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Rebecca Hart: Our winter prep

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Our winter training has been going well this year. It has been so much easier with everything coming together at home, the new school has been riding great with only a couple of days lost to heavy frosts. The horses love their field shelter and all the hard core on the yard and gateways is a godsend. Just another six weeks and we’ll have a dry building to store hay, feed and stable if need be but I’m most looking forward to having somewhere clean, dry and lit for show prep.

(The chaos at home that will be my new barn/stable/wash area)

The winter started off with some dressage straight after the end of the season, doing a few Novice tests and our first couple of Elementary tests with the help of my regular trainer Tim Heappey. The initial aim was to qualify for British Dressage winter regionals but unfortunately whilst we picked up plenty of points and a couple of good results we didn’t have enough results over the qualifying percentage so will be aiming at the Petplan Area Festivals instead if I can find time between the Mitsubishi Motors Cup and getting married in July.

Mango is never going to have big flashy paces and whilst superficially he carries his head nicely he struggles to bring the weight off his forehand. He used to find it difficult to bend evenly through his shoulder as well but we seem to have got that sussed this winter. We spent most of our sessions now trying to work on getting him more engaged from behind using a combination of lateral work and transitions within and between the paces. Medium trot and flying changes consistently seem to elude us so we’ll keep working towards those!

We took a bit of time out in December, with the horsebox in for service we got a bit lazy about booking in for lessons. My sharer Paige bought us a lesson with Mark Cramb for Christmas which we thoroughly enjoyed, Mango was jumping great and we came away with lots of confidence to crack on and start working our way up from 90cm.

Into the New Year and we have been working on our confidence show jumping. The aim has been to work on a bigger more uphill canter and not to worry so much about striding and where to take off as we spent most of last season getting ourselves in a muddle trying to do everything right. As his canter has improved we’ve both got a lot more confident and Mango who usually likes to chip in off a perfectly good stride has started catching me out with a few good old fashioned fliers.

We’ve been to Speetley Equestrian Centre a couple of times for competition practice, the first time we managed a double clear in both the 85 and 95cm classes. Unfortunately last time there was an invisible monster hiding in front of fence ten which caused an unscheduled spin and bolt in both classes (naughty Mango) but otherwise he jumped well and the fences were getting pretty beefy in the timed section. We somehow finished clear in the 85cm due to some clever not crossing our tracks after the acrobatics and just one down in the 95cm when we got a touch flat in the related distance.

This weekend we went to Field House at Marchington to have a go at arena eventing. It was a long snowy day but we had a great time. Isla and Paige came 2nd in the 80, Mango and I came 3rd in the 90 and just two poles in the 100cm which had some big challenges in it. Both the horses and jockeys were on top form for once and all thoroughly pleased with ourselves.

Our entries are in for the first few of the season. We’re heading to Osberton to do the East Midlands Dressage Group 95cm in two weeks then on to have a crack at the BE100s at Oasby and hopefully Lincoln Horse Trials. Lincoln has been a life-long ambition as it used to be my local event and one I vetted at on several occasions but never had the guts to compete there. By far my most ambitious start to the season ever and there are back up plans in place should it all go wrong but may as well enjoy our current form whilst we can!

(Images kindly supplied by Meadow Productions)

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