The horses are all on great form and they’ve had their first gallop of the year on Salisbury Plain. They’re feeling fit, fresh and ready for the season ahead, which begins for us at Tweseldown on 9 March.
I’ve had some jump training with Richard Waygood, which has been fantastic, doing lots of different gymnastic exercises with him at his yard. I took Lola and April last time and I was really impressed with how they felt.
Corinne Bracken is coming over tomorrow and we have a full day clinic, with several event riders coming over to the yard for lessons too. She makes such a huge difference to how the horses go and I’d be lost without her. She’s been a pair of eyes on the ground for me for six years now and it really works.
Anne, my stepmother, has been helping me with flatwork. It’s great as she does a lot of judging which is always a helpful perspective to have and it is hugely beneficial.
Today, I am having lessons on Lola and Jake with dressage superstar Gareth Hughes. I’ve had a lesson with him before and thought he was really interesting as he has a slightly different approach. He is quite a theorist and spends a lot of time talking about why we do certain things, which I find really interesting. It gives you such a good insight in to what you are actually trying to achieve and I find it so helpful.
For example, he compared my young horse Ted to a child learning to play football. If that child spent 90 per cent of his time stretching in the changing room and only 10 per cent playing the game, he’d never become good at actually playing football.
I spend a lot of time stretching my horses making sure they are soft and supple, and while this is a essential part of training, he says I must ensure I pick them up and ride them in a test frame. He is still saying to do the stretching at the start and end of each session, but to make sure you ride them in a test frame for at least 20 minutes or so.
A lot of the time we can be guilty of riding halfway between the two outlines. We need to be either stretching or riding in a test outline, which makes absolute sense to me. That’s why training is so important. Rather than buying a new a rug for your horse that he might not need, my advice would be to get some really good help on the ground and spend the money on training!
Last Sunday, we got the big lorry out for the first time this winter and took seven horses to Irish event rider Austin O’Connor’s new all-weather cross-country facility on a surface near Thame in Oxfordshire. Four of mine had a school plus three of my students, with one travelling separately.
It’s such a super facility. The surface is fantastic with a good variety of jumps. There are a few technical lines, and there’s enough there to give the horses a good play and get them into cross-country mode. There’s also an excellent water complex. They all went well with no issues and I plan to take them again on grass before Tweseldown, depending on where is open.
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We’ve also sold one of our competition liveries to a lovely new home so we have a rare vacancy for a new livery. It’s always such a pleasure when you see a new partnership gel, and I’m so pleased that they’ve found each other. I’m looking forward to following their progress too.
I had a great time away skiing where we did some serious off piste skiing, which was great for the adrenalin. There was a group of eight including sports psychologist Charlie Unwin and his wife Rose. We managed to give Charlie a break and not ask him too many questions about how to improve our performances. It was really great fun and just perfect ahead of the new season.