The eventing season has come to a close for WOW’s sponsored event riders, and Francis Whittington has wasted no time whisking the family away on holiday! He does have another good reason; because of his teaching commitments in the USA and back here in England, he might not get another chance to spend time away with his loved ones.
Kitty King is winding things down a little at home, and tells us she’s ‘thinking about a holiday’, but Paul Tapner has competed up to the very last second, taking Indian Mill to the 4-star Etoiles de Pau in France. This was only the horse’s second attempt at the level, and it all went very well until an unfortunate show jumping round dropped them out of the top ten.
Although the eventers won’t now be competing for some months, do keep looking out for winter time tips and training hints from them on our social pages. (You can also enter a contest to win a lesson with Kitty King, pictured, in the current issue of Your Horse magazine.)
Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials launches on Tuesday 5th May with the Grassroots event. Wednesday 6th May sees the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse Class and the first Horse Inspection for the main event – Thursday 7th May and Friday 8th May are dressage days, with Saturday 9th May seeing XC day, and Sunday 10th May concluding with the show jumping and presentations.
WOW Saddles is proud to be sponsors of some elite riders contesting the trophy this year – we speak to Francis Whittington about his plans:
Francis Whittington has already completed at Badminton on both Sir Percival and Easy Target, but this year, he is travelling to Gloucestershire with two horses that are both new to the world famous event. Fernhill Highlight and Hasty Imp are both deserving of their places on merit, but that was not the only reason Francis decided to bring this pair from his enviable quartet of 4* rides. “Easy Target has completed here before, so when the chance came to take him to Lexington, that seemed a good idea, Westside will be more suited by Luhmuhlen. Of the two, Hasty Imp is more experienced, having completed at Burghley last year, but Fernhill Highlight was fifth at Blenheim CCI***, which was an excellent result at the level, so I think he is ready,” Francis tells us. “And it is great for the owners to go to Badminton, so being able to take two horses for two different owners is great,” added Francis. Although the riders have not seen the course in real life yet at the time of writing, Francis has been having a sneak peak online. “The changes look exciting, although you never know how a course will ride until you get there; there are so many variables like the weather and the going, but I think my horses are ready. We might not be winning this year, but it will be great experience for them both, and I am optimistic about completing on both of them,” he concludes. We wish him luck!
Despite her being very busy with student life, we had a lovely catch up with WOW Saddles rider Izzy Chaplin to find out how things are going with university and the horses…
“I have been at uni over a month now. It is such a change from being at home and definitely a bit of a shock not riding every day! Before I came up to Nottingham I managed to fit in a bit of training and competing. I took Dora to 2 Area Festivals to try and qualify for the winter national championships at Hartpury next spring. I also took Sid out to a competition in the first week of September. He behaved impeccably at the show. We did have a mistake in the test but we still managed to score over 67% to come 2nd so I was extremely pleased with him.”
“Unfortunately the day before I was due to take Sid out to another competition he managed to pull his shoe off and due to early test times the next day we couldn’t have the shoe put back on until midday. I was absolutely gutted as he has come on so much in the past couple of weeks and I know that he still isn’t going at his best, especially at a show where he sometimes gets a bit nervous.”
“Then it was Dora’s turn. Firstly I took her to Wellington Riding area festival to do the medium open. I was one of the first to go in my arena so it was a nice and early, 4 o’clock start. Dora warmed up really well and didn’t put a foot wrong in the test. Unfortunately, I pushed Dora a little bit too much in the extended trot which meant she broke into canter so we were marked down quite a bit for that. But we ended up in 3rd place, just 5.5 points behind the winner’s total marks, so it was very close. This made me even more motivated to do well in the next area festival.”
“I then entered Patchetts area festival. I entered both the medium open and the advanced medium open. We didn’t have a single mistake in the medium test. Dora could have been a bit suppler, especially in the canter half passes but I was extremely pleased with the overall test. We got 67.5% to come 5th. Then in the advanced medium I came 4th, half a percent behind 2nd. We still have a lot of work to do in the advanced medium as I didn’t set Dora up enough for some of the movements so threw away marks.”
“After going to uni I managed to come back home to have a ride and have a lesson on both Dora and Sid with Henry Boswell. Both lessons were brilliant especially with Sid. We got great leg yields and the canter work improved so much! Unfortunately as I am at uni we decided that Sid should go back to his owners. It has been a great learning experience working with Sid and he will be missed by everyone at home, especially for his cheeky personality. He is such a talented horse with so much to give and I am so grateful to Maggie and Dave for giving me this opportunity.”
“Lastly, I have some good news. I have been picked for the Nottingham Uni Riding A Team. This means that I will be competing for the University of Nottingham at competition against other unis. It will be a very different experience to what I am used to as you ride a big variety of horses, but it should be very fun and I should learn a lot! I will keep everyone updated on how the team does.”
Technologically advanced saddle manufacturers are increasingly utilising design creativity to make their saddles not just functional, but beautiful too. WOW Saddles is shortly launching within its new designer range the ‘On Fire’ dressage saddle, which, on the fixed block models, utilises beautifully embroidered, quilt-effect stitching on the saddle flap. This gives a discreet, unusual appearance behind the leg and includes flame-shaped stitching behind the rider’s lower leg. A small burst of Swarvoski crystals behind the rider’s thigh adds light-catching sparkle.
While showjumping and eventing attire is fairly relaxed, dressage riders are quite limited in terms of their flamboyance in the UK. British Dressage bans clothing decoration, except discreet manufacturer’s logo studs on boots; although patent leather boots are popular, and give a high shine. Conservative-coloured coats are required in BD competitions, although discreet pinstripe patterns are now de-rigour. So, your dressage saddle is the ideal place to add a little bit of interest!
Within the field of showjumping, riders can express their fashion savvy a little more, as they may wear coloured jackets (providing they do not clash with the official ‘team’ jacket); perhaps to correspond with their own, or their sponsors’ colours.
Dress codes for the XC stage of eventing attire are even more relaxed, as there are greater provisions for promotional material and logos on clothing, (albeit at a certain maximum size, or in a designated position on the rider’s clothes.) Bright and bold colour-ways are popular.
Patent bridles or those with diamante or coloured accents are also popular to add interest, while leather riding boots in materials such as ostrich, crocodile or kangaroo are also popular with more flamboyant riders, particularly internationally.
Riding helmets are increasingly being seen with diamante accents and patterns, as well as jewel-inspired colours – the trick is to keep it discreet, so your accents complement each other and don’t over power you and your performance.
Why not personalise your saddle today by speaking to the team at WOW Saddles! www.wowsaddles.com
Within the eventing sphere especially, some riders are looking to their saddles to express their fashion sense, or coordinate their cross country colours. The leatherwork of all WOW saddles may be customised in the rider’s or sponsor’s colours; two-tone coloured leather is popular. Eventer Paul Tapner may currently be seen competing in a beautiful red and black XC saddle with fixed long blocks that give increased support for the leg. He also sports a more neutral Havana brown and maroon version of the saddle.
Why not ‘bling up’ your saddle?
WOW Saddles recently customised a customer’s saddle at the cantle and pommel areas, using appliquéd diamante and crystals. “Some riders like to use a bespoke pattern of their choice, particularly if they compete in the discipline of dressage under artificial lights, as discreet sparkles can really add interest and glamour,” explains First Thought Equine’s Co-proprietor, Maggie White. “It is also possible to spell a rider, horse or sponsor’s name in gemstones, or diamante and crystals. However I wouldn’t advocate that owners simply ‘bling up’ their own saddles – it is best left to saddlers with design experience and all the right materials and technology at their disposal to do this!”
If you want to ‘bling up’ your saddle and make a statement then get in touch via www.wowsaddles.com
Q. Francis is known for having very soft hands (which is always so nice to see). I appreciate there is no simple answer to having such a ‘giving’ style but could you please ask him if it came naturally to him or was it something he spotted as a youngster in his pony days and developed ? Marc Melander
A. I was lucky enough to receive training from some amazing trainers when I was younger. They were tough on me and if I got it wrong they made it clear!
One person who helped me with my style of riding for cross country and show jumping was my show jumping trainer. Most will have heard of him as he is the current boss of the British Show Jumping team, Rob Hoekstra. I had a lot of training from Rob as a kid. Starting when I was 6 or 7 years old. Although I don’t see him that often now as he is so busy, his words and advice still play an important part in my riding and understanding of how I should ride. It was important to use body control rather than fight with the hands. To teach the horses to listen to our body and allow the horse the hand when needed. There are obviously times where it is necessary to take a firmer contact and I’m sure you will see the odd occasion at Badminton next week. For me there are three basic points to remember. Rhythm, Balance, Control. You only ever need two of them to achieve the third!