Welcome to my new blog! I’m so excited to be working with H&H and can’t wait to share all my life adventures with you all.
Before we get started, let me introduce myself. I’m Joanna Thurman-Baker and I’m a professional dressage rider. At 20 I’m still new to the whole professional world, but I’ve been riding my whole life as my family owned a riding school and then later a Lusitano stud.
Growing up in the saddle, I did a bit of everything, but when I got too whimpy to jump I turned to dressage. Since then, I’ve competed at numerous premier leagues, nationals, internationals and European championships. I walked out on sixth form, aged 17, and now help run the family business at Turville Valley Stud near Henley.
I’m a member of the World Class Podium Potential Programme and I’m training at grand prix level with my horse Apollo (pictured top), who I’ve had for 10 years. I’m planning to be open and honest with this blog, to share my highs, lows, good days, bad days and everything in between!
Introductions over, let’s get started. I had a great season last year with Apollo at young rider level, and over the past few months we have been training up to grand prix with the aim of competing in under-25 competitions in the future.
I can’t say the training programme I set myself has gone to plan, as the weather has been horrible. We don’t have an indoor arena and our yard is right at the bottom of a valley, so it’s been a case of get the horses out and try not to get frostbite, instead of really focusing on test movements.
The biggest plus side to winter is Christmas. We all chip in as a family to get the horses done and I just love all the food on offer. All the horses get extra carrots and I love spreading the festive cheer by decking the yard out in tinsel.
Following that, I had a terrible New Year as my beloved Jack Russell died, aged 13. We got Stamp when I was seven and have been best friends ever since. He slept on my bed every night, followed me everywhere and was a perfect lorry dog. It’s never easy to lose a pet, but I don’t remember a life without him. I’m still coming to terms with it and do still have horrid heart-wrenching moments when I expect to see him welcoming me home and find nothing but his empty basket.
Luckily I’ve been super busy with training at Carl Hester’s, at World Class squad sessions and there is a new puppy on the horizon to keep me busy.
Three days into the year, we headed up to Carl’s for a lesson. I’ve been training with Carl since I was 14. He really is the master of dressage and I still have the pinch myself that I get to train with him! It was fantastic to ride in an indoor(!) and Apollo was a good boy, despite not having been out for a long time. We have been working on the transition in and out of piaffe, as he could piaffe on a dinner plate all day but doesn’t yet have the confidence to push out.
After that there was a few days at home to battle the wind and rain, before heading to Addington for World Class training. We are super lucky to live an hour away from Addington — it’s so easy to nip over there and the set up is perfect. I had a check up with a physio, doctor, psychiatrist and nutritionist.
Apollo had a check up with the vets, farrier and saddle fitter to make sure he’s fighting fit too. We also had a positional analysis with Russel from Centaur Biomechanics, which was really insightful. Finally, we ran through the Inter 2 test under the watchful eye of Stephen Clarke. This was only our second ever attempt at this level. As I mentioned earlier, my preparation over the past month has been far from ideal (thanks, snow) and it clearly showed as we lacked confidence in the more technical movements. We are getting the movements well in training, but it now needs to be transferred into the arena. This is absolutely fine though as we all have to start somewhere.
With horses we always take one step forward and four steps back, so it’s back to training to gain our confidence back and then we will try again.
That’s it from me for now but I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog, stay tuned for more!