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Julia Paterson’s March Blog

Countdown to the Mitsubishi Motors Grassroots Championship 2014

Burgham – grey weather and mud!

Burgham – grey weather and mud!

I’m sure, like me, you are all so happy to have (hopefully) managed another month without any weather issues. Marvin and I have been able to progress with our Badminton training programme without interruption.

Our plans for March were to travel to Somerford Park for a cross country schooling day with Andrew Heffernan and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I took Megan Birbeck and her horse, Sam, with us, as they are starting out together and this was a great opportunity for them to jump fences they wouldn’t have had the chance to at home and under the watchful and experienced eyes of Andrew.

The boys travelled down to Somerford really well, especially as this would have been the longest journey Sam will have ever had. Both the horses and Megan and I stayed at Somerford overnight and we had a great night’s sleep.  But when we went to feed the boys in the morning, Sam had decided he wanted to escape during the night and eat everyone’s breakfast! Thankfully there were only four horses staying overnight and he must have decided that his and Marvin’s breakfasts were enough!

Marvin gave me a great ride at Somerford. Andrew made the point that he wanted to see more preparation from me to set up before fences and not just allow the stride to grow without the control being there, and that made so much difference. Marvin jumped really well and had no problems at any of the fences that Andrew asked us to jump. We worked on technical related lines to things such as two large houses going uphill and downhill; left and right-handed trakeheners, steps up and down with a tight turn to keep the control and accuracy and then back up the opposite way with two strides to a very skinny and tall box fence, over a jump into the water and out over a skinny brush fence a few strides later.

After Somerford, we travelled again – this time across to Greenlands in Carlisle for two days of show jumping training with Susie Gibson and had two brilliant sessions. On the first day Marvin was mainly jumping left-handed, which I find easier than right- handed, so he was picture perfect, but the following day our weaknesses showed. I really struggle with my left leg as it just isn’t as strong as my right leg, so we worked on lots of pivot turns to some pretty big fences and made great progress.

Later that week we had a dressage session with Claire Dryden, working on accuracy linked to suppleness, so concentrating on the right rein again to build my strength and feel more self-carriage on the right rein by supporting him with both legs equally.

To finish the week we went cross country schooling again with Sara Burdess but I think it was one day too much for both of us. Marvin jumped well but felt quite flat, so I agreed with Sara to take him home. However he had jumped even more new combinations and we worked on some excellent related distances and curving lines over skinny mushroom fences to ski jumps and others, so I was very pleased with him.

Knowing we had done quite a lot of work, I gave Marvin an easier workload – hacking and fast work to keep him feeling fresh and some dressage lessons with Claire, just to work on more test riding to get us ready for Burgham Horse Trials in Northumberland.

Burgham was to be a good test for us to see what issues we would experience. I was planning to go on my own and had everything packed and slept in the lorry as we had quite an early start. I had been to walk the course the day before so I could go over the tracks in my mind. The ground was wet and slippery when I walked the course but the weather forecast was to be warm, so I was hoping it would dry the ground out slightly but unfortunately it had rained heavily overnight and the ground was really wet, in addition to it being really foggy.

Marvin warmed up really well for the dressage but when we went in for our test he became tense and drew back with me. I think this may have been due to the final part of the cross country going past the dressage arenas and although this didn’t upset him, I think this made him slightly on edge – but thankfully not as on edge or explosive as some horses we saw!

The show jumping was a little up and down hill and rode on quite forward strides and I had been working on riding to the strides with both Susie and Sara, so knew I would need to ride up a gear as Marvin doesn’t like the soft going. I had put in nice big studs for the dressage and he had worked in lovely in them, so I kept them in for the show jumping and he was jumping beautifully in the warm up. We went in and jumped really nicely over the first three fences and turned to the fourth, which was a double leading to a forward five strides and downhill to an oxer.  I over-rode him which he didn’t thank me for and stopped at the fence twice, so I re-grouped, got him more collected into the fence which gave him more confidence in the footing and then he popped along nicely with the rest of the course. Lesson to myself – ride the conditions and my horse, not just the course!

So we went back to get changed and off to the cross country. Marvin was quite excited when he got to the start box and gave me a lovely ride around the course. He was jumping really well until the last question – three fences on related distances – a roll top to a pheasant feeder to a corner – which again, I should have just slowed down to give him more time to set himself up for the fence but instead I pushed for the strides and un-nerved him, but he came straight back around and popped it, so overall I was very happy with him. I’m so pleased to have our first event under our belts and learnt a great deal from the day.

Next stop – Eden Valley near Carlisle on 6th April and only four weeks after that will be Badminton….