I’m not one for having all the gear (and no idea, as the saying goes) but if I need a piece of equipment or tack, I’ll have one. I think that’s the reason I still don’t use an air jacket, or why I still use my second hand long boots – perfectly tidy and still come up with a shine for competitions. It’s also probably the reason I only started using spurs when training for my stage four, and then only used the round ball ones.
I’m going off track. When I went to my first ODE a couple of years ago I didn’t use studs. After all, Otis only had shoes on in front. When he needed to be shod behind the following year he was, and I took the approach “if he needs studs I’ll get them”.
Well so far I haven’t had to think about him slipping, as he hasn’t and his performances last year weren’t affected. Perhaps I was just lucky, after all I’m not a serious eventer, I’m not planning on going to the very first and last events of the season! Anyway, about a month ago I went to an inter riding club showjumping competition. It was on grass, but Otis warmed up brilliantly, using our lesson from the previous week to really get into the mindset. Our number was called, and in we went. We picked up canter, but he chipped in at the first fence and cat leaped over. I thought we’d stopped this business… He never really got into his stride, and even refused one! He never refuses! Amazingly we only knocked down the largest oxer (due to not having enough canter) and had the refusal, but the round was not enjoyable.
Round two went marginally better. Again, he warmed up fine, but never found his stride in the ring. Only knocking one down with a lack of canter so he didn’t bascule very well, rather just pogo sticked over it, but it was still unpleasant.
Upon returning to the trailer, and doing some analysis I wondered if he’d been comfortable in the warm up because it was on short, well grazed grass, but had struggled in the ring because it was slightly longer so a) he couldn’t see the ground lines, or b) he didn’t feel confident in his steps and was sliding slightly. Not enough for me to notice, but enough for him to back off the jumps.
Unfortunately he had only just been shod, so I decided I would consider studs and Otis’s way of going in our next few outings. Cross country schooling the following weekend he was brilliant, and I didn’t have a problem at our next ODE, but I was increasingly aware of other competitors putting studs in, and how long it was taking them!
The weekend before last we went to a local ODE on very hard ground, and finished in seventh on our dressage score, which was great, but I was starting to think that in that week’s farrier visit o would have stud holes put in. I keep being disappointed with our dressage tests at events and wondered if studs would help that area.
So the farrier came and charged me extra for the privilege of drilling holes in Otis’s shoes, and I went out to get the basic stud kit. I had talked to friends, who all said two studs per shoe, which was what I remembered being the preferred option from my apprentice days. I bought a set of studs for hard ground, and another for good to soft conditions, as well as the mandatory tap and plugs.
Otis and I were off to dressage this Sunday, and as it was on grass I decided to try out the studs. Unfortunately on Saturday I left the stud kit on the dining room table, so couldn’t clean out the holes. This meant an even earlier start on Sunday morning as I didn’t want to faff around cleaning and tapping out the holes at the venue. So I’m sure you can imagine. It’s seven AM and Otis is eating breakfast while I puff and pant, bent double, digging out the minute stones from his stud holes. With much muttering I managed to clean out, tap, and pack seven holes. But I just could not get the inside hole of his ear hind tapped out. A friend came to help, her Dad came to look, my chauffeur added his two penny’s worth, and eventually we came to the conclusion that it hadn’t be tapped out fully by the farrier. Try as we might we couldn’t get the tap started.
We decided to set off, as by now we were running late, and I decided that I could probably survive without get studs.
Upon getting out of the car when we arrived I realised that last nights rain on top of long grass and hard ground had created an ice rink. I would need those studs if I was ever going to get a medium trot be canter.
By now it was a reasonable time to text my farrier on a Sunday morning, and he thought it was very strange, but recommended that I only put one stud in each hind foot, on the outer side. This goes against all my logic about keeping the foot level and not straining the inner tendons, but I didn’t really have a choice. Not when someone had already fallen over in their dressage test.
I popped white bandages on Otis to warm up. I wasn’t sure how he’d find the studs initially and wanted him protected whilst he found his feet. Bandages are also a useful tool for giving yourself a little confidence boost – I look smarter than you cos I’m “professional” with my white bandages. Or not in my case, as my native is unplaited! The warm up had very long grass, but Otis soon got into his stride, and warmed up well.
He really seemed on the ball yesterday, and came to life when we went into the arena each time. He felt great for the first test, and individually we were fifth, which I was pleased about as we were against some “proper dressage horses”. Unfortunately the team just missed out on a placing in seventh place, but next time we will be there! Then our second test was in the afternoon, and he performed consistently again, really pushing into his medium trot, which felt amazing! In this test we were sixth, which I was pleased about as it was a tough class. We made one mistake by picking up canter too early – about four strides before X, so I know we can do better next time as it was a lovely transition!
Here are some screenshots from the videos of the test. We left early so I’m waiting for my score sheets to arrive in the post so I can analyse the videos against the comments. Did the studs help? I think if he hadn’t had them he would have struggled to get deep into his orders and wouldn’t have tried as hard for his medium work.