Otis and I have had a quiet few weeks, recovering from the end of the event season and taking the opportunity to have some time away. A couple of weeks after our last ODE we did the Riding Club Area Eventers Challenge with a friend who's been off with an injury all season.

We did the 90cm pairs competition, and Otis did a fab clear round in the showjumping phase, and then led confidently around the cross country, making easy work of the fences. Unfortunately my friend picked up eight faults in the showjumping phase, but was really pleased with her horse's confidence across country. Pleased with our day, fifth place was the icing on the cake.

The following week we went out to the riding club dressage to do two novice tests. We always do better in the second test as he's warmed up to the arena. We had a respectable 65% in the first test, with some silly errors in accuracy that I know we can improve on. We weren't placed as it was a large class and a strong field.

Last in in the second class, Otis felt great and much more consistent to the contact, which is something we've been working hard at. His medium trot across the diagonal felt established, and we got eights for both of them! In the canter we had to canter across the diagonal before trotting on reaching the track. Unfortunately Otis got confused, and decided that a flying change was required. His flying changes are a bit erratic at the moment, and they usually involve a high kick behind. Which he did. Giving us a three. We've never gotten a three in dressage before! I felt that overall that test was one of our better ones, but I thought the flying buck had ruined our chances. So imagine my surprise when our test sheet came out, with a red rosette attached to it. We had just broken the 70% mark! Several eights compensated for the three, and all the movements seem to have become more established, balanced, accurate and correct.

Flying high on our result, I decided to raise the bar and scoured the riding diary for nearby dressage competitions and in a fortnights time we are doing a novice and elementary test. I entered on Friday, so work begins tomorrow!

Meanwhile, last week I had a showjumping lesson in preparation for today's Riding Club indoor showjumping competition. I've made it my mission this winter to up my game showjumping and jump one metre courses confidently, consistently, and most importantly clear. In our lesson last Thursday we flew over large, wide oxers easily, making light work of the related distances. Last winter I felt I was scrabbling in the metre classes, trying to conquer my own nerves. However, at a competition it's different. We warmed up in the 90cm class. The fences felt small, and Otis jumped them beautifully. With the exception of number two. When he put in an uncharacteristic stop. It was a yellow, straightforward upright so I didn't understand, until I went back in to watch afterwards. The indoor arena has very yellow lighting, and I think Otis struggled to see the yellow poles. He jumped it happily the second attempt, and I know I attacked the rest of the course more. Apparently a lot of people had problems with that fence.

I was fairly happy with the warm up round, so prepared myself for the next class. I wasn't fazed by the height of the course as I walked it, which is an improvement to previous attempts, and felt that it was all within our capabilities. Otis flew over number one, two and three easily. But just knocked the planks at four and they clattered down. I think this upset both of us as we rode the short distance to the double at number five. The first element came down but he wriggled out well. We composed ourselves for number six, the dreaded yellow number seven, number eight and nine. After this skinny upright it was a 270 degree left turn for a large double. Still struggling with these flying changes, Otis changed behind but not in front and our canter just lacked the power for the large spread. He took off steeply and tried his hardest, but brought the back rail down. Again, he jumped out clear and then over eleven and I think by the time we got to the final fence, another large oxer, we had both run out of steam and that fell too.

When I looked at the professional photos I was actually really pleased with the burst photos over fence ten because I could really see that Otis's hind leg technique over fences has definitely improved. He used to bring the back rail of spreads down with his trailing hind legs, but over fence ten his fetlocks are tucked right up to his belly button, with hocks fully flexed. The only reason the pole came down was because he took off a bit too far away. Although knocking four was quite disappointing, I don't mind if I can find a reason and work on it. Number five came down because we were both rattled by the clatter of the plank coming down. Number ten came down because we hadn't sorted our canter - so we need to crack those flying changes - and then number twelve came down because he was tiring, and I know I had run out of steam too. If we'd been clear so far I think I would have dug deep for the final fence.

The next few weeks are focusing on more metre classes, and jumping at home consistently. And of course working on our elementary test!