Friday, 3 May 2013

Horsey Happenings....a much belated edition!

I do apologise for the rather long gap in my blogging. It's fair to say I have had a lot on my plate... and have been a little secretive! I have had all sorts of questions asked of me lately - namely a) why I am not eventing this season b) why Snip is out on lease and c) why the heck do I look a wee bit fat? :-P Henry was indeed onto something in his detective work (see his last blog entry below!). I'm sure it won't take many of you long to join the dots if you haven't already...

There's no hiding the fact I'm now 23 weeks pregnant! Mark and I are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our first child, due late August. I look at the months ahead...May, June, July...August! Eeek, that is going to come around fast! All is going well and now I am past the "ill" stage, I am feeling great!

So aside from 'baking' a new little person, what have I been up to? Over the warmer months I didn't feel overly well, but since we've hit autumn, Henry and I have had a fun time and even tried our hand at dressage. It's not quite the same as being out eventing, but it's been nice to get out and socialise. We recently went to the Avoca ARC dressage day and he went beautifully for me. My main concern was just getting through the day, but he exceeded all expectations and won both Level 3 tests, taking home the L3 Jackpot!

Henry being a VERY good boy! Riding a test with "Junior" aboard

Most of my horsey time recently has been spent coaching, assisting many young (and not so young) riders on the way to their goals. I have also been judging dressage and even got to judge at the recent Midland PCAV Zone Flat and Musical Ride team qualifiers. What great fun!

Snip (aka I'm a Nuisance) has been having a wonderful time with Harriet. They have had a great season so far, recently placing 5th in the Junior Pre Novice at Camperdown. They also placed 2nd at Bacchus Marsh PC HT and 4th at Riddell's Creek PC HT in Grade 1, with fabulous XC rounds! In doing so, they have qualified for PCAV State Horse Trials Championships in Deniliquin this weekend. We wish them the very best of luck - I know they have worked very hard and will give it all they've got.

Harriet and Snip going great guns at Camperdown

From here, I believe Harriet is aiming to compete 1* later in the season, so she will continue to lease Snip until the end of the year. With my change of circumstances, I have sadly decided he will be offered for sale at the conclusion of the lease. Horses like Snip are hard to come by and I am so glad to have had him in my life - he has given me so many opportunities. Alas, it is the start of a new chapter for me, which will mean a lot less time for the competition aspect of riding whilst I focus on my family. Alex (who is now 4 1/2) will also be going to his "Aunty Bert" soon for the next stage of his education, as it is not really the right time for me to be working a green broken horse!

Although things are changing, it is not all sad news. I am excited to announce that I have bought a promising youngster from the well regarded Koyuna Stud. "Ted" aka Koyuna Enchanted is a lovely 2yo - I'm hoping timing wise he'll work out nicely for me to be broken in once I am back in the swing of things post-baby.

The new kid on the block

In the meantime, I'll be plodding around with my darling Henry and travelling around the traps to do more lessons and judging. Resting and doing nothing is not my strong point, but this winter I promise I will try!

Til next time,

Thursday, 14 March 2013

At Home with Henry

Hi Everyone!

I know it's been a long time between blogs but I don't actually think that's my fault. I blame my two-legged mother for not helping me access the keyboard. She's rarely home, and when she is, she plonks herself in front of the air conditioner and generally is really lazy. How do I know this? I have friend Bones is in the paddock right next to the house and has a good view through the living room window and can see just how much of a couch potato our mother has become....tut, tut! He even calls out to her to entice her outside, but it seems to fall on deaf ears?

I don't really have any exciting tales of competitions to entertain you with, but I have been up to lots. Over the summer, I have had a new friend, Jenna, come and ride me. Jenna is pretty ace. Not only does she seem to like jumping too, but she always brings me carrots when she visits! We did lots of lessons together, including some cross country. It was great fun. 

I have also had a range of other people come to ride me. Apparently I am becoming a "school pony" whatever that means (the same thing that Ellie does, I think, but I get the bigger two-leggeds, not the kids). I don't mind, everyone who visits seems to understand my need to be groomed (ahh, those itchy spots!) and they provide me with lots of carrots, so I just go with the flow. 

I'm not sure what's up with my mother though. Just after Christmas, she complained about feeling sick, then over January she went all funny about doing stuff in the she doesn't ride me over jumps, just sedately rides me around. She was picking on me for getting a bit too fat over summer, but truth be known, I could say the same about her. I'm not sure if it is just me, but I reckon she's starting to develop a bit of a Cob-eqsue figure. I'll be keeping an eye on her. Maybe she should be the one doing laps of the round yard on the lunge instead of me?

Speaking of rumours, I have also heard that Alex is going away on a holiday soon to live with his Aunty for a while. Another sign of our mother's laziness! First Snip disappeared and now Alex...although, I have been reassured I get to stay. Something is definitely time I report I hope to have some answers. 

Over and out 'til next time, 

(Detective) Henry x 

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Setting goals - a real life example

Part One (of many!)

I will preface this little article by humbly acknowledging I am not a top level rider (nor likely to become one any time soon! That's not a self-limiting belief, it is a realistic observation). Nevertheless,the story I am about to tell you will demonstrate how important goal setting is, no matter what level you ride at or what it is you aspire to achieve.

When I returned to competitive riding about 8 years ago, I didn't really have any immediate goals in mind, other than to enjoy my riding and to maybe get around an Introductory horse trials. However, a fateful trip to the Melbourne International Three Day Event in 2005 changed all of that. As I watched horse after horse negotiate the cross country course, I decided that I too, wanted to do THAT! Although I had no idea at the time how I was going to make it happen, the seed was sown and so began the headstrong commitment to my goal. Although I rode as a child and competed at Pony Club, I wasn't one of those kids who had fancy horses or got to compete in EA competitions all over the State and be on the Junior Squads. My dream to take up eventing a bit more seriously therefore really happened as an adult in my mid twenties, when I finally had the resources to have a go under my own steam. 

Although I was largely ignorant to what it was really going to take to one day get to Melbourne 3DE, I did have some things in my favour in the beginning:

-          A strong desire to achieve my goal and work hard to achieve it
-          A love of reading and desire to research and seek information
-          Confidence and “stickability” when riding
-          A job and life circumstances that provided the means and allowed enough time for me to pursue this goal
-          Access to good instruction and training courses
-          A good support team – family, friends and mentors to assist me

The fourth point I have raised is an important one. A lot of people express interest in achieving a goal, without considering how compatible it is with the rest of their life. You may have heard of setting “SMART” goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound). Considering your personal situation comes under the “Realistic” heading. Is it realistic to aim to enter a three day event when you work 60 hours a week and have very little time to ride and train? Likewise, is it a realistic goal at this stage of your life if you are having trouble paying rent and affording feed and shoeing, let alone anything else? If this is the case, you either need to change your circumstances to make the goal possible, or to modify your goal to one that is compatible with the rest of your life, as it is now. I was lucky to work a 38 hour week with plenty of flexi-time and no weekend work, which meant I could afford to compete and had enough time to train.

Although I had many things sussed, for a while there was one thing that really held me back and took time emotionally to deal with. My rather unlikely ‘partner in crime’ at this point in time was a 14.3hh stockhorse. Although diabolical in the dressage, he was honest and clever when it came to jumping. Within two seasons we learned the ropes together and progressed from Introductory through to Pre-Novice and HRCAV Level 1. He took me from being a wimpy jumping rider to being confident and bold. We’d done so much together and I trusted him implicitly…after all we’d completed all our events without a single XC jumping penalty.

Although he didn't get me all the way, special little horses like this can teach us so much!
It took me a long time to accept that this particular horse, as fantastic as he’d been until this point of my riding career, was not going to take me any further. It had become my (unrealistic) dream to get him to 1*.  I persevered for years and tried so hard to improve his weak link, the dressage, but he physically could not do it. He also began to show some other signs that he'd had enough of competing. It was a sad day when I made the decision to retire him,  and in some ways it felt like giving up. But in hindsight, as that door closed, another one opened – as I now better understood what I needed in order for me to progress. I hadn't given up on my goal at all…just now had to re-define it! I see this happen quite often where the rider's ambitions and the horse's abilities are not compatible (for a variety of reasons!).  The answer is either to accept that you are going to have to modify your goal in line with the horse's capabilities...or face the fact that you have grown as a rider and that it is time to find a more suitable partner for your goal. In some cases you may have the right horse, but it could be the timeline to achieve the goal that needs tweaking. 

After working out a "plan" of action I then spent close to two years quietly chipping away at my goal – mostly away from the eventing circuit. To other people, it might have appeared that I had stopped eventing, but rest assured I was still riding! I borrowed, leased and rode horses for other people in dressage and showing to keep my riding skills up, whilst I saved towards buying my next eventer. As I already had a young, very green horse to work with, I decided in order to learn more myself, I needed a sound, well-mannered horse with some education and athletic ability, but not necessarily one that had already competed at a high level. I could have whinged and complained about not being able to afford to buy a going horse straight away, but instead, I put a plan in place of how I could go about buying one. Yes, it took a few years of disciplined saving, but the hard work was worth the wait! This was probably one of the best decisions I've made.

After purchasing my new eventer, I actually stumbled upon Denny Emerson’s book “How Good Riders Get Good”. The chapter of this book that really resonated with me was about selecting a suitable horse. As he pointed out, a rider competing on two horses can be placed 1st and way down the field in the same class – what is the key difference here? It would seem doubtful that the rider suddenly got worse on the horse that didn't place. This gives a clue as to how important it is to have the right horse for the job! (and suitable for the level of riding you are at *now*).

In Part Two - more about the horse - and breaking down the steps along the way to achieve the big goal!