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Posted: 7 Feb 2022 - Comments (1)

My birthday present from Mum was funding the Area 12 camp at Wales and West Showground. They had a really good mix of sessions and trainers at great value and it was a fabulous opportunity to progress our winter training. We travelled up on Friday and settled in.

The format was 4 sessions in groups of 3 people and this worked well and in all there were 36 combinations taking part and the feedback overall was fab. Hook up was well priced too so staying in the lorry although chilly was bearable.

Our first session on Saturday was flat work with GP rider and UKCC3 BD trainer - Heather Cumming. She watched us work in and chatted re any specifics we wanted to work on. She clearly picked up on Fliss's tight frame and tried to get me with a softer more forward hand and to really cut the pace so I could then ride her up into the bridle. It is always good to have a different eye and try some different ways of working and Fliss went very sweetly as you will see in the clip.

In the afternoon we had an Arena XC session with Marie Ryan who has ridden to 5* as well as being a popular trainer. She was a trainer I was really looking forward to meeting who didn't disappoint, she had a keen eye and loved Fliss. She had me just raising my stirrups a hole to improve my position. We played with angles, turns as well as jumping in and out the arena. Fliss loved this session and was able to demonstrate how good at these exercises she is. It was great to sharpen us both up.

Fliss was fairly gobsmacked to hear that she had 2 lessons again the next day! However she coped really well and was great on day 2 as well. I think she had a better night than we did, the high winds were interesting and the lorry certainly rocked!

First lesson on Sunday was showjumping, we started with some pole exercises, rode some related distances on a curve and straight and then jumped a course. Emma Slater took this session and was keen that I stopped riding Fliss like a Novice horse and treated her as a grown up by being helping her less in my riding allowing her to do her job. She popped round a decent course at the end but perhaps this lesson didn't really challenge us.

Finally in the afternoon we finished with a gymnastics session with Katie Williams one of BE's first UKCC4 coach. This was a really good session with brain training for both myself and Fliss and the perfect one to finish on. You will see from the video the variety of exercises we did, for me perhaps the biggest learning point of the weekend was how much I look down and how this can effect the way Fliss goes and jumps. I need to learn to use my peripheral vision better and keep my eyes looking up and ahead which will stop my body weight going forward and therefore not allowing Fliss to use herself as well. Something for me to really think about over the next few weeks.


A really great weekend with something out of all the sessions. Also some friends made and the possibilities for future training, I certainly intend to hook up with Marie Ryan again.

Comments (1)

Great to meet and work with you Sarah-Jane and so pleased you enjoyed your session! Fliss is a little star and I’m looking forward to seeing you again soon.


Posted: 1 Feb 2022 - Comments (0)

I have just had a bitting consultation with Charlotte Warman to see if we can improve Fliss's way of going. There is such a vast range of bit, metals, actions etc out there that it is really hard to work out what suits your horse best. By finding the right consultant it can be a huge help. Charlotte works across the full range of bits and is not tied to any one company. Looking in the back of her car there are 100s of bits to try but it is also her knowledge to know what to try. Fliss has been going in a bomber ported bit and the first thing she said was what was my steering like as evidently these aren't always great for this. For me it is an area that could be improved.

Once she assessed Fliss in her current tack also looking carefully at bridle fitting (my Henry James bridle was a good fit) we started trying bits. It was off and on regularly to change but it helps when the horse is very clear what she likes and doesn't like. We settled on a NS Verindend Hunter D ring, the D ring helps the steering and liked the mouthpiece.

This wasn't it as we had been trying a double bridle which was borrowed so we then started putting together a set of bits. We worked on first finding a snaffle bit she liked before then playing with a variety of Weymouth bits. Some you put in her mouth and you knew she hated it so we didn't get on, others she just cramped up in but we soon found some bits she liked. Even then it was strange how such tiny changes can make a huge difference. The last bit we tried just had a mouthpiece at a slightly different angle and it made all the difference. We went for a Aachan Weymouth.

I would highly recommend Charlotte and a bitting consultation,. the session was £65 and no pressure to buy the bits directly although I did.

This is a clip of her going a couple of days later in the new bits.

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Hartpury BS

Posted: 28 Jan 2022 - Comments (0)

Last weekend we went up to Hartpury for a weekend SJ show. It had some nice classes for us as well as huge indoor arena that we just don't get locally. Maybe not the most efficiently run as ran behind both days but good courses so you can't have everything.

On Saturday we jumped the 1.15 for 4fts where we just travelled a bit through the distance and flattened coming out. However, she jumped a super round in the Foxhunter for a lovely double clear for 5th place.

We returned on Sunday after stabling locally (thanks to Hannah French for putting us up). We jumped the Foxhunter straight off, again another good round but marred by a jockey error, I landed a bit short in the distance and added a stride only held a little much and still made the distance long. However really pleased how well she is coping with the decent Foxhunter tracks now.

the plan had been to jump our first 1.25 class, I walked the course and was very happy it was in our capabilities. Unfortunately, though there was an accident in the warm up and that area was out of action leaving only a small holding school beside the main arena. Fliss can struggle in tight warm ups and although horses were being limited it was far from ideal so we called it a day. Fliss was a tad confused having been tacked up and then untacked again.

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Dressage - The Double Bridle

Posted: 16 Jan 2022 - Comments (0)

Dressage perhaps is the phase Fliss and I struggle with most she can be tight and tense particularly at horse trials.

I have been working for a year now with Andrew Lovell and it is fabulous to see the progress we are making and the strength she is developing. Sadly, we don't always show this in competition but I am happy with the progress we are making. In the last month we have been using a double bridle to progress her education. When she struggles, she can slightly run forward and pull me forward, a double bridle just stops this and she learns to go in a better shape using herself better. Will it be a long-term answer - who knows? However, at the moment it is really progressing her education. Competition wise I can use it in Elementary and above at BD and for horse trials at international competitions and Intermediate level tests and above so I have some options going forward.

Yesterday we entered our first BD competition in quite a while at a local venue Duchy College, the main idea was to see how the Double Bridle would work at a competition. It wasn't the best start when I started tacking up to find that the groom (yes me) had despite cleaning failed to pack the girth! I didn't really know anyone competing but luckily being at an Equine College Duchy themselves were able to locate and find me one. Thanks also to 'Joy' whose name was tagged on the girth.

Dramas over I managed to tack up and only a few minutes behind schedule. We had 2 tests to ride Elementary 43 and Elementary 53. The first test wasn't too bad I know it's going to be tight and deep at times but all the movements were executed correctly and in the right place. I was pleased enough with the score of 66.5% to win the silver section and be 2nd overall.

Elementary 53 was a harder test, to be fair no more difficult movements but coming quite quickly together, this test is usually one of her particularly tight tests but actually she tried really hard and improved on the first test for 67.5%. Same placing. When I got the test sheets, we didn't score lower than a 6 in either test or higher than a 7 so consistent.

Very pleased we are progressing the right way and that she is learning a lot from the introduction of a double bridle. I also am on a steep learning curve as I Haven't ridden in a double much and certainly find the aids a little different.

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2022 Goals

Posted: 9 Jan 2022 - Comments (1)

I find goal setting really hard, I am not sure if I am the only one? I'm very lucky that I have set some big goals and achieved them! When I started eventing seriously, I wanted to ride at Intermediate. I have achieved that with bells and whistles have some good placings at that level as well as 2 star (now 3 star, I have ridden at Advanced as well as competed abroad. Realistically I'm not going to top that!

The fact that I am less than 3 years from 50 bothers me, should I still be striving to achieve similar levels, can I actually do so? What is realistic to aim for? Is it safer to aim lower and then less likely to fail or be disappointed? We are told to aim at the stars but I am frightened to do this. I am lucky I have a very talented horse and we have a great partnership; she has the ability to move up the levels in all phases. However, will my confidence do her justice as we move up - will I bottle it?

Practically I am riding as well as I ever have, ok there are a few imbalances related to old injuries but we work round these and I am still motivated to be competitive, probably that is part the problem the competitiveness is important to me, I am not there just to take part.

So, let's just try and set some realistic goals rather than those that will frighten me.

1. Step up confidently to intermediate BE

We are established at Novice level with many double clears and good placings. With a few runs behind us and if everything is going well, we will aim to step up to Intermediate May time. Will work with trainers to make sure we are ready for this (Sarah Thorne / Owen Moore) and take their advice and guidance regarding when we are ready. Dressage and show jumping training will continue but we are already at a level we can compete at Intermediate in these phases.

2. Jump the Grade C at Royal Cornwall

We are consistently jumping 1.20 classes the grade C is 1.25. I would like to generally establish ourselves jumping some 1.25 / 1.30 classes including in some big rings such as Royal Cornwall, Devon County, Bicton and Wales.

3. Compete at Gatcombe Championships BE

We have actually qualified for the Restricted Novice class however if we finish an intermediate section in the top 25% then this qualification is nullified. Much as I would love to compete in this class, my goal of riding at intermediate is more important and I will always be doing the best we can in all phases. We have also qualified for 2x regional finals for the Novice Open championships, this will be very competitive but would be fun to have a go at qualifying, I have never before had any regional qualifications. If we did qualify the championship is at Intermediate level so we would have to be very established at this level.

4 Ride a nice test at Advanced Medium dressage

I couldn't leave out the dressage phase and although not our strong point we are with Andrew Lovell's help making huge progress in this area. We are yet to do a medium test but as Advanced Medium brings in changes and these are established, I see no reason why this isn't realistic. If doing this I want to feel able to win points at the level rather than saying we have done a test. I am still traumatised from my one pervious attempt with Sarnie (who hated dressage) which scored a generous 50%!

5 Enjoy the year

A bit of a funny goal but I have to remember this is my hobby, it cost a lot of money, time and commitment which is fine if it is fun. I need to avoid getting into the cycle when things are too important and results are everything. Progression and achievement will always remain important but I must find ways of not making it the be all and end all. If that is the case and I am not enjoying it then I must not be afraid to step back to a level where it is fun.

Comments (1)

Age is just a number ;-) I am 50 and will be starting my eventing career this year. I have two horses and hope to be competing for many more years and would be nice to get to at least 100, maybe higher.

A judges view - Tips to avoid losing marks in your dressage test (Guest Annabel Darrall-Rew)

Posted: 6 Jan 2022 - Comments (6)

Huge thanks to Annabel Darrall-Rew for putting these pointers together. Annabel is a regular face in the judge's box in the South West both BD and eventing, she has judged me many times and I have also had the pleasure of writing for her which is always a great learning experience. She is currently a list 4 judge working towards list 3, her full biography is at the end of the article.

My view and my hopes sitting as a dressage judge at C - Annabel Darrall-Rew

My starting point. Rhythm, Suppleness and Contact throughout

I am always optimistic that the combination coming down the centre line towards me will do a good test.

To make me happy they need to be straight and have a bend on the turn.

Then there are the shapes which all tests will have. Circles only become smaller as the level of test rises.

I have a template for you to look at to make sense of the shapes I am hoping to see.

Starting any circle from any marker should actually begin the curve at the marker.

Often, I see riders creating corners in 20m circles at A or C (actually much harder to ride!), this means drop of at least 1 if not 2 marks.



10 marks are available for every halt.

  • The halt is required only once in tests at Intro and Prelim.
  • Some of the Novice tests have a halt within them.
  • Elementary tests and above will have more than one halt.
  • If you enjoy freestyle tests there are 2 halts from Intro upwards.

Teach your horse how to halt square at home whenever you want them to stand still. Teach it when you are out hacking. Tacking up, untacking, you get the idea (I taught my horse the word HALT and he became really good at it. In the end all I had to say, under my breath of course, was H, on an outward breath, and he would position himself beautifully.)



Sounds so easy. There is medium walk and free walk on a long (not loose) rein until Medium level so it's very important.

In some tests the free walk mark is doubled!! Both walks need to be clear 4 beat and purposeful. The free walk shows the horse relaxed but happy to cover more ground seeking the contact.



Horses have a natural rhythm and will work more consistently for you if you allow them to find that.

At Novice level the test asks for "some" Medium trot strides.

  • No need to fly out of the corner and run to across the diagonal!
  • The rhythm should be the same as the previous and following trot.
  • Go into the corner, use it. Turn at the marker and look to your destination marker.
  • Then, ALLOW your horse to lengthen his frame and cover more ground. After X bring him back so that he is in balance at the marker and go into the next corner.

Give & Retake. Usually with both reins. What I want to see is a clear release of contact for a couple of strides and a gentle retake. The point is to see that the horse is balancing itself and not relying on you. If the test asks for the inside rein to be given on a circle, then the horse needs to remain bent around the riders inside leg. Often, they drift away from the given rein.


Usually, riders find this easier to balance than the trot work so you can concentrate on the shape your horse is making on bends. When the judge remarks that your horse is on the forehand it is more natural for the horse to put his weight onto the shoulders. However, when you see the top riders, you will see the weight is on the hindquarters and the shoulders come up with each stride.

It takes a long time to go from one to the other and the horse has to develop core strength to achieve it. But no harm in trying 😊


It's all about balance and preparation. Imagine you are on a walking machine in a gym, and someone takes the plug out! You WILL lose balance. However, if you had a prewarning you could manage it with some grace. This applies to upward transitions and downward transitions. Try not to surprise your horse. If you maintain your focus so can your horse.

I am not looking at the rider although of course I see the rider. The horse will tell me what the rider is doing and about their partnership.

Remember to breathe, smile if you can and enjoy. It is meant to be fun!!


About Annabel Darrall-Rew - Profile

When I was 4, I ditched Ballet for horses. We actually had 3 ponies at my unusual school in North London where we also had a Young Farmers' Club. I rode a little Shetland called Morag and our teacher was Sergeant Brunt who came from Imber Court, the Mounted Police training centre at the time.
That was it and I was hooked.

The first 'best day of my life' was 10th October, 1959. (I know!!)
A 5-year-old 13.2 New Forest gelding became mine. I can remember every moment in detail and called him Tommy.
We did absolutely everything together including being part of our Prince Philip Cup team. He lived a long and happy life.

Scroll on some years and in 1986 I became a volunteer Dressage steward at Windsor Park equestrian club. Then I wrote for judges and a couple of them suggested I work towards becoming a Judge.
I wrote and was fortunate to judge unaffiliated classes plus Pony Club, Riding Club and Eventing.

In 1998 I became a List 6 Judge and after a few disasters like Foot and Mouth I upgraded to List 5 in 2003.

2007 I bought a 4-year-old Lusitano gelding which was another 'best day'. We had the best time together although I found competing nerve shredding so I didn't do it for long. I had to let him go in 2021 but have no regrets.

During that time there was some teaching which I love plus lots more judging, writing and training until I passed onto List 4 in 2018. Now I am working towards List 3. I love to Judge and hope that competitors find me to be fair and constructive.

Comments (6)

Really useful post! Thank you.

Thanks, that’s been a really useful read and your comments re. Medium trot echo my instructors and I’m really trying not to run across the diagonal

That is so helpful, thank you. Especially the peice about the halt !

Such a lovely blog and really helpful too! Thank you

Lovely post and very informative

Very interesting reading for me, as a writer for Annabel on many occasions where I have learnt an awful lot.

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