When you start to look back over the year, you realise why you never have a moment! With 2024 likely to have me out of the saddle for the longest time in maybe 25 years, it is nice to look back on the year and, rather than be disappointed, I can be safe in the knowledge I have earnt a rest.
From January through to March, Ben exceeded all my expectations and gained his Associate Championships and Area Festival qualifications at Prelim and Novice level, showing himself to be a fantastic competition horse, always bringing his best game and not getting too fizzy.
In February, Mister went out for his first forest ride with Ben. I expected Mister to be “Mister Cool”, but in fact he found the grass open tracks very exciting. I guess it is lucky I didn’t make my novice boyfriend come along to ride him!
Dressage RoR League
In March I started the Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) league with Mister in Intro and Prelim. He showed the perfect attitude to competitions, and the schooling was progressing week on week. I really hoped we would have a strong season.
With hopes to back Django later in the year, I started to tack him, just getting him used to having the saddle on and the girth tightened, with very short periods of time walking on the lunge line under saddle.
Western Experience Day
I had lacked a few Western lessons early in the year, and to catch up I dragged a couple of friends along to a whole day of all things Western. We got to ride morning and afternoon, got fed so much good food, told all about the different disciplines and even got a chance to lasso (thankfully for everyone involved not on horseback!).
It was important to start getting Django out to lots of shows, desensitising him to the outside world with big plans to back him later in the year. With the success of Mister at dressage, I thought it would be good experience to get him out showing and share the arena with lots of other horses. Both horses were foot perfect!
Sadly all our hard work and early achievements came crashing down after finding out Ben’s cataracts had spread over his right eye and were beginning to start in his left eye. This was leaving him partially blind and causing him a lot of anxiety when away from home. I did not feel it was fair on him, or safe for either of us, to continue with ridden work, so I made the decision to retire him.
With Mister taking everything new in his stride, I couldn’t resist entering the Mini Tetworth Hunter Trial. I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to try to get him around a full course that allowed you to make green mistakes without elimination. Mister had the best attitude and we had a great time, but we definitely lacked experience and it was time to up our cross country (XC) practice!
First Show Jump Course
With Mister doing so well at the Hunter Trial, I saw a small jumping show and thought this would be great experience. I think my own nerves got the better of me, and with the tighter turns and bright colour fences it definitely overfaced him! Back to the drawing board and some more XC for confidence.
I finally got to back Django in September. I spent all summer hoping I could, so I could have a long summer with him under saddle, but unfortunately he just wasn’t physically mature. We only got a few short weeks before the weather turned, but in those months we achieved consistent mounting, walk and jog.
I made a very last-minute entry to the American Quarter Horse Association Championships. With not much time spent on our groundwork, due to trying to back, I was hesitant to go. But hey, we left as UK Champions, so I would say it was worth it!
RoR Dressage League
We finished the RoR league with four first places, one second place and one third. This meant we won the Prelim RoR league. Mister consistently shone and his progression was uncontended.
With Mister not feeling himself, but equally not noticeably lame, I wanted to be safe rather than sorry and booked him in for a lameness work-up. Then I heard the words every horse owner dreads: hind suspensory! Mister is too stoic for his own good, so we will see what 2024 brings.
What better way to cheer yourself up after two retired horses than a BRAND NEW FOAL? Blog to follow!