Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Second-to-Last Post, & New Beginnings

I've worded and reworded this post a hundred times, and still haven't figured out how to say everything that I want to say in a short and concise post, whilst still doing it justice. I've grown incredibly attached to this little Blogger space and will be sad to move on, but I am moving on. To bigger and better things, or so I hope. I'm making the shift to!

A lot has changed for me over the last couple of months or so, and I'll explain these changes in more detail at a later date. Everything is exciting again, and I've finally identified and overcome so many mental barriers that I didn't even know existed. Sports psychology has helped me more than I could say, but I'll try to say it all - over at Wordpress.

It's a long and technical process, trying to shift all my old posts over to the new site. I've 'rebranded' so to speak, and you can now find me under 'Bay Horse Eventing'.
Oh and guess what?! .. we're going eventing again this side of the season!! Mum, being the holder of the purse strings, has given me the go ahead for float repairs!

I'll be back with more in a fortnight, over at There'll be an international giveaway to kick things off and in the meantime I'll be riding hard and reading everyone else's blogs. I just need a week or so to get to grips with Wordpress and get the design just how I want it.

Hope you guys stay tuned for my next post - which will be the last post - where I'll link up the giveaway and new site.

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Sweet Spot

Today's post brought to you by Cutie McCuteface, and his big doe eyes.

Today's short post is actually brought to you by me, and I'm not that cute. But I can create a blog post a hell of a lot better than Cute-face up there. If the keyboard remained intact long enough for him to paw out some words, he'd probably say something like "giz me dat cranberry OSM bar now plz mom" and that would be all. The boy takes after his mama and is a big fan of the OSM - cranberry to be precise, though he won't turn down the other flavours in a hurry. 

I digress.. what I actually wanted to share today was a little revelation that occurred to me during my ride some time last week. We've had a great winter on the whole, and I was almost beginning to take the intermittent warm spells during the day for granted, but this day was particularly cold - my grandma would have said it was bitter.

We were moseying around the arena, going through the w/t/c motions and I was focusing on riding squares instead of circles, and trying to psych myself into preparing for some serious schooling. Because we had a lesson the next day and I knew we'd be tested on our 'homework'.

No matter how much I wanted to, I just couldn't gather myself together to slog it out for forty minutes trying to perfect our shoulder in on the circle. You can't beat a dead horse so instead I opted to just brush over a few things quickly and save our legs for another day.

What a smart move that was. I asked for a couple of strides of leg yield, was unsatisfied with what Oscar offered me so told him to give me more, was then satisfied and let him have a quick stretch on a loose rein before tackling the shoulder in. That exercise was much the same, first request produced less than satisfactory results and so when I insisted he try a little harder, he obliged and earned a tonne of neck rubs.

Moving on when I was satisfied that he'd shown some effort proved to be a great move as he then put effort in from the get go on the other rein, and that got me thinking. I'm so focused on getting things perfect so that we can move forward come lesson time, that I wasn't really rewarding Oscar enough for his efforts. And effort is important, it's something you want to encourage and even train into your horse so that you can continue to move forward... long after that tricky movement is behind you. What good is an excellent shoulder in if my horse no longer finds training fun?

And so I promised to myself that I'll always try to find that "sweet spot" going forwards in our training; where the work is challenging but never difficult. I'll save the difficult and hard rides for lesson time, when there's another set of eyes and someone with knowledge and experience to help make the difficult stuff easier. I have no interest in making things hard to the point where my horse doesn't want to even try anymore. That's no fun for anybody.

Of course, I don't want to make things too easy either. The trick seems to be finding that sweet spot where you're improving, but at a rate that's comfortable for both parties. I still like to see that Oscar got the blood pumping, without heading back to the cross ties lathered in sweat.

Monday, August 1, 2016

'Happy Birthdays' All Round!

I've been feeling a bit unmotivated to saddle up lately which, to be honest, isn't all that unusual for me at this time of year - I may be half guilty of being a fair weather rider unless we have a lesson or a show. In saying that, there's a polework and jumping clinic on this weekend and Oscar and I will be taking part in two lessons there which is exciting. We'll have to book in for a dressage lesson soon before people forget I'm pretty much all about the flatwork haha.

Happy 'Official' Birthday Oscar Bear!

However, today is a special day where we don't really want to talk about being unmotivated! Today in New Zealand (and all other southern hemisphere countries) our beloved horses turn a year older! August 1st marks a new equestrian year, and a fresh season to plan for.

I've been a busy bee working on this season's goals but that's a post in itself. Instead, Oscar hinted at what he'd like for his birthday in honour of the occasion...

1. Sunshine, and a big grassy field with some shady trees.

All of the apples.

I would love to have shared an extensive wishlist including Animo breeches, Devouceux halters and at least seven new rugs, but in reality my little bay horse is just all about the simple life. Give him an enormous field and plenty of apples and the horse is happy as can be. At least he's low maintenance?

Unfortunately for him, his real birthday isn't until the 14th and Spring is a little bit after that... but he'll get an extra dipper of feed tonight just because! Happy birthday horses, ponies, donkeys and mules!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

July 10 Questions

Oscar is slowly but surely winding down for his winter break towards the end of August. We have a couple jumping lessons to go and will continue familiarising ourselves with the racetracks, but other than that we're just working on smoothing things over as opposed to learning anything new and increasing fitness.


Don't judge me for using a bitless bridle to catch my horse, ha. I left my spare halter in a friends trailer.

Anyway, I have something cool in the works for a not too distant post but in the meantime I've been wanting to jump on the 'July 10 Questions' bandwagon, brought to us by blog hop queen,  L Williams.  Though Becks' F@#% Yea' blog hop has gone right in my basket too for a another rainy day.


1. Do you actually always pick the horse's feet? Always? Really?

Not always, but for the most part, yes. It's actually a rule at my grazing that horses feet are picked before riding in the arena, so if I'm doing arena work then absolutely. Also, if I'm trailering off property I'll pick the feet out - mostly because I don't want Oscar bringing half the paddock with him onto the trailer.

2. What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?

The fact that I just don't wish to become a professional/compete full time. I relate to Becks' statement that you lose a lot of the passion when it comes to turning your passion into work. There's suddenly a lot more to it than just loving the sport when it becomes the thing that has to put food on your table.

3. Do you think it will ever not be about the money?

Money, money, money... I eat your money for breakfast. 

Nope, it's always about the money for me. Horses are a hundred times more enjoyable when you have the cash to show every week and buy all of the tack that you covet... or even fix up your trailer so you can leave the property every once in a while.

Although with that being said, horse ownership in New Zealand is ten times more affordable than what I grew up accustomed to, so I guess time is actually the biggest thing these days.

4. Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out?

Absolutely - I really wish that I clicked with Smooch. She is always in the ribbons whenever she goes out, and is a super talented horse. I purchased her the day I saw her, I wanted her to work out for me that much. Sadly though, we just bring out the worst in each other. I have a super cold seat, I don't know if that's the correct term but whatever the opposite of a hot-seat is) and being a horse that has learnt how to say no, it's really hard for me to get her forward and off my leg without a serious full on slog-match.

Five minutes of ribbon winning on this horse isn't worth the hours upon hours of battling behind the scenes; and I'd rather just have a horse that I enjoy than a horse that will win me ribbons. I wish we clicked but sadly it's not to be. She adores my sister and watching them win stuff together is awesome.

As a funny side note, my sister purchased Oscar straight away too and the two of them just don't get on at all. It set us up for a perfect horse-swap.

5. What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn't pick up on, only you?

I don't know, I'm pretty transparent and share my weaknesses with anyone I lesson with. C knows Oscar and I pretty well and has identified plenty of weaknesses I didn't even know we had, but I did have to let her know how collapsed I felt through my left ribcage. I am being punished heavily for it. #AllOfTheLeftReinExercises.

6. What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?

I'm a pretty positive thinker, and know I share the same capability as all the big name riders to do well if I work hard enough to foster the right mentality, dedication, passion to do well and was prepared to work my ass off to get there. I know all this and don't have any "not-good-enough" issues.

My biggest insecurity then, and this translates across the board, is what other people think of me.

I remember the first time I rode at Pony Club - my parents took photos to share with my family in England, and a girl from the club that I hadn't even met yet left comments on each of them 'critiquing' my position and referring to "my poor horse". I was only tipping forward through my shoulder, the reins had loops in them and the horse really couldn't have given a shit.

It has definitely made me a little insecure about what people are thinking, though I have learnt to avoid the toxic and catty riders as they're mostly just insecure in their own capabilities.

7. There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly, and you can tell that it is going to come down any time. Do you call people first, or head in straight to save the horses?

Did someone say "barn fire"?!?! I'd better spray #nervouspoo all up my stable wall just in case!

I'd do both, simultaneously. Probably yell out as I ran inside.

I don't think I could physically pause and stop to make a call whilst animals were trapped in a life threatening situation.

8. What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you're still not over, even though you might tell others that you are?

Hmmm, since breaking my hip on a bolting horse - I really dislike being aboard a bolting horse.
It's not something I talk about though, so I don't know that anyone knows about it/thinks I'm over it. It happened in Auckland so all of my riding friends now don't actually know about it, ha.

9. If you could tell off one person you just don't like, what would you say?

If you imply that you are above riding Thoroughbreds then you have an attitude that's not likely to get you very far. Sitting on a warmblood doesn't make you better than anyone else, despite what you might think.

10. Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practises, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?

Totally. I can't really be salty towards others who call people out on what they don't agree with, if I do it myself. There comes a point when outside interference is necessary but I don't think I'm qualified to ever play that interfering party. In saying that, I will share the odd post on my Facebook page that raises awareness around say.. leaving nylon halters on horses in the paddocks.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Grid-work Jumping Lesson Recap

A week or so ago I asked the world of Facebook for jumping instructor recommendations, and a good friend put me onto L (at this point I realise most horse people that I interact with and talk about on this here blog are either L's or C's!!). We scheduled for this weekend which ended up being lovely and uncharacteristically warm for this time of year, perfect lesson weather.

L liked Oscar right off the bat and said so which was a nice surprise. Usually I tend to gravitate towards harsher instructors who don't fluff around with compliments, and that suits me just fine - if I'm paying for lessons I want critique, not pats on the back. I know that some people prefer the more encouraging instructors, but that teaching style has never really been my jam. Still, I'll gratefully take a nice compliment about my horse's general existence and dashing good looks.

We talked briefly about what Oscar and I had done (training level eventing), were doing (beginning jump work following hunting injury) and aiming to do (get back to eventing again) before we began warming up on a canter circle over two poles at opposite sides of said circle.

This exercise is one that always needs work; and we usually have the same issue whenever we try it, being falling out of the outside shoulder (yes, that old chestnut). L also wasn't overly pleased with the way Oscar carried himself to and over the poles, though I will point out that he was feeling particularly lethargic and behind my leg that day. A couple of vertical half halts at strategic points on the circle seemed to help slightly, but I opted to grab a whip for the rest of the lesson as I was already feeling a bit puffed.

In the interests of being honest, I don't believe that I was helping Oscar carry himself nicely over the poles - anyone who spends the majority of their time in a dressage saddle knows it takes a good ten minutes or so to warm yourself into a jumping saddle. I didn't feel like I could weight my inside leg enough to sit straight for a while during our warmup, which obviously makes it more difficult for my horse to travel straight underneath me.

On top of that it's ten times harder to get a horse between your seat and hands when your seat is unbalanced, any energy you are channeling forwards is able to be diverted through the weakness - or as was the case with us - blocked by, your seat.

The final straw before grabbing the whip was as we trotted into a tiny cross rail with a ground pole in front of it - Oscar got stuck on having a pole right before a jump so ended up clambering through the jump.  I picked up my stick, circled and came back around, pulling out the old one-handed-pony-clubber a stride out so I could tap him behind my leg as he took off. Oscar jumped out of his skin, threw in a buck and I didn't have to touch or nag him again the whole lesson. Whips and spurs are his least favourite, the boy is as far from Rihanna as they come.

Once warmed up and when Oscar was in a good place between my seat and hands, we moved onto grid work (red dashed lines are poles on my oh-so artistic diagram below):

The jumps were just a simple cross rail oxer and a teeny tiny upright and we were aiming for six things with this particular grid.

i) getting a good canter into, through and out of the grid.
ii) stretching my horse out over the fairly wide oxer, as his jump is apparently quite snappy.
iii) encouraging Oscar to figure things out without me trying to place him at the base of the fence.
iv) building good muscle post injury using small fences.
v) using the poles to improve my ability to see a stride. 
vi) improving confidence across the board, for the pair of us. 

So one grid, two poles and fences, had a whole host of benefits/things to work on with the above in mind. 

Our first target was to establish a canter that allowed us to really travel forwards and into the grid. 
Oscar is happy to collect deep to the base of the fence and tidily pop over whatever obstacle is in front of him, but L wanted more ground coverage without compromising the collection in the canter, and we worked on a surprisingly simple and effective exercise to achieve this.

We took things right back to the circle, where we picked up a light skippy canter straight from walk. When we had a good rhythm going L asked me to sit deep and bring Oscar back to the slowest canter we could manage, right back until he was about to break into trot at which point I was very quickly to push him forward again. It was an ugly and difficult exercise but the first two or three strides of canter offered after I got after him were perfect, exactly what L was looking for. The key with this exercise is to be assertive enough to push your horse out at the critical 'just about to trot' moment, and back off when the horse leaps into the forward-but-still-on-his-hocks canter. I could feel exactly what L was asking us for, which is always a great thing, and so we were able to progressively get more and more strides of it as we continued to practise. Once the concept had stuck we'd alternate from circle to grid and back to the circle. It kept Oscar's brain busy and fresh, and was super effective (Pokemon Go lovers will appreciate that description) to maintain the exact same canter on the flat and through a grid. 

Show hunters watch out ;) (tricking).   

The improved quality canter did have the added effect of encouraging Oscar to reach more over a jump, but also widening a parallel oxer to the right effort-inducing distance helped out too. Especially the third or fourth time when Oscar had gotten comfortable working his way through the grid.

Teeny tiny fences are all you need in a grid, especially in early stages as your horse figures things out.
I am usually of the opinion (and I don't know where this theory came from) that a horse needs something at chest height or above in order to improve his jumping technique. Well I was certainly  shown otherwise today, as Oscar felt a hundred times better the last couple of times than he did in the first couple, and it was basically just down to engaging the haunches in the canter and engaging the brain by leaving the horse alone.

We opted to finish the lesson early as we'd already made big improvements, we have plenty of homework coming out of the lesson and most importantly, Oscar was tired. I never mind finishing a lesson early when my horse is tired as he means the world to me, but I see no sense in ever pushing anything on a tired horse anyway. We've rescheduled for another lesson and I'm thrilled that I now have a genuine understanding and feel for what I'm teaching my horse in a jumping context, and we no longer have to just aimlessly canter between jumps in order to feel we're schooling something. Good times indeed.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Too Much Weekday, Not Enough Coffee..

I've been a little lethargic over the past week, mainly due to limiting my coffee intake and forgetting my iron supplements after dinner a few times. When you're a carb girl through and through, it's hard to be a vegetarian and still get adequate amounts of what your body needs. Spinach and chips has nothing on steak and chips. Time to get back on the green smoothies I think. 

Of course, it is that much harder to be motivated with your riding when you have no real tangible goals and that's not helping my recent low energy state of mind. With my trailer still out of action and business as slow as it is (having a farrier business in winter is great! said nobody, ever ha..), it's hard to scrape together the dollars needed to make the repairs there. 
I'm still staying hopeful that we'll be able to sort something come spring, so the dark winter evenings in the saddle will hopefully end up paying off towards the end of the year.

Whilst the trailer is out of action, a local girl has managed to bring together enough participants to get someone in to host a pole work and jumping clinic at the arena next month, which I am super excited for! I put Oscar and I down for pole work in the morning and jumping in the afternoon, and it's nice to have something to look forward to and something to keep me riding even when I just feel like curling into a ball on the sofa with a hot coffee and a bar of chocolate. 

On a more positive note, all of the difficult stuff C was drilling us on (who knew going straight was difficult?!) is starting to come to us much quicker, and Oscar is offering that much more in his way of going as a consequence. I feel like the spookiness that haunted us in every dressage test we completed last winter has finally bit the dust.. either that, or I have learnt to cope better with my horse's overactive imagination. Perseverance paid off, and I can only imagine how much fun we'd be having at the dressage series this year! If we can get out eventing next season we are set to have a ball, I'm absolutely certain of it! My show jumping nerves are surely shrinking away like Oscar's spookiness, and I feel more excited than nervous to jump these days. We're getting back to being the awesome team we were during our time at pony club, which makes me happier than you could imagine. Again, perseverance and fostering a "just do it" attitude was key here.

If I can apply that attitude to saving money, we'll be tearing across country in no time! Until then we'll just keep drinking coffee and working on getting awesome..

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Adventuesdays: Wairere Falls

So, in my spare time (ha ha ha ha ha...) I just love walking/hiking/tramping/exploring/discovering secret swim holes/climbing waterfalls. Like if I wasn't able to own horses anymore I'd happily take up adventuring as my hobby. And what sane individual residing in New Zealand doesn't love adventuring?! This country is stunning. My good friend, Katie, introduced me to car camping not so long ago and I think that once a week I'd just pack up my car, hit the road and get lost in whatever nature had to offer.

And seriously, it has a lot to offer! My favourite hike so far was an almost vertical ascent to the top of the North Island's tallest waterfall. The views from the top as I sat and caught my breath, with my bare toes dug into some mossy pebbles on the edge of the waterfall and gripping onto a boulder for security, quite literally took my breath away.

I visited Wairere Falls with my sister, Coco, and by the time we reached our destination at the top we were both feeling the intense burn in our thighs. Our favourite sibling bonding sessions seem to occur perched atop a mountain, a waterfall or a horse together, so a lot of my adventures involve climbing something with her. 

This particular walk was one of the most difficult; it won't knock a particular Auckland trail off top spot in terms of difficulty but it got close. We'd get through what felt like a huge chunk of the trail, only to reach a clearing and see our destination still looming ahead. Still, there's worse views to be seen and that's for sure. 

In New Zealand, what I refer to as "adventuring" is better known as tramping; as in tramping through leaves, mud, tree roots, bush and other untouched characteristics of nature. Oftentimes you'll find yourself on a DoC (Department of Conservation) marked walk, only to discover that you're left to your own devices to pick your way through the bush. It's not always a case of walking, but sometimes crawling, scrambling or sliding your way through. Excellent cross training!

Personally, I think it is important to work on rider fitness just as much as, if not more so, than a horse's. A rider is the horse's trainer, and is a lot more effective if they can hold their own throughout a training session. I have miles to go to reach my goal fitness, in this post in particular I share one example of how my lack of fitness holds Oscar back. Popular activities to compliment riding typically involve yoga or pilates type training, but just getting out and walking, which is the defining movement of human beings, is so underrated. 

Another advantage for me is that exercising outdoors suits me better than chewing through numbers on a treadmill inside an air conditioned gym, and the scenery distracts me from the fact that I'm actually exercising. Bcuz why exercise when you can eat all the fries?!
A free swim thrown in completes the deal. 

Tramping is my second favourite form of excercise for many reasons, but the thing I love the most is that it goes a long way to engage all of your senses, which in other words means it's hella interesting. 

On this tramp in particular, the air is so fresh and so crisp - even with the sticky rays from the sun attempting to burn us to crisp, each intake of air was thoroughly invigorating. It's as if your personal energy levels are feeding off the processes going on around you. You can hear the (almost deafening up close) tumbling and crashing of water bouncing off the platforms on the face of the rock with every step, and the singing of birds going about their business with the faint clicking of cicadas in the distance. The views leave nothing to be desired, whilst the clean cool water rushes all around you and cools you off when you reach the top. 

Or at a midway point if you need to cool down right there and then..

After all the climbing and splashing around and clambering over rocks and tree logs, and general engaging of all muscle groups you are aware or unaware of, you will have likely worked up an appetite. My sister and I are suckers for hot, extra salted McDonald's fries and it's almost tradition that we finish our adventures with fries fresh out the basket. 
(Life tip: ask for your fries unsalted, and then request salt sachets. You'll get hotter, fresher fries that way!)
Food also tastes a million times better after you've worked for it, so there's the taste component of my tramping statement too, ha..

As tramping is a secondary love of mine, I thought it'd be fun to share my adventures on my blog - even if it's just for personal satisfaction to be able to look back and reflect on good times. I did think that a lot of other blogs that I read and follow have overseas authors, the exception obviously being Becks', and so maybe visitors coming from my favourite blogs will enjoy an up close and personal peek into some secret New Zealand spots! There's more to us than earthquakes, volcanoes and hobbits, I promise!

I hope to share an Adven-tuesday (adventure-tuesday, yeah?) every third Tuesday of the month, and I'll do my best to stagger them fairly across the different regions to show how varied the landscape is depending where you go. 

Do any of my horse-riding readers have a secondary hobby/way to get fit that also helps them in the saddle? Is New Zealand on anyone's bucket list?