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Tuesday, 29 August 2017

British Riding Clubs Northern Championships

Wow, what a bank holiday weekend!!

If you follow our adventures, you'll remember that at the end of June, our riding club team made qualification for the British Riding Clubs Northern Championships to be held at Bishop Burton. We didn't go to the qualifier with any expectation, but only to give Louie some experience at a bigger, busier and more atmospheric venue, never dreaming of making qualification!

Anyway, with the support and help of the other 3 team members, we did!

Showtime preparations...

I don't have a lot of time at home by the time I get in on a night, so it felt like I'd been washing, drying & digging everything out for weeks in preparation (when in actual fact, it was just a few days). Of course, Andrew spent a good few hours making sure that the horsebox had its usual super shine, outside & in! Thanks again to AM Details' products for making it light work.

So, on Saturday late morning, with bandages, rugs, towels, clothes & boots all washed, I headed to the yard.

I'd decided to give Louie a light lunge just to loosen him up before travelling. After a walk, trot & canter on each rein, I started the bathing.

Everyone thinks a grey takes a lot of bathing. I really disagree, it just takes more frequent bathing. So after a quick mane, tail & socks wash, and a bit of stain master used here & there, I left Louie in the stable to chill out & enjoy a munch on his hay while I packed up the wagon.

What to pack in a wagon for overnight

OMG! I seriously forgot how much stuff you end up with when you travel away overnight!! Clothes for us, rugs for Louie, grooming kits, wash products, tack, competition clothes, feed, haynets, sleeping bags and the air bed... Plus, I'm a super fanatic about everything being in just the right place, neatly packed & organised!

I wanted to arrive in good time so we could have a non-rushed, journey and allow time for Louie to settled into his stable. It's about a 3-hour drive from our yard to Bishop Burton & the stable was open from 3pm. We arrived just before 4.30pm, and after making Louie a bed, I took him to the stable, slightly apprehensive that he wouldn't settle. I really shouldn't have given it a thought...

Arriving & getting settled at Bishop Burton Equine College

He walked straight in, sniffed around, dug up the lovely bed I'd made him, looked out the door and munched on his hay! I was thrilled, Louie can come into his own stable more at home and be more agitated than this, although over the last few months, he's been much better!

I left him to it while Andrew & I went to sort the wagon out. We had a bit of a nightmare - we couldn't move the partition to be able to get the air bed out! We tried as hard as we could but to no luck, so I decided to ride.

An evening leg stretch to loosen us both off

I gave Louie 15 minutes in the indoor (where it was baking hot!) before enjoying a lovely hack out around the fields and woods that surround the college.

It was really peaceful and nice to be able to ride along, buckle end, with only the occasional cow for company...

Unfortunately, the surface of the indoor arena had managed to get inside my boots, so Louie's lovely white socks weren't so bright... But a quick scrub with my Shires sponge brush and some Wahl Tea Tree shampoo, and they were gleaming again!

After popping Louie in his stable to munch on his hay and enjoy a massage with his Equilibrium massage pad, Andrew and I cleaned my tack (Andrew, not me!), got changed and made Louie's tea. I headed to the stable to swap his massage pad for his Premier Equine Sweet Itch stable sheet & give him his well deserved tea!

Louie doesn't suffer at all from sweet itch, but this stable rug covers all areas and comes right up and over the ears. While it's not waterproof so you still get stable stains, it's light for the summer and enough 'protection' to stop heavy stable stains.

Heading out for dinner

Andrew had managed to borrow some oil which he tried on the partition while we went for dinner, but I wasn't holding out hope!!!

We walked the short 15 minute walk to a local pub, hoping that food hadn't stopped serving by 7.30pm! It hadn't! Ordering a couple of beers, a Steak &a Ale pie for Andrew & a Masala curry for me, we sat in the beer garden to enjoy the evening sun... All very relaxing!

After an hour or so, the two wagons next to us, came in. They were also from Northumberland but from a different club, so it was good fun and company all evening. The tables even had heat lamps, so we could keep warm until we left at 10.30pm.

I checked Louie one final time, and just pulled his neck up on his sheet. He was toasty warm, and I decided not to bother with bandages as his legs had had them all for 4 or 5 hours already.

Our partition still wasn't playing ball, so we grabbed all the cushions, rugs, coats and anything soft to make two single beds either side. I think poor Andrew got the raw end of the deal, and had a night's "sleep" on a fairly rigid surface!!

Competition Day

Next morning, I was up at a casual 7.30am. Louie had his breakfast before I washed his legs (again) and a couple of small stable stains on his neck, while Andrew mucked out. Louie behaved impeccably, tied to the gateway, with tractors coming and going, competitors arriving, horses banging on the boxes, and others feeding and walking horses back and forth. I was massively impressed with him!

This time, I towel dried his legs and popped bandaged on the backs, magnetic boots on the front & put his tail guard and bag on to save for any poop stain accidents. I had my usual sponge close by just in case too!

Louie stood patiently to be plaited - 17 neat plaits all standing in a row! I was quietly very pleased with how good they looked, just my forelock roll that let me down!

A post shared by Sophie Tunnah (@sophietunnah) on

I left Louie to enjoy a massage with his pad while I went to get changed and grab his tack.

I tacked up and headed to the warm up. It was busy and we weren't allowed in right away, but after 5 minutes we went in and just did our usual buckle end walk for 10 minutes to relax.

Louie then warmed up beautifully, listening to me, and he felt like he was really trying hard. I'd already seen the arenas and knew that he had never seen anything like it, so my aim was to get him as relaxed as possible. He certainly was, showing some really nice work in the warm up.

I always get comments at competitions about Louie - where did I get him from, what's his breeding, what have I done with him...? It a big compliment, and I often think about it on days that don't go to plan! Today was no different, with Andrew getting several comments and questions about him...

It was our turn!

Prelim 18 - BRC Northern Championship Test

We headed into the arena, and Louie turned into a very wobbly babyish pony. That's ok. That's really what he is!

He's never seen banners down the side of an arena, he's never seen shrubs that wave in the wind, he's never really had an audience watching him (neither have I!!), and so we both did our best...both very new to this whole Championship experience!

There were tense moments throughout, but there was also some very nice moments. Louie stepped outside of the arena in his canter (I really wish venues wouldn't leave gaps in their boards!!!) but as he came spookily past the judge, I know I planted my inside hand down and pulled him around. That's going to get a left reaction...

I kept my cool and just brought him back in, and continued my test, fortunately it was the last movement before the centre line. He came back in a bit more relaxed and did a fair square halt.

Overall, I was very pleased with him. Not that long ago, Louie wouldn't have entertained going down near the banners or shrubs, and while we've a long way to go, I'm super proud of what I've achieved with him so far!

I gave him big pat, and everyone who had come up from the stables to support us was just that, very supportive. Commenting on his greenness but also highlighting the positives too.

I untracked and put Louie away to enjoy a massage (I wish I got as many massages as Louie!!)

I got changed, before finally enjoying some breakfast - a sausage sandwich never tasted as good. The scores weren't yet up but I headed to the photo stand, where Andrew treated me to three lovely shots from our test as mementos!

It was almost time for our second team member to do her test, so I headed back to the dressage arena to enjoy watching her test - a much more relaxed & consistent test than ours & I loved being able to watch it! It was also reassuring to hear her words of wisdom about how it hasn't always been like that and that experience does a lot for them.

Time for a team photo

About half an hour later, I quickly tacked back up and pulled my competition gear back on for a quick team photo! Poor Louie looked like the scruffy kid in the class, with his unplanted mane, and he was quite confused by why I was getting back on and getting back off so quickly after!

Heading back home to Northumberland

We packed up the wagon, making sure everything was put away as it should be, before bandaging Louie & popping his magnetic rug & boots on ready to load. Once he was on the box, we said goodbye to our weekend neighbours and headed home.

Louie snoozed all the way home in the horsebox, and as we turned into the road at the yard he began whinnying, happy to be home. He enjoyed half an hour munching on his hay and having his tea, before heading to the field. I was anxious he was so tired he would prefer the rest of the stable. How wrong I was...

As soon as I undid the headcollar, he ripped his head out and galloped off, squealing, desperate to tell his mates all about his weekend adventure! It was lovely to see 💖

I'm super proud of Louie, but I'm also proud of what we've achieved together. We're far from finished and polished, but to get to the Championships, have Louie settle so well, for me not to let the pressure & stress take its toll on me, & take SO much away from the experience, is a HUGE achievement for us! Hopefully, we will have many more in the future.


If you've enjoyed reading all about Louie's first ever sleepover, stabling away and how we got on at the BRC Northern Championships, pin the post for others to find! 


  1. Oh man, this sounds like a lovely experience! I would love to do competitions as a team, but Icelandic competition is only individually! And the plaiting was on fleek, by the way!

    1. It was a fantastic experience, and to do it with a horse I've brought on myself made it all that extra bit special!! :)

  2. It sounds like while Louie took everything in stride, he was sure excited to be home after! What a lovely sleepover and experience had by all!

  3. Great report Sophie, love all the detail. He certainly doesn't look like a baby horse!

    1. Thanks Natalie! He's starting to look like a proper horse now, but still got his cutie baby face!! :)


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