Sunday, 23 October 2011

Almond RC Dressage 23-10-11

So to follow up on a very successful initial post-injury dressage outing, Hopalong and I were entered for two prelim tests at our riding club show- one of which was a long arena test (20m x 60m instead of 20m x 40m) which we've never done before!

It was at our "home from home" again, aka SNEC and P13 (short arena) was first.  We stuck with the warm up tactics that had seemed to work last time out and did what felt like a really nice test.  :D  Still plenty to work on with some of the upwards transitions, but it felt just as nice as our previous outing, so I was hopeful of a good score.  However, I was not expecting to find out our score was 72.82% with plenty of 8s through the sheet and a 9 (for our halt)!!!

This left us 1st out of about 15 competitors, what a clever Hopalong!  :D

We had just over an hour until our next test, so she was untacked and left to munch her haynet while I had a blether with friends, then it was time to tack up again and tackle the long arena test.  I'm pretty sure she thought we were back to eventing as when I got back on board again she took off at speed towards the arena, maybe expecting to see SJs and then XC after?! ;)  Sadly for us both, just more stressage! ;)

Didn't warm up as long as I would have liked/intended to as the stewards were very keen to get us in due to running early.  But did a nice test, not as nice as the first time, just a little more tense as we hadn't muddled about in the warm up long enough I think.  And boy is 60m a long way to try trotting in a straight line! ;)

But still pleased and definitely better than we would have done last year.  Took Hopalong home to roll in the field and get muddy again (since it's only 15mins in the trailer to her yard) and then went back along to check scores.  I was very pleased to see a score of 65.22% and even more pleased/surprised to see another red rosette attached to the sheet- another 1st place! :D  Lots of carrots and pears for Hopalong again. :D

I think these results leave us in a pretty good position to join in the Riding Club Team Dressage competition in a few weeks time... ;)  Fingers crossed we can do as well then with added team pressure!

Prelim 13 photos;

P15 photos;

Sunday, 9 October 2011

First competitive outing post-injury!

So having got the thumbs up from both the vet and our RC dressage trainer, I entered Hopalong and I for a dressage test at SNEC's unaffiliated dressage competition.  Since it was our first time out, I took the lazy option of only learning/doing one test...! ;)

I spent the morning bathing and plaiting (even stitched her plaits in properly instead of "cheating" with rubber bands, although was cursing this after the first couple since the needle was very slippy and I couldn't grip it easily, so it seemed to take forever!) and got to SNEC with plenty time to pick up my number then tack up.

I had decided to try a new approach towards warming up- previously I've done a little warm up, then stopped to watch a test or two before doing a few minutes final warm up before going in for our test. However, I wondered if this was partly to blame for Hopalong often switching off? So I allowed enough time to walk around for 5mins on a loose rein to stretch off and loosen up, then 20mins warm up to be treated like a normal schooling session with the same exercises I do at home, breaks to be free walk on a long rein here and there, but no properly stopping to switch off.

And it seemed to work! :) She warmed up really nicely, we went straight over to the arena when it was our turn and bar a couple of "gawky" moments at the judge's box and coffee bar nearby initially, I had enough time to keep her moving, circling and get her nice, soft and relaxed again before the bell went to start.

The test felt really good compared to previous tests from last year where she was resistant and more interested in what was happening outside of the arena! She stayed mostly soft and listening throughout (we had a few "pokey" moments in our transitions which is our weak area and to be worked on over the winter!) and she just got a little tense when I picked up my reins again after the free walk on a long rein. The judge had a quick word at the end of the test and said the movement could have scored an 8 without the tension at the end and gave me a tip on how to pick the reins up better to prevent this, so will try that next time! :)

Favourite action shot of the day! :D
Big hug for clever H!
I came out of the test absolutely thrilled with her (and had a wee happy cry as I couldn't believe that only a few months ago she was on field rest and I had no idea if I'd be able to ride her again, never mind compete again) and she was rewarded with lots of polos. :D
Bob making sure she is fed an adequate number of polos!
A wee walk around to cool down, then back to the trailer and her haynet which appeared to be all she was interested in. ;) Nice quick journey home and back out to the field to undo the morning's work getting her clean and enjoy a good roll in the mud!

I went back to check out our score and was over the moon (and very shocked) to see it was 70.53%!  A personal best and we ended up being 4th out of 23 in the class, really unexpected, but so pleased. :)  Fingers crossed it wasn't a fluke result and we can repeat it next time out. ;)  Next competition lined up is our RC dressage show on 23rd Oct, with a training session before that on Friday 14th.  We're even going to attempt a long arena dressage test (20m x 60m instead of the usual 20m x 40m), which will be interesting- 60m is a long way to trot in a straight line! ;)

Photos courtesy of Bob (multi-tasking photographer and polo-feeder!)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

RC Training Day

This was our first proper outing post-injury was to our riding club's training day at SNEC, perfect opportunity to go out and have fun with no pressure or stress. :)
Warming up- very keen!

First up was a Le Trec taster session, which was good fun.  We did the control of paces first (canter a distance as slow as possible without breaking to trot and walk the same distance back again as fast as possible, again without breaking to trot) and scored pretty well on the slow canter (even with a spook halfway round at someone sitting in the seating area! Luckily we stayed in the cones and didn't break pace), we didn't score quite as well on the fast walk but at least stayed in walk and didn't break into jig-jog or trot.

"Controlled" canter!
We then did a replicated "bridge" of rubber mat between two plastic blocks and tarpaulin between two poles (about 8ft long) both of which earned suspicious looks from Hopalong but she went over first time.  Standing with dropped reins was a success also although we didn't have to do it unmounted- I'm not sure she'd stay put for that?!  She was really good at the rein back in a corridor of poles, just scuffing a pole with one foot when I over corrected a squinty step.

Showing off her "games pony" moves
with the bending cones exercise.
We also tried the bending poles exercise- 6 cones within a 4m corridor, not sure how far apart they were, but I'm sure they got closer and closer as you went along the corridor?!  My intention was to trot this but she broke to canter and instructor said if you break pace you lose less marks staying in the pace you've broken to, so finished in canter!  We tried a second time intending to stay in trot but she broke to canter before even starting, so just did it in canter the whole way- got to love small, numble ponies! :)

Looking longingly at the SJ lesson?!
Another fun exercise was a corridor of poles 50cm apart and about 20ft long. You have to ride through it without touching the poles or stepping out of them and get more marks the faster you go. 50cm looks really narrow!  We did once at walk, then trot and then attempted canter and she did it perfectly- maybe it helped that she doesn't like to touch poles when SJing?!  The instructor's top tip was to keep looking up and straight ahead and it definitely worked.

She then had another chill out in the trailer with haynet for an hour and a bit before her dressage lesson.  She's been feeling good at home but definitely takes about 15min to properly warm up and soften properly.  Same again today but once we'd gotten over spooking at the coffee bar/judges box/table and jig-jogging everytime I tried to shorten my reins, she was really good.

Got some lovely, relaxed trot work in a nice soft outline (lots of serpentines, transitions and some leg yielding are my basics when warming up and working her) and even got some nice, almost round canter work.  Trainer was pleasantly surprised at how well she was going and said she thought she looked better than last year pre-injury, really pleased to hear that.

So maybe there is an inner dressage diva wanting to break through over winter?!

Photos from the Le Trec session posted with permission and courtesy of Chris Rushton at SFE Technical Solutions, many thanks. :)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Final post-injury vet check up

So with it now being almost a year since Hopalong injured her stifle, we were back to Andrew McDiarmid for a final check up and to see how he thought she'd coped with coming back into work.

Did the usual trot up and lunging;
 Andrew was happy with her, just noticing a slight "rolling" of her right hind (opposite side to injury), but nothing he was concerned with, so very good news. :)

He took some x-rays of the stifle again just to make sure there had been no changes since the first lot taken and again, the good news is that there wasn't. :)

So he gave us clearance to carry on riding as normal, start schooling again and then all going well, we can look to reintroduce jumping again next year, around about Feb/Mar time.  He thinks 90cm (intro) height would be perfectly fine to aim for as long as she feels happy and doesn't go lame again, so fingers crossed we can get back out to doing some intro BE events next summer. :)

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A trip to the beach! :D

Since we were doing well with our hacking rehab, I wanted to find something fun to do with Hopalong before going back to the vets (again!!) for a final check up at the start of September.  I had thought of trying a wee local showing show which had veteran classes but the weather spoiled that plan and it was rained off.  Maybe it was just that the show organiser heard I wanted to bring my wonky donkey?! ;)

So instead, we opted for a fun trip to the beach with my friend Victoria and her lovely horse Millie.  Bob was dragged along to take photos and we had a blast. :D  Hopalong was very brave and waded into the scary waves up to her knees (I'm pretty sure Bob was disappointed that she didn't send me swimming with a spook!) and had great fun racing Millie along the beach. :D

Millie and Hopalong head down to the beach.
A wee trot to warm up.
Leaving poor Millie behind!
All four feet off the ground, "flying"! :D
Giving the waves the evil eye!
Trying to avoid them...
Being persuaded they won't eat her and having a trot/canter through them. :)
She's a racehorse don't ya know! ;)

Monday, 1 August 2011

Early end to 2010. :(

So having had a really fun season being far braver than I imagined I would be and finishing our BE events on a real high at Turnberry, Hopalong picked up an injury at the end of September 2010. :(

Not really sure how she did it, she was ridden and went out to the field fine one evening and came in hopping lame the next morning. :(

We tried a period of rest to see if that would help and although she got better, she was still very sore. :(  It was her left hind (again... she has previously injured her annular ligament and had a hairline fracture in her pelvis, all on the left hind!) although did not seem to be her old annular ligament injury- it seemed higher up.

Vet came out to have a look and agreed but couldn't really pin point anything.  So we arranged an appointment with Andrew McDiarmid at Clyde Vet Group who came highly recommended to me by just about everyone who has needed a lame horse looked at.  He ruled out the old annular ligament injury causing problems with a nerve block and found swelling around her left stifle.

X-rays and ultrasound scans backed this up but didn't show any significant/major damage either, so a bit of a puzzle.  He wanted to try a course of Cartrophen injections (1 a week x 4) to see if this would help her heal.  This was combined with box rest/in hand walking and although she was much better than originally, she still wasn't right.

So back to Andrew again and this time he tried a hyaluronic acid/cortisone injection to the stifle plus some ridden walk work (still on box rest :( ) to see if this would work.  Again... still not right, but only marginal lameness, about 2/10.

The only options left were to either leave it and see or have Andrew perform arthroscopy (keyhole surgery) into the stifle with a fibreoptic camera to see if he could pinpoint the injury/tidy up damaged cartilage etc.  This was done early Feb 2011 and was very nerve wracking, although Andrew assured me that Hopalong was fit and healthy enough to undergo the general anaesthetic required. :s

Happily, she came round just fine from the surgery and Andrew at last had an answer- grade II (out of III) damage to her cruciate ligament. :(  There was nothing he could do to aid recovery while in investigating, it was deemed to be a "time is the greatest healer" situation.

So yet more box rest with some inhand walking (poor Hopalong!) and then (thankfully!) out to the field for a further 3 months field rest with a check up to follow.

Hopalong was very happy to be back out in the field again and had 5 mad minutes showing me just how happy she was before settling down to the important business of eating!  Very nervewracking to watch and pray that she wasn't going to reinjure herself, but thankfully all seemed fine.

 We went back for our check up at the start of July and Andrew was very happy with her recovery. :)  He said to gradually try bringing her back into work with some quiet hacking, gradually increasing time spent riding/amount of trot work/introduce canter again once fitter.  Great news! :)

Here is some onboard footage from our first hack out- a whole 10mins up the road and back! ;)  But finally a chance again to look through "batears" and the best view in the world. :)
I am very happy to be back on board, Hopalong doesn't look so sure! ;)

So we spent 2 months being happy hackers, gradually upping the distance/trot work and Hopalong feeling very keen and enthusiastic about being back out and about again. :)  It was perfect timing with it being July/August and so able to make the most of our Scottish "summer"... well, at least it was light in the evenings after work, if not sunny all the time?! ;)

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Turnberry BE90 Regional Final - Sun 5th Sept

So… last BE report from Hopalong and me for this year. :(  We were off to Turnberry on Sunday to take part in the BE90RF in an attempt to qualify for Badminton.  I had been dreaming of an elusive top 4 finish for about 2 weeks previous but was very resigned to the fact that it wasn’t likely to happen.  However, I had done my best with dressage practice through the week, spent all of Saturday cleaning and polishing tack/pony (if only marks were being awarded for shininess of both!) and went with the intention of giving it my best shot.

The parking steward took one look at us “paupers” with the diddy trailer and directed us to parking spot pretty much at the entrance to the event which happened to be the wrong end of a flipping runway from the action.  It took a good 10mins each way to hike to/from comp areas and trailer!  Just as well my friend Nic was coming along later to help with turnaround between SJ and XC as we only had 35mins between them and that would be taken up getting from SJ to trailer and back to XC again, never mind allowing for tack/clothing change and colour coordination. ;)

For stressage, I tried some lavender/bergamot/chamomile on Hopalong’s muzzle all through the morning to try chill her out.  I also added in an extra 15min warm up time to do plenty mooching about in between stints of proper warm up work to see if this would work.  I figured as it was a step down in level her fitness should cope with a little extra dressage warm up.

She warmed up quite nicely and Turnberry has a lovely big, flat warm up area for the dressage so we had plenty space which was great.  We were last in our section to go and had to follow a friend, Irene and her lovely boy Sam, who are quite the dressage divas!  It was blowing a gale and Hopalong was not loving having to go into the wind, but we pulled off what felt like a nice enough test, at least some of it in an outline and not too many fights about it.  Ended up on 38 with the leader on 30.5 and 16th/21.  So pretty much assured of no Badminton ticket.  But still pleased with an improvement on previous outings and maybe in a normal section that would have seen us nearer the top half.

Sadly, we had a major timing clash with a XC section that Bob had to take photos of and so there is no photographic evidence of us doing one of our best tests of the year- blimmin’ typical!  He’s now trying to say maybe he’s a dressage jinx and should stay away, but I think that’s just an excuse to avoid having to watch me do dressage?! So I’m afraid you’ll just have to believe me that she felt nicer than normal and the photos would have been nicer than normal!

As we were so many miles away, I headed up to SJ for alloted time to find them running late.  Grrr.  Had a fair bit of hanging around and nearly gave Bob a heart attack when he noticed me sneaking into ring early and he was too busy blethering… then snuck out again as we were just giving a nappy horse a lead in (I tried asking for 5 mark deduction on dressage score for this gesture of goodwill, but they just laughed?! ).

Warmed up nicely and then found a totally different horse when we went into the ring (properly this time!) to jump!  She just switched on and got so buzzy I couldn’t get her back to trot to change canter lead before first fence!  It made for a bit of a sticky round as I felt I was having to fight to keep any sort of rythymn and not end up getting too flast and fast to the scary fally downy poles.  Was all going fine until no.7 where it felt like an ok stride, but she just caught it behind.  Very annoying as we can jump unaff DC SJ all day long and yet our BE SJ has gone horribly wrong this season.  Managed to chip an extra stride in to the first part of the 1-stride double at the penultimate fence, so then had 2 strides in the middle (yet kept them both up and in the vid she almost makes it look like it should be 2 strides she’s so neat!) and over the last to finish on the 4 faults.

Fence 1- concentrating much?!

Fence 3

Fence 5

My friend Philly was kind enough to video for me, so for your entertainment, here’s the round from fence 3 onwards.  You can’t really see clearly what went wrong at no.7 (green/yellow upright) but looks like we got a nice stride (not miles away or under the bottom).

So mega quick turnaround (thanks to Nic for mostly sorting Hopalong’s colour co-ordination while I got changed!) and up to XC.  We were to chase around after Irene and Sam!  Hopalong warmed up very keen- jumping the warm up fence and then zooming off looking for another one, very cute and funny!  Set off and over the log, rolltop and barrel with flowers at 1-3 lovely then good gallop into the next field and over the table at 4, zoomed off to 5ab;

Grossick Pro Pics then click along the next 4.

Then to the water and house 6ab. She had a wee look at the water, but a wee kick and a “don’t be so silly” and we splashed through;
And out over the house;

We then went up over the rail with flowers under at 7, turned down the hill over rail with straw bales at 8 and zoomed over the steeplchase at 9.  Up the hill then step at 10, along a line of fences across the top of the field rail with flowers, log and barrels 11-13, then zoomed down the hill to palisade spread fence at 14.

Popped through the rail to ditch at 15ab fine and then double of hedges at 16/17.  When walking course, I’d walked it as 2 strides but joked with Bob “so that will be 3 Hopalong strides” as she likes adding in rather than taking out.  True enough, she popped in very neatly over the first one and so got the three strides in.

No. 16 (more concentrating!);

No. 17;

Gave Philly (videographer!) a giggle as I shouted to Bob “see, told you it was 3 Hopalong strides…” as we went past.  To which he challenged us to a race… we won! ;)

Some Grossick hedge shots (plus next 4)

Over the sloping gate at 18 and then onto the skinny/corner at 19.

Grossick corner photos (plus next 3)
We then zoomed off towards the last two fences- a wee shot from Bob as we headed back to start/finish field;
Over the log pile at 20 and a proper yee-ha fabulous jump over the roll top with brush at the last to finish clear and 16s inside the time.  :D

So we finished up 13th out of the 21.  Would have only been 11th (same score as 10th place but 1s faster XC!) without the pole down.  Was good fun and she felt great XC, so much fun.  So no Hopalong at Badminton sadly, but a good fun last BE for the year.

Again, fab video from Philly.  I love how happy she looks in this- ears up and looking for the next fence.  I had been asking Nic early how to tell if they enjoy it, but from watching the vid I think she does? :)