• Laura

My first blog post... The end of season round up!

Hello! I am so glad you have taken the time to read my first blog post. With the 2019 eventing season coming to an end and most of our horses in the team going on their well deserved holidays, I thought it was a good time to try something new and start a blog. I don’t know how regular this will be but it will most likely be decided by what’s going on!

I have had my busiest season to date and I've been fortunate to have the rides on some very talented horses this season. I am extremely grateful to their owners for the support they've given me this year.

We all know eventing is a tough sport where so much can go wrong between coming down the first centre line and crossing the finish line. So I think it is so important to focus on the positives and use any set-backs to learn from and help make improvements that will benefit us in the future. I have taken positives from every horse on my team this year and I am so proud of each of them for how they've developed and stepped up the levels.

Starting with the main man, Willem van Wup (Willem). He continues to make my dreams become reality and we both made the step up to our first CCI4*L events this year, taking on Tattersalls in Ireland and Blenheim Palace in England. Prepping for Tattersalls in the first half of the season we ran round a few events which included picking up a 3rd place at Belton Park with an FOD (finish on dressage score) of 27.5 in the CCI3*S which I was thrilled with. Going to Tattersalls I was very much taking it as a learning experience and set myself aims for each phase. I was so pleased with how he ran that week and I took so much away to work on for our next time at this level. We then unfortunately suffered a minor set-back after Tatts, as whilst on a mini break, Willem kicked himself in the field which meant I was only able to hack and lightly school him for a month or so. It was a relief that it was nothing serious at all but equally a very annoying time of the season to have a little problem. He went to Equine Aqua Training (our local water treadmill) twice a week to add to his work. This was so beneficial in helping Willem keep his core strength so he was ready to crack with his fitness on once our vet had given us the all clear. Our aim for the second half of the season was Blenheim CCI4*L and I went feeling very confident that I had worked on what I felt we lacked at Tatts. Although we had missed some planned runs we had done a lot of training and in the one prep run we had we came 2nd in the OI at Wellington. I was delighted we improved in every phase and our confidence at this level had grown. It’s quite a surreal experience competing at an event as prestigious as Blenheim and the crowds on the cross country course were huge compared to what we have seen before. Due to our little set back in the middle of the season, Willem’s fitness was not quite up to what I had wanted. I knew he would be fit for the competition but maybe not to challenge the leaders on the time for the XC. Nevertheless we still came away with another qualifying score so quite alarmingly we are now 5* qualified…! I will however not be tackling one of those in the near future! At Blenheim, Willem scored a 27.9 dressage, clear XC and then tapped the last fence down SJ which I completely let him down with (I relaxed too soon!). I am so proud of how Willem has stepped up this year. Every time we face the challenge at a new level it’s always been a first time for both of us and this is one of the reasons our bond has become so strong. We’re learning together and I can’t imagine being a first timer on a different horse. We know what each other is thinking and we really feel like one connected body. I owe him everything.

Next up, the big boy Zorro Rocco (Logan). Logan has always physically struggled at times to meet all the demands of each phase in eventing. However, this year his body has been feeling in a completely different league and he has felt like one seriously class athlete. I ran him steady for the whole first half of the season. This was always the plan as when he becomes too keen and excited cross country his body stiffens and I then lose steering! He is one of the boldest horses I have ever ridden, he never stops and when he's previously had 20 penalties it has always been from steering issues. Tattersalls CCI3*Lu25 was our big aim for the first half of this year so his prep runs in the lead up to this event were quite literally prep runs. I wasn't trying to be competitive, I was riding the feeling he was giving me and schooling round the events to get him to Tatts in the best shape and with the best training possible. Thankfully it worked!! He was 3rd in the CCI3*Lu25 which is by far his best result to date and one of the best in my career too (my first time standing on a podium!). Every day I work with horses I try to learn as much as possible from other professionals. I see more and more how much of an individual you need to treat each horse if you want to get the best out of them. Going beyond the training there are things such as sitting on the tails of my tailcoat, doing a 3 minute warm up and purchasing a brilliant acoustic fly veil all contributed to his PB dressage score of 28, which is what put him in contention in the first place. Then I just had to rely on his training for the jumping phases and make sure I didn't let him down. So many people have contributed to Logan's career and even more people have a soft spot for him; really he needs his own official fan club! He's gentle yet ferociously brave but can also have serious anxiety meltdowns and I think his complex character is what makes us all love him so much. Added to that, he is definitely teaching me masses in all aspects of horsemanship!

If his mega placing at Tatts wasn't enough he also made the step up to Advanced level later in the year, going clear XC at Aston Advanced u25 and also in the British Intermediate Championships at Gatcombe, which is held at Advanced level. What a season he has had and who knows what next year will bring!

Willem and Logan are currently in the middle of their holiday together, where I take their shoes off and turn them out together in a huge grassy field 24/7 so they can just switch off and enjoy being horses. I can’t let go completely and I still feed them twice a day and they’re fully rugged up, but it is definitely a chance for them to recover from the season.

I picked up an exciting new ride in November last year when Porsche joined the team. She quite literally defines the saying ‘pocket rocket’, being only 15.3hh and fine in her build but also one of the most athletic and powerful horses I’ve ever ridden. She was bred to be a dressage horse, with Oldenburg breeding and is by dressage stallion, Sir Donnerhall II. She only has around 30% blood so you wouldn’t have thought she would excel in the eventing sport as much as she does. We started the season at Novice and I took her round her first two clears at CCI2*S level. In May, we stepped up to Intermediate and then she really came into her own. A month of competing at Intermediate, she already felt like a seasoned pro. She quickly picked up a win at Upton House, 3rd place at Farley Hall and 3rd place Wellington, totalling 5 double clears at that level. I have no doubt she will easily step up to Advanced next season. Porsche has really instilled in me how important is it to have a horse that loves the sport and wants to win as much as the rider does. She gives 110% effort to every stride she takes, she always wants to jump and never wants to touch a fence. Porsche uses her sharp and mare-ish side to her advantage and she gives me the most immense feeling that she will keep fighting for me to the very end. I have loved every second of having Porsche on my team this year and I cannot thank her owner, May-Britt Wedd, enough for trusting me with her girl.

I was fortunate to take on the ride of Billy Senora (Nora) last year, from my old boss, Gemma Tattersall (no pressure!). Nora has brought me so many opportunities and also taught me a huge amount in a short space of time. Initially with the advice from Gemma and then Will Hunt Breaking and Training, Dickie Waygood and Pippa Funnell I have learnt so much that not many young riders would get to experience. We started the year stepping up to Intermediate level, the dressage and show jumping we knew would be a working progress together but it was amazing to feel the speed and power she has across the country and testing gears I never knew existed. Sometimes she tested the top gears when they weren’t actually needed! One time meaning we did an extra loop on the cross country course to admire the countryside at speed…! But once we gelled together she made it feel like we were popping round 90s. The highlight of our season for me would be at Tattersalls in the CCI3*Lu25. She completely kept her cool in the dressage arena, despite the flapping flags, she let me ride with tailcoat loose and did a foot perfect test which pleased 2 out of 3 judges. She totally nailed the cross country and cantered round easily clear in the time. The final day, although a few poles fell, she was so rideable and so soft and genuinely felt like she was breathing and enjoying herself, which was actually how she had felt the whole week. Small improvements felt like major milestones, one being that I could mount her like a completely normal horse, something that can be quite tense for her sometimes. For me it’s not always about the results on paper, but also how the horses have felt and if I can feel an improvement in them then I finish the event happy and I’m doing my job right. This past year has been really rewarding with respecting Nora and giving her a lot of my time to grow our relationship together. I’ve learnt different dimensions of horse training and horsemanship and these skills I will use for the rest of my career. So a massive thank you to her owners, Beccy & Nick Harris and JC & Lexi Hambro, for the opportunities they’ve given me.

Next up is the two babies of the team, 6yo HH Moonwalk (Olaf) and 5yo HH Monbeg Vogue (Robin). They are both such classy and scopey horses, I have had so much fun introducing them to eventing and starting off their careers. They have both had a brilliant first season, picking up numerous double clears and some top 10 placings as well. They also both went through a slight green patch in the middle of the season, Robin for hormonal reasons and Olaf had a momentary dislike to water. Both issues were solved and they finished the seasons in great form after stepping up a level, Robin to 100 and Olaf to Novice. I have always loved producing young horses from the start and I find it so rewarding watching them learn and develop. I hope these two go on to have long and successful careers in our sport!

After selling my super gorgeous horse, Cody, to a young rider last November I have since been searching for my next young horse. In May this year we found him! We bought 4yo Westfalian gelding, Leo, from Emily Llewellyn’s yard and we couldn’t have asked for a better first year with him. He only went to a handful of shows but gained a massive amount of experience in some huge arenas. His first show we headed to local Felbridge where he won an unaffiliated Prelim dressage test and jumped a clear round show jumping. We then headed to Barbury Castle for the Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier which was held in the main arena. He won by 6 marks which qualified him for the final at Burghley, hooray!! Next up was Hickstead where he jumped round the 1m 4yo qualifier which took him into the main arena the next day. His season finished at Burghley where he came just outside the top 10. We certainly didn’t give our best performance on the day which was contributed to by the horrendous downpour just as we started our test, but I was so proud with how he handled the atmosphere and I am so so so excited for his 5yo season next year where we will get out properly eventing! Leo is now enjoying a couple months out in the field playing with some friends before we start preparing for next year. I think my super girls are getting a bit bored now of how many times I say I can’t wait for him to come back into work.

The newest member of the team is Chilli Boy II (Frosty), 16hh 7yo gelding by Chillout, out of a Cavalier Royal mare. We are so excited to have Frosty and his owner Natalie join our team. We started our partnership at South of England where we picked up 5th place in the 100 but the season ended there with Tweseldown unfortunately having to cancel due to the mass amount of rain we’ve had recently. We have a winter packed full of training, show jumping, arena eventing and combined training to prepare for next season. His plans are to be competitive at Novice and CCI2* level and who knows where we will go from there! He has a cracking jump in him so I’m very excited about his future with us.

That is my season summary of our horses rounded up, so thank you for hanging on until the end of this blog as it’s ended up being a lot longer than I had planned!

We have had some new young horses arrive to keep us busy in the off season which will be fun. 4yo Kadans, recently imported from Holland by TSH Sport Horses with the view to produce and sell (although I am dying to keep him!) and 3yo Marula, who has come to be broken in and start his ridden education.

At this time of year we are also ‘spring’ cleaning the stables and we have started to give them a new lick of paint to keep the yard looking smart and professional. The ground works for our new yard have also begun which is SO exciting!

I also have more time for teaching/coaching which I love so the end of the season isn’t so bad!

I am so grateful for my support team, sponsors and owners for everything each and every one of them help me with. This winter we will be regrouping and planning what exciting ventures we have for next year. Anyone else also counting down the days until the 2020 event calendar comes out?!

Laura x