“I now have the relevant experience to make a decent living from life as a rodeo rider!”

In part two of her blog and vlog for BE Life online, amateur event rider and equestrian business owner Sarah takes her new five year old ride Hugo to his first dressage competition and works on training to get in tip top shape for the start of the season.

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: winter sucks! And this winter seems to have gone on and on. We’ve been bombarded with snow, ice and wind for what has felt like months and has meant it’s been really difficult to give the horses consistent work. However, it seems like spring is almost in the air and even the sunshine has made some small appearances.
Woody’s rehab is going well, even if he is an unrecognisable fat, hairy lump that in no way resembles the fit and strong event horse he was last season! If I asked a stranger what they thought he did for a living, I’m sure their answer would be “pulling a milk truck” or something similar – no one would guess he was an eventer aiming for CIC1*. 
Hugo’s eventing boot camp is now well underway and we’ve been out to some fantastic training days, all of which have gone really well and given us a lot of confidence. I’m having so much fun with him and it’s great to be out learning and achieving new things every week. Every time I jump him I swear my smile gets bigger and bigger. That said, what I don’t want to do in these blogs is just highlight all the good bits and forget about the bad bits, because the reality of horses – especially youngsters – is that life is definitely not all sunshine and rainbows! 
Hugo is without a doubt a horse with bundles of talent and scope to burn. However, one way he likes to show just how much scope he has is by performing very explosive rodeo displays! Some rides have been a case of holding on for dear life and trying to ride through it, and some rides have resulted in the occasional unplanned dismount. The hardest thing for me, as a former one-horse girl, is moving from my old reliable who I know inside out to a young thing that moves and thinks in a very different way. It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s one that I’m really enjoying and finding extremely exciting because I’m desperate to tap into his potential to see what he can really do. Plus, if I do fancy a change of career, I now have the relevant experience to make a decent living from life as a rodeo rider!
The two days before our very first dressage competition he was wild, so my nerves for our first competition together were running pretty high! I hadn’t competed since the first week of August last year, so my plaiting was rusty and packing the trailer seemed an unfamiliar and difficult task; but my dressage test was learned and Hugo was safely in the trailer, so off we went. 
Thankfully, I’d chosen a quiet day, hoping our first experience of the dreaded ‘warm-up arena’ would be fairly relaxed. When he came out of the trailer ears pricked and nostrils flaring I briefly considered turning around and going home in an attempt to avoid certain death. However, as soon as my bum was in the saddle he settled completely. He trotted around the arena beautifully and, much to my delight, finished the test with a fantastic score and a third place frilly – Hugo’s first rosette!
Next up was arena cross country. I thought it would be sensible to tackle solid fences in an enclosed space before we were let loose in a large field! We mainly worked on staying calm and stripping back to basics as we were tending to rush into the fences, so everything was done at a steady trot to start with. The day was fantastic and he jumped everything I pointed him at with just one exception – there were clearly crocodiles or great white sharks in the water jump! But unlike some of you lucky people who have their first event next week, we still have eight whole weeks to turn Hugo into a water baby before we walk into our very first British Eventing start box! 
Good luck to everyone who is heading down the centre line this week. Patience has never been my strong point and the end of April still seems far too far away. Hurry up event season!

Read and watch part one of Sarah's blog here.