June was a positive month in Aslan’s recovery back to full work, we were never going to do too much too soon but he went from strength to strength and genuinely look happy to be back in work together. So much so, we were able to compete twice at the end of the month.

For the first couple of weeks of June I was still sitting my GCSE’s, so if anything it helped to be getting back into work gently, both for Aslan and me.  Exams also meant I missed out on the Gold Semi-Finals for the Summer Nationals.  The date coincided with my Maths GCSE and while I love riding and love competing there was no contest in terms of priorities.  It’s a hard balance concentrating on education and working towards being an elite athlete, but equally no contest on days like this.  I was disappointed not to be there, but with Aslan being out of work for a while, perhaps it was just karma or kismet or whatever the right word is.  What is for sure is that we’ll be working hard through the winter to be there next year and Aslan was back in work and on the mend.

Aslan getting back to form with some mediums

While exams have been a big focus, getting Aslan back to full fitness has also been a big priority and pretty stressful too and I am really grateful to Equilibrium Products who really helped us out with a massage pad and mitt for Aslan.  I am a brand ambassador for Equilibrium so you might think I would say that anyway, and while they have been very generous with their support, trust me that Aslan loves his XL massage pad and you can see him relaxing when it is on.  Aslan is 16.3, and perhaps a bit more, and also long in the back so the XL is a perfect fit for him.  The photo of him wearing it here is not ideal (sorry only one I have) as I haven’t crossed the front straps and so its slipped a bit to the right, but trust me when it’s fitted properly it fits him perfectly and is very very effective.

Aslan enjoying a massage in his Equilibrium Products XL Pad

After the first few months of June were over, so were my GCSEs.  It was a pretty stressful experience spread over five weeks as anyone who is my age reading this will know and agree with.  The whole curriculum and even grading system changed for this year so no-one know what the results were going to be. Only that everything was going to be harder than before.  But at last they were done, and I could look forward to a long summer.  Aslan was making good progress and after another visit from our vet Simon Knapp we were ready to build up the intensity and get back out competing.  It was such a relief in more ways than one. Exams over and Aslan getting back to competition fitness.  Before we could get out though I had one more minor and very enjoyable distraction Year 11 leavers PROM!  What a night. After the stress and emotions of exams it was fantastic to party with my school friends. It was a brilliant night, and the planning was amazing too and the full Kardashian experience, thanks to makeup by Juliet Cunningham and hair by Lorraine. I felt really special and it was an amazing night out with my friends and teachers to.

Me getting ready for Prom with help from Juliette (make up) and Lorraine (hair)

And then we were back to business.  It was a long and hot summer for me. Training in over 30 degrees and competing too.  First time out was at Widmer Farm which is a local venue for us.  It can be a bit bleak in the Winter as its at the top of a hill but in June it was scorching and close to 30 degrees on the day.  It was our first competition since Winter Nationals and I was just happy to be back out with Aslan competing.  We rode the Novice first as a warm up followed by the Individual Championship Test.  The way it works is that you usually don’t know your first score before you ride your second test so you don’t really know what the judge thinks about your performance until its too late. So you have to use your judgement and the feedback from your coach between tests.  I felt as if Aslan went well for the Novice even better in the harder Championship Test but didn’t have high expectations having not been out for four months.  In the heat and circumstances I was very happy later with a very decent 66.90% in the Novice and 66.83% in the Championship Test and a PB by 1.3%.

I was almost speechless afterwards, which us unusual for me!.   I can’t get excited about the red rossettes in qualifiers as you even get them when there is no-one else in the class as was the case in Widmer that day, but a PB is always significant and more than ever after not being out.  It also gave us 4 important qualifying points for Gold tests in next Winter’s Nationals and a qualifying core for the World Class Programme (or Podium Potential as its now called).  So all in all a massive achievement for me but most importantly for Aslan.

Just a few days after Widmer we were back out at Sparsholt.  I really enjoy this venue as the Paras are usually part of a bigger show and in particular I really enjoy the warm up arena where you get ready alongside everyone else regardless of level, ability or disability.  Traffic delays meant that we had a little less time than usual to get ourselves ready and get warmed, up but that seemed to work in our favour.  He was on it from the point we entered warm-up and on another hot day which we will all remember this summer for Aslan was on form.  Twenty minutes warm up though as not quite enough and he was going well I felt as he could relax a bit more as we entered the arena for the Individual Championship Test which unusually we were riding first before the Team.  As I went down the centre line, Miley Cyrus sang  ‘I came in like a wrecking ball…’ which made me laugh inside as I halted and smiled at the judge!  The test felt good and Aslan’s canter in particular felt awesome.

Fifteen minutes between tests and we were back for the Team and Aslan was a bit more relaxed and again it all felt good again.  And sure enough 64.88% in the Individual Championship was filled by 67.12% in the Team, and while I did not feel that much of a difference, we were left with a seasons best in the Team, very close to an all time PB, and PBs on both tests at Sparsholt.   And most importantly another qualifying score World Class qualification, and this time with my Dad as top groom, nutritionist (Tesco meal-deal), driver and coach on this one.

Jacket ready with the Union Flag sewed back on

Well that’s it.

June done and dusted with July ahead of us with Squad training and a 2* International at Bishop Burton to look forward too as our qualification was confirmed.  You know you have qualified when you post the scores, but when you get that email to say you have done so and you will be representing Great Britain it’s special. Very very special.

Thank you for reading and following our development, and thank you as ever for your support.

Ilse x

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