Friday, September 30, 2011

National Notes

I woke up to bright blue skies, the kind of blue that looks photo-shopped. Day one of Nationals, after a hazy confused moment I realised I was looking at a travel brochure that I’d fallen asleep reading the night before. Outside the window, it was pitch black and I could hear the sound of wet socks, saggy muddy bandages, smelly boots and wet horses rain. Maybe there was a chance of it clearing as dawn came through, fat chance!
Cavan Equestrian Centre, host of the 2011 National Dressage Championships, a place that is both dear and dreaded in my eyes. Nationals are the culmination of the years training and hard work, signifying the pinnacle of knowledge gleaned and experience gained. If it goes well, the year is worthwhile, not so well and you’re left wondering what on earth have you been doing for the last twelve months.
This year I did have the advantage of a really good support team going with me to Cavan. The moments of sheer magic with my horse was interspersed with joviality and laughter making it much easier to let of all preconceptions and just enjoy the moment and be very proud. I was proud of a horse, now grown up, now stronger, more mature and so much more willing to give me everything he could in our combined effort to do well.

I like to think the work he does at home in training, I reflect in the gym, stretching, exerting, sweating, building muscle, speed and stamina. Both of us developing a better mental capacity for the work involved. For him, his gym has changed, a new stables, with facilities that allow him to flourish and concentrate on being his best. New trainers have been not only helping me learn but helping me refocus the effort and show him how to make work happen in a more harmonious way, building a more willing partnership. My gym has changed too, with the new job I had to narrow my mind down to work leaving gym time somewhere on the horizon. Luckily before long I found somewhere that came as close to the superb gym I had been training at in Kilkenny. The trainers that I worked with could never be matched for support not only on the gym floor when I thought something was too heavy too lift or I felt I had no energy left but in simple more useful ways, calling me at seven in the morning when I hadn’t shown up outside the gym door when it had opened. The new gym, Naas Health and Fitness boasts outstanding facilities and really clued in staff that are always on hand for help. Several weeks down the road I truly find myself hitting a spot where it’s becoming like a third home, home being number one, the horses number two.

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

All this training, did it pay off? I didn’t win if that’s what you are wondering. The work the horse offered couldn’t have made me more happy. More and more he’s offering rather than me having to ask of him. On my part I can happily say the only thing lacking was as usual, the old noggin power. With the weight training, mindfully engaging different muscle groups in lifting exercises allows me to use the same feelful muscle connection under times of stress when I’m riding. With Rex at 18 3, a strong lower back is essential unless you either want to come to a grinding half or shoot out of the competition arena at high speed. I managed to not judge the warm up time with the days temperature rise in mind meaning the final test had us ready twenty minutes ahead of time pushing him past his peak and making it impossible to for him to do anything but bowl about the arena on his head, good quality walk and trot work but canter work that resembled a runaway train. Poor bugger was exhausted by then but all that said, he worked his heart out and gave it everything so I couldn’t ask for more.

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

National Dressage Championships 2011

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pictures from Marlton Autumn Dressage Festival 2011

Marlton Autumn Dressage Festival 2011 with a little help from sponsors GT FIT, thanks to Ger at GT FIT for helping keep me on top of my gym training and nutrition.


From drenching downpours!


To Sublimely Sunny





"Back" In Action

I do like to telling every passerby that I’m practically Atlas with the weight of this pear shaped world on my broadening shoulders, in reality I might be exaggerating but I think everyone will agree I’m doing my fair share, with hitting the iron in the gym every morning, training the horses and running around trying to keep horsey and fitness clients happy, there might not be an entire planet on my shoulders but there’s a definite chip.

Luckily my horse has come to the rescue again or indeed Lesley Dempsey, his neuromuscular massage therapist has come to the rescue. Lesley has been working with my larger competition horse for well over a year now to great success. I always ask her to be frank, honest and open in her diagnosis and this time she surely took me at my word. She posed the question, was it possible that if my horse was so tight and knotty across the back that I possibly was too? Was it possible that my tight and knotty back was making him even tighter and knotter?

My Knotty Back


His Knotty Back

Also a spanking new saddle from the good people at Albion has helped us both hugely allowing him much more expression in his movement and me a much easier time finding my correct position and allowing me to engage my core muscles properly.

Full of Oomph at Marlton Dressage Festival