The main emphasis for this year has been on returning to the ’old’ Jo. For all that the changes and improvements are small they are still happening…it is more that you can do some things more easily and better than in the months before, than any big change. My energy levels are starting to return to normal, partly thanks to a blood transfusion in June due to being severely anaemic. I have returned to yoga twice a week to help with balance, coordination and suppleness.
In March this year I was awarded ‘Performer of the Year’ by HorseScotland. Put forward by BD Scotland I was among a small selection of Scottish Riders that were nominated for the award within the different disciplines. The awards were presented at a lovely evening dinner. Thank you HorseScotland.
In May I was fortunate to have dinner and a nights stay at Holyrood Palace courtesy of Lord and Lady Hope. Lord Hope was in residence at Holyrood for a week in his position as Lord High Commissioner to the Church of Scotland. It was an amazing evening with lovely company, beautiful food and getting to see areas of the palace that the general public wouldn’t normally get to see! Though being woken by a bagpiper on my morning off from the stables wasn’t ideal!
Last year was about personal highs and lows, this year these highs and lows were thanks to the horses!
Colin began the year with a PSG Freestyle gaining 76.88%. We started having some training with Dominique Flament. Dominique is a previous Cadre Noir rider, French National trainer and is based just over an hour away from me. I thought he would provide expertise in training piaffe and passage for Colin when I couldn’t get down to Carl.
Colin competed at the Winter Regional Championships in February at Morris EC. Despite winning the three championships he competed in, all with over 70%, his performances were below par. The following week he came down with a virus, so guessing that was the reason why!
We went down to Carl’s in March for training. It was my first proper training with him in 15 months. There were tears through frustration but I was thankful to Carl for not allowing me an easier time due to what had happened. World Class Pathway came to watch, that added to my stress and in hindsight me trying too hard….less is more it seems!
After the training and with the homework from Carl ringing in my ears we headed to Myerscough Premier League. Colin competed in the PSG and even with breaking into canter in his trot half pass scored 67.06% and finished 10th equal. The next day we did the evening performance PSG Freestyle, again it wasn’t a ‘clear round’ with a mistake in the four tempi changes but I was thrilled to get 70.62% and to finish 2nd.
The Winter Championships at Hartpury College in April were next. Colin and I competed in 3 championships…the first was an evening performance in the PSG Freestyle. He was amazing in the warm-up, I had never felt him so right…then we went in to do our test & Colin got a huge dose of stage fright. Little mistakes added up to being a very tense & what felt a frightened performance, ironically his 3 & 4 tempi changes were perfect!
The following days brought the Advanced Medium Open and Advanced Medium Freestyle, increasingly he started to regain his confidence & mojo & gave two consistent performances getting 70.39% & 72.78%. He finished 5th & 4th in these Championships & I felt pleased that although not a smooth journey we had come out the other end smiling.
Colin’s next outing was the 6 monthly World Class Pathway Selection. Fortunately for us Stephen Clarke who assesses all applying for the plan was up at Rockrose EC to do a demo & teach in the days prior to selection which would have meant us travelling to Gloucestershire. We were allowed to be assessed up here which involved riding through the Inter 1 test & showing what we could with piaffe & passage. All went well & we were thrilled to be kept on the plan for another 6 months, Colin’s first attempt at Inter 1 was a story of two halves. We did a two day show at Rockrose….the first day & his 1st Inter 1 I’d rather not talk about….but the second day was much better & he scored 68.03%. Brain & body were connected that day! He did another Inter 1 in June & scored 67.63% which meant he had qualified for the Regional Championships at both PSG & Inter 1.
We then travelled down for two days training with Carl. Finally things felt they were coming together with my riding & Carl noticed an improvement in my coordination, agility & balance….as well as my speech. Colin was great, we worked on piaffe, passage, the canter zigzags & even did a few 1 tempis – all very exciting!!
The next week Colin was lame….bye bye Hartpury Premier League, Scottish Championships & any chance of National Championships with him. After investigation & Colin jumping on & breaking the MRI scanner (oops!) it was found that he has bruised his coffin bone. Very rare…of course & due to him clowning around in the field. 3 months recuperation follows & at present we are introducing trot again.
We have had to be very patient in bringing Freddie back into work. As always he has wanted to give his all & doesn’t understand that less effort is actually good enough & better for him in the long run. For him too it seems less is more!
The treatment he received was just before my accident in Dec 2014…he wasn’t sat on until the following August & that was only walking. Progressively & very cautiously we have increased the work level until in May we ventured to a HorseScotland training day with him. I really didn’t know how he would be but he was amazing & his attitude was like he had just been out competing last week….not 18 months before.
We planned to take him to a few competitions but things always happened preventing us going – like me being in hospital having a blood transfusion! So it ended up that we took him out for the first time in 21 months to compete at the last qualifier for this season at Morris EC. He was fabulous and scored over 73% in both tests meaning he had qualified for the Advanced Medium Gold Regional Championships.
He returned to Morris mid July to do the advanced medium freestyle qualifier, using the music and floor plan he had used in 2013. He felt much fitter and more able compared to the first competition we did, he won with 76.83%.
The Regional Championships were held up in Aberdeen at Cabin EC in early August. Freddie rose to the occasion and though we had areas that could be tidied up he won with 74.12% & secured his ticket to the National Championships!! Was so pleased with him & despite having done this before felt so proud of what he had achieved considering what he had been through.
After elation there was a huge kick in the stomach….a week after the Regionals Freddie went lame. I was heartbroken as I thought the worst & that he had re-injured the initial injury. Turned out that it was the old injury that had caused the new one in that it had shortened the ligament but the good news is that the new one is not a tear just a sprain. So walking until the end of September…this means no Scottish Championships & very sadly no National Championships. For the last 16 years I have been lucky enough to qualify & compete, so it will be hard & very strange to be be watching results appear on the internet this time…just have to make up for it next year!
At the end of last year Sugar Plum Fairy danced her way into our stables. Plum is a 5yo mare owned by Reay Campbell of the Caledonia Stud. Plum hasn’t been the easiest but I could feel her potential so stuck with trying to persuade her that my way was the desirable way! She is a typical girl in that you have to make a correction in a way so that she thinks it was her idea. If you make her or demand it doesn’t go down well but at the same time she responds to the rider being in charge…a difficult combination!
We decided to bite the bullet and take her to the Young Horse qualifier at Rockrose at the beginning of June. For all that it felt that she was very much behind me at the competition she behave well and won the qualifier.
Next stop were novice qualifiers at Howe EC in July. The aim was to try & gain her confidence & to navigate her through a test. It was her first time at Howe and her behaviour was good and though she felt more forwards from the last outing she was still anxious. Her marks were on the low side but that was not the point of the outing & I was pleased there was an improvement in her performance. Her next competition was at Muirmill, a new venue for her & again an improvement in performance with her first 70%. She also competed in the Novice Freestyle borrowing Colin’s novice music and floor plan. To make it even more appropriate for her & purely by accident it has the ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ music in it! I felt in that test we went forwards shoulder to shoulder, which was a much more positive attitude…she scored 77.5%.
The Scottish Championships in September were next, I had thought Plum & I would go to make up numbers, Plum had other ideas! She was just fantastic and I felt her more like she can be at home. She won the Scottish Gold Championship with 74.9% and the Scottish Novice Gold Freestyle Championship with 79.59%. To say I was amazed is an understatement, I was so pleased with how she went, the placings were simply a huge bonus!
We decided to take her to SNEC the following week & see if we could manage to complete her qualification for the Winter Regional Championships. She continued her good form & scored 76.45% & so completed her qualification for the Novice Gold & the Novice Freestyle Gold. I’m amazed with how far she has come in just a few shows.
Humphrey was broken by Alex Barr at the end of last year. He returned home in February & I had Jonathan Lough come and help me at first as he had never worked outside. Jonathan would initially have a quick sit before I took the reins then as time went on I took over & rode from the start. He is progressing well & due to his size we are taking our time but I think he will soon be ready for public viewing!
Colin’s recovery to work has taken longer than expected but we hope the end is in sight & he will return to competition sometime in 2017. Unfortunately the time off has meant we have lost our place on the World Class Development Program but the main thing is he is showing progress towards getting back to work.
Henry went to Jonathan Lough in October to start getting broken. It seems no time at all since he was a foal! He is a full brother to Freddie and I am really looking forward to seeing what he is like! I am hopeful for his return in early 2017.
In November I had to attend an assessment day for the HorseScotland Performance Program. I took Plum for the ridden assessment, I also had a physio & fitness assessment & then an interview. I’m pleased to say I have been re-selected onto the plan for the next 2 years.
Before Christmas the horses & I received what felt like early Christmas presents…we had a food delivery from TopSpec, an equipment delivery from Equilibrium & hats & gloves for me from UVEX. So as 2017 fast approaches the horses & I are all set! The last trip of 2016 was down to JM Horseboxes to drop the lorry off for some tlc bodywork. It was the longest solo trip in the lorry that I’ve driven in 2 years & although it was only 4hrs it felt like another accomplishment in the road back to normality.
I am looking forward to 2017, with the promise it has that both the horses & I will be more like our normal selves. A few thankyous; especially to my Mum for her huge help & support, Mary Hope & Reay Campbell (owners), HorseScotland and my wonderful sponsors TopSpec, Equilibrium, UVEX, JM Horseboxes & Sankey Saddles, who without there help & support doing what I do would be so much harder….couldn’t do without you 🙂