Well... I certainly didn’t think that this is the way that my Gap Year would be playing out, in fact, after our first event of the year at Swalcliffe, I was feeling pretty optimistic about the season ahead....
Over 2 months of lockdown have gone by now, and as restrictions seem to be slowly easing, and whisperings of competitions on the horizon again, I thought that I would reflect on what I have achieved during lockdown. Okay - it’s certainly been a slightly quieter pace of life, with no jumping and no exciting outings to compete, but we’ve taken this time to really master some of the basics with the horses, working on lunging, flatwork and hacking with all 3.
Here are some of the things I’ve been working on....
With no opportunities to train with instructors during this period, I’ve been trying my hardest to self-critique in an attempt to continue to improve as a rider. A few weeks into lockdown I bought a video of my cross country round from Swalcliffe with Atty, so that I could re-watch it and make a list of thoughts on it, what I liked about the round and what needs improvement. Usually, between juggling keeping 3 horses event fit and working part-time in a hotel/bar, to sit down and reflect on an old cross country round simply wouldn’t cross my mind!
I actually found it to be a really useful exercise, and I ended up making a vlog about it on my YouTube Channel too.You can watch it here:
I will definitely take the importance of self-reflection and critique away from lockdown, and even when life gets busier again, I will try and find more time to go back and watch footage of myself riding, and pick out what went well, and what areas need improvement.
Lockdown has been a great opportunity to work on some of the weaknesses in each individual horse. For Star, before lockdown we’d never really mastered hacking! He was never naughty, or rude - it was simply just clear that he never enjoyed it in the same way that he enjoyed other forms of exercise. He wouldn’t stride out in his usual confident fashion, and was a little more spooky than normal too. As a result, in a busy schedule, I simply didn’t incorporate much hacking in to his routine. At the start of lockdown I decided I was determined to get on top of this, hacking more frequently and going for much longer hacks than he’s used too! I’ve found that hacking in company has made him a completely different horse to hack, he’ll now lead the pack with his ears forward, and his confidence out hacking has improved ten-fold, nothing seems to faze him! I’m so grateful to have had the time to work together with him on this, and it’s safe to say he now looks forward to hacking, both alone and in company - which is good news for getting him back to Eventing fitness!
It’s no secret that I’m a competitive person, I thrive in that sort of environment and so when lockdown began I was worried my motivation would plummet without the excitement of competition! However, I was super excited that just a couple of weeks into lockdown I got the amazing opportunity to work with Horse Events to help promote their new virtual dressage competition. A really cool way to compete from your own yard during lockdown, by filming a set test, and sending it off to be judged against lots of other people doing the same test! This definitely gave me something to work on with Atty and Towie, and I had great fun doing it (especially when I’m told that I can do a dressage test without having to plait first!!). Both horses flatwork improved by having a test to focus on too, and the icing on the cake was little Towie pulling it out of the bag and finishing 5th in her large section! It really was great to get involved, and I made a vlog analysing my tests too!
So although it’s been a quiet couple of months, and we’ve stopped ‘training’ as it means generically - in some ways, we never really stopped! We’ve continued setting goals and working towards them. It’s been gutting to hear of the cancellation of Burghley and Blenheim, and the realisation that ‘normal life’ will take a long time to resurface. As a result, I’ve decided to defer my place at University for another year!! (And my family actually encouraged this - who would have thought!)
Another year of horses, and to focus on those goals I’d set myself that I sadly won’t get a chance to contest this year. And I’m really excited about it! Hopefully there will be a lot more action in my 2021 Eventing season.... although I’m still hopeful that we will get in some runs this season!
Until then, we can just keep working harder, and occupying our free-time with baking and tidying!
I had to finish this blog with a picture of a very impressed Towie with her new stable door sign.... she’s very proud of it!
Hopefully my next blog post will have a little more action!