Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: don’t get on if you are fit to ride, get on when you are fit to fall off

  • Hi all and welcome to my next blog. As I write this, I’m sitting in the yard eating my morning overnight oats and watching Apollo graze on the back lawn — a quick 10 minute stop in my hectic morning. I’m loving overnight oats (basically cold porridge) at the moment — it’s a great way to get plenty of good stuff to keep me fuelled throughout the morning. Plus I add plenty of honey which makes it taste like sticky toffee pudding, so it’s a win win.

    Anyway, back to business. After my unfortunate dog in garden incident, I ended up having nearly a full week off proper riding, as I still had such a pounding headache and sore face. I like to live by the phrase ‘don’t get on if you are fit to ride, get on when you are fit to fall off.’ I definitely didn’t feel fit to fall off.

    It was a frustrating week of doing yard chores without the pleasure of riding while watching my sister Sam and mum work my horses.


    The temperature was continuing to rise, with a peak of 39 degrees recorded with our yard temperature gauge. I was booked in for Hickstead CDI in the under-25 classes, but unfortunately Apollo (pictured top at an earlier competition) wasn’t feeling 100% fit and raring to go. Perhaps he is feeling the strain of this relentless heatwave. I made the decision to not push him in this weather. His welfare will always come first and there is always another day. As the saying goes — we love the animal first, the sport second.

    Tommy and Sprout

    To save us from the sun (the curse of being a ginger strikes again), we have been starting work at 5am and having a siesta in the middle of the day. Thanks to this I’ve had time to teach the puppies (now dogs really) some more tricks. They can now do sit, down and roll over with just hand signals and at the same time! Sprout is way too clever and picks up anything I teach him so fast. Tommy, bless him, is slightly slow but gets there in the end.


    After that, it was time to take Flick Haigh’s Habil to Carl Hester’s for his first lesson with him. Habil is such a chilled stallion, he didn’t mind the guinea fowl darting around the arena or the mares walking past. He worked really well but I still have plenty of homework to take back to improve on! He has so much raw talent and is so much fun to work with. He’s nearly ready to take out at prix st georges level now.

    Back home, I’m getting cracking with the young horses. I’m riding Sam’s five-year-old Sirocco at the moment. He is such a beautiful horse; big, black with four perfect white socks and a heart-shaped blaze. But he’s as lazy as my first pony Bubbles, who would always try to stop cantering at the gate. It’s taking a lot of sweat from me to get him going but he’s going to be a cracking horse.

    Showing off what he has learnt!

    My own three-year-old, Dolce, had his first lunge last week. He is a three-quarters brother to Sirocco and my gosh, he is gorgeous. He has the biggest ears and the most symmetrical blaze ever. He’s also got the biggest walk — I have to practically run to keep up with it when bringing him in from the fields! I’m so excited about his future. We brought him as a foal from Morgan Equine stud, Where Sirocco and Faris Reah, my five-year-old, are also from).

    Having young horses is so exciting, but rather scary. However, my brave pants are firmly secured and hopefully I’ve had my only A&E trip of the year.

    Other than fighting the heat, I’ve enjoyed some non horsey things, such as going to try wedding dresses with Sam, who is marrying her long-term partner Andrew next October. It was really sweet and she looked amazing in everything! Now I just need to find a bridesmaid dress for myself.

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    Finally, onto a topic that is always close to my heart. This month is two years since the passing of Hannah Francis, founder of Willberry the Wonder pony. Hannah’s story inspired me to fulfil my dreams and I’m still reduced to tears thinking about how brave she was. I have a Willberry wonder pony necklace charm that I’ve had on for two years now. When I compete I can feel my little Willberry happily bouncing against my chest underneath my show shirt. It always makes me think of Hannah. The most prime example of this was when I was warming up for my first ever grand prix, and it was bouncing to the rhythm of Apollo’s passage with me. It brought a happy tear to my eye, to think that I have a piece of her inspirational story coming along with me while I live out my dreams.

    Until next time,
    Joanna x

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