Since our last update we’ve been busy trying to work on everything at once, with work and wedding planning there just aren’t enough days in the week so I’ve been combining all our conditioning work into one weekly mega hack up in the peak district. We start out slowly with some stony tracks to help develop and trim his feet, a few gentle hills done in standing trot to toughen my legs up finished off with a five-minute hill to really feel the burn. There’s a long downhill stretch to recover then it’s off the roads into fields for some steep hill canter work and some more stony tracks. The last bit is on the high peak trail which is former railway line so pretty much flat with nice verges to open him up a bit and practice our cross-country pace.
We’ve been continuing with jumping lessons at home, still working on getting us confident and finding the answer to our related distance/double issues. I’ve also had a couple of plays with skinnies and angles at home. I’ve learnt he’s equally capable of running out in both directions when I run out of flags but is very good at reading the question – other than my makeshift “jumping the side of a table as a corner” fence which he struggled to understand (maybe says more about my fence building then him). We’re going to hire a full-size arena for our last lesson a few days before as it’s a bit limiting jumping in a 20m x 40m and all this dry weather is making my surface a bit less tolerant of all the abuse.
Having got his fitness and jumping to a point I’m happy with the focus is now on the dressage, our marks have slipped a little at the start of this season as we’ve concentrated on getting him up to BE100. I backed off him on the flat at the beginning of the season as he didn’t feel quite right behind and now Mango has decided that working from behind into an elastic contact is optional. He’s obviously more than capable of engaging as his levade and courbette are getting really quite professional, shame he’s an eventer not a circus pony really.
We went and got a bit of game practice in at Brackenhurst College, gaining 63% and second place in both elementary tests.
Then our final run was at Eland Lodge BE90 on Good Friday. After laying the law down a little in the warm up he did a nice little test gaining 32, I was particularly pleased that the judge liked his trot better than his canter as I find the trot harder to get good marks for usually. Straight onto the show jumping and not only did we go clear we even managed the correct striding in the double! The cross country was interesting, having not worn a watch for our last two BE100 runs I wanted to practice BE90 pace before the big day so measured it using the CrossCountry App and memorised my minute markers. Mango managed to walk down to the start but just as I remembered to get ready to start my watch he went vertical and leapt out the box flat out, not quite the cool, calm and collected start I was after but set us up well for the first few fences which jumped perfectly out of a rhythm. By the first minute marker I realised we were going far too fast (a first for Mango) but didn’t dare interfere with his pace with a few challenging fences coming up. By minute marker two we were about 30 seconds too fast so I switched “land, kick, pat” to “land, whoa, whoa”, we gradually got the minute markers back to where they needed to be and was only about 10 seconds under the optimum by the finish but it did upset our flow and mojo a bit. Overall I was really pleased with our round, for the first time ever Mango not only took me the whole way he didn’t want to stop at the end, think he would have gone around again if I’d let him. We finished on our dressage score and came fifth overall.
(Photo credit Stephanie-Rebeca Photography)
The next week will be filled with packing, grooming and fine tuning. I’m beginning to think getting married is going to be a walk in the park compared to the logistics of staying away from home for the first time since we moved, ensuring everyone has full instructions for looking after the remaining menagerie and packing everything for the week at Badminton.