National’s month!! It always comes round so fast after the regionals and it’s hard not to tire myself and poor Stanley out by being overly focussed on that one date! We were so lucky to qualify for two classes so two chances of rosettes!
Final preparations were done in the week leading up to the Nationals. We had lessons with our fabulous trainers Sara-Jane Lanning and Sarah Ansty. Switching back to focusing on the Elementary work was a bit of a brain game. He isn't strong enough to hold the trot we are developing for a whole test so it was imperative I remembered the basics and didn't over-ride the tests.
We also have an amazing support team behind us so his saddle was checked, we both had some physio, picked up some new competition gear and Stanley got some new dancing shoes! Bathed, tack cleaned, lorry loaded... Team work makes the dream work!
When we arrived Stanley settled into his stable next to his posh friends and then we did the arena walk. He was incredibly spritely and thrilled to be back at the nationals! I had hoped by the next morning he may have calmed down but he was still wired and thought everyone was there just to watch him! If you had seen him in the area walk in the morning you may well have asked how on earth we were going to do anything on command - I wondered too! Our test was not mistake free but he did try really hard to concentrate on me for 95% of the time; a ‘skip’ in our medium canter and a very over enthusiastic simple change kept our score down on this occasion but I was still pleased to finish 12th less than 1.5% behind the leader.
After a quick dash to my cousins wedding, and thanks to some great friends for looking after Stanley, it was soon time for round two and the freestyle test (https://youtu.be/ef76W8GSI0Y)
It’s no secret that the last two years have not been simple for Stanley and I... but it’s days like this that remind me why we kicked on and found the reasons to smile.
A swift reminder in the warm up that he was not to act quite as enthusiastically as he did on Wednesday! Stanley went through the archway into the arena, he grew a hand or two and completely owned it; he danced to his Madonna music and produced the best test that he possibly could have. I am so proud of him and absolutely over the moon that we finished fourth, again only 0.8% separated the top four – it really is so close when you get to the nationals!
I am however the luckiest person to have the biggest support team who travelled miles to give us the loudest cheer at the end of our test - Stanley loves a cheer, it makes him feel like a rock star! I went to bed that night with the biggest smile on my face, feeling like the luckiest girl in the world.
There was one final thing we needed to do in April… and that was to go back to The Liphook Equine Hospital for another scan on his face a year on from surgery to have a cyst removed from his jaw and a new sinus path created. Great news – after a roller coaster journey we have been officially signed off. The vets say he is in zero pain, the bone is filling in nicely and the sinus they created is working well and draining normally. We have full permission to carry on as normal now and see where our dreams take us. One pain-free, cyst-free, happy little horse who is ready to rock the world... After a couple of weeks rest anyway!
Images by Sara-Jane Lanning.
Belton Horse Trials is one of my favourite events in our calendar! Having been balloted from the event last year I was so pleased that we managed to get a run there this time around! The shopping at Belton is always fantastic, making it a lovely day out for everyone. We ended up taking an entourage from the yard with us to cheer Robbie and I on! Robbie didn’t disappoint with a respectable dressage of 35, an unfortunate few poles showjumping (I think I’ve been working so hard at our dressage, I’ve let the showjumping slip a little!) and a fantastic clear XC with only a handful of time faults. “Big Bad Belton” is always a bold track which encourages you to kick on, I thought it was fairly technical this year too and Robbie just answered every question for me!
We also took Alice to Horseheath this month for a BE90 class. Incredibly it’s been a year since she last went to a competition – time goes far too quickly! I was quite anxious about the event as Alice hasn’t been to any training competitions or schooling outings over the winter either, so we’d done all our prep work from home (which isn’t always an ideal way to start the season!)
However, Alice rose to the occasion with a fair dressage test scoring 34.3, we just rolled the one pole showjumping and stormed round the XC for an easy clear – albeit, way too quick! Oops, sack the rider! I’m already looking forward to our next run together.
I was particularly lucky to be able to write a blog for “Equestrian Life Magazine” this month, which I really enjoyed being a part of! Make sure you pick up your copy and check out reasoning behind why I rate British Horse Feeds and Fibre-Beet so much!
There’s lots going on at the yard at home at the moment, we are cracking on with putting all of Dad’s plans into action for new renovations and developments! Our old hay barn has been taken down ready to be moved and make room for new stables. We’re hoping to get the footings dug out in the next coming weeks, so it’s all very exciting!
Stay tuned for more news next month.
Hope you all enjoyed the short heat wave, I’m wondering if that’s it now whilst I’m currently looking out at the heavy rain, oh the joys...
This month I had a week in the Algarve very near to the port of Vilamoura, I was hoping for some sunshine, but ended up with five days of rain and two of sunshine… just my luck! It was great to take Frankie to the beach and play in the sand, in his rain suit.
On my return in the early hours of the morning, a foal was born from Cappuccino, by Feinrich, it’s a dark bay filly with one white sock, she’s really stunning and her movement is outstanding, someone will have a future star. She’s already got her halter on and very friendly indeed.
Through the rest of April I have been training hard, after my week off I took my Advanced horse up to Annie Cowan, my trainer, and we introduced more passage and piaffe to his work. Pikkert really loves dancing, and it really helps with his other work, as he seems far more active behind.
We also drove all the way to Sheepgate with the Welsh Cob stallion, Jack, to win two Freestyle classes. My Elementary test was really good with lots of improvements, scoring 71%. So I was really happy with that result and might aim for more scores like that.
We’ve also had Hatti from British Horse Feeds over, looking at the foals and watching her mum Caroline train Elvis with myself. We are just structuring her floor plan for some music very soon.
Right I better crack on now, let’s pray for some sunshine!
Rachel & Katelyn Brown
This past month before getting back out competing, Balli had her teeth done and she is getting a lot better and calmer with this, which is great to see.
Mid-way through the month Katelyn and I had a switch of horses for a few weeks. We both had a jump lesson with Ashley Boyce to prepare for the four day show at Brendon’s, Pyecombe.
So we finally got back out at shows with the vast improvement in the weather. With the four day show at Brendon’s which fell perfectly with my week off work. I jumped Spirit on Thursday gaining a lovely double clear in the 1m and 8th place. On Friday I popped Balli down for a couple of clear rounds as it was her first affiliated show. On Saturday Balli and I took part in the British Novice and had a super double clear and placed 11th. I was super proud of her. She also jumped the British Novice on Sunday but was a bit tired which lead to a couple poles falling but I was still really pleased with her. On Sunday Katelyn jumped Spirit on a ticket in the 1m Open. They were double clear and would have been fourth if they had been jumping competitively.
The weekend after that I took both horses to Felbridge Show Ground and got a double clear and 8th on Spirit in the 1m Open. Unfortunately Balli had the last fence in the jump off down in the British Novice. We are now looking forward to taking them to the four day show at Brendon’s this week.
Gosh what a wash out the start of the season has been for us! All but one of our entered events have been abandoned - and whilst we’re left feeling deflated, the poor organisers must feel completely desperate!
We’ve been sloshing our way through April, trying each time to prepare for an event that subsequently gets rained off! Frustrating as that is, on the positive side we’re now based at such a great yard, we’ve been able school in the field - flat, fitness canter and xc school - something we’ve never been able to do before.
The horses have come through our incredibly long winter well, and despite them all still hanging onto their winter coats in places, they are looking and feeling fabulous, thanks to Fibre-Beet!
We’ve hopefully turned a corner with the super talented mare, It’s Morka, also known as Mindy... She has got to be one of the trickiest horses I’ve ever produced. I do truly believe that you need a fair bit of natural spark, to make a top level competition horse... BUT, she’s has had a full on fire that we’ve had to tame!! I’ve mentioned previously that I like to allow time for horses to mature into their job both physically and mentally, and she is a perfect example of this ethos. We did very little with her last year as a four year old as physically she was immature, but also because she was so very backward thinking. I felt she needed to gain strength in her frame to enable her find the work easier, then in turn be more enthusiastic and happy in her work.
We’ve worked incredibly hard through the winter concentrating on building her strength, then just getting her out and about to see a bit of the world. So, we bit the bullet, took a very, very deep breath and headed off down to Badminton for the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier! This was going to go one of two ways... there’d be so much to look at, that she’d actually behave... or, she’d literally throw the toys out of the pram!
We drove through the most awful rain and storms, as we turned into the wagon parking area, where we promptly got stuck! Not a great start! Over an hour later, we were towed into our parking space... this left us a tad behind on the clock! A quick get ready - first time with studs in, first time jumping properly on grass, first time at a proper party! Another deep breath... and we headed off towards the arena. Now, my arena was directly behind the ‘main’ dressage and showjumping arena - yep, that arena... the one with great big stands all around it, flappy flags everywhere, trade stands and masses of people... but before we got to that, we had to negotiate the grassroots xc riders, beautifully dressed xc fences, with their judges cars and whistles... plus the thousands of cars parked, and the odd tank!!
As I said, one of two ways...... thankfully, she was a total star and literally took it all in her stride! I couldn’t quite believe it! She found the going very difficult, it was deep and holding. We didn’t manage to make the top ten, but I was delighted with her performance. She scored really well in the dressage, conformation and type. She made a couple of green mistakes in the jumping, the advertising banners catching her eye in a couple of places, but we completed the course. We were so pleased with her ‘have a go’ attitude, and I think she actually thoroughly enjoyed her long day out! So have we turned a corner? Hmmm... the jury is still out, but we’ll see over the next few weeks as we head to Chatsworth, Rockingham and Bramham chasing that golden ticket!
My boy Ash, is ticking along really nicely, he’s feeling fabulous and extremely cheeky! It’s actually been a blessing in some ways with being so wet as I’ve had no desire to run him in these desperate conditions. I’m hoping to start jumping him this week in preparation for getting him out towards the middle to latter part of the season, all being well.
Hopefully the sun will keep shining now!
Kick-on, and stay safe!