Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: two amazing bits of news

  • Hi all and welcome back to my latest blog.

    In my last blog, I mentioned that something very exciting was happening on the yard. In fact, it was two things. Firstly, we have a new arena! I am literally buzzing about it and have hardly been able to contain myself from screaming about it, as it’s been such a dream of ours for years. We did already have two arenas, a 20x60m and a 20x40m. With Sam and I having around six horses each to ride a day, plus us and mum trying to fit in lessons, the big arena was often double booked from dawn ’til dusk. The small arena was actually older than me and had seen its sell-by date long ago. It suffered years of riding school ponies plodding around in it, followed by years of little use and battling the elements; winters frozen underwater, then summers where it replicated the sahara. It just wasn’t what I wanted to be riding my precious dressage horses on. So we decided to replace this with a new arena — our obvious choice was to go with the company GP Arenas. The team from GP Arenas did such an amazing job and the end result is so perfect — a wax surface, really high railed fencing and an adjoining 16m round pen.

    While all this was going on, we were still working our horses in the bottom arena. Being horsey themselves, the guys from GP were so understanding and would always pause to let us move horses or stop the digger while riding the young ones. Being horsey made such a difference as they understand what the rider requires to get the horses to their full potential — an adequate training facility being an essential.

    The second big thing on the yard was the marriage of my cousin Lauren (also my pilates instructor!) to her Tinder-met love, Stuart. It was a beautiful day that brought so much joy to see two people so happy and in love. The marquee was in the front paddock, so while sipping champagne and enjoying canapés, I could see the three babies and Pascal mooching around the field on the hill, as well as Apollo and Simba overseeing proceedings from their stables. We did the late-night checks in dresses and heels while the band were setting up, which was definitely a first! Many congratulations to Lauren and Stuart.


    Competition-wise, I have been a busy bee. Addington Premier League was great, with Apollo knocking out a new personal best at Inter II to score 70%. The ‘magic 70’ barrier is, like the name suggests, magic to achieve. Areas of the test could still be improved so it’s seriously exciting! In the grand prix, he did another smooth test but lacked a bit of sparkle to score 67% and came sixth. I’m not really one to blow my own trumpet, but it is pretty cool to be just 21-years-old, on a home-produced horse, and be able to come sixth in the senior grand prix at a premier league.

    Flick Haigh’s stunning stallion Habil XX also came to Addington for the advanced medium and prix st georges classes. He was super and is always brimming with energy and enthusiasm — now it’s my job to contain that to get smoother tests. His party piece are his canter pirouettes, which are just textbook!

    Habil at Somerford

    It was then time for Somerford Premier League, which is my favourite premier league! With three horses and my two naughty dogs Tommy and Sprout, it was set to be a fun weekend. Which it was, apart from Apollo contracting some kind of allergic reaction to something, causing his mouth and muzzle to swell. Needless to say, this created a lot of contact issues and a below standard test from us. I’m now kicking myself for not noticing it before, but for his welfare I withdrew him from the under-25 the next day. This was gutting, having won it last year, but he needed time to recover. Now we just need to find the mystery thing that he is allergic to and find an FEI-legal remedy to help him!

    Habil was again a total dude, picking up on areas that let us down at Addington, but dropping down in new places. But he certainly draws a lot of attention as we fly round the warm-up — he just oozes presence.

    Continued below…

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    On the days immediately before and after Lauren’s wedding, I was competing Verity Jenner’s super mare, Seramai, at Widmer in the medium to get her qualified for regionals. Having been off last year to have a foal by Ibiza, she settled back into the white boards really well, producing a 71.9% and 74% on the first day. I needed just two more points, so it was back there again for us on the Sunday morning. This was not clever scheduling on my behalf, as I was not ready for action — a result of too much partying the night before! I cant say that I’ve ever competed hungover before (and definitely don’t want to repeat either!), but somehow I steered round and Seramai sparkled round for two more wins of 73% and 74%. In the warm-up I had one startling moment when I looked up over the fields at Widmer EC, and saw what I thought was a kangaroo. Assuming that I was still drunk, I asked mum (who was also a lot worse for wear) if I was hallucinating, but apparently it’s the resident wallaby!

    That’s all from me for now, but stay tuned for more!


    For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday

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