June has been a very busy month for us! You may have read in previous blogs over the past few months that the ultimate goal for 2018 is to go to selection trials for World Class in December, and hopefully get back on to the team.
With that goal in mind, the pressure has been on this month, and we’ve had to throw ourselves in the deep end! In order to get to selection trials, we need to get scores from certain competitions, so this has set our smaller goals. We need scores from an International competition, we haven’t had time to meet criteria for 3* but our aim was to try for 2* criteria in order to compete at Bishop Burton International next month, to do this we needed an average of 64% across 2 scores.
Now, despite the fact that we had Alfie back in February, we are still a new partnership, as I didn’t even ride him for just over a month, so we need to develop together so much more! In addition to this, Alfie is still very ‘green’ and inexperienced, he finds some movements very difficult, so there’s still so much we need to teach him.
I think in an ideal world, Leonie and I would spend more time solely on training, rather than training for competition. However, as I have said before, I really do think having a big goal in place is a good thing, as it gives you something clear to work towards, which in turn, enables you to develop more.
Although we have a big goal that we are aiming for, I feel that Leonie and I stil have realistic expectations of Alfie! I’m not expecting to go to a competition and produce an amazingly accurate test! That’s just not going to happen yet! My main aim during competition is to have the fundamentals, like feeling safe, making sure Alfie is listening, and he does the transitions I ask him to do when I ask him.
So as you can probably guess, this month, we have been focusing on test riding at home. On the 8th of June, we did our very first competition at Solihull Riding Club. I have to say, it was a little strange to begin with, because whilst Leonie was warming up, all I was thinking was ‘last time I was here competing it was with Prince’ and ‘this is supposed to be our thing, not me on a different horse’.
Silly thoughts just before a competition I know, but it’s amazing how much has changed in such a short space of time when you reflect on it all! Nevertheless, I had to shake those thoughts from my head, so I could fully concentrate on the job in hand, and focus on Alfie.
I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got on in the warm up arena, as I felt a lot safer on him than I initially anticipated to feel on our first outing! I instantly felt confident, and he was one hundred percent with me, which just in itself I feel is a major achievement to feel like a partnership.
We entered both the Team and Individual test, as we thought the main aim for that first competition was to feel safe and confident on Alfie within the white boards. We did the individual test first, and all I remember walking down to the arena, was Mum asking if I was alright, I felt physically sick because of how nervous I was, as I didn’t know what to expect! The bell went, and Leonie started reading the test! Luckily, by that point I had calmed myself down and got on with it.
After the first test, I felt a lot more confident, so I went for it a lot more in the second test! Unfortunately, it backfired on me a bit, as he broke into canter, but I brought him back and carried on through the rest of the test. On reflection I’m actually really glad I pushed him too much in that instance, as I was really pleased at how well I handled the situation, and it’s all part of learning which butttons press, and knowing when to press them.
We went away with a score of 65% and 67% which is very encouraging, seeing as it’s not very accurate yet as he is still very wobbly, so imagine what the scores will be like when it’s more accurate, and it has more power? Very exciting times ahead.
So after Solihull, we had a couple more weeks training before the next competition on the 26th of June, but encountered a slight set back when Alfie had a bit of a spook on one of the days whilst we were training! Now I can honestly say it wasn’t a big spook, but Alfie’s default thing to do is to throw his head in the air, unfortunately, when I see that, it automatically brings me back to the night when Polly reared with me, as I vividly remember her throwing her head up as high as it could go before I fell off. So in essence, I made Alfie’s spook to be bigger than it actually was in my head.
The fact that he had a spook isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I need to know what he will do in those types of situations, so that I can find a way of dealing with it in a productive way. This however did mean that I was a little on edge for a couple of days after the spook, so in order to reassure me, Leonie did a lot of ‘spook busting’ to help both Alfie and I build our confidence a bit before the next competition.
it was a 5 o’clock start on the 26th June to go to South Buckinghamshire to Windmill Equestrian for the next competition! Alfie was an absolute dream to travel! When we got there, Leonie took him for a walk to stretch his legs, before tacking him up to warm up. There was a lot going on at that venue, like tractors driving up and down the fields next to the warm up, and the viewing gallery for the arena was a double decker bus! Alfie took it all in his stride.
After that spook the week before, I was still a little on edge, so I went into the first test quite tense, as there were people in the bus moving, so I was anticipating what Alfie might think of it. This ultimately meant that I didn’t ride too well, as I wasn’t focusing on the test as opposed to everything that was going on around us and what he could potential spook at.
Alfie however didn’t spook at all, so it was a bit pointless for me to worry as much as what I did! But at least I know for future reference if I don’t concentrate as much, he will still do whatever is asked of him…. For the record, my aim is to have 100% concentration levels at all times!
I went into the second test a lot more confident than the first one, as I knew all the things I was anticipating Alfie to spook at was all in my head, so I made sure I concentrated a whole lot more, which in turn resulted in a much more accurate test. A solid 67% and 68% which isn’t bad considering I didn’t ride my best! It’s really encouraging to know that the judges are seeing the raw potential of what kind of horse Alfie is going to be in the future.
This month has been very exciting! And even just writing this blog, and reflecting has made me realise just how much we have achieved in such a short space of time since last month, you don’t realise how much you have accomplished when your working so hard for something!
To top it all off, we had an email confirmation to say we have now been accepted to compete at Bishop Burton at the end of July, so there will be a lot to talk about in next months blog.