I’m Back!!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a bit, but things got a bit busy for a while there. Mainly to do with the fact that I got married four weeks ago, then went on honeymoon a few days later. So I am now Mrs Mansell! I’m still in the process of getting my name changed over for things.

The run up to the wedding got a bit stressful, and I was still finishing things off (place cards for the tables) at midnight, the day before the wedding!! Nothing like getting done at the last minute. The wedding itself, I don’t think could have gone much better if I asked. The weather was beautiful (which considering that it was the bank holiday weekend, was a miracle on it’s own), the venue was stunning, the cake was gorgeous, and the food divine.

The bridesmaids and I stayed over at the hotel the night before, so that we could get ready there. It was an early start, as the hair and makeup girls turned up at 8am to crack on with three lots of makeup, three adult updo’s and two child hairstyles. Everything went mostly to plan, though I did have a minor panic attack just before going down to the ceremony, I’ve no idea why. I think that it all just got a bit real when I saw all the guests gathering and my husband to be looking so smart in his suit.

The day passed so quickly, that most of it is a bit of a blur. The main thing is that I was married to the man I love, with all our family and friends to share the special day.

After the wedding came the honeymoon. We went to a stunning hotel in Cancun, Mexico. It was 5*, all inclusive and adults only. I’ve never been anywhere like it! It was heaven on earth. there were six pools, ten restaurants and eleven bars. As we’d upgraded to Club, we had access to members only pool, bar, lounge and beach. The staff were so attentive and helpful, nothing was too much trouble. It was so nice to just have time to chill and relax, without clock watching or having to rush around all the time. If we wanted to get up late, we could, if we wanted to spend all day by the pool, we could; alternatively, there were plenty of activities and trips for those who wanted to be a bit more active. We did a bit of both, we spent time chilling, but we also did a few day trips to see some of the local area. I love my ancient history, so visiting the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza was a must. It was stunning, albeit very hot, and rather humbling to think how little we actually know about the place. We also went swimming in a cenote (which is a sinkhole in the limestone bedrock exposing the groundwater). That part of Mexico has at least 10,000 cenotes, probably more, as well as one of the largest networks of underground rivers on the planet.

Another trip that we went on, was a catamaran trip to Isla Mujeres. We went snorkeling round the reef there, which isn’t something that I’ve ever done. We then had a few hours on the island to do our own thing, and we went to the Dolphin Discovery to go and swim with the dolphins. This is something that I’ve wanted to do for ages. It was great fun.

20170603_093314.jpg18751496.jpg

All in all, we had a great time, though again, it all went too fast. We came home with great memories, and I at least came home with a respectable tan. Once home we had to settle back into normal life, which came as a bit of a shock after 12 days of doing nothing. So now we’re back to the normal world of work, horses and running around like a headless chicken.

 

Lameness 

Last week Brevan was lame for a few days, which panicked me a bit as one, Brevan doesn’t do lame, and two, he went lame a week before a competition! 

There was no hear or swelling anywhere that I could find, but Brevan was getting rapidly worse. Friends advised that as it was worsening that quickly, that it might be an absession in his foot, so before getting the vet out, I got hold of the farrier.

On Thursday morning my farrier Simon came out to check Brevan out for an abscess. I was confident about which leg he was lame on (the fact that he was very reluctant to pick up the other front foot was a bit of a giveaway). It did take Simon over half an hour to find the abscess, as Brevan doesn’t do showing pain, he’s a little too hardcore!! 

Simon did eventually find it, just by the outside heel on Brevan’s left front foot. As soon as the pressure was released, Brevan was sound again and a lot happier in himself. Simon recommended a hot, wet poultice for a few days to draw everything out, and then a dry poultice for a few more days. 

So on Friday I took Brevan for a walk in hand,  and he was rather bouncy and happy with life. We had a repeat performance Friday afternoon as well, so Brevan was definitely feeling a lot better. 

Saturday’s hack was a little jolly, Brevan insisted on jogging the whole way round the block. We schooled on Sunday, where Brevan was a tad grumpy, though we got some nice work eventually, and Brevan was still sound, so I  was happy that Brevan would be able to compete. 

I’m really glad that the lameness was something easy to resolve, I  wouldn’t have wanted a large vet bill and/or any box rest. Fingers crossed he doesn’t get another one any time soon.

Last Week’s Lesson 

So on Friday I had another lesson with Charlotte Tappenden. It went really well and she was very pleased with Brevan’s progress. Unfortunately I forgot to ask her to take pictures, so I have no photographic evidence of our improvement. 

We started off the lesson with warming Brevan up and getting him thinking forward, so basically we blatted him round  for five minutes getting him to really stretch and open out. We got a stonking trot out of him, without him doing too much of a giraffe impression, and Charlotte was impressed with the forward canter we got, think show gallop! While in the canter Charlotte got us to go across the diagonal and change the rein with a flying change. I was a little dubious about this as I haven’t got as far as teaching flying changes and I always assumed that you taught it from collected canter, but surprisingly it worked. With a horse who can be a bit backward thinking at times, Charlotte said that it can be easier to start introducing it at the faster pace as there is more ground clearance and so more time for Brevan to sort his legs out in the air. As he gets more used to the aids, we can start to slow the canter and the changes. 

Once Brevan was warmed up, we went back to the walk and worked on the engagement and submission. Brevan was very spooky as one of the other liveries was sorting out some electric fencing next to the school, but once we got him focusing and concentrating on me, everything was a lot less scary. To get the engagement we had to encourage Brevan to step under with his hind legs, which meant winding him up by tapping him up and half halting and getting him to do a few jog steps then back to walk. 

Then we went up to the trot, which is Brevan’s happy place and he’s improved tonnes over the last few weeks. The one thing that I need to really work on, is keeping my hands still. I have a very bad habit of constantly fiddling with the reins and dropping my hands onto Brevan’s withers. I have to concentrate really hard on keeping my hands up and still, while still remembering to use my legs to keep the impulsion. To help with this, Charlotte got us to ride figures of eight in the trot, which is harder than it sounds when I’m trying concentrate on keeping everything together and keeping my hands still, and keeping my leg on, stopping Brevan from rushing etc.

This went so well (eventually) that we introduced canter into the figure of eight. Brevan’s canter has improved a lot, we have a lot more bounce and sit now (when I keep my hands still and stop fiddling). Charlotte was really pleased with our canter, it’s definitely starting to feel more uphill and collected. I still need to work on keeping everything when we change the rein, as I seem to loose it all and start fiddling again as we go across the diagonal and change the bend.

So my homework from this lesson is lots of figures of eight and pay attention to my hands. We’re getting there slowly!

Wedding Planning

So, my wedding is less than a month away, and things are starting to get a bit stressful. A bridesmaid pulling out with less than five weeks to go didn’t help the stress levels much, but thankfully another friend offered to step in, and remarkably already had the same dress. As the dresses were bought last year, the chances of finding the same one was going to be slim to nonexistent. 

All the main things are sorted and most of the minor things I think are sorted. My dress is with the seamstress getting final alterations done, we have the final invoice from the venue, photographer is fully paid for, DJ is booked and will probably require paying in the next week or so, the same with the flowers, I expect all the final invoices to arrive soon. I had hair and makeup trials with the bridesmaid’s at the weekend, my hen party is booked for next weekend and I have no idea what we’re doing or where we’re going. Everybody has their outfits for the big day, the guys are waiting on the suits to turn up, hopefully next week. The honeymoon is all booked and paid for and I think I’ve got all the clothes now that I need for that. Wedding favours are paid for and will just need picking up a day or two before the wedding. The cake is ordered, and again I’m expecting an invoice at any time. I have the horrible feeling that I’ve forgotten something, but I’ve no idea what! 

The things that I know I still have to do are: get gifts for the bridesmaid’s, work out what song we want for the first dance, get my wedding jewellery, draw up the seating plan, make table place cards and get my nails done before the big day. 

Can anyone else think of anything that I’ve missed? I don’t need transport as I’m staying at the venue the night before and the ceremony and reception are all happening at the same place. 

A Rather Successful Day

Yesterday we went out competing again. We had a nice little day trip to Blue Barn Equestrian Centre near Ashford courtesy of the lovely Teresa.


Considering the weather we’ve had over the last couple of weeks, yesterday was brilliant. Glorious sunshine and pleasantly warm. Just right for a day out, and it was a good day out. I was actually ready and waiting for Teresa for once, not running late like last month. Everything got loaded into the car quickly, double checking that I hadn’t forgotten anything, then we loaded the hairy beast (ok, maybe not so hairy) and off we went. It was a nice easy journey with no problems and we got to Blue Barn with plenty of time to spare. 


Brevan was a little interesting in the warmup, I’m not sure if he was just full of it, or grumpy, as he’s only been ridden twice in the week running up to the competition. So our warmup was spent bucking and kicking out. He was a little tense but working well considering that we were working in a 20 x 40 school with five other horses. Once we got into the indoor warmup he settled and relaxed nicely. Both our tests were in the indoor arena, which Brevan normally finds really, really spooky.



So our first test of the day was Novice 39, which I quite like. It’s got serpentines, 10m circles and a load of canter-trot-canter transitions in it which I like. Brevan went really well I felt, almost no spooking (only one fairly minor spook for us), nice and forward thinking, relaxed but working through fairly well. I was pleased with the test, and wasn’t too bothered about what our scores might be as I was really happy with Brevan’s attitude and general way of going (Brevan can be a bit of a marmite horse for some judges, they seem to expect warmblood type movement from a hairy coblet!). Well we only went and came 2nd with 68.08%, which is a personal best for us at Novice level! Really chuffed with my grumpy coblet.



We had an hour between classes, so Brevan got untacked, brushed and watered before booting up and tacking back up, and doing it all over again! We warmed up better this time, but there was only one other horse in the warmup arena this time round. We still had a few bucks and some tension but I expect that at a show as he feeds off me and I was nervous and tense about our Elementary test as it’s one I hate with a vengeance. We did Elementary 59, which is really twiddly and has all the elements that I’m not fond of, leg yield, rein back, simple changes on two half 10m circles etc. Also, last time I rode this test in September, it was a complete disaster! So I was determined to do better than last time, and was concentrating on making sure Brevan was active, without rushing, but relaxed as well without being lazy (quite a balancing act with him). At the end of the test I was really pleased, it hadn’t been perfect, there were still some errors (I did one of my movements in the wrong place as I misheard my caller, again) and some tension crept in in places, but overall I was happy, it was definitely better than last time. So I was over the moon with 3rd place and 63.75%, another personal best for Elementary. 



I’m so pleased with how my little native pony is coming on this year so far. Brevan had a well deserved wash off, drink and polo’s while we waited for the results of the Elementary class. We loaded up and pooled off home with me on cloud nine. Brevan got turned straight out into the field when we got back, and as it was such a nice day, he only had his fly rug on for the first time this year. 


I can’t wait to see how we progress as the year continues. I’d love to be able to break the 70% barrier both at Novice and at Elementary and really want to give Medium a go before the end of the year. 

Watch this space!!

Physiotherapy 

After my car accident at the beginning of March, my insurance company has arranged physiotherapy for me. I’ve had two appointments so far and have another four to go. 


My first appointment last week was initially an assessment and then some treatment. My main areas of concern and sites of ongoing pain, are my shoulders and lower back. My shoulders are very tight and stiff, probably from the whiplash and seat belt digging in. My back has had ongoing pain for a good ten years or so, but it’s got worse since the crash. The physio says that there’s nothing wrong with my spine itself, but the muscles around it are tight and my hamstrings and piriformis are short and tight. 


So my first treatment saw my shoulders and lower back manipulated (God did that hurt) as well as releasing some of the tension in my hamstrings and piriformis (which hurt like you’d never believe as well). I was sent home with stretches to do to help my hamstrings and piriformis, which unfortunately I’ve not been able to do as much as I should. The physio also recommended that I should take some yoga and/or pilates classes to help with my flexibility (I am as stiff as a board). I’ve been thinking about starting yoga or something for a few years, but again, never quite got round to it. 


I had my second treatment this week, and again I now hurt like you’d never believe. Brevan has been leaning on my hands this last week in our schooling sessions, so my shoulders were really tight and stiff again. The physio gave my shoulders (primarily my right shoulder) a good pummelling to help get the knots out, but they’re quite deep knots. He also manipulated my lower spine and had another go at releasing my piriformis (que him digging his elbow as hard into a couple of spots on my gluten as he can and me biting back screams). I swear I should be as bruised as anything by now after all this. Once the physio had finished beating me up, he then did some acupuncture on my shoulder and lower back. Fingers crossed that it does some good. Before I went home he showed me another stretch he wants me to do for my shoulder. I should do this at least three or four times a day if possible. So now I have three stretches to try and find time to do everyday. 


My next appointment is the day before my next competition, and the physio has said that he wants to do acupuncture on my hamstrings and piriformis next time. I do hope that he doesn’t beat me up quite as much next time, I don’t really want to be in this much pain for my competition. I’d best make sure that I do my stretches then, I suppose. 

It will be interesting to see how much my flexibility increases by the time my physiotherapy has finished and if my back pain has been reduced by doing the required stretches. Anything that helps make me a better rider will be worth it! 

A Change is as Good as a Rest

On Saturday I was meant to be having my monthly lesson with Bertil, the sadistic Dutch man.  Unfortunately for the first time since I’ve known him, he had to cancel due to ill health. Hopefully he’ll better soon and we can rebook the lesson. 

So instead, I managed to book a very short notice lesson with a local rider/trainer called Charlotte Tappenden, who I’d heard good things about. As I’m hoping to ask her to school Brevan for me while I’m on honeymoon, I wanted to see how she teaches first, as that’ll be a good indication of how she rides. 

To start with, Charlotte just watched while we warmed up, to see how we went as a combination. She said that Brevan’s got nice activity and that he seem a fairly obliging person (if only that were true!), but Brevan has me fairly well trained, he does about 25% of the work and has got me doing 75% of the work. I need to do less! I already knew this, but can’t quite seem to get out of that particular rut.

As I want to get up to medium level dressage this year, we worked on getting more engagement from Brevan’s hind legs. As he’s longbacked, he finds it hard to really step under as well as we’d like, and I also really need to be more definite when I ask him for something. Brevan works better when he’s annoyed! I need to make him hotter especially in his transitions according to Charlotte as that will improve his connection in competitions. I need to be less worried about Brevan bucking and grumping at me, as that’s actually when he does his best work. Hopefully as he gets more used to working like this, the bucks and grumps will get less. 

By the end of our lesson it was like I was riding a totally different horse. It felt sooo nice. It will obviously take time to establish this new work properly, as Brevan does find it hard. As usual, circles are our best friend (nothing new there from Bertil lessons), as it will be easier for Brevan to step under himself with the inside hind, while on a circle. 

I’m looking forward to my next lesson on Tuesday, hopefully it will be obvious that I’ve been trying to do my homework. I will attempt to remember to take pictures next time!