Our lovely competition winner Vicky Mather and the gorgeous Jason at our Piggy French training weekend. If your heading out this weekend don’t forget to tag us with #ChampionEquestrian on your adventure
Our lovely competition winner Vicky Mather and the gorgeous Jason at our Piggy French training weekend. If your heading out this weekend don’t forget to tag us with #ChampionEquestrian on your adventure
Travelling the short journey from Grantham, Lincolnshire to Maidwell, Northamptonshire was quite surreal. As an Event Rider I have grown up admiring Piggy French. I have watched her represent Great Britain at the European Eventing Championships and the World Equestrian Games. I have followed her to Burghley and Badminton Horse Trials and I have hung off her every word during interviews. And here I was about to spend a weekend at her stables receiving tuition on my own event horse.
The opportunity came about because I entered a competition organised by Champion and Toggi. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be selected; when Champion contacted me to say I had won one of three coveted places elated would have been an understatement.
Maidwell Lodge Farm is quite simply impressive. We were greeted by Sian from Champion and shown to our stable, a suite I believe it would have been referred to had it been a hotel. Needless to say the stable was an instant hit with my eventer, Arty.
With Arty settled we were welcomed to the Owners Rooms where I was presented with a gigantic box of Champion and Toggi products. Feeling every bit the celebrity I was fitted with a Titanium Ti22 back protector, a Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap and an Evolution Puissance Riding Hat along with an array of Toggi equestrian and country clothing. The body protector fitted like a glove and the Aberford Ladies Riding Coat was so incredibly warm and with adjustable zips at the back it lends itself perfectly to riding in sub-zero winter temperatures.
Fully kitted out it was time to find out if I had all the gear and a little idea, but not before we were introduced to the lady herself and had an insightful tour of the state-of-the-art facilities. Piggy was hugely welcoming and answered question after question. With her seasoned eventers in the fields having a well deserved holiday her stables were being occupied by youngsters at varying stages of their careers. Piggy spoke in detail about the path she had trodden in her quest to reach the dizzying heights she has scaled.
Our first lesson was show jumping. Arty, who is usually horizontally laidback came out like a newly backed youngster. Allowing him to settle Piggy assured me that ignoring him and keeping him forward was the best thing to do. Once settled, we began jumping. Having been a show jumper before turning to Eventing, Arty can get very strong through his neck and can try to take charge meaning he can run into the bottom of fences and not allow sufficient room to get his shoulders out of the way. To help combat this Piggy suggested a halt and rein back between each fence to instil that he must wait and listen. By the end of our lesson Arty jumped the course sweetly and I felt I had learnt a lot from listening to Piggy’s approach in training horses. During my lesson I wore my Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap which was super comfy and left me confident I had supreme protection.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent watching the two other winners lessons. It was a hugely insightful listening to the different approaches Piggy took depending on the horse’s age, experience and temperament.
As day turned to night we tucked the horses up and left them recharging their batteries ahead of day two.
Sunday started with Arty enjoying a pick of grass; the view was phenomenal……
Our first lesson was dressage. After explaining to Piggy that Arty can occasionally drop behind my leg resulting in tests lacking power and suppleness, Piggy explained the need to make the most of my warm up with lots of transition but also not to over-do it. She suggested if Arty is feeling forward to keep him happy and not to bore him. After riding through the BE100 Championship Test Piggy commented on the need to be really accurate, especially in trot-walk-trot transitions as the judge is likely to harshly penalise in-accuracy. I felt I took a lot away from having the chance to ride through a test without the pressure of a competition environment; to then get feedback before riding the test again was invaluable. Problems were easily ironed out allowing me to focus on how to pick up those all important marks.
The afternoon saw the arena have a transformation with XC style fences replacing the dressage boards.
With protection firmly in the forefront of my mind I wore my Titanium Ti22 back protector which is extremely lightweight and not at all restrictive which gets a big tick in my book. Â I also wore my cerise pink Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap which perfectly matches my XC colours.Â
Piggy focused of lines and angles, in particular picking a line and sticking to it explaining you have to be disciplined with your own riding so the horse understands the question. Piggy also set up other commonly seen cross country fences asking us to lengthen and shorten the horses stride depending on the type of question being asked and the accuracy required which is hugely beneficial for safe cross country riding.Â
In organising this weekend Champion and Toggi have advanced my eventing career enormously. The learning journey has been phenomenal and I feel truly inspired as to what I can achieve in the future.
The Champion body protector, skull cap and riding hat I wore is now an essential part of my everyday and competition riding attire. Safety is paramount and I am confident that Champion cannot be surpassed in this department. Comfort and style also exceeded the competition. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Champion.
I spent the last two months of 2016 setting up my new yard which has been exciting and terrifying in equal measures – a huge learning curve and an enormous amount of hard work which has enabled me to be where I am now, with a fantastic support team behind me and some amazing facilities.
This also meant I was starting out which means from scratch. Alongside having a handful of liveries and teaching to help fund the expensive train, I seem to have somehow gained some amazing owners (plus retained some very loyal long term ones) who have enabled me to have this exciting team of young horses that I have been quietly been brining on this year.
So, the 2017 eventing season has drawn to a close.
It has been a funny old year, it started for the first time in many years without my long time partner Bump (Country Bumpkin) as I felt at the end of last year his physical problems meant that I couldn’t ask him to push on to 3*.
He is such a lovely horse that I know he would have tried to do it for me but it simply wasn’t fair to ask so we let him go off on loan for the season to teach a lovely under 18 girl the ropes, and hopefully take her to the Pony Club championships (which they achieved and in true Bump form, with interesting dressage and cracking jumping!)
Coming up behind Bump and poised to take my attention away from him going was Christine Ashby’s Ralph (Rittersporn) who is a very exciting 10 year old who I had in to sell in January 2016. He is a horse who has huge paces, with attitude to match and had barely jumped before he arrived with me as his character had come between him and his talent.
He was so talented and scopey that Christine Ashby agreed to buy him for me to compete and he was jumping round his first BE Novice by July 2016, plenty of work followed and we really believed that 2017 was to be his year.
He was getting better and better, we were looking at his first intermediate run when he picked up an injury at Chatsworth (after the most amazing round on perfect ground) following pulling off a shoe two from home in the 1* which put him out for the rest of the season. Heart-breaking, but as I have already learned with horses that’s life.
Austin (Power of Dreams) has come such a long way since he first arrived, you wouldn’t recognise him which is huge credit to his owner, veterinary physio extraordinaire Antonia Bealby. She has put a huge amount of time into turning into the horse he is today (when he arrived he could hardly trot or canter, let alone jump!).
We have taken our time with him, but he’s really stepped up to the mark going BE in July and even getting a win at Frickley Park finishing on his dressage of 28 (had he been able to be competitive in a BE90 class and I, completely fairly, have to ride HC at BE90 having ridden at advanced). He will show-jump and dressage through the winter and be aimed for novice next season all being well!
Pocket (Warren Hills Pocket Rocket) came to me to bring on and do a few 5 year old classes while her owner’s daughter was travelling. She was a joy to have around, very talented and I’m sure I will see her out next season doing brilliantly.
Lady (Savi Rose) is a lovely 5 year old who was only backed in the spring so has been taken very slowly, only doing a few unaffiliated events.I am really quite excited about her, so watch out for her next season.
Maple (Billy Maple) is a 4 year old who is owned half by my landlady and half by my marketing guru… No pressure there then!
Seriously though, I am absolutely privileged to be given the opportunity to bring on this very special mare who came from the Billy Stud and, to date, is showing us all why Billy horses are world class, she has been out to a few show jumping training shows and a couple of hunter trials and has not put a foot wrong, and simply shown her class.
Max (Quiet Approach) is (hopefully!) another future superstar. He is a 4yo ex racehorse, he raced once but was such a slow old boat they quit while they were ahead! It is not entirely surprising as he is 4 and just shy of 17hh, gangly and gorgeous but very weak, as you would expect for a horse of that age and that size.
He is syndicated (still a few shares available!) and we are hoping he may have matured enough next year to compete 5yo classes but if we feel he hasn’t we won’t push him. So far he has been out to a couple of very low key unaffiliated competitions where he has jumped beautifully and been so laid back and well behaved.
In July I was offered the ride on a lovely mare Dolly (Doctor’s Orders) owned by a very busy vet whose work commitments and career progression meant she simply didn’t have time to do this very smart mare justice. I only competed her twice this season at Novice but think so much of this horse that I think next season she may well surprise us all.
Earlier on in the year I was asked to show jump a horse who I had ridden from a 4 year old, just over from Ireland, up to BE Novice then jumped up to Foxhunter when it was decided that his talents lay in the show jumping route.
Wexford (PLS Halo Diamond) then went on to a pro Showjumper who developed his talents further. I was so excited and flattered to be asked to jump him again.
This is a journey of firsts for me, we are currently jumping 1m30 classes successfully and I am absolutely loving every second of this horse – I have genuinely never sat on anything before with such a jump. I am very excited where we might go. Being placed in the Star of the Future Grand Prix Final was quiet a turn up for an “eventer”!
Now the event season has finished we have the babies in from their summer of growing ready to learn about being grown up ponies, although so far we are yet to convince them this is a good idea..!
So really in conclusion, a funny old year does sum it up. It started with high hopes. Massive disappointments followed with the only consolation that kept me going being the gorgeous youngsters.
Then Dolly’s unexpected arrival, followed by the opportunity to jump Wexford again, things were on the up. Finally, to cap it all, Bump came home full of the joys of the Pony Club Championships, sound and refusing to retire so has been out to a couple of parties jumping double clear round Novices, so who knows what his old body might want to do next season! It may have its highs and lows but it beats working in an office. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I love every day, so a HUGE thanks has to go to all my fantastically supportive owners and my insanely knowledgeable trainers who I do not know what I would do without!!
Lastly, and as importantly as all of the above, I have for the first time in my career been a Supported rider for the best brands out there in the equestrian arena. A heartfelt thank you for all your support and encouragement during the season. You have genuinely made that difference to me between being able to do it and not. Thank you.
“Lots of transitions is the perfect way to make your horse stand on its own four legs, help his engine and brain as he will always be with you and thinking”
#KneesupFriday our lovely competition winner Christie Mott and the wonderful Galaxy at our Piggy French training weekend. If your heading out this weekend don’t forget to tag us with #ChampionEquestrian on your adventure!
So the hour has gone back and winter is truly beginning although it’s still crazily warm for October isn’t it! You definitely won’t find me complaining about the extra hour of sleep though. Hope everyone survived storm Brian the other weekend. I was up in Buckinghamshire where it was rather windy but luckily we only had a couple of odd rain showers. Cornwall was hit pretty badly while I was away, which would explain why I can’t find Lola’s feed bucket; “Brian” must have fancied using it!
Lola and I completed our final BE event at Pontispool where a green stop on XC cost us a placing but we did finally achieve a sub 30 dressage score! Later on in September we were then supposed to go to the Bricky but the weather annoyingly put a stop to that as the whole event was cancelled. Must admit I’m already chomping at the bit for 2018 event season to start! Already got a championship to go to but more on that later…
I was hoping October was going to be a quieter (I’m sure I say this every time!!) month but I received a message asking if I could step in as the lead rider for my Riding Clubs Quadrille Team. It was a such a shame it was on bad circumstances though, as my lovely friend Marie’s horse damaged herself travelling so couldn’t do the long journey up to Bury Farm.
Now quadrille wasn’t brand new to Sprite and I as we were part of the Wizard of Oz team in 2015. But did I mention the message only came through 10 days before the qualifier?! Waaa… that’s a whole different kind of pressure!! I had to learn a routine and all the acting that goes with it! The theme this year was Mary Poppins and I’m sad to admit I had never watched the film… yes I felt ashamed!!! I quickly rectified it though and a month later I can’t get the songs out my head… supercalifragilisticexpialidocious… they’re soooo catchy!! Just a shame I can’t sing so murder the songs every time, hey ho it’s only the boyfriend complaining when I’m in the shower haha! The team were fab and scheduled in 4 emergency practises. Before I knew it we were off to Bury Farm!
The qualifier started well for us with the judges being blown away with our costumes and scoring us 60/60 for turnout. The performance went as well as we could have hoped for with just a couple of minor mistakes but I don’t think anyone really noticed. We smashed it for 1st place with 95%! We were over the moon and super excited we were going to be doing it all over again in just 3 weeks’ time at the final!!
We had a few more practises and made a couple of tweaks where we felt it needed tidying up. With scoring full marks for turnout it was difficult to know what we could add to the costumes without going over the top so we decided just to add a few detailed items like butterflies and tassels to the horses lycra suits, giving it a bit of a 3D effect.
As you can imagine 3 weeks didn’t take long to come around and off we set again for the 8 hour journey back to Bury Farm. We were performing as part of their Gala evening along with the top showjumpers, extreme driving and the Shetland grand national.. in front of lots and lots of people! The horses travelled really well and it wasn’t long before they were settled into their stables for the night. We had a little ride around on the morning of the show day along with a quick run through of the routine without any music or boards but it went surprisingly well. Then the preparation starts, it literally takes the whole day to get the horses ready, from bathing to painting feet then glitter on top, to sowing on tassels… oh and don’t forget the feather bowers!! It’s then time to get into costume yourself – which isn’t a 2 second job either.
Show time!! For the final we had two new judges and one the same from the qualifier, they again loved the costumes and the extra detail. The turnout was judged in one of the 3 warm arenas, it was quite amusing as our horses were amazed by the extreme drivers that were warming up in the arena across from us, I mean when do they ever see that type of thing? Yet those horses were looking at our horses in a rather puzzling look, I can just imagine them thinking why are 4 very bright, not your normal colour horses staring at them!!
Not long later we were walking through the arch into the main arena to be greeted by all the spectators looking at us. My stomach matched my costume and had the biggest of butterflies but Sprite walked in like a pro and gave me the confidence I needed. The performance couldn’t have gone any better, it felt amazing to ride in front of all those people. I still can’t wipe the smile of my face now! Good job the music was loud as I sang my heart out getting way too carried away in the role!
The results were mounted this time and crikey, nail biting to say the least! 4th was called out and it wasn’t us, then 3rd still not us, 2nd still not our name… we had won!! We are now the National Champions for Quadrille!! The lap of honour felt incredible and gave you such a buzz! This was the 6th year my riding club – Cornwall Trec – have attempted quadrille and have never won before so it was even more special for everyone and the club. I had such a lovely weekend with awesome company, making more memories with my little Spritey!
Now Lola’s turn… In between the quadrille qualifier and final Lola has also been a superstar as we took part in the festival of the horse 100cm qualifiers. Again due to the weather it had to be postponed the first time which resulted in us losing our 4th member so all 3 scores had to count. Lola was jumping her socks off just gaining an unfortunate/annoying 4 faults. You then had to go straight out on to XC where she absolutely loved it and flew, giving me a fabulous clear. Our team of 3 did enough for us to take first place and in qualifying position for the Championships next May at Aston-le-Walls. Something already to look forward to in 2018! It’s horrible to think we haven’t got any XC for 5 months, what am I going to do?!
Up next we have the dressage and showjumping winter qualifiers for our riding club which will be with Lola. Sprite will then be heading off to our fund raising Gala evening to do the Mary Poppins routine for the very final time.
I’ve been reflecting back on my year, as I’m sure we all are? It’s been quite a rocky one for Lola but she has had some awesome days and hopefully we’ve put to bed any issues we’ve come across. Looking forward to keeping up the training over the winter… 2018 we’re coming for you!
Love Emily, Sprite & Lola
Wow, what a weekend! Thank you to our brand ambassador Piggy French for being such a fantastic host for our Training Camp. The prize winners thoroughly enjoyed themselves and have learnt lots of training tips to take away with them.
We kicked started day two with our prize winners being put through their paces in the BE100 Championship Dressage test. Piggy filmed and critiqued the test, providing feedback and areas for improvement before riding through the test again.
First up was Vicky and the wonderful Jason, where Piggy commented that he was lovely and consistent to the contact. “If he goes a bit lazy, try and give him one kick reminder then release the leg rather than constantly gripping,” said Piggy.
Piggy had them working on getting the trot more active so that he was more in front of Vicky’s leg so Jason didn’t jump into the canter in the transitions as it won’t be such a big effort. Piggy said, “Doing lots of transitions is the perfect way to get him to stand on his own four legs and help his engine and brain as he will always be with you and thinking forward.”
On a finishing note Piggy advised “Jason has a good contact, a great outline. You just need to think active, tempo and transitions!”
Next up was Annieka and Arty who was looking much more settled and relaxed this morning. Annieka explained to Piggy that usually in dressage tests Arty can get lazy and behind the leg and she finds getting the balance in the warm up arena tricky.
Annieka started warming Arty up and Piggy advised “The higher we have our hands the more likely the horse is to curl. So, bring the contact up and then relax and lower the arm. It is important to keep your core strength throughout your body and seat and not just through your hands and arms”
Following Annieka test Piggy explained the importance of the walk mark “Never underestimate how important the walk is. It’s great to practice whilst out hacking, always thinking forward and out with the nose. Never undervalue opportunities where you can practice the walk”
Last up was Christie and the lovely Galaxy, where she explained the difficulties she has with the medium trot. Piggy advised “I would work on the medium canters first, come out of the corners and really extend the canter in an uphill way, really off the leg and go but not long and flat.”
“Straightness is really important for this. I would then try this process in the trot. Practise in rising to give her that ‘go’ feel as we ca grip and come out of balance in sitting” explained Piggy.
Following Christie’s test, they worked on the straightness of the centre lines and halt practicing keeping Galaxy straight and not putting her quarters in.
Then it was time for lunch and to regroup before Cross Country time!
First up was Vicky and Jason followed by Annieka on Arty and Christie on Galaxy. Piggy set up a course of cross country style fences in the arena, including a couple of corners and two angled uprights.
These fences where chosen to help the riders with their accuracy and straightness. It was important they didn’t break the fences up and they rode straight on the line. “Let them know where they have to go, always support them and keep them on the line. Don’t motorbike, find your line and support them,” said Piggy.
When riding cross country you want to feel you can get your weight down in the heel and ensure your leg position stays the same whether in or out of the saddle.
Following the exercises in the arena the riders where then allowed to treat the horses with a splash through the water to end the day.
Thank you again Piggy for a fabulous weekend.
The sun is going down on the first day of our Piggy French training camp and our three lucky competition winners have had a blast! The day started with our winners, Annieka, Christie and Vicky being treated to a box fully of goodies from Toggi and being fitted with their new Champion Puissance Riding Hat, Champion Ventair Deluxe Helmet and Champion Ti22 Body Protector.
Once they where kitted out, Piggy came and introduced herself and gave them a tour of her yard where she gave them some insight into the workings of running an event yard and the different procedures that where in place to ensure everything runs like clock work. Consistency is key with all the horses on Piggy’s yard.
The horses that have had a busy season and been to the Europeans or Burghley Horse Trials where currently being treated to six to eight weeks off in the field. But there where several young horses in the stables that our winners got introduced to and Piggy shared her insight into there winter plans. “We hunt our horses throughout the winter, it is really important if they are a bit backwards as it helps with their confidence” said Piggy. “I never fell too precious, you can’t wrap them up in cotton wool and they really enjoy it. You just have to be sensible out in the field and give yourself space.”
Next up was a well earned lunch before heading out to walk the showjumping course with Piggy ahead of their individual showjumping sessions.
First up with Annieka on the wonderful Archie who was very excited to be at Piggy’s yard and in the lovely arena with a view! “Ignore him, let him settle and keep him on the move”, said Piggy “Annieka needs to feel she can ride him and put her leg on before we start thinking about jumping.”
Piggy had them working on moving forwards nicely to the bridle and give and retaking the inside rein when Archie started to get strong. Once settled they popped a few practice fences before tackling the showjumping course. Archie likes to try and take control whilst jumping and Piggy asked Annieka to halt and rein back after each fence throughout the course to help get Archie waiting and listening. This really helped and on the second round Archie was much more consistent.
Next up was Christie and Galaxy a 10 year old mare that Christie has owned from 18 months old. Galaxy is a little pocket rocket and Piggy wanted them to concentrate on keeping the rhythm and balance within the canter. “Don’t over ride to the fence,” said Piggy “let the fence come to you”. Christie concentrated on keeping Galaxy steady and balanced through the turns to receive a much more consistent round.
Last up was Vicky and Jason who she has owned for 13 years! Piggy had them working on their straightness to the fence and the activity within the canter. “You need to keep the revs up and not let him go long and flat”, explained Piggy. With this in mind Vicky produced a fantastic energetic round from Jason to Piggy’s delight.
Then it was time for a debrief, where the riders got to ask Piggy any questions or queries they had and Piggy shared her journey as an event rider with them before the day ended.
Tomorrow starts with a focus on Dressage followed by cross country. We are already looking forward to another action packed informative day.
#ChampionEquestrian #ChampionRider #BuiltonSafety
#Repost #kneesupfriday brand ambassador Kitty King flying around the XC at Osberton! if your heading out this weekend don’t forget to tag us with #ChampionEquestrian on your adventure!
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