Coral Keen’s eventing blog: Making plans and playing on pogo sticks

  • Living in the shadow of Salisbury Plain means I am incredibly lucky when it comes to getting the horses fit, and with the eventing season in sight, I’ve started to step up the horses’ work.

    I am hoping to run at either Oasby or Tweseldown in the middle of March, which is about six weeks away, so the older horses are now alternating between a long slow canter and shorter quicker canters once a week.

    As well as their weekly canters, we use the hills to build up their strength, trotting up and down the natural grass terrain which is perfect for developing muscle and balance.

    Before the season begins I always makes sure the horses have an MOT where they have their teeth done, their backs looked at and the saddler will visit too.

    Before they start doing too much work where they are going to build muscle, I believe it is very important that skeletally they are straight and correct so that they don’t build uneven muscle that may cause weaknesses.

    They’ve all been working very well on the flat, and I am pleased with myself too as this year, for once, I’ve kept up my promise to go to the gym regularly, although I can’t wait to get my mountain bike out on the hills again, now that the nights are drawing out.

    I’ll have six or seven horses to event this year, and I’m hopeful I may be offered some new rides. We have such amazing facilities, and with the experience I have gained over the years, from producing our homebred horses from scratch to preparing for a four-star competition, I feel confident about growing the business now.

    The teaching side is progressing really well and there is nothing I enjoy more than helping other riders and their horses reach their full potential while giving them the confidence to believe in themselves too.

    I often think the psychological side of riding is as important at as the practical bits; hence I am a big advocate of gaining help in these areas, for me especially when a big competition approaches.

    I’ve had a lot of help from Charlie Unwin and its lovely being able to pass bits of what he has taught me onto my clients.

    I also have a few horses in to school at the moment, which is another rewarding part of the job. They’ve come for a few weeks, which helps set them up for the season ahead with their owners.

    Pogo fun

    While the horses are all going beautifully at home, the same can’t be said for my first attempts to ride a pogo stick, which is definitely not my forte.

    Claire Lomas, who was paralysed following a riding accident in 2007 organised another brilliant fundraising evening, Pogo Pandemonium, at Newbury Racecourse last Saturday and I was part of the event riders team.

    I said I would help Claire in any way I could having been to many of her great evenings before. It’s incredible what she is doing to raise funds for spinal research.

    This event was held in aid of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation and involved jockeys and event riders racing each other on pogo sticks.

    Among the jockeys were Sam Thomas, Mick Fitzgerald and Choc Thornton while the event riders included Lucy Jackson, Craig Barr, Mark Ford and Holly Woodhead.

    It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done! For a start, it was really difficult to get on, and then the pogo sticks wanted to go everywhere but forwards. We only had to go about 15 metres, but it seemed much further at the time, and in the final (which I didn’t make) they had to jump over hurdles as well.

    I’m sure Sam Thomas, the eventual winner, must have been practicing, as he was very good at it — unless he’s just a completely natural pogo stick rider.

    At least I didn’t disgrace myself on the space hoppers coming back and everyone was fairly awful on the pogo sticks.


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