This month has been somewhat on the quite side horse wise, between rain which has cancelled the first competitions of the season and clinics and me travelling away for work and a conference. However there have been some exciting developments.
Mid way through the month we had a clinic with the wonderful Dani Keogh. This clinic happened to be running on the Sunday and Monday following a crazy week at work which meant that quite unusually for me, I had only managed to squeeze in one ride in the whole week. I was a little unsure as to just how well Nonie would go, as typically after a few days off she likes to try and trick me into holding her together. I was totally thrilled that we were able to continue to progress the work in the medium trot, half pass, counter canter and flying changes. Nonie’s strength has really grown over the last few months and it was evident in the work we produced under Dani’s expert guideance.
Monday morning’s lesson was scheduled for 5am, in order to allow me to get to work on time after wards. Those who know me will attest to the fact that I am not a morning persons, but I managed to drag myself out of bed at 4am and headed off into the chilly darkness. I went out clad in my Emerald super stick breeches and a nice warm vest and began saddling up under the light on the moon. I’m no stranger to finishing in the dark, but it is quite a different experience at the other end of the day. We were rewarded for our early start when we began to work on the canter pirouettes! We only managed a one or two strides in the pirouette, but it was a seriously incredible feeling.
Two key theme’s emerged for me from these lessons, the first was straightness I’m learning now more than ever that it is the basis of everything in dressage. The second was the importance of pushing beyond your comfort zone.
Earlier this year my mum made the decision to upgrade to a new angle load horse float, which in turn meant that I was able to upgrade to her old horse float. My old float has served me well but doesn’t really have enough storage space, actually it doesn’t have any at all, which makes the long trips we do slightly cramped. My father in law who was travelling back from the Sunshine Coast kindly offered to bring the new float back with him and it arrived the afternoon of my second lesson. I am now the proud owner of a Kara Kar extended float with a tack box at the front. My partner Steve who is an electrician is working on getting it hooked up to electricity. Safe to say our next trip away is going to seem pretty luxurious.
Last but not least my latest order arrived and it did not disappoint. Somehow, I reached that point where I only had a few pairs of breeches that were in good enough condition to use on a regular basis, so I ordered two pairs of the Super Stick Seat Wilson Equestrian Breeches one in ice teal and the other in grey. I’ve ridden in them a few times and am loving the new and improved design with its higher waist, but the same incredible stretch.
We are absolutely itching to get back into the competition ring, with our first outing planned for early July. In the mean time, if you would like to keep up to date with our goings on and to see the Wilson Equestrian products in action, be sure to follow Nonie and I over at the Sand Arena Ballerina at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/andreakatedressagerider/) and Instagram (@the_sand_arena_ballerina).
March and April were set to be promising months, with a clinic booked with my coach Dani Keogh for early that month, and then a holiday in early April to enable us to travel down to the Sunshine Coast to attend a clinic with none other than Brett Parbery! However, Cyclone Debbie was lurking off the Coast of Queensland, creating stifling humidity the only respite for which was the torrential rain. You know, the type of rain that has you wondering if you will ever ride again. With no access to an indoor arena, myself and the other organiser made the decision the evening before Dani was due to fly up that we would have to postpone. With that decision made the equestrian gods decided to have a good laugh at our expense and the following day dawned sunny and perfectly cloudless. I guess this was still better than not being able to ride at all!
Despite having lived cyclone prone area’s such as Darwin and Mackay for more than half of my life, I have successfully avoided a direct hit from a cyclone, until now. In the two days leading up to the arrival of this mammoth system, the cyclone showcased its tremendous force by sucking nearby rain into its system – the result was skies which were sunny, lulling residents into a false sense of security. While my non-horsey colleagues were nervously excited, I was just nervous, not because I was scared that we would suffer damage at our house, but rather because I feared for my horse’s safety. Ultimately, we were incredibly fortunate and did not bear the brunt of the cyclone. We experience large amounts of rain and strong winds causing inconvenience in the form of fallen tree’s across the road and minor flooding preventing us from getting out to see Nonie for a full 24hours.
In the wake of Cyclone Debbie I gained a new appreciation for some of the ‘basic’ things that make everyday life with horses much easier. You know things like electricity and running water. After three days of consistent rain it was inevitable that Nonie with her exceptionally sensitive skin would develop a bit of rain scald. The lack of running water meant that I had to hand wash these spots on Nonie.
On the first day that I was able to ride post cyclone, I was late leaving work. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue so I didn’t rush. It wasn’t until Nonie was saddled up with the sun fast sinking behind the hills that I realised I had a slight issue, lights only work if you have power! This made for a very quick ride indeed! All in all, we were safe and had suffered little damage so there was nothing too much to complain about.
The next event on the agenda was a clinic on the beautiful Sunshine Coast with Brett Parbery. When my regular coach Dani announced that she would be hosting Brett for a clinic over Easter, my only hesitation was to make sure that I was able to secure the time off work. It wasn’t until Brett commented on my commitment to travel 10+ hours for two lessons, that I realised that this might not be normal. I can only explain this by one, my love of learning to ride and two, equine induced madness. But within about 15minutes of the first lesson starting I realised that they would be worth every kilometre and cent.
For day one, I wore my Emerald green Wilson Equestrian Super stick breeches, which despite multiple wears over the past 7 months still look wonderful, and never fail to garner a compliment or two due to their brilliant colour. We worked on straightness in the canter and then had a look at the flying changes and walk pirouettes. I was pretty chuffed to hear Brett say that we had the walk pirouettes under control as these have been something I have not found particularly easy to ride.
On day two, I wore my Navy Wilson Equestrian Super Stick Breeches, these offer the same excellent stretch as the emerald version with the added bonus of not showing up dirt or slobber marks. I have also been impressed by my Wilson Equestrian Italian Leather reins which despite being used most day for almost 12 months are in great condition and are still super soft. We again worked on the straightness in the canter, counter canter and working through shy’s. Nonie has worked in Dani’s arena on a number of occasions, but this weekend one corner was home to something particularly offensive, which just so happened to be invisible!
Brett made several changes to my position and there were more than a few light bulb moments over the two lessons. What really struck me about Brett’s approach to training horses is the importance of keeping it simple.
2017 has started with a huge bang for Stormy and I! We were back out competing in early January, competing in the Interschool dressage qualifying classes in an attempt to qualify for Nationals in September. We placed second at Southern Vales Dressage Club against strong competition, and fourth at Mt Crawford. We then made the decision to register for the show horse disciple, the only issue being I cannot complete the lead phase of the discipline due to my leg. Luckily my little sister has been granted an exemption to complete this phase for me. We competed at Murray Bridge Show in February, winning the secondary show horse and gaining a qualifying score towards Nationals!! The following week we competed at a state interschool competition, placing second in the secondary show horse (he was the only Standardbred in the class), and going way over the qualifying scores needed for Nationals!! We had dressage the same day, however by our draw time, we had been at the competition for 8 hours and Stormy was understandably over it! He still rode a nice test, and once again placed mid field against all open breed horses. In February we received the news that we had been accepted into the SA State Dressage Championships! It was a dream come true to be given the opportunity to compete at this event, even if it meant missing my Yr. 12 formal.
At the championships I could not fault Stormy! He rode two of the best tests he has ever ridden, however the judge at B was scoring rather low, dragging our score down. It was a low scoring class all round, leaving us in 8th place in the Youth Rider. Once again Storm was the only Standardbred there, possibly the only Standardbred to ever compete at this event. We received fabulous comments on his canter and 8’s for his medium walk.
We continue to train with Megan, and Storm is building muscle every day. We have started travers, and his shoulder ins are becoming much more established.
This weekend we are competing at Mt Barker Ag Show in an attempt to get another qualifying score for nationals. The following weekend we are competing at the Royal Adelaide Autumn Horse Show, where Storm will contest both the breed and open Galloway classes. The following week we are away for 3 days at the Interschool State Championships where we hope to confirm a place on the SA Team for Nationals. We will then have a weekend off before travelling to the SPPHASA State Championships where we aim to defend our 4 state championships. The Autumn dressage festival in May is also in our sights.
To think that this time last year Storm didn’t know how to canter and now he is competing at the dressage state champs and possibly going to Nationals amazes me! I remember sending a text to Megan this time last year asking if she thinks we can teach him to canter ready for the Royal which was in 4 weeks. Megan’s reply was “ok yes enter open. Why not have a challenge 😉 Like Jess needs anymore motivating!!” so we haven’t looked back since. Being in Yr. 12 means we are training at 5:30am so I have time for homework, but it doesn’t seem to faze my amazing little man. If 2017 has taught us anything so far it is that Dreams really do come true!
Things have been super busy with work and competitions. I started two new jobs early September, they are both my dream jobs, working casual positions with one riding beautiful home bred performance horses and the other at a race horse spelling, breeding, pre training and re training property in Berry. Learning about the breeding program and being involved with the foal work is something I have never done and love learning about. I am also lucky enough to be riding the gorgeous pre trainers and the re trainers.
We have two in preparation to be sold on to loving homes in a new discipline. Jasper is one that I have been working on and campaigning for six weeks, he is definitely a favorite, not only is he super flashy but his trainability and incredible personality is one in a million. Temple has just been brought in for re training last week and is going better than I could have imagined, I can’t wait to see him improve.
Symmetry went on boot camp for two weeks to Hayden Equestrian, with a few lessons together, tweaking the way I have been riding, I am so impressed with how it has improved us together and I couldn’t thank them enough for their help. After Sym got back from the Haydens we were in preparation for Berrima horse trails. Doing a clinic at Wallaby Hill with Charlie Brister and also competing at Shoalhaven dressage we were as ready as we could be. Berrima Horse Trails was our first Event since Silver Hills a year ago where we eliminated ourselves, as the environment was a little overwhelming for Symmetry.
We competed in the EVA80, I was over the moon with our dressage receiving a percentage of 74.6% placing us in first place. The show jumping warm up was a little stressful with horses everywhere though as soon as we got into the ring she was listening perfectly only getting one rail due to a rider error. I was wearing the Wilson Equestrian show Jacket with the white sticky bum breeches, white show shirt and the navy belt. Last but not least was cross country, Symmetry took it all in her stride having an awesome warm up and cleared all the fences by a mile, although we went a little to fast we were lucky enough to still hold first place winning her first rug. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. Standing out in cross-country wearing Wilson equestrians navy blue show shirt and their Bright Green super sticky breeches with the navy belt.
I cannot wait for our next event next year. In the meantime we will participate in the local shows in both the hack and showjumping ring.
On the 29th of October, I received a letter telling me that my recent application for Equestrian SA’s Youth Development Dressage Scholarship had been successful, and that Stormy and I were one of the 10 state-wide finalists to receive a weekend of coaching with well-known Victorian based dressage coach and rider Dirk Dijkstra. I was so incredibly surprised by this, as I had applied knowing we were so unlikely to get in, hoping that it may just get my name out there a little bit.
We had 2 weeks to prepare, and very early on Saturday the 12th of November we set off to McLaren Vale. The weekend was being held at the beautiful McLaren Vale Equestrian Park. The stables were AMAZING, and the indoor arena was incredible to ride on! We had two lessons with Dirk, an individual on Saturday and a group lesson on Sunday.
Stormy absolutely worked the house down in both of his lessons, I was so so happy with how he took in the atmosphere, working in a new indoor with a number of people all sitting in a scary grandstand like he had done it all before. Of course Storm was the only Standardbred there, however he didn’t let this phase him, and he showed everyone what he is made of! In our first lesson we continued to work on flexion and bend, and he thoroughly enjoyed a long canter! I had an interview on Sunday morning with Dirk and the co-selector Jan Gilligan, before we had another lesson. In our second lesson we got the chance to show everyone more of what he is capable of. We were given the opportunity to leg yield, shoulder in and work on his trot extensions. Storm felt fantastic in his leg yields, allowing us the opportunity to start a little bit of half pass. His shoulder ins are coming along in leaps and bounds, however it is incredibly difficult without my leg when we are on the right rein. We have continued to work on these things at home and with Megan, and he just gets better and better.
The winner of the scholarship is announced at the ESA awards night early next year (good excuse to buy a dress and get my hair done!), however Storm and I are just so incredibly thankful to have been given this opportunity! Storm and I made many new friends, and had a fantastic weekend together. If Storm continues to train like he did at the scholarship weekend the sky is the limit (funny saying I am writing this whilst on a plane to Equitana!).
We are competing at a dressage competition at Mt Crawford next weekend (26th of November), and then have three more hack shows, the last being on December 11. Hopefully we will have success at these competitions, theoretically we should do ok, but it is forever changing!
It has been said on more than one occasion that I can be stubborn at times. Case and point, my need to go to a dressage competition after having been virtually confined to the couch with a mystery virus for the previous two days. I had a fantastic ride Friday afternoon and decided that I would be well enough to compete the following day, but that I would have to forgo braiding Nonie. On Saturday morning, driving out to the paddock to load Nonie and travel up to Cannon Valley, I began to wonder out loud if I still had a temperature much to my partner’s horror, I remained determined to compete. Adding fuel to the fire was the arrival of the summer heat, the type which feels hot, thick and suffocatingly still. Needless to say, they weren’t our finest tests of the year. I made it through the novice and elementary, but felt like I was going to pass out by the end, but we still managed to produce some nice moments.
Nonie warmed up in her new white fleece lined brush boots from Wilson Equestrian. I wore my Wilson Equestrian long sleeve show shirt https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/cold-but-bold-long-sleeved-show-shirt/ which was perfect for the informal t-shirt competition.
The following weekend, the local show society was putting on a competition that offered everything from miniature horse to dressage to western to hacking. Being able to travel to a competition in under an hour is a huge novelty for me, so I once again readied myself to compete. There is something about plaiting up a horse that I find almost meditative, so long as I am not short of time. On this occasion my late start time (3.30pm!!!) meant that I was able to luxuriate in the process of turning Nonie out, to the point that she even had quarter markers! I wore my favourite Wilson Equestrian super stick breeches https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/wilson-equestrian-breeches-white-super-stick/ and the Wilson Equestrian 2016 show jacket https://wilsonequestrian.com.au/product/wilson-equestrian-show-jacket-black-2016/ for a polished look. I absolutely love this jacket as I find it creates beautiful lines without restricting my position.
Some competitions are great because you are surrounded by friends or you and your horse remained calm, others because you feel that you nailed it in the ring. But for me this last competition was great because a huge lesson was learnt. I have often heard the saying that competition is important and even necessary as it is the ultimate litmus test of your training. While this is a lesson I have been gradually recognising, it was only at this most recent competition that I fully realised the truth of it. Perhaps this is because sometimes you learn the most when a ride doesn’t go quite the way you want it to. Having had some great rides over the past few weeks, where I have felt that Nonie was developing moments of cadence and was swinging nicely across the back, I lost it at the competition. There were certainly some great moments in both tests, with a final score of 73% in the novice and a couple of 8s in the elementary, however I knew that there was some work to be done. A friend whose opinion I greatly value was pencilling at this competition. She told me that Nonie needed more cadence in the trot work and that she appeared to be anticipating something in the canter work. I was initially disappointed, however upon further reflection, I realised that in my efforts to develop a bigger trot and canter I had sacrificed Nonie’s softness and that she still needed to be much more adjustable through her body. It was a great opportunity to learn this in the ring and I have now been able to adjust our training accordingly.
For something completely different, the next day we entered the relatively unfamiliar world of the show horse ring. I had fun taking the extra time to apply largely unfamiliar products such as hoof black and make up. I even pulled my velvet helmet and velvet browband out of the cupboard for the occasion. I take my hat off to riders who do this on a regular basis, the level of commitment that it takes to turn horses out to that level cannot be underestimated. However, for Nonie and I, our hearts ultimately lie with dressage.
The last couple of months have been interesting to say the least!
We’ve had endless issues with Stormy’s back; he seems to keep twisting his pelvis being silly in the paddock! End of July saw us at Monarto for a Pony Club competition. Unfortunately this didn’t go to plan as rumor has it the horses can hear the lions from the nearby Monarto Zoo. Storm was just really unsettled the whole day, and unfortunately this was reflected in our dressage scores. It was our first competition in the novice, and he got really good scores for his leg yield and canter extensions, the two things we thought would bring our score down, unfortunately I just couldn’t keep him focused enough to forget about what was out there. In between times we had a couple of dressage clinics and some awesome lessons with Megan.
3 weeks following Monarto we competed at a Performance Day in dressage. He had been clipped the day before, and this combined with a slip in the paddock meant he was really bothered and sore during our tests. Our warm up was super, and our first prelim certainly wasn’t our best, however we scored in the high 60’s. The novice followed (it appears to be cursed), and unfortunately Storm wasn’t happy with his back and decided to ditch me mid test. It was a real shame as when we saw the scores later we were doing really well! We decided to finish what we started and competed our last prelim. He wasn’t happy, however he listened and we finished in one piece. A visit to the chiro followed, and much to my delight Storm pulled up really well. That Saturday we competed at an interschool competition, this time back in the show horse. It was HUGE, and Storm was absolutely impeccable. We managed to make it through the final of our Rider over 15 class, and worked our way up to third. We also won the pair of hacks (Stormy was a dwarf) with one of our friends. There was no break for Stormy as the following Tuesday we were training with Megan, and that weekend we competed at Gawler Ag show. Stormy was really really good, and we placed second in open gelding, and I won my junior rider class. He then went Reserve Champion Ridden and I went Champion Rider.
We’ve not competed since Gawler, as we wanted to take it right back to the basics for him, however with the ridiculous rain we’ve had here it has been hard to ride. Thanks to flooding, storms and gale force winds, our lead up to Equestrian SA’s Horse of The Year next week has been far less than ideal, but we’re going to give it our best shot. The atmosphere will be huge, so if we can get through the week without him panicking and keep him as focused as possible, then we have already won.
In comparison to August, September has been blissfully quiet.
After a few days break to allow Nonie to recover from the trip home, we were back into the swing of things preparing for another clinic with Danielle Keogh. It was at this clinic, that I got to road test the new Wilson Equestrian Navy Super Stick Breeches (a birthday present courtesy of my partners family). I love the extreme stick that these breeches boast and the bright blue Wilson’s logo detailing on the pocket. In the lessons we focused on improving the canter and counter canter in preparation for teaching the flying changes. Needless to say I’m pretty excited to see Danielle again in November! My homework in the meantime is to make Nonie as adjustable as possible, so we are playing with the gear changes and the angle within the lateral work.
Our trip away in August meant that we unfortunately missed out on competing at the Townsville Dressage Club Championships. I was really please here that my friend Morgen Schneider and her horse Riverside Klark Kent won the Elementary Freestyle and were also the Novice Champions at this event. They are definitely a pair to watch in the future.
The last weekend of September saw the kind of perfect weather that is normally reserved for novels. Luck was on our side and the spectacular weather lined up with our plan to take the ponies to the beach. I like to get Nonie out of the arena as much as I can and during the off season my favourite way to do this is definitely a trip to the beach. Nothing beats playing in the waves or a gallop through the shallows. I wore my Emerald Wilson Equestrian Super Stick breeches, the colour is even more stunning in real life.
For now, we are working towards a few local competitions which have been announced for October. We will be riding our first ever dressage freestyle and we may even end up in hack ring!