Being born into a horsey family I was riding virtually before I could walk. My love for horses was carefully fed by my horse mad aunt. I vividly remember being about 5 years old, riding Tilly who was my aunts mildly neurotic 13.2 section B welsh pony. Trotting furiously round the edge of the arena, with my aunt calling over the fence at me warning me that any faster and I would be cantering…..my 5 year old health and safety conscious self was much too sensible for that, best slow down.
By my early teens I was horse mad (and quite a bit braver)… I would bunk off school and cycle the 5miles to the yard to go and ride!
At 16, I went to Hartpury where I completed a National Diploma in Horse management, and then went on to study for my degree in Equine Sport science, it was here my love for horses really grew and when I was able to purchase my first horse; Zara.
I was hugely over horsed, but my Dad made the options simple, get better, or get rid! Zara was a typical mare, she knew her job, and heaven help anyone who thought they would tell her different. Zara was not easy (the old battle axe), and dressage really was not her thing….I grew used to the hint of sarcasm from our judges- ‘a little tense today’ and ‘obviously just wants to jump’ made frequent appearances in my comments. Occasionally I would be offered a few more minutes to attempt to settle her down (I always declined, she would only get worse). We became great team mates when it came to the jumping and together we competed up to BE Novice.
I had been working with Liz Launder at the Skelwith stud, and decided I wanted to put Zara in foal after not being able to keep her fit and sound enough to progress to intermediate. I decided to use the studs stallion who was a full Welsh section D, Dennis.
Long story short, Zara had scanned not in foal, and was wintering out with some other mares, and would be brought back in to work in the spring time. Spring came around and Zara was looking particularly smug, a few weeks passed and despite now being in work and not being fed a huge amount her waistline seemed to be growing! Although the vet was adamant that no mistake had been made at the scanning and she would not be in foal, I had her checked…and I was right!
Luna arrived on the 9th July 2010, almost a month early, in the field.
Fast forward a few years and Luna who was now my only horse, was 4 years old and I was backing her. I had lots of help and advice being thrown my way, about the best way to go about backing my youngster. Lunging, long reining, bitting, leaning over, the advice really was endless. I had a feeling Luna would be pretty straight forward and I trusted her. One day, I literally tacked her up, and got on…..simples.
Luna was not much to look at, she was small, and she didn’t have big paces. Everyone thought she was cute!, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do with her, that was until we jumped. It was like that was what she was born to do, she just knew what to do, and she loved it! In the beginning I expected to complete a couple of BE 90’s and that would be that. As we progressed I realised I had set my sights much too low. She was clever, she was switched on and when it came to cross country she was a machine.
By the end of the season 2016 I had completed 3 BE100’s and we were qualified for Novice.
The 2017 season was a bit of a disaster. Having been up to Somerford Park and had 2 days training with Andrew Heffernan, I had been sufficiently bullied and was filled with confidence. The yard where Luna was kept had a viral cough going round, which left Luna coughing for about 12 weeks. A few Steroid inhalers later, and we were ready to re start our fitness programme. No more than a few weeks into work and we were having foot balance issues, feet sorted and it was now June and the season felt like it was slipping away.
I entered Homme House in August, for our first run of the season….better late than never! Luna produced a really consistent test, for a 30, and then the heavens opened….I mean really opened, the competition grinded to a halt- you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The ground had no chance against the 100 or so remaining horses running that day and really held up pretty well considering. The show jumping and cross country turned into a real pull, I didn’t push for the time, and nursed Luna home, but she was tired. Over the coming days Luna really suffered with post exercise muscle soreness, our training began to suffer and she wasn’t herself at all. One urgent physio session later and Luna was noticeably more comfortable.
Fitness wise we were on much better form for Monmouth in September, but I am still learning a lot about Lunas preferences, and she really prefers the going to be firm and is never at her best when she is in season. I thought the ground at Monmouth was great…. But Luna obviously did not agree and really didn’t feel in the zone as she usually does. We had a stop at the Water across country, and I came home feeling deflated.
It is almost Christmas, and I have made a conscious effort to improve our dressage scores. We are consistently in or just outside the top ten, and the only way to improve this is to improve our dressage scores, jump clear and shave any pesky time penalties off- simple right?!