday, 3 February 2012

Foiled Again!

Woke up this morning to snow on the ground and -2C temperatures so wasn't too hopeful about the dressage show on Sunday happening as when it snows here in England, EVERYTHING shuts down- a far cry from when I used to show in Canada during the winter in -20C temperatures!!

Since I hadn't heard anything from the show organizers yet about the show being cancelled, I decided to practise some of the "easier" movements (i.e. the free walk on a long rein from K to B then B to H) as the school was too snowy and slippery to do anything faster than a bit of trotting. Since all dressage movements are judged out of marks from 0 to 10, if we perfect the easier movements as best we can, that will help to scrape more marks into our score even if we cock up the harder ones.

Our schooling was better than the other day and I took Michelle's advice to "make it happen!" when asking something from Hattie. I get into a rut with nagging her with my leg, doing a wimpy tap with my crop and Hattie just tunes out. I've been trying to ask nicely, then "make it happen" the 2nd time if she doesn't listen. It was starting to work!

In the Prelim 1 test, you enter at A at working trot and proceed down the center line and track right at C. I've been taking Lili's advice about setting Hattie up as if we'd be turning left as C as this keeps her straight down the center line. We always lose marks for drifting so hopefully, the judge will now notice our straightness!

Then at A you do a have 20m circle to the right at A, half 20m circle to the left at X, half 20m circle to the left at C and finish off the figure 8 pattern with a half 20m circle at X to the right before rejoing the track at A.

This figure 8 pattern has been causing me grief as Hattie tends to get strung out and our circles, not to circular. We practised just walking the pattern to see what the heck I was doing, then I broke it down into just two 20m circles, one at A and one at C then joined them up. Then did the same thing but trotting instead of walking. It helps me if I just forget the pattern being a figure 8 and just think that I'm essentially riding just two 20m circles and then my body kicks in somehow and I am able to ride "inside leg to outside hand" better (even on the right rein!!) and Hattie keeps the bend nicely and working across the back with a light contact.

Heck, I found if I rode the whole darn test as a "circle", we both went better. Maybe thinking "circle" is the way to go for us.

I still have the inside school booked for tomorrow at the show venue so can practice our canters and all our transitions better there are nice dry surface but another movement which also causes me grief in the Prelim 1 test is the "free walk on a long rein from K to B, B to H" (which we always get marked down due to Hattie going into plod mode) and then at H picking up the medium walk before asking from a working trot at C.

Usually what happens when we are switching from our free walk to medium walk at H, Hattie gets excited as she knows the trot is coming up, head up in the air, ears forward and then goes on the forehand in trot at C before I can correct her as we are going round the corner after C.

Today, I worked on getting her to walk more forward in the free walk by tapping FIRMLY with my left leg and reminder taps with my "right leg"- the schooling whip as well as using my voice to ask her to "walk on" (can't say this too loudly in the test however!). If I get her walking forward in the free walk, then she already has the impulsion when we go to "medium walk" at H. I also had to think "circle" at H as well to get her thinking and bending to the inside instead of her concentrating about how she gets to "go fast" at C.

It was hard co-ordinating this all but we got it eventually and then we FINALLY got a nice trot at C without wappiness and without me having to nag her.

After all this hard work, the text message came through on my phone from Leicester Dressage letting everyone know that they were cancelling the show on Sunday due to the darn weather. Foiled again by this wintery weather!

At least they are putting out entries through to next months show so I'm going to have to learn Prelim 7 for next month's Leicester Dressage show. Our practise with the Prelim 1 test hasn't been in vain however, as the other riding club, Hinckley Dressage, is running the Prelim 1 test at their show later on this month so I now have a couple more weeks to perfect it.

I took a photo of my winter riding boots by HorZe that I bought in November from Your Horse Live for a bargain £20. I needed some new winter boots as I couldn't stand another winter of having my toes frozen off in rubber riding boots. I was just going to use them for astride riding and stable work as I didn't think the foot part would fit into a side saddle stirrup and thought they would be too bulky for side saddle riding.

How wrong I was! they are so warm, comfy and SOFT for aside riding! the ankles aren't bulky and I am able to point my right toe down easily. The legs on the boots aren't too bulky so I can get my right leg on the safe. I highly recommend them!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

More History and Progress On My Beck Morrow!

Blech, think I'm coming down with a cold or something as I feel rotten. Not good when you have a dressage show in 4 days!!!

We've been practising our Prelim 1 test with mixed results. I've been trying to ride Hattie more forward, soften the inside rein , ride "inside leg to outside hand" and all that but she just reverts back to being a sluggish old donkey on the forehand.

Last weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), I did not ride side saddle at all and only schooled astride WITHOUT stirrups (40 minute schooling sessions at that!!) and we got some good riding done! Our transitions were good (our canters were brilliant!), Hattie was carrying herself and working in a nice outline, I was working that inside rein to outside hand and I thought, this is great!

Put the side saddle on her on Monday and it was like that good work we did, never existed. It's so frustrating as I think Hattie has figured out that when I'm side saddle, I only have one leg to use and she can ignore me. Beating my horse with the schooling whip, although very tempting when she tries to pull that crap, isn't the solution! She's on the forehand doing an annoying shuffle trot or either that, or she's going around with her head up in the air and ears forward looking at everything that is going on except the job at hand!

The footing in the school was better last week and at the weekend when we did that good work and it's gone slippery in there now with the temperature drop so maybe that is the reason that she has gone back into stubborn donkey mode.

I've booked the indoor school at the stable down the lane from me where the show is being held to see if we school any better on a surface which Hattie likes (the same place where we went for our brilliant lesson with Lili). We shall see...

On a happier note, my saddle came today to try and fit for size, the new felt panels he's made. The panels are still a work-in-progress so ignore how they look. My saddler asked me if I wanted them made into a Wykham pad or laced on like normal panels but can't decide. He said that it's quite a wide tree and I thought if I had them as a Wykham pad, then if I ever got another horse who was wider that I wanted to use this saddle on, that it would be easier for him to adjust the pad.

Even though the panels are rough looking, the balance of the saddle is better. You can see the layers of felt he's had to use to make the saddle level. He is going to think of a way to secure the off-side flap as well as I can't be dealing with the rubbish Victorian overgirth it had where you needed a groom to do it up once mounted.

My saddler is going to shave off the edges of the felt at an angle to plenty of space for her high yet fat withers while still being supportive on her back. A far cry from the thick bulked and bunched up felt that the saddle originally had in the gullet for a horse much narrower than Hattie.

Another view of all the layers my saddler has had to put so that the saddle does not ride uphill on her high Thoroughbred withers and also to support my right thigh. Looks nice and level! I think I went a bit nutty with my farrier opening up the leaping head for me as now it looks like the pommel on a cheap Indian made saddle. When my farrier comes back out, I'm going to have him keep the general curve of it but just fold it a bit forward.

Every single strap on this saddle needs replacing and my saddler needs to bring the billets a little more forward for Hattie but you can see the layers of felt he's needed to make it fit Hattie. Some of the antique felt he is keeping on the panel as it's good stuff.

I had a sit and a walk in it and it felt weird riding in my Beck Morrow after a whole year of riding just in my flat doeskin seated 1930's Whippy. The seat on my Beck Morrow is dipped and perfectly symmetrical unlike my Whippy which has the seat built out in a paisley shape to support your hip and thigh. It's going to take some getting used to again but I don't think I'll be jumping in it, it will be my dressage saddle.

I also found out more information about the Countess Pillet Will who owned my saddle.

Her name was Marie Marguerite Isabelle de Comminges-Péguilhan and was born August 17, 1874 (a bit of a weird co-inkydink as my middle name is Isabelle and my birthday is August 25, 1975).

She married Count Pillet Will in 1892, he later died of a mental illness but it seems early in their marriage, she had an affair with the Haut Commissariat de la Republique Francaise en Syrie et au Liban, Henri Jouvenel des Ursins. This affair was probably going on when my saddle was made in 1898 (she would have only been 24) but ended in 1911 when Henri met and married Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, a French novelist and performer.

Who would have thought and old leather saddle could carry so much history?