H&H dressage editor’s Area Festival video diary: Dead sheep and lazy swans

  • Fab — the wily little thing — has clawed her way back into the British Dressage winter championships, this time in the medium open and advanced medium restricted Area Festival finals.

    How we qualified was a slightly bizarre story.

    She was clipped for the first time this winter season two days before the Area Festival at Oldencraig EC, a venue we had never competed at before.

    I rode her the day before, tacking her up as usual and riding her round to the arena. However, it immediately became apparent that I had no steering and no control. She threw every single evasion in the book at me, as her new, freshly-clipped physique was probably tickly and a wonderful excuse for naughtiness.

    When I touched her with my leg, or made any attempt to do anything other than passenger, she either ran backwards, snaked her head, bit my toes or tried her hand at some really inventive Spanish Riding School of Vienna type moves.

    Try as I might, I simply could not go large in any pace.

    I eventually gave up, put her away and sent an SOS text my trainer Keith Robertson who was away training himself. I told him I didn’t think I could go to Oldencraig and I was going to drive all the way round the M25 just to humiliate myself.

    “Sheepskin is your friend,” came the reply.

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    The following day, I set off with trepidation and a lot of sheepskin padding to Surrey. I’d also heard terrifying stories of flocks of swans flying around at the venue. I am scared of swans at the best of times.

    Sure enough, the previous day’s nonsense was entirely forgotten and she pulled off a personal best of over 69% in the medium open to finish third and another best yet of 66.7% in the advanced medium, despite me making a total hash of both the changes.

    Thank you dead sheep! Thank you lazy swans!

    So here we are again, having scraped wild cards in two classes in the last ever open/restricted winter championships as we now move to the new (complicated and mysterious) world of bronze/silver/gold.

    The weather forecast is for wind and rain at the weekend, which is marvelous for us as wind might cover up Fab’s habitual teeth grinding (typically, she does it most when she is softest in the frame) and if it’s raining hard enough, I might be able to keep her head down.

    Goodnight, I am off to do a rain dance.

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