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  • Writer's pictureOllie Ratcliffe

October Blog

I am going to start off this month with some exciting news; I have been selected on to the British Equestrian Federation Excel Talent Programme, which is fantastic news. I was invited to attend the viewing day for the Excel Talent Programme in September the trial went really well and Sky was a superstar even though we were still tired from the Nationals; as it happened to be two days after the Nationals. I cannot thank everyone who has enabled me to pursue my dream and reach my goals enough and know they will continue to support me on my journey up the ladder and to my long term goal of winning a gold medal!

I had the induction day and my first Excel squad training this month; read on to find out how they went.

My lessons with Bear have been going really well and I feel that this month we have made massive step forward. I think we may have found a way to sort the contact out, so that I have more of a consistent and steady contact. Which is very exciting as this is what has been holding us back!

My lessons with Sky have also been going super and believe it or not we have found another level of walk! We have been working really hard on Sky’s suppleness and we are starting to see a big improvement I am looking forward to competing and seeing what the judges think.

Sadly my body is still not playing ball and has decided to throw some new symptoms at me but Sky being the dude he is just ignores them and Bear is getting more used to them and getting better at dealing with them. One of these being that my legs fully give way when I get off but thankfully mum, dad or Rob are there to catch me!

I have to say massive congratulations to my trainer Rob Waine who this month became European Champion with Nazareno.

The Excel Induction Day was held at Solihull Riding Club and it was a hugely informative day. We had two key note speakers who were truly inspirational in different ways, we learnt more about the programme and met our mentor Tanya as well as so much more. I am so excited about my first squad training all ready.

I went to a lunch held by Bucks Sporting Lunch Club and was awarded my Sports Aid Grant; biggest thank you to all the businesses that supported the lunch and Sports Aid. My dad and I had a very enjoyable afternoon and it was fantastic to be given my award by Ray Wilkins MBE. It was a pretty surreal afternoon as the whole lunch was all about me and it was fantastic to be recognised and get credit for all my achievements so far. Read the full report here

After thinking I had qualified both horses for the Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships I found out due to a rule change this was not the case. Slight panic Sky needed 1 more point and Bear 4. Panic overted as Windmill Farm had one last winter qualifier left so I entered both boys.

Thankfully Rob was around and came to help warm them both up and train me and super groom mum was on hand. It was the day that storm Brian decided to make an appearance so gale force winds were on the cards! Thankfully both boys didn’t bat an eyelid and showed what true Para ponies they really are.

I was delighted with Sky’s result of over 72% and he took the overall win. Considering he never goes his best at home this was fantastic and the rider needs sacking as a lot of the marks we lost were due to accuracy. But to be fair at one point the rider was getting attacked by leaves and couldn’t see where she was going! So Sky is definitely qualified which is a relief and now we can focus on a winter of training, we need to continue to work on the suppleness and keeping the activity the whole way through every movement.

I was pleased with Bears result considering the circumstances and he came 2nd overall. Not bad having both horses in the top 2. Bear warmed up amazing the best he has ever gone, such a shame we didn’t have a video camera but this always seems to be the case when the horses are going amazing! He walked around the test arena fantastically but due to a delay in proceedings after walking around the arena 10 times, by the time he went down the centre line he just fell asleep and backed off completely, can’t really blame him he thought we were finished! I had to work extremely hard but finished the test and was pleased with the mark as it shows so much potential for the future. In dressage you have to prepare for all eventualities, a delay is not one we have come across yet with Bear. But if it happens again we will know to just stop and wait. I also think we over did the warm up a bit and so we were just both over cooked. But Bear has also qualified so we can focus on a winter of training with him too; working on the contact and activity.

We have made the decision that I am just going to ride both horses for 10 minutes in the warm up as that is all they need and all that my body can cope with at present.

It was time for squad training; Mum, Sky and I were all in the lorry on the way to Solihull for a busy two days. We went up on the Sunday night as my first session was at 10 on the Monday, Sky settled into his box straight away.

First I had my position analysis session which was extremely helpful and great to have all the experts in one room together; farrier, vet, saddler, biomechanics, trainer, mentor and physio. We found out that Sky’s saddle was going to the right so with help from the saddler we adjusted this and this made my position much better, we also made a slight change to my position and the outcome was brilliant, we were both much straighter and so Sky was more forward.

Whilst at squad training I had a nutritionist, psychology, welfare and physio sessions. I’m feeling much more confident now as I have a programme that I can carry out that will aid my riding and hopefully not disturb anything else. For me one of the hardest things I have always found has been dealing with my mind set but over the years I have worked extremely hard on this and it’s no longer a problem. The feedback I got from the psychologist was fantastic and shows that all my hard work has paid off.

All the other sessions that both me and Sky had were helpful. I had a very enjoyable time at my first squad training; learnt lots and Sky was a true superstar. I am now well and truly exhausted.

I am putting a new plan into action; after a big event or when I have knackered my body to exhaustion I am going to have a few days off from riding and before I start my gym programme again so I give my body a chance to recover! This is hard for me but I have been told off by to many people for not resting enough!

Next month I will be attending Your Horse Live on Sunday 12th November and am going to be on the BETTA Life stand at some point in the afternoon from about 2:30pm onwards so please come over and say hi.

Next month looks to be quieter with no competitions planned. But lots of hard training ahead all aimed at the Winter Para Dressage Gold Championships which are going to be in February at Myerscough. This is going to be a real hike for us! In the mean time we desperately need to find a new lorry as ours just isn’t big enough for Bear and it cannot take Bear and Sky, let alone Quiny as well and also with my deterioration we need a bigger living with wheelchair access if at all possible. Unfortunately we don’t currently have a very big budget and need to sell/ part exchange our current lorry first. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any ideas or think you could help, any help however small would be greatly appreciated.

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