Chloe Vell’s dressage blog: kicking off 2014

  • After spending time over Christmas trying to balance riding with revising for my mock GCSEs, I started the year with a lesson at Carl Hester’s.  Kaja simply loves being at Carl’s and was at her most relaxed, thankfully, allowing us to receive some positive feedback on the work we had been doing with her trot and canter pirouettes.

    Clever Kaja will predict what she thinks you want, then dive in with her own version of the moment. To help prevent this from happening in the canter pirouettes, Carl suggested riding with flexion down the diagonal to C or A but without doing the pirouette. This helps Kaja to learn to be honest in her flexion and not predict the pirouettes coming up.

    Our first competitive prix st georges

    A couple of days later I headed off to Allens Hill to do my first prix st georges (PSG) that wasn’t HC. It was a wet and miserable day and Kaja was a little bit distracted in the warm up arena. She is definitely a horse affected by lack of turn out during wet winters.

    Once in the test she became more relaxed. The second pirouette she definitely knew was coming and offered it before I got to the marker, so was awarded a 4 for it being too large. But her tempis were a highlight, getting 8s.  I was delighted with a first PSG score of 68.55% to go towards my qualification for the regionals.

    Excel Talent training

    This was followed by 2 weeks of GCSE mock exams broken up by BEF Excel Talent training. The timetable was incredibly full so no time was wasted. I was delighted that vet Rachel Murray felt that Kaja’s muscular development had improved hugely and that her weight was perfect.

    We received a vigorous strength and conditioning session, but one of my favourite sessions is always the psychology. We worked on giving myself positive key words to counteract my negative self talk.

    Chloe Vell with EmileMy lesson with Emile Faurie was great. We worked with the trot and the canter pirouettes, and Emile gave me a different exercise to add to my list. To make sure that Kaja was accepting the bend in the pirouette, I rode a 20m circle in the middle of the arena with an inside bend. When she accepted the bend, I would bring the front end around to make a pirouette which she couldn’t anticipate. We then finished with a line of tempis, which Kaja loves to do. Thank you Gareth Hughes for letting me use your teaching space as well!

    It was then an evening dash back home before more exams the next day, before dashing back to ride Kaja ahead of the Addington High Profile Show.

    Off to Addington

    Our first test was the junior team test outside. Kaja was warming up beautifully and we had a lovely start to the test. Then partway through  she decided to plant herself and become distracted by the hedge, or the sheep, or an ‘invisible gremlin’ and sought to totally avoid that corner of the arena. We continued, but she was a little tense and we ‘subtly’ adapted the arena to miss the offending corner. I was delighted to find ourselves in 2nd place with a +69% score, despite the blips on the sheet for her behaviour!

    I was then able to relax and watch the grand prix in the evening. Seeing several of the horses being very hot and spooky was reassuring and I guess I’m not the only person having issues with restricted turnout at the moment! Sadly some riders retired from the class.

    Next day we warmed up carefully as Kaja was being excitable. We started the test with some lovely scores, only to find that Kaja remembered the problem in the corner and it made it impossible to complete the test.

    As she is 9 years old and I want her experiences to remain positive, we took her indoors to see if we could settle her enough for her music test. She amazed me by coming through her anxieties and starting to work properly again. We did the test (pictured top) and again came 2nd with 71.66%, which I was delighted with as we were only beaten by a national music champion!

    Phew, what a busy week that had been. Now I can look forward to continuing our training and our next appearance at PSG. Not sure I’m looking forward quite so much to my mock GCSE results next week though — wish me luck!


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