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Tam’s Blog May 2016

1 Living outHere’s the latest blog from our Mollichaff-sponsored amateur rider, Tam Thompson:

March’s weather proved challenging for us in the wilds of Northants.  The mud was becoming unbearable, but perhaps more so the cattle shed muckings out in the nearby farmyard.  So we moved both horses to our dear friend and neighbour’s yard down the road.  (The humans can close the window…) They now have grass and more space, and my sister, Tory, keeps her horse there to, so we can all play ponies together – perfect.  I am unbearably excited about the approaching Spring and Summer now – it seems as though opportunities for improvement are everywhere – not least because the boys’ new landlady is ‘Mrs Motivator’ and doesn’t let me get away with the old stock excuses of ‘it’s raining’, or ‘he’s too lively to ride today (very rare)’!  I intend to grab each advancement and build on it as much as I can.


I had another lesson with Jonathan Canty just before the Cherwell Valley RC dressage competition on March 26th, and we practiced strategies for improving my inconsistent contact.

3 Lesson with Jonathan Canty 

It seems to be working, because – here’s some news – I came 2nd in the prelim class the next day!  Out of seven entries too, so better than halfway.  The score was 65.75%, just .05% off my 65.8% PB from February’s Team Quest.

2 CVRC Dressage competition

I have either been lucky twice or I’m actually improving.  My only worry is that the list of things I have to tell myself each time I get on board will become too long to remember.  If you see me with apparent written notes on my stock/sleeve it’s because so far the list is:

  • Bend my elbows
  • Keep my hands level with each other
  • No more motorbike riding with my left hand
  • Use more inside leg
  • Stop nagging with my legs
  • Tilt my pelvis the other way
  • Breathe (in and out)
  • Floppy joints (no more heels down)
  • Sit up
  • Communication down the reins is a two-way thing
  • Rhythm
  • Contact
  • Rhythm again
  • And contact.  Again


The ever-growing list does serve to distract me slightly from my competition nerves though, which can only be a good thing for me, and more so for Beau.  I can’t be easy to carry when tense.  I once managed to be so nervous and tense that after a test I physically could not bend my legs to get off.  I was stuck on my horse!

On Easter Monday, Simon and I rode the boys at their new home for the first time.  Simon had to go to work afterwards so we only had ten minutes which I decided to make count.  I have to say, and I wish I knew why, Beau was amazing!  Instead of downwards transitions being gravity-led, everything was upwards and even managed a passable canter to walk – on both reins!  I will probably never be able to repeat that but wow did he feel incredible.  I think this horse will teach me so much; he knows his job and just needs for me to be asking the right questions.  I proved that the following day when I took Beau into the school and we managed no decent work at all.  Tory said it looked Ok-ish, but I didn’t achieve the lift we got in our lesson.  One step forward…!

In other news I’ve been trying to build on the luck I had winning this sponsorship by doing the Lottery – so I can buy ‘Clip-Clop Towers’ for all my horsey friends to share, and have training every day like Charlotte.  Not a squeak from Camelot so far.  I think they must have made a counting error.



Quadrille planApril 1st – no joke – OUR QUADRILLE ENTRY HAS BEEN ACCEPTED!  So excited!  There is always a small risk that the event will be over-subscribed so we all lose sleep the night before entries open.  I suspect there may be fewer teams applying this year though, because for the first time, sadly the final will not be held at Olympia .  On the positive side it will be at Bury Farm which is where the qualifiers are held (and the Cherwell Valley RC Camp in May), so all the horses and humans will be familiar with their surroundings.  Plus, there’s a bar…

Practice had stalled a little because we were struggling to find an indoor arena the right size which is available when we are not all at work or school.  We now have some dates pencilled in and hopefully we can test some of the movements we’ve come up with (i.e. try to work out how to translate what on earth we were thinking, into movements with four horses at the same time – see fig.2??!!?). The Minions and the teddy bear are exhausted from all the practice they’ve been doing, and need a rest.  First practice was fab, but after an hour practicing the movements, when we put it all together we had less than three minutes of test!  Back to the drawing board.


Team Quest

The second Team Quest competition was on April 2nd at Glebe Farm in Northants, a lovely friendly local venue.  This time the competition was outside, but the weather was glorious!  Unfortunately three of our team horses had injured themselves, including my sister’s horse, Sardra, so Beau stepped up for Tory, and our Chairman, Amanda, brought her horse to lend to two more competitors.  Both horses were legends, particularly Amanda’s who had not competed at all this year.  Entries seemed to be dominated by members of our club, so it was basically a Cherwell Valley RC playday in the sun!  I think there was one rider who was outside CVRC from all the day’s entries.  We’re keen!  This meant the three CVRC teams all scored points for placings, my team coming 3rd (of 3).  However, Beau gave me another PB score of … wait for it … 68.8%!!!  I was astounded to say the least but I have to say it did feel a nice relaxed rhythmical test, so perhaps some of this training really is sinking in.

6 Team Quest Beau being ridden by me

What was very interesting is that in Tory’s test on Beau I saw my tests on him until very recently, which made me feel better!  They were going beautifully in the warm up and then got tense at A – hard not to do.

The third Team Quest for us was back at Swallowfield EC, such a lovely relaxed venue.  This time Tor scored better than me on Beau with 68.04% – that needs sorting out before next time (thistles in her socks I think..) and my score dropped back to 66.8% . Better than we used to get though, so it’s still good.

5 Team Quest Beau being ridden by Auntie Tory

At the fourth Team Quest on 8th May we reverted to 64.7%.  I think it was because every time I found a space to warm up, everybody else followed, so Beau was having to dodge small ponies charging at him in medium trot, and got quite antsy about it all before our test.  Plus I was tense and tired from the previous day’s Combined Training event (see later) …

7 The CVRC Team Quest Squad

I have dug out all of our test sheets ever to see if we have been improving all along, and we have – graph below.  It’s thanks to Mollichaff’s generous bursary and the resulting extra torture training I’ve been having.  Our first competition was July last year, and the red vertical line shows the start of this year’s training sessions:

Graph of test results


Christmas comes early!

It was the official handover of the bursary and all the fabulous gifts from Mollichaff on 11th April.  Becky and Kate from HorseHage and Mollichaff came to see us and I think you can see from the photos on the HorseHage & Mollichaff Facebook page and website how excited I was.  Beau took it all in his stride.  He usually does, especially if he is bribed.  No amount of bribing or coercion was going to get his ears forward though.  We managed one picture with one ear forward but that was because I was pushing it from behind his neck!  He has the patience of a saint, bless him, but he gets easily bored…

Our CVRC Winter Series Dressage Championships was held on 23rd April, and we came 2nd in the Prelim!  The score was 65.83%, not bad but heading in the wrong direction.  More exciting was Simon’s score with Beau of 64.78% nabbing him a 5th in the Intro Championship.  It was such a lovely test – a vast improvement in their partnership

10 CVRC Winter Series Dressage Champs

9 Simon on Beau at the CVRC Winter Series Dressage Champs



Since Beau’s GP saddle had started to look quite old and worn, we had to go out and buy a new one.  Luckily I’d seen this coming and been saving.  Simon’s legs are so long he can’t ride in my Wintec dressage and has always struggled with the GP, so we bought a jumping saddle which was fitted to him by Breathe Saddlery and is sooooooooooooooo comfy!  I really have no excuse now .

11 Fitting Beau's new saddle



Our RC Area combined training competition was postponed from 17th April to 7th May.  In a moment of madness ( and without the help of any gin!) I volunteered to take the place of a team member who had dropped out.  It slowly dawned on me afterwards that would mean jumping a whole course!  So I told myself, “Well, that is a goal for 2016 and there’s no time like the present!”  EEK!  I have practiced.  Once.  Over one fence.  Beau knows his job and despite my hindering him on the approach a bit (a lot) we did fine in practice.  It gave me more confidence but I still expected a full meltdown on the way to the comp.

13 Jumping practice

On the day, I lined up Tory to drive the lorry with mine and our friend’s ponies in, but in the end I just got on with it.  We arrived at the lovely Atherstone RC field in plenty of time and quite relaxed.  In our dressage test we got two 8’s!!!!  And after the dressage we were – get this – in equal first with 31.5 penalties.  I was astounded and when I saw the scoreboard almost cried!

15 Area Combined Training Dressage

It made me determined to get a clear round SJ, but when it came to it I was so terrified of being run off with, I made poor Beau do the whole course from trot.  At one point I even pulled him up!  We got no jumping faults but managed to equal our dressage penalties with time faults.  Annoying because had I let him canter we’d have won and the team would have come second.  However, it has boosted me for next time.  It is another goal achieved because I didn’t cry . Beau is such a legend.

14 Area Combined Training Showjumping

He even loaded himself coming home (whilst still tied to the outside of the lorry).  Of course, next day for Team Quest he didn’t want to load at all ;) He is having a couple of days off now to rest up for CVRC camp in 2 weeks.


Goals: Updated for May:

  • Dressage: To beat my PB of 65.0% – Done with 65.8%, then done again with 68.8%! - and get 70% in a prelim test unaffiliated.  Nearly there but it does feel a long way off.  I suspect this will be like losing 4 stone quickly and then struggling to shift the last 3 pounds.


  • Team Quest: To compete in Team Quest for the first time – Done! – and improve my initial scores by the end of the season.  (1st comp 65.8%, 2nd comp 68.5%, 3rd comp 66.8, 4th comp 64.7% )


  • Side saddle: I just want to get better – maybe enter a show if I can find a suitable saddle and habit to hire. No progress here, but at CVRC camp at the end of May there will be a chance to have another play.


  • Quadrille: To play out at Bury Farm again in 2016 for Cherwell Valley RC.  It would be awesome to qualify but Quadrille is such immense fun it doesn’t matter if we don’t.  First practice was on 8th April and though we have had to change our theme, we are slowly building a floorplan.


  • Jumping: To jump a whole course of fences with no fuss and no tears, and no arena surface in my teeth!  DONE!!!!!!  (Next target is to jump a whole course in canter!)

Tam and Beau x