Our first Bedmax delivery!

Well this month is certainly all systems go.  As March comes to an end I officially begin my BEDMAX Scholarship and the event season – SO exciting!!  This week I received my first delivery of BEDMAX shavings.  They have immediately taken pride of place in the barn and it was perfect timing for a restock.  Ever since I was first introduced to BEDMAX at Badminton last year I cannot say a bad word about it.  Being brought up on straw bedding, I would definitely recommend all straw users to consider your other options.  The dust-free, highly absorbent, cushioning support and antibacterial qualities of BEDMAX really are second to none and the entire Hall family are well and truly converted.  After all, a healthy horse is a happy horse and what is more important than that?

“Stressage” to Dressage

AM Dressage with Adam Kemp, Matt Frost and Justine Sole

In the lead up to the start of the season, little Gus and I have been hard at work tackling our dressage.  The dressage phase is becoming increasingly competitive and we know we need to pull out all the stops to improve our marks this year, especially for Badminton!  We headed to AM Dressage with Matt Frost, Adam Kemp and Justine Sole for an intensive 3-day course in Gloucestershire which was just fantastic.  With Gus being the eventer and not the pure dressage diva I was slightly apprehensive that we may have been out of our depth, but everyone was so welcoming and all levels were catered for with much enthusiasm.  We focused on lots of lateral work, making each pace more adjustable and encouraging him to engage more from his hind quarters.  We certainly learnt a lot and came home to continue our training with our fantastic trainer Dianne Breeze.  Dressage will never set Gus’ heart alight like the XC will but I am so delighted with how hard he has tried and how much he continues to improve.

Dengie Dressage Winter League Open Regional Final

We headed to his first Elementary pony party where he got 71% and qualified for the Winter Dressage Championships – I couldn’t believe it!  We have also competed in the Pony Club Dengie Dressage Winter League at Open level.  I have been with the Pony Club since I was 10 but never had the time to take part in the winter league around school and university so this was extra special.  In the preliminary round we had to face Storm Doris in a rather breezy outdoor arena, but would you believe it, we won with 70% qualifying for the Regional Finals.  Once at the regionals a few weeks later we soon discovered we were the only eventing pair in our area full of dressage horses – eeek!  Nevertheless, this didn’t stop us, we went in fighting and came 2nd; absolutely thrilled!

George has also been in dressage training working on his lateral work, introducing passage, and improving our simple changes on four loop serpentines ready for the all important introduction of the flying changes – watch this space!  Dianne met him for the first time this month and loved him which was so nice to hear, complimenting his balance and responsiveness.  He is feeling great and I cannot wait to take him competing very soon.

A bit of jumping relief

Gus looking very happy with himself after SJ at Aston

After a lot of pointing our toes we headed to Aston-le-walls for our annual winter weekend of training with the fantastic Nigel Taylor.  Having done little jumping over the past few months I was unsure how Gus would behave but he was like a duck to water.  He hadn’t forgotten a thing, flying through all the technical questions of coffins, steps, skinnies, water etc.  We ended day one with dinner at our local B&B and Aston’s very own Tom Jones who, as always, had many great horsey tales to tell.  The next day we had show jumping training which was brilliant and I was thrilled with how Gus was jumping technically and in a rhythmical canter.  The amazing facilities with the all-weather XC at Aston are second to none and we were very fortunate to be there at the same time as the top ten GB team which was very inspirational.

GB Student Riders Training

Aside from my horses at home I have also been very busy managing the GB Student Riders.  I held my first two training selection sessions at Talland and Brooksby equestrian centre this month.  I so wanted to make sure everyone had a really good time, getting the opportunity to ride several horses in dressage and SJ sessions and to come away with some useful advice.  I was relieved that both sessions went well and I have had some lovely feedback from the riders.  I have also selected my very first team to ride at the first Nations Cup of the year in Belgium this Easter Weekend.  I ran a training session with the three girls selected, who did a fantastic job.  They all picked up advice very quickly and by the end were riding a professional team dressage test.  Running the squad is a voluntary position but seeing riders improve and how grateful they are for the training opportunities makes all the hard work and organisation worth it!   Everyone got on like a house on fire so I have no doubt it will be a really fun and friendly weekend at SRNC Belgium.  I cannot wait to take them now, fingers crossed we come home with those well earned gold medals (and maybe even some Belgian Easter eggs too)!

April’s Top Tip: Always keep looking forward and never give up!

Gus enjoying himself Swalcliffe Park BE

On the 17th March it was officially British Eventing season and I am not sure who was more excited, me or Gus.  We had never been to Swalcliffe Park before but what a lovely event it was.  The past couple of months have focused on improving our dressage and it certainly paid off as gorgeous Gus got the best dressage of the class, a 27 with a tough judge.  Next was the showjumping, and having not been on grass yet this year I was a little worried he was going to be very excitable! I was wrong, he warmed up beautifully and I couldn’t wait to get into the ring.  We were on for a clear until disaster struck – Gus had a horrid slip in the rain turning to the double which unfortunately resulted in an uncharacteristic 8 faults.  Nevertheless, and most importantly, Gus was unscathed and went on to produce a speedy clear XC.

We were so close to a win and it would have been very easy to give up after the SJ, however, this is my big Top Tip for this month: never look back, keep looking forward and never give up!  By continuing with a positive outlook we had a fantastic ride XC and came away with two big positives for our first run of the season.  Always keep going, even when things don’t go quite how you planned.  Sometimes we all just get that bit of bad luck but don’t let it bother you, concentrate on making your next phase even better.  Just remember we learn most from the things that don’t go perfectly.

I hope everyone has had a fab month with their horses and been out enjoying the great spring weather!

Speak soon,

Sophie x