My first dressage competition

This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to compete for the first time! I had never competed in any ridden competitions before so this was really exciting for me.

I decided to enter two tests, both of which were walk-trot – I had originally hoped to do a prelim test but changed my mind as it was my first competition and I didn’t want to overface myself.

Beforehand I practised the test in the field with Dusty’s owner acting as my judge, videoing me and giving me tips for improving the test. The video was really helpful to see where I was making mistakes.

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We also planned the warm-up that I would use on the day of the show – Dusty takes quite a long time to work in so I got on him in good time and rode him for about half an hour before we were due to be in the ring. Particular things that I included in the warm-up were: shortening his trot strides as much as I could and then letting him lengthen again, (as this really improves the quality of his trot) and we did have a couple of short canters to liven him up – with the atmosphere and the other horses around however he was pretty awake anyway!

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I had been worried about forgetting the tests and I did decide to have a caller for the second one as I couldn’t remember it. Because Dusty is weaker on his left rein I struggled to get him to bend on this side but we managed our circles without too much trouble – the judge commented that he fell in a couple of times (particularly on the left) and that I need to keep my hands still, but we did get some really positive feedback.

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In the first test I got a score of 62.61%, which wasn’t that great but we still came third.

I was incredibly happy to discover that in the second test we scored 71.74% and came first! Having been a very nervous rider in the past I have worked hard to get to this point and I am thrilled that it is finally paying off.

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My next goal in terms of dressage is to work on Dusty’s canter and attempt a prelim test with him.

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Parrot behaviour 3/3: interaction between birds and with their environment

Parrots are sociable, intelligent creatures – having watched my own parrots exploring their environment and interacting with each other, I would like to share a few brief examples of my observations in this blog post to bring my mini series to an end.

Dealing with a new environment

When I first introduced Captain Beaky to the outdoor aviary, he sat in the same place for a long time, with his crest raised vertically and his posture very upright with the feathers held tightly to his body – giving him a very thin appearance. Gradually he began to move about – just walking along his perch a few inches and then back again.

If I place a new object in the aviary, the birds will stare at it for a while before using this ‘approach and retreat’ tactic – once they are satisfied that the object is not going to jump up and eat them, they will start to tentatively test it with their beaks.

This is a very common sight in birds when they are first exposed to something new – they are quite wary of unknown objects as a result of being prey animals. Rocky has shown this behaviour when I am standing nearby – he gradually moves a little closer each time until he reaches the food I have left for him.

Interacting with other birds

Captain Beaky and Rockhopper have been living outside together permanently for several months now. At first they kept a respectable distance between each other, but they soon became used to each other’s prescence and are now quite happy with sharing the aviary.

As Rocky has grown and matured he has become a little bit more dominant – I often see him hissing at Beaky or chasing him away from the food – but I have read about a ‘bluffing’ phase that rosellas are prone to going through when they are adolescents, so hopefully this behaviour will eventually stop!

Keeping a rosella and a cockatiel together like this is actually quite unrealistic as in the wild they would not interact at all – there are significant parts of life in a flock that are missing in the aviary: for example cockatiels will preen the crest feathers of their mate; Captain Beaky does not have a mate so this is not possible for him.

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Interacting with humans

Before I bought Rocky, Beaky was entirely reliant on humans for company. I used to take him upstairs to my room in the evenings and he would pester me as I did my homework… Captain Beaky and I developed a strong bond in these hours spent together and now he will allow me to preen his crest feathers for him (in much the same way that a mate would – as discussed above).

He used to call loudly through the house when I arrived home and would run up and down his perch if I was eating an apple as he knew I would share it with him. (Despite all of this loving behaviour I did used to be hissed at in the mornings…)

Now that he lives outside, our relationship has changed slightly. He spends a lot more time ‘being a bird’ and I believe he is much happier for it, although he still gets his cuddles out in the aviary!

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I hope that this series has given a small insight into the world of parrot behaviour – I hope to do some more in focus blog posts on the behaviour of other animals in the near future, so keep reading!

Parrot behaviour 2/3: common behaviours

In part two of this mini series we will explore some common behaviours exhibited by parrots, using my cockatiel and rosella as examples.

Sleeping – this is an essential part of a parrot’s life – in the wild, cockatiels and rosellas will sleep through the afternoon due to this being the hottest part of the day in their natural habitat. When asleep the bird will tuck his head into his wing and puff out his feathers – he may also stand on one foot.

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Preening – this forms a large part of a parrot’s day – in between eating and socialising with other flock members, the feathers are meticulously cleaned. The bird uses his beak and tongue to move along the length of the feather, ensuring that dirt and parasites are removed and that the feather is in the right position in relation to the others.

Stretching – a very common behaviour – birds will stretch throughout the day at regular intervals.

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Chewing – cockatiels and rosellas are highly inquisitive and use their beaks and tongues to explore new objects – chewing forms a large part of their day as it keeps their beaks in good condition and burns a lot of energy.

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Beak wiping – parrots will often rub their beaks on their perch to clean it after eating, although this can also be a territorial behaviour used to warn other birds in the area.

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Head shaking – there is some debate as to what this means: some suggestions include that this happens when the bird hears a sound that he doesn’t like, or that he likes the taste of something. From my own experience I would be more tempted to believe the second theory, as Captain Beaky often shakes his head when I feed him apple or dandelion leaves.

Playing – this behaviour is seen in captive birds who have a lot of spare energy, however birds play in the wild too due to it reinforcing bonds with other flock members and also simply being a fun way to pass the time.

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Hanging upside down is one of Rocky’s favourite games at the moment – he seems to be enjoying viewing everything from a different angle!

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Flying in place – this is where the bird grips his perch tightly and flaps his wings. This is another way in which to burn excess energy, but it can be put down to attention seeking – before Beaky started living outside, I used to have him in my bedroom in the evenings. He quickly learnt that flapping about would gain my attention and began to use it to his advantage!

Vocalisation – most parrots vocalise in the mornings and evenings (at sunrise and sunset), and for a variety of reasons. Rocky and Beaky call out to each other, and will reply to me if I whistle to them. Beaky is generally quieter but Rocky often chatters and sings throughout the day.

The video below shows some clips from the past few weeks – several of the discussed behaviours are shown in these clips.

Stay tuned for the final part of the series!