We love to hear about the behind-the-scenes training plans and stable management regimes of our favourite equestrian combinations, and we’ve recently caught up with leading British dressage rider Hannah Biggs to get the inside track on her plans for 2019 and how she gets set for success.
Based in beautiful Dorset near the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire, Haygain sponsored rider Hannah has represented Great Britain at all stages of her riding career in Junior, Young Rider and then Senior teams. She is a Grand Prix-level competitor and also works as a dressage coach and judge – certainly more than enough to keep her busy when she isn’t in the saddle.
First up we asked Hannah about what she has planned for her horses this year and to tell us about the most exciting young horses she is nurturing.
“I have two top horses to compete this year, Don Caledonia (Archie) and Freeman. Archie is stepping up to Grand Prix, which is very exciting. I am scheduling in plenty of training and small, low-key outings for him to build up his confidence as he tackles the higher-level movements. Freeman will contest the 6-year-old Young Horse classes as well as the Novice Championships at the British Dressage Nationals in September. We have taken our time with him so far, allowing him plenty of time to grow and strengthen. You may notice that it’s very much my belief that we shouldn’t push young horses too much too early!”
“I have a rising 3-year-old mare called Briarwood Narcissa (Millie) by Negro x Floriscount, who I will be bringing in from the stud to back this year. She will just do a few weeks’ work and then get turned away again for the winter, but it will be exciting to see what talent she has when I start working with her. She was bred at the Briarwood Stud and is owned by myself; my friend Tanya Castello and the stud has retained a share as well. All our fingers are firmly crossed that she will flourish into the next superstar!”
What have you been up to with your horses over the winter?
I’ve been doing lots of training and have made plenty of trips up to see the master Carl Hester for his invaluable mentoring. I tend to use small, local shows as a key part of my training regime as well as mixing in water treadmill sessions and hacking out to gradually build strength and condition. Freeman has been out to a couple of shows and achieved huge scores at Novice and has already qualified for the Summer Regional Championships. Archie won his Prix St. Georg and Inter 1 Regional Championships in February with record scores too, a fantastic start to the season for them both!
What sort of an edge does clean forage give your horses and how important is this to you?
It is absolutely essential, there is no other way to say it. Forage is the bulk of a healthy horse’s diet and it is hugely influential, so it is imperative that it is clean and dust free. The assurance that Haygain-steamed hay gives me means I can train and compete and enjoy my horses safe in the knowledge that they are getting the best I can provide. I know that that my string is healthy from the inside out, thanks to Haygain.
What sort of variety of work do your horses have and what importance does that have for their performance in the ring?
All the horses work in the school at home, but I take them to different arenas to work on different surfaces. This means they won’t be fazed by the new surface at a competition and can focus on the more important things! As I mentioned previously, all my horses hack out and go on the water treadmill too. It might surprise your readers to hear that I also take them up the gallops when I can. They are so much better mentally prepared when they have the variety and their fitness is superb.
What pieces of equipment could you not live without on the yard?
Ah, my secret weapons! Obviously my Haygain hay steamer is the number one thing I can’t live without. It’s such brilliant peace of mind and I don’t have to worry about dust and spores in the hay. I also use my Cyclo-ssage rug (a full-body deep-tissue equine massage rug) every day before the horses are worked and the fantastic Cryochaps ice boots for after to cool their legs. I like to think of all three as my essential kit for keeping a healthy, happy and sound horse – the ‘Hannah Biggs method”!
Aside from riding, what are your own personal training systems to keep yourself fit and healthy?
I go to the gym twice a week for HIIT (high intensity interval training) and circuits – both great cardiovascular workouts. I also include Pilates and regular physio sessions in my training regime to keep my muscles stretched and in good working order. I have a little mini workout I can do in hotel rooms for when I’m abroad teaching clinics to keep me ticking over! I have to stretch after a day just walking round teaching. I genuinely feel so much better after a workout and regular sessions and I hope my horses do too – together we’re feeling fit and ready to go.