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Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: a four-legged birthday present has arrived

Hello all and welcome back to my next blog! I’m in such a festive mood and I can’t get enough mince pies down me. Absolutely essential winter fuel.

Anyway, the plummeting temperatures are making the horses fresher and sharper — a sure sign that winter is here!

We had an odd week in October — we were the ‘family of the week’ for BBC Radio Oxford and had to be on the radio every morning. It was quite scary the first few days as we were all waiting apprehensively around the phone waiting for it to ring, knowing thousands of people were listening to us! We settled in and I think it went okay, including them visiting the yard for a longer interview. Except every time they spoke to me, they thought I was Samantha and vice versa. To be fair, many people think we are twins so it’s an easy mistake to make.

With BBC Radio Oxford

The beginning of November brought about my 21st birthday. I was born in the early hours of 6 November and mum says she was watching the bonfire night fireworks while in labour — obviously they were for me (hahaha). I had a super surprise present of this lush little foal Frodo! He is by Cathmor Florian and is half brother on his mother’s side to Sirocco and Dolce — all bred by Suzy Mainprice of Morgan Equine stud. I haven’t met him yet but he looks like he’s a little trouble maker with plenty of spice; just how I like them! He will be arriving in a few week’s time along with two other lovely foals. I can’t wait to get loving them and I will of course share all the details with you.

My new foal

After the busy season I’ve had, it was time for some much needed R&R. It’s so important to get away from the daily mania and be a normal person for a few days (which is what people tell me!). As a 21st birthday present for myself and my lovely boyfriend Alex, who was 21 a few weeks before me, we went for a Scottish adventure. We aren’t the types for sitting by a pool in a hot country; we like to be cold and exploring. We hopped in a 4×4 and off we went.

On the road in Scotland

First stop was the Lake District, then on to Edinburgh. It was my first visit but I loved it. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with so much history. We watched street performers, browsed the enormous selection of cashmere shops, toured the castle and delved into the wonderful Harry Potter shops that make up the street that inspired JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley.

We then went off grid into rural Scotland, and had plenty of fun on the single track mountain roads — it was like a scene from a movie and I was convinced we were going to see a grizzly bear or something. We were held up temporarily by courageous sheep farmers who were herding nearly 1000 sheep down from the hills. Last year’s BBC show ‘This Farming Life’ was one of my absolute favourites, so it was awesome to see these hardy Scottish farmers in their natural habitat. I don’t think I’ll ever complain about having to walk up the fields to get horses in again, when seeing the near impossible task of herding sheep spread out over a 10 mile radius!

We also got to get up close and personal with a herd of red deer. I have always loved deer and we are lucky enough to have several small herds of fallow deer occupying the local woods at home which occasionally cause horses to bolt when they pop out from behind trees. There is something truly magical about a magnificent stag nibbling treats out the palm of your hand — I could happily have a herd on the yard! I’m not sure what Apollo would think of that though…

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The Lochs of Scotland are amazing. Despite my conviction that the Loch Ness monster is real, I couldn’t bring myself to go visit there as quite frankly, I’m terrified of it. But maybe I’m just being melodramatic! Our favourite was Loch Morlich, which we happened to stumble across and was like a setting from a fairytale. Alex whipped out the camera and snapped some incredible shots — I’m sure I’ve said it before but having a professional videographer and photographer as a boyfriend is pretty useful. Shame he’s allergic to horses though… If anyone knows of any tips on how to make him immune, I’d be eternally grateful!

Finally, it’s time for the eight-hour car drive home to my ponies and puppies. I’m spending the time writing this blog and planning the next steps in my plan to take over the world…!

Until next time, Joanna x

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