Joanna Thurman-Baker’s dressage blog: from zero to hero

  • Hi all, and welcome to my next blog.

    After Addington, Apollo and I were prepping for Somerford Park premier league, in between all the lovely rain.

    I absolutely love Somerford Park. Its world-class facilities and friendly staff make the show a really lovely affair. The thunder storms managed to skirt around the edge of the park, but there was a definite buzz of lightning in the air all weekend.

    We decided to leave early on Saturday morning as I was on late in the afternoon and we could then avoid the dreaded M6 Friday traffic. It was the puppies’ first trip in the horsebox too. They loved it and even calmed down enough to sleep with me for a few hours there and back. We got there by 10am so he had plenty of time to chill out before our 4.30pm test in the inter II.

    Trying to get down the lorry steps in a full tailcoat, boots spurs, the whole shabang, while holding onto two over-excited puppies on leads was a challenge, but I managed it both days.

    I’m referring to my inter II test as ‘a series of unfortunate events’ because pretty much everything went wrong. I was called in early, didn’t get to go around the whole arena before they rang the bell, the ‘killer’ photographers scared Apollo, the wind massively picked up which caused the tents to flap and signs to fall down, and there was also a napping young horse by the side of the arena. It was just one of ‘those’ days where you just have to laugh it off as there’s nothing else you can do. We scored our worst ever score in the inter 2 — 62%.

    The next day we had a hugely long wait until our 5.46pm time. I had never been through the under-25 grand prix test, so I spent the day learning it and power napping. The pups also had a long walk around the cross-country course, which they loved.

    Apollo wearing a new rug with our sponsor, E-Vet’s logo

    The forecasted storm just held off, although there was the odd foreboding rumble of thunder as I was warming up. After the day before, I told Apollo to please just behave himself for the next six minutes then he could do whatever he wanted. Clearly he liked this idea as he was an absolute angel and I managed to do everything mum suggested in the warm up.

    The under-25 grand prix test is seriously hard — passage to piaffe over two half circles and the final centre line includes a canter to trot transition, then to passage, piaffe and back to passage. I actually got my 15 one-time tempi flying-changes too!

    I was over the moon to score 68.95% with an amazing 71.75% from foreign judge Hans Wosser. This was just enough to win the class! It came as such a surprise that I didn’t even have Apollo ready for the mounted prize giving, but luckily the lovely Amy Schiessel stepped in and gave me a piggy back around the arena for our lap of honour. It was then time to quickly pack up and drive home through the thunder and lightning with a quick celebratory stop off to McDonald’s to arrive home just before midnight.

    My lap of honour

    For Apollo, it was time for an easy week after being such a star. My other rides are all progressing nicely and I’m excited to have my five-year-old, Faris Reah, back from a few months of being re-backed with Sonnar Murray Brown. Faris is a lovely horse but he is a sensitive soul, so I’m taking everything very slow with him. I’m not sure when he will come out to a show but he has grand prix written all over him.

    Continues below…

    I’ve also had a last-minute call to give a talk to the GODS dressage group. I had around six hours to prepare a talk for 30+ people which was pretty nerve-wracking, but I managed it! It’s good to push myself out of my comfort zone.

    Finally, I’m really excited to say that myself and sister Samantha are now sponsored by E-Vet Drug, an online drug pharmaceutical company. They are a really innovative team and I’m really looking forward to working with them, go check them out!

    That’s all from me for now.


    This week’s pony special, out on 7 June, features Britain’s naughtiest ponies and how you can find the dream smaller equine. We also look at the pros and cons of equine treadmills, talk to showing producer Aimee Devane and have reports from the H&H Festival of Eventing, Tattersalls Horse Trials, racing at Epsom and much, much more.

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