There are a number of event riders who I admire in various ways, but the way in which Harry Meade rides in the cross country is something that I am really inspired by. Last summer I entered a Horse and Rider competition to win a lesson with Harry - I never once thought I would actually be one of the winners so I was amazed when I received an email telling me that the lesson would take place in August at Boomerang.
Like many eventers, cross country has always been my strongest phase, particularly with my current horse Kilfearagh Lady (Lady), but my previous horses and ponies have all enjoyed this phase the most too! Due to me enjoying the cross country phase so much, the lesson was particularly stimulating and I really relished the experience of training with Harry.
The weather was absolutely awful at Boomerang - cold, raining and windy but I was still looking forward to the lesson. We started in large circles in a steady canter, patting our horses with alternating hands to get them relaxed and in a consistent tempo. We also focused on a canter that had the 'revs' without speed which is vital for cross country, especially when tackling the more tricky combinations and angles. We only jumped small fences but the session was probably the most educational one I have ever experienced and Harry stressed that the height of the fences and speed are not the answer to success without the foundations - much to Lady's disappointment who likes to gallop everywhere!
We did a lot of trotting into fences which enabled the horses to properly look where they are going and to work out their stride for themselves rather than relying on their rider. We worked on these techniques at the water jump as well and even approached the steps up and down in walk with long reins which further encouraged the horses to be less dependent on their riders.
Since this lesson, I was lucky enough to have a private show jumping lesson with Harry this summer at his yard where again, he worked on the basics and we did lots of trotting into the jumps and ‘one-handed’ riding around a small course to emphasise how important it is to use the legs instead of hands and to stop me interfering with Lady’s stride prior to a fence! It is so easy to forget the basics of training, especially as currently I only have one competition horse, but I am so grateful to Harry for reminding me of the importance of these foundations and for him taking the time to teach me.
The highlight of my season so far is going clear inside the time around our first CCI1* at Hartpury and for completing our first CIC1* at Rockingham. Lady and I will be competing in the CIC1* at Gatcombe next weekend and then our final run will be the Novice at Dauntsey at the end of September. Lady has worked so hard this year and has progressed so much so she will have a relaxing six weeks off until mid-November and then its back to our preparations for the 2017 season. I am so lucky to have some amazing sponsors and Animalife’s support for the past two and a half seasons has been very gratefully received!