Winter; a time to reflect and unwind? Wrong. For me, and (I feel bad, but..) for my long suffering staff too, no such luck! After the final event of the season, we had a number of horses still in, or having come back from their early holidays due to my unfortunate fall in August. Luckily that keeps me busy, which is always a good thing as it also keeps me out of trouble. I had a structured plan after the 2016 season finished which was to improve my dressage…quite simple!
With that in mind, I have been having plenty of training in dressage with Richard Davison and been to numerous dressage shows, winning novice, elementary and medium classes this winter. I’ve also changed my mind set and the way that I approach each schooling session — being in the right frame of mind is vital. The more experienced I am becoming the more I realise that being in the right mental state is essential for every segment of equestrianism, hence my first sports psychology session of 2017 coming up this week with the wonderful Jo Davies. The training and journey that I’m experiencing in trying to improve my flatwork riding and ultimately competitive chances is one that I’m genuinely enjoying — I hope it will make the difference when the 2017 eventing season is upon us.
I’ve been jumping consistently throughout the winter too (because I love it but also more importantly, I’m a strong believer that practice in a competitive environment is essential). So far I’ve won newcomers, Foxhunter and 1.30m classes together with lots of placings and plenty of prize money.
It’s brilliant how in the showjumping world it’s not impossible to win your entry fee back, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the top couple, you can also cover fuel and some additional credit. Those showjumpers are a good bunch too and we’ve had some fun including brushing shoulders with top names like Geoff Billington and parking next to John Whitaker.
There’s something quite satisfying being able to beat the showjumpers at their own game when you are a ‘mere’ eventer! However, those top dogs aren’t easy to catch. John left me standing at Vale View, and Geoff beat me into second by a couple of seconds in a Foxhunter at Field House. My jumping trainer, Holly Smith, has been on exceptional form too at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS), Olympia and The Liverpool Horse Show which is exciting to see — she is a real talent. All of their horses look amazing and they are the ultimate technicians which is fantastic to watch.
It’s not all been work though, and it’s been lovely to be able to catch up with friends and do a few sociable things too. I was lucky enough to be invited to the Stobart Lesters. It’s the equivalent of the Oscars for racing, and the entertainment, food and awards ceremony were second to none. We danced until 3am (Ronan Keating played together with X Factor’s Sam Lavery and the most fantastic DJ) which is probably at least six hours past my bedtime, but I absolutely loved it. We also had a few days in France to get away which was lovely, although it rained nearly every day, but it was a great chance to just chill.
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Health-wise, without wishing to tempt fate, my previously dislocated shoulder has (so far) stayed where it should (fingers crossed), and the highlight for me is that putting jumpers and T-shirts on is no longer an embarrassingly bizarre, long winded and painful ritual!
Now that we are into January, time-wise eventing is not a million miles away and I’m very excited to be in full flow of preparation with some super horses, owners and staff!
Happy New Year!