May 2019 Review | Team BETTALIFE® Para Dressage Ashleigh Jones

May has been a month for change! We’ve had Midget 3 months, and we’re now at the stage where we’ve got to know his personality enough to start making fundamental changes to training in order to move forward in the right direction.
At the beginning of a new horse and rider relationship, we’re sometimes quite reluctant to push and ask for too much of the horse to a degree, because for one you want to get to know the horse for who they are, so that you can get a grasp of what makes their brain work in a positive way, and secondly, to identify all their strengths and weaknesses in order to create a plan of action of what you need to work on in order to strengthen and improve the horse long term.
However, I think we’re all guilty of taking it too slowly with a new horse at times, and using the excuse of ‘we’re still getting to know each other’ when we end up getting so far and plateauing, which is also the time where the horse starts testing you, and seeing what they can get away with.
I feel like this has been the stage Jade and I have been at with Midget this month, as everything has just been looking consistently ok, and whenever we have pushed his boundaries, he’s had a bit of a tantrum about it. A great example of this is with the rein back we have recently introduced.
Midget is extremely good at anticipation, and has never been a big fan of the halt, so after teaching him rein back, he’s recently got into the habit of anticipating it, and jumping the gun when you just want to halt. When we then go to correct it and stop him from going back by sending him forward, he gets annoyed and does the most pathetic rear I have ever seen, which ironically takes up far more energy than him actually doing what he’s been asked to do.
Whilst Jade and I find it quite entertaining at how much his personality is starting to open up, and how opinionated he is, it’s been important for us not to allow him to get away with it so they it doesn’t turn into learnt behaviour.
For that reason, we’ve had to go back to the drawing board in terms of how Jade is warming up, and what we’re doing for training. It’s a challenge for any coach to have the ability to separate how the horse needs to look and feel when they set it up for me in comparison to how they want the horse to look and feel when they’re riding for themselves, so the past couple of weeks have been about trial and error with a new warm up strategy.

It’s really important that the main aim of my horse being set up for me is to ensure the softness and suppleness, so that when I get on, I have a really light contact without any resistance that could impinge on my shoulder. Therefore, Jade has been focusing on riding with one hand in order to replicate the same feeling when I’m on, whilst creating a bit of positive tension, which improves the engagement and makes Midget more through when I get on and allow him to relax a bit more.
In addition to this, although it’s important that If I’m faced with any difficulty when I’m riding, I have the ability to have that discussion and work through it, It’s Jade’s job to challenge Midget and test his boundaries during her warm up time to ensure that he feels like it’s ‘easy’ work when I’m on, which in turn makes him more compliant.
It almost feels like I’m going back in time in a sense, because after finding out that it’s being challenged in his warm up, and made to be a bit tense in order to engage his core more, Midget actually has a very similar mindset to Bongo, which has helped a bit when adjusting warm up techniques, because there’s been a lot we can transfer from what we had to do with Bongo into Midget… Although, Midget is a lot easier to ride than Bongo in general.
After having a major breakthrough with the warm up technique, we decided to go to Solihull Riding Club to do a training session away on the 23rd May to practice our warm up routine ahead of competition, which went really well. When were away from home, Midget actually grows a few inches, so he’s not as much of a midget, which is great, as he then has a presence about him.
This month has all been about change, as I said at the beginning of my blog, and I’m really pleased with how much Midget has taken it in his stride, as it feels like we’ve now moved onto another level. I’m really excited to announce that our very first competition will be on the 1st of June, and I’m gear to see what the judges opinion is on our partnership so that we have something clear to work on at home.

Ashleigh Jones
#TeamBETTALIFE® Sponsored Rider

Posted on 12th June, 2019
Posted in Latest News Sponsored Riders

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