Category Archives: General

Things I learned at Jumping Amsterdam

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Last weekend was a bit of a dream come true for me. After a very hectic Christmas with long days working in the yard and then a rollercoaster return to the day job I was grateful to have a few days off booked to get away from everything, to learn and to plan. While I was looking forward to heading to Jumping Amsterdam for the World Cup Dressage and Show jumping I honestly wasn’t expecting half of what I saw and what I learned. The finale of the dressage was something I will never forget – to see three dressage greats – Isabel Werth, Charlotte Dujardin and Edward Gal celebrate their results passaging side by side to a very excited crowd was emotional to say the least. (And no I wasn’t smoking the naughty stuff and feeling high – it was genuine emotion!).

 

So what did I learn?

 

Its not too expensive to go and see your idols in real life up close – our world cup tickets didn’t cost much at all so if you are on the fence about going to a show like this – get online and book it – you only live once. I will be heading to another as soon as I can!

 

Firstly that no matter what budget you head to a show like this with, its never going to be enough to buy half the things you decide you “need” when you see them. Quite a bit of time was spent practically licking the incredible lorries on sale. Jesus H if I win the lotto I know who to ring!

 

The camera really does alter perspective and size – Dorothee Schneider’s Sammy Davis Jr is much taller in real life than he appears on the tv! Edward Gal was shorter than I expected (still nearly a foot taller than me mind you!). Charlotte Dujardin’s mount has the nicest ears and the kindest expression she’s a picture to watch and just looks willing to please every step of the way.

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The qualification test for the Grand Prix Freestyle  is so worth watching. Seeing horse and riders completing a set test rather than their own designed freestyle really highlighted what each partnership excel at and find difficult. Even more interesting was watching which movements seemed universally challenging – notably passage to left canter at E and the canter half pass zig zag.

 

I’ve never witnessed riders physically work so hard in my life. For the qualification test we were lucky enough to have seats very close to ringside and could see every detail from the muscling on the horses to the riders aids. Glocks Zonik seemed quite hot in the qualification test and the physical strength of Edward Gal honestly shocked me – when that stallion needed him Edward picked him up and put him where he needed to be, every time. You could see the exertion on his face but every step of the way he helped that horse to go through. It was an eye opener and woke me up a lot. It made me realise – do you want to be an athlete, even an amateur athlete? Right, then start acting like one. Watching these riders made me realise its simple – to get better you need to push though, to work harder and to gain a little bit by bit over time.

 

The music in the arenas is fantastic – while you can hear it on TV the crowd and acoustics live were at a different level. The music choices are so varied but I found I absolutely loved Charlotte Frys higher love / diamonds mix up as it was so punchy and I don’t think I have ever seen a horse so in time to music as her trot work was.

 

If it kills me I want to learn to ride like a German before I die. I am an Isabel Werth fan and seeing her live with the bonus of her winning both days left me speechless. I am 5’2” and I have thighs so while I admire many riders, I simply cant identify physically with someone over six foot with long slim legs as unfortunately mine will never look or work in that way. Isabel Werth has thighs and my god does she know how to use them. Her half pass change of hand is like a boat gliding on water. Being honest at times she rode so off the seat and leg that the reins seemed like an inconvenience. The confidence that the German riders had in building their marks through steady impulsion, throughness and pure accuracy without relying on flamboyancy was a huge learning curve.

 

The best riders won. Sitting to watch every test in the qualification test and the freestyle showed that in both cases the riders that ended up at the top did not make mistakes in their tests. Their changes were correct, they at times had to work hard to get something but at all times they delivered the movement in question. This was valuable – its easy to ride a test that might have ‘felt’ good but I know when I’ve gotten bad marks I’ve had to honestly ask myself – was it accurate, did you ride the movement that was asked for where it was asked for and often times the answer was no.

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The turnout. I love turnout. I always feel that turning your horse out well is something everyone across the board can afford. Forget the glitzy saddle pads and tack for a minute – the turnout of these horses is pristine. Immaculate clips, gleaming coats, perfect plaits. Embarrassingly while I’ve turned out many other horses well, my own and those I groom need and are getting a makeover very soon! Sammy likes to poo down his tail classy devil that he is – currently he has a poo and shavings tail and unruly feathers that my backman David has told me to clip so that ‘the poor fecker might actually have warm dry legs for five minutes’. Samuels mane could give Tina Turner a run for her money with Oisins not far behind it and Setantas tail is like Rapunzel.

 

I enjoyed the show jumping much more than I expected. The atmosphere was so electric and the riders were such good sport and the music and compere just gets the whole crowd going.

 

Tack wise, for show jumping, anything goes! I tried out of curiosity to find consistencies in the tack or brands but nope – everything from Marcus Ehning in a simple snaffle to riders in combination bits that I’d need an instruction manual for. The only thing consistent was the goal – keep the horse forward and in control to the fences. So if your horse goes best in a happy mouth straight bar or a combination hackamore – feck it – you do you – whatever gets you both safely to the otherwise of the jump!

 

Sometimes lets be honest when jumping we have all had a whinge about a line being ‘too tight’ or an arena ‘too small’. To be blunt, we all need to STFU. These lads are jumping a 1.60m course in an arena smaller than my outdoor – the minimum FEI guidelines for indoor is 25 * 50m. There is no let up or breathing room on the course – every fence affects the line to the next its incredibly testing.

 

The jump off was nail biting. There’s a special kind of brave required to hit a long one at that height – it must feel like throwing your heart in the air and hoping the rest follows.

 

How many sports do you know where people have to retire by a certain age? I know a lot. I often wish I was in love with a sport that required inexpensive equipment that wasn’t alive. However our sport is one of few where men and woman compete equally on a level playing field and often into their later years. It’s a sport where riders of all ages can excel and you can be still doing it aged sixty with all your life experience behind you. In 1991 Isabel Werth won team and individual medals – 29 years later shes STILL making history! Marcus Ehning won team gold at the 1993 european young riders. 27 years later he is still competing at the very top. He rode a horse last Sunday and in just a simple snaffle when Marcus said sit and wait – oh it did! So while horses are an expensive life choice, at least if we survive the stress of it we can be doing it for years to come!

 

If you are lucky enough to have friends, family and / or a partner who enjoys horses with you – celebrate them. It’s a wonderful sport to enjoy and its even better to enjoy with others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making a Balls of It!

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Sammy doing his first in hand session 

Well last week was full of ups and downs! On Wednesday I learned to play with balls while riding and it was not as erotic as that sounds!! 😃 . I will be the first to admit that when I first heard of Franklin Balls – rubber air filled balls that look like some kind of deformed sex toy I was sceptical. That said when you are wonky as a donkey you will give anything a try so I ended up cantering along with one of these giving me what felt like a Brazillian bum lift in the saddle. I was laughing so much I was afraid I would fall off. Sammy seemed quite happy with me in this position which was very interesting. I didn’t feel the effects until I removed the ball – apparently that’s what is meant to happen – you suddenly feel like you are sitting really really deep down in your saddle. I had physio on Tuesday and could feel the muscles that the physio stimulated (The multifidus on my left side) working when I used these so that’s piqued my interest. I rode briefly with a ball under each arm pit and the difference this made … was weird. I suffer from contraction of the muscle under my right armpit in particular and this is often worked on in osteo treatment – I also struggle to keep my right shoulder back. I swear these balls did something to get my brain to pay more attention and as I rode further on in the week I was more aware of how to open my shoulders and work my elbows. Its very odd but worth saving up for a set for myself I think.

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I had a few people asking where to buy the balls – they are available on Amazon:

Full rider set – https://amzn.to/31lbH9b

 

Ball pictures above that goes between the rider and the saddle – https://amzn.to/2UNLnll

Set of two balls that go under the riders arms – https://amzn.to/2LF00mZ

The balls can all be used off the horse also in core strength and pilates training

 

On Friday Hugo and I had a dressage lesson with Sorrell (without the Franklin balls as he is 17.2hh which is high enough without lifting me!) which was brilliant as we really got him swinging along and I was a lot less shocking at sitting into his canter. I am actually enjoying riding him in sitting trot which is something I never ever thought I would say about riding any horse in it!
Sammy and I then had our first in hand lesson. Rather predictably he made a liar out of me. His phobia of things touching his leg doesn’t apply to people he likes and he decided Sorrell was his new favourite person and was doing shoulder in and leg yield in hand and picking up his hind legs on command. He took the p*ss out of me when I had a go but we realised that he was taking advantage of my shorter height and getting his nose past my elbow so I have a few tricks to practice now. I have never really done in hand work before and wanted to try it as I think its great bonding with the horse as well as training. It also was very beneficial for me to watch him being worked on the ground as there are a number of behaviours under saddle that present on the ground too.

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Saturday we headed to Spruce Lodge. Hugo was very excited to be out and about after a break and piaffed his way to the warm up where I had to trot for a while to chill him out enough o walk and relax. I started warming up and he felt fantastic which was all great except we hit the pinnacle of adrenaline versus fitness at this point and it didn’t last until our test. In that test Hugo decided to show the judge his great his canter is – in the trot work. As the judge said … what a pity. I also forgot I had a right shoulder let alone how to use it so I rode like a bag of spanners. Our second test went a lot better. We placed third but missed out on our last score for Cavan by ….. ONE MARK. Oh yes how close can you get to 64% and not get it? 63.75% that’s how close. Seriously how do I do this? I got 63.86 last year it’s a skill at this stage. On the plus side everyone except me qualified so rather than having a whinge I want to say congrats to Clara, Genna and Niamh! I have a last shot next Saturday at Marlton so lets hope luck is on my side.

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Hugo all dressed up 

Sammy loved Saturday as Emma forgot he wasn’t coming to spruce lodge and gave him an early breakfast so he was fed early and didn’t have to do dressage which was a win in his eyes. Sammy got to go to Redhills for a well needed show jumping lesson yesterday. When it comes to show jumping you cant beat Tom Walsh. He makes it simple, has a system that works and isn’t afraid to tell me to shut up and jump and put manners on my animal. Before I got lessons with Tom I didn’t really have one system I embraced for riding or teaching jumping – I do now as what he teaches just works and doesn’t get over technical. Last time I went to Redhills I saw a duff stride and hit the deck while my confused horse jumped over me so I am pleased to report that yesterday I managed to keep my bum in the saddle and despite a few ropey strides we jumped a track that was bigger than what I jumped in a while. Chica was horrified that I had gone to Spruce lodge with Lottie Emma’s jack Russell and spent yesterday evening following me around the yard, stealing coarse mix and demanding her own adventure so myself and Kia brought her for a stroll on the Curragh!

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Sammy at Redhills

The most insignificant achievement of the week was a big one for me – I went for my first solo hack on Chanel. Chanel and I have a history that’s a bit special that ill explain another time but sometimes a horse is just meant to be your horse. I rode Chanel back in April and had to stop when my back seized up. She had a break while I recovered and while we sold Merlot. Rory got her started again for me and has been amazing training me how to ride her not that I am capable of producing anything like that work he does on her yet. I had hacked her once before in company but yesterday tacked up, mounted up and had a lovely spin around the gallops and woods. Im looking forwards to really getting to know her.

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Speaking of Merlot, if it was fate that brought myself and Chanel together it was the same for Merlot and her new owner who saw a video of her jumping and contacted me saying ‘that’s the horse for me’. She was right and they jumped their first double clear at BSJA this weekend!

Eventing Adventures – Torrential Tattersalls!

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So this weekend was really one of ups and downs. On Friday Merlot 🍷🐴left for her new home in the UK. Thanks to everyone who asked if I was ok – I am as sometimes you have to make tough decisions but when its for the right reason it’s the right decision. She has gone to a wonderful person and a great home and I wish them the very best success together.

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More Things I learned While Eventing

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Photo by Equus Pix

Last week, after a two year break I did two events in four days on my unicorn moving up a level since our last time out in 2017. It was great fun but as usual we learned a few things along the way….

  • If you are going to drive 3 + hours each way to an event bring a friend.

 

  • If you still like someone after six or more hours together in a car, you are definitely friends

 

  • When adding your route to a maps app make sure ‘avoid motorways’ is unticked

 

  • It doesn’t matter how many lists you make you will always forget something

 

  • However many studs you think you need, buy twice that many

 

  • It is not just horses who need electrolytes and water – drink water if you don’t want to look like a raisin the next day

 

  • never underestimate how terrifying it can be if a flower almost touches your horses leg in a dressage test

 

  • The camera adds ten pounds to the rider and takes at least 10cm off the height of a fence. The giant wooden chasm you had to jump over in real life will always look up to your knee in photos.

 

  • if you ask if you should bring a waterproof rug and your friends says ‘No, it wont rain’ – it will definitely rain. It will rain a lot

 

  • The only thing more of a pain in the swiss than returning from XC soaked to your knickers is trying to wrangle studs out of the feet of a horse who is determined to eat grass in torrential rain

 

  • The flimsier your footwear the more times a horse will try and stand on you with studs in

 

  • When packing spare clothes include socks and underwear unless you like driving home with a wet ass.

 

  • Nothing feels as good as a warm and dry change of clothes after getting soaked.

 

  • When changing in your horsebox make sure your horse cant nip your bum.

 

  • Riders going through adrenaline crash who have not eaten in about six hours do not make healthy food choices.

 

  • When it comes to travelling horses while noise is a concern, silence is suspicious.

 

  • It doesn’t matter how neat and organised your jeep was on the way there, on the way home it will be a chaotic mess of mud / sweat / hair covered stuff that no longer even fits

 

  • Nothing that leaves home white comes home white

 

  • It doesn’t matter how many times you swear you will, no one is every fresh enough after getting home to clear out the horsebox or jeep the same evening when they get home

 

  • It doesn’t matter how many times you swear you will clean out the horsebox and jeep the next day, it will be at least three days later.

 

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Things All Equestrians Do

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  • Ignore excruciating and ongoing pain and stiffness blaming lack of fitness / getting old / an old injury but call the physio, vet and backman at the first sign of mild discomfort in the horse

 

  • Keep horses teeth maintained twice yearly but avoid our own dentist unless the dental pain is so bad that it can’t be cured by whiskey and / or difene

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Product Review – Janni Bars Leather Balm

 

I love doing product reviews. I am a big fan of Janni Bars already – they are a local small company who specialise in environmentally friendly and plastic free beauty products for humans, horses and dogs.

I currently use several of their bars already – the after work bar to bathe my horses after a hard work session, the bright white shampoo bar for washing their white legs before a show and the Avocado Scrub soap on my hands. I also love the mojito scrub for my shower – it smells incredible!

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BACK to Basics

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I have always had a ‘bad back’ for lack of a better expression. I remember as a child my mother telling me to stand straight, shoulders back and to be honest I just couldn’t. It never did me any great harm and I managed to learn to ride starting aged ten but over the years ‘sit up’ was ringing in my ears. I had an accident about 15 years ago. I was working leading treks and a pony kicked my horse and my horse bolted under a tree, I took a branch to the neck and was bent back and the cantle of the saddle went into my back. I was xrayed and as there was no structural damage I was given anti inflammatories and sent on my way. It was an accident pure and simple and anyone who knows me knows my hatred of our compensation culture – there is no blame there, I worked with horses I hurt myself, that’s life. I had another fall off my mare where her back legs slipped as she jumped and I went head first into the ground causing a concussion and vertabrea damage in my neck which made for some interesting weeks of being fairly out of it. I found an excellent chiropractor at the time who helped greatly with my neck diagnosed a mild scoliosis in my back ( I was never checked for it in school). This went some way to explaining my one sidedness and the fact that I have always ridden with my left stirrup at least one hole longer than my right! This man went back to his native country so I did nothing until about ten years ago I couldn’t put weight onto one leg without pain and a friend dragged me down to a spinologist in Carlow. That man changed my life and got me mobile again through cranio sacral therapy and manipulation.

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Whatever you choose to feed will grow

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Anxiety, fear, competition nerves, general nerves, fear of failure and awareness of vulnerability and the possibility of physical injury. Ever felt like this? Ever felt it before you got on a horse or even before you got to the yard or on the drive to a competition? Of course you have. Ever felt physical symptoms? Stomach ache, diarrohea, vomiting or even just sweaty palms and the little flutter in your chest? I bet you have.

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We don’t have to be amazing at this

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This is something I found myself speaking a lot about last week in person and online. I am, like many others, an amateur rider. Horses are not in my family background and much as they are what I live for, I had neither the talent, the support or the funds to be a professional at this sport. Thankfully I am good enough at other things to manage to be gainfully employed doing them which in turn allows me to enjoy horses which are my true passion in life.

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Sit in Row 24 and Keep Off The Floor!

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Positive position changes! Before (below) and after (above) 

Fresh after our Roland Tong clinic on Friday a couple of weeks back, Sammy was rather intrigued at being put back into the horsebox on Saturday. “Jumps Sammy” I promised as I bribed him up the ramp with a haylage net. We set off for Killossery for the Sarah Ennis eventing clinic but ground to a halt at the M50 on ramp which pretty much resembled a car park. I rang the venue who rather than saying oh well go home, said take your time we will make it work in another session which was really accommodating of them. We arrived an hour later to find the clinic had it’s own delays but we were ready to join a group of four other riders and get going in the indoor.

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