July this year, I took it upon myself to loan the ex race horse Kings Mountain, Monty to his friends, Monty had been out of racing for a while and had done some jumping with his owner. When I tried him out I realised that although his flatwork was there, it was very basic, no fault of his owner, just in need of some more in depth training.
Monty thrives on work and the more you give, the more he gives back, so right from the start there was always going to be something to work with, something which ex racers are usually rather generous with!
From the very beginning it was obvious that the basics, although started, needed quite a lot of work, so for the first few weeks it was transitions transitions transitions! Boring to most people, but to us dressage enthusiasts, this is the foundation stage, after a while Monty began to really get the hang of these new sharp transitions and they began to become an easy challenge, so we then progressed to some basic lateral work, leg yield from the quarter line to the track off both reins, now as race horses generally only ever go left, this was easy off the left rein, impossible off the right it seemed! Ah, we had hit our first hurdle, pardon the pun!!, so typically again of an ex racer, his response to not understanding immediately he tries to run away from the thing which is far too hard, so after lots of repetition and reassurance, we mastered the art of going sideways off both reins equally, (sideways is very easy when out on hacks, but that’s another story!)
So, we have now established: walk, trot, canter and leg yielding, brilliant, and we have only been a team for a few weeks!
Monty was also fairly weak over his topline so along with correct training and immense amounts of patience we were improving in all areas.
Along with our own training, I was also very busy (and still am!) teaching my own clients who were out and about competing.
Then approximately 2 weeks ago one of my clients attended the Cholderton E.C. unaffiliated dressage competition, which I went along to watch, having never been there before, I was immediately hit with how quiet it was, all the horses were quietly getting on with their job, the yard was lovely and peaceful. So after the competition I quite possibly very stupidly, said Monty would be ok to go there as a first outing, oh no, me and my big mouth!!!
I was duly persuaded to enter Monty and have a go at their next competition! oh oh :o
As Monty had previously been out and about doing some jumping etc, I didn't think it would be an issue, but as he can get upset quite easily, I decided to hire a local indoor arena, as Cholderton's is indoor, and on the 9th October we duly took Monty and his chum Ruby, a fabulous 4yr old, on an afternoons outing. Well, there was a couple of minor incidents, but on the whole, wow, what a result, we all survived and looked forward to the next outing.
Having recently started having some training from a great local lady, Ruth Newberry, we discussed the idea of hiring out Cholderton's arena's just for a practice, and off we went on the 13th October, also dragging along my very good friend for help too. We had a fantastic training session in the indoor, however we then went to practice going from the outdoor, which would be the warm up arena on the day, to the indoor, and it all got a little tense, there was one of Anna Ross-Davis' fabulous dressage horse's having a break at Cholderton, and was being ridden around the outdoor arena just as we were going to go out there. Well, Monty, Ruth, Montina and I were absolutely blown away by this horse, he was just floating, truly stunning! But the lady riding said it was ok for us to do our last bit, but once we were in the outdoor arena, Monty was on his toes and so tense it was virtually impossible to do anything at all, so we went back to the indoor and he was a lot more settled.
This made me wonder if he would blow up on the competition day, if he got this tense with just one horse, how would he react to 10 of them???
Well, the answer is as follows, after just 12 weeks together, this is it, our first outing!
We arrived 30 minutes later than planned, but still had enough time to warm up, providing the warm up arena didn't blow his mind!
So off we went, to this new environment for Monty, a fairly familiar one for me, even if it has been far too long! Tentatively we entered the warm up, he looked around at his fellow equines and, well, basically, just got on with it! I have to admit, I think I got tenser than Monty did!!
We had entered 2 tests, the first, and a definite first for me, was the Intro B test, which is a test consisting of just walk and trot. This I felt would give me a feel for how the next test may go!
Well, although he entered the arena very well, and we went down the centre line feeling fabulous, the judge rang the bell, oh no, what has happened, was all that I could think, I had read and practiced the test so many times, how could I have gone wrong?? Well, even the professionally can make a total cock up it appears!! So, what had happened, well very, very stupidly, I had forgotten to remove Monty’s boots before entering! How very stupid and humiliating!!!
I apologised profusely to the judge, who was very happy for me to start again, thankfully, she said it is unaffiliated and these mistakes can happen. We could only remove his over reach boots as he got upset and was not going to stand still for the brushing boots to come off, so we started again, with me kicking myself so hard for such an amateur mistake! Note to self, do not EVER do that again!!!
Monty pulled everything out of the bag, he did his test with some tension, especially when a horse walked past the entrance just before our free walk, great timing!! But I had never felt so proud of one of my horses ever, this new way of life for Monty had been a lot for him to take on and he had taken to it like a duck to water, wow what a star!!
I once again apologised to the judge for my stupidity, she was lovely and said, once he loses the tension, he will be amazing! Wow, what an accolade.
We then returned to the box to rest before test number 2, this one was Prelim 10, a test I had ridden lots of times on my other horses, but obviously not Monty, and this time we had to add in the canter!
About 20 mins before our test time, we returned to the warm up arena, and he was just so confident in there, even though we had a couple of "run ins" with the other competitors when some had the odd steering issue, Monty just stopped, let them sort themselves out, we picked up what we were doing and, well, like a seasoned campaigner, just got on with it. Then our name was called and in we went, this time with no added extras I’m hasten to add!!!
Monty trotted up that centre line like he owned it, I was beaming from ear to ear and felt so proud to have been there with him. We had one very small mistake, in Prelim 10, the canter transitions are at A rather than between markers, which for a horse who 12 weeks ago, didn't know what a canter aid was, this was a lot to ask, but the left canter was immediate at A, that was the easy one, after a couple more moves, it was the dreaded canter right, well, I prepared a step too late, rider error!, and Monty almost set off on the wrong lead, but having realised quickly, we almost rode a simple change and yes, we were cantering on the right lead on the right rein at the right time! woo hoo, another beaming smile!!
I don't recall the last time I rode a halt and salute with so much vigour, I was in seventh heaven at that moment and gave him the biggest pat and hug! Anyone would think it was an Olympic gold medal! Well, let me tell you, to us it was!!!
So, what were the results??
For the Intro B, we scored 55.65%
But for the Prelim we scored 63.63% and came home with a 3rd place rosette!!!
So all in all, it goes to show that if you put the effort in, you give yourself a goal, and just push yourself a little, it is simply amazing what can be achieved, even in such a short time!