In her latest blog for Eventing Worldwide, Laura Hayward updates us on her winter training.
This time of the year always feels like the page is turning for whatever reason, and I think this year it will be because Stan and I’s trip to Badminton for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup will seem that bit closer after Christmas in the New Year. After writing my last blog it feels like I’ve been in a small tornado.
Stanley had a quiet couple of weeks whilst I had a holiday in Las Vegas (and got engaged!), which was followed very shortly after with a trip to Goresbridge Go For Gold Sale in Ireland with Sarah (who owns Stan). It was a great few days especially seeing the wonderful 5* show jumping horse Dougie Douglas sell for €1.4million to America.
Because I normally show jump all year, the winter doesn’t really become a quiet time like I imagine it does for most eventers, so I’ve just cracked on as normal and I’m using this time to practise, practise, practise Stanley’s weakest phase – show jumping. And practise, practise, practise my weakest phase – dressage!
So straight back at it after Goresbridge, the following week was a dressage clinic day with Jane Green. She comes to Sarah’s every other week and I always take Rockmills (a 5year old owned jointly by myself and Sarah) for a lesson and then usually have one afterwards on Stan. With Rockmills, we are laying the foundations so there isn’t a lot of focus on my riding in specific, more just training him and how I can best help him improve, so when it comes to Stanley who knows a lot more, all my imperfections are highlighted!! I have ridden for the last 14years in a jumping saddle with my stirrups at jumping length for EVERYTHING. So the best way to stretch my legs usually involves no stirrups, or if I’m really lucky, rising trot without stirrups. I don’t mind though, if it doesn’t hurt I feel like I’m not trying hard enough. I always say it’s like I’m being trained by Jane AND Stanley in these lessons, as Stan definitely knows more than me, although he isn’t always forthcoming with his knowledge.
The following week involved a trip to Vale View Equestrian centre show jumping. Stanley jumped a fantastic round in the 90cm open which he ended up winning. Although Stan loves jumping, he wouldn’t be as confident with show jumping as he is with cross country, which is why we make sure we do as much as possible to keep it fresh, and him happy and enjoying it. Because of this he wouldn’t typically be fast in a jump off, but I had said this winter we would have some fun and he could learn to be a showjumper. It seemed like he got into the swing of it pretty quickly as he jumped brilliant!!
The 1st of December we went to Bishop Burton show jumping again. Now, despite Stanley having been here multiple times since a young horse, he seems to have a strong dislike for the beautiful indoor arena which can involve him shrinking and slithering around. However, he seemed to overcome this, jumping a lovely double clear in the 90cm Open and winning again! Super Stan! And just to prove he really was a good boy he followed it with a beautiful Double Clear in the Discovery (1m) too but just outside of the placings.
The next day was a Jane Green day, so back to the dressage drawing board. And again both Jane and Stan training me – shoulder fore, counter canter, quarters in, all things to keep Stans hind leg active, and again all done without stirrups!
So with a bit of wedding planning in between, on the 12th December we headed back to Vale View Show jumping, and again came home thrilled with Stan’s performance, another lovely double clear in the 90cm Open, he finished 4th. He jumped a great round in the Discovery but it was a sack the jockey moment to finish with 4 faults in the jump off as I decided to add an extra stride where wasn’t necessary!
So a quiet couple of weeks around Christmas and New Year, squeezing in one last session with Jane Green on the 22nd Dec, and we will be back at it in the New Year.
I’m really thrilled with the way Stan is jumping and hoping together we can continue to improve. I don’t want to change too much in the run up to Badminton, more just improve and better what we already have. I also don’t want to allow the occasion of Badminton get to me, so I will continue to prepare as best I can but try and approach it like a normal event – if possible.
Sarah and I are already giving it some serious thought how we are going to keep Stan clean whilst at Badminton as he is often 50 shades of green or brown…. A onesie maybe?