After coming back from an exciting trip to Compiegne, I had one day to prepare for a week of nine school exams. It was hard work as I was very tired, so I hoped they would all go ok. Kaja was having a well-deserved rest with plenty of turnout and stretching. She was also tired due to the amount of travelling to different competitions. Also, the surfaces abroad tend to be firm sand and really take their toll on the legs and joints.

At the end of my last exam day I travelled to pre-Europeans camp, kindly hosted by Tony and Sarah Pidgley at Kilbees Stud. On day one we all had an individual lesson with Stephen Clarke, which was very informative. He gave me tips on how to control any tension Kaja may feel under test conditions and how to make the most of her amazing lateral work. We then spent the day having various talks with the chefs d’equipe and selectors detailing all our individual and team preparations for the championships. The team vet also attended to check our horses and watch us trot up.

Day two involved a test ride judged by Stephen, in which I scored 71%. We discussed the finer details of each test and he encouraged us by saying that the team for this year is really strong. He told us we need to keep improving, but not over-working, the horses during the next four weeks. After everyone had completed their tests we had team photos taken for the official programme. A fun way to end the weekend.

This week I have been mainly stretching Kaja and she has had a well-deserved massage from Marnie to help keep her loose. Peanut, however, has been preparing for some qualifying shows we have coming up. He has settled down a lot since he has learned to spend more time out in the field.

I went back to school to finish the week and then I was off to squad training, this time without Kaja, who I wanted to rest. We had a whole morning of psychology called “delivering exceptional performance”. I have done psychology sessions before and sometimes they can be a bit dull but this time it was very interactive. I learnt a lot about techniques to develop the visualisation skills, which I use already, where you can visualise yourself doing your test in different atmospheres and weather conditions.

The talk ended with an interesting quote from Michelangelo: “the greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark”.

There are now just three weeks to go until the junior European Championships and I cannot wait. I’m starting to build up Kaja’s work, and Peanut has two competitions this weekend. I will let you know how it goes in my next update before I set off to France.