Our young dressage blogger has had a very busy month with another trip to France followed by the all-important call to confirm she has a place on the team at the junior European Championships


Straight after my return from Saumur, I headed back to school for a week and started to concentrate on getting Peanut (le Chiffre) ready for Addington Premier League. We set off early on the Saturday morning and on arrival we settled him in a day stable as he is quite lively. He was a bit unsettled to be around a few mares in season and we had a boisterous warm-up despite the pouring rain.

By the time we arrived at the arena he was concentrating more. He made a few baby mistakes where he needs to strengthen up, but I was so pleased with him coming fourth on a higher score than his first outing at Keysoe. We then travelled home as I wanted to start his campaign for the regionals.

The following day he was more rideable, but the mistakes were mine. I started my test with an error and realised I was riding the right test from the wrong year! The judge was very understanding and gave me two minutes to read the correct test. Peanut performed beautifully to get 73% despite the error for riding the wrong test. The next test I thought he was also great, but scored 64%. I guess that’s dressage sometimes. In the meantime, Charm (Classics Charmeur) has returned home to his owner to be sold.

The selectors called first thing on Monday (13 May) to let me know I had been selected to ride for Great Britain at Compiegne CDI the following week. We quickly withdrew from Somerford Premier League three-day show to compete in just one test to allow Kaja some rest and turnout before going to France again.

Meanwhile, my model agency phoned to ask me to do a shoot that weekend, but we decided I needed to remain focused on my riding as Compiegne would be a very competitive show.

Somerford was hot and the most lovely venue. The temporary stables were the best I had ever seen, spectator stands had been erected and there were marquees galore. It was just like being at an international show. A 10min delay in proceedings helped me as Kaja was a bit hot in the warm-up and needed the extra time. She did a lovely forward test and I was pleased to score over 69% from one of the judges.

If you are aiming for international selection you always have the pressure of knowing there are several sets of other very important eyes watching you compete! On this occasion, it was the junior team chief selector who took the time to help me reflect on things in a positive and instructive way.

Once Kaja had cooled down and rested, my dad drove us back to Gloucester and I stayed with my trainer for two days to work on my objectives for Compiegne. My parents then returned to load the lorry ready to set off at 4am for France.

Horses are amazing in learning how to travel over land and sea, conserve their energy, eat and drink and arrive fit for competition. Kaja has grown up so much through these experiences and it has really helped us bond as horse and rider. Yet again it was raining on arrival, making unloading and settling in more of a chore.

hacking in compiegneWe were up early the next day and I took on Kaja for a stretch and arena walk. After a rest, it was then busy times in the stables with everyone plaiting for the vet inspection. By this time my trainer Lucy Cartwright had arrived and after a successful vet check we tacked up for a lesson. It is great at internationals abroad to be able to train in the test arena, which is really useful for some horses. I wish it happened in England!

This was the last ride before final selection for Team GBR for the junior European championships. The standard of competition was high with 24 talented combinations from across Europe.

I really wanted to “go for it”, but an early break in extended trot was not helpful. I then had a tricky walk to control and a flying change a stride after I wanted it. However, I was thrilled to score 66.9 as I know it can go a lot better and I was testing some new ideas. I came eighth and enjoyed being in the prize-giving.

After the test on the second day I was lying eighth when I came out and, as it was only halfway through the class, I assumed I would be out of the prize giving. I bathed Kaja, took her plaits out and let her roll. We were wandering back to check scores and, looking at the board, realised I was still in eighth with two to go. Prize-giving was in 25min.

I left dad to check the last two scores and ran a long way to the stables grabbing two friends on the way. My poor mum was breathless and she and my friends brushed Kaja, threw boots on her instead of bandages and tacked up while I changed again. My dad texted to say I was definitely eighth and I trotted top speed to the arena. When my mum caught up she quickly put five buns in Kaja’s mane and we shot into the prize-giving! Note to self: don’t take plaits out until I know I’m definitely out of prize-giving.

gareth and chloeThe last day was the kur with the top 15 riders. It was an early test time and Kaja and I were sleepy. I had to really wake her up in the 10min box and then she did her best kur test ever. The movements were all in time with the music and I was delighted with the performance. I was given 71.75 % and was lying in first place with seven riders to go. This time I left the plaits in! At the end of the class I was in fourth place and was delighted to have achieved that in a strong field.

Lovely Kaja then had to travel all the way home the same day. I spent the journey reflecting and revising, knowing the selectors would be confirming the team for the European Championships the next morning and I had to face a week of school exams. We arrived home at 1.30am. My school — Withington Girl’s School — had been fantastic in rearranging that day’s exams so I could actually sleep and revise.

The phone call came at 9.40am. My Mum was at work and woke me at home with the news. I had made it on to the junior team! I will keep you posted on our preparations for the European Championships.