Nicki Strong’s blog: Small steps – big smiles!

Read on for all the latest news from Horslyx Ambassador Nicki Strong and find out how much Blue has improved in the past year…

“It’s been difficult to get out this month, as my other half and designated driver has been working a lot so I’ve made the most of the time training at home in prep for our most recent outing at West Wilts last week. In our jumping lessons we’ve been working on establishing a good rhythm again, and my homework has been to do little and often. Blue had been finding the jumping phases particularly exciting, so even just doing little exercises cantering a 20m circle including a little cross pole or upright has been the way forward at home. This has been really helping to eliminate the head up, lock on and fire approach which Blue’s adopted recently, and he’s been jumping much better as a result.”

“We’ve also been working on the flat, particularly on Blue’s weaker right rein. He’s trained me pretty well to hold him up and help balance him on the inside rein which is not good! So we’ve been working on getting him to accept the inside leg to outside rein with some cool exercises. Admittedly at first I thought – this will never work! But a few sessions later, repetition being the key, he’s really getting it. Woohoo! So on Wednesday I took a day off work to go to West Wilts BE90 to put our training to the test.”

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“It didn’t start too well, and Blue had the hump as soon as I got on him to warm up for the dressage! We did what felt like a horrendous test, but were awarded a 44 which actually matched a reasonable test we’d done before. On watching it back it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought, just the bad bits stuck out in mind like when he spooked at the boards, or came above the bit etc. But his canter work was pretty nice, his canter leads were all correct, and the tempo was much more consistent throughout, not too fast or too slow.”

“Last time we showjumped here, horse flies, hour delays and 30 degree heat meant I had a very hot upset horse who had three down. This time he was relaxed, focused, and jumped in a good rhythm – I was over the moon with the improvement and he felt back to himself again. He just had an unlucky pole where we got too close to one – big pats all round.  Onto the cross country, which was a different course to the one we’d jumped before. It was a nice flowing course with a few little questions, and having never finished inside the time yet, I made a conscious decision to let him jump out of his stride more rather than spending ages setting up for simple fences. Well this approach certainly did the trick, as we finished 11 seconds inside the time with a clear that he thoroughly deserved. He towed me round the whole way, ears pricked and looking for the next fence, what a lovely feeling! So we finished on 48, and our best result to date.”

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“The commentators had read out that I was a Horslyx ambassador and had invited me up to the commentary box to share some Horslyx with them! As we are both newbies, we are absolutely out to compete against ourselves and just keep working away and improving, becoming more confident and trying to let nerves get the better of us. I certainly finished this event feeling very pleased with his performance overall – still plenty to work on but what a difference, and really heading in the right direction. Looking back at the photo of our first show together in April last year he looks such a baby, and it’s great to see the smart boy he has turned into. Next up – a BE100 at Wellington Horse Trials. Now this will be a test! Wish us luck!”

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