The first quarter of 2019 has flown by already and while we have had to be patient regarding competitions, there has been so much going on…

Starting work at the Roald Dahl Museum

January saw me start my first job. Real work and real money! I applied for a job at the Roald Dahl Museum which is local to me in Great Missenden and I got the job. I don’t think I will be making a career out of it but it does mean than I have an (small) income and a little bit of independence which feels really good – I also get free breakfasts on work days which is awesome! It does mean though at the weekend that we have some early morning or evening training sessions at the weekend. Sorry Dad. On the serious side though it has taught me I need to be sensitive to training times and the balance between training hard and training well as if I haven’t got the energy for it, it doesn’t matter how hard you try it still won’t be a productive session. You have to train smart not just hard.

You might recall for my last blog that we have been building Aslan back to into full work after some treatment in the autumn. I am glad to say that he has gon from strength to strength and he is back to training at his old intensity. I am grateful of the team around me that has helped getting him back to fitness. Our vets at Chiltern Equine and Farrier Matt, our Equine Physios, Donna and the whole team on the yard and of course my mum and dad who have all done more than their fair share. Thank you to everyone, I am really lucky to have the support I do as there is no way I could have done to all on my own, you have supported Aslan back to full fitness and I am so so grateful.

Aslan back in full work and heading to full fitness

There was a treat in January too that I was looking forward to as part of my Equestrian Diploma in Sporting Excellence at Hartpury Colege. My mentor Clair Moir had set up an opportunity to visit Carl Hester on his yard for a bit of a masterclass. The whole cohort went and we were privileged to meet Carl and see him train with Charlotte DuJardin. We also met Valegro and while it was only for a fleeting few moments it was a very special experience given what they have achieved together. The course at DiSE Hartpury is really excellent and I would recommend it to anyone who is thinking about it along side A Levels. I was supposed to be at Hartpury with Aslan in February too, but the outbreak of Equine Flu grounded us along with the rest of the country and we were unable to travel with horses so it turned into a session on foot.

On the yard with Carl Hester on a visit with my Hartpury DiSE Course

February saw snow on the yard with no let up in exercising Aslan in hand and riding. We are really fortunate to have a fantastic indoor school at Donna’s which makes training in the winter much more fun than doing it outside, particularly in the dark evenings. It also means that the weather does not disrupt your training nor did it stop my mum and dad getting to the yard to exercise Aslan, even when the roads were not passible.

Half term brought opportunity for more work experience with my SportsAid Sponsor, The Royal Bank of Canada. I was really fortunate for the experience and while it was a bit daunting at first commuting into London on my own, I soon got the hang of it. I had opportunity to experience work in several different departments, and while I particularly enjoyed the trading floor I’m not sure RBC was ready to let me loose on my own. I must say a big thanks to Dave Thomas who is my SportsAid Buddy at RBC. It’s a great scheme which pairs RBC employees with their SportsAid Sponsored Athletes who they volunteer to mentor. And I’m pretty lucky as Dave is the CEO!

Training in Royal Bank of Canada colours

Last December I learned that I had been nominated for the Chiltern District Council Youth Awards by my sister Grace. I am very aware of how much support I get from all my family in support of my riding and how much time and energy it takes from everyone, so I was pretty overwhelmed to be nominated by Grace to be honest. We all went as a family and I was really proud to not only be nominated, but to actually win the Sports and Healthy Lifestyle Award. There were some amazing people there doing amazing things so I felt really privileged. The award came with a year’s free access to Sports Centres in my area, that will come in particularly handy as there is a swimming pool right next to my school that I can use now use free for some extra strength and conditioning.

With success also brings other opportunities and the Chiltern District Youth Awards was a a great example of that. There was a reporter in the audience who did a piece on me in the local newspaper, and another who invited me for an interview on BBC Three Counties Radio. I’m pretty relaxed about doing interviews so was really looking forward to it and more excited than anything. I did an interview with Rabbi Debbie about Sports Psychology and the pressures of balancing sport and school for a Mental Health series the BBC were running. And while I was there I was also invited to chat about Aslan and being a Para Athlete with presenters Jaguar and Jess for their show which went straight out that evening. Everybody was lovely and made me feel really relaxed and I was much more anxious listening to myself than doing the actual interviews. Thank you BBC I’d love to do this again!

Interview with Rabbi Debbie

On a sadder note in February, Aslan and I completed our very last training camp with the Equestrian Team GBR Podium Pathway Para Squad. I started on the Squad in 2015 when I was just 13, and after completing the maximum of two programmes, our time has come to an end. The next step for me is to compete for a place on the next stage which is Podium Potential but sadly Aslan will probably not be joining me on that journey. The competition is pretty fierce in my grade, and in any event we were not eligible to apply last year due to a season disrupted by injury. This means I am a couple of years away from that opportunity, and by which time Aslan will likely be too old to be considered for Paris 2024. Every rider will tell you how special their horse is, but Aslan has been my first horse and has helped me develop from a young teenage rider to a competitive National athlete representing Great Britain. I could not be more grateful or proud of him and while we have plenty of competitions left in our partnership, it’s sad to reflect that our time together on Squads is up. When the time does come to retire our partnership, Aslan will never ever be replaced in my heart.

Me and my best friend at our last Equestrian TeamGBR Podium Pathway Squad Session.

Finally, earlier in March saw my induction into the RBC SportsAid Class of 2019. I am really privileged to be sponsored again this year by The Royal Bank of Canada. The opportunity and experience it has given me has been invaluable in addition to the grants I have received over the last three years. The induction event at the RBC offices was as brilliant as ever and I got opportunity to be part of a Q&A session on the Buddy system and my work experience. RBC have helped develop me as an Athlete and an individual and I am so grateful to have another year of support ahead of me. So a big thank you to my RBC SportsAid Buddy and RBC CEO Dave Thomas and also Tim Lawler CEO of SportsAid for the opportunity of speaking to everyone at the Q&A too.

I am hoping to provide more regular updates as we get into the next quarter and back competing so look out for more to come . I’m going to leave you this month with some pictures of the RBC SportsAid Class of 2019 Induction. You can find many more here on Facebook.

Thank you everyone for reading. Ilse x

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