Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: all the horses have gone crackers

  • Welcome to my next blog! I can’t believe I’m already on my fourth instalment — I love writing them and I hope you all enjoy reading them too!

    I’m currently sitting in bed, sipping a hot chocolate and looking out over a mountainside of picture-perfect chalets and snow topped trees. I’ve come for a week away to the French Alps with my boyfriend and his family, who are all avid skiers. This is my first ever (!) proper holiday and first ever week off. Growing up, our family holidays involved a horsebox and competing. Except for the time when I was five and we went to Disneyland, but that one doesn’t count to me as all I remember was losing both my front teeth.

    As myself, mum and sister Sam are the only ones who work on the yard, (with a mucker-outer four days a week ( hi Tracy!)) we are normally too busy to even squeeze in a day off once a week. However, this holiday was booked several months ago so we had long enough to plan cover for me on the yard.

    Because of the tear in my labral hip muscle, I’m fully banned from getting on skis, which is completely fine with me. I’ve never skied before and while I do want to learn one day, I’m not in a rush to do it. I already do a high risk sport everyday — I don’t fancy trying another on holiday.

    I’m going to spend the week exploring the town of Morzine, reading books, eating all the croissants on offer and watching people slide down the mountain. But I’m also already pining for my precious puppies and wishing I could teleport home to ride Apollo. I feel like I get separation anxiety when I’m not at home (like what if Apollo doesn’t get the head rub he loves after working?!), but it’s important to experience a world outside of the dressage bubble every once in a while (or so I keep reminding myself!). Plus I know Apollo will be in good hands as my stable jockey Sam (she will kill me for that) is a pretty decent rider and can keep him ticking over for me!

    Back home, the past two weeks have been battling the weather. This winter seems to have lasted at least three years. I’ll admit that morale is low, when I’m trying to ride in driving rain and wind for the third day in a row. All the horses have gone crackers; we live right at the bottom of a valley that has become a wind tunnel. Sam had to pull out of a regional qualifier with our nine-year-old Zazu, as he had completely turned into a fire breathing dragon overnight. Each day it gets lighter for longer though, so hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere.

    The horses all had their regular check up from Sara Chittleburgh, who has been our physio for the past year or so. She’s absolutely fantastic and has really helped improve Apollo’s way of going. Having an open and honest physio is fundamental if you want to succeed. Sometimes Sara will tell me things that I don’t particularly want to hear, like that I’m doing something that is making the horses sore in a certain area. However this is exactly what I need to hear, as it makes me re-adjust and work to resolve the problem. She is a huge part of my home team and I’m so grateful to have her support and guidance on all things physio. Plus she’s up for a good laugh which is also vital on any yard.

    My two gorgeous puppies

    The pups are doing great — they can now go ‘free range’ on the yard, but only when all the horses are stabled. They love running wild with the other dogs on the yard and get up to mischief with them by chasing the cats and having funny five minutes in the hay barns. Sprout has progressed to doing sits and then lying down, but Tommy’s like ‘pft I’m not lying down’. It’s lovely to see how different their personalities are and how they are growing into them. A new favourite game of theirs, after chasing the brooms when we’re trying to sweep up, is getting on the shavings forks and trying to catch the flying poo on its way to the wheelbarrow!

    Continued below…

    That’s it from me for now — I need to go and replenish my hot chocolate and French biscuits stash. Its currently -13 degrees outside so I might just go and take a nap. I think I could get used to this holiday malarkey!

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