In The Saddle column: We're having fun back riding and showing

Our young horse, Sully, has started his ridden showing career this year rather than last year, as 2020 was pretty much a washout thanks to Covid-19.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 8:51 am

I knew we would have to get him to a local show before we went and travelled to the big breed shows. Taking a youngster to a small, quiet show is a nice way to start them off and give them confidence.

This year we heard of a local show not far away at Stone Lodge, just off the A18. He’s been going out for lessons and travelling a bit, and had been ridden earlier in the year. That was at Chapel Down Equestrian in Crowle and he was ridden by my trainer. He rode beautifully for such a baby, and I covered his success back then.

However, I knew I had to take him out myself as I needed to build my confidence riding him in competitions. Stone Lodge happened to have something on just the week before my main show - so off we went.

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Anita with Sully at Stonelodge Equestrian at their first ridden show.

The classes were nice and quiet and it was perfect for us. I used to take my daughter there showjumping a few times, years ago, but haven’t been since it was sold to Michael Young and his family.

It’s a really lovely place with a nice outdoor warm up ring and another for competing in. Good sized field for parking and looks super smart on entry.

Everyone was very friendly, just what you need to calm the nerves. We were allowed to take our rescue dog Suzie as long as she stayed in the car. I hadn’t checked before hand like I normally do, but the car suited her after she’s had a leg operation.

I didn’t decide fully to go until the morning. Even then with nerves I was about to leave it, but my family are pretty supportive (OK-they made me go) and so there was no backing out.

Luckily my Appaloosa is hogged, so there is no plaiting for me - which if you saw my attempts at doing my daughter’s hair when she was little you’d see why I hate plaiting. Appaloosas can be left traditionally with their mane natural, hogged (shaved off) or plaited for shows as per our breed society rules.

Given that he’s leopard spots and literally looks like a Dalmatian dog he is hard to keep clean but he does look spectacular when he’s all spruced up. It is a lot of hard work though, as you can see from the photo a lot of his base colour is white.

Once we arrived I went and paid for my class. Then I went to get him warmed up. He went into the collecting ring and warmed up lovely. I think we had a bit of time before we were called in.

We went and walked around the ring with the judge explaining what she she wanted when we were pulled into the middle. She was extremely supportive, as I explained this was our first ridden show together. She said if you can manage a canter then I’d like to see a few strides, but if not that was fine.

We did our individual show but I really was so nervous I was riding him tightly and I couldn’t fully relax. He is so in tune with me he knew something was worrying me but he didn’t put a foot wrong. As we approached the corner I asked for canter and I did do it, so I was super pleased. It was a very special moment for me. Very special indeed.

What you have to remember is that I have had this little horse since he was a six month old foal. I’ve spent years doing ground work with him in little ten minutes stints (babies have a poor attention span so you need to keep it short and interesting for them). I always knew he would be ridden, but being there with him was pretty incredible. I hadn’t fell off and he hadn’t done anything silly. To me that was a bargain.

The judge (Claire Cooper) gave some lovely feedback, explaining that I need to relax more and deep breaths so I’m not as frozen on him but that when he moves he’s a lovely show horse with presence. She explained with him he needs guidance as he’s young. Everything she said was absolutely spot on and I totally agreed with her.

She’s got a stack of experience as a breeder and home prouducer out of her Horse of the Year Show (HOYs) hack winner Whalton Razzamatazz. She’s regularly out winning novice and intermediate show riding type classes and her opinion on Sully was good to hear.

Overall, it was a really great experience for my young horse and for me too. I was super proud of myself for going, battling nerves and still going into the class. I’d definitely go there again.

Incidentally we did excellent in our two big breed shows and my breeder, Paula Moore from Haverlands Appaloosas, said she’s loving watching us bloom. You can read about how we did a week later at the breed show and also how we went to the Nationals together this year, in my column posted on my Facebook page on ‘In The Saddle - Anita Marsh’ or find us on Google.

I would highly recommend the venue for the future. It’s particularly superb for those at grsss roots level. They are very encouraging and love to see people and their horses do well together. The venue hold a lot of confidence clinics and camps there with an experienced instructor, Clare Paterson. I have met the owner of Stonelodge, Michael Young, at the show and I’m super impressed by his ethos and vision to encourage people to develop a true bond with their horse and confidence in riding. I’ll be covering more on this in my next column.

We love people following our journey as we discover Sully’s talents. Who knows what he’s going to focus on the future. This is just the start or a beautiful relationship. Please come along and follow our journey.