Telling your storiesfrom the stables to the fields

02 September,2017

Finding the ingredients for consistency by Alison Kenward

Once I had secured my Regional Qualification with Neptune my thoughts turned to the challenge of training for the Regionals and presenting an Elementary 59 performance I could feel proud of. I recognised that I needed to work on way of going, test preparation, fitness for both of us and to find a way to feel the same confidence for E59 as I do for E57 and E53.

The recent hot weather has been a challenge and I was very pleased we had completed our qualification earlier in the year. This meant I had space in June for some R&R as well as preparation. I enjoyed a day at The Centaur Biomechanics conference. The day was very well organised with exceptional speakers and presentations. Charlie Unwin motivated me to reflect on mindset and setting the scene for performing well in competition and training. Later in the month I travelled to NTU for a CPD day titled Coaching in the 21st Century here we explored many areas including the impact of visual training and working with a combination of new technology and the role of coach feedback. Nick Turner was a panel member who offered great insight into coaching practice. I remembered how much I enjoyed my sessions with Nick at Regional Camp with Sebastian in 2009 and I would like to attend some similar sessions with Neptune!

I have begun the preparation for my Freestyle Demo at Blenheim Horse Trials with Tony Hobden from Equidance. Neptune has a new music routine too which I’m looking forward to trying out at the BFEC Summer Dressage Festival. Dress Rehearsals start soon!

I spent a week at Winchfield Equestrian training with James Burtwell. Neptune and I had the best week finding how to communicate with each other and for me it was a chance to explore the elements which add up to good performance in the test arena. I have known James rather a long time now and trust him to help me ride, train and compete. It’s not easy to ride out of comfort zones and James is skilled at deciding what needs to change in order to progress. I was open to things getting a little tough as my goal was to develop my partnership with Neptune in order to thrive rather than survive in E59.

I was not expecting compulsory walks through the woods with Neptune before and after every session. I had accepted that Neptune did not hack and had an even longer list of unacceptable things than Jack. I am very thankful that my Mum and Fred like walking and that Neptune trusts them enough to follow them almost anywhere.

I am so grateful for those walks because by Tuesday we were walking the circuit on our own and by Friday we were even enjoying it! (Since returning home we have carried this learning forwards and hack around the gallops before and after arena work still following my Mum and Fred though no lead rein is required)


The focus from the start of the week was to improve way of going, such a broad topic I know but this is part of the endless joy of Dressage! For Neptune and I the ingredients are currently connection, suppleness, relaxation (both of us) timing of my aids and Neptune’s reactions to them. Thank goodness James is patient as well as exacting. My confidence grew with every ride and this is linked to enjoyment. I don’t mind working hard and Neptune was enjoying the structure of the sessions, warm up, concentrate, walk breaks, concentrate, cool down, field time before tea time. Neptune and I were engaged with the process and discovering new expression in the paces. James surprised me with an invitation to have a test riding session with Nereide Goodman. This was eye opening and an unmissable chance to be coached through E59 with timely feedback and analysis. Nereide helped me come to terms with E59 as a test that suits Neptune, to ride leg yield with fun in mind, to prepare , position, feel and celebrate Neptune’s paces and ride for the Wow moments. I barely recognised myself or Neptune in that session, thank you James for training and preparing  us for moments like these.  So many highlights and learning points from that session which I’m delighted to have captured on video for my Hive Learning App complete with Nereide’s insight and commentary. I was thrilled to find that E59 stopped holding fear for me and has become a test that makes me smile in the same way that M75 did with Jack.

My session on Friday with James helped consolidate the week’s learning and to give me the tools to come home and practice with purpose as well as development. I did enjoy leg yields, the canter work and riding in my performance zone with Neptune and these skills have been reaffirmed for me at home. The magic of working together is portable and home or away I feel like I’ve found a special place for Neptune and I to share. The competition results might take a little while to reach their potential but in the meantime we are training in a happy and productive place (James is on speed dial!) BFEC competitions are on the horizon and I’m excited.

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