Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: my demons, mojo and a trip to A&E

Hi all and welcome to my next blog.

First thing’s first I am MELTING. I hate the heat and the flies and the lack of grass and it’s all just like living in hell and I’d rather it stop now, thank you. While I love the quietness of 4.30am, seeing it every day in order to get the horses sorted before it gets too hot is a bit tiresome now. On the positive side… nope I can’t find a positive. Oh well, rant over.

So next on my competition schedule was Sheepgate with Habil and Apollo. For Habil this was his first show in the UK and for Apollo it was a chance to go through more grands prix. It was boiling hot at Sheepgate but the lovely staff make it worthwhile.

So first up was the beautiful PRE stallion Habil XX, owned by Flick Haigh. He loved it, strutting about flashing his mane at the other horses and giving a cheeky neigh here and there. We competed in the advanced medium classes and he was fantastic (pictured top). He was so ridable and un-fazed by everything, just flowing easily through test after test. He was so much fun to ride and I’m so grateful to Flick for giving me this opportunity. We scored +68% in all four tests and a +72% in one test. Perhaps the sound of George Micheal playing in the background suited him and the judge got into the groove with us? We were all chuffed. We were just pipped to the post in the direct summer nationals qualifier test to finish second, but what a debut!

Habil with one of his rosettes

In the grand prix with Apollo on the first day, I just had a confidence knock.

Riding the grand prix tests are so hard and in the moment I lost all brain control and thought that I wasn’t good enough to be doing it. Going in with that mindset meant that I wasn’t going to get the result I should have, which I didn’t. I withdrew from the second day in the warm-up as my own inner demons got the better of me. It’s a learning curve — I think when you step up to grand prix you take one step forward and then promptly fall off a cliff and have to climb back up. We will get there.

Duque FF, also owned by Flick, came along to Sheepgate too, to experience his first show. He loved it and got plenty of looks — he’s just so gorgeous!

Next up was an easy week for the Spanish boys and for me a lot of prep talks before Hartpury premier leagueL where I was again doing the GP with Apollo. It was baking there at 30 degrees, but I had put my chimp firmly to bed and locked the door.

Showing Apollo some love

An unlucky draw following the winner Gareth Hughes didn’t deter my mindset and I was pleased with how Apollo warmed up. There was a big atmosphere and the arenas were set out as they were for the CDI there, so it felt like riding at a CDI.

We had two large hiccups in our first piaffes but the rest of the test flowed and I got my 15 one-time flying-changes! I was so pleased with him — okay the test lacked the oomph we had at Somerford, but I felt I had my mojo back. The scoring was rather harsh, but regardless of that I’m so happy with him.

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Back home it was a week off for Apollo. This was a good thing as the day after Hartpury I had a tumble. Nope, not off a horse… I tripped over Tommy the puppy in the garden and fully face planted the rock hard ground. My arms didn’t even come up to save me — I took the full brunt of it to my head.

Cue blood everywhere and me going into shock, which I haven’t experienced before and isn’t very nice. My nose swelled up so fast and I had twisted my thumb, so I was taken to A&E. Luckily nothing was broken but they had to clean out the deep grazes to my face. I even got my first black eye! Despite icing it, I did look like something from the walking dead and had to spent three days cooped up in the house as the sunlight on my already swollen head was killer. I’m pleased to say that I’m nearly fully healed now, and yes I will be more careful when walking down the garden path with the dogs!

That’s all from me for now — until next time,

Joanna x

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