It’s been a very busy few weeks since my last blog. I’ve been to 2 Excel Talent pathway training sessions, had a lesson with Carl Hester, attended GBR squad training, took my netball umpiring exam, fitted in a photoshoot in London, played some netball and survived the horsebox letting us down in spectacular style. Thank goodness Kaja is going well — that makes it all worthwhile!

Excel Talent induction packOur Excel Talent pathway induction day included an inspirational presentation by Rebecca Romero, who is one of the few athletes to have won medals in 2 Olympic sports — rowing and cycling. I found it interesting as I combine my riding with playing other sports to county and regional level. I particularly enjoy my netball, which I play whenever I can find the time. The day left me really inspired.

Training with Carl

The next day I was off to Carl Hester’s to show him the work we have been doing with Kaja at home. It was great as Kaja showed off her best work and we got a big thumbs up from Carl, with useful tips to help us improve further. I love Carl’s lessons as I find him great fun, but easy to understand when he explains how to improve the test performance .

I then had a rare day off before heading back to school for a couple of days. With my GCSEs on the horizon I need to focus and work hard when I am there as I miss some days for Excel Training and international shows. I really have to try to keep on top of things.  Then at the weekend I was so grateful to be able to ride Kaja in the indoor arena as the wind and rain was relentless. I also zoomed down to London for a photoshoot for an editorial feature and then rushed back home to play netball with my team on Sunday night.

GBR squad training

We had our first GBR squad session last week where we ride the team test for an international judge. The autumn is a difficult time in the year as you are concentrating on improving aspects of your partnership’s way of going and training hard, but also have to be test ready at the same time. I try to use this session as an opportunity to try some things out and have feedback from an expert judge.  Judy Harvey was the judge this time and I was thrilled to score 71.75% in advanced medium 92, which is the junior team test. I felt the effort I’m putting in to collect the trot and enhance the flying changes is really working. After the test we get instant feedback and 20min to work through some aspects we want to improve, which is really useful.

A few days later we were off to Vale View for Excel Talent training (with the horses this time). However our horsebox had other ideas. After going in to have its clutch checked, we got the box home, but after loading everything in we realised we couldn’t close the ramp. There was a problem with one of the hinges, which meant we were stuck with the ramp open! It wasn’t going to be a quick fix so we called a local transporter, who amazingly picked us up with our stuff within an hour. We arrived at Vale View at lunchtime and my friend Erin [Williams] let my mum and I stay overnight in her horsebox. Big thanks to all involved who saved the day!

Excel training and an exam

Excel is 2 days intense training around development of your horse and yourself. I absolutely love these opportunities as I get an hour of 1-2-1 psychology, which gives me much needed time to reflect, and a nutrition feedback session for me as well . Also we have detailed biomechanics feedback from Centaur Biomechanics and assessment of our horse’s shoes from farrier Ben Benson.  This time the riding training was 2 great lessons with Emile Faurie. I learnt so much my poor mum had to untack Kaja — I needed to write down what I had learnt as soon as we got back to the stables so I wouldn’t forget any of it!

After returning home to find the lorry with the ramp shut and with a big sign on it saying ‘keep clear’ (!), I had to get ready for my netball umpiring exam the next day. I love playing netball and play for my county as it help keeps me fit. I had meant to revise my rules for the exam, but during the Excel days I hadn’t had a minute.  The good news is that I passed — hooray — so it came together in the end.

Rule changes

In other news, British Dressage has announced some interesting changes of rules regarding younger riders. Riders can now stay at restricted level until the end of their 13th year.  This is an interesting concept, although it may be slightly controversial. I was an open rider from the age of 10 as I had a pony with lots of points downgraded to ride at novice.  At 12 I did my first international and then had to compete at ‘open’ up to medium level. On buying my first horse I had 8 months as a restricted rider, in which I was regional and national champion at advanced medium. Any change of rules will bring differing opinions and I’d love to hear yours. Is it fair to grassroots riders that an international pony should be able to compete at novice restricted? Equally, is it fair that a 12-year-old rider should have to ride at medium open level? Let me know what you think…