Lots of Transitions

OliviaWhitelaw Headshot

by Olivia Whitelaw

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks and Leo and I have both been working hard training. From Leo’s perspective, we have spent the month really working on developing his collected canter. It is a pace that is really important to have very established for any Pony FEI test and one that requires him to establish both strong balance and the strength in his back leg muscles to enable him to step under and take more or less all of his own weight on his back legs. As the strength is something that needs to be built up over time, I feel that I have spent hours and hours in canter recently, with thousands of transitions from collected through to a more forward medium canter. We started doing just a few strides at a time of true collected canter but he is now really benefitting from this work, as he is finding it much easier and is able to go longer distances. I have attached a short video of our lesson with Darryl this week, where you can see us working on this pace - do check out Leo’s wonderful shiny coat courtesy of his Dengie Alfa-A Molasses Free and Alfa-A Balancer.

I am also in training. As a competitive rider, it’s important that I work on my own strength, core condition and fitness, otherwise I can affect Leo’s way of going. I am lucky to be supported by the British Paralympian Sophie Wells, who allows me to access her osteopath, Victor Henighan, who checks me over every couple of weeks for my muscular and physical balance. As I am growing quite a bit at the minute, my body is changing all the time and my sessions with Victor are really important. Darryl had noticed that my heels were continually a little too deep, which he asked us to mention to Victor. Upon investigation in this week’s session, Victor found a number of muscular tension spots around my calves and feet, which were creating this tension into my heel. Following discussions with Victor, we realised that I had been using the treadmill in the incline position rather than flat, which combined with the massive amount of stairs I have at school was creating the issue - no more raised treadmill for me! So, you can see competitive success is not just about concentrating to achieve for those few minutes in the ring, but equally about continually looking and assessing fitness and diet for both horse and rider.

This weekend I am off to the Dressage Under-21 Spring Camp at the Unicorn Centre in Stow for some training with Olivia Oakeley, who we try and train with at least every quarter. Her training is brilliant, but her knowledge and experience of coming through the Pony, Junior and Young Rider ranks is also helpful and she can be so reassuring that things will improve when they are not going quite right, having been there herself. The Dengie team are also coming along to measure and weigh all of the horses and ponies and I am hoping Leo has put a little weight on since he was weighed in March.

I have some pony changes to report too. Given the pregnancy of Cyden Amigo’s owner and her inability to ride him, we were very kindly offered the opportunity of having him at home. Unfortunately, with him being a stallion, this is not something that worked for our livery yard and so we very sadly had to decline. Amigo is therefore going to my fellow Pony Progress Squad rider Clare Hole to be competed and looked after until after his owner is back able to work and ride him following the arrival of the imminent new addition to the family. I look forward to catching up with him regularly and can’t wait for him to come back home to the Cyden Stud. I am looking forward to meeting Lara’s new baby too. With no rest for the wicked (that’s me!), another fellow pony rider is stuck deep into her GCSE exams – her pony has been off work with an injury for a few months, but is now raring to get back into work, so he's is being moved to our yard so that I can bring him into work and get him out competing again whilst she continues to focus her efforts on her exams. The new addition should arrive in the next couple of weeks, so I look forward to introducing you to him in my next blog.

Enjoy the sunshine!

Olivia

Share this