- Dressage Anywhere
- Learning about showing and side saddle
- Showjumping training
- Vaulting competition and preparation for Hartpury
- Gymnastics and other
In early June I received the news that the dressage test I’d filmed with Rolo had won the RDA Dressage Anywhere Championship! We scored 72.19% going side saddle compared to 71.88% astride – not an enormous difference but it still felt nice to be moving up especially as it was only my second time riding side saddle. Partly as a result of this I have also taken the plunge and will be riding side saddle at Hartpury for the RDA National Championships, for both dressage and showing.
Showing is an entirely new venture for me, but our RDA instructor felt that some of us should have a go at it and so we are! Last night we practised what is likely to be expected of us and had a go at riding our own little show. I have a better idea now of how the event will run but I think it’s time to head to YouTube to find some more examples! I’ll be riding Rolo and he’s a fairly good example of a cob, so hopefully we won’t look ridiculous even if I am completely confused by everything that’s going on.
Right at the beginning of July I had another side saddle lesson which gave me the opportunity to learn how to tack up (there are three separate girths, for one) and how to arrange the apron part of a side saddle habit. The apron looks like a skirt when you’re on but actually it’s more of a wrap-around thing – more like a strangely shaped bath towel! I am now the proud owner of my own side saddle habit – a fortunate local find online – and thanks to the immense generosity of Philippa Kemp-Welch (my side saddle instructor) and Katy Downing (RDA Champs Stable Manager and side saddle pro) I’m really looking forward to the showing and dressage at Hartpury, where hopefully I will look the part and also act the part! Anyway, I had a ride in my new apron. Had I thought ahead I might have anticipated wearing the jacket too, and I might have decided against a baggy polo shirt and this rather jazzy hat cover…!
I’ve done some jumping practice which was good confidence-building stuff because it’s harder than what we will have to do at Hartpury. My last proper jumping lesson involved going through a grid of uprights with one stride in between each fence, jumping two other fences on a curve, and then going across the school on a diagonal to jump one of the curve fences square-on before continuing to one of the uprights to jump at an angle.
This all went swimmingly except for one occasion… It was a hot day so we were resting the horses in the shade during other people’s turn through the jumps. Rolo had switched off a little bit and, foolishly, I didn’t really give him time to wake up properly before cantering into the first fence of the grid. The result was that we went in rather unbalanced, and although he is a hero and will always try his best this was only enough to get over the first two – by the third fence I was so unbalanced that the laws of physics dictated that I end up on the ground! Fortunately I wasn’t the slightest bit hurt so I got back on and tried again, rather more successfully this time. Since then we’ve had a couple of weeks at RDA where we’ve popped over some jumps and Rolo has been a star each time. Fingers crossed nothing will go wrong at Hartpury – there won’t be any three-fence combinations for a start! I really love jumping and find it so much fun, especially with Rolo, so I’m just aiming to enjoy it and do the best we can.
Vaulting (competition and preparation for Hartpury)
Preparing for a vaulting competition entails far more than just practising your routine. I spent a happy morning deciding what music to use for the run in and my compulsories. Normally your club or team will decide this, but as I’m the only one from Cambridge competing I thought I’d mix it up a bit. I’ve gone for ‘You can’t stop the beat’ for the run in and ‘The Swan’ (Saint-Säens) for compulsories. I finalised the edits to ‘Almost There’ for my freestyle and successfully saved all the files in the right format and sent them to the RDA without – I hope – a hitch! Sorting out my costume has taken rather longer, because a lot of it has involved fabric paint and you have to be patient enough to let it dry before moving on to the next stage. This year’s costume is more generic than last year’s which makes it a bit more difficult, because there are so many more options and the decisions are harder to make. I’ve had various hits and misses in the process and have had to rethink ideas several times over, but hopefully by the time it’s finished (less than a week to go!) I’ll have something which looks pretty good.
Gymnastics training is continuing and I have spent most of my time working on my favourite piece of apparatus (vault) and my least favourite (bars). For the first time, I am finally in a position to say that my circle up onto the lower bar is fairly secure! This is a really basic move but for me it has taken months of hard and frustrating work to achieve. I think there must be a knack to it because I am suddenly able to do it even when the bar is quite high. At the moment it isn’t especially pretty but hopefully elegance will come once the move has become more engrained. I am now working on a back hip circle – another simple move but, so far, it’s been pretty elusive and even with support I haven’t achieved it many times. It’s a bit frustrating but at least I’ve learned from the circle up that persistence pays off!
Wheelchair racing has, unfortunately, taken a back seat yet again. Despite just about managing to keep everything else ticking over, I’ve had to be really careful about pacing and managing pain and energy because, health-wise, I’ve been struggling a lot. Nothing is certain yet so for the time being I’m just keeping the faith, every time I crash, that I will bounce back. It’s so frustrating because they only way to reset myself at the moment is to take the medication then lie completely flat for some time. It’s made doing all the other training really difficult but I’ve had to prioritise horsey stuff over wheelchair racing because of all the horsey competitions going on at the moment. This is really frustrating which, on top of the pain and other physical symptoms, makes the whole situation pretty difficult – it just feels like a lot of setbacks. I’m trying to stay positive though and it hasn’t beaten me yet!
July is pretty much all about Hartpury (the RDA National Championships) – up until the event I’ll be working as hard as I can manage on perfecting my performance, and after it I fully expect to collapse in a messy heap! Well, we’ll see how it goes anyway…