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Hello all! Happy 2013 — I hope you all had a good Christmas. It’s always difficult to keep motivated in the run up to Christmas with the cold weather and dark nights, but never fear, January is here! It’s time to crack on and gear up for the spring, get ready for shows, tidy up the tackroom and work off that mince pie tummy.

I’ve just been reading this week’s Horse & Hound magazine and I am thrilled to see a horse that I used to train and compete not only featured in the dressage round up, but also mentioned on the front cover! Woodward is an eight-year-old gelding, owned by Daniel Greenwood and Jamie Reynolds, that I competed at novice up to regional level. I rode him for Dan, who can’t compete at novice due to his rider group. He is such a talented horse and that combined with his big frame creates such an impressive picture.

It is so rewarding to see a horse that you used to care for and ride go on and do such great things with their owner. Woody has competed at several regional and national championships and now his first advanced 102 at Addington. I have been lucky enough to watch Dan train Woody at home and he really brings out the best in him. He has such jaw-dropping extravagant paces, it’s no wonder the judge at C (David Trott) put ‘Wow’ for his paces. Sadly Dan has decided to sell Woody but I am sure the best is yet to come for him.

We are very lucky at Crown Farm to have such a diverse range of liveries. There are dressage horses, eventers, showjumpers, show horses and happy hackers. But the ones that interest me are the Western horses owned by Henrietta Campbell. Last week Henrietta offered me a lesson on one of her horses, Ebby. Well, more like dared me! After the initial worry of making a fool of myself I succumbed to the power of peer pressure — just call me Anky van Grunsven!

A lot of the principles of western riding are similar to those of dressage. Both disciplines require the horse to be extremely obedient and sensitive to the rider’s aids. It is difficult to get used to the different tack and different ways of doing things. The reins felt very long! I could tell Ebby where I wanted to go just by looking in that direction and taking my leg away from his side meant I was asking him to go forward. It’s all about opening doors with the aids and allowing the horse to move into that space.

Henrietta showed me how to go from a jog straight into a rein back and also how to do one of those spinny things (I’m sure there is a more technical name for that!). It was such a pleasure to ride a horse, although trained for an alternative discipline, that was just as responsive and obedient. That’s the way I like to train my horses.

The boys are all going well. Bandini returned home last week after his short stay, so it is fairly quiet at the ranch. However I have a feeling it is just the quiet before the storm

Hope the weather isn’t disrupting you all too much. Stay warm.

Matt