Suzanna Hext’s para dressage blog: life has been full on

  • I’ve finally managed to get the time to put pen to paper and write another blog. I can only apologise for the time that has passed since my last one, and I’m going to make sure I write more frequent blogs from now on — let me know if you have any requests on topics you might like me to cover.

    The past few months have been full on — there have been inevitable ups and downs, new achievements, weddings, the big 30th birthday, breakthroughs and generally doing everything I love.

    Sid showing off

    I am currently writing this while watching the World Equestrian Games eventing showjumping. Wow, did Team GBR deliver and Ros winning individual gold was the icing on the cake.

    I was extremely emotional while watching Padraig McCarthy on Mr Chunky rise up the leader board to individual silver and team silver. I remember Chunky arriving at the Wiegersma’s a number of years ago. He was aptly named Chunky at the time, but he continued to rise up through the ranks with Lucy incredibly easily. What a round they performed under immense pressure — I am over the moon for them and the whole team.

    Playing at home

    So last weekend, both Sid and Lucas went out competing at Wellington Riding and finished getting their qualification points for the 2019 winter para nationals. How has this year gone by so quickly? Lucas pipped Sid to the win by getting 73.9% and 75.4%, with Sid coming a close second.

    It’s safe to say it was a good weekend, which was just what I needed. On the Saturday I somehow got roped in to signing up for the Cotswold Big swim at the Cotswold Water Park. It was a mile which was my longest race yet. I absolutely loved it, and even when I was shattered at the end, I would have done the whole race again. The race was against able-bodied men and women and I came 35th out of the 68 women, 65th overall out of 154 men/women and I was 14th in my age group. My swim coach Colin swam with me the whole way round, and even shouted at me to do a sprint finish!

    With Sophie and her boyfriend

    The first 100m in the open water races/triathlons I’ve done have been the most brutal part of the race. Everyone uses any techniques possible to get ahead. Arms flailing, and leg kicking, but it’s all part of the buzz, then the swimmers all open up and you have more room to swim and get into a rhythm.

    I’ve also done a few team triathlons this summer; two at the Cotswold Water Park with my friend Imogen Johns and one at Dorney Lake (superhero tri) with Sophie Christensen and her partner Pete. It’s been great fun and something that’s really helped my fitness and strength in the saddle.

    This has also been helped by intense strength and conditioning sessions at Oaksey House with Gavin (which involves mainly core work) and at Bath University with Mike (strength training mainly). I’ve also been making use of the new hydro pool at Oaksey House. Dal (the physio) has me performing various exercises in the pool and at the end she has me swimming with a belt around my waist, which she pulls me backwards with against 100% jets in 30 second intervals.

    It’s hard work, but there’s no doubt that it’s made a huge difference to me (video below). It’s now back to doing a few competitions in the pool over the coming months, but I’m going to try to keep training in the lake as long as my body will allow in the cold.

    Going rogue

    Sid has been on phenomenal form recently, and he has stepped up to working at advanced medium/prix st georges (PSG) level at home. I suddenly decided with Pammy Hutton that I was going to have a go at a couple of advanced medium tests at Summerhouse. He surpassed all my expectations getting 70% in my first test and 68% in my second test, coming fourth overall in both and first in his section.

    You may ask why I decided to do this, especially considering I only have to walk/trot in my para tests, however, I felt that firstly Sid was ready to do it and secondly he needed a little bit more energy/zest in his para tests. I think they can get bored of doing the same tests every time out. It’s certainly helped and working at a higher level has helped to strengthen him up.

    Sid at home

    Sid has also started to do regular pole work and although he hacked out before, he’s now finally started to enjoy his hacking and cantering up the fields. Raffi at Talland generally hacks him out for me, as he can get a bit on his toes. But I’ve been hacking out Amo a bit, and I’ve absolutely loved it.

    I have regular pole work lessons with Gerry, but let’s put it this way, Sid would definitely not make an event horse, however, he does try his heart out and is improving every time. He’s now able to do a line of raised poles, which gives me a massive buzz. Oh how I’d love to jump again!

    Sid doing polework

    H&C TV filming Rudall Rides

    A couple of months ago I was honoured to be asked to be filmed for the ‘Rudall Rides’ series on H&C TV. Jenny Rudall rode Enjoy, and I rode Amo round the farm. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and Amo certainly loved cantering across the field doing flying changes. I am looking forward to it being aired. I hear it’s going to be played in a couple of week’s time, however, I will keep everyone posted.

    The World Equestrian Games (WEG)

    I was over the moon to be reserve for WEG. Sid has come a long way over the past six months since he was so poorly, and I’ve had to adapt to a new grade and new tests. He’s going from strength to strength and I’m looking forward to campaigning him for the European championships next year. I am going to use the winter to consolidate our partnership, play with the grade II tests a bit more and compete him in some able bodied competitions at advanced medium, with the aim being to qualify him for the Petplan championships next year.

    In other news…

    Over the past couple of months, I have had the amazing opportunity to talk to The Paragon School in Bath and The Mendip Hunt Pony Club. I love having these opportunities to hopefully inspire the next generation by telling my story and put across the mentality that anything is possible.

    The Paragon School

    When I arrived at the Pony Club camp, the children were coming in from a lesson — it was incredible to see them on their fantastic ponies. It reminded me of my Pony Club days.

    I’ve not only had my big 3.0 to celebrate, but I’ve also been to some fantastic weddings. I was a bridesmaid for Sophie Stones’s wedding (who I worked with at Lucy Wiegersma’s yard) and I loved every minute. None of us were deterred when the rain came down, it was the most incredible wedding and quite something to be a part of. I think I’ve officially mastered my wheelchair dancing — wheelies, being spun round and even Ceilidh dancing!

    I’ve recently had some hard, but breakthrough hospital appointments in Oxford. Unfortunately because my dystonia has deteriorated, my doctors have had to look at other options to help my body. The appointments were hard to take mentally, but the treatments have really helped — they included extra botox injections in my legs and arm, medication changes and consistent check-ups with my neuro surgeon, Tipu, at the John Radcliffe — for me this has all been a huge result.

    Everyone’s probably wondering how the legend Abira is these days. Unfortunately he’s been out of action due to injury since the beginning of the year. However, he is now back in light work and he’s enjoying playing with Pammy. Horses are such heartbreakers and I’ve really missed not riding him over the past few months. He doesn’t owe anyone anything and he’ll always be a special horse to me, after giving me my life back.

    Wedding celebrations

    Coming up…

    The focus coming up is firmly on the British Dressage Summer National Championships at Stoneleigh on Sid this week, and then it will quieten down for a few weeks. In this time I am going to drop Sid’s work load back for a bit to give him and I a break and then we’ve got squad training at the beginning of November.

    Continued below…

    Over the winter I am starting to look for my next superstar to compete alongside Sid. Ideally it would be a seven to 11-year-old that must have an outstanding walk and trot with the WOW factor, but most of all something that’s safe. If anyone knows of any horses you think may be suitable please contact me — suzannahext@hotmail.co.uk

    A massive good luck to the British para dressage team out in Tryon — I am looking forward to following your tests.

    “Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t”


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