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“This is my eleventh Badminton, so it is about time I went first!” First drawn Paul Tapner tells us how it is…

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 Paul Tapner about his plans:

Paul Tapner is a veteran of ten Badmintons already; 2015 will be his eleventh, and he has got one victory to his name already, winning in 2010 on Inonothing. He is drawn first to go on Kilronan, his WEG mount, who was leading at Badminton last year until he rolled a pole in the final phase. “This is my eleventh Badminton, so it is about time I went first! Kilronan has plenty of experience, and he will get the best of the ground. Also, because he did so well last year, he will probably not be disadvantaged by being first in the dressage, where sometimes you can be a victim of the judges being cautious,” Paul explains. In complete contrast to Kilronan, Paul’s other ride Indian Mill, is starting at his four star. “I would have liked the [new] course to be as it was last year for him; he is a great horse cross country, but it looks to me like the course has been ‘softened’ from 2014, which is a pity. In fact, I think that [course designer] Guiseppe (de la Chiesa) has been really unimaginative with his changes. Mostly, he has just reversed the course without changing the fences much. Of course, I might be eating my words on Saturday night,” laughed Paul. Indian Mill has plenty of good 3* form, including 3rd at Blenheim and 4th at Gatcombe, both, as it happens behind fellow WOW representative, Francis Whittington!

Paul Tapner (on right) with Kilronan, pictured with Francis Whittington and Easy Target. Photo by Luly Kyriacou.

Paul Tapner (on right) with Kilronan, pictured with Francis Whittington and Easy Target. Photo by Luly Kyriacou.

Badminton bound – Francis Whittington shares his plans

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.

Francis Whittington, pictured on Easy Target (photo by Lulu Kyriacou)

Francis Whittington, pictured on Easy Target (photo by Lulu Kyriacou)

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!

Kerry Weisselberg shares her WOW story…

We love hearing feedback from our customers so it was great to read about Kerry Weisselberg’s experience with her WOW Saddle! Read on to find out how her quirky and sensitive mare has gone from strength to strength since discovering the WOW Saddle…

Kerry has been eventing since 1988, and has produced and ridden horses up to Advanced and 2* and 3* levels. “I showjumped as a teenager (only up to Foxhunters) before I evented, and unfortunately no trainer and no amount of determined effort since has been able to get me out of my bad ‘showjumpery’ habit of an insecure lower leg. I have tried all sorts of saddles and all sorts of techniques over this time, including very short stirrups, even tying the stirrups to the girth, loads of work in 2-point seat, but nothing really helped my lower leg in the air. I can honestly say that in the WOW saddle, without me having to think about it while doing a round (which is always impossible, I have enough other things to think about!), my lower leg is FINALLY improving. That is a fantastic feeling.”

as a foal
“Daisy (The Opposition Rose) is a homebred mare by Fleetwood Opposition out of a very quirky but talented Irish SJ mare. Knowing what I know now, I’d never have chosen Fleetwater Opposition as a stallion for her! Daisy had a physical problem growing up, some kind of asymmetry in her back end, and needed a lot of remedial attention. She is very opinionated, has always loved to rear – see photo – and is the only horse I’ve ever known who will stand and buck repeatedly, almost vertical, as if she’s a Buckaroo toy. I backed her without incident, but a few years ago, while quietly trotting a circle at home, she launched me spectacularly for no apparent reason and I landed on my feet but dislocated my knee very badly, leading to months on crutches and eventual surgery. So, I have always known that she has to be supremely comfortable, otherwise I am in deep trouble. She is very independent minded, the lead mare in my little herd here (in spite of not being the eldest by a long way) and likes to think that everything is her own idea. She takes a lot of tact to ride and train, but I absolutely adore her, and would do anything to keep her happy and on side.”

doing her favourite thing
“We started eventing 2 years ago and progress has been slow, not for want of my ambition, but because she never felt ready to do more. Although she’s usually very bold, and sometimes liked to take full strides out (never fun or advisable, we’ve done a lot of work to eradicate that bad habit!) she’d feel a bit overawed by certain fences (although she did not stop) and, frankly, she felt lacking in scope and power. She was skewing badly over fences, throwing me off balance, sometimes feeling as if she was ‘sprawling’ in the air over them. She doesn’t always bring both hind feet down together so she was pushing off more from one hind leg. She was tense, bracing her topline in the air, not basculing and using her body properly. On one occasion (on our BE100 début) she backed off a fence, left one front leg completely behind – possibly stood on the overreach boot, I’m not sure – and slithered over the fence on her chest and that leg totally straight underneath her, somehow staying upright on landing, but I fell off. Not fun or at all encouraging, as it was only a metre high.”

not basculing, tense
“I remember scratching my head and wondering HOW a horse with this breeding, who looks like such a little powerpack, could have so little scope and talent. It was absolutely gutting and made no sense. I should probably mention that I hate selling horses, especially my homebreds, and that I want to keep her for her whole life and, ideally, get up to doing really big stuff again. I still dream of doing a 4* event and she is definitely my best chance unless I win the lottery! So, I was getting close to despair at her apparent lack of talent.”

“The WOW saddle has been a complete revelation to us both. She has started coming up in front properly and now bigger fences feel really easy on her. She is much straighter, and is starting to ‘throw her back end away’ in the air rather than bring it through tight and low (often having poles down). She is arguing less on the way to the fences and letting me ride her more, which helps a lot! I am still experimenting with different bits, and ways of riding her, and this led to us flattening three of the last five show-jumps on her début this year and one major misunderstanding during our last SJ round but overall there is a huge improvement in the way she feels and the way she jumps.”

much better style
“She’s run four times cross country so far this year, two at a hunter trial and two at BE100, always sailing round the cross country clear, with gusto, enjoying every stride, which means I can! Her confidence has grown hugely, she finally feels ready for the step up to Novice. She has a fantastic attitude to her jumping, loving the cross country in particular, feeling very keen and clever, coping brilliantly even with the odd duff stride or line (since I’m far from perfect!). She now doesn’t need all the remedial work she had to have very regularly (monthly, if possible) in previous years.
My dreams of getting up to the higher levels with her have been reignited. She’ll never lead the dressage (which, at the moment, we are doing in our WOW jump saddle, as I won’t put another make of saddle on her now, even though I have a couple of other very nice dressage saddles) but she gives me huge hope that if she stays tough and loving the game, we might get there.”

keen and uphill xc
“There are even little things such as the fact that she now nails EVERY halt, perfectly square. That just wasn’t happening previously. It’s something she has learnt, but also something she now feels comfortable enough to do, consistently. That is a huge deal, to me. I can only say a HUGE thank you to WOW for making such special saddles, which my very special mare obviously needed, to Francis Whittington, for recommending me to try the WOW on her (and I should apologise for waiting a year to do it, and wasting a fortune on another saddle – of a very reputable brand – in that time!) and to my WOW fitter Fiona Reddick, for doing such a fabulous job, and having such a great eye for straightening me out too.”

square again
“I love my WOW saddle, it is supremely comfortable (I can hack out in it for hours, unlike other competition saddles which were purgatory!), it makes me feel really secure in the air, and, more importantly, my opinionated, difficult, but talented and much adored little mare absolutely LOVES it. I wouldn’t swap it for anything now.”

bigger fence

The trials and tribulations of Oli Lawrence: Eventing, polo and turning 21!

Great to catch up with our WOW Saddles blogger, Oli Lawrence. Read more to find out what adventures he has been embarking on this month…

“So. We’re nearly one month into the season and I’m still alive plus I haven’t fallen too behind with work which, in short, is a minor miracle.  Since we last spoke/I wrote/you read Sox has been to Oasby, Lincoln and Great Witchingham. Oasby was his first event which normally leads to entertaining stories of general start of season problems but I’m surprised, even suspicious, to report that we had non except 2 poles down but we’ll let that go… Oasby did highlight though that a change of bit was in order for the cross country as it felt a little bit like being on a freight train with minimal breaks. Sox now has an American gag which does everything a bit is supposed to, well actually, it means I can stop which is kinda good really!

With new bit in tow Sox jumped a decent double clear at Lincoln and just had the one down show jumping but was clear cross country at Great Witchingham Intermediate. Coincidentally I discovered after Great Witchingham that if you finish your cross country round, pack up, go home and go straight to the library within four hours you’ll be one of the least productive students alive. Suffice to say I lasted about 5 minutes of sitting down before beginning to climb the walls and abandoned any attempt at work. I keep being told I need to compartmentalise things and focus on work in Cambridge then forget about work whilst I’m eventing.  However, when you’re sitting at a desk convinced the table in front is fence 7 and beyond that there is a water jump and you click at your computer like a horse when it won’t start I think it’s safe to say you’ve failed to focus…

I also had the once in a life time experience, if I ever repeat it again someone will kill me, of doing a bad dressage test at Great Witchingham. Normally Sox’s dressage is pretty damn good but as soon as I went down the centre line I knew this was just one of those days – the arena had been moved slightly and there was the trace of a second centre line next to the actual one where horses had trotted before me. For the life of me every time I turned up the centre line I was off, which landed me in a lot of trouble with just about everyone, not least the judge who didn’t empathise with my predicament. I was once told by an old, dubiously wise and slighted bearded old lady at a pony club rally when I was still small enough to actually ride ponies, that some mistakes, like putting pans in a microwave and not tightening your girth enough, you will only ever make once.  I hope she was right.

I suppose I should say something about polo too seeing as I missed it off last time. Cambridge uni is lucky enough to own its own ponies which makes playing polo here relatively cheap. As well as the actual polo the ponies have been subject to several experiments for WOW and other companies whilst I’ve been here.  We tried cross country boots instead of bandages and WOW’s air adjuster pad under poorly fitting saddles to brilliant effect.  What I’m trying to say is that from all of this I’ve learnt one thing – if you can give a product to a group of disorganised students who are either hungover or half asleep still and it works then you’re on to a winner.  WOW might produce some wacky designs compared to your standard jumping saddle but their stuff is relatively idiot proof and simple to use – in a world where everything seems immensely complicated that must be the biggest compliment I can give something!

Sox heads to Belton Young Rider’s trial for his next event so watch this space.  Actually , even better, come and watch! – its one of the best events in the country for spectators and a great family day out.  Blimey, I sound like I’m selling ice to polar bears, but I do genuinely mean it!

On a final note, I have a classic Oli mess up to share.  I’d offered to help out with a total beginners polo lesson and was really keen for it to go well seeing as I’d been for a drink previously with one of the girls involved.  So she trots along trying to canter and I thought if I just give the pony a tiny tap on the bum as I go past it’ll be enough to nudge it into a nice slow canter for her.  Predictably, as soon as I touched him he spun round and glared at me and in the process deposited said girl on the deck. Fantastic. Nice work Oli. Thankfully she got straight back on and seems to still be talking to me… When I got back I found I had an email asking how I’d managed to combine horses, uni and life in general as I seemed to have done a really good job of it and asking for advice… The temptation to reply that in all seriousness I was definitely the wrong person to ask was pretty high. That said, I do turn 21 tomorrow so I’m hoping for some beam of inspiration from on high that might eventually stop me having such ludicrously bad ideas!”

Oli, in the white shirt, on a recent Uni polo tour in China

Oli, in the white shirt, on a recent Uni polo tour in China

The highs and lows from Oli Lawrence: An introduction

We are very excited to introduce a new WOW Blogger to the team! Oli Lawrence tells us a little bit more about himself in his first ever blog…

“So WOW Saddles asked me to write a blog for them that follows the highs of lows of being, well, me. Great plan. Then it occurred to me that I’d have to write it at 1am surrounded by piles of books, sleep deprived and high on caffeine. The inevitable consequence of this is I’ll end up being brutally honest and make lots of spelling mistakes… I guess for everybody else that can only make entertaining reading. Put some Jack Johnson or other suitable film-esque music on and keep reading. Here goes…”

“My name is Oli Lawrence. A 20 year old, tall, skinny Cambridge student. I study geology – rocks, fossils, oil, mining…stuff like that and play lacrosse and polo for uni. I’m also trialling for the Great Britain Young Rider eventing team this year as well as the other normal things students do – borrow traffic cones, go to lectures, not go to lectures, sleep. The reality of the situation is that I don’t actually get to sleep very much and I don’t really have an average life in any way. Some days its like living in a film – you score in a lacrosse match, drive straight from there and win money jumping and then remember you’re dating an Italian model which kinda tops it off really. On the other hand, there are days when it’s pouring with rain, I’ll be at the yard at 7am to ride, get soaked to the skin and covered in horse poo then have to go straight to 9am lectures that go solidly till 5pm. Realise, I haven’t eaten a hot meal in a week and dig into another Sainsburys meal deal of dry bread and fake fruit juice and run to lacrosse practise. NB – it’s still raining, I still stink of horses and when I get home I’ll be writing essays till 3am. Suffice to say life has its ups and downs… The idea of this blog, honestly, is to publicise my long standing supporters WOW Saddles by getting every man and his dog to read my blog, from which they’ll sell millions of saddles and I’ll find some new generous owner who wants to buy me a yard and a string of horses. Ambitious.”

“So. This eventing business. I don’t come from a horsey family in the slightest, which is ermm… unorthodox and a royal pain in the a*se. We’ll leave it at that. In fact my parents have just left for India for 3 months leaving me to handle the spring circuit on own. Cheers mum!”

“Sox, 17 hands, big, black, positive personality is the other side of the partnership in all this.  Things kick off for us at Oasby this March and from there it’s kick on and aim for Houghton Hall CCI**.  Sox lives with, and I’m trained by, Charlotte Bathe, who is based about 20min from Cambridge. As situations go its pretty ideal. *Hang on, hold that thought, I need to go to a lecture on paleobotany – basically, really old and very dead plant anatomy taught by a balding bat crazy french man with too short trousers.*  Dead plants aside, thats the plan for the first few months of this season.”

“Cutting back to the present. I’ve got Young Rider training at Aston-le-Walls coming up, which should be a good opportunity to get Sox out and about and get a different opinion on how it is all looking. If everyone could touch wood and cross all fingers and limbs that would be great. After that we’ve got just over a week before Oasby and Sox gets his WOW dressage saddle fitted just before that. Perfect timing I’d say. Saddle fittings usually result in two things: Sox going much better and being more comfortable and me being told I don’t sit straight – cue Oli gets shouted at for multiple dressage sessions, which I’m sure Sox finds utterly hilarious.”

“In actual fact I think our pre-season preps been pretty good. The thing I’m kinda worried about is the fact that when I go to events there won’t be a mother to bring food and general organisation and money and just be vaguelly helpful. But hey ho, I’m sure it’ll be grand. Predictably something won’t go to plan (forgetting to get car insurance, cash for a start fee, forgetting a horse…) soooo on the bright side I’ll have something to write about.”

J17_0115 R Lawrence 5by7in 200dpi-1

Kitty King’s first blog of the 2014 season

Just before the 2014 event season kicks off we have a chat to WOW Saddles sponsored rider, Kitty King, and find out what she has planned for this year…

“After the event season finished last year all the horses had a break and then came back into work in November so they were all fit and raring to go come January when the jumping and dressage training began. My year started off amazingly when I got a call from Yogi Breisner to say that I had been selected for the World Class Performance Squad! This means that I get access to lots more training and support, as well as additional funding towards my regular training. I have already been to William Fox-Pitt’s yard twice for training, Aston Le Walls all weather cross country course and the Unicorn Centre and it has been fabulous!”

“We have the first event of the season this weekend (1st March) where I will be taking one young horse for their first event. Then the older horses will run at Oasby the weekend after, then all going to plan it will be Aldon and then Gatcombe – fingers crossed the weather doesn’t ruin plans!”

“I am really excited about the season – Persimmon is aiming for Tattersalls 3* and Zidante is aiming for Badminton so we have some big plans! Hopefully all the hard work will pay off! I have a new mare called Creevagh Cooley, owned by Lindsay Caldwell, and she will hopefully do the 6 year old classes, meanwhile Ceylor LAN will be getting mileage on the clock at one day events before hopefully doing Le Lion 7 year olds at the end of the year.”

WOW have been out and checked my saddles so we are raring to go for the season!”

salperton 2012 Kitty King from Lulu Kyriacou MED RES riding Zidante

Francesca Brough wins WOW Saddles Grassroots Overall Leading Rider at SEEL Ball

On Saturday 9th November many South East based event riders swapped breeches and boots for dancing gear as they celebrated at the annual South East Eventers League Ball! We are very proud to support the League and always look forward to seeing who is crowned the WOW Saddles Grassroots Overall Leading Rider and this year it was won by very worthy winner Francesca Brough. We find out a little more about Francesca…

“My history with horses began with the Crawley and Horsham Pony Club,” Francesca tells us. “I came through the ranks eventually representing the club on several occasions at the national championships at open level in both eventing and dressage. This yielded many top five planning’s.”

“I left university to pursue my eventing passion and spent three seasons with Jonty Evans, Angela Tucker and Tim Rusbridge. I learned so much about everything from stable management, producing youngsters correctly and competition riding. I have now relocated to West Sussex where I have set up my own yard from where I can continue my eventing career.”

“At present I have Angels Spirit with whom I won the fantastic WOW saddle! I have recently been given the ride on a lovely 5yr gelding, Freshman’s Minstrel, owned by Mrs Lynne Langridge. I have just sold Harry Hare and Scarborough Rock in order to fund the purchase of two 4 year olds to produce next season. I am always on the lookout for more rides!” 

“This 2013 season turned out to be very successful after a rather patchy start. Harry Hare was seldom out of the placings and Angels Spirit went from strength to strength, gaining in confidence throughout the year. She eventually won 3 categories in the South Eastern Eventers League and was 2nd nationally in the British Eventing Foundation Points Table. I also secured 12th place nationally in the British Eventing Foundation Points Riders League Table.”

“After a long event season I like to give the horses time off in November. They will be brought back into work on December 1st. Once they have had their fittening work we will take them to some combined training and possibly a bit of hunting. In February the horses will spend some time on the gallops and also do some cross country schooling.” 

“Next season Angels Spirit will start with some Pre Novice Plus Classes before taking the step up to Novice Level. Once she is confidently tackling novice tracks I would like to aim her at some CIC* star competitions. The young horses will begin at BE90 and progress to BE100 in due course. I hope to qualify at least one of them for some Burghley Young Event Horse Classes in the Autumn – lets see how it goes!”

“Winning the WOW Saddle means so much to me. They are so special. My horses have to share tack and I am very excited that Angels Spirit will have her own custom made perfectly fitting saddle! The award is a terrific recognition of how hard Angels Spirit has tried this season and just how far she has come. I would like to thank WOW Saddles for their most generous sponsorship of the Overall Grassroots Winner category!”

Francesca being presented with her WOW Saddles prize by previous winner Sue Eggleton

Francesca being presented with her WOW Saddles prize by previous winner Sue Eggleton

As the WOW Saddles team were unable to attend the evening due to being at another show, previous winner, Sue Eggleton presented the prize to Francesca. Sue is now a total advocate of WOW Saddles

“Thanks to SEEL I was lucky enough to win a wonderful WOW dressage saddle,” Sue says. “After having the saddle for sometime, I was so pleased I decided to order a close contact jumping saddle from WOW also. In my opinion they are the best saddles for both horse and rider. My experience with the company has been superb. They have done everything they can to make sure both I and my horses are entirely happy and comfortable. My riding and my horses way of going have improved immeasurably in all disciplines, thanks to their superb innovative design.”

“Furthermore, due to the flexibility of fit offered by being modular, with changeable headplate and Flair flocking system I know both saddles will be my saddles for life that I can adapt to suit any horse I own at any point in the future.  Which makes them a very worthwhile investment for any rider! No more getting used to a new saddle every time you change your horse!”

Kitty King’s blog: A great start to the season!

WOW sponsored rider, Kitty King, has already been to two events this year and so far all is looking promising!

“We started the season with Aston Le Walls with all the young horses,” she tells us. “Most of whom were ‘first timers’ and we had four nice double clears! One of my new rides, Bondi Beach won his BE100 section, another new ride Caeleste had her first run and went nicely with a double clear in the BE100 and came 5th and Burtonhill was 6th.”

“We have spent the past two days at Tweseldown, and have another two days to go! Caeleste felt better for having one run under her belt, she was less on edge and did a 28 dressage and went double clear to win her section which is very promising. Today (Thursday 7th March) I took two older horses to do the Open Intermediate and was pleased with the results. Zidante, who is aiming for the Fontainebleau Nations Cup in a few weeks, did a really nice dressage test in a very boggy arena then showjumped clear in another very boggy arena! I didn’t take her too quick cross country because of the ground but she still finished 3rd without having to push her so it was nice to get started with a good run. Persimmon was a lot later in the day so the ground had deteriorated even more but he did a good dressage of 26 and was in the lead, but he had both parts of the double down having jumped a lovely round until then, it is very unlike him but he got totally stuck in the mud, he didn’t deserve it so it was a shame. He then went on to do a very nice clear cross country round and still finished 8th so I feel we have a good start to build on. He is aiming for Tattersalls 2* in May.”

“We have another two days at Tweseldown and then Aldon and Fontainebleau over the next few weeks,so hopefully we will keep going as well as we have started.” salperton 2012 Kitty King from Lulu Kyriacou MED RES riding Zidante