I use this exercise with all of my horses to improve rhythm and suppleness in a way that improvement is easily measured.
Using 4 poles or jumps, I usually start with plain poles and then progress to small jumps or cavallettis. Set them out on at least a 20m circle (the bigger the circle the easier the exercise) and 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock.
I like to use this exercise a lot in the winter as its quite hard work for the horses. If they’re feeling fresh they can work really hard without having to spend hours in the school. With this in mind, especially when it’s cold, I find the horses benefit from getting into trot fairly quickly to loosen off and warm up.
To prepare the horse for the exercise ahead a 10-15min centred around stretching and bending with plenty of circles and serpentines so the horse gets used to bending around your inside leg. Changing the bend also helps get the horse listening and focusing on the riders aids. Towards the end of the warm-up I would include some lengthening and shortening of the canter to ensure the horse is accepting the leg and listening to the collection aids at this is important to complete the pole exercise.
Starting the exercise
To introduce the hose to the exercise I would start by trotting around the circle, over the poles, on both reins, focusing on going over the centre of each pole and maintaining the same trot the whole way around the circle.
Once you have achieved this in trot do the same in canter, making sure you can bring the horse’s outside shoulder around the circle , and go over the middle of each pole. Still focusing on maintaining the same canter. If you are unsure whether you are managing this an easy way of making sure if by counting the number of canter strides between each pole. If the canter rhythm is the same, and you are riding an even shaped circle, the horse should put the same number of strides between each pole.
Once you have achieved this you can either raise some or all of the poles to raised canter poles or you can play around with the adjustability of the canter by putting in more strides on the circle for a more collected canter, or less strides for a more open frame. All whilst still focusing on maintaining the rhythm and correct bend as before.
Once you have achieved what you aimed for in the session (which depends on your and your horse’s level of experience) it is time for the cool down. Usually the horse will have worked quite hard so it’s important to cool them down correctly. To do this I usually work the horse in a similar way to the warm up with lots of stretching and bending on large circles and serpentines.
It’s worthwhile noting if the horse now finds this easier having worked over the poles to see how the exercise has worked for the horse.
Team work and cake are two things at the heart of any M.S.Team Eventing success, so what better way to celebrate the final run in to Badminton week with 'Mummy Murray's Road To Badminton Recipe'.
A great horse...#SirCharles
Incredibly supportive owners...Terry & Aivar Ward
A talented and gutsy rider...Imogen
A committed team of grooms...Ellie, Scarlett, Bella, Leni and Belli
A set of magic hands to keep Charles & Imogen feeling great...Halina
An award winning farrier...Paul
A vet to cure any ailments...Spike
A troop of trainers...
Someone to keep us organised and publish the news...Sarah
A fantastic photographer to record the journey...Tim
A couple of mascots...Biggles & Boris
An angel on your shoulder...Chunkberry
Friends to provide encouragement and to pick you up when the chips are down...Jenny, Laura & co
Some great sponsors to support the journey...
Mix them together with many years of partnership and you really could be living a dream!
Winter is supposed to be nearly over but with more snow forecast and the arctic like conditions outside we’re not sure where we are with the weather and seasons these days! Is this all down to Global Warming? Because it certainly doesn't feel very warm to us! I’m not sure as I write this if it is anything other than absolutely freezing. But we’re trying to crack on with the eventing season preparations and fingers crossed we’ll be ready and raring to go come that first event....in the Cambridgeshire Fens with no land above sea level between them and Siberia!
After an initial holiday period for me and a the horses (mine was somewhat warmer and sunnier than their's though), we’ve been working hard with the flat work – aka stressage, and so far it seems to getting there. Princess Sky (SJL Convince Me) has flicked her toes to some Elementary wins with huge 70%+ scores, Nigel (Heavy Metall R) has been a formidable force at Novice with a sizeable rosette haul, and new boy Email is yet to finish outside of the top 2 at Medium! Even Sir Charles has been out stressaging.
To make the Winter a little more exciting we’ve also had a few new arrivals. A 4yr old - who’s away being broken in at the moment, a couple of horses already competing at 1* looking to step up a level this season, and Email, the rather beautiful pure dressage horse – who we’re having lots of fun with, he’s really helping to up my game in this area!
The other horses all are well into their winter training programmes and are starting to go out to a few pony parties now. Sir Charles, has heard he could be going to Badminton and, as usual with his sense of humour, has started his own gallop work. This does however usually result him heading in directions other than where he is meant to be or in circles around me. He definitely doesn’t think he’s doing enough! It would be fair to say – he’s ready to party – we’re just not convinced we’re quite ready for whatever antics he may have up his sleeve.
The other horses are all well on the road with their fitness and training programmes too. We just don’t travel anywhere without a neck strap – just in case!
The first events are entered and the spring plan for each horse has gone out to owners. All we need now is a bit of sunshine, a few longer daylight hours and, an awful lot of luck.
We'll be getting the 2018 season underway at the end of the month with the unaffiliated one-day event on the Osberton estate. The season proper gets underway with 4 of the 'big boys' heading to Isleham for the Intermediate and Novice, and a further 4 heading to Oasby the week after.
So thanks to our army of fans Ivar Gooden aka Sir Charles has made it into the top 12 of EquiRatings Horse of The Year nominations!!
He's up against 4* winners, championship horses and some of our equestrian heroes! He's the underdog in the competition, but surely everyone loves an underdog?
2017 has been Charles' year...
- 100% clear show jumping rate
- 100% international clear cross country rate
- 100% double clear at 4*
- First call up to Team GBR - leading the team to Silver in the French leg of the Nations Cup
- Finished the season ranked 19th in the British Eventing top horse standings
- Helped Imogen to a career high of being ranked 88th in the world
- Winner of the Belton U25 Advanced
- Winner of the Highest Placed U25 at Badminton
- Finished 21st at Badminton 2017 (one of the highest leaderboard climbers)
- Finished 14the Burghley 2017
- Biggest jump up the leaderboard at Burghley 2017, coming up from 51st after dressage
- 1 of only 2 horses to jump a double clear at both Badminton and Burghley
- Joint youngest in the list at only 10 years old
- The only 10 year old in the list to jump a 4*, let alone 2 double clear's at the level, making him the youngest 4* horse in the list!
Please do let behind #SirCharles when the voting opens
It doesn't really get much bigger than Burghley - the only eventing fixture listed in the top 10 sporting spectator events in the UK, extensive BBC coverage and not to mentioned some fairly sizeable fences!
A second trip to Burghley for Imogen and a first time for Ivar Gooden, however with the Badminton success and the Silver medal in France under their belts there was certainly a lot more focus on them as a combination that could produce a good result.
The event started with a fair bit of filming. What we thought was going to be a low key meeting with Harriet Lily from A Girl About Country, to work out a trot up outfit, kindly sponsored by a number of the Burghley sponsors was in fact a full on filming session with the Burghley TV team and John Kyle! Nothing like a quick spring clean of the lorry for a grey Wednesday morning at Burghley.
Filming done it was onto the trot up - with our carefully selected outfit! Imogen wore the Langham Ankle Boots from Joules, the Technical BR2 Pea Coat from Musto, over a Dubarry shirt, finished off with a Navy fedora from Mackenzie & George and a selection of bespoke jewellery from HiHo Silver.
The main aim of the trot up was obviously to pass and get Sir Charles safely through to the main part of the competition....mission accomplished! To much delight it was also announced that we had won Best Shod, all thanks to our incredible team farrier, Paul Varnam. Sadly we missed out on the best dressed prize, but we have it on good authority we were a close second and if it had been raining we'd have definitely won!
Thursday was a 'day off', a day off from competing but a busy morning with filming for the BBC and a course walk for new sponsors Majyk Equipe.
Definitely a new experience filming with Clare Balding and baby Zorro was such a pro, taking it all in his stride.
Dressage, the necessary phase to get to the jumping. Charles has made such improvement in his flat work this year, which made his score of 58.4 a little disappointing. Not usually a spooky horse, he was somewhat distracted and tense due to the close proximity of the photographers at the A end near the crowds. The clicking of the camera shutters was rather loud. 51st after dressage seemed like a mountain to climb up the leaderboard.
Friday was also the BYEH 4-year-old final for Zorro. He wowed the judges in the dressage, jumped a beautiful round around the colour and rustic fences and trotted up beautifully to move into the second round. Cantering and galloping as a ground around a big, busy arena such as this one is quite an ask for a young horse, but Zorro took up the challenge like the pro that he was.
Ride judge Blyth Tait just didn't like him quite enough to ride him, so finished in 5th, just outside of the final 4.
Saturday's Cross Country - a track to sought the men from the boys and to make the rest of the team feel a little queasy whilst waiting.
Sir Charles rose to the challenge impeccably and as a partnership they STORMED round the imposing 4* track. Light work was made of the gruelling track with Charles finishing full of running...and Imogen's arms most likely a few inches longer!
What a feat to finish the cross country 34 places higher than after dressage, never did we think we'd be heading into the final trot up and show jumping in 15th place!
On to Sunday...a 100% clear jumping rate for Sir Charles in 2017, the pressure was on. Could Imogen and Charles maintain the form and put the pressure on the riders above them? Yes they could! A perfect round from the young pair left them 14th in their 2nd 4* together.
Only 1 of 2 pairs to produce both a double clear at Badminton and Burghley in 2017 - the future is certainly going to be a Gooden!
The final stop in the Big B tour is always Blenheim, the most spectacular venue, where we all get compete in the grounds of this beautiful palace. When competing at a palace it was quite fitting to take the Princess for a spin around the CCI*** - Tomgar Jess was feeling very much at home.
A Personal Best in the dressage left them in 49th after the dressage with it all very much to play for a cross country.
Another impressive cross country round, in what was a testing track. One of the fastest rounds of the day, even with a shoe lost in the early stages, saw Jess and Imogen rise to 18th!
A few too many poles rolled in the jumping to trouble the top of the leaderboard, but what a horse for the future!
As we start to come to terms with the fact that 'winter is coming' it is always good to pause for thought on what an incredible Summer we've had!
Barbury marks the start of Summer in the eventing world and it also marked the return of Sir Charles. After his post Badminton mini break he'd been itching to get back out. He certainly picked up where he left off with a super double clear in the CCI** to finish 9th in a very hot section. It is always good to have the main man back out competing, he really does love it!
July to September always seems to be busy with events coming thick and fast and this season was no different.
It was a quick turn around after Barbury and onto Upton House and Stafford in quick succession before heading off to Aston-Le-Walls and Little Downham in the same weekend. It was a rather successful weekend however!
This time it was the girls time to shine. Jess flicked her toes and then picked them up to finish 9th in the Advanced and little Miss Ruby came 3rd in only her 2nd Intermediate! A super dressage of 30 and a double clear with just 2 time faults earned her her frilly . Next stop Little Downham and Sky (ridden by Imogen for a whole 2 weeks) scored a record breaking 14.3 - a personal best and a best ever finishing score for the event! She took the win with a comfortable 4 point margin, with Scarlett and Avocado in 3rd on 18.8!
Super Sky kept up the pace at Frickley Park as well, this time in the BE100+, finishing on her 23.5 dressage to win by 7 marks, over Ros Canter in 2nd! She's a mare with a very exciting future ahead of her!
With August came the Team GBR call up - Imogen had been so close to Team GBR duties when she was younger but it was never meant to be. The call up to the senior team is something quite special, a mark of recognition for the hard work we all put in.
A long trip to France for Le Pin Au Haras wasn't without its drama. The travelling in convoy idea may have fallen apart slightly when 'the kids' and 'the adults' became separated when only the horsebox was allowed on the first boat. So off they set, into France, all on their own and in charge of the precious cargo of horsebox and horses! Mummy Murray was only having mild palpitations sat on the dock back in England! With the aid of 'Find my iPhone' and a fair amount of phone calls, everyone safely negotiated the French leg of the journey to be reunited in France.
And what a trip to France it was! Sir Charles raised his game yet again to LEAD, yes lead the British Team to a Silver medal. 10th place over all left Imogen and Charles as the highest placed British team pair. Ruby made the trip across the channel as well, to compete in only her 3rd 1*. She really is a mare in fantastic form - a 3rd and a 5th in her first two internationals, she continued this form in France. Finishing on her 44.4 dressage left her in 5th place and yet again the leading British combination!
Skipping forward slightly and omitting to mention a certain event at the beginning of September...Burnham Market was a trip to the North Norfolk coast with 4 in the Novice/Open Novice.
Super Sky continued her run of form (she also picked up 4th at Keysoe Novice) to finish 8th in her 2nd Novice. We powered the pony up for a 7th on 33.3 with Petal and Vince enjoyed a day having a fun run around the ON to finish 6th on his 33 dressage!
A successful Summer for M.S. Team Eventing...but the fun certainly didn't stop there!
M.S Team Eventing rounded May off with a trip to the darkest depths of Norfolk for Houghton Hall International. Little Miss Ruby was certainly the star of the show picking up 5th place in a very large and highly competitive CCI*. She was fantastic in all three phases and is now ready for her Intermediate debut at Aston late in July.
Onto June and off to Little Downham. Shannondale Vintage (Vincent) got the weekend off to a good start with a good run around the Intermediate, finishing just outside the top 10. A day of 'rest' and then back there on the Sunday for the BE100 with Illston Jester and Heavy Metall R in the BE90. The lovely Nigel produced a gorgeous dressage for 27 and a CLEAR show jumping!! Sitting in 2nd place going into the cross country the whole team thought that luck was on their side. However apparently there were Nigel eating monsters lurking in the bottom of the very scary trakehner. So onto Illston, well they say a picture says a thousand words...
Imogen was absolutely fine and leapt back on to complete the course.
With the lower levels seeming to prove a challenge the team headed up North to Catton Park - in 33 degree heat. A weekend when most of the country were sunbathing and enjoying beers and barbecues, we were off eventing with Jess and Vincent in the Intermediate.
The sweat and sun burn were well worth it with another strong Intermediate run for Vincent, and Jess, having her first outing since April, finishing 3rd in the Open Intermediate, with a 25.9 dressage and super double clear.
It hasn't all been about eventing for the past few weeks though. Imogen has taken the babies out to dressage and there has been a few show jumping outings too!
First it was a visit to Weston Lawns Summer Spectacular show where 4-year-old Violetta B had her first taste of British Showjumping finishing 6th in the British Novice (from 50 starters). Shannondale Vintage jumped super rounds in the 1m15 and the Fox Hunter classes and Ivar Gooden was very excited to be at his first party since Badminton with a springy double clear in the Fox!
We are all absolutely delighted to confirm that the one and only Sir Charles is fit and raring to go again after his Badminton triumph. In fact he's a little bit too excited for life. He's now heading to Barbury for the CIC2*, to keep the confidence up and will then hopefully head out to Hara Du Pin and then (fingers and toes crosses) Burghley!
Back out show jumping and this time Illston had his jumping shoes on for a convincing win in the 1.05m class, redeeming himself from his antics at Little Downham. Violetta B added another double clear to her tally in the British Novice and Avocado and Scarlett jumped a lovely confident round in the 1.05m.
In between all of the show jumping fun, we headed off to Keysoe for the BYEH with new boy Sandyhills Penhill Zorro in the 4-year-old class. And what a good boy he was at his first party with us. A top 10 finish and a qualification - he is an incredibly smart and exciting young horse and certainly one to watch for the future.
All in all a pretty good June! July gets underway with the CIC2* at Barbury, before heading to Upton House and Aston-le-Walls. The M.S Team will be rounding off July with a trip down to Hickstead for the Royal International Horse Show where Imogen has been invited to compete in the Eventers Challenge - stay tuned for Kim's reaction as Imogen and Vincent come off the infamous bank!
Despite a trying time at home of late, it has been a rather successful few weeks for M.S. Team Eventing. Riding high after Badminton it was on to Chatsworth and a great 3rd place finish for Roheryn Ruby in the CIC*.
All change and on to Rockingham...where we wanted a little rain to soften the ground and what we got was a monsoon! The ground was quite holding following the deluge of rain (we can't really complain as we desperately needed it) so Shannondale Vintage was quite exhausted when he finished but certainly cheered everyone up and put a smile on faces with a glorious double clear in the Intermediate, just adding 14 times faults to their 31.3 dressage to finish 4th in a very competitive section.
Violetta B came along to Rockingham as well for their first grown up party, for the Burghley Young Event Horse class - jumping very well and behaving superbly. However, the judges didn't really appreciate the need for speed, so hopefully we'll see a slightly more sedate performance at Houghton.
On to another stately home, this time the stunning ground of Houghton Hall in Norfolk where a 3 day event actually takes 5 days, with Ruby and Petal (I've Dun Talking) both in the CCI*. We're hoping for another good finish from Ruby and expect a nice accurate test from Petal.
Ben is also coming along with Cosgrove in the CIC* and looking for a double clear and MER score.
Ivar Gooden seems to have adopted a bit of a fan club following his Badminton triumph and we are very pleased to say that he is feeling VERY well! He is certainly ready and raring to go after his holiday and really wants to be back in work. We'll find a nice Open Intermediate for him to have a fun run in and then all being well another 3*. The most amazing plan would be Aachen 3* and then Burghley 4*...lots of luck and bubble wrap needed.
What a week - what a Badminton!
It was a first Badminton CCI**** for Imogen, and a first ever 4* for Ivar Gooden (Sir Charles). All anyone could have hoped for was that they would both come home safe and well, but what they actually achieved was an incredible DOUBLE CLEAR, a 21st place finish and to WIN the under 25 prize!! What a rollercoaster of emotions that was!
Whilst Imogen kept her cool and rode two of the jumping rounds of her life, Dean paced - 26Km on cross country day alone, and Kim provided the emotional statuses.
The team added up the key team of Imogen, Charles & Chief Groom's age and it was still less than that of Sir Mark and Andrew!
Imogen couldn't actually put into words just how special the feeling was to complete her first Badminton, with the feeling just still so surreal, and she certainly didn't expect to jump a double clear on a 10 year old in his first ever 4*, especially being only 23 herself!
But that is exactly what they did. Only 31 combinations jumped clear across the country with falls, retirements and refusals a plenty. Imogen and Charles produced a brave, polished and determined performance to carry each other around one of the most demanding Badminton's anyone has seen in a long time, displaying what a true partnership they are. The incredible cross country performance moved them up 36 places ahead of the final show jumping phase.
Only 10 combinations went on to produce a double clear from the showjumping - Imogen and Charles being one of them! That performance then moved them up a further 11 places to finish just outside the top 20 in 21st place.
With everyone's emotions running high watching the pair of them go around was terribly nerve wracking for the whole team, because everyone wanted to see them get round clear and safe. But what an incredible, exhilarating and emotional feeling when it all came together!
So onto prize giving...with Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, in the main arena at Badminton! Imogen always hoped there may be a chance, but never really thought it was realistic, so to be crowned the highest placed under 25 rider and be included in the main prize giving was VERY exciting!
So for now, a MASSIVE THANK YOU to absolutely everyone who has helped in any way, there are really far too many people to mention but it all means so much and we are all truly grateful! However the biggest thank you has to go to Aivar Ward and Terry Morris for allowing us to look after, produce and ride such a special horse.
Now to Chatsworth...
Well we made it to Badminton and Ivar Gooden was ACCEPTED for the trot up - the big first hurdle done!
People ask about what it is like being at Badminton and how is it different from other events. The number of people waiting for the trot up, was like Oh My God! Walking out under that archway was incredible. We didn't really want to get overly obsessed by the atmosphere as a way of keeping calm.
Dressage came next - a really pleasing if not a little green test. For his first 4* test we were really pleased with how calm he was and how rideable he was.
We unfortunately lost a stud on the way in, which meant we had a few slips but we're still really pleased with him.
Now the dressage is done everyone just asks about thoughts ahead to the cross country - it is big and bold! As this is our first Badminton we can't really compare to previous years, as yes we've been to watch, but it is very different walking it and watching, to walking it and riding. It may be his first 4* but we've been a partnership for such a long time, we know each other inside out.
We're keen to see how the new water at the top of the hill will ride and jumping into the lake is something to look forward to, but we're just really looking forward to jumping the final fence!
Dean is a bit obsessed with stats so was obsessing over the waitlist and number crunching. At least being on the waitlist meant that a certain amount of stress and pressure in the run up was lifted!