Hello everyone and welcome to my February Blog.  We might be in the middle of the winter but its been a busy month with lots going on, in and out of the saddle.

In training this month I have been really focusing on my position and looking up rather than down, as like most riders I have a bit tendency to so, which results my shoulders to come forward which leads to me losing my  balance. To improve this, I have been working on bring my chest and hands up and shoulders back a bit and using letters markers in the school to focus forward in the direction I am riding.  We have also added a new training aid.  My dad gave me a Bluetooth earpiece which when taped into position means I can hear instructions clearer through the wind and weather conditions without a lot of shouting back and forth.  It’s a a lot easier to react and take  advice on board when someone is speaking in your ear rather than shouting across the school at you !

This month I took the new 2017 Novice Test B out with Aslan for the first time, not in a competition but at a British Dressage Central Region Clinic, with judge and coach Sue McMahon at Brookes Farm in Berkshire.  They have a really great indoor barn at Brookes Farm for warm ups, which Aslan really enjoyed and it was probably the best and easiest warm up we have have done yet.  We pretty much went straight into the test ride when we went outside to Sue, as we would do in a competition, and despite a good warm up I struggled to keep his attention a bit, so it wasn’t the best example of what we can do. It was valuable experience for us both and taught me that you’ve got to be on it the whole time, even after a really good warm up.

BD Central Region Clinic with Sue McMahon at Brookes Farm

Sue gave us some valuable feedback and put us through our paces for the next hour or so after which things were very much improved.  She was really patient and and I found her really easy to work with, so if you get the chance to train with her I’d definitely recommend it.  Sue reinforced some of my learning at home with Sacha and it really made me concentrate and refocus on the things we are working on to improve.  It also demonstrated that if you really concentrate and work on nailing the basics, the harder things get a lot easier.  It was Mum’s birthday that day too, so Happy Birthday Mum and thanks for letting me borrow Dad for the day to be my groom and driver (it was his birthday this month too, and we trained together that day so Happy Birthday Dad too!).  The Grade IV 2017 Novice B is a big step up from the old tests but great fun to ride.  It uses a 60m school which is better for me and Aslan as he is quite a big boy to move around with his big paces.  Next week I’ll be working on the new Novice A in squad training.  This test uses a 60m school too but the school moves are much closer to the old Novice test that I will be competing at the Winter Nationals for the last time.  I really do prefer the 60m tests so I’ll be glad to move on when its done.  I’m doing a similar BD Clinic with the Central Region next month so I’ll let you know how that goes too.

It was also half term this month and I had a bit of a break from training as I went on a school trip to Berlin.  It was a really great trip but a challenging experience too as we visited the camp which was mentally and emotionally draining.   Berlin is a very cool place.  I saw the Bandenburg Gate which was awesome and I also visited the 1936 Olympic Stadium.  There happened to be dressage training going on in the equestrian centre there, and I toughed it out there as long as I could until one of the teachers eventually coaxed me away. You’ve just got to seize every opportunity you can haven’t you!

Meanwhile, back at the yard Aslan was busy living it up and enjoying the good life.  A massage from Equine Physiotherapist Brigit Firth from Anna Johnson & Associates, check up, clean and polish from Equine Dentist David Saw and a pedicure and new dancing shoes from our farrier Oliver Fitkin.   My mum was really quite jealous as it sounded like a pretty good day at the spa!

I was pretty tired when I got back from Berlin but didn’t have much time to worry about it, as the next day I was back in the gym at Fitness4Less Chesham for my weekly session with my personal trainer Iain Duncan…. before starting my first  job! Well sort of anyway and no, not at the gym!  I  have been lucky to get a volunteer position at Wendover Heights Veterinary Centre.  I met two of their nurses at a careers fair at my school and as a result I applied for a volunteer position which I got.  It’s the start of another long journey for me, as when I leave school I really want to study Veterinary Medicine.  It’s super hard to get selected so I am going to have to build a portfolio of experience as well as do very well in my GCSEs and A Levels.  The experience at Wendover Heights is such a great opportunity for me which I am very grateful for, and all the nurses and vets have made me feel very very welcome and I am loving it.  On my very first shift I helped with small animal treatments for a goose, iguana and parrot.  On my second time, there was a chicken – so it’s not all puppies, bunnies and kittens!  As well as being a small animal centre, they are also a full on equine veterinary centre, which I am hoping to experience soon.  It’s an amazing opportunity and I am really proud to be part of the team.

I was also really happy  to receive confirmation this month that I am to receive a SportsAid Award this year thanks to sponsorship by the Royal Bank of Canada.  I knew I had been nominated by my sports governing body, the British Equestrian Federation, but didn’t know what would happen next.  It’s amazing to receive the award which will really help with the costs of my training, kit and competitions this year.  The funding is brilliant  but its also really inspiring to think of all the amazing Olympics and Paralympic athletes who have received SportsAid Awards in the past, including Sir Chris Hoy, Ellie Simmonds OBE, Jessica Ennis-Hill CBE, Tom Daley and Dame Sarah Storey.  How motivating is that!  There is a launch event I get to go to next month at the Royal Bank of Canada offices in London which I am very excited about, without really knowing much about yet!  So a big thank you the British Equestrian Federation, SportsAid and Royal Bank of Canada, I am truly grateful.

If that was not enough, the month was rounded off perfectly with a surprise post featuring me and Aslan on the Charles Owen Facebook page.  They have supported me and provided a fantastic Ayr8 helmet which I use to compete in and we shared the photos a while back.  It was a real treat to see them promote me and Aslan, or Ashe as he goes by in competitions.

So all together it really was a Fabulous February.

Next month it’s the last squad training session for the 2015 cohort, which I am looking forward to as usual, but it will be a bit different without those athletes who have progressed to the World Class Programme and whose footsteps I intend to follow in next time around.  There is also the small matter of the Winter Nationals to look forward to…

That’s it.  Thanks for reading my February blog, and to those doing so for the first time, thank you for Joining My Journey.  I hope you enjoy the ride.

Ilse x

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