January has been a month of serious change, some good and some sad.
The biggest change has been the retirement of Shining Surprise. After months of deliberation as his maintenance became harder, to a point where it was almost unsustainable, accompanied by an underlying weakness it didn’t seem fair to any of us to keep pushing on in pursuit of our goals this year – it is a huge sadness to say goodbye to my top horse and to a very special partnership that we built together over three years – I will so miss competing him but I am so proud of what we achieved together, in adversity, and I know that we have made the right decision, as hard as it is.
I am so grateful for all the lovely messages I have received since and I have been so humbled to hear from people, many of whom dealing with their own kissing spines cases, who have really enjoyed following his journey.
Jimmy is continuing to progress really well, steadily gaining in strength and consistency. It was a month of firsts for him, winning his first rosette at the beginning of the month at clear round showjumping, his first competitive outing and first dressage test! I have been so impressed by his attitude and was really pleased with how he behaved on his first trip to Summerhouse – competing in a very baby Eventer Challenge, after a few tense moments upon arrival, he settled right into it and behaved impeccably throughout, taking it all in his stride – a really good bit of education to have under his belt, particularly in a very spooky environment – deep end comes to mind, but he was a little pro!
It is important to balance these new experiences for him with relaxed time at home and lots of hacking on the buckle end, which pays rich dividends and is also time for getting in the fitness and hardening work on the roads/hills.
We have spent this last week based and training with Vittoria (Panizzon). It was a fantastic opportunity for us both and something I look forward to repeating in the coming weeks. I love doing an intense period of training, when possible, as I think you gain so much more from it. Alongside progressing Jimmy’s experience and our development together, it was really fun to work alongside her lovely team and ride different horses – all really valuable experience. Jimmy really grew from the experience and doing lots of different things, and it was fantastic for both of us to consistently be under Vittoria’s excellent eye.
On our return, we took Jimmy to his first dressage competition (and the first time he has seen white boards), not that you would know! He was completely unfazed by the arenas, letters and flowers and went on to perform a very neat first ever test, all with just 5 minutes warm up (not ideal!). We then did the same BE90 test a second time, for education’s sake – all useful ring practice. Although no placing on this occasion, the videos and judges comments provide a useful reflection and are very helpful in progressing him in this phase as we develop his test work – a thoroughly pleasing first outing in this phase.
We have come away from Vittoria’s and our January competitions with lots to work on and a clear plan ahead as the season gets ever closer, I am really looking forward to the next few weeks – watch this space!