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Coral Keen’s eventing blog: why winter isn’t for pottering about

Happy New Year everyone — I hope you all had a fantastic break and time with your horses and ponies.

Now that the 2020 is upon us, I have been taking some time to think through various things ahead of a brand new year. The winter for me is about reflecting on the positives and negatives that have come out from the previous season. I think a hugely important exercise (and one that can get overlooked if you are the type of person that doesn’t give yourself enough credit), is to work out everything that went well within your previous year and to think to yourself, ‘how did I make this happen and how will I continue this?’ Many of us benefit from having certain systems in place and once you get those working in a way that fits you, that is a fantastic step. Make sure you appreciate when you establish good things, as they are what we return to when we need inspiration when things perhaps don’t go quite so well.

As we all know with horses, it never goes 100% smoothly, whatever level you are at. But what makes great riders is when we can turn those negatives into a positive and work with our horses to understand why and where we went wrong.

It is hugely beneficial to run through negatives when you feel ready. You can then focus your winter training to the areas that need looking into and if necessary take it right back to basics.

It is always difficult to do this during the season when firstly, you don’t want to upset the apple cart and secondly, you might not have quite the right amount of time, so as not to unsettle other parts of their work.

From a training and coaching perspective, whether it is working with other people or my own horses, I would be thinking at this time of year, that firstly; make sure that the horses have gone through a thorough fitness regime and then once the right level of fitness is there — strip it all right back.

For example with an advanced horse, if his flying-changes aren’t so good or less solid on one rein, you can’t really mess around with that during the season, but come the winter you really have time to focus on that without tests and competitions looming. This is also a time to get ideas and inspiration from your trainers to move things forward.

In terms of jumping my horses, I tend to do more gymnastic and grid work type things, looking at technique and the horse’s shape over a fence. I wouldn’t necessarily do this during the season or a lot of it, as it is quite intense work to add on top of them when they are competing.

Come February time, I then build back up to getting my horses up to competition standard of work and polishing areas that need it, ready to be out and confident at their first events, with a full and effective preparation under my belt.

This is obviously only my opinion and my point of view, but to me, winter isn’t a time for pottering and just jumping course after course, but really using it to analyse you and your horse and get stuck into the real details of improving yourselves for next season and beyond.

The winter can also be a hugely beneficial time to work with younger horses and bring them on ready for eventing. I have always hugely enjoyed working with my horses from a really young age, and as mentioned in some of my previous blogs, I have been lucky enough to see some from birth and then taken them all the way through to advanced level. This is a journey I hugely enjoy, and have spent many a winter with horses of all ages, really getting to know their personalities and working out how we can do best by them.

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On this note, I just want to touch on my own 2020 plans, which sees a new horizon for Coral Keen Eventing, and I am really excited about the opportunities that are hopefully coming my way. It also means that I will have space to take on rides. Team Keen is always open to new ideas, with lots of fun along the way and the main focus being on producing happy and confident horses.

A huge thanks to all of you, my readers, and to the whole team that have supported me in 2019, including my wonderful sponsors and I can’t wait to see what 2020 will bring.

Until next time,

C x

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