Laura Tomlinson: Wear and tear happens at home *H&H subscribers*


  • Since my last column, my husband and I have managed to get away on a four-day mini break — no horses, no children. This is a rarity for a cross-discipline horsey couple. In fact, I had a few cheeky comments on my Instagram surprised to see that Mark really exists, as he does not feature as much as the horses do on my social media.

    I still haven’t nailed hashtags nor how or why to share “couply” pictures with lots of people. I am quite a private person really, but I suppose its all about moving with the times.

    This brings me on to the newly revived topic of a shortened grand prix, again to be trialled at Olympia. I believe it’s a great idea in theory to have a test that challenges the top-level combinations enough, but that still allows for a bit more “show” and post-test banter.

    I just hope it works a lot better than last year’s attempt did in practice and that, as Carl Hester promised, it “will still flow”.

    I am not sure about the argument it will put less wear and tear on the horses. They are worked the same in preparation and in all of their training at home — where the majority of the repetitive strain injuries happen — whether it’s a five-minute or a seven-minute test.

    I do, however, agree that short and sweet can be more appealing in terms of broadcasting and the crowd appeal. It will also lead to a slight dilemma for selectors as they have to compare results from different grand prix tests, but again, if we want to stay relevant as a sport, we need to be open to trying new things. Let’s watch this space.

    Homework time

    While soaking up the last of the European summer sun, I started thinking about the winter months to come, when it’s easy to lose motivation.

    I shouldn’t complain as I start to take shelter in my indoor school while my eventing friends spend many months feeling like drowned rats. Still, the darkness, the hacking in the rain and the muddy horses after paddock time is definitely not quite as appealing as the months just gone by, even for us spoilt dressage riders.

    However, I always see the winter as my prep time. It’s a valuable opportunity to do homework, focusing on the things that I learnt about my horses during the summer show season. Where did they score well and where did they drop marks? What types of arena did they struggle more with? Asking self-critical questions is the key to moving forwards.

    This winter I will be taking my up-and-coming horses to smaller practice shows, especially as my season was cut short by the arrival of my third child. I use the national shows to practise between bigger international competitions.

    I have catching up to do with some and consolidating to do with others. I set myself goals for each horse. What do I want each one to have achieved or be ready to achieve come next spring? This gives me the motivation to kick on through the winter, even if it’s starting to get darker and wetter.

    Make sure you have some breeches one size bigger than your usual, so that you can fit that extra layer underneath. And always make sure the kitchen cupboard is stocked with hot chocolate and marshmallows for the really rubbish days.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 24 October 2019