So here we are in 2018. My blog is 1 year old having made my first proper monthly post in January last year, and a lot has happened since. In fact its quite hard to believe that just as this is only just the start of my second year blogging, its also just the start of my second year competing properly. Looking back, I only went out 5 times in altogether in 2016 and hadn’t even started worrying about qualification for National or Internationals.
2017 was a busy year and this month has been no different, its been a really busy month given its the middle of winter… working Aslan into a double bridle, treated to new kit for him from my sponsors Equilibrium Products, a new hat thanks to Charles Owen, a saddle refit from Kay Humphries at Norton and Newby Saddles, 560 miles on the road travelling to qualifiers and prepping for the Winters Nationals. Phew!
At the start of the New Year, Aslan was treated to some new protective wear from our sponsors Equilibrium Products. With all the wet weather leading up to Christmas he had been showing signs of dermatitis. Equilibrium Products recommended their Hardy Chaps (which you can see Aslan modelling in the picture left) to offer him some protection from the wet and mud during turn out and they have worked a treat. They are made from neoprene and come in five different sizes so they are easy to fit and put on snuggly. They have worked well and after some initial treatment they are certainly helping keep everything under control. Aslan also received some new brushing boots and overreach boots for hacking out so he’s been pretty spoilt this month and is all all kitted out for the new year thanks to Equilibrium.
We competed twice this month, both Winter Qualifiers, at Mysecough College in Lancashire and Hartpury College in Gloucestershire. Myerscough is a long way north of us, but it was worth the long journey as the Winter Nationals are being held there this year and I hadn’t been before, so it was a great chance to check it out under a bit less pressure.
We travelled up the night before to settle in and managed to exercise Aslan in the main arena to stretch him off and acclimatise him which was perfect. He actually took the venue in his stride, which perhaps wasn’t surprising as I later found out he had competed there before with his previous owner Rebecca, so in some ways he was back on home territory in the North West. Rebecca came to see us compete the next day with her daughter Libby. It was great to see her and I think Aslan enjoyed seeing them again too, the first time since Bishop Burton last year.
We warmed up well on the Sunday with a 65.5% in Team Test followed up by 64.88% in the individual championship test and only two tenths off a personal best. Second place in both classes, unbelievably missing out on first on collective scores in both tests as the first place rider had the same scores. It was so nearly two red rosettes and against a really experienced competitor too, and while we came for the qualifying points its always nice to come first, so I was both very happy and a bit miffed at the same time. So no red rosettes but 3 qualifying points for the Gold class Individual Championship Test in the Winter Nationals, so very successful trip.
While in Myerscough I also caught up with triple European Gold Medalist Julie Payne. Julie represented TeamGBR for they first time at the Europeans last summer and absolutely nailed it individually and for the team securing three Golds. Just last year we were team mates for the Central Region at the 2017 BD Home International in Vale View. She was a great team mate and helped calm my nerves at what was my biggest ever competition at the time. It was the first time I’d seen her properly since the Euros so it was nice to share some proper time and have dinner together on the Saturday. Here we are together last year.
This month I also have the opportunity to apply to become a Brand Ambassador for Harry Hall who were looking for six new Ambassadors for 2018. I submitted my application and posted a comment on their Facebook page and was surprised to see myself featured in their update later in the month, which I though might be a good omen! They haven’t released the results yet so I’ve still got my fingers cross as this blog goes out at the end of January. I’ll let you know next month if I was lucky enough to be selected.
Next up it was Hartpury College, again it’s quite a trip but one of my favourite places to compete as the facilities are great and it was also where I first experienced my first big competition – the RDA Nationals. It was a long day out in pretty horrible weather that started with snow on the yard at home in Buckinghamshire which turned into constant rain at Hartpury. Despite this everything pretty much went to plan (well nearly anyway). Aslan travelled very well and in comfort, thanks to the kind loan of a lorry from Sarah at home. Aslan was very chilled when we got there and we had a good warm up in the barn, despite the cold and the wet, before competing the Novice for the first time since November. Short of not quite getting the mediums we had in training last week, I thought it went well and felt pretty good. Back into warm up and it was the Individual Championship Test next. Again it felt good and felt like a definite improvement on Myerscough a couple of weeks ago where I had come close to a PB. But then the scores! My lowest Novice for over a year with 61.90% and my lowest Individual ever (or Team for that matter) with 59.27%. I was devastated and came home shattered in more ways than one. As I promised on Facebook, you can see the videos below and make your own mind up but I’ve never been more disappointed.
You always hear people talk about learning lessons when they don’t get the scores they want and it’s true, you have to, but it’s also really hard sometimes when you think it went well but turned out not to. I also think that no matter how hard it is sometimes and how disappointed you are, it’s important to share the experience, bad scores and good. Nowhere to hide anyway, if you are a BD member you can see everyone’s scores on the British Dressage website anyway!
After that disappointment I was cheered up by news that my beautiful new riding hat from Charles Owen was read for delivery. It’s made to order and identical to the one they were kind enough to provide for me last year which I kept in pristine condition for competitions only. Thanks to their
generosity, I can now train in the same safety and style as I compete, having demoted last years hat to my training wardrobe. It’s such brilliant support like this that not just really helpful, in which is a very expensive sport, but also really really inspiring, when a massive brand like Charles Owen says “yes, we will help you”. It’s a real show of belief and reward for all the hard work we put in as a team and makes me feel very special. I could not be more grateful. Here I am in my old South Bucks RDA hoodie (that I think my mum bought for me to grow into) and my brand new Ayr8 (my favourite navy leather with silver piping and yes I know I need to tighten the chinstrap, we took the picture in a hurry!)
The new kit didn’t end there, Aslan also had a saddle refit this month. We had our first new saddle about this time last year which was made bespoke by Kay Humphries in Oxfordshire. Kay is a very experienced fitter and very nice lady too, and looks after several of the liveries at Sacha Hamilton’s where we are based. The new saddle last year made a massive difference to my position and posture, but at Excel training in the Autumn, our Squad Saddler Mark Fisher noticed that there was a bit too much movement going on. Not surprising as Aslan had toned up by a full inch both sides when he measured him which is a big difference. We tried making slight adjustments with a Tri-pad which Mark adjusted to fit, which helped but nothing like the difference since having the the saddle readjusted properly, which feels a much better fit and balance.
So that’s it for January and next month is going to be equally exciting. Next up I’m competing my first Summer Qualifier at Solihull on 9th February which will also serve as a competition practice for the Winter Nationals the following week, riding the Silver Novice and also my first Gold Individual Championship class. I’m not going to win that one just yet, but I’m going to have fun trying!
Please come back and see how we went, thanks for reading about my January.