Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: high hopes for 2019

Hi all and Happy New Year!

Firstly, I’m sorry for the silence. I fully embraced the Christmas holidays and spent less time online and more time with family. With no staff and a yard full of horses, we were all flat out busy over the Christmas and New Year period, but we did squeeze in a lovely Christmas Day. Apart from getting the vet out at 10.30pm on Christmas Eve and again Christmas morning for a poorly livery…!

Apollo’s very own Christmas decoration

But before I switched myself off for the Christmas period, I had one last show of the year.

We took Apollo to Keysoe high profile for another attempt at the grand prix. I like Keysoe as the surfaces are good and the arenas ride well, but upon seeing the multiple Christmas trees lining the walls in the indoor, I was slightly dubious as to what Apollo would make of them.

He warmed up well, but I can categorically say that the hardest movement to warm up is without a doubt the grand prix canter zig-zag — six steps one way followed by a flying-change and six steps the other way?! It’s impossible to pull off and equally impossible to get out the way of other riders attempting it, so hats off to anyone who can do it.

The piaffe and passage again let us down as we still lack confidence there, but the rest of the test was smooth and mistake-free, although with huge pirouettes. We finished in second place on 67%, even with a 69% from one judge and I was over the moon! It was a fantastic way to end the year and gives me high hopes for next season. My favourite thing though is that Apollo genuinely loves dancing round and does the whole thing with ears pricked and eager eyes.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I was surprised with the lovely Frodo for my 21st birthday. I’m pleased to say that we have not only him, but three foals with us at home. First up is my own Frodo Baggins, who already looks part giraffe. Also from Morgan Equine Stud we have Dr Watson, AKA Bilbo, owned by Susan Armstrong. He has the longest eyelashes of any horse I’ve seen and has a real glint of naughtiness about him. The third member of the gang is Iniesta, a truly stunning colt by Ibiza, bred and owned by Verity Jenner. With a chestnut colour and stick up mohawk, he fits right in here and is such a cuddly horse already. In fact it’s 10pm as I write this, having just been dragged away from the stables where I was happily giving them goodnight kisses.

I was lucky enough to recently have another photo shoot with superstar photographer Sophie Leferve. This time both ridden and off the horse. Sophie was incredibly brave and sat in the arena while I canter pirouetted around her. The results look seriously cool and the standing pictures of me and little Iniesta are great with our matching hair colour.

Myself and Samantha had a lovely trip to Olympia, courtesy of Susie and Jessie McConky. It’s interesting to see people out of their jods and into their finest black tie outfits — sometimes it’s even hard to recognise people without a riding hat on. We laughed our way through the night and I even got my message to vet Rob on the big screen. However I wasn’t too enthralled by the new grand prix test. It looked more like a cross between an advanced medium and inter II test. While I think it’s a good idea to shorten it, it seems criminal to take out some of the most advanced moves that really highlight the skill of the rider, such as the canter zig-zag. The live interview with the riders afterwards was great, as it gave that interaction with the audience that was lacking before, but I did feel for those who didn’t have an easy ride.

Enjoying Olympia

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Reflecting on my 2018, I’ve had a bumpy ride. Loosing my dog Stamp and my beloved Nova has been incredibly hard for me. However I have so many lovely people and animals around me to be thankful for, who keep me going every day and make me a better person. I’m leaving behind my sadness of the past year, but keeping with me the highs of what I’ve achieved.

That’s all from me for now, but stay tuned as I’ve got a busy time ahead!

Joanna

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