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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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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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People You Will Meet in The Dressage Warmup

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Needs a sat nav

Rider with no concept of basic rules of the school usually riding along naval grazing while others have to swerve around them. Will have ‘left hand to left hand’ hissed at them at least ten times in the warm up but probably won’t even notice as they almost crush your knee against the wall.

 

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Will spend the entire time in the warm up arena riding a twenty metre circle while getting a lesson off someone. Shoots glaring looks at anyone who dares to enter said circle.

 

The Diva

To find them just follow the histrionic echoes of their tone of dissatisfaction that waft across the warm up. Will literally act as if their Olympic effort has been derailed if they realise a novice class is running ten minutes behind when they are ready to go in. Usually accompanied by a minion. Cannot possibly warm up at any level without the minion applying at least six white boots.

 

The Minion

Groom / partner / parent demoted to general dogsbody dominated to the point where they have no opinion of their own and just live to serve and hope they get out alive at the end of the event.

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Winter Finals, here we come!

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Sunday was quite simply, an experience. I headed off with two friends to our first Dressage Ireland competition of the season. They were keen to qualify for Cavan,  I just needed three more scores myself and one wanted to test drive her new lorry so we thought why not and headed off out West to County Clare to compete in the North Munster region.

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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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We’re All Mad here

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“Oh my god this feels amazing” I shrieked across the arena at a friend last week followed by “please say it doesn’t look terrible”!! No, I wasn’t doing anything incredible, there was no Piaffe or passage going on not even an accidental spook inspired one. I wasn’t doing anything remotely close to a dressage test movement. I’d simply, after trying to get it for almost half an hour managed to get a horse really long and low, stretching out taking the contact forward and working over the back which for at least six strides felt bloody amazing. Naturally I lost it about half a circle later and spent the rest of my time trying to find it again. See, that’s what happens when you love flatwork, the feeling of doing it even half right for half a circle is like crack cocaine and we need our fix. We are mad really.

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Showjumping Holy Trinity – The canter, the line and the trust!

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When I am teaching show jumping or cross country I have a mantra I always bang on about. Why? Well the answer is two- fold. Firstly if you are going to be a coach you need to have your own philosophy on things and your own way of explaining things (Drive that bus Christa!), otherwise sure we are all just going to stand there bored reciting lines from a book. I have a list of my own choice phrases some of which are only adult appropriate. Secondly, banging on about something is the only way it will penetrate the massive level of noise the average human hears daily and embed itself into their brain. When that happens you have some hope that it might be recalled by the rider when you are not there or in competition. I know it works as it is what most religions and the Irish educational system in the 90’s was based on. I can’t remember what I did last week but Jesus I can remember some amount of random stuff from school simply because it was drummed into me day in day out. I haven’t a clue for example who Zacchaeus is for example but there is a song in my head for the past twenty years from school that says he was a greedy little man.

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