February was the month of teasing us all with 20 degree sunshine and that false hope of an early summer arriving! It really was lovely to be able to enjoy getting out and about with the horses with a few less layers on. Now I am sat mid-march with the hail storm raining down outside but here’s hoping that lovely sunshine returns again soon.
This month was well and truly about embracing our inner-dressage divas and pointing those toes. Gusthoff has come out feeling better than ever this year and I really have all fingers and toes crossed we can keep it up. Last year was a big learning curve for us in finding the balance between enough training that he felt fit and prepared but not so much that his body started to feel it and his performance suffer for it – a very fine line for a warmblood who isn’t blessed with the best confirmation in the world. Nevertheless, feeling like we may have finally cracked it, this month Gus came out and performed a beautiful test at Solihull equestrian for a win and a qualification for the Dengie Winter Dressage League Regional Finals at Open level – woo! This particular test is at Medium level in a 20x40 arena and well and truly jam-packed with movements – fair to say a step up from what he will ever need to master out eventing. We had a couple of weeks before the Regionals at Rodbaston where he once again tried his heart out for me and produced a mistake-free test to be proud of. We finished in a respectable 5th place with some very close scores at the top. It was certainly a competitive day and I was really pleased with how Gus felt as I knew he couldn’t have given any more. The judge said she would have preferred him to be moving more forwards so we will take this on board for our next outing. It was disappointing to so narrowly miss out on qualifying for the Nationals but it was just the excuse we needed to get on with some more jumping instead!
10th Year Winning the Lord Montague Cup
To add to our dressage-filled month I was awarded the South Shropshire Lord Montague Cup for the 10th Year running!! I really could not believe it. This cup is awarded to the South Shropshire PC member who qualifies and performs best at the National Championships in the summer which growing up has always been a major goal for me. I feel so lucky to have taken 3 horses to the National Championships across the years – Mumbo Jumbo II, George’s Boy and Gusthoff and to have been placed in the top 10 on every occasion. To have held this cup from the age of 13 to 23 is so special, I am not sure I deserve it but I really do have the Pony Club to thank for so much. South Shropshire Pony Club has made me the rider that I am today, from all the fun at pony camps up to representing the senior teams at Open level. The question is will baby Freddie be able to step up and join the Roll of Honour??
The Dressage theme definitely continues as February was the first month that Freddie finally got a test run in a dressage saddle. He is quite a sensitive 5yo so I wasn’t sure what he would make of my long legs all of a sudden not being at jockey length but rather wrapped around his belly! However, I was so pleasantly surprised to discover that he actually went beautifully in it. Dressage is definitely going to be our weakest phase to begin with, he has all the potential but needs to build in strength, maturity and experience, so this year is all about practice for him. It is exciting to feel that he is coming on and improving all the time! We had a few shows planned for him this month too but unfortunately the equine-flu cancelled our fun.
Aside from flatwork and finally onto some more exciting stuff! Freddie and I headed over to Kelsall Hill for a much needed lesson with the fantastic Michael Owen. This was his first experience of arena eventing and our first time seeing XC fences full stop since September so we set expectations low. He was (very!) excited when we arrived but fortunately seemed to be nothing more than hot air and as soon as we had warmed up and started presenting him with some exercises he was very much on the job. This horse is just so much fun to jump and so brave, we had the best time! Now we will be aiming to step up the technicality of our training as we prepare to kick-start our eventing career together later in the Spring.
Admittedly I will be the first to admit that I tend to sacrifice partying and fun-time with friends a lot to focus on my horses. However, February was the month for our GB/Irish get-together tradition of heading to the Ludlow Hunt Ball! It was so much fun to let our hair down and party the night away.
Finally, we had some very exciting news as I became a Just Togs sponsored rider. I have never had a clothing sponsor before so I feel very fortunate to be chosen to represent such a great brand. As we all know having good quality but affordable clothing is so important for a high-intensity, outdoor sport like equestrianism so I can’t wait to trial out their products!
March will be an exciting month as Gus and Freddie get on the grass for some XC schooling and Gus makes it to his first event of the season!
Speak soon, Sophie x