Ellen's Adventures in America!

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This month I have been learning how the Americans ride, whilst travelling around the North East of the USA, for two weeks with Oxford University Equestrian Club.

The team and I had four days of training booked in at Cornell and Dartmouth Universities, before putting my new style into practice at Dartmouth Invitational Competition.

In my first session, I struggled to adapt as quickly as I had hoped. The horses we were riding are used to being ridden with a “half seat”, which is somewhere between sitting and a two-point jumping position. Usually, when I am jumping I will be sat on the approach to a fence, and use my position and seat to adjust a horse’s canter, and to place a horse at the fence well. However, when I tried to do this on the horses out there they became confused and shut down.
Over the next day of training, I worked on being much stiller and micromanaging the horse less, which seemed to work well. This new jumping style, is something I will keep in the back of my mind when riding back at home now – I think often I tend to overthink my rounds, and sometimes doing less is actually beneficial.

When riding in the heat I was very thankful to be in my Just Togs ladies riding tights that meant I wasn’t too hot at any time.

On the last day of training, the team had a dressage lesson with a dressage rider who had been long-listed for the last WEG USA team. During the lesson I was riding a 17.1hh cob built mare, which is very different to Finnegan, but I was able to get the horse going well and although she struggled with her balance I used my legs a lot more on turns to keep her straight and balanced.

The format of competition we were competing in is very different from anything I had done before. The flat portion consists of about 5 people riding in the ring and the judge calling out movements we had to do. This means that you have to be very alert and have the horse incredibly responsive as any second you could be asked to halt, canter or anything else. I think this was a good way of testing dressage as you had to have your horse true, and it’s less easy to carry it through some movements.

The jumping section is also different. It is more like a dressage test, you are told what pace to jump each fence, and there are also movements like hand gallop between two markers and halts.

On show day the whole team looked immaculate in their Just Togs navy Oxford show shirt, the studded collar sparkled in the sun, as did my glitter defender air helmet. We had so many comments from the American teams about how smart we looked.

The competition went well and I picked up a 3rd place in the open section, which was a nice confirmation as to the improvement I had made during the training.

The final bit of riding I did was some western reining. Very different to anything I had done before but I would love to do some more if I ever got the chance again.