Preparing for the new Endurance season in France

Lizzie Platts, resident in Brittany, sent us a welcome update on their start to the new season.

“Our training is going well… we’ve got 4 horses with our French trainer, Allan Leon, who was on the French silver medal team last year at the world championships in Samorin. It’s always so exciting, looking forward to the challenges a new season will bring.

The horses are:

Blackwater Raahid 6 years old bay gelding. He was the lucky recipient of a new WOW saddle made for him at the beginning of last year. 10 days ago he did his first competition of the year with me, a 40 km Young Horse ride at Guegon Brittany, and I was delighted with him.


Blackwater Shaheen 7 year old chestnut mare. Here she is in training for an FEI 85km 1* at Fontainebleau 31st March. (We are so lucky with the terrain in our area – miles of tracks, flat and hilly, to use for training, and even lovelier when the spring sunshine arrives!)

Blackwater Shukran 7 year old grey gelding also in training for an FEI 85km 1* at Fontainebleau 31st March; to be ridden by Allan.

Xanthus Adulaire 9 year old grey gelding in training for an FEI 120km 2* at Fontainebleau 1st April.”

And an update from Fontainebleau:

” Iwas delighted with Shaheen, she made light of the 85km and got her 1* qualification. Lizzie Platts Shaheen Fontainebleu 1 star Apr 2017


Blackwater Shukran, ridden by ourShukran and Shaheen Font 1 star Apr 2017 trainer Allan Leon was also successful in the 1* 85km, and was sold during the competition.  We wish his new owners every success with this lovely 7yo.



Carrot (Graham) unfortunately has not had such a good start to his season.  His ride Xanthus Adulaire  was lame at the second vet gate after 80km.

And then just before Easter Carrot fell through a roof and fractured his spine. He had an operation and came out of hospital after a few days. He should be ok but won’t be riding for a while!”

Everyone at Wow and we’re sure from the wider Endurance community wish Carrot a speedy recovery.


Vet Liz Hole prepares for Mitsubishi Motors Cup

The pinnacle of grassroots eventing in the UK is the Mitsubishi Motors Cup competition, run at Badminton in the days immediately prior to the world’s leading 4* event. Amateur riders who have qualified during the previous season have the chance to gallop over the hallowed turf. We caught up with Liz Hole, a small animal vet running an extensive practice in Somerset,  as she prepares for this event of a lifetime.benji schooling 2

The horse

Liz has an excellent track record of buying young horses and producing them to event successfully herself. She bought the bay KWPN Cupido, known as Benji, as a 4 year old. “He was quite a handful as a youngster, but has come into himself. I originally bought him with a view to eventing. He moves beautifully, with a lot of power, and has hardly ever had a pole down showjumping with British Showjumping or BE, so he could have excelled in any one of these three disciplines”.


Liz qualified for the regional finals at a BE90 at Chepstow last July, winning on her dressage score of 23. At the Pontispool regional final in September,  Benji gave her an equally fantastic ride, to come 5th and book her place at Badminton.


Saddle check

During the winter, Liz had her WOW saddle checked by Nicola Nicholls, who is particularly experienced with event horses.  Liz had been concerned that as she increased Benji’s fitness, her saddle was not sitting as still on the horse’s back as it used to.  Nicola made some significant changes to the set-up of the saddle,  which immediately made the horse more comfortable and improved his way of going.  She also encouraged Liz to change to fixed block jump flaps from GP flaps, to give her more security and facilitate a shorter stirrup. An easy change with a WOW!


In additon to the usual fitness work and schooling at home, Liz has over the winter taken Benji out showjumping, and to a residential course with Adam Kemp.  Although still eligible for Elementary and Medium dressage, Benji has competed at Advanced Medium and is working at home towards PSG, so the BE 90 test should hold no terrors.

Now the ground is drier, she has been able to get out cross country schooing; the only problem was just how happy and exuberant Benji was in his re-fitted saddle.benji schooling 3

Liz benji XC schooling March 2017

“I took Benji xc schooling today. He thought he’d died and gone to heaven. I had to gallop him 3 times around the field to get any sense at all out of him then he was ace – did all the stuff I can’t do at home, including jumping into water, which I’d never asked him before. “



It looks like Liz and Benji are perfectly prepared for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup.  Everyone at WOW wishes them the very best of luck, and most importantly a fun day.

A young horse WOWing them in Australia

WOW Saddles Australia has seen many of their clients perform brilliantly on the biggest stages.  The latest success is a young horse obviously destined for many more triumphs.

Danielle Ffrench from Canberra, ACT with Hollands Bend Skyfall  (known as James) performed outstandingly in a big quality field to be placed third overall in the 4yo Young Dressage Horse Class at this weekend’s PSI Dressage and Jumping with the Stars 2017 held at Werribee, VIC.

James YHDanielle and James were in sixth place after the first round thus progressing with the Top Ten to the second round.

Danielle had to ride very sympathetically to help young James recover from initially being  overwhelmed by the atmosphere in a lovely test for a final third placing.

HB Skyfall is produced by Danielle and her twin sister Amanda Clarke, and is part of a promising team of exciting young horses.  The sisters run the well respected Gooromon Park Riding School in Canberra, Australia.  TheyJames resting use WOW Saddles on their performance horses as their saddle of choice.

And after all the excitement, James was not going to let anyone interrupt his afternoon nap!

Summer memories and spring plans

Alex Norris recalls highlights of last season

In July we had a super time at Frickley Park as part of the CCI* Under 18 Central team. There was a great atmosphere and Minnie Moo performed well. The dressage was good for Minnie and we managed to contain the explosions until the final centre line, to gain a respectable 53.5, despite the persistent rain – my breeches are still stained blue from my socks! That evening we went to the cocktail party laid on by the organisers and had great fun.


 The  highlight was the auction for the opportunity to ride with Willberry the Wonder Pony on the XC the next day.  I decided to bid with my winnings from Nunney and, with the help of the central team, we managed to win the auction (I think Mum has now banned me from any future auctions). The XC the next afternoon was really good and Minnie pulled out all the stops to get a clear inside the time, so Willbury and I had a great ride.alex-frickley-7

The showjump track was technical and the time tight; in the end we had a 2 poles down and couple of time faults. This sadly pushed us just out the top 20. Overall the week was great fun with lots of friends, and the team came 4th.

Helping the team to 4th place

A new ride!

We then had quiet time in August with no competitions, however we did have a couple of equine excursions – one to the sunny climes of Scotland to view a horse for lease, called Treefers (Trevor). Trev is an extremely experienced, if rather naughty, schoolmaster who was produced by Emily Parker through to 4*. He has now travelled down south and joined our team.

A busy September

alex-norris-gatcombeWe resumed eventing with a bang with 2 events in a weekend. We started on the Friday at Gatcombe with Minnie Moo, doing our first 2* together.  Minnie did a nice test, but a bit of tension left us with a score of 61.1. At Monmouth the next day, Trev and I did our first Novice together. Trev did an exuberant test and despite the bucks gained a 27 dressage. We then went on to do a rather energetic double clear, and finished 7th.  Alex’s first XC on Treefers On Sunday we returned to Gatcombe to do Minnie’s jumping phases. We started with the XC, which was big, bold and very technical!  Minnie was fantastic but unfortunately we showed our lack of experience at the bogey fence and picked up 20 faults.  Despite this we where very happy as 1/3 of the field did not  even complete!  img_2695Unusually the show jumping was after the XC, but this format really played to our advantage as Minnie jumped a super clear over a technical track. Minnie Moo showjumping at Gatcombe. Overall we were really pleased with both horses and were looking forward to our final event at Aldon.


Between Gatcombe and Aldon we did a lot of training with both Minnie and Trev and had some great dressage lessons with Rob Lumb.

At Aldon we had both Minnie and Trev competing, Minnie in the CIC2* and Trev in the CIC1*. We started on Friday with Trev’s dressage, which was good just lacking partnership and concentration at times. We then had Minnie’s dressage early the next morning, but she had become rather attached to Trevor and was a bit of a handful when we tried to take her away to warm up. She spend quite a lot of time standing on her hind legs but after numerous calmers and 2 1/2 hours of warm up we managed to scrape through the test rather tentatively. Despite this it was not a complete disaster and we came out with a score of 62. Thankfully we managed to find an alternative box for Trevor so Minnie started to calm down. Trevor’s show jumping was much improved and we came out with a clear. On  the final day we had to tackle Minnie’s showjumping and both XC rounds. Minnie went first and and jumped like a stag for a super clear. Trev then went XC and despite some acrobatics in the warm up he jumped a great clear inside the time. Treefers clear at Aldon A huge thank you must go to Nicola Nicholls, one of my sponsors and Aoife, her daughter, who both watched and helped untack Trev.  We then had a small break till Minnie’s XC and it was worth the wait. She stormed round the course clear inside the time giving us our first double clear at 2* level.  A great way to finish our partnership together.  Sadly we have had to return Minnie Moo to her owners, but she has been a great horse and has taught me a huge amount.

img_1448Overall we have had a good season with some great results, the highlights being our win at Nunney and the two double clears at Aldon at the end of the season.

A huge thank must go to my sponsors – Nicola Nichols of Wow Saddles for all things saddle and Oakfield Saddlery for supplying a lot of our equipment.

Preparing for next season

In the autumn we have been training and had a great lesson with Emily Parker, who is Trev’s owner. I also had a great time at Your Horse Live helping on the Wow Stand, as well as a taking part in a BE Masterclass with Yogi Breisner, this was an amazing opportunity and Trevor behaved, even if breaks were an issue.

We are looking forward to a weekend of training with Caroline Moore. In 2017 we are aiming to compete at the Junior trial with Trevor as well as do a 2* with him.

WOW in the hunting field

For many people, the Boxing Day meet is an integral part of the Christmas festivities.  As we approach this traditional event, we were delighted to hear from a lady who has had her WOW saddle fitted to three different hunters over the last 12 years. Melanie Fitzpatrick told us her story:

Finding the right saddle…..

“In 2002, I bought a coloured warmblood, Darcy, to event or show. Things didn’t go to plan though, he was timid and spooky, not forward-thinking at all, and really stuffy to ride.

In 2004 I got a Master Saddler, Jill Tremmil, to check his saddle.  She put a WOW on him and suddenly he had a proper warmblood walk, really covering the ground.  From that day on, he never looked back.

…and the right job

“The next yearmelanie-darcy I started to hunt him with the South Downs Bloodhounds.  Hunting really brought him out of his shell, and he ended up doing 5 seasons. I Field Mastered regularly, and Darcy was all I could wish for as a mount.


A new coloured partner

melanie-eddie“My next horse was not much bigger than a pony.  Eddie was a young 14.3hh coloured cob, very round indeed.  Luckily Darcy had been short-coupled, and I’m quite small, so I’d had a 16” WOW with an extra wide gullet. This only needed a change of headplate from a 3 to a 5, and adjustments to the air flocking in order to fit Eddie. I backed him and showed him to hounds before selling him on.

Out hunting again

melanie-bensonMy current horse, Benson is a locally bred cob x trotter, about 16hh, so very different again from his predecessors.  One more change of headplate by my current fitter, Susan Slade, this time to a 3UU, and my trusty WOW is out hunting on a third horse. As you can see in this picture, we both love being out – I don’t know which of us looks happier!


“Susan has re-conditioned the saddle for me after it had spent two years in temporary retirement while I had a baby, and it is treated to an annual MOT.  My WOW’s flat XC seat and GP flaps are perfect for me and for the sort of country we cross – comfortable and secure.  It’s made so much sense not to have to change my saddle with each horse, given it can be re-fitted so perfectly, and that I’d want the same seat every time.

“Benson is a lovely forward ride, without being at all silly.  I’m really looking forward to my first Boxing Day meet with him – but it will be my WOW’s 10th on a variety of horses. “

Exams, a foal and the U25 champs

Izzy Chaplin tells us about her summer – a juggling act of studying hard for her exams, working with Vincente II and crossing fingers that the recently retired Taijdora is in foal.

Many of you will now be aware I decided to retire my mare, Taijdora (Dora). After sustaining an injury at the end of the summer we felt that she has never fully recovered and was starting to struggle with some of the work. Dora hicksteadShe has been an amazing horse and we have achieved so much together including getting on the Great Britain training squad at junior level, winning the young rider medium championship at the BYRDS Home International last year and taking me to the Nationals 2 years in a row. I couldn’t ask for any more from Dora and we went out on a high at Keysoe under 25’s high profile competition early this spring by winning one of our classes and getting brilliant scores. I will miss competing Dora but luckily she can now start a new career as a mum. It is still early days but she has had her second scan and they have found a heartbeat so we are very excited to announce that she is in foal to Everdale. It will definitely be a very exciting summer next year.

However, thanks to the generosity of Coral Ingham, I have the ride on the gorgeous stallion Vincente II (Vinnie). Since my last blog I have taken him out to a few competitions. Izzy Vinnie 2016 1Our first competition was in March and we took Vinnie to Bury Farm. I did the tests H/C so that my score wouldn’t count towards the placings as I wanted the first few competitions just for practise so we could get to know each other a bit better. Vinnie was brilliant and we achieved 69.5% in the advanced medium so I was absolutely thrilled.

It was then a bit of downtime for both of us as I was preparing for my summer exams but luckily I passed all my exams with a 2:1.

After my exams it was straight back into focusing on competitions so I booked into do our first young rider test at Hartpury Premier League. The young rider test is the same test as the PSG, and is ridden at international competitions for riders aged 16 – 21 riding horses. It includes 4 and 3 time changes and half canter pirouettes.  But before this I took him out to do an advanced medium locally as he hadn’t been out much. We had a few mistakes so didn’t achieve the marks we were hoping for but a really positive outing.

Vinnie PSG Hartpury July 2016 3As I was on at half 8 in the morning we decided to stay the night at Hartpury. It was an interesting experience as I had to be more aware of what was going on around me due to Vinnie being a stallion but he was as good as gold. In the test our trot work was really good however he got slightly away from me in the canter work and decided that he knew the test better than I did so had a few communication errors which were costly. But we now had our first test at this level complete so still a good experience.

Recently we took him out again as I found out that we have been selected to represent team Southern at the Sheepgate under 25s championships coming up in a few days so needed to get a bit more practise in. Vinnie was brilliant and was listening to me so much more and had a huge improvement in the young rider test. Although we still had one mistake it was a big learning curve and I felt we were becoming more of a partnership.

Now I am looking forward to Sheepgate and I will keep you updated with how Dora is doing!

Lizzie Platts and Graham (Carrot) Hartley

The move to pastures new

Lizzie and her partner Graham (known as Carrot) used to live in Bradwell on Sea in EsseCarrot and the maresx, from here they would have to travel at least three hours each way to competitions.  Ten years ago, they considered buying in a more central UK area, but that wasn’t financially viable, so they extended their search.  In Brittany, not only was land more affordable, but there were more Rides within an hour’s drive than in the whole of the UK.  They were pleasantly surprised to find how high profile Endurance is in France, with widespread support and recognition. It was the ideal location to establish a base for breeding and competing their Arabs.

First encounter with WOW 1998

They were amongst First Thought Equine’s early customers. David Kempsell and Maggie White were working with the Kings Troop supplying Flair air flocking to their saddles where they met Lizzie and Graham in 1998.  Having used and appreciated the difference made by the Flair system, they were one of the first to have WOW saddles as soon as they became       aHUELGOAT_20160529_4473vailable.  The worth of this innovative saddle system was proven by their first horse Moon God.  They had had real difficulty fitting a saddle to him, but their troubles dissolved when they put Flair air flocking into his saddle.  Moon God went on to be selected for Team GB, completing 160km  in Dubai in 1998 with Graham.  They are in no doubt he could not have completed in any other saddle.

Today’s horses

Around their businesses running gites and providing building services, Lizzie and Graham fit in a quality breeding operation, Misty maresand are currently competing 5 homebred young horses. All sired by their own stallions Waywood William, who is closely related to Moon God, and E.A.Dadu, their horses carry the Blackwater prefix. The 8yo, Xanthus Adulaire is targeting a 2* this year.  The two 6 year olds, Blackwater Shukran and Blackwater Shaheen, (in the image below) aHUELGOAT_20160529_3491 webre comfortably completing 90km now, and qualified to go 1*.  And the two 5 year olds Blackwater Abraxus and Blackwater Raahid are happily learning their trade at shorter distances.  With two 4 year olds and a 3 year old Blackwater Azaar, Blackwater Jameel and Blackwater Aladdin waiting in the wings, Lizzie and Graham have their hands full of quality horses, all ridden in their WOW saddles.

Lizzie says: “We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time, to learn of the work David and Maggie put into the development of their unique modular saddle system. It meant we could compete successfully at a World Championship 17 years ago on a horse with particular saddling issues. In the years since, WOWs have been fitted perfectly to all our horses of whatever shape, enabling them to compete and do well at the highest level of Endurance”.

Reflections on two paths to the BD Winters

WOW Saddles caught up with two of our Ambassadors at the BD Winter Championships at Hartpury.  Kim Young made the long journey from her base near Dumfries for a busy three days, contesting the Novice Open, Novice Freestyle and Elementary Open on First Miss Sunshine AS. Lesley Peyton-Gilbert on World Exclusive presented their PSG Freestyle test as part of the Friday night Gala Evening.

  1. Your first pony?

Kim: An amazingly well-behaved little white grey pony, called Paddington Bear.  He had quite the fluffiest ears you’ve ever seen.

Lesley: I didn’t get my first pony until I was 11. He was a 14.2hh Arab/Connemara cross called Jester, and a great show jumper.

  1. Your first dressage test?

Kim: I did my first test on Bear when I was 6 or 7. We scored 8’s and 9’s – I think they must have added cuteness to the scales of training.

Lesley: I was a late starter. When I was 15 I had an eventer, so I had to learn to do dressage.  I eased myself in by doing a Prix Caprilli test first.

  1. Why dressage?

Kim: I evented as a teenager, which was great fun but expensive. Then I started having lessons with Lady Joicey, who was inspirational. She didn’t care if your mount wasn’t flashy, as long as you wanted to learn.

Lesley: I find it fascinating, the intellectual demands it makes, the attention to detail that’s needed. I think it appeals to my OCD tendencies!

  1. When did you first meet your Winter Nationals horse?

Kim Young Scot Winter regKim: I went to Holland in November 2013. Merrie had only arrived at the backing yard a week earlier, but she had a kind temperament, moved well – and was within my limited budget!

Lesley: Wex turned up on my yard one day, as a 6yo. His owner had bred him, and was working at Novice, but had hurt her back and couldn’t ride. She knew of me through a mutual friend and thought the horse would suit me.

  1. What is your favourite thing about him/her?

Kim: She is a total worker, always tries for you.  I just need to be careful not to do too much.

Lesley: Mine is the same, he has a great work ethic, always giving everything he’s got. And he only needs a short warm-up, then starts working immediately so I never spend long on him.  That will really help his longevity.

  1. What does he/she find easiest?

Kim: We’re just progressing lateral work and starting changes, and she honestly finds everything easy.

Lesley Peyton-Gilbert - World Exclusive

Lesley Peyton-Gilbert – World Exclusive

Lesley: Again, I’d make a very similar comment. Wex finds everything easy, my only problem is that he can try too hard. He has a lovely walk,  a great foundation to work from.

  1. What are your future competition plans?

Kim: We’ve already qualified at Novice and Elly for the summer regionals. I’d love to get her qualified in the 6yo classes, and get at least to the semi-finals.  My goal is be competing at medium this Autumn and Advanced Medium next year.

Lesley: This is only his fourth PSG, and we’ve already completed his first Inter 1, with 70%.  I’m planning an Inter 2 by the end of the year.

  1. When you are not riding this horse….?

Kim: I run my own dog grooming business, The Grooming Room, in Dumfries.  I work the hours that suit clients – so that usually leaves me time during the day to ride.

Lesley: I’ve a 22-horse livery yard, a mix of eventers, dressage horses, and riding clubbers. I teach at home and for clients – I’m off tomorrow to do two days with the Kings Troop. I’m also a Futurity judge for the BEF, and Young Horse for BD.

  1. What is your horse’s favourite treat?

Kim: Every 10 days or so we box up and go with a friend for a long hack on quiet lanes and forest tracks.  It totally unwinds her – and me.

Lesley: Wex is addicted to carrots, and loves his regular physio and McTimony sessions

  1. And your favourite treat?

Kim: Prosecco!

Lesley: Prosecco!

Reign’s first Championships

Bonnie Chivers took her young horse Diamondgraaf Reign Dance to the British Riding Clubs’ KBIS Novice Winter Championships.  We asked her how they got on in their first big class together.

“We  went to the KBIS Novice Dressage Championship yesterday. Myself, my husband and Oliver (my baby), along with Reign of course, left home at 5.30am for a 2.5hour journey to compete for the Wokingham and Bearwood Riding Club as an individual.

She started warming up very well, very relaxed – until I asked for canter when she decided to become a rodeo pony… Thank God for my amazing WOW saddle as that is all that saved me! I worked through the unscheduled movements, carried on warming up and went in to do my test. She actually performed extremely well for a 4yo, so I was delighted!

Reign Novice Winters 2016

We had two other arenas running next to ours with horses coming and going but she just knuckled down and did as I asked. She scored 7’s and 8’s but I made a few little errors which the judge really penalised us for (fair enough). I was over the moon that she scored the highest collective marks for the class, it just underlines the potential I know she has. And if I had  got it right she would have finished around 2nd place in her first Championships. And to cap it all, when I got my sheet, the judge commented that she is “oozing potential”.

I’ve so much to look forward to”.

Lesley prepares for Winters Gala evening

We caught up with Lesley Peyton-Gilbert during her busy preparations for the summer season.

Spring is trying to spring!

I’ve just returned from two days away at my trainers at Jubilee Farm and Paul Hayler. I try and get there for two days every month. This is such a great boost for me and keeps me on track, not just looking at the present and the coming season, but for the future of both of my horses. World Exclusive (Wex) continues to delight and his step up to small tour and the training development of the Grand Prix work is so rewarding. My new ride, Rob Roy, has been with me three months now and has changed physically and mentally. 16 months ago he was a show jumper in Germany and now he’s small tour working on GrandPrix movements too. As his physique improves so does his confidence , although he is very green when confronted with ‘busy distracting arenas’ but this will come as he’s such a lovely charismatic boy. The only sad thing is he is up for sale and really I’m working on creating a happy confident horse to, I’m sure go on to great things in dressage! Until then I will give him my best and work towards championship qualification and inter11 in the autumn.L P-G dogs Pie 10 weeks

So the two days away on my own with two horses and two dogs ( one my 10 week old puppy Pie) was exhausting! Thankfully I managed to avoid the traffic carnage that was the M1 that Thursday! Phew!

Wex had a very good High Profile show series. Although  at the regionals he was squeezed into second in the PSG music, we still qualified for the winter finals at Hartpury in two weeks. I love this show, the atmosphere, especially in the Gala evenings which we will be taking part on the Friday evening is like a continental show and great to do (fun comes into it but usually after you’ve done your ride! And you’ve poured yourself a glass of something!!)

April also sees my start of the Premier League circuit and for Keysoe the first CDI of the year. Super exciting for everyone selected and for Keysoe. I will hopefully do an international with Wex later on this year but I have to remember he’s only done a handful of tests at this level, he’s taken to it like a duck to water! so it can make you a little greedy!!

I also have the BEF Futurity season, an evaluation of young sport horses from foals to three year olds. It’s a route for some of our breeders to get their horses on to the Equine Bridge but also to give them help and advice and see where their breeding strategy is taking them. I am also booked up to do a few BD Young horse classes and I’m really looking forward to this. There have been a few changes in how this has been organised and some changes to the tests and I think this is really beneficial for the horses and the riders . Should make for a great finals in the summer!

My yard is super busy( just how I like it) and on the whole we are ticking along nicely.this is always aided by my staff, family and sponsors .#wow saddles #uhip#H&F feeds

L P-G Rob Roy SupercoolThis is Robbie showing how lovely the SuperCool saddle cloths are. I have two in black and for competition, white( they wash amazingly and stay white!!!) I took Wex to the gallops the other Sunday and he only had sweat marks under his girth! They really help keep the horse cool and comfortable. I wonder if I could have a top made in it??😃 Going to the gallops with Wex was huge fun and so good for him to do something different. We are lucky to have a well-fenced, uphill 5.5 furlong gallop with a good surface. So good for the horses! He also hacks once a week, and lunge as I try to maintain variety  especially as the work load has increased. Even during the depths of winter and mud we turn out all the horses. I think this is essential for them physically and mentally . I don’t have or want a horse walker , which probably makes more work for us but generally I like to keep the horses as natural as possible.

So that’s us for now looking forward….. One of the reasons I just love Spring!

L xxx