The last month has been something of a whirlwind. The culmination of a busy spring for our super team of horses saw the three babies all jump clear around a very challenging Keysoe.

Fadeline placed 10th at her first 3* at Tweseldown. Another tough Eric Winter course which “Fern” flew around.

Super double clears at Houghton for Calcourt Quantum in the 3* and Dassett Showman in the 2*

It’s very rare that 3/3 phases at an event let alone an international go according to plan so for all 3 to ace their FEI shows was a real boost.

Lucy Jackson at Houghton Horse Trials

We waved sad goodbyes to Hilton Cooley and 5yo Margo Landolt and wish them huge success and happiness in their new homes.

An eagerly anticipated week off for me included a trip to Mull, Jura and Islay. Home via my father in laws birthday and a day at Royal Ascot! So very spoiling indeed!

Back to real life with Robert Snaddon lessons on Tuesday, then 5 babies in the UA Cotswold Cup at Gt Tew tomorrow and on to Farley next week with the “grown ups”.

Finn, Hannah, Justine, Suzie, Mum and Muzi have done an impeccable job on the horses in my absence and we are all excited to see what the summer holds.

Training Bursary Blog: Sarah-Jane Brown Part 6

It has been a difficult year for so many people who have been deeply affected by the COVID pandemic. Job wise as an Environmental Health professional I have been heavily involved ensuring businesses are compliant with COVID regulations by helping and supporting them to get it right, as well as taking appropriate enforcement action for those that blatantly ignore the rules. I am now a webinar expert having co-written and delivered 50 in the last year around COVID topics.

Horse wise we did virtually nothing last year, the highlight was our Dengie training day in January and then we never got to BE event. We did a little show jumping and dressage, but nothing that significant. Sadly my little pocket rocket Ellie developed a bone cyst in her pedal bone, which later in the year required an operation. This was not immediately successful and as I write this she is being dropped off to stud and we will see how she is in 18months. Certainly the way she is moving round the field is encouraging.

I only have Fliss up and riding currently, although I hope to have my 5-year-old homebred back in work soon. Poor Fliss feels therefore she is overworked, saying that she is looking rather well and certainly thriving on her Dengie diet.

In April it was great to finally get out and we started with some dressage. She has improved hugely over the winter and I was looking forward to showing this off. We went to Bicton Arena where the competition was fierce and sadly brought up the rear in one class and were lower middling in the other. Aren’t horses great levellers? She went just a bit tight and tense on me and was sure there was some jumping somewhere! Two days later we were out again at Tall Trees and a much improved performance gave us a double dressage win!

We jumped at Pendarves for a BS show and had double clears and placings in the 1.10 and 1.15. Then the following week after missing the entire 2020 season we finally got out eventing. With the firm ground I was pleased we had chosen Bicton who make such great efforts to get the ground as good as possible for the competitors. We dropped down to BE100 open and this time she did a nice test for a 30. Show jumping wasn’t an issue and we were clear, although a big spook at 2 could have been costly. Cross country was a decent test for the level and ideal for us before we stepped back up to Novice. She flew round for 0.4 of penalty to finish 6th so a really good start.

Horse and rider jumping cross country

Aston was the first Novice since 2019, the day before we had a quick tune up with Owen Moore and arrived at Aston raring to go. I walked the course and it was actually less technical than the 100 at Bicton, although asked some questions, particularly the big jump in the water.

Dressage was on the surface and I thought her test was nice enough and was disappointed to be well down with a mark of 35.3. Watching the test back it was deserved, she just dropped behind the bridle making her very tight in front and her paces were a bit choppy in consequence. I know we can work on this I just have to find the key to relax her and let her lengthen her frame.

Show jumping was unusually for Aston on grass, the ring was quite undulating with the going a bit sticky. Even though Fliss is such a good show jumper, I was a bit worried about this phase as some were having cricket scores with the going and she hasn’t jumped in ground quite like it. I shouldn’t have worried she coped fine and jumped a super clear round.

Cross country I was determined to implement some of the gems I picked up from Sarah Thorne at Rosamund Green a few weeks ago and really went out to get her in front my leg and taking on the fences and moving away. Yes I still added the odd stride where maybe I didn’t need to, but it was far better and Fliss loved the more forward way of going. This perhaps showed with her coming back inside the time to add nothing to her dressage score. You will see her on the video going through the first water, the second she jumped in well and just slightly stumbled on landing, but picked up and jumped the brush well out. She gave me a super ride from start to finish.

We finished on our dressage score for 8th place.

Fliss now has an unbelievable record, which I am careful not to get too hung up about, she has done 10 BE in total including 5 novices and been double clear in every one. Whether or not we extend the streak, to do the first 10 double clear is some feat!

It’s so exciting to be able to finally plan, and I’m hoping that we can go to Hartpury 2 star this year eventing, as well as mix in some show jumping. I’m also looking forward to having Kensa to work with and hope she has some of her mothers talent (Sarnita took me to Advanced).

We have been so incredibly lucky to be included on the Elite Pathway events. This is the third in the series and I am delighted with the improvement in both these two horses.

Calcourt Quantum is a new ride for me while Alice Pearson is on maternity leave! We are beginning to gel as a partnership and we look forward to Weston Park.

Calcourt Quantum and Lucy Jackson

Fadeline is new at this intermediate level and we have relished the opportunity for three steady runs in relatively quick succession.

Both their dressage scores have steadily improved with each outing, at Aston they both showjumped well for four faults each and completed the day with really happy smooth confident cross country rounds without breaking any land speed records!

Fern will look to aim for a three star short later this spring and Mickey hope to run advanced mid May all being well.

Fadeline and Lucy Jackson

It’s hard to comprehend being out and about again so I am making sure I enjoy each and every step of the 2021 season as it unfolds and not risk disappointment by planning too far ahead of myself!

So with only a few weeks to go until we are allowed out of “lockdown” with the horses we can all start to get a little bit excited, especially as we no longer have snow and ice!

horse hacking along country road

As soon as March 29th hits I have sessions with Chris Bartle and Susie Gibson booked in to get the horses primed for a start to the season in the middle of April! Unfortunately my plan of going to Bramham with Candy hasn’t worked out due to them cancelling the event, so plan B is to aim for a 4 star in July/ August and finish the year off at Blenheim!

Popeye will aim for a 2 star mid-season and we will then decide if he’s ready to move up a level. Snip and Nomore will aim for a 2 star by the end of the year hopefully. Callie will make his British Eventing debut in May / June and Heidi will aim to do a few of the 4-year-old Nexgen and BYEH classes if they run this year.

I also have BD regionals to aim for with Candy and Snip  in June (which should have been in January). Despite the uncertainty over events running or not, we still have lots to look forward to and work towards! I can’t wait to get back out Eventing! I have to say the horses are all look amazing at the minute, especially Candy who is always hard to keep weight on – I think the lack of Eventing last year actually did her a favour in some ways! The Dengie diet of Alfa-A Oil or Healthy Tummy, with Performance+ Balancer has been great over the winter!

I can’t wait to be able to blog again, with actual updates from real shows!

Horse's topline

The ponies have been back in work since the beginning of December after their break out in the field. For the first few weeks they were just hacking out, gradually building up the distance and the trot work. Then from the beginning of January I started to introduce some light schooling sessions a few times a week and then a little bit of pole work and jumping. Both ponies are now quite fit and will be more than ready for the event season when it does get started!

As sadly there have been no competitions, I thought I would tell you how I have been spending lockdown #3, fitting in doing the ponies with online school lessons and what a typical day looks like for me.

horse and riding hacking down countrylane

My alarm goes off at 6.15am and I am usually out on the yard by 6.30am. I’m very lucky that I am able to keep my ponies at home – they are literally outside the back door!! The first job is to do feeds, there are 8 feeds to make-up in total – my 2 ponies, my mums 2 horses, a broodmare and 3 youngsters. They are all fed Dengie diets. Annie, the broodmare, and the 3 youngsters have Alfa-A Original, Alfa-Beet and Performance + Balancer. The 2 good-doers on the yard, Bracken and Jonny, have Dengie Hi Fi Molasses Free with Performance+ Balancer. Smartie tends to drop weight quite easily so he is fed Dengie Alfa-A Molasses Free with Alfa-Beet and Performance+ Balancer, and Cougar, our oldest horse at 23 years, loves Dengie Performance Fibre with Alfa-Beet and Performance+ Balancer. They also all have some salt added to their feeds, the horses get 1 tablespoon per day and the ponies get 1 dessert spoon per day.

Once they have all had their breakfasts, they get a small haynet of haylage whilst they are mucked out. My mum and I share the mucking out between us and then when it’s done we go for a run with our dog.

After running I have my breakfast and then get ready to start online lessons at 8.45am. My mum then goes back out to the yard and gives the horses their morning haynets and turns out some of the horses. During the winter the youngsters stay in a big barn and the other horses and ponies get turned out for a few hours each day either in the morning or afternoon depending on when they are going to be ridden. I then usually try and ride one of the ponies at lunchtime, either a schooling sessions or a 45 minute hack. At lunchtime I also skip out and do lunch haynets before having my lunch ready to start afternoon lessons.

My school day finishes at 3.20pm and I then ride the other pony that didn’t get ridden at lunchtime. We then do evening feeds between 5.30 and 6pm before mucking out and topping up hay. Most of them get ad-lib hay except for Bracken and Jonny who have to have theirs rationed and soaked to reduce the sugar levels! The others all have steamed hay. I like to give the yard a good sweep and tidy-up before I finish so I’m usually back inside by 7pm. My mum will then go back out later before she goes to bed to do late checks and top them all up with more hay.

Recently we have had some really cold freezing weather so we have also been offering the horses warm water several times a day to make sure they don’t get dehydrated. Some of them really love it, especially the youngsters who get very excited when they see the yellow water bucket. For the ones who are less keen we put an apple in the water to encourage them to play with the water. Adding salt to their feeds also encourages them to drink.

I am now very much looking forward to some dry and warmer weather, so that the ponies and horses can all go out more. I am also very excited for the start of Eventing!! Hopefully next time I blog I will have some events to report on and things will be starting to get back to normal.

I thought I would take the opportunity to look back as well as forward to the year ahead. I certainly don’t think 2020 was anything like I imagined this time last year. The biggie has been COVID-19 which has affected us all in many ways and obviously curtailed what we have been able to do with the horses. For me it meant no eventing, with being based in West Cornwall the uncertainty of what would happen, the travel, the limited training opportunities and the need to stay away frequently, alongside the pressure of the job made eventing for me impractical.

My job has changed both in role and intensity, my normal role was a Health and Safety Inspector dealing with accidents, workplace inspections and safety concerns. A job I was confident in and fitted nicely around the equine plans. I am now helping lead a team tackling the COVID-19 response in the Council. This involves primarily working with businesses to advise on what COVID-19 safety measures they should be undertaking, responding to complaints and ensuring, where practical and needed, we enforce on those businesses not complying with the rules in terms of COVID-19 secure measures or being open when they shouldn’t be.

horse showjumping

The horses for the little they have done have gone well. In 2020 British Showjumping, Fliss jumped 12 classes and had 9 double clears and 9 placings, including a super double clear in the Foxhunter at Pendarves. For Ellie it was a different story, only jumping 3 classes, but winning her last one before injury came to the fore.

We have also really moved to the dark side and not only registered for British Dressage, but had a dabble with Dressage to Music qualifying for the national BRC dressage championships and not disgracing ourselves at Elementary level. Fliss also gained 14 points in 3 classes and a huge 72% in her music at the close of the year. Certainly for the moment it looks like dressage will be the most accessible to continue with under the tighter COVID-19 restrictions in the short term.

There has been some great training. I was lucky at the beginning of the year to have some great sessions with Hannah Esberger-Hancock and Lucy Jackson at Vale View, through becoming a Dengie Ambassador; that was an inspiring start to the year (that never was). I have continued to travel to Owen Moore at Lyneham Heath who has really helped us develop and continue my regular flatwork training with sponsor Stef Eardley, who had some good news of her own this year when she became the new Para Podium Potential Pathway Mentor Coach for British Equestrian.

Sadly Ellie developed a strange intermittent lameness – one day she was fine (usually the day the vet came) and a few days later crippled. We eventually diagnosed a bone cyst which needed an operation to place a screw in the foot that took place in October. We have worked hard to bring her back into work, but sadly things have just not settled down and the decision has been made to give her 18 months off and review again. This does give her an opportunity for a change of career and in April she will be off to stud, where she is being loaned to a friend to have a foal. Much as I would like to breed one myself, I don’t have the time or facilities to do it myself.

xray of horses hoof

Ellie has always been special to me, my 14.2hh pocket rocket that has helped me through a confidence crisis and been a real over achiever. The first time I jumped her and she crabbed sideways through a few fences I wondered what I had bought. Yet she has won two BE100s, jumped clear round adult Newcomers and won points at Elementary. I do hope she can come back to work and maybe teach a deserving child the ropes.

My only homebred to date Kensa was 4 in 2020 and huge thanks to Mel Hennah for doing a super job backing her. She was still quite weak, so has been turned away until 2021 when hopefully she will come back into work and start her ridden career for proper.

young horse being backed

The other huge change has been a change in location. We have always struggled with the travel element of the horse sport, being based only 25 miles from Lands End. While we explored some big ideas of relocating to Scotland, instead we made a slightly smaller hop from one end of the County to another. We are now based on the Devon/Cornwall border 50 miles closer to most places. At the moment we are in temporary accommodation and I have the unknown luxury of having the horses outside the door, not only that but I have the use of a school which is an amazing facility that I have not had access to before on-site. We are currently waiting for the proposed purchase of a property at Lawhitton (nr Launceston) to complete and move in, hopefully in another month.

So time to look ahead, I have already mentioned that Kensa will be joining me in the Spring/Summer. Realistically I feel COVID-19 will be around for the first part of this year and guidance is still not to travel out of your area. Training to get ready for the season will be difficult, so we will probably tick over with dressage and show jumping once lockdown is lifted and wait for the way ahead to become a little clearer. As horses are not my living it is easier for me to make this decision and I am very aware of the implications of spreading such a nasty virus. When so many people are struggling and lives have been lost it seems selfish to be so frustrated that we can’t do more, particularly with Fliss missing a couple of what should be her peak years, and I am nearer 50 than 40.

Fingers crossed the COVID-19 vaccinations kick in quickly, people generally remember the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ message and that we can get back to doing what we love best soon.

Huge thanks to all my sponsors and supporters, I feel I haven’t really given them the exposure and time I would have liked this year and really appreciate them continuing to work with me going forwards.

Wow what a year 2020 was  – I thought I would round up the events of this difficult and frustrating year. However, through it all my horses haven’t failed to make me smile, what would we do without them?

Last year started with a bang with me discovering that I had been awarded the amazing bursary with Dengie. What a dream it was to go up to ValeView for the amazing training day with Hannah and Lucy.

Moving on to post lockdown…I had a great time in August passing my Pony Club B test, thorough knowledge of feeding helped here, thanks Dengie! B+ here we come.

Next we had an amazing run at Borde Hill where we flew round the course making it feel a piece of cake; for a double clear inside the time in the BE90.

A week later, it was the NSEA Eventers Challenge Championship; CiCi jumped a fantastic round to help the team come 5th.

Later on that day we had our first 105cm Show Jumping class where CiCi blew me away, exceeding all my expectations only to have an unfortunate 4 faults round a tricky course. Our team finished on 4 faults but WON, qualifying for the Winter Championships – they were unfortunately cancelled.

On to September, Hunter trial season. It was great fun doing the pairs with my friend on her other horse Rosie, o weekend at East Byshee and the next at Rackham, second both weekends. I also had CiCi at Rackham for our first 100 cross country and she jumped round clear, but were having so much fun we forgot it was optimum time so we were a tad fast.

horse galloping

Later on in September was our last BE run of the season at Munstead for our first BE100. She was amazing and produced a sweet test followed by a double clear inside the time, I was so proud of her.

Finally October, which brought my birthday, I was very lucky to sneak in a fab beach ride with some friends before lockdown arrived. We had the most amazing time, the beach is definitely one of my favourite places to ride.

Beach Ride

Then lockdown hit, CiCi had her winter break a little early, and thanks to Dengie’s feed teams help, we dropped her feed quantity and changed her to Dengie Healthy Tummy and Alfa-Beet whilst she wasn’t working.

During Cici’s break, I had the pleasure of taking one of Kings Hill Equestrians young horses to a Pony Club rally, which was a great experience. Then due to a friend self isolating, I had the pleasure of riding her lovely horse Roy, who taught me loads as he is the polar opposite of CiCi to ride.

In December, I finally ticked something off my bucket list… Side Saddle. Wow what a completely different experience and how difficult!

CiCi has maintained her condition this winter thanks to her Dengie diet. What an amazing year it’s been.

Side Saddle

If you sit and watch the trot up at Burghley or Badminton, it is quite clear that event horses come in all shapes and sizes. The perfect event horse is an amalgamation of many things, with the common denominator being that they all have the heart of a lion. We speak to Samantha Hobbs (CCI4* Event Rider) and ask her what she looks for when buying a young horse to event.

What to look for when buying a young horse to event

People’s preferences are personal, but if given the brief to go and find a young horse that I would be excited to produce for the upper levels, temperament and trainability would be top of my list. The horse has got to have something in them which makes them want to be a doer.

I prefer a horse with a good amount of TB in their breeding, for stamina and speed and it makes them light enough in their confirmation to help with soundness. Mixed with some proper jumping blood; a horse with plenty of scope will get himself out of trouble far easier than one that is lacking!

Choosing between an unbacked or backed horse

I love getting a just backed horse (as long as they’ve been backed properly) I don’t want to be a crash test dummy anymore and the guys that break in well are truly fantastic horse people. The horse is then happy and accepting of a rider, but are ultimately a blank canvas. It is far harder to retrain a horse when they’ve been taught incorrectly and for me, there is no greater feeling than producing a horse yourself. The satisfaction of building a proper bond with a horse and producing them right from the start means you are involved in every bit of their journey.

How to start a young horse’s event training

The super young horse in the photo below (owned by Mrs Sheenagh Mudford) was broken in at the start of his 4th year and produced to sell at an Irish auction. We loved his free, easy movement and seemingly relaxed outlook on life. He is light on his feet and has a desire to jump. We were aware that his education may have been slightly fast tracked to prepare him for the auction and therefore we have taken time to go back to basics.

young event horse

At the moment, his week is varied and not too intense – he is only 4 after all! He will hack a couple of times, have a lunge and do some gymnastic work in the school. Most days he will do some pole work of some kind, either at the end of a hack or end of a lunge/schooling session. I really feel it helps to improve hoof/brain co-ordination and help develop his core. He will often do 2 days of work, followed by a day off or some walking in-hand in a rope training aid to help with correct posture incorporating poles.

horse walking over poles

I’m very fortunate to be based at a wonderful yard with hundreds of acres of off-road hacking, there are lots of hills and basic XC jumps. Toby will hack out a few times a week – mostly walking up and down the undulations, interspersed with short stints of trot. When the ground dries out a bit, I will start playing over small logs and up and down the steps – all in a relaxed, no pressure way. I want him to enjoy his work.

Just before Christmas I hired an arena which was unfamiliar to him and helped me assess where he is in his education, how much he is affected by being somewhere different and what I need to do with him at the start of this year. He had a couple of weeks off over Christmas and into the New Year. I’m a great believer in doing blocks of work and then giving them a mini break- a great opportunity for them to begin to understand what is being asked of them, chance to work it out and then get confident doing it, followed by a chance to rest their minds as well as their bodies.

horse jumping

The aim for this horse this year will be to successfully contest the Burghley Young Event Horse classes/NextGen series and the British Eventing 5yo classes. To prepare for this there will be Show Jumping and XC schooling outings, followed by unaffiliated Dressage and Show Jumping competitions to get him used to working alongside other horses in a collecting ring whilst still remaining focused on the job in hand. The BYEH classes act as a great combined training events – a fantastic stepping stone to contesting their first events late spring/early summer.

Nutrition is key for the Performance Horse

Different horses need different amounts of preparation and exposure, but one thing I insist on for all of my horses is plenty of time out in the field and a good, balanced diet. The Dengie Nutrition team have been fantastic in helping me compile the perfect rations for the different horses on my yard, which have kept them looking and feeling fantastic.

This lad enjoys a diet of Dengie Alfa-A Oil, Alfa-Beet and Performance+ Balancer, split over 3 feeds throughout the day. It provides him with high quality fibre to help promote top line and slow-release energy – enough for the job in hand with no unrequired extra moves!

As well as talent, good training and remaining injury free, a lot of luck is needed to succeed in the wonderful sport of Eventing, but giving your young horse a solid all-round education and a balanced, quality diet is a great place to start.

For further information or friendly feeding advice, contact the Dengie Nutrition Team on 01621 841188 or click here to complete our Feed Advice Form.

Globally, soil represents a reservoir of carbon twice as high as that of the atmosphere. Good healthy soil also aids yields without the need for as many artificial inputs. For plants, their connection with the soil is through their roots and we thought we would share some fascinating facts about roots, soil and plants!

Hand holding soil

Trees and shrubs have the deepest rooting depths with an average of 7metres. Some tropical trees can grow roots to between 20 and 50 metres! Grass and cereals have roots of about 2-2.5m – Some of these differences relate simply to how long the plants are in the ground for – cereals tend to be annuals and so don’t get long to put down roots whereas trees may be decades old. Apple trees have been shown to extend their roots by about 1 metre per year

Alfalfa also has really deep roots – in some case they reach 4 or 5 metres. This is what makes it drought tolerant but they also help to put organic matter back into the soil and help to stop it from becoming compacted.

Certain minerals are more abundant further down the soil layers. Calcium is one mineral that has higher levels below 1m which may explain why alfalfa is so abundant in calcium – its roots are able to reach parts that other plants can’t.

Why would we want more plants with deeper roots?

If we get hotter and drier conditions due to climate change, plants with deeper roots will be better able to cope with these conditions so there is less risk of crop failures. There is some suggestion that is yet to be proven, that deeper roots may enhance carbon input into deeper soils which may help carbon capture.

Another benefit of alfalfa in addition to its deep roots is the fact that it is a legume. This means it has a symbiotic relationship with soil-dwelling bacteria. The bacteria take nitrogen from the air in the soil and feed this nitrogen to the legumes; in exchange the plant provides carbohydrates to the bacteria.

Alalfa Plant Horse Feed

Just as in our digestive systems, a healthy population of bacteria in the soil helps it to remain healthy and productive. The bacteria are an important part of the nutrient recycling process taking organic matter and decomposing it into its structural parts. We see the benefits of growing alfalfa in our yield data.

Dengie is based in Essex but we work closely with another farming estate in Lincolnshire too which is where our second production site is based. Their records show that over the last 40 years, the only areas on the estate that have shown improved yields of cereals are where the alfalfa is grown in rotation. We attribute this to the benefits alfalfa has on the bacteria and levels of nutrients in the soil.

Additional environmental benefits of alfalfa include the fact that it is in the ground for 3 to 4 years and so there is no-tilling of the soil for that time which helps to keep carbon locked up
Alfalfa is a bushy plant and when established it helps to smother some weeds. As important is our harvest cycle – because we start cutting in April and May we take weeds out before they can seed and become further established. As weeds like blackgrass become resistant to herbicides, this physical management of the crops becomes ever more important.

The last time I blogged the event season had finally started and although I had been balloted from the first few events I had entered both ponies managed a run at Launceston and Bracken had also had a run at Dauntsey.

Our next event was the BE80 at Moreton with Smartie. It was a swelteringly hot day and our times were in the afternoon during the heat of the day! I much prefer morning times as I like to get up and get going! Anyway, Smartie did a much improved dressage test to score 27 (I think he felt it was just too hot to throw in any extra moves!!), a lovely clear show-jumping round and then he flew round the cross-country although we did pick up a few time penalties for going too fast (whoops!!) to finish in 7th place. He felt so happy and confident at this level that we decided he was now ready to step up and do a 90.

Girl and horse competing Cross Country

My next event was at West Wilts with both ponies this time. Bracken was doing the Open U18 BE90 and Smartie was doing his first 90. The weather could not have been more different from Moreton, it was wet, windy and cold!! Bracken was one of the first to go in the U18 section and she did a good dressage test, followed by clear rounds in the show-jumping and cross-country. She didn’t seem to be bothered by the awful weather and made the XC feel easy, confirming our thoughts that she was ready to step up to 100 level. By the time Smartie came to do his dressage test the weather had got worse (if that was possible!?) and the ground had become quite muddy and slippery. He did a good dressage test, a clear round in the show-jumping and then flew round a very muddy cross-country course to finish clear and inside the time despite losing a shoe, to finish 9th! I was so happy with him for his first attempt at 90 level and in such difficult conditions.

So then it was back to Launceston again for mine and Brackens first go at BE100!! I was quite nervous but knew that Bracks was ready for it. We didn’t do the best dressage test, but my focus was on the jumping! The show-jumping course was big and quite spooky and Bracks went a bit green at the start so I really had to pick her up and ride her. She responded well and ended up jumping a lovely clear round. Then it was onto the XC which looked huge, and the ground had got quite deep and muddy in places causing a fair few problems. I was really nervous but once we were out of the start box and over the first few fences I knew that Bracks was up for it and I started to really enjoy it. I was so pleased to go clear with just some time faults, Bracks had given me such a fantastic ride round a course which was the biggest and toughest either of us had ever done!

Next up was our local event at Pontispool. Smartie was doing the 90 and Bracks in the 100. Both ponies performed well with Bracken doing a double clear and Smartie just had a pole in the show-jumping, but both finished in the top 20 in their sections. Smartie then had 2 more runs at Bricky and Bovington before the end of the season. He has been growing in confidence with every event and at Bricky he did a lovely dressage test for 28 and despite having a pole down in the show-jumping he flew round a long and tricky cross-country to finish clear and inside the time for 5th place! We then went to Bovington the following weekend where he ended the season with a fab double clear and another top 10 placing!!

Bracken was due to have her last run of the season at Calmsden but she picked up a slight injury after Pontispool so we decided not to run her again as she had done 2 great runs at her first 100 events. I am so excited for next season with Bracken when hopefully we will step up to Novice level and do some Pony Trials. We will be working hard on our dressage over the winter months as that is our weakest phase – Bracks won’t be too pleased to hear that, dressage isn’t her favourite phase!

Smartie finished the season off with a couple of days intensive training at a Pony Trials camp. It was a very wet few days but I really enjoyed it and we had some great instruction as well as making some new friends. It was a great learning experience for Smartie too and he was a super boy throughout.

So now the ponies are on a break from work. They all get turned out for 3 or 4 weeks which means I have a break from mucking-out and it’s an opportunity to re-paint the stables and give the yard a good clean and tidy, but I do miss riding them!

Although it hasn’t been a normal event season I am so grateful that I did get the opportunity to do some competitions and I couldn’t be happier with the ponies. Both of them stepped up a level and performed really well giving me great confidence for next season. They have looked and felt fantastic thanks to their Dengie diets and I am so grateful to Dengie Horse Feeds for all their support. Roll on next season (hopefully coronavirus free!!)!!

Maisie Randle and her ponies