The latest Scotts of Thrapston rider development news from Alex Elliott….
Nick Turner XC clinic week one
Thursday 16th June marked the beginning of three consecutive week sessions with Nick. After the noticeable changes from the first two lessons I was keen to see my improvements over the three weeks.
I went into my first lesson slightly apprehensive; my group began at 8 each evening so the sun was just beginning to set and I was worried the shadows would cause Nix to be really spooky. When warming up Nix began to get more and more excited and was bouncing all over the place. We started with some fences we had previously practised to get the horses confident and moving. Nick was concentrating on keeping me looking up and about 2 strides into the fences releasing my contact a bit to allow Nix to stride over the fence comfortably without chipping in a short stride. ‘Putty hands’ as Nick called it. I felt I was really trying to make an effort, however the more I jumped, the more excited Nix became. I never quite know what he is going to do when in this type of mood, so the nervous part of me held him tight, whilst all the time this encouraged him to fight with me more. A battle that he will always win!
Towards the end of my lesson, when we stringed some fences together, I was heading to a roll-top far too fast. My nervousness took over and I held him all the way. This caused Nix to put a short stride in and only be able to make it half way over! As Nix fell on his side I hit the fence with some force, and emerged to see him trotting away. Despite some cuts and bruises for both of us (and the regret for not having my air jacket on) I was back on and more determined than before. After successfully clearing the fence Nick had me jump a fence holding the end of the buckle to find a way to ride with long reins: ‘Mary King style.’ Nix has never gone so confidently and smoothly into a fence! With me not holding on to him he had the freedom to jump. I wanted to stay firmly in the saddle, so my head was up and shoulders were back so Nick was convinced the fall did me a world of good! I left sore but with some serious homework!!
Air jacket on!! That was my first thought for the day! I then shoved the thought of my fall to the back of my head and was determined for a smooth lesson. There was just 2 of us in my lesson this week so we were less ‘stop-start’, which kept Nix a lot calmer. After a warm-up we headed over to the far field at Carlton, which was fantastic. I had previously mentioned to Nick I had never jumped a hedge; he was convinced he knew the perfect one for me to try. When we crossed into the far field Nick pointed to a course we were to do far in the distance with a hedge in the middle. As I had complete trust in Nick I set off, but the closer I got to the hedge the bigger and bigger it got! Nix leapt it and I squeaked! We continued jumping bigger and more challenging fences then finally headed to a Trakehner at the back of the course. Attempting to look, Nick soon shooed us away saying: “don’t get to close or you will think it’s bigger than it is.” We headed back and did a course of the bigger fences including the Trakehner. As we galloped towards the Trakehner a huge ditch emerged from beneath the log and I looked straight into it, Nix did too but then gave a massive leap and cleared it. We then continued on to finish the course the best we ever have! Only after the lesson did Nick mention we were jumping Pre novice fences. This was by far our best lesson!
In my final lesson we aimed to improve what we had already been working on. When we moved into the water Nix leapt down the step on the first attempt but then seemed to peck slightly on landing causing a messy exit up the steps. On the second attempt Nix wanted nothing to do with it! He was kicking and backing up frantically but after a persistent fight we managed to get him in again. This left me a little puzzled as to what was wrong, but we moved on nonetheless. With all horses being at different levels we were all doing different things, this allowed Nick to let me jump almost a whole course and put what I had learnt to practise. The course he set me included the Trakehner I had jumped in the previous lesson, so I set off determined but with slightly jelly legs. Nix jumped everything I asked and flew the Trakehner without any questioning. I finished my lesson on a high and felt my riding was really improving!
In the run up to Carlton I hope to keep Nix as busy as possible with events and training, including some unaffiliated ODE’s to keep us in practise. Nix’s diet is also underway much to his disgust! So, fingers crossed for Carlton. Hopefully all our training will pay off!