National Junior Championships – Part One
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   21st Jan 2011   •   5,903 views   •   10 comments
9 December 2010

National Junior ChampionshipsWe were up at the crack of dawn. Packed and ready by 5:30AM, we hit the road and drove off to pick up the Bronze horse. Finola was driving up to champs in a float with my jumping instructor – so we had only one horse to prep for the journey.

Knowing that we were late and not caring in the slightest, Bronze made a rare bid for freedom when he saw me coming with the halter. Thankfully, it didn’t take too long to catch him. What did set us back a fair deal was feeding the Bronze, who was picking at his breakfast as painstakingly slowly as he possibly could. Still, this gave us time to wrap his legs in the bright red bandages we bought for the trip – then to rewrap some, because they didn’t look neat enough.

After all this, Bronze was still eating, so I attacked him with a brush until he was finally finished.

After that, it was into the box and on the road! Bronze behaved beautifully throughout the +- 16 hour drive – which is by far the longest he has ever been on. He stood quietly, nibbled at his haynet occasionally, and watched the new scenery flashing by the windows.

The drive was mostly uneventful – apart from running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, a car drove by before we’d been waiting too long, and offered to pick up some petrol. So my mother drove off with them, while my instructor and I looked after the Bronzey – who did not need much looking after, since he was perfectly content to snooze with his nose in the haynet.

It wasn’t long before the tank was full, the car (And everybody in it) reeked of petrol like never before, and we were driving toward our destination once more.

It was about 11PM when we finally arrived – late and dark. I unloaded Bronze, and walked him around to loosen his legs while my instructor went off to investigate the stables and prepare Bronzey’s one for the night. The stables were unsatisfactory, to say the least. Each stall was separated only by wire mesh, closed with a flimsy metal gate, and the whole block was covered by a huge white marquee. Not the greatest setup, but thankfully Bronze was being either sensible or tired, and he walked willingly into his stable and settled down happily for the night.

Finola had arrived before us, and was standing happily munching her hay in the stall opposite Bronze’s.

With the horses safe and content, we drove off to our own lodging – a family friend’s house, conveniently close to the show grounds.

10 December 2010

We dragged ourselves out of bed early in the morning, and set off for the show grounds. The horses had rested well. Both seemed happy – though they hadn’t eaten much. Obviously, the long drive unsettled them slightly.

So we fed them both by hand for a while, then mixed carrots into Bronze’s food, which seemed to do the trick – since he nibbled at it more willingly then.

While the horses were eating we gave them a good grooming, then took Bronze out for a walk and cleaned his stable. He was excited to see the showgrounds in daylight, and thoroughly enjoyed prancing about and snorting at all the new sights, sounds and smells.

After a short walk, we tossed Bronzey’s dressage tack on and took him out for a spin. We walked around everywhere we could, rode in all the warm up arenas, until we could finally have a turn in one of the dressage arenas.

Preparation for the dressage phase of Bronze’s eventing

I started by getting Bronze loose and supple, and showing him all around the arena – letting him look at the dressage letters and the various decorations around the edges. I walked, trotted and cantered him on a loose rein to the right and to the left. Once satisfied that he was loose, I began suppling him – doing lots of neck flexes. This includes bending the horse’s neck first to the inside, then the outside – but keeping their body moving straight along the track with your legs. The purpose is to get the horse’s neck loose and supple so they can use themselves better for the work ahead. I repeated this exercise in walk and trot on both reins.

With Bronze supple and going well, we decided to work on his weaker points for the dressage test: Mainly the leg yields and lengthened trots. For the leg yield, I turned onto the quarter line and pushed him out toward the track using my leg and whip. It was difficult to try to get Bronze leading with his quarters without using so much leg and whip that he got riled up and began to resist, so I kept working on it for quite a while. I found that loosening my reins slightly and keeping softer hands kept Bronze from throwing his head, so then I could use a little more leg to push him over since I got less resistance. But of course, this caused him to speed up – which I had to counter with seat aids. We finally started getting it right though, and Bronze became far more responsive to my leg.

With the lengthened trot, I worked on the diagonals, and thought about keeping my rise as slow as I possibly could, whilst pushing Bronze slowly forward into a tight contact. The main problem that arose was that he always started running just after lengthening, or he didn’t quite lengthen at all. We still need to get the hang of this – since our lengthened trot doesn’t show too much difference from our regular active trot. We managed to make some improvement, however, once I got the hang of really squeezing Bronze as hard as I could. It helped to picture a hosepipe – keeping pressure on the end so the power doesn’t squirt out, but keeping the tap open so that there is power to contain.

Lastly, I worked on Bronze’s canter transitions.

I rode him in a balanced circle at trot, then asked for a canter every time I reached a corner. If he didn’t respond right away, I gave him a tap with the whip, then corrected his canter, brought him back to trot and tried again. Bronze has always had an annoying problem of only responding to aids a stride after I give them, being the lazy horse he is. We managed to improve this slightly, though, only with a lot of patience and persistence.

By the end of the session, I was confident that I had sufficiently improved Bronzey’s performance for his dressage the following day. He was obedient, responsive and supple – fully ready to get into the dressage arena!

So after a great training session, I walked Bronze out – then untacked him and hosed him down.

I gave Finola a light work on the flat, just loosening her up and getting her settled, then fed Bronzey and departed for the day – well prepared for the start of the competition the following day.
Painted Destiny  
Well written! I love the picture on the left!
  Jan 21, 2011  •  4,351 views
Dark Star  
Can't wait to read the 2nd part. Bronze is very handsome.
  Jan 21, 2011  •  4,348 views
T W I  
Go Polo and Bronze!
I can't wait to hear how it turns out. :)
  Jan 21, 2011  •  4,353 views
Nice. I hope there is more to this.
  Jan 22, 2011  •  4,374 views
Cool article!!
  Jan 31, 2011  •  4,406 views
Seven Sins  
love the picture and the story
  Jan 31, 2011  •  4,350 views
Wanderin Boy Memorial  
Can't wait to read Part 2.
You and your horse are amazing !
  Feb 3, 2011  •  4,356 views
i cant wait to hear what the next part is like

well done polo
  Feb 20, 2011  •  4,348 views
Little Bitty Farm  
Great story!
  May 9, 2011  •  4,527 views
Laugh and Ride  
Incredibly well written!
  Jul 14, 2011  •  4,460 views
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