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Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Fun in the Sun

This weekend, we headed out to Todburn Equestrian Centre to enjoy some riding club dressage and combined training. After our dressage disaster at Benridge at the end of May, our sole aim was to go & have an enjoyable day, with a less dramatic test from both Louie & I!!

Mission accomplished!!

With Louie now out in the field overnight, it makes competition morning much more relaxing for him. Getting to the yard at just after 6.30am to make a feed, sort out a haynet, get all my lotions & potions lined up – there’s so many with a grey!

I headed up to the field & Louie clearly wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere & was as far away from the gate as possible (almost!)…

After enjoying a bit of breakfast, I took him outside to wash his tail, white socks and get any stains off him. In the end, I bathed most of him – just not his mane and neck. Not because he was dirty, he was actually really clean (!!) but because it was already SO hot but of course makes getting any marks off much easier.

As tough as we sometimes have it as grey horse owners, I’m fairly lucky. I can blend some bits into the dapples, some bits look like his flea-bitten colouring, and at least we don’t have to worry about the coat shine that bay, brown, black and chestnut owners all have to get their polishing potions out for!! J

The full works takes me about 45mins, so we headed into the barn to begin plaiting.

A post shared by Sophie Tunnah (@sophietunnah) on

I knew I wanted to set off at 9am, and due to Andrew having other commitments, we were venturing out solo! Well sort of… He joined us at the venue to watch the dressage but had to leave before we’d finished our combined training classes. This was our first party on our own, so I felt a bit under pressure about making sure we were ready. I needn’t have worried as we had plenty of time to space… & Andrew very kindly turned up to help get everything sorted at the horsebox!!

Arriving in plenty of time, I had a final glance over my first test – I never have a caller, I always learn the test… Some think I’m crackers but I’ve seen so many callers call wrong, that at least it’s all my fault when it goes wrong!!! Plus….I actually don’t know my letters inside out, unless I think of All King Edward’s Horses Can Make Big Fences, so when someone calls as to where to go or what to do at a certain letter, it’s a long thought process… Learning the patterns of movement is much better for me.

By the time I’d tacked up and got changed (I really didn’t want to put a thick hat, gloves & long leather boots on in that heat!!), all ready to jump on 20 minute before my test. I was hesitant about warming up for 20 minutes because of the heat, but any less and I’d not really have got through all I needed to.

The warm up had one drama, thankfully not from us, but another horse got a bit of a shock seeing the sun beaming off the Perspex along part of the barn wall, and spun. Heading straight for Louie at the opposite end – I wasn’t really sure what would happen, so I stood still, gave Louie a pat, and as the horse dodged around us, Louie just tensed…but that was it! I was really proud of him because it was a real space invader & at speed!!

He warmed up lovely, and there were a couple of bits around the arena that he was spooking at, but based on Benridge, I ignored it, and after once or twice of passing, it was as if they weren’t there.

Into the test. Louie still thinks that parked cars have monsters lurking in them…

I knew as such that my test might not be as neat at ‘C’, but wanted the rest of the test to be as relaxed as possible. There were some poles, wings and things on the outside of the arena, which he tensed at… But overall, he did a nice test, not his best, but a massive improvement from Benridge. & me keeping my frustration under control definitely helped Louie relax and be much more amenable throughout.

I was pleased with the test and how much of an improvement it was since out last outing – we scored 64.65% and came third.

Just click play to watch our Prelim 1 test…

We head just under an hour until our next test, so with it being so hot, I completely untacked Louie, gave him a drink and a sponge off – thankfully we’d got a parking spot in the shade so he could stand in the horsebox out of the sun. He looked to enjoy the breeze as much as me (when it came!)

I gave less time for warming up for my second test, but wanted Louie more off my leg – he’d not felt as off the leg as he could be in the first and I think it was a combination of spookiness and the heat! So, I started with my long whip to give him some encouragement, and after just one non-being-sharp-enough trot-walk-trot transition, I didn’t need it again, although even in the second test, he could have been more off the leg again…

Louie was much less spooky and was overall better, coming out with 68.73% & second place - just watch the video below to see how it went!

We then had two hours (!!!) until the last dressage test finished and we could get ready to showjump. It sounded a long time, but by the time I’d untacked, given Louie a wash off, sorted everything out, I had about an hour to enjoy sitting in the sun with some lunch with my friend who was also competing. She did really well in her combined training classes coming 3rd & 5th, and how much her flatwork has improved since last year (at the same competition) really shows what you get out from putting hard work in.

The two greys enjoying a day out together! ❤️

I wasn’t convinced that staying for the showjumping was the best idea in the heat – I didn’t NEED to do it, and I definitely never want Louie to feel negatively about his work or feel like it’s a hassle. But as time passed, it was soon time for the jumping, and I’d managed to keep Louie hydrated during our break (he sometimes is difficult to get to drink), so we headed for the warm up.

Louie felt normal, so I went ahead and jumped the first round. He was a bit spooky at the first fence (a cross pole – he HATES cross poles!!) but was willing and popped a larger jump in, but jumped well for the rest of the round to come out clear!!

His second round – well, that monster was still under that cross pole – so he decided to have a poo just after it and all over the second, which meant he just dipped his back legs and caught the pole. I was actually impressed (in a very small way!) – Louie never poos under saddle, well very rarely, and when he has, he’s stood still!

Louie decided he was super confident, and got keen after that, take a couple of turn on an angle and with a bit of speed, but I sat up, kept my contact, used my half halts and leg to try to keep him together. I was pleased, as he did give some reaction, and I really shouldn’t jump a keen horse in a rubber straight bar snaffle!! Anyway, it worked and we clear the rest of the course!

Sadly, without Andrew, I wasn't able to film my showjumping rounds...

Our dressage classes, because they ended up being the same prelim tests, counted towards our combined training scores. So I was VERY surprised to find out that we had WON the combined training!! And then a short while later found out we’d come second in the second round. I saw a few people jump clear in the second class, so had thought it would drop us out of the placings…

I’m really pleased that we had such a great day – even without any placing, I was super happy with how much better it was than the last time, especially in preparation for the riding club area qualifiers next weekend! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a much more positive post this month too…

Don’t forget to pin it if you’ve enjoyed it!


  1. I absolutely love greys. There is that balance of them getting their exercise in the paddock overnight and coming back dirty for a show. Glad that the dapples help!

    1. Unless it rains, he usually only really comes in with a few grass & pollen stains. Can't complain much :)

  2. Wow, well done! I'm so glad it went well for you, you've worked hard for it!

    1. Thanks Rosa! It always feels rewarding when the hard work pays off :)


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