Thursday, 22 December 2011

Seasons greetings

I've been lax, I've sidetracked my blog and tried not to feel bad about it. But I've always believed that if something is worth doing, it's worth doing well. And I've always tried to keep my blog on a level that has been interesting, at least to me. This month has been a complicated one and unfortunately my mood and the weather have seldom coincided. I didn't feel that doing half-hearted posts was worthy of my blog or of any of the potential nomads out there that drop by and so I decided to have a break, get the enthusiasm back, wait for the spark to ignite once more. I'm getting there!

But the time is upon us once again to celebrate, to wish good cheer and goodwill to one and all. To raise a glass and toast the good things in life, to let peace reign for one short moment.


And so I wish you all the very best for Christmas, for the festive season, and hope that all your dreams come true in  2012 (I didn't win the lottery this year so there's always hope for next year!!).

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 2 December 2011

Something to think about....



-'The road leading to a goal does not
 separate you from the destination;
it is essentially a part of it.'-


                                                                  - Charles de Lint   


Wherever you are and whatever you're doing this weekend, have a great time and enjoy!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Breaking Dawn: Part I

Yesterday I went to see the latest film in the Twilight Saga, 'Breaking Dawn: Part I'.

Source

I have to say that I'm a complete sucker for this franchise! I've read the books and enjoyed them, it's not Shakespeare but then I knew that before I read them. I found them entertaining and sometimes that's all I'm looking for.

The films have followed the same line. They are fairly true to the books and the characters are easily likeable. Ok, and the male roles (and the ladies for that matter) are very easy on the eye!

This film was a good adaptation of the book and totally different in feel and atmosphere from the previous ones. The material is more serious and I think that it was well interpreted.

What can I say? I enjoyed the film! If you're a fan of the Twilight series then I'm sure that you'll enjoy it too. I also think that where it ended was just right, the first part of the story was dealt with and completed but there's still a lot to come and where it left off leaves the story at the right point.

Now all we have to do is wait a YEAR for the next, and final, part. Looking forward to it already!

Hasta pronto!


Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hurrah!

I had good news yesterday!

I received the official communication that I had passed the second part of my course to become a dressage judge!! So the theory is all done now and I can concentrate on the hard part - the practical tests and actually doing some judging. Agh!


Cheshire Cat
Source
 So I'm now officially a 'Judge in training'!! (Yep, that's me, grinnin' like a Cheshire cat!!)

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 28 November 2011

A walk in the park

I live in a small town just to the south of Madrid. Like every other city that sits on the outskirts if a city, over the past few years the population has grown. But the good part is that it still has a small town feel to it.

On the far side of town is one of my favourite places to take a stroll - the park. It's one of those places that can be good to clear your head and blow the cobwebs away and it doesn't matter what frame of mind you're in. It always seems to make me feel better. There's nothing extraordinary about this park but there are plenty of footpaths to wander along




and there is a boating lake to sit and contemplate as the sunlight ripples across the surface.





There are also water features



sculptures



and resident birds.


And if all of this is not enough, there is a sports pavilion, all-weather football pitch, tennis courts, rock climbing, a bicycle circuit, childrens' play area and a horse-riding club!

Even if the outdoor life is not for you, it makes a nice route to the shopping centre which is 2 minutes away!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

How to beat the blues

Step 1: Make two of the most chocolatey sponge cakes you've ever made.

Step 2: Sandwich them together and smother the outside with chocolate butter icing.

Best ever chocolate cake
Step 3: Grab a fork, cut a chunk of cake, sit back, eat and enjoy!


According to the recipe it's supposed to serve 10 - or one with a broken heart. You choose!

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Autumn in the city

It's been cold, grey and miserable for I don't know how many days now. Something that we not very accustomed to around these parts. So I thought that today I would visually cheer myself up with some lively autumn colours.

Blue sky on an autumn morning
These pictures were took recently at the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (City of Madrid Country Club). I was hoping to avoid the horsey theme but it was while I was at a dressage show - so unavoidable I fear!

City buildings in the distance
The Country Club is not only for equestrian activities, there are also facilities for tennis, swimming, golf and even chess and bridge! The most curious thing about the place though is that it is only about 2 minutes away from the centre of Madrid. Who would have thought that 250 hectares of open-air sporting facilities could be found practically at the heart of a city?

Dressage
Jumping
Entry to the Country Club is by membership but when events are being held it is open to the public in general. The facilities can also be used on other occasions with a day-pass.

Cross-country
The atmosphere is quiet and serene and is a perfect setting to experience the autumn colours of the leaves on the endless rows of trees around the complex.


Hasta pronto!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Dressage judges course - Part II

(*dusting away cobwebs*)
That's much better - I couldn't see the screen for dust! I could easily be accused of abandoning my poor blog, but this is not the case. As you can see, it's whirring back into action. The reason for my absence? Well, would you believe me if I told you that it's taken me practically all week to get over the course that I went off to do the previous weekend? I don't remember having been so physically and mentally drained for, well, I can't remember the last time!

It was gruelling! We spent four days solid covering theory:
- The Training Scale: the basis for any judge, practically everything has something to do with the Training Scale!
- Gaits: what has to be looked for in each gait and how it refers to the Training Scale
- Movements: lateral movements, circles, etc and how they should be executed.
- Scoring: and how to do it, again based on the Training Scale.


- Equestrian Morpho-biomechanics: yep, morphology comes into it too! It doesn't really influence the judging part but it was interesting to find out how a horse is literally put together and how changes in the skeleton can affect a horses ability to be able to do certain dressage moves. This is especially true in high level dressage where a horse is expected to do a number of complicated moves with a high degree of collection. Some horses are just not built to do it!
- Dressage tests: for young horses, low level tests (initiation and promotion), high level tests, and freestyle tests. We looked at the levels of difficulty for each group and what was expected of horses and riders. And we also looked at how to score each test. Can you believe that I found it more difficult to score one of the lowest level tests than a Prix St Georges test? Sounds ridiculous but it's a lot more straight forward!
- Vocabulary: oh yes, there is a certain vocab that is used when scoring a dressage test - it's supposed to make it easier to make comments!

Each day was spent going through the theory and then, in the evening, we headed back to the hotel to study, usually until about 2am. I was up again at around 7.30am to continue studying on the way back to the course to be ready for the exam. We had written exams every day. We also had a practical exam on morphology and, of course, 2 practical exams where we actually had to judge some dressage tests. It's amazing how I managed to survive on very little sleep and not eating very well! I suppose that determination had a lot to do with it and I was determined to do the best I could on the course.

And, if that wasn't enough, the flight I had to get home on the Sunday evening was delayed 2 hours - so I didn't get home until 3am!! A real test of stamina! It was fortunate that I had Hubby waiting for me at the airport to whisk me off home.


So now all I have to do is wait to see if I passed all the exams. But it's not over even then, oh no! I still have another 9 practical tests to do as a 'judge in training'. I think that I did OK in most of them, but you never can tell! Fingers crossed!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 7 November 2011

Monday. Humph!

 It's Monday. There is really nothing more to say - it's been cold, miserable, raining and grey aaaalll day. It's one of those days that you'd rather just stay snuggled up on the sofa wrapped in a blanket BUT you can't! There's too much to do and no way of getting out of it.

It's been a day of total  non-inspiration. I'm not sure if it's because my head's full of dressage rules and I'm getting tense about the forthcoming exams this week or if it's just the weather turning my mood as grey as the clouds.

The weekend was spent studying! Oh joy! It's very diificult to get back into a studying frame of mind when it's been a while (quite a while actually) since the last time I had to study. But slowly, slowly. And that's about it, not very exciting at all really.

'Go on, smile!'

I hope that the weekend was enjoyable for everyone else and Monday hasn't been too difficult!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Another competition closer to being a dressage judge!

If you read the 'mystery' guest post earlier in the week then you would know that at the weekend I was at yet another dressage competition. If it seems like I spend practically all my weekends at competitions, it's probably because I do! I'm trying to get in as much practice as possible so that I won't have any difficulties when it comes to passing my course to be a dressage judge.

So at the weekend I made the most of the 2 day competition to do another practical test, this time as Competition Steward. I find it interesting to know what is going on around me when usually it's difficult to even be able to look any further than the edge of the arena. To be honest I didn't find the role of Steward as interesting as that of the judge but it was good as experience.

The Stewards' job is to make sure that the competition runs like clockwork, that every rider knows when they have to be in the arena and who they go in after. It's also the Steward's job to make sure that none of the horses are abused or mistreated in any way either in the warm-up area or in any other area of the competition zone, boxes, trailers, vans, etc.

Checking the flanks for any sign of injury
Abusing or mistreating a horse at any time is reason for elimination and the Steward is well within their rights to report anything to the President of the ground jury and Delegate for action to be taken against the offending person. The horses have also to be checked by the Steward on leaving the arena to make sure that the equipment abides by the regulations and that there is no sign of injury to the horse.

Lessons from the official Steward
I was very fortunate to be able to get to do this practical test at the weekend because Stewards' are normally only present at the National Championships and the highest level dressage competitions which are not held frequently. But at this competition more competitors were expected as it was really four different competitions being held simultaneously, so a Steward was appointed. The official Steward is also a candidate to become an International Steward so I was in very good hands!

Checking the bit on the double bridle - by touch!

I've more than completed the preliminary practical tests now and I've been studying the regulations again and the Training Scale - next week we have the second part of the theory course and I'd really like to pass!

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Riding Heroes! - *Guest post*

It is with pleasure that I introduce you to today's guest post, I hope that you enjoy it!

Last weekend we were in an unusual riding competition for 2 different things: The competition took place in an extraordinary place, El Club de Campo, in Madrid (the place needs another post just for itself!) and the 2nd thing is because at the same time that there was a National Dressage competition there was also a  Paradressage competition.


Wheelchair with bandages
It was the first time I had ever seen people with different kind of  physical or psychological disabilities on a horse.

This type of competition for obvious reasons has different rules that I didn't know and I was talking with the judges to go deeper into this "world".
Rider with no  movement in his legs.
Just to let you know some of them, there are different categories depending on the disability of the rider, they can use extra help like 2 whips, special saddles and bridles and even one spur on one leg and none on the other.
 
They are allowed to go in the arena with the instructor
But this is not what impressed me most. It was the fact that these brave people that have a disadvantage still try to fight againts the elements.


After watching this, you realize how lucky you are and why we should copy them and why we should smile more often and we should overcome those little daily silly things.

My dear friends, life is a matter of a few happy seconds, some of them have already passed and a lot of them are about to arrive.

Smile and enjoy your life because always somebody is looking after you!
Briefing between horsey and his fellow rider.
Thanks for reading! I hope that I'll be allowed to come back and post again soon.

Friday, 28 October 2011

I had a lovely day!

I have to say that I don't generally complain about another birthday rolling around and me getting a year older. I quite like birthdays'. It's a special day and I suppose that the most important thing is to keep notching up the years!

Yesterday I had a lovely day. I was treated to breakfast in bed, cards and phone calls and a delicious home-cooked dinner (oh yes, hubby is a whizz in the kitchen!!).

I also had:
Birthday flowers
and
Birthday bubbles
and
Home-made birthday cake

Now you can see why I have no reason to complain about birthdays'!

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, have a great weekend!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Celebrating today

27th October - a great day to celebrate a birthday! So, who's celebrating today?

Simon Le Bon-86
Source
Simon Le Bon, the lead singer of my all-time favourite band Duran Duran. Loved them in the 80's and still lovin' them!

Source
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th United States President, was born on this day in 1858.

A black-and-white photo of a Caucasian woman with shoulder-length hair. She is seated facing the camera, wearing a sweater, with bookshelves behind her.
Source
Sylvia Plath, the American poet, novelist and short story writer, born in 1932.

Source
John Cleese, the British actor, born in 1939.


Oh, and me!!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Kitesurfing on the Mar Menor

As I said in my last post, the Mar Menor is a lake of salt water in the region of Murcia. It is no deeper than 7m at its deepest part and has a surface area of 135km2. There are no real tides and there aren't really any big waves even when the wind is strong. It's also possible to walk a fair distance into the water without it getting any deeper than waist height (depending on how tall you are!). So, the Mar Menor is pretty good for kitesurfing and great if you are learning. The only major problem is that the wind is not a constant factor like it was in Tenerife and trips have to be planned according to the weather forecast!

Waiting for the wind
But when the wind gets up it's good fun. The water isn't choppy and even if you lose your balance, and you're not more than 1000m from the shore, it's still possible to put your feet down and stand up. Now if you're a beginner like me this makes a lot of difference.

Fun on the water

The only limits are on how far away from the shore you feel comfortable going!


Plenty of room for everyone
Hasta pronto!

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Mar Menor and La Manga

Over the weekend I was away again visiting my parents. Their place is in the region of Murcia which is in the south-east corner of Spain. It's not a very large region but it is popular for holidays and there are a lot of foreign residents that spend most of the year there. This is probably because of its climate - it's hot in summer and cooler in winter but it never gets as cold as the centre of the country or the north. The beaches are directly on the Mediterranean so the water temperature is also quite mild and can even feel warm in summer.

Mar Menor, Los Narejos
One of the main attractions in this area is the Mar Menor (Small Sea) which is not really a sea as such but a large lake which is bordered by the mainland on one side and La Manga on the other. There are channels where the water mixes with the Mediterranean Sea.

Mar Menor
La Manga on the horizon
La Manga is a stretch of land which runs the length of the Mar Menor, 21km, and joins the mainland at each extreme. It is 200m wide at its narrowest point and 1.200m at its widest. There are buildings along practically the whole of its length and can be driven along the whole way.


The region becomes extremely busy and crowded during the summer months so for a quieter visit its better to go out of season. The sun is warm enough to go to the beach most days and the water in the Mar Menor is still inviting!

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Top class experience for judges' course

As you've probably already seen from yesterday's post, this weekend was the Spanish Juniors Dressage Championship. So I thought that I would make the most of having three whole days of competition practically on my doorstep to do get some more practical experience for my judges' course.

Arena perfection
I offered my services to the Organising Committee and was thrilled to be told that I would be needed. Some international judges were coming to the competition and preferred to sit with someone that could speak English - yay! Little did I know that I was going to be sat with Hans-Christian Matthiesen, the Danish international dressage judge (also national team vet and Chef d'Equipe for the Danish Juniors and YR teams!), and Isabelle Judet the French international judge and Official to the FEI. What an honour and what a fabulous experience!!

Pony precision
I sat with one or other of them during the whole weekend, although I spent most time with Mr. Matthiesen. I got to see how they judge all different levels from children to YR and I could ask as many questions as I liked! Every query I had was answered and every score or comment that I didn't understand why it had been given was explained.

Freestyle start
By Sunday evening my head was spinning but I felt as if I had learnt so much - the 6am starts to get to the competition on time were really worth it! I realise that the more I see, the more experience I get and the opportunities to sit with different judges will only help me to form my own, solid criteria which I think is very necessary for being a fair judge.

I also have to thank Hubby for taking care of the horses while I was at the competition, for getting me there on time and for taking all of these fabulous photos!

Hasta pronto!