Coral Keen’s eventing blog: Bitting, building confidence and country bumpkins

  • I’ve been continuing my training with Corinne Bracken which is always inspiring and motivating especially during the winter gloom. She is such an incredible person to spend time with and I am very lucky that she trains me.

    At this time of year, without the pressure of competitions, we can strip everything back to basics so I decided to try Derby (Wellshead Fare Opposition) in a simple snaffle which is, ultimately, the bit you strive to ride every horse in.

    We did a serpentine exercise down the middle of the school, to work on a few things; making sure the horses landed on the leg lead I wanted, suppleness, straightness and control of the outside shoulder all of which can gain you valuable seconds in a competition environment along with a better quality jump.

    It was a really useful as it highlighted the issues we have with him listening to me. He was very strong in the hand and I didn’t have as much response as I would normally have.

    I felt like I wouldn’t have enough control in a competition, but in the school I had the opportunity to correct his mistakes.

    Derby normally goes in a Waterford running gag but I don’t feel that it is the right bit for him any more as I lack the control and the steering that I need.

    Having said that, after Burghley we changed his noseband from a combination to a grackle which helped a lot. Research shows this noseband has the least amount of pressure points and is kinder for the horse.

    It was interesting to hear that after borrowing my combination noseband for another client Corinne said she had exactly the same issues as me.

    Fresh and happy

    I also rode Aphrodisiac and he felt really amazing. He was so fresh and happy to be jumping again and very excited, bucking and squeaking and having a great time. He felt really good and so I’m very positive about him.

    He really wasn’t himself at Pontispool in September so we had the vet to check him over and discovered he had a small tear in his joint capsule in his near fore and wasn’t comfortable about jumping.

    I’m planning on jumping him regularly over small fences over the winter to help him feel more confident and to give him the belief that jumping is not going to hurt anymore.

    That’s a huge part of any horse’s rehabilitation, and not just whether they are actually physically healed. They can have a lot of issues with what has happened to them and can associate past experiences or even actual fences or venues with pain.

    It was lovely seeing Corinne again and to have plenty of time working on the horses. She commented on how well they all look which I am certain is due to Saracen’s Stamm 30 Balancer which we feed at this time of year with their forage.

    Making the most of the weather

    We’ve been working the horses up on the hills and making the most of the weather as you never quite know what will happen in January and February.

    Not riding at competitions, regularly galloping or walking miles and miles of cross country courses means I have lost a lot of my fitness and although I ride a lot of horses at home, I am still going to the gym to maintain my core fitness.

    I am also careful with my diet. I haven’t eaten bread for a year now as I found it makes me feel quite lethargic which is quite difficult when you are at a competition.

    I had a juicer for Christmas last year so try and do this four or five times a week, lunch is something like soup but I do have a bit of a sweet tooth which thankfully is turning more towards cheese as I get older.

    Despite trying to stay ultra healthy I have had flu, coupled with tonsillitis, which is part and parcel of every winter and due to having an immune system which is a bit slow due to not having a spleen.

    I had to have it removed when I was 13 after an accident on a sponsored ride and that’s why I am such an advocate of the Point Two air jackets.

    Country bumpkins

    It’s not been all work and I had a great time at Gemma Pudney’s 30th birthday party last week.

    Gemma is known to many people as a BE Volunteer and has been a past Volunteer of the Year winner.

    The theme was country bumpkin or chav, and we all went as country bumpkins! One of her friends dressed up as a scarecrow and had hay sticking out everywhere which was very funny and we dressed Gemma up as a Pony Club kid with her hair in bunches and wearing lots of badges.

    Dad has been to the PSI Sales in Germany – he didn’t go to buy just to watch! He loves seeing all the German progeny from the good German breeding lines. It’s such a spectacle there and he goes every year.

    I haven’t quite managed to finish my Christmas shopping yet – thank goodness for online shopping – but I did receive a box of goodies from Zebra Products containing some lovely kit from PK International Horse Wear so that was a lovely surprise.

    Fingers crossed I’ll have shaken off all these bugs soon and will be able to wear some of the clothes.


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