“I’ve had Woody for six and a half years and I’ve only just learned to ride him properly”

It’s been a month of discovery for Sarah and Woody – find out how their approach to eventing has changed…

This month has brought with it a little epiphany – I’ve had Woody for six and a half years and I’ve only just learned to ride him properly. Let that sink in for a minute. 
I know what you are thinking – ‘How is this even possible? What have I been doing for the last six and a half years?!’ Well, the answer is that we were doing okay (I thought we were doing amazingly), but it’s safe to say that neither of us was performing our best. 
I can be quite guilty of forgetting to schedule lessons/not bothering to book them so that I can save my money to compete. However, after a few random sessions of “I can’t even ride” in the arena at home (we all know the ones), I made the conscious choice to invest some time and money in training with a real-life instructor. 
I’ve been training with my instructor for about a year now, but it was very casual, booking a session every so often if and when I felt like I was doing less than a fabulous job. So, I booked a session and said I was ready to work on myself in the hope of improving my riding as a whole and our performance as a partnership. Doing an ‘okay’ job was no longer good enough for me. 
I’ll add in here that this is not about going out and winning events or being better than everyone else. This is about being the best rider I can be and bettering myself, for myself. 
The first session we worked on going forward and asking Woody to open his stride up while I maintained a good contact. Following this lesson, I made a quick vlog and posted it on my page (@apteventing), which my instructor watched 100 times then came back to me and said we were going to try something different next time. 
The next lesson saw me do most of the session with washing line reins and Woody’s nose on the floor. I was even cantering around with a loose rein and one arm above my head, which made Woody go faster and faster and highlighted to me just how much I was hanging on with my hands. 
Half way into the session, while letting him stretch and swing over his back, this MASSIVE trot appeared, which was literally propelling me up out of the saddle on each stride. I had never felt this trot before. All those years of trotting and I had never managed to open him up like this. 
Woods quickly adopted this stride and with this trot came a bigger canter and an even bigger jump. In the warm-up arena at last weekend’s event, I very nearly fell off twice while jumping a big oxer as he was unleashing – and obviously enjoying – this new power and scope. 
I’m excited about this and I really believe that me finding the right buttons to channel this new-found power will be the key to moving him back up a level to Novice, and maybe beyond. Who knows? Stay tuned…

Read Sarah's last blog and watch her video about balancing eventing with running a business!