“December is a month of mixed emotions for your average horse rider”

As the year draws to an end, Sarah and Woody reunite for some training and our resident rider reflects on her year with Hugo.

I know I say it every year, but I can’t believe it’s December already! Does saying that mean I’m getting old? 

December is a month of mixed emotions for your average horse rider; we are excited about Christmas, mostly because we get to buy and receive lots of new horsey things, but also because most of us will get a few days off work, which in our world means we might actually get to ride in the daylight. That said, we are also pretty miserable because it’s one of the darkest months, it’s cold, wet and we are constantly mucking out. However, I’m fuelled by Christmas chocolate, so let’s not make this blog too dismal…

Quick update on the ponies: 

Woody was in fine form following last month’s show jumping outing, so I entered a local ‘one day event’. Okay, ‘one day event’ is stretching the description slightly, but technically there was dressage, show jumps and cross country fences involved, so that’s good enough for me. 

We had a fantastic day. Following our lesson with Ian Stark the previous week, we were going for a new tactic of slowing everything down and really powering into an uphill movement, so I was trying to ride strong but not over-ride, which is a very, very thin line apparently. I was pleased with the test overall for a score of 37, which sounds disappointing, but I believe the dressage leader was on 33 so we weren’t too far away.

Dressage behind us, Woody came alive in the jumping phase. He had so much swag that someone asked me if he was a stallion – he isn’t by the way – so he was clearly feeling well and was showing off for the crowds as usual. He popped around the 95cm show jumping beautifully – so light on his feet and listening all the time. I think the first two solid fences surprised him as he got uncharacteristically close – Woody has always been an ‘if in doubt, take one out’ sort of chap – but true to character he figured it out at fence three, took a massive leap and then was off; there was no stopping us now. He flew around the 3min 40sec course with ears pricked, constantly looking for the next fence and loving every minute. I had such a grin on my face as cross country is where Woody truly shines and to feel him so fit and well again is all I could ever ask for.

While Woody has taken centre stage, Hugo has been enjoying an extended hacking holiday. Since his last event he has had a small issue with his ‘thoroughbred feet’ making him a little uneven, but nothing too dramatic and the farrier is pleased with his progress, so I’m intending to bring him back into full work during the Christmas holidays. The break has not only given us time to correct his feet, but I also believe it’s been good for his brain following his first real competition season. He’s very chilled out and seems to be enjoying both the physical and mental aspects of the rest. 

Now, the big question: what does next year look like? 

Honestly, I don’t know yet. In an ideal world I would like to get both boys out eventing regularly throughout the season, but that will depend on the weather and how hard the ground gets. With Woody I will have to play it by ear and not get too carried away with solid plans until I see how he copes eventing again after his 18-month hiatus. I know he will love being back on the scene and I have no worries about his performance, it’s just always a worry that he might not stay sound.

I have this feeling in my gut that Hugo is going to come back out strong and all the pieces of his little brain will have clicked into place. In ideal ground conditions I hope to come out and boss a few BE90s to get back into the swing of it before moving up to BE100 then perhaps even tackle a Novice towards the end of the season. He’s got scope to burn, so I know the talent is there. We just need some miles now. 

Finally, thanks so much to all of you who have read my blogs and followed our journey this year. It’s been full of highs, with the occasional low thrown in for good measure (we are talking about horses after all), but it’s been a blast and I’ve enjoyed sharing it. 

Have a wonderful festive season and enjoy those lighter nights – not long now!