I am back to riding Chiara at last. It has been a long three weeks while she was allowed to rest and recuperate after Windsor, just relaxing in the field. I really missed riding her; I’m beginning to think that she is my addiction.

We spent a week quietly schooling with gentle hacks in between, sometimes with Dilmun and sometimes alone. Yesterday was time for her first ‘proper’ training session since Windsor and we went to the daffodil track which, to my delight, I discovered looked as though the sand had been harrowed, almost like a purpose built track. My delight was short lived when I realised that there was no chance of doing steady canter work here as Chiara was far too wired to settle into a steady pace. This has got me thinking, plotting and planning. Clearly there is no point in trying to do any sustained canter work with her which leaves interval training of some sort being the only alternative to reach our goal of peak fitness.

Hillwork on Dartmoor

Before coming to this conclusion, I took Fantom to Dartmoor for one of these amazing training sessions. We did something similar prior to the European Championships last year to just hone his fitness and again it was a very productive time. The going on Dartmoor, following so much dry weather was near perfect and the long, long uphill fast canters were just what were needed with walking periods to get to the bottom of the next long uphill pull. Yes, Fantom worked hard but he also enjoyed himself showing just what a powerful engine he has propelling him up the hills. Next week is Chiara’s turn.

Following Fantom’s Dartmoor experience, I decided to take him to the cross-country fields to do some steady cantering to prepare him for long cantering spells in his one-star in a couple of weeks’ time.

After completing a couple of circuits of the cross-country fields in a sane and sober manner, he flipped; pretending that the jumps hid the most ferocious monsters known to horses and darting sideways at lightning speed. I persisted for a while but he just got more and more wound up so we did some balanced trotting and cantering down a steep part of the course ensuring he was really working from behind and listening to me.

Today we went to do our last interval training session before the planned one-star in Norfolk. We went to the ‘dunes from hell’ and galloped to the top three times without actually taking out any holiday makers or surfers on their way down to catch a wave. It was nearly 30 degrees and Fantom coped pretty well (I did too), so I think we are pretty much ready. I will now taper his work until we leave a week today. I did look over the almost empty beach to see if there were any signs of Ross Poldark until I remembered that he will be on the next beach along. Oh well, next time…

Looking for Ross from Poldark

At the weekend, I went to one of our Cornish rides at the glorious Boconnoc estate. I was lucky enough to ride a friend’s horse as a fittener with a view to resuming her FEI career a little later in the year. It was so hot and the flies are definitely worse this year, but all in all we had a good ride and the horse, Brookleigh, was well schooled and a pleasure to ride (pictured top).

Since my last local ride, my hair colour has changed somewhat (not a wholly planned thing, it just kind of evolved) and with riding a different horse with NO orange tack at all, I was finding that I was competing incognito; nobody recognised me. Even people I had known for years just blanked me until I spoke — hilarious!

Continues below…



I’m always looking to save time, and to this end I have a feeding routine. In the evening I walk up the lane to the stables, collect the feeds (which I had prepared earlier), take them down to the horses and when finished collect and stack them on the route back to the stables so that I can walk straight down through the field to the house. There is a significant downside of this routine: in the mornings, the top feed bowl is occupied by mating snails and unmentionable goo. A silver lining to this is that the resultant nauseous feeling means breakfast isn’t consumed that day and therefore I must be a thinner Annie.

Another, and much more sensible, way of saving time is to feed my supplements ready mixed, something provided by Feedmark whereby I choose the supplements needed for each horse online and they arrive ready made up for each individual: simples!

My tack in the dishwasher

Tack cleaning can also be labour saving. All my competition tack is synthetic in the most lurid colours (orange and blue) and, after learning from a friend, I now wash my bridle, breast plate, martingale and other brilliant synthetic bits and pieces in the dishwasher. Obviously this is something the husband should not know about, although I do tend to do this without the dishes and cutlery already in there!

Annie

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