One of my coaches used to tell me that it was always better to ride a test bravely aiming for the 8’s and 9’s even if it sometimes meant that you had a mistake and got 3’s or 4’s as well. My most recent equine adventure could be summarised by this sentiment, albeit accidentally.
On a chilly Thursday afternoon, early in July, I raced out of work to pick my mum up from the Mackay airport, for a weekend that Mum and I had been planning for the last six months. Mum lives on the Sunshine Coast, however after completing my university studies I had to make the move up to Mackay for work. With 840km of QLD coast between us, it’s not very often that we get the opportunity to go to competitions together – needless to say we were both a bit excited. I bundled mum and her suitcase into my ute and we were off to see the pony and get a head start on the packing. We arrived home to find one of my favourite things, a package from Wilson Equestrian. It was my ‘Keeping it classy’ stretchy belt in navy red and white (I managed to wear it for all of one day before gifting it to mum who was in need of a belt upgrade).
After an early start we arrived at Black River Pony Club, around 30 minutes north of Townsville, mid afternoon. As we began setting up camp, I quickly realised just how used to ‘roughing it’ I had become over the last 12 months – some of this it must be said is probably quite unnecessary. After all, my float doesn’t have a single light despite the fact that my partner is an electrician! After a lovely ride to loosen Nonie up, I washed her down and then gave her dinner. The light was fading fast, but Nonie is a horse ruled by her stomach, and with all the horses in surrounding yards getting their dinner, I knew there would be little chance of her standing nicely until her appetite was satisfied. The one major problem in this otherwise flawless plan was that the brand new battery in my head lamp had run flat in the month since my last competition. This meant that I plaited Nonie up held in the dark and half by the light of a small torch that I held between my teeth. Surprisingly, the result was one of my best plait jobs in recent history! The Wilson’s Equestrian skinny hood did its job holding those plaits firmly in place.
Saturday morning rolled around quickly and boy was it chilly, well at least by North Queensland standards. The first test of the day was the Novice 2.2, Nonie warmed up beautifully, but we lost the energy a little as we went into the arena. We produced a nice test which was calm soft and correct but lacked that extra sparkle. With an hour break before my next test, I hopped off and gave Nonie a little break. With eye’s on the ground (aka Mum), I was able to push Nonie and myself a little more in our warm up for the second test. I felt like I had Nonie much more on the aids and with an extra spring in her trot. The test started great, uphill shoulder-ins that really had Nonie pushing into the bridle, forward rein back, soft walk canter transitions. As we came around to start the counter canter loop of the 3 loop serpentine, Nonie popped in the most beautiful clean flying change. Unfortunately being an elementary test, the flying change wasn’t really called for, but I was so happy with the change that I almost forgot to bring her back to ask for the correct lead. When I got my test sheet back I was chuffed to see that the awesome feeling Nonie gave me was reflected in the judge’s comment’s and score with the first few movement receiving a handful of 7’s and a spattering of 8’s. Unfortunately, the test took a turn after our impromptu flying change, I’m still not really sure what Nonie saw or why it was so offensive but she zoomed through the rest of the test and included some sideways work that sadly looked nothing like Valegro’s half pass.
Another break, a conscious effort to refocus and we got ready for our last test. As we trotted around the arena, I slipped in a few snappy transitions to make sure Nonie’s attention was on me and not whatever was happening outside the arena. I was utterly thrilled with our last test of the day. I love the how the elementary 3.2 rides and was pleased that Nonie stayed with me the entire test. The icing on the cake was that we managed a new personal best score of 65.7%, missing out on first place by 0.2%! I was very comfortable in my Wilson Equestrian Super stick breeches, the addition of the black show jacket finished the look. It is such a great jacket, lightweight, breathable, well fitted and beautifully cut and best of all super affordable.
Sunday dawned a little warmer than the previous days, and with my first test not being scheduled until 10am I was able to relax into the day and watch the higher level riders. I had the pleasure of watching one of the local riders on his lovely paint warmblood mare riding the Prix St George – the combination are quite eye catching. Between the big trip on Friday and a full day Saturday I think both Nonie was feeling a bit tired; I am still learning how to get the best out of Nonie at these times. We rounded the weekend off with a calm obedient elementary test and, active novice test.
Overall, I was thrilled with the weekend that we had, finishing with two firsts and two seconds, but more importantly being really happy with the quality of work we are putting forward. The remainder of July has passed quickly as I prepare to travel down to the Sunshine Coast for most of August for several competitions and to get in some serious training with my wonderful coach Danielle Keogh who is based down there.