Combined Training: Take 2!

This bank holiday weekend I planned a little ‘boot camp’ for Dustry, Friday we went for a lesson, Saturday he did his first combined training competition, Sunday he had a lesson at home, Monday he had off, and today I took him for his 2nd combined training outing.

warm upWe boxed to Downlands Equestrian as they had a little low key combined training event on, perfect for a baby horse. This time though the dressage warm up AND test was on grass. Dustry has done no tests in a grass arena and so I thought this could be interesting! He was being very well behaved given that the dressage arena was in the middle of the cross country schooling paddock, but even though he was managing to ‘keep a lid on things’ his work was tense and he was easily distracted by all the obstacles around him. He did start to relax though over time and do some really lovely warm up. As I tied my number on I gave him a 2nd helping of his gumbits as normal prior to going into a test, but I got the timings wrong. I think ideally I needed another 15-20mins to continue to warm up because when you first give him gumbits he becomes fussy and wobbly in the contact but we only had 5 minutes left, so unfortunately we had to go into the test with him yet to settle in the contact. Something to make a mental note of for next time!

He started the test fairly well, but I could feel the tension was creeping in and when this happens, he starts to anticipate things, he doesn’t work across his back, he blocks through his neck, and he gets fussy in the contact all part of his previous hang ups from racing which I am trying to re-school out of him. We were busy having a discussion about whether I was going to let him fall out in left canter down the long side when he threw in a flying change (who taught him those!?) which almost landed us on the marker! Cue a minor strop about which side of the letter he had to go, and we carried on with the rest of the test. Unfortunately that added to the tension, and his paces became stuttery and transitions abrupt, and medium walk…well non existent. His sheet reflected this ‘test of two halves’ with the first 7 movements all scoring 7/10, then a 4 for his disobedience and 6’s from then on. Once finished I took him straight back over to where I had warmed up, to warm him down, and work through the tension, stopping as a reward once he started to relax and listen, to end the dressage part on a good note.

Boots on, stirrups up, and short whip in hand we went off to jump the practice fences. He was super in the dark and spooky indoor warm up and popped both the practice fences very sweetly a few times. We then went into the arena to do our round and he became rigid with tension and excitement! Last Saturday I had the ‘element of surprise’ on my side as he had no clue that when I took him in to jump a round what was involved so he was soft and calm, today however, he knew! The first fence was a brick wall which I thought was quite an ask, but having given him the benefit of the doubt last time I decided to bite the bullet and give him a smack should he hesitate at the wall and deal with the consequences!

We came into fence one and he dithered so leg on and a tap down the shoulder and weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee he shot off after, inverted, hollow, and like a giraffe *sigh* I circled away from fence 2 as there was no way I could present him to a fence like that, repaired him back to soft and supple and cantered over 2, came round to 3 and rode a shocking line, he was rock solid again through the neck and so I had no option when he decided to stop, quick smack, circle and over, and clear round the rest, but the whole round felt scrappy and I wasn’t happy to leave it on that note….

Thankfully the benefit of going to low key events is that they are much more accommodating to the novice horse, and so I was allowed to go straight round again in a schooling round. By now he was much calmer and ride-able and as you can see from the video bar getting a bit of a duff stride to fence 1 he popped them all from canter really sweetly. I am really pleased with his attitude and how quickly he let me ‘repair’ him back to soft and attentive, and when he behaves like that he gets things rights as he landed on the correct lead after every fence in round 2 unlike in round 1. Clever boy!

So although on paper 62.5% and a scrappy first sj round isn’t great, today was a big learning curve for D, and I know that when faced with this situation next time he will be even better again. I am especially pleased with his 2x tests these past few days as he is scoring consistent 7’s from the very first movements which is a new achievement, it’s a good indicator that when the medium walk is nailed and barring any tension issues we should be sneaking up on that 70% barrier some time soon! The other plus I am going to take away from today is his 2nd jumping round, how quickly he worked things out, stopped leaping and started listening. Having only done a handful of showjumping rounds I am really pleased with his progress, this being his first ‘grown up round’ all in canter 🙂

So there’s 2 more things he can tick off his ‘how to become and eventer list’

  1. doing a dressage on grass
  2. jumping a whole show jump round from canter, and getting all the correct leads




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