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Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: I’m so excited about the future

Hi all and welcome back to my blog.

I’m currently writing this while hiding in the feed barn from the pouring rain. Admittedly I should probably be making the feeds instead, but the dogs have just discovered some mice, so I’m letting them do their hunting before I clear up the mess they’ve made (ripping up empty bags of feed etc). Mice (like horses) just love Baileys Horse Feeds and they are currently running riot picking up any dropped crumbs. I’m glad my two dogs Sprout and Tommy have started being useful, although it seems barbaric to let the dogs catch and kill the the mice. But where mice go rats follow and I do not want those round for Christmas!

Tommy mousing

Anyway back to topic. The past few weeks have been a lot of fun. It was an honour to be invited to the Horse & Hound Awards, which was an incredible evening. The novelty of being clean and dressed up is rare enough, but how often do I get to wear a ball gown and eat dinner with the head of British Dressage, Jason Braitigram, and H&H dressage editor Polly Bryan? All night it was like playing a who’s who from the equestrian industry. It was hugely inspiring seeing the winners of this year’s awards too and I vowed to myself that one day I will be up for the professional rider of the year award. It was so much fun so a massive thank you to H&H for the invite!

Me on the right at the H&H Awards, sat next to Jason Braitigram and Polly Bryan

My two six-year-olds, Sirocoo and Simba, are going well. Sirocco went to his first show with eventer Tom Martin, where they both behaved impeccably. Nice easy runs through two novice tests was a super first show experience for Sirocco. I’m aware that I’m not the most comfortable or confident when taking them out for the first time, so being able to pop a confident rider like Tom on is so beneficial. Now I feel like I can really get cracking with him — he’s a super cute and lovable horse!

Sirocco

Simba is proving to be the apple of my eye — he is just so my type of horse. After losing my beloved Nova last year, I worried that I’d never find another that I could connect with like him. But Simba sings the same tune as Nova did — a mixture of pure cheekiness in the stable and pure talent under saddle (see video below). Recently I took him round a gallop track and wow, has he got an engine! Today I asked for a leg yield in canter for the first time and he flew sideways with such ease — maybe it’s a small thing compared to what other six-year-olds can do, but it blew me away. I’m SO excited for the future with him.

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As the year draws to a close, it’s time to reflect. I’ve definitely had a year of two halves, from achieving personal bests to spending eight weeks off with injury. But instead of looking back at this year, I’m looking forward to next. Having given the ride of my top horse Apollo over to young rider Juliette, I am now without a competition horse above novice level. Because of this, I made the decision to step down from the World Class programme, which I have been on since late 2016. I absolutely loved being part of the programme and I have a wealth of knowledge thanks to the practitioners. Because of this, as well as everything I have learned from getting Apollo up to grand prix level, I’m content with slowly ticking along with the youngsters. While it’s difficult to think that I won’t be contending premier leagues or CDIs next year, I think the break from high level competition will make me want it even more and push myself to get there again!

On the gallops with Tom on Sirocco and me on Simba

I’d like to take a moment to say a massive thank you to my wonderful sponsors and supporters who have helped me so much. It goes without saying that I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without them. I’ve also absolutely loved writing these blogs and still can’t really believe people actually read them. So here’s to 2020, with hopefully more riding, more blogs, more good vibes and less enforced time off!

Joanna x

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