A Weekend of Jumping!

This weekend was one of the most horse-filled, neigh (pun intended), jumping filled weekends I’ve had to date! From the moment I left work on Friday at 5pm, to writing this post as this very moment, every second has been filled with horses – bar when I’ve been sleeping.


Riding at 10pm in the wind and rain isn’t fun, but finishing up the day with this face is!

Friday – Video Editing & Riding in the Rain

On Friday evening I put the finishing touches to my LeMieux Unboxing Video, and then headed to the yard to ride Paddy. By the time I got there it was late, dark, windy and conveniently the heavens opened just as I pulled into the yard – not ideal. Nevertheless, I had to ride as we had a XC clinic the next morning and Paddy had just been clipped – so I strapped on our best waterproofs and kicked on! Paddy wasn’t impressed, and while I was sympathetic to his plight (I was out in it too!), we both have to be comfortable riding in adverse conditions – after all, we are in Ireland, and the number of indoor shows in our country are limited!

As Paddy got wet in the rain, I took it as an opportunity to try out my new LeMieux Carbon Cooler Rug – the soft material at the top helped keep Paddy cosy after his fresh clip, while the mesh encouraged airflow and helped him to dry quicker. Now if only they made something similiar for his mane…

Saturday – George Russell XC Clinic, Redhills Stud

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-23-14-00As I continuously pressed ‘snooze’ on my alarm at 6.30am on Saturday, I wondered how sorry I’d really be if I just bailed on the XC Clinic I had booked for 10am that morning. Well, I’m glad I hauled my exhausted rear out of bed and made the trip to Redhills Stud for our clinic with George Russell – both Paddy and I learned SO much and I came out of the lesson feeling really confident with lots of homework.

We started in our warming up moving up and back within the canter in light seat – George noted that Paddy needs to be much sharper off my leg aids which is definitely something I have to work on, no excuses at this stage really! We also did some canter cavaletti on a circle, teaching us to get our ‘engines’ working in the canter.

From here we moved onto gridwork – three bounces, followed by four strides to either an oxer, a dog leg to a vertical or a dog leg to a double (set up in a ‘Y’ shape). This is where Paddy’s straightness issues became obvious – he drifts to the left over the grid, and George reminded me not to be afraid to use my legs through the grid, keeping my left leg on to keep him straight.

Then we started to piescreen-shot-2016-11-13-at-23-13-50ce some XC fences together. I was a bit nervous having only taken Paddy out twice, and not done much beyond 80/90cm, but I needn’t have been! We popped out over a rolltop followed by a brush spread and Paddy had no issue with either, pinging them with feet to spare. We started to add in skinnies (which we had never done before, and are my nemesis!), cottages, a bullfinch and a water tray, and every one of them his default was ‘go’ and ‘over’ which I was really impressed with. He even found his ‘fifth leg’ at one point when I completely misjudged a stride into the cottage! George’s advice to me that really worked was:

  • Forget about everything and just ride forward – he tends to get a bit stuffy, cantering on the spot and swapping leads behind when he knows it’s time to jump. He cannot use this as an excuse to get out of work. Instead of me stopping him to reorganise, I need to ride forward so he learns that this behaviour doesn’t equal no work!
  • Tanking me around the arena does not equal an engine!
  • Use light seat wherever I can to get him thinking forward
  • Put my stirrups up a hole!
  • Don’t be afraid to put a bit of pressure on him – I am too soft with Paddy and happy to back off if I think he doesn’t like something. While it’s good to be looking out for him, he can take advantage of this a bit and back off himself – he goes better when he’s got a job to do and knows I’m getting after him if he doesn’t do it!

We learned so much at the clinic, the lessons are so good for the horses’ brains as it is something a bit different for them beyond showjumping in an arena. I’d highly recommend booking a clinic the next time they come up, to anyone. We’re back again with George next week for part 2 – must start doing my homework beforehand! You can check out some of the exercises we did in the video below:

On Saturday evening, myself and a couple of friends made the one hour trip to Cavan Equestrian to watch the Puissance class in their CSI* International show. The atmosphere was fantastic and it made for exhilarating watching by the end! We also got to watch some of the other showjumping classes, and it’s fantastic to get a chance to watch riders at such a high level – my favourite part of shows of this level is actually the warm up, as you get to see a lot more of how the riders school their horses and take ideas that you can bring into your own warm up/schooling sessions.

Sunday – SJI at Boswell Equestrian

Think this was his way of telling me I had entered the wrong height class!

Think this was his way of telling me I had entered the wrong height class! Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

After all of our wisdom and insights from George, we set off to Boswell for a quick spin round the 80cm and 90cm SJI classes. The atmosphere was really relaxed, and one thing I noticed was that for the first time EVER, I didn’t feel nervous. Normally I can vary from getting a mild jolt in my tummy, to feeling physically incapacitated with nerves – today felt like another schooling session and I was totally focused on what I’ve been working on at home and in lessons with Paddy, which was so nice. I think my aim to go somewhere with Paddy once a week (either a lesson or show) is really paying off, as not only am I becoming less nervous, but now I can actually take him places on my own as he is so used to it that he’s gotten much better at loading!

I was on my own for the 80cm as my friend (who was jumping in the 1m) class wasn’t arriving until a little later, so I found a kind person who did jumps for me, and didn’t do too much with him. I was mostly focused on getting him light in my hand, and off my leg – the height of the jumps aren’t a problem for him. I ended up being first to go in the 80cm, and he gave me a super spin around – he completely wakes up the second he gets into the main arena, he knows what his job is! So we now have another SJI point in the bag!

He was making sure he didn't touch the poles a second time! Credit: Louise O'Brien Photography

He was making sure he didn’t touch the poles a second time! Credit: Louise O’Brien Photography

My friend arrived in time for the 90cm class, and we headed off to do our second warm up. He felt just a little bit lacking in his energy this time around, there wasn’t the same spark he had in the first round – but we worked on moving him up and back, like George showed me, and I made sure he was staying light in my hand. My round definitely needed to be more forward – Paddy is so powerful that sometimes I am too ‘afraid’ to ride his energy, and I contain it just too much. I did exactly this in the 90cm class and put him much too deep to a vertical on a related line, and he knocked it – there was nothing he could have done and he is so careful usually. He really doesn’t like knocking, and I could instantly feel him wake up under me after that – he really picked up the pace, and so did I! I immediately went into ‘get your s**t together’ mode and started actually riding, instead of sitting there like my good potato self – he gave me a super ride over the related line that followed his knock, and over the remainder of the course.  As you can see from the picture, he made sure he wasn’t touching any more of the poles after that!

I have included the video of my second round below so you can see what I mean by the lack of energy – to me it felt like loads of energy, but I have to be comfortable with a more forward and powerful canter in order to progress. My learning from today is ‘If the canter feels comfortable for you, KICK’! 

I also really need to work on getting my changes to the right – it’s driving me mad! Much homework to do!

I also had the chance to ride Paddy in his new LeMieux Teknique Tendon & Fetlock Boots (as seen on Paddy in all of the above pictures) – I will do a full post reviewing them as they deserve no less, but I have to say, WOW I love them. They are so cushiony, easy to put on and take off, keep Paddy’s legs cool, and there’s very little evidence that they have been on his leg when I take them off. They are also really easy to clean (I wiped them down with a baby wipe and they look brand new) and look so smart. I had a number of people ask me about them at both my outings over the weekend, and everyone I spoke to couldn’t believe the price, but were instantly convinced of their quality when I said they were from LeMieux. Quality speaks for itself!

So for the next few days I will be working on sharpness off the leg and getting ‘that canter’ – then we are off for a lather, rinse, repeat of this weekend again with George Russell on Saturday and Boswell on Sunday next week!

Until then!

Natalie xo

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