It’s been quite a busy time since my last blog as it was coming up to Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of year and I like to rest the horses a bit and spend time with my family and friends. As anyone who is doing A-levels while riding competitively knows, it can be a tiring balance, so it is nice to try to get some rest as well.
Christmas started with a lovely lunch with the whole yard spending some social time together and sharing our highlights of the year. We are all hard to recognise without our riding hats on!
Before the Christmas holidays I tried to fit in a competition on both horses. I took Kaja to her first competition since her injury to do advanced medium 98. It was a lovely feeling to get back out after carefully walking for months as part of her rehabilitation. She was very excited to be in a test environment and added some alternative movements of her own into the test. We got a really good score despite the ‘freestyle’ movements and everyone enjoyed being out and about; the next step towards a full recovery. Patience really is a virtue.
The following day I took four-year-old Santi (Tantoni Santorini) to his first competition away from home — to Hartpury for a preliminary test. He was great in the warm-up, displaying none of his usual over exuberance, so I was delighted. However, when we went into the international arena, we struggled to get around the edge of the arena, let alone into it! He is a horse that does not like to be pressured so I gently steered him around, “vaguely” relating to the test, and avoiding the white boards, the judge’s table, the banners and the large Father Christmas faces at ‘A’. The judge was very supportive, giving us lovely comments and some high marks in between the spooky moments. He displayed no naughty behaviour, just fear, so I was very pleased with him. I just need to keep taking him out and building up his confidence and experience for the future.
Dreaming of grand prix
My mum surprised me this year by getting us tickets to Olympia to watch the dressage freestyle. She was working in London and so it all timed nicely. I got up early in the morning as I was doing a photo shoot for a Manchester magazine called VIVA at the last minute. It was great to work with Cassie Lomas, a fantastic make-up artist (pictured right). She does Lady Gaga’s makeup and the beauty shoot was really relaxed considering we had just two hours to get two looks done before we jumped quickly on the train to Olympia.
The FEI international freestyle class was very strong, but of course Charlotte and Valegro were unbeatable and I was so lucky to be there to watch her break the record by getting 94.3%, especially as I had previously watched the class when Edward Gal and Totilas broke the record first with 92%. It’s inspiring to watch lovely tests and dream about having a horse good enough to do grand prix — maybe one day! It was also great to meet up with my sponsor Four Seasons Equestrian and have pictures taken with customers at the stall.
The rest of Christmas was a mixture of training and socialising, while doing some modelling work during my time off school. My training is still predominantly focused on gradual building of Kaja’s fitness and flexibility, but I had to balance this with preparing for Great Britain squad training on 3 January, where Stephen Clarke would be judging my junior team test.
We arrived at Vale View the night before and settled in for the night. Early the next day we got up to feed and ride Kaja before the tests began, as part of our new warm-up regime suggested by Emile Faurie at BEF excel talent training. We then put her away, had breakfast, then tacked up again for a short pre-test warm-up. Kaja was still quite excited as it was only her second test since being back in work, but she managed to show off some of the improvement we have felt in her after the long rest. It feels like Kaja has mentally caught up with herself during her lay-off and we received really good feedback on Kaja’s condition. I had the top score of the day and naturally I was delighted.
I would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year for 2015, hoping you all find success in all you are aiming to achieve. In my next blog I will tell you all about my lesson with Carl Hester next weekend and Excel training with both Kaja and Santi.