Matt Jenkins’ dressage blog: dodging deadly horse flies

  • This week at Lyneham Heath, the heat has really been on — and I don’t just mean the weather. Preparations are well under way for our open day on the 28th, which is all very exciting.

    I really am loving the weather of late and long may it last. Everything is so much easier when the sun is shining. On Saturday I had a rare day off to go to my cousin’s wedding. It was a lovely day and set in the heart of Wales (I never knew the sun shone in Wales). It was great to catch up with relatives that I rarely get to see anymore due to us all living so far apart and with hectic life schedules. Never the less it was beautiful.

    You always talk about the usual conversation topics, the weather, everyone’s health, where you’ve been on holiday, but then comes the real nitty gritty: careers. Now, to me getting up at 6am, working 7 days a week and riding horses in all weathers, is normal — but apparently not everyone does that?!

    My job is what I love. Sure, in the winter when you cant feel your fingers and toes, I’d much rather be sat in a warm office, but when we get summers like this, that’s when us outdoorsy types get our own back. Riding in the sunshine, watching the horses progress and helping others to progress with their own… bliss!

    My horses are coping surprisingly well, although my tan lines are leaving a lot to be desired. In my head I always think the horses hate the cold and the wet, but now I’m starting to change my train of thought; the heat and the flies seem to get them most.

    The horse flies I have seen this year are whoppers. I’ve been riding the horses and putting them in the field at either end of the day, to avoid the times when the sun is at its highest. They’re gradually becoming accustomed to the heat. We aren’t used to such glorious sunshine, but fingers crossed it stays for the open day.

    Sharp pupils

    A few of my pupils have been doing very well at their shows lately. Sue Portch and her horse Newz Flash, who I train weekly, won her section at Chepstow Horse Trials. The pair got a 30.0 dressage and only a few time-faults across country. There’s still a lot more to come from this horse and I’m sure there is a 20s dressage in there somewhere.

    Also doing well is Sara Kocinski. I’ve helped Sara with her horse Shadow for a few years. Last week they did their first medium test together. Sara never even dreamt of competing at medium when she backed the horse herself. Shadow fills the warm-up arena and has such presence — it’s not until you notice his immense tail and hairy feathers that you realise he is not exactly purpose-bred for dressage!

    The pair were thrown in at the deep end somewhat. Sara had planned to go out at the end of the month and do an easy medium test to get going. However she was contacted by British Dressage as they were holding judges’ training at Hunters Equestrian in Cirencester and needed more medium combinations to compete. The only condition was, they had to ride medium 75 — the hardest test at the level.

    In it, the movements come thick and fast: shoulder-in, 10-metre circle, travers, half-pass, medium trot — it certainly doesn’t leave any time for hanging around. Sadly I couldn’t be there to support, but I watched a video of her test and it was neat, accurate and correct. Now just lots of polishing to get the higher marks.

    Another person doing very well is my trainer Dan [Greenwood]. He had some great results at Hartpury festival of dressage with all of his horses and even got a huge 92.6% in a young horse qualifier. He also did very well at the prestigious Moloh Badminton young dressage horse championships, where he was 2nd out of 50 [report, 25 July magazine] with his striking 5-year-old Romanno Stromboli.

    This is an event not affiliated to British Dressage but none the less attracts the country’s top combinations. It also has impressive prize money, too. Dan and Jamie have worked so hard to get to where they have done. Dan has a excellent string of horses and is finally starting to get the recognition that he and [his partner] Jamie deserve. I’m going to be grooming for him at a couple of shows over the next few weeks and having lessons with my boys on Monday — can’t wait!

    The list of prizes for my open day just keeps growing, the food we will be serving is making me hungry already and I’ll be combining my musical influences with my riding in the demonstrations, so you’d be silly to miss it! 😉

    Ill let you know how it all went next time.


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