Well I am now all settled into my new yard in Cheshire and have taken Santi out to a competition (pictured top and below right).
Santi was a difficult youngster with a defiant streak which made his owners seek help with him. I was lucky to be given the ride on him albeit I think at first there were no other takers! But now with the help of consistency and some supplement help from sponsors Equifeast he seems to have grown up.
This was his second ever venture to a competition with me and a real test for him as the venue is known to be a little spooky for some.
Santi can be a little unsettled to travel and he was excited to get off the lorry. He soon calmed to work in the indoor warm-up arena. We thought he may fret entering the main arena alone but he was very brave. It was a great start to his career. It was also fantastic for me and the owners who came to watch as he ended up in second place in his first novice test with a score of 69%.
While I am based in Cheshire I will obviously be doing a range of tests from prelim to Prix St Georges (PSG)/Inter 1 level so it will be interesting to see how the judge’s scoring in the north compares with the south as it seemed a little different when I moved the other way a few years ago.
I also recently had my lesson on Kaja with Carl Hester (pictured below left) which was focussed on the step up to PSG. It was a lovely sunny day and Kaja showed off her increasing ability to trot. We have worked on getting an expressive trot which she now freely gives. The canter-pirouettes are placed in different parts of the school so they surprise Kaja, not allowing her to predict them and making sure she is genuinely working off my aids. It is all coming together now and we are competing next weekend so some judge’s feedback will be helpful at this new level.
A matter of sacrifices
It was encouraging to read Carl’s column in Horse & Hound magazine with regards to his support for the junior and young rider European teams. We work so hard year-round contesting FEI classes and riding internationally in order to achieve European championship selection, and as I only have one horse it would be too much to do national championship qualifiers as well.
As international riders we would love to get wild cards to be able to compete at the national championships. We often have to miss out on competing with domestic riders, many of whom are good friends, due to the nature of our predominently international schedules. We certainly would have loved to have been part of the GB team celebrations (that took place for the teams who had medalled at European championships) as we do make so many sacrifices at school and in our social lives to make the teams.
This year in Vidauban (at the junior European championships) it was so hot (over 40 degrees C). Many grandparents could not be there or watch on the day due to the heat, so they would have loved to see a parade at the nationals. So too would our parents, who take holiday from work to drive and groom for us and provide so much support throughout the season. I also feel that, though young in my career, I have a responsibility to encourage other young riders to join the sport and hopefully strengthen our national teams in the future. A bigger domestic presence would hopefully help — maybe next year?
My new yard currently has an indoor school being built and I cannot wait for it to be completed to help us through the winter months, although I have enjoyed the recent warm spell! It has also been so nice to fit riding around my school timetable, allowing me to stay in my own bed at home instead of living in the lorry every weekend.
Finally, this week I had one of those experiences we all enjoy; opening a good-news envelope. I was pleased to find out I had been re-selected for the BEF Excel Talent Programme which David Hamer and his team run so well. I’m looking forward to another two years of their invaluable support.
Now, I’d better go and find the clippers and winter rugs ready for the time of year we know and love so well, when the clocks go back!