Scholar’s Blog – Practice Makes Perfect

Since my last blog lots has been going on at Lower Dolley and FRW Eventing. I have had some more horses come in for schooling and to be sold and I have been out competing a lot. At the end of March I went on a much needed weeks skiing to France with 28 friends from university. Whilst I had a great time I think I came back more exhausted than when I left.

Popeye has been out doing lots of BD and some unaffiliated SJ. In his first four BD tests at Kings in Bromyard and Prescott near Shrewsbury he won three of them and came second in the other with scores between 73% and 78%. It always gives you a bit of a boost when you come out after the winter and get a win under your belt, even if it is with the naughty 5yo at the lowest level of dressage. Whisper on the other hand did not win her first tests, in fact she was far from it. Since coming back into work she has been firing off all cylinders. I have never felt her this well before or this enthusiastic, there is no doubt in my mind that she is now working at 100%. Our first tests at Summerhouse definitely provided some entertainment.

Whisper is looking & feeling fab on her Keyflow diet
Whisper is looking & feeling fab on her Keyflow diet

In the past feeding Whisper has always been extremely difficult because she cannot have any sugar or starch in her diet. So together with Cam from Keyflow we have come up with a new diet for her which is obviously working wonders, it is a lot more balanced providing her with the right levels of energy.  Not only does she feel unbelievable but she looks the best I have ever seen her too.

Beau is a 5yo stallion by Jumbo who I have had with me since the end of last year and we have been busy getting him ready for the Sport Horse Breeding Great Britain stallion gradings which were in March. This was his first outing and he was exceptionally behaved and is now a Grade 1 stallion for his happy owner Donna Jones.

Getting ready for the eventing season is always a hectic time and having as much rain as we have had hasn’t made it easy getting out xc schooling. However I did manage to go a couple of weeks ago with a lorry load to Lincomb in Worcestershire where Whisper once again proved how well she is feeling and Popeye showed just how much of a difference some hunting has made to him, being much more confident and happy to take on anything. He is now entered for the BYEH class at Badminton in a few weeks, which is quite exciting.

Riding NZB Campino
Riding Mark’s 2012 Olympic horse & Badminton bound NZB Campino

Last but most certainly not least is that I have had my first training session with SIR MARK TODD!!! Whisper and I made the trip down to Mark’s base near Swindon last week in our little ‘ice cream van’ (as Henrietta Knight used to call it) and arrived in beautiful sunshine. My excitement must have rubbed off on Whisper because she too seemed to know that we were somewhere extremely special, prancing out of the box and into her stable. I was eagerly awaiting Mark’s arrival onto the yard but I wasn’t expecting what happened next. He walked in having just finished galloping his London Olympic superstar and Badminton bound NZB Campino when I asked if there was anything I could do to help and he asked if I could hop onto Campino and take him to cool down. I obviously said yes and calmly walked towards my box to get my hat and boots. Once out of sight I sprinted to the lorry and have never got changed so quickly, then sprinted back until in sight and then broke into a casual walk again so as not to seem too eager! That was one hell of a welcome!

Jumping under the watchful eye of Sir Mark
Jumping under the watchful eye of Sir Mark

I had a jumping session that evening with Mark and one the next morning. It usually takes some time getting used to a new trainer but I felt that I clicked with Mark straight away. My way of riding and training is very similar to his, so from the word go we were already singing off the same hymn sheet, as they say. Every piece of advice that he gave me I was eager to absorb and put in to practice and the little tweaks that he made to my riding resulted in a much better way of going for Whisper and I instantly.

Whilst the training sessions gave me lots to think about and to work on, being able to observe him working his horses at home and watch how he runs his yard and works with his staff was equally as beneficial for me. I got involved and helped around the yard and felt like I fitted straight into the team. Every member was very polite, kind and helpful, but also there was an extremely calm atmosphere which was noticeable to me immediately. You can be the most talented rider in the world with a set of talented horses but without the right backstage management of your staff and horses you’re unlikely to keep producing results at the top level as Mark has done for so many years. In fact Mark won his first Badminton nine years before I was even born!

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My first event is this weekend at Weston Park where I will just have a quiet run, then a few more AI runs before heading to Chatsworth to do my first CIC3* with Whisper. It is pretty nerve wracking stepping up a level, but knowing that I have the full support and guidance of such a world class rider behind me is making me feel like together Whisper and I can take on the world. I know only too well how quickly things can fall apart in this sport, but this year it is full steam ahead!

Franky

Scholar's Blog