Tag: Training

Alex Murray – Dressage rider at heart

Alex Murray – Dressage rider at heart

It’s been a while since we’ve had a featured rider on TSAB. As I was thinking about who I wanted to invite to be part of this project I realised that my friend Alex Murray, with so many different and incredible experiences under her belt 

My 2018 Riding Goals

My 2018 Riding Goals

There is something promising about the new year. It’s an opportunity to start afresh, set your sights on new things and new journeys. I love pouring over the competition calendar at the start of each year and planning for the coming year. A really important 

2017 – A year in Review – Equestrian Blog Hop

2017 – A year in Review – Equestrian Blog Hop

2017 was a whirlwind of changes to in my career and a different focus in my riding. A promotion at work saw my professional life ramp up. With Nonie and I being between elementary and medium level, competing took a back seat and the focus was squarely on learning. And I completed my first 12 months as a blogger!

Equestrian Blog Hop - 2017

My first year as an equestrian blogger.

In my first year as a blogger I wrote and published 52posts which had just over 7000 views and I ‘met’ and got to work with some fabulous bloggers. Some of my favourite and most popular posts have been:

Daring to suck

My most popular post was all about embracing imperfection or ‘daring to suck’ as riders. I talked about how my tendency towards perfectionism has held me back in my riding in the past and the strategies I’ve used to overcome this.

2017 Daring to Suck

Emily Grimstead

The Featured Rider series was sparked from my desire to share my friend Emily’s journey to The National Dressage Pony Cup. Emily shared about the challenging journey taking her Appaloosa pony Goosebumps from a rescue to Breed Champion at pony cup. From there the series was born. Her advice to other riders was simple but poignant – have patience.

Emily and Goose 2017 National Pony Cup

Bailey Notle

My second featured rider story focused on Bailey Notle – a rider I have admired for quite some time. In the two part series we covered a variety of topics from how Bailey got into riding, to what she loved about dressage and of course we got to learn more about her mare Fair Joy.
Bailey also had some pretty fantastic advice for readers:
– Not comparing our personal journey to someone else’s
– Staying true to the purpose of dressage that is improving the horses way of going
– Fashion over function
– Never stop learning

Bailey Notle and Fair Joy

The equestrians guide to motivation

I had been pondering the issue of motivation and figured I would go to the brains trust (aka my fellow Equestrian bloggers) to find out more about motivation. I asked what motivation is, what causes it to suffer and how we can improve it. A few themes emerged including the importance of setting goals, managing the pressure we place upon ourselves and knowing when to take a step back from riding.

Highlights of 2017

Looking back at the year that was 2017 there were a few clear highlights for me.

Lessons with Brett Parbey

Over the Easter long weekend we traveled down to The Sunshine Coast to attend lessons with Australian Based International dressage rider Brett Parbey. I was struck by his simple yet effective approach to training horses.

2017 Lessons with Brett Parbery

In June I had the opportunity to join the EquiMind team as a sponsored rider. Since July we’ve competed every month (with the exception of December) in thier online dressage competitions. This has beena great learning tool for me and has helped me to get back into the ring and ride through dressage tests and receive feedback on them.The Summer Championships were held in September and Nonie and I managed to finish as the Dressage Champions!

Medium Debut

My one and only competition for the year took place in July in the warm and dry Townsville. Mum made the flight up to Mackay to help me travel up and share this moment with me.

2017 - Ambition

The tests were certainly not our best work and arguably we were a little green at that level to have made our debut. Nonetheless, I am glad we took the plunge as getting out into the competition arena at this new level served to highlight our weaknesses.

Riding Bridleless

About a month ago, I finally took the plunge and rode Nonie without a bridle. It was something that I had been wanting to do for the longest time and Nonie took to it like a duck to water. I’m looking forward to doing more of this in 2018 and improving my ability to ride off my seat and legs.

2017 Bridleless Riding

Lessons on a Pegasus

The final highlight of the year would have to be my lessons on super coach Dani Keogh’s Remi Pegasus (aka Nemo). This was such an invaluable experience which has given me a clearer feeling of collection in the canter and canter pirouettes. I felt how I can use my seat and core to help the collection and keep the hind end active with my legs.

Similarly in the medium trot I got a better feeling of sitting myself in the saddle to help maintain the balance in Nemo’s body as he lengthened.

It was also really cool to see how elements of the warm I do on Nonie (training elementary/medium) were the same as what Dani does with Nemo (training Prix St George) and served as a good reminder of the importance of having the horse quick off your aids and being precise with your aids. For me this means keeping my legs in the correct position.

What were the highlights of your 2017?

2017 a year in review

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Lessons learnt in my medium debut

Two weekends ago Nonie and I danced down the centreline of our first ever medium dressage tests. In the week leading up to this competition my body was filled with a maelstrom of emotions. Excitement, nerves and pride. While we didn’t make take the dressage 

A lesson in simplicity – Lessons with Brett Parbey

A lesson in simplicity – Lessons with Brett Parbey

When the opportunity to train with Aussie icon Brett Parbery lined up with the Easter long weekend, I knew I wanted to be there. I’ve been a long-time fan of Brett Parbery, having watched him on horses such as Victory Salute and Aber Halo 29. 

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Flying Changes and Mind Games

Toward the end of last year, Nonie and I started work on the flying changes. Flying changes!!! Being deemed ready to ride this brand new movement felt like a huge accomplishment. It felt like we had arrived! Having now started them, I can’t help but feel that my initial eagerness belied my naivety.
I have come to understand that the changes are a challenge which require strength, relaxation and timing. There is an additional layer of challenge because you either complete one or you don’t. Sure there are varying levels of excellence within this movement however learning to ride the changes is vastly different from other skills where you are able to gradually develop them. For instance, when beginning shoulder in you may feel a glimmer of brilliance before it slips through your fingers. You can then continue to build upon that feeling until suddenly you can ride a whole long side in shoulder in.
Nonie and Andrea
The changes started well under the watchful and analytical eye of our coach Dani Keogh, but when we started to work on them on our own it was a different story. We would warm up well and progress on to school the flying changes. After achieving maybe one or two each way that were fine Nonie would brace against me, take over and speed off. Maybe because she is an exuberant horse, or more likely this was the natural result of me asking with a far bigger aid than required. So I would go home and read articles, watch videos and find a new exercise to try. I would try it a couple of times with success but then Nonie would again take over.
The reason we were struggling with the flying changes wasn’t necessarily that my position is weak or because Nonie’s canter needed more jump and strength (although in some respects it does). Rather it was because whenever tension would enter in the canter work, particularly on the right rein Nonie would push in through her her right shoulder allowing her to brace against me and avoid my aids. Ironically this is the exact issue that Dani had spent a large chunk of time working on with us in our last lesson. Who’d have guessed!
It’s not the first time that I have learnt a lesson in this way where I’ve been told something a million times and then suddenly the lesson clicks and the light bulb goes off! Eureka, we have understanding! I suspect a few factors play into this. I believe that timing is essential. In order to deeply understand a lesson, we must be in a place were mentally we are ready for it. On the other, it may have more to do with hearing the lesson explained in a way that makes sense. You know how 4+5 equal 9 but 3+6 also equal 9. Or maybe it’s a combination of all of these things.
So I took  a few steps back to focus on the prerequisites for a good change. For example, the transitions, the balance, the tempo control and keeping her wrapped around my inside leg, and only occasionally asking for a change. This approach did help to create some progress. However I sensed that my mind was also holding me back. This came more from past experiences of my mind getting in the way, rather than a true understanding of exactly what was happening at that point in time.
Flying changes and mind games
I suspected that a phone call to my performance and mindset coach Danielle Pooles from Dressage Plus would be helpful. So that was exactly what I did. I have sought Dani’s assistance previously with great success. Anyone who has ridden dressage knows that it takes a great deal of athletic ability. Equally, it requires great strength of mind and the ability to remain clear headed under pressure. When learning a new movement or in situations where our equine partner may be unsure, it is up to us as the rider, to step up and be the leader and gently guiding our horse to understanding.
Talking through the difficulties I was having with Dani helped me to figure out exactly what was going on. For instance bracing against Nonie, holding tension in my thighs and my mind going blank at the vital moment I needed to ask for the change. We then worked out a strategy, including breathing at key moments to help manage these issues. I got to try the strategy out the very next day. Low and behold I was excited about the prospect of riding the changes rather than being nervous about how she would respond. We only got a quick ride in due to me leaving work late. Regardless we managed a calm easy change on each rein. No speeding up into the change. No barreling down into the reins after the change. No more excessive use of aids.
The flying changes are not yet perfect, but they are certainly improving and at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for. Little improvements each day add up to big changes in the long term (pardon the pun!). This experience has reinforced for me the importance of mindset. Riding is as much a mind game as it is an athletic pursuit.
Until next time, happy riding!
I’ll be a good rider when…

I’ll be a good rider when…

  ‘I’ll be a good rider when…’ This is a game I used to play a few years ago and it’s about as useful as its companion game ‘If only…’ At that time the script in my head was ‘I’ll be a good rider when 

Daring to Suck

Daring to Suck

Daring to suck… It’s a seemingly bizarre concept that resonated deeply with me. I was listening to one of my favourite podcast’s (check it out here http://summerinnanen.com/frr-37) when I stumbled across this idea.   So what does ‘daring to suck’ actually mean? In a nutshell, 

Rain Rain Go Away

Rain Rain Go Away

As I watched the storm roll in from the back of my horse, I knew we were in for some really wet weather

As an equestrian, my relationship with rain one of love-hate. While I can accept that regular doses of rain are necessary, bringing with it wonderfully lush grass, providing respite from the oppressive humidity and filling up rain water tanks and bores, there are also several negatives associated with the rain. When summer starts and brings with it several days of seemingly endless rain my heart sinks a little. Here in North Queensland, we are currently in the thick of it, so I thought I would share some strategies which have enabled me to retain my sanity in the rain.

Enjoying an outride on a lovely rain free day

When the inability to ride in your rain soaked arena becomes an issue, the obvious recommendation is to build an indoor… Just kidding, clearly this is outside the budget of many equestrians. Having an arena which doesn’t drain well has forced me to become both more creative and make the best of a situation. I am lucky to have wide grassed verges around my agistment centre and regularly make use this area during the summer rain. Although, the area is not wide enough to ride a 10m circle comfortably, it is great for riding transitions within the pace and lateral work such as leg yields, shoulder in and travers.  I also like to make use of this time to do a little bare back riding, I find that this helps me to engage the correct muscles within my core as well as allowing greater feel of my horses back.

When the ground has reached a point of complete saturation and riding just isn’t an option there are still things that you can do to get that horsey fix. Some strategies you could try include:

– Reviewing what progress you have made towards your goals and setting new ones

– Reflecting on your most recent training sessions and considering any areas of your riding that require more attention

– Visualising aspects of your training on which you are getting stuck or that you want to improve upon

When the rain is around, the sides of the road are the perfect place to ride

Working with Danielle Pooles a performance coach at Dressage Plus (http://dressageplus.com.au/) has helped me to develop these skills.

Now I love my mare dearly, but I do on occasion wish that her skin was not quite so sensitive. Sensitive skin combined with two and a half white socks, quickly growing grass and bucket loads of rain is a recipe for greasy heel. Despite my best efforts in the past, there have been two occasions that I can vividly recall, where she has developed a mild case of greasy heel resulting in her normally elegant legs looking more like those belonging to an elephant from the hock down!

In the absence of a stable where were your horse can get high and dry a couple of products can help you keep on top of these problems. I use a combination of antibacterial washes (such as Malaseb), drying her heels and pasterns and then coating them in Keratex Mud Shield powder. And then putting Mud Guards on.

Fortunately around 18months ago Mum stumbled across Mud Guards (http://www.mudguards4horses.com), which are a pleated canvas wrap (similar to gaiters that hikers wear) that fasten just above the fetlock, that help to keep the pastern and heel dry as well as keeping the sun off. I have used these over the two ‘wet seasons’, they have saved me time, money, stress and best of all no more elephant legs!

To prevent her hooves becoming waterlogged and make them easier to clean out as the mud dries I have been using Keratex Hoof gel. You can read more about it here.

Nonie enjoying the fresh grass in her Mud Guards.

Since moving to Brisbane and having Nonie stabled for 12 hours a day, I’ve realise just how much easier it is to manage horses during the wet. Being dry for at least half the day even during the wettest periods allows your horses feet and skin the chance to dry out. This helps to keep their feet for becoming too soft and crumbling, and equally helps to prevent the development of bacterial skin conditions such as rain scald and greasy heel.

Nonie has been loving her stable during all of the recent rain we have had

I hope these ideas help you to make it through to winter with the least amount of drama possible. If all else fails enjoying stomping in a few puddles and wait for the rain to pass!