Thursday, December 25, 2014

Clinic with Shaun Mandy - simplicity gets results!

A couple of weekends ago I took my 6 yr old, Chadwick, to a clinic with Shaun Mandy. I found out about Shaun through his new blog on Horse and Hound, and saw that although he is based in Denmark with Hasse Hoffman, he comes over to England regularly to teach clinics.

I don't shy away from using different trainers, I find it so helpful to have new eyes on me occasionally and its up to me what methods and tips I take or leave. One of the best things about having my own yard is that I'm able to use different trainers without upsetting anyone, and I love that independence. Every rider has their own system, even if it is based heavily on their main trainer's methods, they will always do some things a bit differently. I think its important to be open to new ideas so an individual system can be developed, and equip riders with more tools in their toolbox to use with different horses.

I went to Shaun with the intention of fixing me and Chad's main problem, which is moving sideways off the leg without grabbing the bit and running. I finished the weekend gaining a hell of a lot more help than I had imagined! True to a classical training system, Chad and I started on Saturday by working on correct bend around a circle in a correct, regular rhythm and tempo, and finished on Sunday with the best flying changes and half passes Chad has ever done.

As soon as I started trotting, he told me to slow the rhythm right down. I am so used to pushing Chad forwards forwards forwards to get him active and using his back in order to prevent him sucking back behind the bridle, so it was different to let him trot along without me pushing all the time. We focused on true bend around the circle using inside leg to outside rein, staying away from my bad habit of using my inside rein too much, then something remarkable started happening. He started to take the bit forwards and started to swing through his body. Because I had slowed him down, he had time to relax his body and let my leg into his ribcage to create the bend, and he came into his own balance which enabled him to move through to the contact.

Once we maintained a swinging, through trot on the circle, we went down the long side in "shoulder-out" (like a leg-yield along the wall off your outside leg) and leg-yield from the centreline to the wall.  This is similar to what we did at Leonie Bramall's in Germany. I find the shoulder-out helps engage the outside hind which helps to push around circles and keep the bend around the inside leg. By combining this with the leg-yield off the other leg from the centreline to the track, I was unlocking both sides of his rib cage. I had to make an extra effort to not pull my inside rein to achieve the bend, and ask for it with my leg and seat instead. By forcing myself to use my leg more, it stopped me from pulling too much, and surprise surprise, Chad eventually stopped grabbing my reins and running away from the bending, and started to push with his hind legs.

From this achievement, we were able to move into shoulder-ins and half-passes, again without the inside rein and therefore being able to use my inside leg for the bend and have him push from behind. It was a completely systematic development in 2 sessions from simple bend on a circle, into the higher degree of bend and collection in the half-passes which were rhythmical and supple.

Chad chilling in our new solarium after working hard
all weekend
The same applied to the canter, where we started work with the flying changes. I confessed to be rubbish at trying to teach horses a change, but after Shaun teaching me his way, I think those days are over! I did a few walk-canter-walk transitions down the long sides off the wall to test the reactiveness and aids, then Shaun hopped on Chad to test how much he knew about the change, and after a handful of them, I got back on and they felt so easy!

The next day when I rode my 5 year old, Bertina, I tried out my newfound technique. I've only dabbled in them with her because I've been wanting to get a better quality of canter, but she got 2 changes each way straight off!

Now two weeks on from the clinic, all the horses are going super since implementing Shaun's system and mindset towards training. He is back on the 3rd and 4th of January so I can't wait to learn more from him!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Busy at Forest View and exciting training plans

The last few weeks have felt like the busiest weeks of the entire year! It is supposed to be getting quieter coming into Christmas but it seems like for us at Forest View we are completely run off our feet.

A couple of Sundays ago we held the first JB Academy training day for the new 2014/15 group. It was amazing to see our property so busy and being used for such a good purpose. The sun was shining and everybody really enjoyed using our facilities, so much that we had a lot of requests for people to come and hire our indoor school for over the winter. It is so rewarding to be able to provide a service to our community and help people be able to ride their horses when the weather is awful and dark. I love meeting new people and have them coming and going too, so the more people that use it the better!

Just recently I've started riding with a new trainer, none other than Emile Faurie. I loved my lessons with Gareth Hughes, who I've trained with for the past 2 years, but since moving further into Wiltshire it now takes far too long to travel to his yard for regular lessons, it takes nearly 6 hours out of my day. Emile is only an hour away and I immediately got along with him and his training methods.

My top horse Seigneur II (Seb) is now based up there with him, as he needs a bit of bootcamp before next year's season starts. I am absolutely determined to do a full summer of Premier Leagues, as it has taken me years to really figure him out and I really hope we can see some rewards for the work we've done. He is doing so well there and I am very much involved with his training as I travel up to ride him 2-3 times a week, which includes one lesson.

At the moment we are playing around with saddles, as he has been wearing my young mare's saddle but now he really needs his own. I have the Albion Revelation on trial, so will see how that goes. Trying saddles is such a painful process, especially with a horse who's difficult to fit. Seb is very bouncy too so something that can help hold me in a little bit is ideal!

Hopefully along with Seb at the Premier Leagues, good old Julius can come along too. He is being absolutely incredible at the moment, and working so well at PSG/Inter 1 level. He was the most amazing I've ever felt him work in our lesson with Emile last week, I am just so excited for him. A big dream for us is to do the U25 Grand Prix in 2016, given that he stays sound!

Lovely Julius takes everything in his stride :) that makes
for a very trainable horse!!
Amongst all this excitement with the yard and training, there was a sad incident involving my Grandpa which resulted in his death. It was such a shock to us all, and has been a complicated process to organise the funeral but finally, nearly a month on, we have the funeral planned for this week on the 18th. Mum has been up to her neck in work, yet is still ALWAYS available to help me with the horses and I can't thank her enough. She definitely is a supermum, and I wish I could do more to help her but she always seems to have everything under control!

Now we are thinking about Christmas and trying to relax a bit for a couple of weeks, however the horse's training at home will still continue. Chad and Bertina have the Winter Regionals to get ready for!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

What turning 21 does to you

I've been waiting for some inspirational idea to pop into my head and write about, especially as this is one of my first posts, but it wasn't quite happening. Well, at least not in a conventional way. I suppose I'm being proactive in fixing a negative feeling, which can be considered as being inspired, right?

So basically, this happened....

MY 21ST BIRTHDAY!!! Of course this is an amazing moment, though naturally, it spells P-A-R-T-Y. I'm not a big drinker in general, I prefer to drink wine with good food rather than down shots in clubs, but when I do get to party I think I make up for its general lack of presence. Which is exactly what happened over the last two weekends - two nights of birthday celebrations, then the next weekend was Halloween and the JB Academy ball (Jonathan Bowman's show jumping training scheme which I'm part of).

So I suppose the inspirational part comes in where I literally felt so rubbish that I had a premature mid-life crisis and panicked at the fact am now 21 and an actual adult. I have always put a huge amount of importance on my career and often feel like I'm not getting as far as I want to be, and turning 21 was another one of those wakeup calls. However, the perfectionist in me always refuses to remember how far I've come rather than look at how far I have to go so I do need to remember to not get too stressed about it.

The whole 21 thing has inspired me to be more business-like with the horses though. I do my job because I love spending time with the horses, training, mucking out, cleaning, and taking pride in my yard. But that isn't going to pay the bills. Sure, I save a lot of money by not having a full-time groom because I do many things myself, but in order to progress I need to put my business hat on. It's that stage that some people go through where they move from working under someone else to suddenly being in charge of their own show, and there's a lot to think about! The aim is to make everything more efficient and gain more hours in my day to fill with teaching or paperwork, and free up a little more brain-space to think smarter about the horses training and prepare better for competitions. I definitely feel like sometimes I can't even start to think about plans for the next day let alone the next week because I'm too occupied with getting today done.
Seb and I felt the same about life after the

It definitely has its perks though, being able to run my own yard. I have so much freedom to do things however I like and use all my past experiences of working at other yards to create my ideal workplace. Now that we are more settled in the new property and, of course, I've officially become an "adult", now is the time to make it all official and be super organised. And so, the mission for 21 is to become a businesswoman. Goodness, I stuck with horses so I didn't have to do anything business-ey or office-like. At least I'm doing it to make my own dreams come true though, not someone else's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


I feel nervous about writing again, I haven't blogged in a couple of years so I feel very rusty. The most I've written about myself since my Teen Dressage Dream blog is Facebook statuses, and even those have some censorship when it comes to what I really think.

Finally, after a few years of few ups and a hell of a lot of downs, I've decided to get my thoughts out there again. I feel like I've got myself to a good, steady and consistent place with my career and riding, which was by no means easy to reach. I don't think anything can prepare you for the psychological journey created when moving to the other side of the world at such a young age. Never once have I regretted it, but it took a lot of feeling around in the darkness to find where I belonged and what I should be doing.

Of course I couldn't have reached the stage I am at now without my wonderful parents, who have supported me so much in what I want to do. Even though I'm sure at times they felt like officially disowning me as their daughter due to health concerns from extreme stress, they had my back 100% of the way because they believed in me. Even though I had lost sight of that young teenager with such intense passion (some would call it a slight mental issue), they never did. Because of my parents I now wake up with that passion again, with the belief in myself that every day I can become better and eventually reach my goals.

So now you guys are the lucky ones (please read with sarcasm) that get to read my little thoughts on a day-to-day basis that help me (and hopefully you!) make sense of this whole dressage thing. Enjoy!