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Hazel Towers’ Burghley first-timer blog: if it’s not broken, then why try to fix it?

So, it would appear a week has passed since I sat down to write my first blog for H&H and it honestly feels like 30 seconds. I’ve have been thinking about what I can tell you about in terms of special preparation for taking my two horses (Simply Smart — pictured at Blair last year — and Simply Clover) to do our first four-star event at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (30 August-2 September).

I have taken baby ponies to their first one-day events (re-living the old Stumpy (Simply Smart) days of not being sure about getting her hooves wet), mucked out, tried to improve at sitting trot on Clover, taught lessons, been abused by my osteopath (thanks, Steph!) and had my toe stood on by a ginger giant named Buzz! So nothing out of the ordinary. I have however booked my first water treadmill session for the girls. I am hoping this will help maintain their fitness.

This hot and dry weather has meant I have had to adapt my fitness work regime. Usually we (my groom Beth and I) hack 25 minutes to some fields with hills in, spend 25-30 minutes cantering round (and round and round…) then hack home. However with no real rain for months, that is no longer an option. I’m not blown away at the prospect of trying to encourage Stumpy to go on it — there was no way she was ever going to go in the swimming pool when we tried that a few years ago!

Other than that, life is much the same — if it’s not broken, then why try fix it?! I generally ride Stumpy and Clover in the morning, then they’re out together for ideally a couple of hours in the afternoon (although sometimes it’s longer as they refuse to be caught and I give up trying), then in with supper by 6pm.

I try hack two or three times a week, jump once, gallop once, then school the rest of it. My goal this year was to spend more time in the school working on my dressage and it is paying dividends getting a PB of 34 at Bramham CCI3* on Clover.

I found a fab dressage trainer in the form of Tori Peters last year and she has totally changed my perception of dressage. I used to hate the prospect of kicking and pulling to create “submission” — I like happy horses, ideally in snaffles who don’t need spurs. I’m still a long way off where I want to be on the flat, but I feel it is going in the right direction. At the level I am now training at, it’s fun and Tori makes it feel like dancing with the horses (although I’m not very good at dancing either). She even said once that if I got bored of (or scared of, or bankrupt by) eventing that I would make a very good dressage rider — made my week!)My mum competed at prix st georges level and I have a very early memory of trying to get her 16.2hh to do canter pirouettes and piaffe aged about four while I was “walking him off” for her — poor Chappy!

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I am very lucky this year to have some amazing young horses to ride for some fabulous owners, all of which I see no reason why can’t be as successful as Clover and Stumpy. I have some first time novice horses running in the next couple of weeks and also a lovely big five-year-old contending some young horse classes.

Watching them grow in strength and confidence, and feeling them start to put their trust me, is honestly one of the most rewarding parts of this crazy horsey life I live. They’re all big pets.

The only issue now is that our lorry only takes two and I have four of them running next weekend, but I will worry about that next week!

Hazel

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