April 6th I came to the barn early in order to help Francesca do morning chores in Mark’s barn. The rest of the crew had gone to Lark Hill horse trials with quite a few horses competing. Lucky Rafa gets to ride and compete some of Mark’s horse while he is away, not that I’m jealous or anything. After breakfast the horses normally go on the walker for a bit while we muck their stalls. Then we bring them back in and turn out the ones that are meant to go out and ride the rest. It was Ella’s birthday brunch back at the house so I left after mucking my own horse out and snuck away for a fabulous meal.

When I got back around lunch time it was time to ride Leonidas (aka Leo). I was pretty pumped that I got to ride him again this year. He is not in full work yet so I was told to do 25 mins light flat work. Having ridden him last year when he was being worked hard by Mark was quite a different experience to riding him this year. He was happy and relaxed while I groomed him outside in the sunshine. Looked half asleep, in fact.

I got on and headed to the ring. Along the way he looked quite hard at a rubber mat that lays over a drain on the way to the hot walker, which I took note of, but didn’t think anything of. Once in the ring his weak pace picked up considerably and he was alert. There is a small embankment on one long side of the ring with lots of pretty hedges with blossoms. You have the mirrors along the short side, walker on the next long side and turn out paddocks on the last short side. I needed to lengthen my stirrups (Francesca has been in the saddle not Mark) and I halted Leo in the center of the ring. He was very aware of the birds in the hedges behind him so I only adjusted one stirrup facing that way before turning him around to adjust the other. We spent a lot of time walking and even when I began trotting we did many walk transitions until he started to relax. That took a solid 20 mins. I added a little canter at the end and then stretched him in walk. I remember how wiggly he was last year and he’s a bit better this year, but you can’t move your hands. His back felt so high sometimes I thought we were on our tip toes.

Maclaren (aka Mac) was enjoying his turn out peacefully in the small paddock behind the mirrors. That is until he saw an opportunity present itself in the form of Leo and I. He would trot behind the mirrors when we got to that end and then pop out the other side trying to surprise Leo. I stroked Leo’s mane and told him there were extra treats in it for him if he paid no attention to the devil munchkin. The bribery worked Leo kept his cool, Mac gave up the shenanigans and I stayed on top!

Ann and I went to get our horses out of the field and immediately the sun went away. It was lovely and sunny while I was stuffing my face as well as for Leo’s ride, but as soon as I put my foot in the stirrup it inevitably goes dark and miserable outside. We had already decided to go on a hack along the Ridgeway path so that’s what we did. It’s no where near as muddy as it was last year so the pathway up the hill on the opposite side of the drive way was good. Another bonus was when we got to the top of that path the field on our right that had the sheep in it last year was sans sheep 🙌 (aka danger floofs). Woody was much happier about this.

The horses were really good and we got some fabulous views and pictures. We met quite a few hikers and dog walkers, but no other horses. Turning around and walking the same pathway back made the horses a little bit feisty, but we managed to keep it together all the way home. I took Woody for two canters on the all weather gallop, which we enjoyed immensely. He wasn’t quite as spooky as last year. A little zig zaggy at the start spooking at cross country jumps in the hedge etc., but overall he was better then last year. The small bench on the side about halfway up seems to have been removed and last year he was convinced that was a demon in disguise. I spent a long looking after him. Gave him a nice warm bath and cleaned his tack while I waited for his ice boots to finish icing.

April 7th Sunday Funday! Ann kindly fed the horses and turned them out early before heading in my direction. Today we were off on an adventure to Aston Le Walls to cheer on my cousin

Selena's cousin Alexander and his mare River.

Selena’s cousin Alexander and his mare River.

at his first event with his horse River. He’s had her for two years and I had the pleasure of riding her last year and teaching him a little on her. She’s a big beautiful nine-year-old grey mare. As a five-year-old I think she did some competing with her previous owner, but this was Alex’s first event with her. I’ve been to Aston before a long time ago when the USA team trained there. It’s completely different looking now with all weather footing arenas that they do “arena eventing” in. Two warm up rings, one larger and the other smaller but with mirrors like Mark’s. Five dressage rings going as well as a show jumping ring. The show jump ring was sit so that there was room for a warm up area. It was an interesting set up with six warm up fences, three on either side. Flagged so that you jumped them towards the fence line going away from the center of the ring on both sides. The course itself was pretty tuff for novice level horses and riders. The first fence was an oxer right next to the in gate with a spooky brown filler underneath. Bending line left away from the in gate to #2, that cause the most trouble.

Alex, unfortunately, gained six points for taking his whip into dressage, but the test was really good. In show jumping she was super brave and only had one rail. It was a vertical no ground line that she got too close to. Then River made up for it by really rocking back and trying hard out over the one stride combination. Cross country had a hill that the announcers booth was on which was great for spectating. So Ann and I bundled up in one of River’s blankets, stood at the top of the hill ready to video and cheer. Apparently River can be a bit naughty at water so we were anxious to see what she did at the water near the end of the course. There seemed to be a lot of problems at the beginning of the course for many riders, but not for Alex. They were rocking it across the fields looking good. The ditch was plonked randomly in the middle of a field with a pretty tight turn left to another jump. I don’t think River knew it was coming and, therefore, it caught her by surprise. She ended up stopping, but circled around and hopped straight over. She looked awesome the rest of the way gaining confidence as she went. Cantered right into the water no hesitation and finished the course beautifully. All in all a brilliant first event for the pair and I’m sure there’ll be winning ribbons in now time!

Ann and I began the trek home. Not before going 20 mins the wrong direction on the M40. We were 40 mins later getting back than intended but still managed to squeak in a ride on our horses. I was just doing light work with Woody seeing as how he galloped the day before. I set up some pole exercises for us to do in the ring. Snow had his birthday the day before and was really well behaved in Ann’s lesson. I think Snow is really enjoying England and it shows in his work ethic. His canters were the best I’ve seen him do for anyone. Then we did downwards transitions from canter to trot and straight into the poles. They aced that so I decided to make it more challenging. Now we did trot poles, pick up canter on the circle back to trot and do the poles again. Ann improved the upwards transitions to canter by five marks I’d say. 🙌

Woody felt great after his canters the day before. He wasn’t tired or flat feeling and trotted the poles really well. Then I spent time doing serpentines with flying changes. Working on keeping both canter leads the exact same. Same quality, rhythm and step. I looked in the mirrors when I could to see that the flying changes were the same too. Same quality, clean and expression. Then a little stretchy trot for him before heading back to the barn. After work we put them on the walker for 15 mins while we cleaned up.

At night I did the Major League eventing podcast interview with Rob and Karen. It was a fun relaxed interview all about promoting the rider. So helpful and kind of them to try and aid us as riders in our endeavors. Hopefully it will air next week. In time to advertise the “Selena & Woody to Badminton 2019 silent auction” that’s going on Facebook till April 15th. Go online and bid on some of the fabulous prizes and donations. There’s something for everyone on there it’s amazing. Huge thank you to my supporters, sponsors and fans. Teamwork makes the dream work.