It also undoubtedly depends on the support that both I and the sport at large receive, from organisations and any member of the public. It feels like a long and lonely journey at the moment, because I don’t know anyone who has done this alone before, but even if there’s nobody to lead the way it helps to know that there are people to peer into the darkness with me!
Hardy Equestrian Christmas Gift Guide
It feels like the season has only just begun, but so much has been learned and achieved, and we are now winding down to the end of the year…
It’s been an exciting year, both in and out of eventing, as I’ve fully set up my business by basing myself at a fabulous yard, Fairfields Stables, near Newent. I’ve had a great time meeting and working with a lot of lovely new clients (human & equine!) and I’m looking forward to expanding further, with more teaching and riding opportunities throughout the winter – especially the teaching, which I enjoy hugely!
My 3 competing event horses have been absolutely smashing it this year! Yes, there have been a couple of ‘bumps in the road’, but overall they’ve been making great progress, and it has been so exciting to have stepped them all up a few levels, with success. I have been getting great experience riding them all around a number of beautiful events, and I feel that my partnership with each one has grown so much that it’s felt easy to gain some of the results and confident runs we’ve had together. All 3 feel very established at Novice level, and definitely give me the feeling that there is a lot more to look forward to…
Possibly the most exciting bit of news from this year, is that I have been fortunate enough to have found the wonderful Janet Coe, as co-owner for my super grey horse CARRICK DIAMOND BARD (Gerry), and he has certainly put himself at the top of my string with his incredible progress and results this year (see below). He will be aimed for Blenheim CCI-4*S 8/9yo championships next September – fingers crossed!
I still have 5 events left, but here is a quick round up of each horse’s progress & notable results this year:
Jane Bailey’s ROCK SOLID consolidated at Novice level, putting previous SJ form behind him to claim 2nd & 3rd places, finishing on his dressage score on both occasions! He moved up to Intermediate-Novice level as we qualified for a couple of Novice Championship Regional Finals, and was impressive as he stepped up. He tackled his first CCI-2*-L at Hartpury International in August, and did a near-perfect dressage test and flew inside the time on the XC, just finishing up in the top 50% after a couple of rails SJ, but gaining a qualification and some FEI points.
Becky Diamond’s HOCUS POCUS (Hugo) moved up to Novice level in April, and did it in style, finishing on his dressage score in 8th place! Since then he has continued to gain experience, impressing us all with a perfect, calm SJ round in the main arena at Barbury, and topped off by an exciting 2nd place at Wilton, on a great dressage score of 26! He then contested his first CCI-2*-S at Gatcombe International, and once again added nothing to his dressage score, finishing 19th/99 starters in his section – being 1 of just 10 from all 150 2* horses to finish on their dressage scores!
My own & Janet Coe’s CARRICK DIAMOND BARD (Gerry) has had a fairly meteoric rise up the eventing grades – he only did 1 unaffiliated 90 event last October, but this year progressed through 1 BE100, 5 Novices, 1 CCI-2*-L & 4 Intermediates! Apart from a green stop on the XC at Hartpury in the 2*, he has picked up qualifying runs everywhere else, was placed at his first BE100 & Novice level events, and recently finished 5th in a tough Intermediate section at Pontispool. Very excited about him at just 7yo!
My 5yo RATHNAGEERA AUSSIE had a long summer holiday, and has come back on brilliant form, so he will look to do a small handful of events before the season finishes, so that he has a good base of experience for next season. I’m taking him very carefully, but his brain is fantastic and he seems to find everything ridiculously easy! He thinks he’s already on for Burghley, but I’ve said he needs to wait a few more years…
The main aim of the year is that all horses (and rider!) come out happy and sound, so fingers crossed for a successful but SAFE finish to the season, before I head off for my first holiday in 4 years of working with horses! The 3 main horses are all aiming to finish off by running in the CCI-2*-S at Bicton International, so hopefully we can go out with a bang.
Thanks for reading,
I’ve had a super busy summer!
The main event was the RDA National Championships at Hartpury back in July, where I competed in showjumping, dressage and vaulting.
The showjumping (70cm) is judged on style, with deductions for faults and the standard threat of elimination! I scored the third highest score but was slightly lower on collectives so was bumped down to fourth. I wasn’t disappointed, though - we have barely any time to practise jumping at my RDA group so being placed at all is a bonus. Boysie, who I was riding, was feeling very sprightly for his first competition of the weekend and I was really struggling with my legs and my hand on the reins so merely surviving felt good!
The next day I had two vaulting competitions: individual and team. The individual came first, with canter compulsories and a walk freestyle on Bear, owned by Perry RDA Group and lunged by Sam Davison. I’d vaulted on Bear once before but never in canter so it was a little bit nerve-wracking. He bucked a fair bit in our brief warm-up but was a bit better behaved in front of the judge, with only a half-hearted attempt at ditching me! He was good as gold, though, for the walk part and I was really proud to land my new dismount cleanly, which has been a big new challenge for me this year.
After my individual event I was on duty for three of the vaulters I coach, who finished 1st, 2nd and 7th in their classes - one very proud coach!
Next, Eden, Emily, Kate and I were joined by Kodie and RDA volunteer Helen for the team competition on the barrel: Helen in the guise of Gru, Kodie as Edith, and the rest of us as minions! We had lots of fun and pulled off a pretty good routine, despite only having met as a full team for the first time less than a week before. We came a close 2nd to a very strong team and also won the prize for best costumes - thanks primarily to Kodie’s mum, another Kate, who is a real whizz with a sewing machine!
After all that activity I was ready for a nap but instead had to ride my dressage test. I was back on Boysie, who did some lovely canter work for me. Unfortunately my tired legs twitched too much in the free walk and he jogged, but we finished on the fourth highest score only to be bumped down again to sixth on collectives. I need to work on those! Again, I was happy - anything I get in dressage or jumping just feels like a bonus and, besides, I hadn’t got a purple Hartpury rosette before!
After Hartpury I had a couple of weeks’ rest - interspersed with plenty of coaching and an appearance with the RDA vaulting team at The Game Fair - followed by a trip to south Wales at the beginning of August for a BEV (British Equestrian Vaulting) competition. I was competing in the Para Pre-Novice Canter/Walk class on a horse called Celt, lunged by Andrew Williamson of Eryri Vaulting Group. I’d never met him before the day but he felt very comfy and chilled and I was as relaxed as I could be! The compulsories were a bit disappointing because he trotted at the end of the bench and, although I held it for four strides after he regained the canter, I should have sat in between so one of the judges gave me a zero for that move. Oh well - you live and learn!
The freestyle was better, though, and I enjoyed performing it. All round it was by far the most enjoyable BEV event I’ve ever competed at so I definitely hope to return for another competition at Talygarn. The Eryri team were all lovely and made me feel so welcome - massive thanks to them. As a bonus I also won the class, gaining some important points towards qualifying for the British Championships.
I then had a few weeks in France which included some great riding out in the Alps and some lessons too. I even managed to film a test for Dressage Anywhere’s RDA competitions (qualifiers run through until the spring, when the Championship is run). It’s a bit tough entering on a horse you don’t know well, especially as I’d picked the hardest test to try, but I like a challenge! We scored just over 60%, which is the qualifying standard, so I was pleased.
My next event was the English Championships, held at Onley Grounds EC just outside Rugby. I hadn’t been there since my first British Championships in 2016 so it was nice to go back feeling a bit more confident of what I was doing! This time I was vaulting on Bear again with Sam lungeing. Again, compulsories weren’t great: the basic seat was OK, but he trotted in the bench too - at least this time I knew to sit before trying again! - and although my first leg swing felt secure I lost balance majorly in the second one and had to whip my leg down as a result.
The freestyle was also a bit of a struggle because I couldn’t find the stirrup for one of my first moves. Annoyingly, I got a bit flustered and didn’t handle it as well as I should have. The video looks better than my memory of it but it’s highlighted an aspect of training I need to revisit - handling problems when you’ve got to keep going with your music! The one thing I was pleased with was my dismount, which was one of the strongest I’ve ever done. I did land in a massive patch of horse wee, so it’s a good job I didn’t fall!
Although I wasn’t very pleased with how I performed at the English I am still the English Champion, which is goal #1, and we got some pretty sweet rosettes this year!
I also had four of the able-bodied young vaulters I coach competing, also on a borrowed horse (Maud, lunged by Sarah Harding). The two older girls were one pair and the two younger ones were another pair. They all pulled out their best routines yet and really made me very proud! Olivia and Amelia came fifth with their routine to Imagine Dragon’s ‘Believer’ and Lydia and Izzy came sixth with their routine to ‘Kung Fu Fighting’. Since the top two pairs in the competition were from Wales this actually means that they are the third and fourth best pairs in England!
My next big event is the British Championships in October. I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to pull off some decent routines for a change! I also need to find a horse to use first, so that’s an extra challenge.
Beyond that, I have new challenges in riding and gymnastics, but those can wait for another time…!