Category Archives: Fiona De La Mezzo

Just another amateur Show jumper – A Show jumper out of water

Just another amateur Show jumper – A Show jumper out of water

Hi everyone,

I did something out of character this month as a Show jumper and I went to a local dressage day. Truth be told
what sparked my interest was the lead rein class for my 5 year old daughter and her pony
Sam. She seemed keen, so I figured I might as well take a horse too. Now I’m not sure if it’s
the subjective nature of the competition or what, but while I really enjoy training dressage at
home, I would be lying if I was excited to be competing in it.

The day started off just trying to make sure I remembered everything. Most importantly, I
learnt from a previous mistake and made sure I had more than enough snacks for Miss 5.
Dealing with a hungry/angry 5 year old is bad enough at the best of times at home, much less
if it occurs in public at a show (or worse in the ring itself). So I had a bucket load of fruit and
snacks!

Dressage… Gulp…

As I have already hinted, the dressage arena is not my comfort zone however I was
determined to do a decent job. I spent time making Celeste look as presentable as I knew how
which is bloody hard when you are running after the kids. I also borrowed a dressage saddle
(which to a show jumper feels like a bucket). The long stirrups felt odd and the position the
saddle put me in was much deeper than what me and the horse are used too. Truthfully I ride
better without stirrups in my flat jump saddle, but alas I didn’t think that would be looked
upon kindly. So I sucked it up, and did my best impression of a Show jumper riding dressage.

What I found the hardest was riding so deep with my seat in the canter as Celeste is a horse
that I usually ride light. As such, our upward canter transitions included some tail swishing
and resistance (which could probably be translated to f**k you or something similar).
Remembering the test was another challenge. It’s funny that I can learn a Show jump course easily
in a few minutes, yet I struggle to learn a dressage test with weeks of preparation. Before I
went in, I recounted the test to Celeste’s owner who understands the dressage world more
than I.

Me “About here I do this, and about there I do that”
Celeste’s owner listens quietly.
Me “Oh, I throw the reins at her on the circle for the long and low”
Celeste’s owner gives me a half amused half worried look “Not actually throw them though
right?”

Me “Oh yes, it won’t be a show jumper throwing the reins, it will be demure and graceful”
Celeste’s owner looks relieved that she doesn’t have to stage an intervention.
Now the beginning of the test didn’t go to plan as the marker was laying on its side right next
to the entry thanks to the windy conditions. According to my horse it was rather spooky so
our trot down the centreline was more like a shy into the arena, followed by jockey trying to
get her s**t together as we headed to X.

 

Thankfully the beginning was probably the worst part, and while I could feel her eyeballing the other highly suspicious markers on their sides of the arena, there were no other spooks and she relaxed as she went on. All in all we
managed a decent test and didn’t disgrace ourselves considering my last dressage competition
was last year and then prior to that it would have been 10 years ago.

Lead Rein

Now the idea of doing the lead rein class was great in theory. However in practice, it was
harder work than I anticipated. There was the option to do fancy dress, so of course we
thought that would be a good idea. So bring on Super Girl riding her Super Pony. Getting
both pony and jockey ready on time was my goal. Miss 5 first wants a snack, then I spot a
bright green poo stain on the pony’s previously pristine white sock, then Miss 5 needs to go
to the toilet. Oh and we cannot forget about Miss 5’s nerves being manifested in short bursts
of cranky/diva behaviour where I am calm on the outside but inside I simultaneously want to
throttle her and hope no one is watching.….Oh the joys! But despite this we were ready early
and once Miss 5 was on Super Sam she was happy (and the diva from minutes before
disappeared).

You would think I might have practiced the test on foot beforehand but alas, no (chronically
time poor mum). So I was really hoping my memory would serve me well. The sand arena
felt a lot like workout but in less comfortable shoes (my top boots). I tried to give my little
girl words of quiet encouragement, making sure the pony did was he was told, and not to trip
over ass over tit! Thankfully the test was over quickly, I kept some “mummy cred” by not
stuffing up the test, and most importantly, Miss 5 enjoyed herself.

Blue Ribbons…Miss 5 was excited to walk away with a blue ribbon and array of prizes from the day. With a
whopping score of 96% I have never seen nicer comments on a test and they made my little
girls day. Thank you NCEC and judges! This day reminded me that every once in a while it
is good to get out of your comfort zone, do something a bit different and hopefully learn
something.

Until next time 🙂

 

Read more of Fiona’s Blogs…

 

Just another Amateur Show Jumper – Spring has Sprung

Just another amateur showjumper – Spring has sprung

Spring is in the air and early morning rides before work are much more pleasant (ie I can
actually feel my fingers and toes and am not questioning my sanity every stride). The
negative is that dust seems to stick to my face quite easily, and I have shown up to work
multiple times with a dirt beard. It would be remiss of me to talk about spring and not talk
about the joys having two mares in full work. Let’s just say I am super glad they can’t talk,
because I am pretty sure I would cop a mouthful.

Since my previous blog, I spent a week feeling sooky over my performance at the NSW State Titles. However the universe put my issues into perspective after a close friend and a family
member have faced/are facing some really serious health related issues. So after giving
myself a much needed kick up the bum, I readjusted my attitude and got on with it.
Mid November I took the mares to the local jump club.

I jumped Narnia her around the 1m and the 1.10m class as a way of continuing to get her
confidence back to where it was pre-titles. One of my biggest lessons I have learnt jumping
horses is that you should never worry about stepping them back. I have seen many a horse be
ruined by people who continue to step their horses up or give their horses less than adequate
rides without some form of consolidation (then wonder why their horses are dogging it “all of
a sudden”). Anyway, thankfully a month of going well and truly back to basics has paid off
and Narnia was back to her normal self. Bless her, she genuinely loves her job, which makes
training a lot easier. So next event all going well I’ll step her back up to her 1.20ms.

 

 

I also think I am finally starting to click with Celeste (the mare that I ride but don’t own).
She is a quirky mare who I have grown to really enjoy. I call myself a bit of a ‘slow burn’
kind of rider, and she is an example of a horse that I have taken along slowly.

I have seen footage of Sam Lyle jumping Celeste around the 1.20m mark, but I have been
sticking to low heights. Some would say I am being too cautious or not using her to the best
of her ability (or maybe just a crap rider). However in my opinion, until I can get her mind
where I want it, there is no point asking her to jump higher. Plus being a mum has definitely
brought some caution into what I do.

It is no longer just me that I have to think about. Sure she can jump 1.20m but just because a horse “can” do something, it doesn’t automatically mean it should. Sam Lyle has more talent in his little toe than I have in my entire existence,
so it would be mighty presumptuous to think just because the horse jumped the height with
him, that I would be able to do it right away.

So I have focused on getting the basics right with her first. To me I would rather do a nice
round at 90cms, than have an absolute shocker at a higher height. In any case, Celeste jumped
well and did two clear rounds. She is still getting a little strong, but it is a manageable kind of
strong which I am ok with. I expect the more we do the better she will get. She just needs to
be more consistent in her rhythm at this stage, and I need to trust myself more and keep my
shoulders up (as my coach yelled at me from across the field).

 

 

Other news is that my young gelding Nifty just turned 3. He is the first horse that I have bred
and I am excited to finish breaking him in. He is out of my mare Statford Narnia (Statford
Novalis) by Glenara Gold Dust (Balou Du Rouet). The plan for the next 12 months is to
continue his education and finish breaking him in over summer, spell him through
autumn/winter, and bring him back into work as a 4 year old.

So watch this space for some serious training in the next few blogs.

 

Fiona is wearing the Tallow Breeches in Black

“Just Another Amateur Showjumper” – Canberra Classic and NSW Showjumping Championships

Canberra Classic

Well the 2018 show season is well and truly here and I am excited to compete locally (and somewhat frequently) over the next few months. 

The first show on my calendar was the Canberra Classic. It is a two day show which is run by the ACT Showjumping Club (ACTSJC). Because I love the sport and I am a glutton for punishment I am on the committee. So on top of preparing the two horses, I was also charged with the job of organising volunteers throughout the show.  This job can be challenging at times, because time is valuable, and people often do not want to commit to help. That being said, there is a group of volunteers who always offer to help, and I remain utterly grateful for their efforts!

My preparation for the Classic saw me get a tune up from my long term instructor Grant Hughes.  Back in the day, I used to get weekly lessons, flit around the stables carefree and with all the time in the world (not quite Saddle Club style – but not far off either).   These days I am more of a haggard looking hermit who people know but rarely see.  I also don’t have the time or money to get the amount of lessons I would like (or need). So I try and get lessons when I know I need them most (IE before a competition for a swift kick up the bum or when I am faced with a training challenge that I can’t resolve solo).

I always try and get a grid lesson with Narnia before a show because a) I can really work on my position, b)we can jump grids to get her a bit more careful, and c)it’s a good way for me to gauge my quality of canter and how well my solo training is going. On this occasion, Grant pointed out I was dropping my eyes and not being tall enough with my shoulders.  However my mare was jumping nicely which was encouraging.  Side note: I wish I picked up good habits as quickly or easily as I pick up bad ones!                   

I have also recently been given the ride on a mare called Celeste. She is a beautiful looking horse with a scopey jump to match.  I just need to learn to ride her properly! Therefore my preparation for the Classic also saw me get a much needed lesson on Celeste with Grant.  In this lesson, Grant highlighted that in training I was spending so much time trying to keep her ‘happy and settled’ and I wasn’t working her enough in a forward canter. To quote him “you need to go forward to slow her down”.  Needless to say, Grant worked his magic, pushed me when necessary, and helped me iron out a few jockey errors.  

This leads me to the competition itself. On the first day the weather was ordinary, and I felt ordinary too which wasn’t helped by one little human who thought mummy didn’t need to sleep the night before.  Needless to say I sucked it up and kept going.  Highlight was Narnia jumping her around her second 1.20m track and first amateur track well. I am my worst critic and there are definitely things I could have done better, but I was happy overall.      

The second day of competition was thankfully better weather, and my mood seemed to have lifted along with it. Celeste seemed to settle better in the warm up arena, and while she jumped everything with plenty of scope, our approach and departure still needs work! But I feel I am slowly getting to know her, and am confident once she trusts me and I ride her better, she will be a super. So my plan will be to keep her jumping low, establish a solid foundation before asking her to jump the moon.     


The second day also saw Narnia jump clear in the 1.15m class, and one down in the 1.20m amateur class. I was especially happy with Narnia because thanks to her jockey being disorganised/having the bladder the size of a pea we got to the practice arena with only one horse to go.  So we had a very rushed warm up before going into her biggest class of the show (inset face palm here).  In any case, the mare jumped super!

I walked out of the arena doing a Chris Chugg style pirouette and victory lap in my head. I was/am stoked.

I was so worried about crashing in the amateur class, I never imagined that the following day I would be in a car crash myself (rear ended to be specific). So I have scored the day off work on account of whiplash, and am busy planning for the NSW State Showjumping Titles which is being held in a month.                

Until next time!
  

“Just Another Amateur Showjumper” – NSW Showjumping Championships

My preparation for the NSW Showjumping Championships went pretty well all things considered.

Following the car accident, my back caused me some minor issues. However the pain was nothing a hot bath and drugs couldn’t fix. I am also very lucky to have some fabulous friends who helped me out by looking after the horses while I was carless and driving me around to doctor’s appointments during the day. 

Not riding for a week due to my back (and two days off work) gave me time which is a rare commodity for me. I binge watched several Netflix shows, ate my weight in chocolate, and got a heap of housework done. It also gave me a chance to do my entries for the upcoming show. This is when s**t got real. With two horses attending the four day show cost me over $500.

#thestruggleisreal

Now rewind ten years before I had a mortgage, 2 kids and a long list of ‘adulting’ related expenses, I would have paid this out of my pocket without a second thought. However these days when I am faced with such an expense I am always confronted by “mummy guilt”. For those who are lucky enough to have never suffered from this and/or don’t have kids, it is a crappy thing mums do to themselves when they feel they are not good enough.

Personally I feel guilty all the time when it comes to the horses (whether it be the time I spend away from my family or how much it all costs). A $500 entry fee could be used for a terms worth of swimming lessons for both kids, we could go away on a family holiday, or I could be responsible and put it on the mortgage or the credit card. However alas, I am choosing to use it on myself, and I struggle to reconcile my desire to ride / compete with what I ‘should’ do all the damn time.

It is this point where I usually start justifying my decision to myself. I will tell myself ‘at least I am not a junkie’, or ‘I am providing my children with a positive role model’ etc. However no matter how hard I try there is always a part of me that feels guilty and selfish about how much time/energy I invest *sigh*. 

Ideally I would have attended the Country Championships in Wagga the week before the Titles to get those nervous competition cobwebs out of the way (and in hindsight I wish I had).  When you are not competing week in, week out, it is easy to find yourself perpetually rusty in the ring. However taking additional leave was just not possible, so instead I focused on the practical things I could do (keeping my horses fit alongside adequate schooling and preparation at home). 

The lead up to the show definitely had its up and downs. There was a particularly ordinary riding display during a lesson on Celeste (which left me feeling useless). Not to mention that my hand and jods were covered in blood after I had a miss at a jump and somehow managed to cut my hand on the buckle of the breastplate?!? (Might need some Wilson Equestrian jods sooner rather than later!).

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Being springtime it also led to Narnia being particularly “marey” which presented a whole range of challenges from dealing with her moods reminiscent of an obnoxious teenager to her jumping out of her skin from a sniff of sugary green grass …..

Roll on to the show itself, the NSW State Showjumping Titles was the biggest show I have attended all year. Quick shout out to the tireless organisers and volunteers, you did a fabulous job! These events do not run themselves, and it is important that we all remember that. 

Unfortunately the show itself did not go to plan for me. In the first round of the Amateur class I had an epic miss through a combination which left me holding on for dear life, and Narnia royally saving my sorry ass. Unfortunately, my miss combined with slippery wet conditions led to Narnia losing confidence. To her credit she jumped everything I pointed her at. However four fences later I still couldn’t get my rhythm back and could feel her hesitation getting worse, so I made the decision to retire from the class.   


From that moment onwards, the show became one of redemption.  I scratched from the Amateur classes, and put her in a few 1m-1.10m classes. I would like to say that it was smooth sailing from here, but alas I cannot. Narnia spent the rest of the show not jumping as she normally would, and to be honest, I was not riding her as well as I could either. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t bitterly disappointed in myself, but that’s the nature of the sport. One day you are a rooster, the next you are a feather duster!   

The main positive from the show was the Celeste got a lot of exposure to the atmosphere. The first day she felt like she might explode from under me but by the end of the show she was trotting and cantering around quietly. Hoping this experience will translate to our next show!

 

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Another positive from the show was that I got to watch some inspiring showjumping.  I especially enjoyed watching the riders whom I know have produced their own horses, the young guns who are bloody fearless, and the flash horses who make it look effortless. I do try to not get caught up in comparing though.  Looking at others can be equally inspirational as it can be detrimental. It is very easy to be blinded by imported horses, flashy trucks or the latest gear. However I am a firm believer that we are all just doing the best we can, with whatever we have, in a sport that we love. I know that if I had the resources you can bet I would also own a flash as f**k truck and imported horses as well. So instead of wasting energy on the “what ifs”, following the latest trend, or getting caught up in jealousy I choose to focus on my own “race” and do the best with what I have. 

I am unsure what my next show will be, but I hope it will be soon. In the meantime I have some serious homework to do!

Until next time!

  

Just another Amateur Horse Rider…

Just another Amateur Horse Rider

 

My name is Fiona De La Mezzo. I am 34 years old and in between being a mum and working full time. I also ride and compete in show jumping.

 

When I thought of starting this blog, my immediate thoughts were pretty self-deprecating. “I’m not special”.  “Who cares what I have to say”. “There are so many people who could do this better than me”. But you know what? I decided that because of my self-doubt, I’d give this a crack.

 

I won’t be representing the hard working professional riders who make everything seem effortless. Again, I also won’t be representing the cashed up glamorous riders who step out from their massive horse trucks looking ready to hit the catwalk.

 

 

No, in this blog I intend to represent mediocrity. I will talk from the perspective of a mum who was doing a course walk holding her baby when the baby had a massive Diarrhoea explosion. (And whilst I had a spare of everything for my daughter, I did not think to pack a spare riding shirt or breeches for myself).

 

I’ll talk from the perspective of someone who rocks up to their “normal” non-horsey job and no matter how hard they try, still manage to bring something from the stable along (mud, chaff, horse hair). Then i’ll talk from the perspective of someone who’s life is not designed for equestrian success, but choose to persevere anyway. (not because they expect to reach greatness but because they cannot imagine life without horses).

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Going back to where it all started. I began riding at 10 years old at the local riding school Forest Park. I am pretty sure my non-horsey parents thought this would be a phase. The joke was definitely on them! I am not sure exactly when I knew that this was “my” thing, but safe to say I became horse obsessed quickly.

 

After begging for my own horse for 4 years, my parents finally relented and bought me a $600 horse called Sweetie. I went on to attend pony club, dressage and show jumping comps, but it was the show jumping that stuck.

 

Flash forward to today, I currently own an 8yr old WB mare called Narnia. She is small at 15.1hh, but as someone who is 5 foot nothing I cannot hold this against her. I bought her cheap as a 4 year old who used to toss her head constantly. She was hot and extremely sensitive. However, with lots of time, patience, and a few unfortunate face plants I am relieved to say we have a good partnership and these traits are behind us.

 

 

We are hoping to start competing her in Amateur classes (which are about 1.20m) later this month. And i’ll be trying to not make an ass out of myself!

 

Until next time!