After about a week off, Ollie returned to work with a week of just doing stretching and suppling work, to make sure we didn’t go to mad too quickly. Whilst there is not really any hacking from the yard, I try and make sure he goes for regular trips around the hay fields which have hills. I think it’s great for them to use other muscles going up and down gradients. It’s also very good for their brains not having to do the same thing day in day out. I am a great believer in them having as much of a varied life as possible as they so very easily go stale. It is a shame he can’t do some jumping, but I just don’t dare in case I aim him at a white board one day and he thinks he should jump it! Hopefully, once he comes home, Gary will be able to take him for proper hacks as there is miles of country side surrounding our property.
Since we have returned from Belgium we have made a decision to try and compete him in a snaffle bridle for para competitions. He can get a bit short in the neck in a double bridle and the para judges will not tolerate it in any shape or form! He also tends to be in a more advanced outline with the double that inevitably means he is too collected for the level off work required. The tests I do are similar to an Elementary level and even at able bodied they don’t like them being more advanced than what is required on the sheets. We, therefore, thought if I rode him in a snaffle his way of going becomes slightly more novice. He is, however, a huge and powerful horse and riding him in a little baby bit is sometimes quite interesting! Now I have learnt to ride more from my seat it is getting easier and easier. The main focus in the warm up now is to make him straight and to make him wait. Once he is really listening I feel the contact in the snaffle is better than the double, it is just not quite so easy, sometimes, to get him there.
I have now had a couple of competitions since my last blog and it went much better than expected. Ollie had not lost the confidence I thought he had in Belgium and came out really enjoying himself. We rode in an able bodied competition at Hickstead first and this was so enjoyable. It is great riding without my glasses and doing another test meant we really had to think about what we were doing. Despite learning the wrong test and only having about 5 minutes to learn the correct one, we were first and second with 62.9% and 65.9%. Although the scores weren’t that high I always think they are only relevant to the other scores on that day. I think it is only the fifth and sixth medium we have done and we haven’t done anything able bodied for months so I was really chuffed.
The second competition we did was also at Hickstead, but a para one this time. I took him in the snaffle as planned and I think it is going to be a good idea. I just rode a very under powered test to make sure it was in control and consistent. He felt great and was really listening. If anything, Ollie comes up a bit in the snaffle, so I don’t have the problem with the neck. We won both classes with 69% and 71%, and we had good feedback too, including from one of the selectors and the Performance Squad trainer, so I think this is the way to go!