Last week was taken up by the winter dressage championships, where I was fifth in the intermediaire freestyle with 70.58% on Abira. The class took place on Saturday’s gala night, quite late, and with a big crowd and lots of atmosphere.

Nicky Barrett gave me a good tip beforehand. She said: ‘whatever time your test is, ride him at the same time for a few days before, so he gets used to working and being handled that late in the day’. So I rode him at about eight in the evening for three days before the show.

I went through my test four times in the lead up to the class as well, not to make it foot-perfect every time, but so I knew my test floorplan and the music so well that I could adapt the test if necessary in the ring because I’d know exactly whether I was a little in front of or behind the music.

It wasn’t an easy test for him, so I was really pleased with the mark. He warmed-up amazingly but went into the arena and got a bit of stage fright. He hadn’t competed since the nationals last year and there was quite a buzz in the arena. So it was even more helpful to know the test inside out as I had to nurse him round.

I just went in and tried to maintain the balance. You have to remember the judges are looking at the scales of training, so it’s really important to keep the balance and rhythm and make sure the overall picture is pleasing – meaning that if they don’t feel great down the rein you have to compensate for that, it’s got to look harmonious. Abira’s floorplan is really quite complicated; it’s a high-risk test so when it comes off like it did he’s able to score well for the technical difficulty.

My only other ride at the winters was my sister’s horse Belmondo in the medium. He was fantastic, I rode with a little less power, just a steady test keeping the balance right — I had in mind that Pippa was going to be riding at Addington’s international this weekend, where I’ll also be competing, but more of that next week! Hope to see you there.

Charlie