Recently I have had a lot of decisions to make as to whether or not Elton is ready to take on the para dressage world as I had planned or whether he needs more time with him being so young and our partnership being quite new. We are having a few teething problems – he is the sweetest character but can be a cheeky monkey although he’s not naughty. At the present I have decided to put our competition plans on hold as Elton is still ‘green’ and unbalanced so I am going to focus my time on getting the basics right in our training as his future is most important and needs the correct building blocks to be successful. I am also experiencing issues with him cantering off when something happens around him or if I loose my stirrup.
I am finding it hard to deal with this as I am unable to canter due to my disability so I can only sit a few steps before I loose my balance which then frightens poor Elton, so we need to resolve this before we take him any where for both of our safety. I have a lovely lady who owns the livery yard where we are based helping me who is schooling Elton once a week so we can achieve our future goals and work through these few issues. I often wonder why things never go to plan with horses! I feel at the moment we would struggle doing a dressage test and achieving the marks we need – we are working hard on our straightness away from the fence line as Elton finds this very challenging without the support of the riders legs, something which is very important when working in white boards at competitions, so I am riding him with two whips to try to replace the leg aid.
Natalie’s dog Oscar modelling the Snuggy Hoods Keep Warm Dog Coat
At the beginning of the month we moved to a new livery yard where Elton has settled very well and taken it all in his stride. He lived out for a few weeks to make the most of the warmer weather, but is now tucked up in his stable over night. He’s nice and warm now the temperature has started to drop, but he will continue to be turned out all day with his new little friend, a Shetland pony called Honey who is also only a baby. He knows when I am at the yard as he shouts as soon as he hears my car and waits by the gate for me to go and bring him in. He is very sweet and kind – I can even lead him from the school or field on my crutches on my own, he just walks at the side of me making sure he doesn’t accidentally knock me over, he just waits for me and never pulls– he always makes sure he is at the side of me and is very gentle taking one step at a time. If someone else leads him he tells them to wait for me and won’t leave me behind. Elton tries his very hardest to understand, he loves his work and is always wanting to please, there is never a day when he doesn’t try his hardest – I don’t know another horse like him as he is so genuine. Although Elton has only been with me a few months now we have a very special relationship and he is a horse in a million, it is as if he was bred for me. He has the most fantastic temperament and the biggest of hearts. I love working with him and learning together.
This month we have been focusing on our training, paying special attention to our straightness as he finds work quite easy along the fence line but is less confident and a bit wobbly away from the track so I have been doing lots of work away from the fence, working on keeping him straight and forward which is easier said than done without a leg aid to correct him, but he is now working a lot straighter and doing some lovely centrelines we just need to perfect the halt on the centreline now which is my next goal – after all when competing there is usually no wall to support him just white boards. My next step will be to gradually introduce white boards to work around so they become an every day thing. We have been working on our halts which are now squarer and he is learning to stay softer in the contact. We have also been building up Elton’s confidence and balance in the medium trot which is developing well – he thinks is great to be able to show off. Elton is also now a lot sharper of my aids so it is helping with our accuracy, I can now think something and he will do what I am thinking so I have to be careful not to over prepare for movements and turns. We have also be using quick transitions to walk from trot and back to trot again to develop his trot as well as engaging him to push more from behind.
Elton has also being working well on the lunge and is progressing all the time. He is normally lunged at least twice a week as well as hacking around the fields.