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  • Writer's pictureDerry Vilcans-Moody

Dressage Dreams to Sunshine Tour Success

It's time to touch base with one of the horse and rider teams I have the pleasure to work with. I've been working with the fabulous combination over the last 6- 8 months or so, here they share their journey so far.

Meet Rachel and her Rescue horse Bluecross Bella.

Read on to find out how Rachel and Bella increased their dressage scores from being in the 50%'s to over 70%

Follow Rachel & Bellas adventures on Instagram @adventures_of_a_blue_cross_cob

Rachel tell us about your riding background:

I have been riding since I was 5, with only a 1 year break in those 25 years, starting as your ‘typical’ riding school child – having lessons and helping on weekends, school holidays and any free time my parents would let me go the stables! I got my first pony when I was 11, and enjoyed 7 years of darting around without a care in the World – riding places we shouldn’t and jumping things I wouldn’t even dream of now. We sadly lost him still pretty young, (he was only 14) – at which point life took over a little. I rode on the equestrian team at uni, and loaned a variety of horses until I was settled into a job and began looking for my own again – and that’s when I found Bella!

Explain Bellas background and your journey so far:

Bella is a Blue Cross rescue from Burford. She was originally from Ireland, signed over to the BC when she was between 1 and 2 years old. When I went to try her we stood in the middle of the school for 20 minutes and she refused to even walk – but we still brought her home! Aside from a bit of hacking she had not done much, but over the last 3 ½ years we have had a go at a little bit of everything – dressage, showing, jumping, xc, le trec, fun rides, gallops – the list goes on. She has her moments but we have the best fun!

What do you like to do as a team?

We have ‘had a go’ at a variety of things, and Bella has turned out to be quite an allrounder! We both love jumping, mainly for fun, and have had a lot of success doing a bit of local level showing which led us to championships at Hickstead, but more recently we have focused a little more on dressage. I like to keep it varied, but mainly have fun and enjoy everything we do! We also love hacking with our friends.

What have been yours and Bella's 'sticking points' ?

The main barrier for us I think has been Bella’s confidence and her typical Bella ‘move’ which is to plant her feet and completely switch off. The more of an issue you make of the situation, the worse she becomes – this behaviour has appeared in lots of different situations when she is unsure or doesn’t want to do something. It has impacted ridden work, loading, when out at shows in new environments, etc. A lot of patience, improving our relationship & trust, and not giving up has definitely helped – the behaviour still appears from time to time, particularly in new situations, but it has vastly improved from a couple of years ago!

I have also had moments of confidence crisis – which I think is common for any rider at some point in their life! It tends to hit you when you least expect it, but I think for me, just taking a step back to something that you know you can achieve and enjoy was key to regaining the confidence, and ensuring you have a good support bubble around you. At the end of the day, I have my horse because I enjoy it, so try not to put too much pressure on myself!

What lead’ you to, or ‘brought’ you to Derry for coaching ?

Bella and I were lucky that Derry did keep his horse on livery at the same yard as us and so this is how we first met! We had had a couple of one-off and group sessions over the years but I think the real turning point for us was the Rider Biomechanics & Franklin Ball Clinic. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sceptical at first – The idea of trying the rider biomechanics and Ride with your mind principals was quite daunting – after riding a certain way for 25 years, it can be quite hard to make changes! However I felt like Bella and I had got to a stage in our journey where by I wasn’t entirely sure how we could further improve, and polish our overall ‘picture.’ And so we gave it a try. From the clinic and our first few sessions that followed, I could already see the improvements – rather than trying to find a ‘quick fix’ to a problem, we added skills to our tool kit, and made subtle changes to improve my position, balance and our overall way of going. Derry is very good at breaking things down, ensuring you fully understand the changes you are making and why, not just essentially doing something because you are told to. He is very patient, and will always find a different way of explaining something if you don’t understand at first.

You recently competed at Hickstead showground at The Sunshine tour and Offley District Riding Club tell everyone more about this:

Until fairly recently Bella and I had not participated in many dressage competitions – the odd show at home and some online competitions during covid. We generally got between 50 and 60%, often with some nice comments but of course with things to improve on too. I’d never really broken a dressage test down into movements and how improving each one by a little bit could actually have quite an effect on your overall score! So when we placed in a show at home and got ourselves a qualification for dressage at the Sunshine Tour Championships, it was the perfect time to turn our attention to that in my sessions with Derry in the run up to the show. We broke it down into sections or movements, and tailored each session to a different part of the test – who knew there could be so much to ‘free walk on a long rein!’ It made me think about the test in a very different way, and also that if one movement doesn’t go as well as you’d hoped, it doesn’t mean the whole test is wasted. Building on the ‘tool kit’ we already had from previous sessions, it meant I felt more prepared for our big day – and so I was really pleased to score 66.3% - a definite improvement especially in the busy environment, where Bella can sometimes struggle to settle! A few weeks after we also ventured out to Offley District Riding Club Dressage, a new venue for us, but with a few more sessions under our belt we managed a score of 71.36% and won our class. Not only can I see the differences in Bella and myself, the scores also prove it too! We really enjoy our sessions with Derry, and looking forward to adding to all we have learnt already!

Tells us all your favourite product / item/ etc

For us my fave product would be the Cowboy Magic mane detangler to keep the masses of Bella’s mane in check!

To find out more about coaching then get in touch .. call 07971599909, email or hit the contact us page.

For more infomrtaion the amazing work the Burford Blue Cross Centre do follow this link

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