…until the Trailblazer Championships.

My entry is in and I’ve just 25 days until the first round of the finals.

It’s not ideal timing. Between work and illness Abbey’s had over 2 weeks off and during that time she’s put on rather a lot of weight and lost some considerable fitness. She wasn’t exactly skinny before but now she’s definitely podgy!

We’ll be doing three tests: Prelim 7 for the warm up class, Prelim 12 for the finals and Prelim 13 for the championship.  This will be a first for me – I’ve never had to learn three tests before and with no reader, there’s a distinct possibility that I am going to get them confused!

It’s time for a fitness and practice plan.

I’m going to learn the championship test first, then the finals test and lastly, the warm up.  I’m going to try and squeeze in two lessons between now and then and use them to focus on the two tests that matter.  The warm up I’ll use to get Abbey used to the atmosphere, arenas, flowers, judges in cars and everything else that is going to be new.

The theory is that the two tests will be much easier to learn if I have learnt them before.  So each evening between the classes I’ll swotting and trying to relearn each test.

It’s important Abbey doesn’t get bored so I’m planning on test training twice a week with hacking, interval training and jumping in between to help with her fitness and keep her interested in her work. Of course we’ll need some rest days too!

We’ve made a start.  I’ve committed to memory Prelim 13. Just. I’ve ridden it before, so I’ve dug out the score sheet and reviewed the judges comments. (Click here for our previous attempt at prelim 13).  We had our first test training on it yesterday.

Frustratingly Abbey wasn’t in the mood and fought me, using the bottom end of the school where the jumps are and the cats play as an excuse to spook and ‘banana’, scooting into the middle of the arena. Still it was good practice for handling spooks on the day!

We got some lovely canter transitions though. But we’ve gone backwards on her balance on 20m circles in that pace. Abbey’s gone back to slipping out through her shoulder, particularly on the left rein. Still, I was pleased with the improvements we made during the session.

I also realised that I need to do more prep ahead of the walk transition before X on the second centre line.  Abbey also needs to be a little sharper on that aid.  It’s like she’s not expecting a downward transition away from the edge, so I’ll be sure to throw some more of those in during our warm ups!

Having never reached a finals before, I’m making this up as I go along and would welcome any advice or tips! I’ll keep you posted.