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Who has felt that excitement of actually being in the placings after a dressage test? To only get that hit of defeat as you plummet back to last after cross country?

I have, and this was us over the weekend. It is however so incredibly important that we put aside the disappointment and reflect on what progress we have made. That notion still didn’t stop me from trying to make myself feel better with a slab of rocky road from the canteen post ride! I am known in the industry as a rider fitness coach too so I possibly wasn’t the best role model over the weekend, but I am human just like everyone and it was yum! Thanks Gidgegannup canteen volunteers for the ‘pick me up’ when I needed it.

Back to the point!

It takes a team in a horse ownership, and it has for Denny and myself, so this competition was the FIRST time we have been in the placings after dressage. I have been blogging for Equestricare for over a year now as one of their sponsored riders sharing my journey as your ‘average everyday rider’.

My goal is to encourage all riders to consider their horses as athletes, whether you only ride 65 eventing like me, are way up the heights or just enjoy pleasure trail rides and don’t even compete!

Why? All horses like all people need bodywork if they are taking on activities outside of their normal life requirements. Our horses are designed to not carry a rider and graze slowly eating grass 24/7. So when we think about that, it’s easy to see how even the trail riding horse could need ongoing massage and therapy.

My dressage score is a true reflection of the team around Denny and myself. As an Equestricare graduate myself and now a practicing massage therapist, muscle health and physical soundness is imperative no matter the discipline or level of riding. Denny has had ongoing bodywork for over 18 months now and this has directly contributed to about 70% of his success. We went from averaging a 62% dressage test and placing on average 28th out of 35 riders so 7th with a score of 68%.

A mark of 6 for a centreline entry went to an 8.

Trot marks of 6 to 7 and 7.5’s.

The canter… transitions being a 4 to a 6.5!

Canter circles are still a work in progress at 5.5 but the transition is the start.

So yes I was disappointed in having a silly run out at an exceptionally easy jump on cross country. I have to put this aside and be incredibly proud of the dressage achievement.

So where did the other 30% of success come from?

Part of getting the body sound is training and riding, an area I need support in like many others and had always been having lessons. In fact I actually didn’t learn to ride until I was an adult and got my first horse at 18 years old. I am now 16 years into horse riding and ownership and… wow….. Learning never stops! Tyla Shou from TJS and then Ashley Roberts joined the team and both have worked with Denny and ridden him a few times a week for me to help out, I realised that Denny was tricky and I just couldn’t help him myself despite having regular lessons. He was bio-mechanically not traveling straight and that was out of my league for ridden results. I have all the skills for ground work and training on the lunge but we were ready to progress past this for Denny’s fitness.

This image is from the start of my journey with Denny! So much progress in both our bodies, fitness and strength. It is always important to look back at how far you have come when faced with some disappointments.

Just to explain again, Denny has some conformation challenges and I have written about these in older blogs, so go back and have a read if you’re interested. The short story is that he is a clydie x brumby, build solid, straight in behind with a steep angle from the croup and low in front. He had hind end weakness and struggled to load the back, and canter was extremely hard for him. I have regular lessons and being a fitness trainer myself was working on my body and riding. However I wasn’t progressing in my riding because I wasn’t able to work and ride Denny properly. This meant that we still got out there and had fun, but we just couldn’t enjoy the dressage phase as it was always a disappointing struggle.

Changing muscle and fitness is at least a 12 week process so sending him away for some training wasn’t the solution, I needed a long term affordable solution. I loved my horse with everything and the investment worked out around the same cost as a month’s full time training. My riding is now improving with every lesson!

It took me recognising the issues and putting in place a holistic plan with a team of people.

Jessica Blackwell – my mentor and role model for all questions and conversation.

Dr Jill Elsbury – A bio mechanic vet that offered a greater depth of assessment for his fitness needs along with skeletal adjustments.

Dr Warwick Vale – Taking care of Denny’s joint health through this whole process of straightness and strengthening.

I cannot forget my amazing instructors either! This smile says it all after dressage 🙂

Now it would be easy to get bogged down in disappointment and stress with the overwhelming confusion and sheer array of support needed for soundness and success. But this is just a change in attitude because many people need doctors, physiotherapy, chiropractors, massage, optical, osteo…. the list goes on and on! Many horses need this too, and it’s just a mindset we need to be open to when we aren’t seeing improvements even with lessons!

If you are already on this journey like me and Den, I promise you… you will be successful.

Horses are expensive so make sure you are getting the full potential from your horse and don’t overlook their physical health. A good therapist will work with you to come up with an affordable plan that meets your budget, there is so much homework you can do as an owner so find someone that will help with this. Not to mention to array of online courses Equestricare offers for owners.

Success is inevitable. Its not about the ribbon but the experience and small changes! Although to be 100% honest I am still working hard on getting myself that 50c ribbon in the future.

I made a new friend Emma I met competing over the weekend! This awesome fellow adult rider reminded me how important just completing is when you have a family waiting for you back at home. The infectious smile Emma had and high fives to each other reminded me of my passion to share with you all, not only my success but moments of ‘not quiet’!

Jem and Den

Author Jem and Den

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