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We officially kicked off the eventing season with a brilliant first ever British Eventing (BE) outing for Beltons Entente Concordiale (AKA Conka) at Chilham Park in the BE80(T) class on Saturday 2 May, finishing 13th.

Although she was a little tense in the dressage – with it being her first time competing on grass and seeing all the action that comes with the warm up-area – we gained a very respectable dressage score of 31.8, including some fantastic comments from the judge. Unfortunately, we had a pole down in the showjumping, but completed the day with a clear cross-country round. We were slightly over the optimum time, but I was still extremely happy as it was a great confidence-boosting result for a horse finding her feet first time out.

It’s been a busy few weeks getting my main man Rockabillly (Rocket) on track for his first run of the season. It’s wonderful to have him back on form. The winter felt very long as he had to have time off after sustaining an injury in the lorry, and then he had another setback caused by the wet weather.

Although I wasn’t impressed, I think he rather enjoyed all the attention and pampering that came with his sabbatical; visits from the vet, physio and me massaging his leg several times a day in between doing his yoga-like stretches and his daily dose of Vetrofen.
 My dressage trainer Lorna Davis has been working with us to give everything a bit of a polish. I find it’s so helpful having a fresh and objective set of eyes looking at both you and the horse – separately and as a combination.
We have been focusing on a few key exercises to help improve his self-carriage and impulsion, combined with lots of lateral movements for flexibility and making sure he is alert and responsive to my leg.

Michael-Ashton-2I’ve just booked some cross-country training with Paul Tapner at Littleton Manor EC which I’m super excited about.

Maybe it’s a boy thing, but the cross-country is definitely both mine and Rocket’s favourite phase; he just loves it and would jump anything you put him at all day long.

Although I haven’t had any training with Paul before, when I was preparing for my first three-day event at Aldon International last year, I read a brilliant article he wrote on the old long format, which had fantastic practical and technical tips, so I’m looking forward to getting some pointers direct from the horse’s mouth.
 It’s also going to be a good excuse to try out some of my new kit that’s just arrived. I’m particularly excited about my new Mark Todd pro mesh XC and over-reach boots, which are so lightweight.

I was recently fitted for my new Rodney Powell air jacket which is brilliant, although fingers crossed I don’t forget to unclip the attachment after finishing our round. Always an expensive an very irritating mistake! 
We are currently on the wait list for Berkshire College Of Agriculture, so hopefully I’ll get to run him there. Failing that, we are entered for Rackham and then Brightling International, which are two of my favourite events of the season.
 It’s that exciting time of the year again, early mornings and late evenings. The preparation, the anticipation, the excitement, pressure and pleasure that is eventing!

Michael