AM schooling and PM trip to Rectory Farm

After a very unproductive day horse-wise yesterday because of a busy day on call for work, I then had a rude awakening to see a dog in the middle of the night (you always have a busy day if you swap with someone…) but was “off call” this morning.  I schooled Ali for a short time first because of her unplanned day off yesterday even though she was meant to be going show jumping this afternoon.  I wanted to check that she didn’t mind me having my tail coat on in preparation for our 1 star at Somerford Park and still have time to practice again if she did mind! Anyhow I need not have worried as she did he very best “am I bothered” impression and was more excited when someone rode past up the lane!

Ali very relaxed about me wearing tails for the first time

Ali very relaxed about me wearing tails for the first time

She went out in the field for a couple of hours whilst I schooled Donovan, I am really trying to ride him forward, especially at the beginning and if he starts to spook or back off my leg and leave the front end alone as much as possible.  It is slowly working and getting him more in front of the leg and responsive in general.  We started doing some shoulder-in and half pass so that we can do some Medium tests soon, but I will try and have a lesson with dressage trainer Mike Garman before I enter for our first Medium to get his input on the lateral work.

Donovan went out to the field to and had a great time getting all muddy after the rain we had last night!! I am hoping the ground will be soft enough to do some fast work in the fields with Ali tomorrow as I can hear it raining again now!

This afternoon Alice and I took Freya and Ali to Rectory Farm at Duntisbourne Abbots for their unaffiliated show jumping to practice jumping a course in competition.  It is a great venue with a large outdoor arena and fantastic set of wooden show jumps, it was well organised and they were all really friendly.  Ali was an idiot about having her friend Freya there, even though they are not turned out together or stabled next to each other, she just seems to have a “thing” for her!!  However she jumped a fab round clear and won the 1.10m class, so that was a good confidence giver after our rolled pole at Dauntsey.  Steph Burch Photography took some great photos throughout the day, click here to see Ali jumping – Alice and Freya are the first photos and me and Ali photos 0747 to 0751.

I have a busy week ahead at work with colleagues on holiday but our next outing is next Saturday with both horses going to Allens Hill for British Dressage.


Show jumping training and making plans

We took Ali down to Nick Gauntlett’s yard near Chipping Sodbury this morning for a show jumping lesson, 2nd time lucky as last time we tried to go she got a swelling on her leg.  It was nearly a false start again when I got bitten by a cat yesterday and my hand decided to swell (this has never happened before and I am certain it was only because I had the following day booked off for training!!)  And so I nipped down to Malvern’s Minor Injuries Unit for some antibiotics, which by the way was great – 10mins in and out at 7:30pm when I’d finished work and was on call so glad not to have a wait!  Most importantly my hand was working well enough to drive the lorry and ride, if not slightly swollen and sore.

Ali was great and we were trying to make sure she thinks for herself and I leave her to it a little more rather than looking after her too much and always wanting to set up for the perfect stride!  It can be quite nerve wracking letting her get on with it but she is more than capable and I have to remember she is not such a baby anymore.

Warming up over the oxer

Warming up over the oxer

Jumping round a course

Jumping round a course

Nick is great and takes lots of time to discuss plans for the rest of the season and which events are best to go to, keeping longer term goals in mind.  So I have entered Ali for her first CIC* at Somerford Park in mid-August, this will be a good opportunity for Ali to do the higher level dressage test in a long 60×20 arena, her to get used to me wearing a tail coat (we will check she doesn’t mind this a couple of times at home first) and staying a night away as dressage will be the day before the SJ and XC.   This competition also forms part of the qualification to do a CCI*, which is an international 3-day event at Novice level.  Before Somerford we have our most local event at Homme House in Much Marcle near Ledbury, where she is doing the Novice.


Donovan went well on the flat this evening and his next outing is on 3rd August at Allens Hill BD, where he will do 2 Elementary level tests.  Ali will probably come along too and do a Novice test to practice riding in the long arena in competition again before her test at Somerford.

Donovan’s return to competition

Having rejoined Donovan to British Dressage, I was excited to be taking him out for his first competition in over a year at Abbey Dressage near Tewkesbury.  I decided to enter a Novice and Elementary both in the long arena outside, then if all going well he will hopefully move back up to Medium level soon.

So after getting him all smart last night, we set off with only a slight hitch after my watch helpfully stopping on 8:30am and having a rather rushed boot and load up!


There is plenty of space to warm up at Abbey and Donovan was as chilled as ever (I had a feeling he wouldn’t be too excited at his first outing once he realised it was just “boring dressage!”)  He warmed up ok for our first Novice 39 but was hanging on my right rein at times (I think this was the extent of his excitedment!)  I managed to ride him forward for a few laps once over in the competition arena before the bell to get rid of any spookiness, as he can be a very spooky boy and he did a reasonable test to score 65.52%.  Quick pit stop for a drink, a polo (for Donovan) and glance at the rather complicated Elementary 59.  We practiced some of the movements that were in the elementary and he was performing them well, managing to stay quite energised – he is a lazy boy!   He did an lovely accurate test to score 68.13% and win the class!


My aim with him now is to qualify for the winter elementary regionals, for which he needs 15 points gained from tests that he scores 64% or more in – he gained 5 points for his elementary test today so we’re a third of the way there!

This afternoon I schooled Ali and went through movements from the 1 star B test, as this is the test we’ll have to do if we enter the CIC* at Somerford Park, which we will probably do in August.  Next week I am looking forward to a show jumping training session with Nick Gauntlett at his yard in Chipping Sodbury, let hope we get there this time…..

Dauntsey Park Horse Trials

We left quite early yesterday to travel down to Dauntsey Park Horse Trials on the hottest day of the year so far! We walked the cross country as soon as we arrived and the organisers had been hard at work watering the whole course so there was some give in what otherwise would have been rock hard ground.  Everyone was grateful that we could run cross country because of all the efforts put in by the whole team at Dauntsey.  The Novice course looked challenging with a few new questions that Ali hadn’t seen before in competition including a decent sized bounce coming out of the first water jump.  Todd was very pleased to be walking with us and enjoyed splashing in the water jumps too, ready to settle down in the cool shade under to lorry for the rest of the day!

So it was back to the lorry for a quick drink and to get Ali ready for the dressage.  They were kindly letting us ride without jackets on so it felt rather strange wearing my number over just my shirt!  Despite the heat Ali warmed up beautifully and although she was a little spooky especially at the start of her test she scored her best yet at Novice 29.5, which is exciting knowing that there is still room for improvement.  It is a local event for many of the professionals and it is fantastic that in our sport you are competing against the riders at the very top level!

After a frustrating wait of over an hour at the showjumping, she jumped well but had an unlucky pole at the third fence where I didn’t quite push on quick enough for the related distance and when I did she was a tad slow to respond and gave it a tiny touch. But it was onto cross country with still a competitive score of 33.5.

Ali Show jumping

Ali Show jumping

I had a bit of a shock when I got to the cross country warm up as Sir Mark Todd was stewarding! Ali needed a bit of a wake up after nearly tripping over the first practice fence (short moment when I thought I may fall off in the warm up… now that would have been embarrassing!) She started out on the cross country well though and was galloping on well, she coped with all of the more tricky fences including a large step up to a skinny brush and 3 strides later back down the step, pinged over the bounce after the slope out of the water and jumped the log in the water near the end of the course nicely, the first time she had jumped a fence in the middle of water.  She felt fab even at the end of the course and handled the heat well, we got home with just 2 time penalties to finish on 35.5

Ultimate images took some great photos all day. Click on the names of the jumps to see photos of us over the trakehner, corner and SJ spread.

Back at the lorry there was lots of cooling off and icing of legs to be done.  Then time to chill and eat!

Applying cooling clay to her legs once we were all done

Applying cooling clay to her legs once we were all done

She finished up in 8th place gaining her 3rd BE point!  So all in all a great day.

Todd finding the breeze on the way home!

Todd finding the breeze on the way home!


Can’t really decide if I like this weather or not but it is definitely rather warm for working and in the afternoons for riding too!

Ali and I had a nice easy hack in the semi cool this morning before work with once again this fantastic view…

Our fab view hacking up to the top at the moment (this is Donovan's ears one morning last week!)

Our fab view hacking up to the top at the moment (this is Donovan’s ears one morning last week!)

She was having a quiet day today as we did some “fast work” (sort of ) in the school last night – the fields are just too hard so we did as forward canter as possible and had a couple of fences up to pop over too.  Although it was 8pm it was still warm but I think it is good for both of us as it looks like it is set to continue next week when we go to Dauntsey Novice.

I’m on call this weekend, which means working 8:30-1 plus anything after this that comes in “out-of-hours”, so hopefully all animals will stay healthy for me!  So far, so good… I got home by 1:30pm and after a quick lunch put up a few of fences in the school to take a lovely little pony we have in for schooling round – despite the heat she was a little star and is going well, she is only 6yo and looks like she have a long Pony Club “career” ahead of her!

After a bit of a break to cool down,  have another drink, fetch a few others in, clean some tack and generally wait until it cooled down slightly… Donovan had a schooling session, apart from being rather lazy (obviously exacerbated by the heat) he is going well and we started going through some of the movements ready for our first BD outing next weekend.  I got the impression he was a tad annoyed at being asked to be more accurate in preparation for riding the tests!

Sun, sun, sun!

After a nice weekend away visiting my good friend from uni and fitting riding in before leaving and when back, I’ve had a rather busy start to the week at work! On Monday night a Yorkie came in as an emergency choking… on what we found to be a raw hide chew wedged in her oesophagus! Beware of greedy small dogs… we managed to remove it via a hole into the stomach and she’s feeling just fine now.  Then Tuesday when I was meant to finish slightly earlier a caesarian came in at 5pm so had to ride Ali at 8pm.

The sun certainly makes you feel happier though, however a tad warm in the evening consulting room and riding (especially schooling Donovan, who is a lazy boy on the flat)!  My little Mr Toddles has taken to the bush to keep cool!

Sleepy hot Todd!

Sleepy hot Todd!

He still insisted on coming with me in the lorry to take Donovan for another scan on his leg.  We were pleased with the progress of his leg on the scans but have decided to play it safe and wait to start jumping until the winter and next season for eventing.  I have re-joined him to British Dressage though and we are going to start with some lower level tests before starting medium level again and aiming for advanced medium.  So hopefully we can even get to the Winter Dressage Championships again!!  Our first outing will probably be at Abbey Dressage in 10 days time, it will be great to get him out and looking all smart again.  I think he will be rather happy to be out (he even got excited about going to the vets today as he expected a more exciting party I think!)

Donovan ready for a hack after his trip to the vets

Donovan ready for a hack after his trip to the vets

Ali is going well but we have decided not to take her to the BD Novice Regionals that she qualified for earlier this year as this and the final clashes with the eventing I am doing with her so we’ll do more BD with her over the winter, then maybe they can both go to the winter champs….

Busy day and XC schooling

Early start as usual but lovely hack on Donovan before work, the sun was shining and it was one of those mornings you think how lucky we are to live in such beautiful countryside (see poppies and view!)   Looks like we’re set for a great couple of weeks weather wise.

Summer morning hack

Summer morning hack

After a busy morning (well, partly afternoon too) on my supposed half day, which unfortunately turned out to be more of a “three-quarter day” (can’t be helped with animals and injuring themselves…) , Donovan got a new set of shoes and then it was time to load up Ali for a cross country schooling session at Hilltop XC in Ledbury.  They have plenty of steps, drops fence and running water streams for practice!

After a battle through the horse flies to get studs in and tacked up, Ali worked in very well and popped over a few simple fences.  She was not so keen on the running water streams however and took rather a lot of persuading to finally leap over!  We were able to practice lots of steps – she was already confident going up and improved throughout the session going down them, bouncing happily down 3 in a row and on and off the banks.

Skinny with no flags, a few strides after one of the banks on slightly too long reins!! Stayed great on her line though, good girl!

Skinny with no flags, a few strides after one of the banks on slightly too long reins!! Stayed great on her line though, good girl!

Flying off the bank - step up and bounce off over rails

Flying off the bank – step up and bounce off over rails

Finally we had a play up and down the steps into and out of the water and a cool off!

Hilltop has a great variety of fences starting from tiny, so is great for introducing younger horses to cross country.  It is also great for fittening work with lots of hills.  They offer schooling most days and run competitions too, click here to see their website.