Habil at home

Joanna Thurman Baker’s dressage blog: buckle up — I’ve got a lot to say

  • Hi all and welcome to the next instalment of my blog. I’ve got a lot to say, so buckle up.

    So I realised straight after I posted my last blog, that I totally forgot to mention that I had another World Class training day. It was a great day, focussing on us as athletes.

    We had a group yoga session, nutritional advice and a strength test to create fitness programmes for the following months. While I can ride through a grand prix test without breaking too much of a sweat, I’m physically very weak. I’m incredibly ashamed to say that my grand total of push ups was a big fat 0. But if this is the starting point, maybe after a few months of gym work, I’ll be strong enough to master the one push up..?! You’ll have to wait and see.

    With Apollo

    Anyway, back to the past few weeks. It started with me taking the lovely Habil XX, owned by Flick Haigh, to the biomechanics Stephen Clarke clinic held at the Unicorn Centre near Stow-on-the Wold. This was his first time in front of a crowd, and he didn’t bat an eyelid. He showed glimpses of his future potential (see video below) and I’ve now got more homework to take back from the session. On a side note, I could happily live in the Unicorn Centre all winter and never have to go outside. If I ever win the Lottery, that’s at the top of my list!

    We have been taking full advantage of the cooler summer weather to get cracking with the youngsters. We invested in a Texas rodeo style round pen, which has been fantastic. Both our three-year-olds, my own Dolce and Samantha’s Cleveland Bay cross Amadeus have now been leant over and sat on. Dolce is real mover and just oozes lushness. Amadeus, bless him, has sweetitch and has been hogged, so while he too moves well, he doesn’t currently quite resemble a dressage horse!

    Unfortunately I have broken my six year record of not falling off too. One of the horses slipped in the round pen, I came flying out the side and landed smack on my bottom, leaving a lovely butt print in the sand. I got straight back on, but a week later and I’ve still got a sore behind. So if anyone wants to save me from future embarrassing falls, feel free to sponsor me a new, non-slippy surface to break in the young horses! I’ve been riding most of the horses perched up to avoid irritating the bruise, but luckily I’m still able to ride Apollo fine. He is so comfy to ride, it’s like putting on your favourite pair of comfy slippers at the end of the day.

    Training at home

    We also celebrated my parents’ birthdays in the past few weeks. Mum’s birthday included taking Sam and two horses for an overnight stay at Carl Hester’s for lessons. Dad’s included the usual birthday present of cufflinks. Fathers are very hard to buy for, I can’t quite get away with buying him new over reach boots for the horses like I can when it’s Samantha’s birthday.

    Next up for me was another Stephen Clarke clinic, this time for central dressage which was held at Matt Hicks’ lovely yard. Apollo stepped up this time and we had great fun showing off our grand prix moves (see video top). My one time flying-changes counting is still a bit squiffy, but at least everyone laughed when I let out an “oops” after only doing 13 ones across the diagonal. Stephen said that I’m a very sneaky rider in how I disguise my slightly big canter pirouettes, by slightly taking them out the opposite way first. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea that was even what I did until he mentioned it — it’s amazing the attention to detail that he picks up when even I myself haven’t noticed it.

    Continued below…

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    The wedding marquee

    After a year’s careful planning from my aunt Angela and cousin Sophie, it was finally time for Sophie’s wedding to long-term partner, Liman. The ceremony was held in Turville church, or as it is known on our TV screens, the Church in the Vicar of Dibley. The reception and party were held in a marquee in the front paddock of the yard, so all the horses got to watch too. Sophie looked amazing and I’ll admit I was shedding many tears watching her walk the aisle toward Liman. It was a truly stunning day and the forecasted rain managed to completely avoid our little valley. The food, speeches and dancing were all a great laugh. But of course, in true Joanna fashion, I fell over coming out the marquee steps to where everyone was waiting outside, spilling two drinks and bruising my knees and ego. My boyfriend Alex was on hand to pick me up and at least my skirt didn’t fly up! What’s even more embarrassing is that I hadn’t even had a drink at that point, so I can’t blame it on the alcohol! I got back up and we danced the night away. With two more yard weddings happening next year, we have it all to look forward to again.

    With my boyfriend at Sophie’s wedding

    For me now it’s time to get prepared for the summer national championships next week — eekk!

    Catch you next time, Joanna x

    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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