After a good month in June, particularly getting out there and competing for the first time since the Winters, we decided to make a major change in July.  After three years at Sacha’s yard, with Aslan there and before him Isla, (a mare we had on loan at the start of my first Excel programme), it was time for a move.

Me riding Isla during one of my first rides at Austen’s Farm with my Mum looking pretty anxious in the background

I learnt such a lot at Sacha’s from being an RDA rider when I arrived, having just got my own horse for the first time, to being self sufficient and representing Great Britain before leaving.

It’s been a heck of a journey and one we are all still travelling, but the time had come to move closer to home.  We had recently moved house and the new yard run by Donna Hughes at Sedges Farm is within walking distance.  It was a difficult decision, but one which made sense as I could be more independent in getting to and from training and spending more time on the yard with Aslan rather than travelling back and fore.

Getting Aslan back into fitness had been my number one priority, but now that he was progressing well the time had come to move. While we kept everything else the same such us our vet, farrier and even Sacha coaching, it was still daunting and emotional to leave having spent so much time in the school in the sunshine, rain and the cold winter nights training under the lights.

My last session at Austen’s Farm with Sacha on the day we left the yard

I really feel that I had grown up at Sacha’s, which I guess I had as I was thirteen arriving and sixteen leaving, and saying goodbye to friends, liveries, staff and horses there was emotional and I’m sure it was for Aslan too.  We had one last lesson outdoors in the sunshine with Sacha on the day we moved, and I could not resist one last walk down the centre line as we warmed down.  Then it was emotional goodbyes all round and we loaded up and were off to our new home.

I couldn’t resist one last walk down the centre line towards C as we warmed down for the last time at Sacha’s

Arriving at Donna’s with Aslan onboard 

Aslan’s new home with Donna Hughes at Sedges Farm was somewhere we had often walked through with our dog Molly.   I remember having my eye on the big indoor school, and the amazing horses from there we’d often see hacking through the woods nearby.  I couldn’t quite believe it was going to be our new home.

Off-loading at Donna’s for the very first time



Aslan took the move in his stride and was soon settled into his 5* accommodation and room with a view and he was soon making new friends during turn out in in the block.  One thing I was grateful of is that big indoor arena. While we had a beautiful summer and the sun was shining when we arrived, dressage is an all year round sport and there is plenty of work to do in the Winter. Most of my mid-week training is during the evenings after school too so being able to train indoors out of the rain and the wind was something I was definitely looking forward to as we headed into Autumn.

But having just arrived we didn’t really have much time time to think about it as the following week we were off to Squad Training at Solihull.

Aslan’s room with a view.  He seems pretty happy with it.

I always enjoy Squad training and Solihull is a great venue to visit as well (my dad always says cafe breakfasts are the best!).  This camp was as good as ever and this time included video analysis with judge Jayne Peberdy.  We worked on straightens and correct flexion and being able to be debriefed by video during the sessions is amazing feedback.  It’s a bit daunting being scrutinised by the coaching staff and other riders too but its great experience and also teaches you to focus under different pressures while riding which is really really valuable as every competition comes with different people watching you and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it but concentrate and do your job.

Under scrutiny at Squads with Jayne Perbery

July really was a boom boom boom month.  Moving home, Squads and then my second ever International Competition – the 2* at Bishop Burton, which I had competed in for the first time last year.  This time I was more relaxed in  the preparation.  Last year it was a bit overwhelming as it was also my first time riding the Team test in a major event but this year I really felt that mentally I was much more prepared.  But while that was good, our preparation was far from perfect as the main priority had been getting Aslan back to fitness.  It was a tricky balance, as while I knew Aslan still had some time to go to get back to his full competition fitness, we had also scored a personal in the Individual and a seasons best in the qualifiers during June.  Still I knew in my mind we were not as ready as we could have been and would have been, if Aslan had not been out of work and my GCSE exams for that matter.

All smiles on the way to Bishop Burton

There was also extra pressure as while I had posted the qualifying scores I needed for World Class Podium Potential selection I needed 64%+ at Bishop Burton to post the final score I needed at 2* or above.  I had missed the Gold-Semis and Gold Summer Nationals due to my GCSEs, so Bishop Burton was the only event in the qualifying period I could use, and I only had one test (the Team) to get the score I needed..

It was a mixed bag.  At best.  I was very disappointed and upset with the outcome. There were other things not right about the week that I’m not going to go into here, but on reflection it was a week I learned more from than I achieved.

To be fair, Aslan had been a real superstar all week despite our lack of quality preparation.  He produced 2 solid tests placing us third in the Novice and Team and up from fifth in these classes from last year.  This, I should have been really happy with but it was difficult in the circumstances as we had missed a major target.   We scored 62.708% in the Team, which was up on last year by over 2% but it wasn’t what I was hoping for  and wasn’t enough to provide the Minimum Performance Score I needed in my category for World Class Podium Potential selection.

I could reflect on how tough the judging seemed to be at 2*, but equally I know it is my personal responsibility between salutes and is where the buck stops.

I competed the Freestyle the next day but this had been the lowest of our priorities in the limited time we had for preparation and while I don’t think we really did the event justice, still with 63.575% we improved on our 2017 score by nearly 2% and again our position from 5th to 3rd.  One thing I did reflect on was my music, which might have been prepared last minute and fitted to the test not the other way around but it had a special meaning for me.  My Dad found the track  ‘The Journey has only just begun’ from the movie soundtrack of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe from which Aslan takes his name.

I’ll be back in 2019 a year older and a year bolder for the 3* and more determined than ever.

I am taking a bit of a break next month as we are heading on a family holiday to France for a couple of weeks, but I’ll let you know in my August blog how we finish the summer.  One thing for sure, it will be shorter than this one!

Thanks for reading.

Ilse x

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