2019 A year in review

2019 A year in review

It’s a cliché for a reason, each year seems to pass quicker than the last and yet when I cast back to the start of this year I can barely remember what happened. In a word 2019 was huge!

2019 got off to a rocky start with me getting over a random viral illness, but I still managed some great rides early on, including some lessons with Francisco Campeo.

Francisco sharing some words of wisdom during a trot pole lesson earlier this year

Blogging and Podcasting

On the blogging front I got to know more talented equestrians, including Kiera PhilpotSnaffle and SpurLouise Dando, side saddle rider Katie Ockendon-Evans and Cindy (Eye’s up Grab Mane).

I also got to blog about a topic that is very close to my heart – body image. I got to share my own story as well as those of other riders. There were so many stories from others that really made me sit up and take notice, one particular comment was from Australian dressage rider Armani. She explained, ‘I’ve never really been overly happy with my weight. The difference now is that I care about how I will perform physically and mentally and that I know I really am not overweight… My perspective has really changed for the better in the last year I’ve learned to be more comfortable in my own skin but this didn’t come without so many challenges that I’ve had to overcome.’

The Sand Arena Ballerina was a 2019 Equestrian Blogger & Vlogger Awards Finalist

In mid October the blog was announced as a finalist for the Equestrian Blogger/Vlogger of the year. While the blog didn’t win any awards I was pretty thrilled to be in a line up with such an incredible line up of talent, including Horses and Heels, Life on the Left Rein and Girl About the Yard.

It was blogging that led me to my next creative venture – podcasting. I’d been toying around with the idea of starting a podcast for quite some time. In April I finally bit the bullet and reached out to my favourite equine bloggers and after a heap of planning and work we launched Equestrian Pulse in September!

Together with two of my favourite equestrians, I started a podcast

Moving to Brisvegas

I have long dreamed about returning to the hallowed turf of South East QLD. Ok so it may only be hallowed in my head, but you get the point! So when I found out I had secured a job in Brisbane I was ecstatic.

I was not expecting to be catapulted into the most epic learning curve and period of growth that Nonie and I have experienced as a partnership. At times it felt like everything I knew had been turned upside down. I frequently felt like I was learning to ride all over again.

2019 was marked by our move to Brisbane

When we first moved down Nonie had a flare up of ulcers, despite my best attempts at prevention. My normally level-headed, cool-as-a-cucumber mare became a fire-cracker. The slightest of movements in the distance or noises that would normally be beneath her notice, would set her heart thumping in her chest, leaving her body tight and trembling. A truly awful experience for both of us. Once I realised what was happening and put her on an aggressive course of ulcer treatment things improved quickly.

We also worked on developing a more uphill balance and a little more suspension in the medium trot

For a little while we tracked along fairly well and were able to make some good progress with the flying changes and had our first competition start in SEQ. Nonie was well behaved, but my nerves got the better of me and the result was some very tense tests.

Sometime after this we hit a major wall in our training. Suddenly it was all we could do to ride a 20m circle. We worked through it to a certain degree, but she didn’t feel ‘right’ for quite some time. It was with this feeling that we entered the 2019 Brisbane CDI – an experience that taught me a lot about myself.

Nonie and I after completing our two tests at the 2019 Brisbane CDI

It wasn’t until a chance lesson with Gary Lung through our local club that I truly felt like I had my pony back. Since starting regular lessons with Gary it has been onwards and upwards.

The 2019 Goals

I set some pretty lofty goals for the year back in February and with a solid plan on paper I felt sure that I was set for success. You can read more about my goals here. So how did we go?

me riding Zig Zag in a double bridle during my stay at Monte Velho in Portugal
  1. Canter Pirouettes – We were able to progress see work on the canter pirouettes, but the larger training issues that we faced across the season meant that ultimately we didn’t achieve this goal.
  2. Master the double bridle – We had been working quite well in the double bridle, however some issues with the contact saw us going back to the snaffle. During my trip to Portugal I got some awesome experience riding a bunch of different horses in double bridles and I feel more confident in my ability to transfer these skills back to Nonie when we are ready for the double.
  3. Start at Advanced level – Although we didn’t make it to advanced level (see number 1) we did make it to our first CDI.
  4. Compete at State – We also qualified for and competed at the State Dressage Championships – you can read more about that experience here.
Andrea and Nonie comping at a local hack Show in 2019

2019 would best be described as uncomfortable, but maybe that was exactly what we needed. Pushed outside of our comfort zone we ultimately experienced growth and development that will be so beneficial in the long run.

The year’s accomplishments weren’t reflected in scores or ribbons and maybe an outsider looking in wouldn’t even see anything all the different. But for me sitting on top of my beloved mare, I know that I am riding in a calmer and more effective manner. I can feel the improvement in the relaxation in her back and the power in her trot. Hell, we are even starting to develop an effective half halt in the canter.

Merry Christmas from Nonie and Andrea