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Stanley Fights Back

Horses – great levellers and always reminding us not to take anything for granted!

I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since we wrote our last blog. It is nearly November and the dark evenings are well and truly here, the scarves are out and the winter rugs no longer look ‘Horse Laundry’ clean as they have all been subject to a good mud bath by their respective wearers!

Back to when the weather was lovely and we were out dancing in the sun... After his downtime, after the Winter Championships we picked back up and set back on our mission for top hat and tails... the BD seasons are all rather confusing and we actually started our Winter Qualifying campaign at Advance Medium. As I said in the last blog, for various reasons we decided to give the Summer Regionals a miss this time round.

We made a couple of trips down to Moreton EC before the Area Festival first rounds as he had been spooky at this venue in previous years – luckily he reminded us that he really has grown up now and we had some confidence building runs with near 70% scores and some fabulous music results. Before we knew it the Festival first rounds were upon us and we just wanted a top 10 finish to give us time to polish Advance Medium before October.

We couldn’t have asked him to go better – I had been away with work so he had had a few more days off than ideal in the run up to the event – we had a couple of mistakes but the judges really rewarded the good work and we got our best score in that test and some lovely, lovely comments from the judges. We got to canter round the arena with a lovely rosette and sash which is definitely Stanleys favourite part of the party! Having taken the pressure off us both this summer and trying to please no one but ourselves I found that we were really starting to enjoy competing again and could take so much more away from each day out.

We made one further trip after this to Bury Farm where we did four tests and came away with four red rosettes and finished the weekend with regional qualification and a 74%. Bingo! Time for lots of training... or so we thought!

Well as we know the world is set to try us. One week after our fabulous red rosette weekend we were doing our best blues and twos impression to Liphook Equine Hospital with a very distressed boy and our dream firmly on hold. The bad news was that his jaw had fractured from an abscess that was hiding within the cavity left from the last surgery. A risk that we knew existed but one we had hoped we had bypassed. He is such a stoic little horse to have shown no signs at all of discomfort until he had no physical choice. He remained at the vets for two weeks, had a drain put into the abscess and it was drained and flushed daily as well as being treated with a big course of IV antibiotics. There were talks about removing some of his teeth but on the scans it didn’t look like this was the infections route in and therefore it could do him more harm than good given that he was already in a vulnerable state with his jaw. Luckily the team at Liphook are second to none and he returned home with a positive prognosis even if he won’t be winning any beauty pageants in the near future!

After some field time we cracked on with regular lessons with Sara Jane Lanning. We are working on the harder more advanced moves. It appears a break actually did Stanley the world of good and he came back with more power, more energy and more enthusiasm for the harder movements than ever before. I didn’t think the second round of the festivals was going to be a possibility due to the limited time frame but my lovely instructor simply said... ‘What have you got to lose?’ And she was right, if we finished last it didn’t matter – I was just so grateful we had been given another chance to keep our dreams alive. A quick test practice at Hickstead resulted in some good Silver wins and then it was off to Parwood to see how we got on.

I was delighted with him (again!). It’s a venue he's never been too and he pretty well knuckled down and did the job - apart from the right shoulder in. The judges’ box required a wide berth in this direction. So much of the test was lovely to ride and felt so supple it just had a few moments of loss of balance where he is starting to have more engagement but can’t quite hold it throughout the whole movement. Two judges gave him scores I was really pleased with and one was a little lower - the joys of the sport. We finished 4th, a whisker behind the top three - I was so pleased given the less than ideal preparation but it was a bit gruelling as the top three qualified for the AF Championships at Hartpury in April. For now we will keep our fingers crossed that perhaps we might scrape a wildcard and get our chance to have another go at the Championships! One further development is that the tailcoat has been ordered! We are one step closer to the dream – if our journey over the next six months is a little smoother than the last six then next blog could be very exciting!

Hannah & Stanley