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

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.
Sylvia Plath, the American poet, novelist and short story writer, born in 1932.

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!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Spanish Dressage Juniors Championships 2011

Over the last three days more than 140 riders with their horses have been battling it out in five different categories to be the Spanish Champion 2011. The categories were organised by age group - their were two childrens' classes, the Pony category, Junior category and Young Rider category.

The standard was extremely high - it takes more than one good score at a competition to make it to the Championships! The riders were all impeccably turned out and the horses, well, the horses had nothing to be ashamed about. They were brushed, polished and wiped until they were all shining brightly in the sunlight.

Friday and Saturday were the qualifying rounds for the finals on Sunday. The 15 best scores from each categlory went through to the final and, in the case of the Juniors and Young Riders, had to show their worth in the Freestyle test.

Some of the gold medal winners
It was fantastic to see the dedication and determination of such young competitors and the atmosphere was buzzing the whole weekend. There was a good vibe throughout the competition and riders, family members, trainers and friends all applauded for each competitor.

Young Rider category winners
And on the podium
It was interesting that all the gold medal winners this year were young ladies! Perhaps this is a good sign for the future as most of the professional riders in Spain seem to be men!

I had a wonderful weekend enjoying the competition and continuing with the practical tests for my dressage judge's course (a bit more about that tomorrow).

Gold, silver and bronze medal winners with the competition judges

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Something to think about....

- Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must
 have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.
 We must believe that we are gifted for something
 and that this thing must be attained. -

                                                                         Marie Curie

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, have a great weekend!
Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Views to die for

While I was absent during my bloggy break I was out and about doing other things. I went with hubby to the Basque Country to visit some people we met a few years back and who breed Lusitana (Portuguese breed) horses. Don't worry, I'm not going to ramble on again about horses but the fabulous views that they have from their house. They live near the town of Mungia which is approximately 20 mins from Bilbao.

This is definitely more of a visual post, so I will stop twittering and let you feast your eyes on the magnificent landscape.

View from the garden
Another view from the garden
The garden looks out over a valley as you can see and the nearest neighbours live in the house just to the right. There are no other neighbours in sight!

As the sun begins to set
Our friends live in the cutest wooden house. It is very similar to the chalets you can find in the Swiss Alps and so cosy! They also have a porch where it is possible to sit and just stare into the distance.

View from the porch
Dramatic end to another day
What a privilege to be able to comtemplate these wonderful landscapes every day. They told us that no two sunsets are the same - jealous? Us? Of course!!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Becoming a dressage judge update

As I've mentioned before, in June I took the first theoretical part of a course to train to be a regional dressage judge. Phase 1 included two questionnaires of over 250 questions and a written exam which I passed (hurrah!). And so I had to start the practical training. I received a list of 14 practical tests that I have to complete but only five of them can be done before the second, and final, part of the theoretical course. (I do hope that I'm explaining myself properly and haven't lost you yet!).

The five practicals are as administrative secretary (4 times), where I have to sit with a judge at an official competition and write down the scores and comments on the score sheet, and as technical secretary, which involves helping the Organising Committee to put together the final score sheets and publish the list of participants with their final scores and placings.

In Tenerife, where I started the course, there aren't that many competitions which makes it difficult to do the practicals. But in Madrid there is a competition almost every weekend! There are regional level, national level and, as I posted on Monday, even the Spanish Championship! So, I've already completed all the practicals I need to do before Phase 2 on the theoretical side. The second part has been confirmed for November and I already received the study plan. We have 4 days of intense lessons and an exam every day! So I'll let you know how I get on - fingers crossed!

I'm trying to go to as many competitions as I can. I think that the best way to improve at something is to dedicate time to it and practice, practice, practice. I was lucky to be able to sit with the judges as admin secretary at the Championships and, although it was hard work and a lot of hours, I noticed that things were coming together for me.

At the Championship there was an invited International judge and on Saturday and Sunday I had the good fortune to sit with her. She was none other than Mariette Withages! Just to bring you up to speed, Ms Withages has been an International judge for over 30 years, she has been a judge 6 times at the Dressage World Cup Finals, the 1st woman President of the Ground Jury at the 1998 World Equestrian Games, dressage judge at 4 Olympic Games and the President of the FEI Dressage Committee from 2001 until 2008. What an honour to be able to sit with her!

I asked her what, in her opinion, made a good dressage judge. She told me that it is essential to know the theory; to understand the training scale; to base all judgements on my own criteria based on the previous two; to know, understand and have experience of the moves that I am judging (I'll have to get on with doing some decent flying changes and learn how to do pirouettes then!); have a good memory as it is important to remember the tests of each horse to be able to judge and score fairly; and to have a strong character as it is not unusual for others (riders, trainers, owners) to try and influence your opinion and therefore your judging.

It was an exceptional opportunity for me and so interesting to be listening to a judge with such experience. I also sat with other Spanish national level judges and was able to benefit from their experience also. I believe that the secret is to see as many different horses as possible at all levels. But it is also essential to train the eye and the brain to see what is in front of me and to be able to apply the theory and training scale in an instant.

Flying change
It is hard work, there is no easy way to do it and, to be honest, it's very necessary to love dressage! But I feel that even though I'm only just starting out on this, and I realise that I have a long way to go, I'm really learning new things every time I go to a competition and reinforcing things that I've already learned.

So the compulsory practical tests before Phase 2 are already completed but this weekend it's the Spanish Championships for Juniors, so I've offered my services to sit with the judges again. It's going to be interesting to see different levels as all the riders are under 21 and to see how the judges operate. It's also going to be a long weekend - over 140 participants! But I'm already looking forward to it! I'll let you know how it all went next week.

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Spanish Dressage Championships 2011

I'm sure that you may (or may not!) have noticed that I've had a little 'bloggy' break. Not that I haven't got anything to post about but I've just had very limited time between one thing and another. But I have been storing up all my photos ready to send them out into blogspace to share with anyone that's interested!

This weekend was the Spanish Dressage Championships 2011. I was held in the Club Deportivo SEK on the outskirts of Madrid. We had three days of glorious weather, beautiful horses and great riding. It was the adults competition this weekend and the juniors start on Friday this week. I was there the whole time - I even went to see the vet check on Thursday afternoon before the real competition got underway.

I was there for a couple of reasons. Firstly because, as you may know, I'm currently doing a course and practical tests to become a regional dressage judge (more about this tomorrow) and all the experience I can get is useful; and secondly, I was just curious to see what went on at a vet check for a competition of this level. I have to say that I enjoyed it and it was great to see the horse before they started to compete.

So the competition has finished and the winners have been announced:

The medal winners
The gold medal went to the horse 'Grandioso' ridden by José Daniel Martín Dockx, the silver medal went to 'Ciowa' ridden by Carmen Naesgaard and the bronze medal went to 'Guardadamas' ridden by José Antonio García Mena. It was a close thing and the medals were fought for every day of the competition. There was no clear winner even on the final day which made it all the more exciting!

The winners with their trophies
Carmen and Ciowa
There were other categories also being disputed over the weekend - Prix St. Georges, Young Riders and Juniors. The level was high and it was good to see that the new generation of riders are showing great talent and dedication.

Other category winners
I really enjoyed the experience. It was the first Spanish championship that I have been able to attend and I didn't have far to go to see it! I find dressage very interesting to watch and there is always something new to learn - especially from more experienced riders. On Sunday all the tests were Kür (free tests to music) so it was even more interesting, waiting to hear the choice of music for each rider and how they had made their movements fit. A perfect weekend!

Hasta pronto!