Getting to the British Dressage national championships is a big achievement, for professionals and amateurs alike, so it was a big thing to be taking so many horses from our yard.

On Thursday we set off with 4 horses, 2 lorries, 1 groom and 1 trainer. Noki (Pinocchio) was first to go in the inter II; he had been quite keen to get back to work after his 2 weeks off while we were away in Denmark.

He felt fantastic in the warm-up, much more equal and through; I just wanted to give him a good ride in the arena. We got a wildcard for the inter II, so I had no expectations — I was just really happy to be there. The test went well, the piaffe is still our weakest area, but the passage is really coming, and apart from losing my stirrup just before the one tempis (so I did them without it) they were much better in the test than they’ve been all year. He definitely is building in confidence all the time, so I’m really looking forward to next year and the High Profile shows over the winter to consolidate his confidence and fitness at this new level.

Last minute panic

I was so sure I wasn’t going to make the top 10 that we had unplaited him and I was on another horse when the call went out for the mounted prize-giving. I had to jump off, chuck some tack on Noki and we went in with his mane all frizzy! 

Next on was Emma Sheardown and Purdy’s Dream, who is stabled with us. I warm him up for her on a daily basis at home, so we do the same at competitions (in grades 1 and 2 someone other than the rider is allowed to warm their horse up for 30min). He warmed up well then it was time to get Emma on.

It was to be Emma’s last competition on him in theory, so she really wanted to enjoy it and make it count. She got the highest score that she has had all year, ending on a high and coming 2nd to Lee Pearson by 0.1%.

David (Forever Himself) was next. It was his first nationals, and so I was fully prepared to withdraw him before going in if he wasn’t coping. However he felt great in the warm up, and I was able to really push for more, without spooking, spinning and rearing!

He felt so good in the test I could actually think about presenting him rather than protecting him. It was by far the best test he’s done, and was rewarded with 73.61% winning the class by 6%. For a horse that isn’t campaigning for teams to be up there with the team horses is really encouraging.

‘A rather stylish giraffe halt’

Reece (Valerius, pictured top) was in the inter 1 in the afternoon. It was still only his 4th test at the level. I was surprised going in to the arena that he was very conscious of his surroundings and got very nervous. I coaxed him round, but it wasn’t his normal flamboyant self through the test which finished with a rather stylish giraffe halt at the end which I didn’t see coming!

It was a long wait to see if I had qualified for the freestyle the next day. Thankfully I came 11th, which got us through and gave us a chance to show what he can do. The freestyle was a good experience for him. We had not done it before, so I altered my para floor plan. He felt so much better in the test — back to his old self — although we had a mistake in the left canter pirouette, which I wasn’t brave enough to repeat, which I was kicking myself for!

But he felt so much more comfortable with the level, so I couldn’t have asked for more. We came 6th over all, which is fantastic to be in the top 10 again, with such a strong class. I couldn’t have asked more from all the horses and I owe a big thank you to my team of Angela and Becca, my owners and sponsors for helping us get there and round off the year on a high.

It also rounded off a great week, which started with my boyfriend, Nathan, proposing to me! Of course I said yes and we look forward to hopefully a 2015 wedding.

Sophie