Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: ‘I lost my way and basically gave up’

  • Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

    Firstly, sorry for the absence of my blogs recently. My 2022 resolution is to write more, and I will endeavour to provide more content this year. I had convinced myself that no one wanted to read my ramblings and I subsequently lost my flair for written words. But in the spirit of making this year my very best yet, I’ve rekindled my love for words and here we are.

    New year, new me. I know many people hate this as a saying, but for me, this year it does ring true. I found myself in a bit of a muddle towards the end of last year. Working with horses is tough. I could have written a blog and pretended that everything was rosy, blab on about my show results or training at home, but honestly I find writing about those things tiresome and repetitive. However, in the form of keeping up with my self-proclaimed autobiography in the form of these blogs, I will give a brief life update.

    Half the horses are going great, and the other half are injured. Sirocco stepped up to prix st georges (PSG) level in November (on my 24th birthday in fact, because what screams mad horse girl more than preferring to be with my horse on my birthday than be wearing heels in a nightclub?). He has since been out again, gaining his points for regionals and delighting me in how truly wonderful he is.

    I have some truly spectacular new additions to my stables, spearheaded by the unique Versace – a rising five-year-old Perlino Lusitano/warmblood stallion owned by Flick Haigh. He is simply stunning and I spend much of my time gawping open mouthed at the fairytale horse come to life. In time he will captivate everyone too, I have no doubt about it.

    Are dressage tests a form of meditation?

    The past few years I feel I have lost my way with motivating myself towards my own life goals. Looking back, I can pinpoint this to the summer of 2019 – the last time I did any of the bigger shows, such as Premier Leagues. My body was injured and I gave up my old faithful horse Apollo. Basically, I gave up. At the time, it felt like a relief to not face the pressure of competition.

    Now I am itching to get back out. I don’t believe I’m a particularly competitive person (perhaps because I was blessed with being too-good a gracious loser), but I crave the stillness and peace I feel when I’m between the white boards. For me, this peace comes when doing tests of PSG and above. The tests make sense to me and there are minimal circles (which drive me up the wall – my dyslexic brain refuses to process what shape a circle is while I’m riding). The ebb and flow of the FEI tests bring me clarity. Perhaps dressage tests are my own form of meditation?

    Getting my self-produced Sirocco up to this level felt like a turning point for me. We finally reached a breathing point in our uphill climb to the top. Putting my tailcoat back on to compete aboard a horse I have known since a foal, and knowing he is shaping into my ideal dance partner is truly special. I am really  hoping I can get out to some Premier League shows with him this year. I won’t be going to win, but rather to prove to myself that I can do this – and because Sirocco will simply love the attention.

    Something that never fails to get me in the party mood is a new outfit to show off and the same absolutely applies to competition – a new outfit helps get me in the mood for a show. I was so excited to be gifted a beautiful competition shirt and breeches from Aztec Diamond Equestrian and I’m totally in love. The shirt in particular is divine, with long sleeves and classy details, and while the breeches don’t have a full seat (I hear they are in development), overall I love them too. What is life without a bit more challenge to keep your bum in the saddle without the aid of added friction?!

    The next few months should bring an a return to competitions for me. I just want to say thank you so much for reading my blog – it really does mean the world to me to share my story on such an iconic platform. Here’s to 2022 and more life!

    Until next time,

    Joanna x

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