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14th February 2016

Cheshire Group Riders share the love on a chilly Valentine’s Day!

Jackie's session

Andraya's session

Liz Finney organised a super day of training for EGB (Cheshire) members at Dean Valley Equestrian Centre, near Stockport, with a full card of experts on hand to help riders make those pre-season adjustments in and out of the saddle.

Rides of three all enjoyed 45 minute morning sessions with each expert in the comfort of the indoor arena. Schooling was under the tutelage of Rachael Atkinson, international rider, former British team member, and UKCC level 3 endurance coach. She guided everyone towards riding in improved balance, picking up on those pesky bad habits and weak spots. Jackie Lockett, international competitor and equine thermographer, explained the use of thermography to detect and monitor problem areas. Equine physiotherapist Andraya Hiscock gave each horse a check up and talked riders through suitable Pilates for Horses exercises to incorporate into their regime. Nutritional advice and weight checking was carried out by Caroline Dickens of Baileys Horse Feeds. The afternoon was then given over to a short session on the gallops, asking riders to judge their horse’s pace, before advice on vetting procedure for the less experienced riders. Here two riders share their experiences.

Experienced competitor Karen Corr has 20 years of the sport under her belt, but laughingly said: “How does anyone spend Valentine’s day? Training her endurance horse, of course! There’s always something new to learn or fine tune and the training day itinerary appealed as it was jam packed. “I woke up to snow at home in Burnley, but fed and turned out the other horses, packed up, loaded Lottie (real name Riyah Raquassah) and dragged my partner Bond out of bed to join me. Our first session was schooling and Lottie can be a madam depending on her mood; she is becoming well-known locally for her airs above the ground at dressage competitions. Apart from one buck, she was well behaved and the other two horses were very well mannered.
“We worked on increasing suppleness and thoroughness from behind, spiralling in and out on a circle in trot and canter in sitting seat and forward seat to assess the effect on the horse’s balance. Rachael’s eagle eye picked up on my hand position as well as ensuring I sat upright and straight. These corrections made a huge difference to Lottie’s way of going.
“Outside, Caroline weighed each horse and compared the actual weight to a weight tape reading. Due to Lottie’s shape there was only a 2kg discrepancy; she was conditioned scored as 5, just right, and we discussed her dietary requirements. We are fortunate enough to be sponsored by a feed company but it was useful to hear another considered opinion and talk about the best way and time to administer electrolytes.
“It was interesting to hear Jackie describe how thermography can be used, specifically to detect injuries and saddle fitting issues early. She talked us through full scans and all the external considerations to note when using thermography, such as prior exercise, rugging and travelling. Our last session indoors was Pilates for Horses with Andraya. I have read a lot on this subject and routinely do ‘carrot stretches’ with Lottie, however, having someone that can tell you if the horse is doing the movements correctly, and that can guide you, was really useful. We then did some pole work in-hand, aimed at encouraging the horse to use and develop their core muscles.
“Not everyone stayed for the session on the gallops as it was bitterly cold. I thought Lottie may be tired after all the concentrating but she was raring to go. Paired with Tania Fitton and her lovely standardbred, Cyril, we set off. I could hear Cyril snorting behind me but the gap between us soon widened as Lottie cat leapt, bucked and plunged with excitement to catch up with the horses in front. I think we managed to canter four or five laps but she had wound herself up and I had to stand with her in the trailer to calm her down. Bond talked to some of the newcomers about trot ups and vetting procedures while I settled my horse, ready to travel home.
“It was great to see the full range of experience and ages of horses and riders. Everyone got into the spirit of it to get the most out of the day. I would encourage all regional groups to host a day like this out of season. It has definitely helped motivate me to enter my first ride of the season and plan my training accordingly.”

First time member Larissa Burnett thoroughly enjoyed the day, saying: “Being a lone 'newbie' to endurance, it can be daunting attending events such as this, where you don't know anyone. I loaded my Arabian mare Grecian Moon onto the box and set off from North Wales as the sun cleared the top of Hope Mountain, and I thought about what the day would hold. I need not have worried; everyone was friendly and helpful, offering to hold Moon for tack changes between sessions.”
“The morning sessions were excellent, providing lots of information, exercises and ideas to take away, specific to me and my horse. Even our schooling session went well and that’s usually a weak point for us. The afternoon provided some much needed vetting practice, something I had not done before; I learned that my version of trotting up 'straight' needed a bit of adjustment! But my worries about Moon not liking a stranger wielding a stethoscope proved groundless. She was a little fresh on the gallops, but it gave me a good idea of the consistent speed I will be looking for on my first ride. Now, where’s the ride diary?
“I finished the day with many of my questions answered, and I left feeling much more confident about entering my first ever competitive ride. It was a much needed and enjoyable practice for both of us; a real confidence booster at a bargain price!”

Caroline's session

Rachael's session

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