Retraining The Giant Bolster: ‘two strides of trot and I knew we had a problem’

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  • I live by the maxim: “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” — I want my hours of schooling, grooming, lessons and competition planning to pay off. However, there is also another maxim: “the devil fools with the best laid plans”.

    I excitedly entered The Giant Bolster for his first dressage competition. I practised all of the movements and was (mostly) thrilled with how he was going. Sammy has a fabulous walk but his free-walk on a loose rein still needs some perfecting — most racehorses are not used to taking the contact down but we are working on this.

    Going down the centre line and halting is one of his favourite movements as he gets to see himself in the mirror in my arena — like Narcissus, he can not get enough of his beautiful face!

    I was really excited to be out competing again. The last time I was in the ring was at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in October, where I was second on my non-native coloured Volatis Oriana (pictured, below). I have since sold her, so have had nothing to compete — I was a bit worried about maybe being a little ring rusty.

    Credit: ES Photography

    On arrival at the show I was delighted that ‘Sammy’ had arrived without breaking sweat. He always used get very het up on the way to the races, but is learning to relax now he is doing things at a more sedate pace. My husband, ‘Bridgie’ [racehorse trainer David], drove my lorry and came for support, which I was grateful for. He adores Sammy as much as I do and wants to see him succeed in his second career. I am not sure I will be as successful with him as he was though, but we are trying!

    Bridgie legged me up onto Sammy and we went straight into the warm-up arena. Two strides of trot and I knew we had a problem — Sammy was lame. We trotted him up and disappointingly the result was the same. It appeared to be in his foot and on inspection his shoe had slipped fractionally. To turn a negative into a positive, I used the situation to get Sammy used to a competitive environment. He stood and watched other classes with great interest before being loaded to head home.

    The following day, our farriers were in and found a small tender point under his shoe. They re-shod him and he’s been fine since.

    Our chiropractor, Emma Padfield, has also been in again to check Sammy. His muscles are constantly changing and building up and I am always grateful for her input. Sammy enjoys a massage and is very fond of Emma (pictured, below).

    A few squeals and bucks

    We had another educational outing at the BSHA Spring Show, I took Sammy for a ride around. Showing is somehow ‘buzzier’ than dressage as there are more horses working-in at the same time (plus loud speakers). I suppose it is the equivalent of taking a young thoroughbred for a racecourse gallop — getting it used to the sounds and sights.

    Sammy worked-in surrounded by a selection of horses — cobs, hacks and riding horses. I cannot say he was foot-perfect. At times, he did seem to think it was all quite exciting and threw in a few squeals and bucks just to let me know — luckily he was wearing a trusted neck strap!

    Sammy’s show browband has arrived (pictured, below), designed specifically for him in his owner Simon Hunt’s colours. It is magnificent and I can’t wait to use it in the ring.

    Hopefully, Sammy will come on for the experience and be calmer next time — think our next outing will be dressage!


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