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Victoria Bax's blog: Downs, Ups and Forrest's first foray into competition!

 

We catch up with Nedz sponsored rider Victoria Bax to see how her August has gone...

"This month has been as busy as ever, starting with a cross-country clinic I organised at a local course for some clients, which ran very smoothly and we had some very happy horses and riders by the end of the day."

"Next up was mine and Salto's debut appearance at the British Dressage Regional dressage finals at Keysoe, in Bedfordshire. Since recovering from my accident this has been the first main focus for me so I prepared well with extra sessions from my trainers Tina Atkins and Lucy Thompson to ensure we performed to the best of our ability. Prior to the day, Salto had been feeling rather fresh and although consistently performing well was getting a bit cheeky so my response was to work him a little harder! This appeared to do the trick as on the day we certainly performed to the best of our ability, whilst remaining relaxed and obedient. The result was a score of 65.63% and a placing of 16th out of just over 30 competitors in the Open Novice section. Having since spoken to Tina she tells me that the class was strongly contested by mainly dressage trainers on their dressage horses, not event riders on Ex racehorses so I was thrilled to pieces with our performance."

Salto Regionals
"Two days later we were back on the road to Bedfordshire but this time to Carlton BE100 with Popps on board. Sadly it wasn't our day as Popps was rather tense however we still managed a 36.5 dressage which is a vast improvement from previous scores. We then breathed on a pole to take one down but sadly Popps took a dislike to fence 5 on ths cross country course; two good sized steps down through a hedge line causing it to be very dark. I was very disappointed to say the least but as they say, "that's horses!" So onwards and upwards to the next event!"

"The following week we headed off south of the country to Chilham Castle in Kent to contest the BE100 again with Popps. From previous knowledge I was aware that there was quite a substantial coffin style complex there and as Popps has been known to take a dislike to ditches I decided that the day before I would practise some ditch jumping as best I could in my arena using an old wooden shed door which has been converted safely so I can use it. This worked very well and she happily jumped it every way possible; before a fence, after a fence and under a fence."

"With this in mind whilst walking the cross country course I decided exactly how I was going to ride the coffin fence positively to ensure there were no hiccups! Popps warmed up beautifully for the dressage using the Cyclo-ssage system prior to getting onboard. We entered the arena and she felt fantastic for the first third of the test up until the canter which excited her a little, although the canter work itself was very nice but I struggled to completely settled her again the trot work in the last part of the test, resulting in a 37 score. So onto the showjumping which I was a little disappointed with as the ground in the warm up arena was absolutely solid as a rock with sadly hardly any grass coverage. At this point I was in two minds whether to jump or not. I spoke to a few competitors as they were coming out of the main arena and asked them what the ground was like, to which they reported that actually the grass coverage was much much better. Following this I decided to continue but I kept my warm up to the bear minimum to avoid causing unnecessary strain on Popps. She is most comfortable in the show jumping phase anyway so I was happy that I could get away with this approach. Thankfully Popps jumped a fantastic clear round in a very long, winding and undulating course which I was very pleased with."

Popps Chilham
"I made a quick change of kit before we headed off to the cross country warmup, where there was only one other competitor warming up. After a closer look I realised I was warming up with one of the best, Caroline Powell! As I made my way up to the start box, I was greeted by a regular face, the starter who has set me off many times in the past. He went on to tell me I would be setting off in good company, to which I replied that I had seen! He then came back with a lovely compliment to me and said, "Well Victoria, you're not a bad jockey yourself really are you!" That certainly put a smile on my face and I thanked him. His response then was," Oppps, is 10 seconds to go ok?!"... 10 seconds later we were off!"

"Popps felt incredibly confident and was super strong. Chilham is a very undulating course and after fence 3 it is downhill for quite a way so it is very importent not to let the horses run away from you too much. The first combination on course was fairly straight forward - a double of houses on a curving right bend, simple unless riding a very keen horse! Yes you guessed it Popps was very keen by this point and it took all my strength to make the turn, but we did it nonetheless!  We continued on and through the lovely big new water complex and then on towards the coffin fence. I stuck to my original plan and made sure I had Popps' full attention even before I turned towards the fence which consisted of a roll top, one stride to the ditch and then two stride on a right curve to a skinny log. Once on my line to the fence I rode the most positively I have ever ridden Popps resulting in her making very light work indeed of that coffin that I was so concerned about, typical! Although it does make you wonder was it because I rode her so positively or was it because she genuinely wasn't bothered about this coffin at all? I guess I'll never know but I was clear that is all that mattered!"

"After this we had another water complex to tackle and then a few fairly straight forward combinations which we cruised round and through the finish easily within the optimum time, perfect! As a result of our work that day we ended up in 11th place, just 0.4 penalties outside the placings, how close was that?!"

Popps Chilham XC
"Since Chilham Popps has enjoyed a little bit of down time whilst I concentrate a bit more of my time on Forrest my 5 year old. Since his owners entrusted him to me just over a year ago he has needed a bit of TLC since leaving the racing yard, which is not unusual. His feet needed attention as did his body; time to adjust and grow up with less strain being out on him which he has now had. My farrier has worked his magic on his feet and I am very plead with the results so far. I am convonced that Forrest being fed the supplement Aloeride has assisted greatly in the recovery and regrowth of his hoof."

Forrest headshot

"Forrest has now been out three times, in three weeks to a clear round show jumping night held at a local Equestrian Centre, and all three times he has now jumped two clear rounds each night which I am absolutely thrilled with, although the last evening out he did start to get a bit full of himself as if to say, "Don't tell me what to do now, I've got it!" As a result of this, he did just need a little readdressing to keep him calm and relaxed which worked very well. I have also had another jumping lesson with Lucy Thompson who was very pleased with his progress, as was Tina Atkins who has seen him a few more times recently."

"I have pushed on even further with Forrest and have ventured out onto the cross country course twice now. The first outing, we started on the tiny course just to give him a taster of what it is all about as there were a variety of fences which were small but meant he could see what he will be eventually facing but not have to worry about the height. I am very pleased to say that nothing was a problem. There were no disobediences at all, maybe a couple of green moments as I expected but I simply held him at the fence, gave him some encouragement and time to work out what it was I was asking him to do and he happily obliged. I kept the session fairly short and finished on a very good note on the first outing to make sure that he had had fun and not found it too demanding."

"I decided the following week to take him straight back out there again so things were fresh in his memory and this appeared to work an absolutely treat. I warmed up by jumping the small course I finished with the previous week which was foot perfect so I moved onto the slightly bigger course straight away and he jumped round beautifully working things out for himself and thoroughly enjoying himself. We finished by moving onto the big water complex which he walked straight into and by the end was happily cantering through and jumping out by a step, perfect! With all this training in the bag I have bitten the bullet and now entered him into his first full one day event in September so hopefully next time I will be able to report that we have successfully completed it."

Forrest XC schooling
"I also managed to fit in a last minute week away to relax by a pool at a villa in Spain with my long suffering husband, which was amazing but I have to be honest, I was so looking forward to getting back on a horse again, so much so that about 1 1/2 hours after landing at Southend airport, I was back on a horse; dedication or madness, I will let you decide!"