Jennie Daniels and Tilly the Cob: Side Saddle competitors take on British Dressage

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At the beginning of the year, Tilly and I started on a new adventure; we joined British Dressage.  I had always thought that affiliated dressage was only for people that excelled at dressage, i.e, the Charlotte Dujardin’s of the world, not me.   I then decided to watch some competitions at my local venue and soon realized that it wasn’t much different to the occasional un-affiliated dressage I had previously competed in.  My progression into British Dressage was prompted by them introducing a new associated championship last summer. A side saddle section, where you need 3 scores over 60% to qualify in a section, whilst riding side saddle.

Tilly and I started to practice by schooling at home and learning the tests, which were all long arena tests, so this had to wait until the field was dry enough to school in as my arena is only 20mx40m.  We then entered our first dressage test.  It was fair to say that I was extremely nervous.  Not only was it my first BD test, but I was also riding side saddle competing against all the astride riders.

Being the only side saddle rider did raise some eyebrows and interest amongst my fellow riders, but I had already checked with the venue that they were happy for me to ride like this instead of astride.  The competition was in an inside school, and it was warm, this is where riding side saddle has a downside, I had a thick wool jacket and a thick wool apron covering my legs, it was hot!  It was rather hot for poor Tilly as well, but that’s when I like feeding her Fibre-Beet made into a sloppy hydrating mash to get plenty of fluid back into her efficiently.

We competed in three different prelim bronze level classes in the qualifying timeframe and came away with 1st place and two 2nd places against the astride riders.  I even got a score of eight for one of my center lines.  As a result of scoring over 63% in all my tests, I had then qualified for the summer area festival.  I rode astride for the festival and unfortunately for poor Tilly, and despite knowing the test inside out, I had complete brain failure and managed to forget my test, twice!

Having gained confidence in our dressage journey with British Dressage, at the side saddle nationals this year, we competed in the prelim open class and were delighted to come away with 2nd place in the adult’s section.  The side saddle national show is over three days, so feeding Fibre-Beet to Tilly was not only a great way of getting fluids into her and keeping her hydrated whilst away from home, but it also provides her with slow-release energy to keep her competing throughout the day.  The addition of the British Horse Feeds Cooked Linseed  alongside Fibre-Beet  contributed to the fantastic shine on Tilly’s coat as well as supporting her joint health, especially now she is fifteen

We are still competing in side saddle classes throughout the year and have come away with some excellent results.  We even attended three new show venues for us, and we will be returning to them again next year.  Historical events have been quieter this year, but we have still done two, with one more to go.  Our favorite historical event is the Victorian horses at Audley End in Essex. It is set in a fabulous location with a great bunch of talented side saddle riders.

Next, we were on the countdown to the British Dressage Cavago associated championship, and I was really hoping that I didn’t forget my test this time!


The amazing news is that I remembered my test and we were awarded 2nd place int the Prelim Side Saddle class, with just a little over 1% behind the winning score, what a fantastic way to finish our season and here’s to 2024!

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