If you're a regular reader, you'll have seen that October was dominated by Blogtober - a challenge undertaken by bloggers of all types all over the world. It challenges you to creating and publishing a blog post a day throughout the whole of October - a total of 31 posts each with a different topic. For me it was quite a big challenge and one that I'm actually really proud that I was able to maintain throughout the duration. Finding dedicated time to a blog post every single day for a whole month is difficult, especially when it is around topics that I wouldn't normally choose to write about. Couple that with ensuring that I add a personal and relatable tone to each post, as well as my usual care and attention that goes into each post, Blogtober took up a lot of my spare time. If you missed any of the my posts, you can catch up on all of my equestrian blogtober posts in one place!
However, it wasn't all that happened during October.
PetPlan Area Festival Finals at Morris Equestrian
That's right, WE MADE IT! After our big set back earlier in the year, even entering a qualification class didn't look possible at one point, so to have made it to the finals was just amazing! The weekend felt like a lifetime to come - it felt like such a long time since we headed back from Northallerton back in the middle of August. It was finally here - we were on the road and heading up to Morris!
It was a super successful weekend overall - Louie settled into his stable like he'd been there all his life, enjoying watching the hussle and bussle of many horses coming past, lots of people all doing different things. He didn't even seem to mind that no one was stopping to say Hello to him, choosing to contently munch on his hay net in the corner.
The morning of the competition went smoothly and for once, we weren't pushed for time to make sure Louie was gleaming white all over. Just a quick re-wash of his tail is all that was needed that morning, as well as a good brush.
At the beginning of October, we headed to Todburn Equestrian Centre to have a practice with two prelim tests a week before we ventured up to Morris. If you read this dressage competition report, you'll see that by the end of November, I would like to have enough points to qualify for winter regionals at Prelim level. I was quite relaxed, thinking I have all the time in the world to achieve this in 2018, but the reality of hitting scores of 66%+ enough times to gather the points coupled with a weekend out to go to Morris, and two more for Louie to enjoy a few weeks off, meant that I needed to make sure I had enough commpetitions planned to get the points I wanted.
Thankfully, our trip to Todburn yielded four points in one of our classes, but with the winner not even achieving the 66% mark in the second we missed out on some extra ones there. Take a look at how we got on in our full competition report.
Plenty of hacking & a couple of weeks break for Louie
As anyone who follows us on social media will know, I really enjoy a long hack to enjoy spending time with Louie, keeping his fitness up but without heading to the arena. October brings with it, the change of scenery and many changing colours, so in the first half of October I managed to get some really gorgeous shots while we were out and about!
Since coming back into work after his injury towards the end of July, Louie hasn't really had a break. Straight away I was concentrated on getting his up to speed for the qualifier at Northallerton, before then keeping him ticking over and working on becoming sharper for Morris, with a few competitions also in between. We also started giving our showjumping much more attention (which actually dropped off in October due to preparing for Morris). So, Louie enjoyed a two and a half week break - no work at all, no hacks, just stuffing his face and getting hairy!
It also gave me a chance to have a break too, taking full advantage of full livery and only popping to the yard once or twice a week when we walked the dog on the beach or across the fields, just to give Louie a pat and some sweets!
Towards the end of his time off, Louie had a check up from Lee Clark (equine physio) and Phil Dyson (vet), and I'm pleased to say that Louie flew through all of their checks as a fit and healthy boy ready to get going with his work again. Lee gave his sore gleuts a working with a tens machine, but found nothing concerning or needing attention. Similarly, Phil gave Louie a thorough trot up and some flexion tests on his back legs, but he flew through and needed no treatment. He also had a well overdue dental checkup - I'd let this one slip as Louie needs sedating to get anywhere near his mouth. Even worming can be a big task... There were a few sharp ones here and there, but Phil soon had everything in much better order and Louie was ready to go.
Throughout November, we will be pushing for our prelim points, before spending some concentrated time on our showjumping over the winter months too. Keep following us to see how we get on!
Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of my early years of riding, but this photo is of the first time I saw the canny little mare that would get me back into riding and back into a total addiction.
This is Grace, of as I nicknamed her, Gracie Moo. She was a 15.1h 12 year old mare who was owned by a girl who had relocated with her husband in the army. The girl’s Mum was now looking for someone to come and help out with Grace and enjoy her.
Luckily, that was me! I started to loan Grace in November 2007. I had a lot of fun over the winter with her, just getting back into things in the arena – flat and jumping – as well as enjoying some hacking too. Grace LOVED to jump and was a bag of excitement coming into a jump, she would never stop but she didn’t do a lot for me re-learning my technique!
In May, we were luck enough to be offered a lift in someone’s wagon to enjoy a showing show, where we did tack & turn out, best combination and riding club horse. All very beginner-ish – we definitely didn’t look the part but we came home with a ribbon in each class so smiles all round.
A few weeks later we did a show X – this is where I really got my eventing bug. We did a VERY tiny class, but Grace loved it, as did I, and we came home in third place! A few months later, we enjoyed a pleasure ride one Saturday afternoon with two other ladies from the yard. It was where I really started to enjoy just going across the Northumberland countryside at your own pace, switching off and using it at relaxing time.
Sadly, late in August 2008, Grace’s owner decided that they were going to sell her. I really had created a fantastic bond with Grace, but knew that I wanted to have a go at eventing and that Grace probably wasn’t the horse for me to do that on. So I made the decision to look for a new horse. Grace moved to a new home a few months later, and in fact wasn’t sold but instead went back with the girl to the barracks. I kept in touch for a while, and found that Grace had eventually been sold and was enjoying a bit of showjumping over in the east Yorkshire area. I haven’t heard or seen anything of her in recent years, but I often think about the fun times we had together and how much of a cracking little horse she was to bring back my love of riding!
I realised that there are A LOT of equestrian disciplines out there when I was watching WEG (World Equestrian Games) and there are many that I didn’t realise also had a competitive side on the world stage. Our sport doesn’t often make mainstream media reporting, but in recent years Team GBR have certainly helped to put some of the disciplines into the eyes of the non-equestrian world. When I say I do dressage, I now often get a response of “so you do the one like the dancing horse” comparing me to Valegro and the Olympic success of Charlotte. I’m quick to put it in context…
When I was in my early teens, and having just stopped riding, a lady used to rent the fields next door and have driving horses. To keep my addiction to horses at bay, she used to let me bring her horses in and go out driving with her once a week on a Monday. It was just an exercise run for them, and there were no courses to practice, just to keep them fit and ticking over. At first, I was frightened a little, especially standing on the back of the cart, it left me feel quite exposed, but after a few runs out, I soon learnt to love it.
Having then seen the driving at WEG, as well as the pony driving at HOYS, I was fascinated with how much precision is needed, how much the horses & ponies need to listen to their drivers, how the driver and team mate work together to keep everything balance, and just how nippy and agile the horses have to be to get around those courses!!
This is definitely one I’d love to have a go at again!