Putting myself forward as a trainer is one of the toughest challanges I’ve ever faced, it’s such a personal part of my life that allowing others to not only see it, but to judge it is testing. Putting myself in front of a crowd at a dressage event added to the pressure.
Would we make a show of ourselves?
Could we do this bitless?
Photo Credit: Sam Goodier
Being a full time bitless rider means we don’t get invited to many mainstream events, or that we need to travel a little further afield. However, a local centre; Tralee Equestrian were hosting an unaffiliated dressage league and on enquiring, they were refreshingly happy to have us. I eagerly signed up and blocked out my diary.
Finding a coach
Teddy and I set about preparing, we booked a lesson with professional dressage rider and coach Tara Oliver. We weren’t sure what to expect, the last time Teddy and I had a traditional lesson was before going bitless and horsemanship training. I was a little apprehensive at what Tara would make of our bosal hackamore, but she was very inquisitive and positive about how we could work it in our lesson. Needless to say there were a good few areas to work on. Much that I remembered from my previous BHS style training, yet I needed the perception on the ground to see it’s use – and watchful eyes to help me know where we were going right and wrong.
Our first question was, could we shoulder-in? This took me back to my HSI Equestrian Coaching course last year where I was asked the same question. I can’t remember her name, but I’d like to say rather than explain, let me show you. Flexing and bending is a big part of our training, but applying it to the trot for the shoulder in was absolute joy to feel it happen with a lot of help from Teddy.
Taking a break
Not as relaxing as it sounds, shorly after my first lesson, I found myself in A&E with a stress fracture (from walking too much) to boot. Thankfully, I made a very fast recovery and was back in the saddle 3 weeks later. The dressage tests were released 2 weeks in advance of the show, but with less than 1 week to prepare, we were cutting it fine.
Tralee Equestrian Centre Dressage Show 1
The show itself was a great success, brilliantly organised (actually ahead on time!) and at the last hour of the day, the hostess with the mostest herself Rachel went on to ride a fabulous Novice test, which I thoroughly enjoyed watching.
The atmosphere was incredibly supportive and it was lovely that so many new faces said hello and asked about our bridle.
I think we surprised everyone, including ourselves, to get 69.9% in our Intro and 64.2% for our Prelim, earning Teddy a beautiful EP green 4th rossette. Very proud of my super duper boy who tried his hardest for me.
Teddy was feeling a little stiff that day and had quite a few wrong canter strike offs in the warm up, so right until the last minute I literally didn’t know which was it was going to fall.
Should I admit this? I think so, we aren’t ‘there’ yet and we have a long way to go and there aren’t that many examples of purely bitless trained horses (horses not just trained with a bit and the bit removed for a demo). What’s important to me in training is not just where you end up, it’s how you get there that counts. Teddy is trying for me, I can feel it and that’s not a connection we ever made with the bit in use, so for this alone the change is worth it.
Since the show Teddy has had plenty of feed, apples and a rest in the field with his herd.
Now back in training on those canter transitions we aim to collect our canter and improve our scores.
Thats all folks
I’ll update this post next week with our League 2 scores.
Thanks for reading!
A big credit to the wonderful Rachel from Tralee Equestrian, trainer and dressage diva Tara Oliver & Sam Goodier for her fabulous photography skills.