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Lesley recaps over 2014

Our WOW Saddles sponsored rider, Lesley Peyton-Gilbert makes good of the weather and updates us on her latest antics…

“A dull and wet day gives me the excuse to sit in the warm to do a quick catch up! My boys Woodcroft Garuda K and World Exclusive have had a few adventures! The National Championships in September were fab as always. It’s a great time to catch up with everyone and the atmosphere is always good. I don’t like the venue particularly but it is as it is and we all have to work with it. I feel particularly sorry for the young horse riders! I’m not going to moan but for our National Championships I do think we deserve a better venue now. So many people put so much in to making this a great time of year.”

“I have to thank British Dressage supporters club for my certificate for representing Great Britain this past two years at small and now Big Tour, it was a lovely way to mark something special!”

World Exclusive at the Nationals in the Advanced Medium Open

World Exclusive at the Nationals in the Advanced Medium Open

“In the competition arena we had a mixed bag! Wex always gives his level best of everything he has and did not disappoint in the Medium Open with a top ten place and a 12th in the Advanced Medium Open Championship. Both of these classes are super ‘hot’ and are rich with talent and potential international future stars so I feel very proud of the lovely boy! He was also much more relaxed and grown up staying away this year, he didn’t scrape a hole to Australia at the stable door this year, saying that I did bring a rubber mat to prevent this.”

“Garuda was on fire! Working in on the Friday night he was quite amazing! Not sure I was always in control but he was very happy to be out and about strutting his stuff, he was in for a busy couple of weeks with the nationals and then Saumur the following week. Horses they say are great levellers and being last to go after the amazing Carl Hester, to say the atmosphere was electric was a bit of an understatement! Still, we were here, a national final in my first season at Grand Prix, this had to make me proud and it did. As the test started Garuda felt fantastic, the halt and rein back were smashing and my marks on the test sheet reflected how good the first part felt. As I came across the arena in the extended trot I activated and picked up into the passage, it was lovely, as I turned across the school the little voice in my head said take it steady don’t rush him, Garuda then anticipated the piaffe, I went to push him on he tightened his back and came up a little against the hand, then took one look at the full to bursting stand and went I don’t think so! And sat down! I went to correct him he did a little rear and then I asked him again to straighten and he went up again, before his feet had hit the ground the judge at C had rung the bell and ended my test.”

“Quietly I turned and walked out of the arena. You have to take it on the chin, realise it’s horses but I was quite confused, as were the owners as to why the judge had not given me my 20 seconds, this became one of the talking points of the show as, according to the rules the master judge can send you out if they think the behaviour was dangerous! Well this is ridiculous as, I don’t have the biggest brave pants in the world, G certainly wasn’t dangerous he was just a bit taken by the atmosphere but the judge gave me no chance to rectify the problem and in terms of training this was not a good moment. I worked Garuda quietly outside where he happily did the passage transition several times …… A definite grrrrrrrrr moment. Certainly no room to have an ego around horses!”

“So it was with some trepidation I loaded up Garuda for our 511 mile drive via Calais to Saumur! I was very excited about this show, especially as it is the home of the French classical school and their national equestrian centre. Thankfully Garuda travels well and the French roads were good, even if Rouen is blooming confusing to navigate around! The motorway ends and you have to dive through the outskirts of the town.”

“The welcome in Saumur was fab, super friendly stable manager, lovely stables and super facilities. There are 17 separate ‘poles’ each with an out door arena, indoor arena, stables showers, lunge area wash down area. The hacking is fantastic, indeed some riders bring a second horse just so they can give it a nice international show experience and go hacking! The Cadre Noir are based here, the town of Saumur being the home of the French Calvary with the Napoleonic stables and barracks still being the town centre piece. The National Equestrian centre is a few kilometres out of town set in the forest.”

image“The competition arena was stunning! As you can see. I was really excited about being able to ride in such an amazing place.
At the same time as the CDI the French national young horse and breeding championship was on so it was lovely to see their best young horses and for them to enjoy the atmosphere of the CDI, their classes were in the lovely outdoor arena where the spring CDI is held. The show was sponsored by NAF and a local champagne company! We were very well looked after! The riders welcome was fantastic, lots of free sparkling stuff and canapes! We also had a free tour of the wine caves on the Saturday morning! With a spot of tasting of course!”
image“The business side of things started on the Thursday with the trot up, really well organised and a big relief when over! And everyone passed! The draw for the Grand Prix put me in the second half of the class, the French tend to do a draw based on world ranking and as I now have a world ranking! (I can’t believe it! 340th but a world ranking all the same!) I was a little tentative going into the first piaffe but once we had that over and done with my confidence grew and we had a good test, he jumped together in one step of the one the tempis, costly as a x2 movement but we ended up with 66% and a top 15 place so good enough to go into the Kur. Which was my aim as I have finally got a programme!”

“So it was on the Saturday night with a pretty full house I did my first ever Kur to music, I’d never even had a run through! Luckily I followed the advice from David Trott to keep it simple and the wonderful Kay from Music In Motion did an amazing job of my music from the film Rush. The moment for me was as I hit the one time tempis totally on the music, it was fab! He lost a bit of balance coming out of the right pirouette but other than that smashing and a 69.97%! Just shy of the magic 70%, I was thrilled and came 7th! So we got to do a prize giving trot round!  The other great thing was that all the Brits had a great show.  Charlie Hutton was unbeatable in the small tour but Hannah Biggs and the lovely Welzin danced to fantastic superman music to win the Kur! You can safely assume we consumed a few glasses of the champagne we bought earlier in the day!”

Saumur - waiting to do the prize giving

Saumur – waiting to do the prize giving

“So the next day we packed up and made the long journey home after some great times, beautiful weather……..Older, wiser and happier! Our next adventure is the high profile show at Bury Farm. Wex does his first advanced! And Garuda has a run out in the Grand Prix on Saturday night and the Kur on Sunday. I’m hoping this will be a good wake up having not been out since the Saumur trip as we head off to Roosendaal in Holland to do the Christmas show there.”

“I can hardly believe that it’s a year since we did our first Grand Prix at Bury Farm! It’s been a real voyage of discovery! And one that I hope we can continue to make next year! Sadly Wex is going to be put up for sale as his owner is wanting to downsize her business and move to Spain. I’m really sad as he is such a joy to do, I hope we can find his a great home where he can continue with his career and give as much joy as he has us. I shall therefore be on the look out for a new project as I only have time and space for a few at a time if they are to be done properly and given my attention. So the pending new year will, I hope bring new challenges.”

“Not long until the shortest day, then Christmas ! So I hope everyone has a great close to this year of highs and lows and looks forward to the next! Thank you to my sponsors, especially First Thought Equine and WOW saddles!

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Lesley Peyton-Gilbert’s blog: How time flies

WOW Saddles Sponsored rider Lesley Peyton-Gilbert reflects on a fun, crazy, challenging, frustrating and sometimes painful year so far…

“Well here I am and i’ts September! How on earth did that happen?? It’s been a fun , crazy ,scary , challenging, frustrating and at times painful! Woodcroft Garuda K has taken to Grand Prix like the proverbial duck to water and we continue to grow and develop . We have done premier leagues and several internationals, one in France which was very eye opening and disappointing in that we drove 700 miles only to be allowed to ride one test and pay £900 for the privilege. Don’t for one minute think we get any support for going on these international expeditions. I have to say  a MASSIVE thank you to my horses’ owners Woodcroft studs Tim Harris and Bernadette O’Sullivan for making it possible for me to have these international experiences! Deauville was a stunning location found at a very late hour and making like ‘wee Willy winky’ running through the town looking for our stable at 3 am! Hilarious if we weren’t so exhausted! It was HOT, 32 degrees sand arenas that were over watered and rock hard.”

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“The positives were the food! The Australians, French and Brazilians were doing their final team selections for WEG so there was a lot of tensions at the show and some interesting tests and riding ! We got home to have three days break at home and then travel to the CDI at Hickstead! Again a great show and a steep learning curve but certainly the Grand Prix Special was our high light, like the one we did at Hartpury international to come third with Carl and Nip Tuck winning. I had got Garuda ready to travel home and had to do the prize giving on foot!”

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“Yet again the team at Hickstead had produced great show and I never fail to enjoy my time there and the wonderful atmosphere aided by the Irish bar for the riders and connections! I hope that the public enjoyed watching as much as we riders enjoyed taking part.”

“After Hickstead it was time to really turn my attentions to my younger horse, World Exclusive, as it was the regional championships at Addington. The weather was truly awful on the day we were there and at one point hail stones the size of marbles pelted down. I thankfully only had sideways rain to contend with, and Wex was a super star. The classes were huge, and the depth of talent bottomless. So I was very pleased to come 6th in the 30 strong medium and 7th in the advanced medium both with scores a hairs width off 70% meaning as we were one place off qualification in both classes that we did get wild cards for the nationals!”

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“Garuda, who had qualified for the Inter11 got his place in the Grand Prix, realising a massive ambition to ride at the nationals at Grand Prix!  We have to drop the inter11 as we had ridden a big tour CDI abroad. Consequently I am now madly trying to get a Kur together! It’s compulsory to do the music if you get into the top 15! The weekend is going to be a busy one at the nationals (18-21 of September). Outside of my riding I’ve been helping my pony club teams get ready for their area championships and for a couple of my riders the pony club nationals champs. This is such a rewarding process and I am so proud how far they have all come. I think I can say that for all my pupils , young and old! I do give them grief at times but always in good humour! I have also have the pleasure to judge some amazing horses during the coarse of judging the BEF Futurity scheme, there are some  very exciting young horses out there so remember that when looking for your next equine partner!”

“I have managed the odd day off too, here is evidence! A day out with my dogs , to watch my husband play some polo! A bit of a bus mans holiday but I got to chill out for a change! The autumn looks to be as busy as the summer, we are off to Saumur in France to represent GB again the week after the nationals! I’m very excited about this as for me this is one of the real homes of dressage. Just hope I get the chance to go and explore a bit!”

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Lesley Peyton-Gilbert tells us why she loves spring!

We catch up with WOW Saddles Sponsored rider Lesley Peyton-Gilbert to find out why she loves spring time…

“Last time I wrote it was the run up to the  NAF Winter Dressage Championships, I had both the boys there, Wex (World Exclusive) at his first winters and Garuda in the Inter1 music gala night. I love the winters as it pretty close to the atmosphere that you find at international indoor shows and it marks the end of winter, plus it is a great time to catch up with all my friends! It was lovely to see Maggie there with the WOW trade stand!”

“Both Wex and Garuda went really well. Wex coped amazingly and did a lovely mistake free advanced medium to finish just out of the top ten. In the medium he was very good and earned a top ten place and his first championship rosette! This, in a hot open class, as he is only just seven, is quite pleasing! Better still he was a very good boy with his sleep over! Finally growing up I think!”

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“Garuda was a seasoned pro, and even coped with having started his covering the day we left for Hartpury! The inter1 music was probably one of the most amazing classes for years, every combination deserving of their place there. Garuda was really up for it! And put in an energetic performance, just a little tension in the left pirouette other than that very nice! Two judges thought exactly the same but one I think must have watched another test! Ha ha that’s dressage! Still we finished 7th and watched a lovely test or two. I particularly liked Sophie Wells and Valerius. Sophie is the consummate performer and the music and the test were fabulous! So I really enjoyed my winters experience!”

“From the winters we’d planned training with Paul Hayler before the Premier leagues started for us. I go down on one afternoon have a lesson and then stay the night and have a lesson the following morning. I find this help so beneficial and Paul has helped both me and consequently Garuda so much. The criticism from the high profile at Addington ‘stung’ a bit but I took it on board discussed it with Paul and it’s been brilliant to say the least. This training session was really good and Garuda was much happier to cope with the extra demands in his way of going, engagement, straightness and ultimately collection and expression.”

“So from this we went armed with a ‘tool kit ‘ that we can use in the arena to Keysoe premier league. Grandprix and inter2 were on the cards. As always it was a super show, well organised and friendly it is such a nice venue. The hilarious thing was that none of us realised that the inter2 was the BD test not the FEI and none of us knew it, let alone had ridden it! So having done the Grand Prix on the Friday and being really pleased with Garuda and a super 67.78% and our first top ten placing at Grand Prix, I had to familiarise myself with this new test. It worked, we were 2nd with a rather lovely 71.25%! Very happy in fact! Not that it was mistake free but he did some really lovely work! It’s quite a confusing test with everything of diagonal lines of one kind or another! So that qualifies us for the national dressage champs and gives me more qualifying scores to support my international nominations as there are a few international shows I’d like to go for now! (The other thing was 3 hrs before we did the GP on the Friday Garuda had had to go to Towcester vets to jump the dummy as we needed to collect from him! It just goes to illustrate what an extraordinary character he has.) I got a late entry for Wex on the Sunday to do the advanced medium and he won with a smashing 70.89%! It was a strong class too and he was just lovely! Very very lucky to have two such special boys!”

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“I then had a quiet week working my boys before going down to Badminton horse trials to help one of my long standing eventing clients , she was in the grassroots BE100 final. This is the third time she has been on three different horses. I always love going down and I love the camping out and wonderful food she always brings! It was great to walk both courses and I as in awe of the huntsmans close! I also had a very interesting meeting with Alexander James of Pendlebury, a wonderful traditional tailors who make wonderful jackets and whom I am now going to be one of their ambassadors and try and ‘modernise’ their look with a tail coat and short jacket. I chose the most beautiful fabric so now they are working on the new pattern! I also caught up with Maggie and David and spent and hour on the Wow stand and even helped a few people!”

“The following weekend was Addington Premier league again inter2 and GP, last year we were in Roosendaal so missed the Addington Premier league. The weather was not helpful! Gale force winds and blustery showers. Still it’s a beautiful venue  and the show was very slick and went well. Again a super inter2, the BD one again and I made an error of coarse grrrrr some times I make myself annoyed! Garuda was mega and I was very very please with him. Some lovely transitions with good engagement and confidence. We were 2nd and another good score!”

“The following day was the Grandprix and again Garuda came out in such good form he did a lovely test I terms of way of going but I let him over rotate  and loose balance In the right pirouette (costly as it it’s a x2) movement Garuda also thinks its fun to do 17 1x tempi changes! Costly as that’s another x2 movement! He did a solid 66.667% to take 6th! So thrilled with him as there were some really super horses (25 of them) in the class. He really is doing a super job and really finding his feet at this demanding level.”

“I’m now waiting to see if we get our international nominations! I’ve been designing my new GP Kur too (with strict instructions to keep it simple……. Hmmm think David Trott may have heart failure when he sees what my idea of simple is!!!) So………. There in a few words is why I love Spring! It’s always a time of hope and progress! Oh and then… There’s more!….. I did a photographic shoot for a super talented fashion student who did equestrian sport clothing for her final year show! The clothes were amazing and Garuda and I had a blast being super models for the day! Thanks to Emily Lumb and John Minoprio!”

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Lesley Peyton Gilbert’s blog: Preparing for the Nationals!

We catch up with WOW Saddles Sponsored rider Lesley Peyton-Gilbert before she heads off to the Nationals next week…

“So it’s the week before the NAF Winter Dressage Championships! Both my lovely boys World Exclusive and Woodcroft Garuda K are going to be strutting their stuff! Wex will contest the open medium and open advanced medium championship and Garuda the inter 1 music. So it will be a busy old weekend for us. Exciting but busy!”

“The lovely weather has made training a whole lot easier and certainly more enjoyable for all of us! The next best bit was that Wex got his new saddle and I got my bling!”

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“I am totally thrilled with it and so is Wex. I feel so lucky to have such support for me and my horses from WOW and Carly was lovely to work with. It was a cold grim day but Carly was very patient and we made a lot of adjustments. You certainly have to be open minded and have a sense of humour to be a saddle fitter, especially when I’m about!”

“We tested out our new saddle at Addington as I had the chance to run through the two tests I’ll be riding! Wex was super and won both the medium with a smashing 73.31% and the advanced medium with 68%. Building on that I had a good training session with David Trott where we worked on a few of the movement to see where I can squeeze so more marks out of the test!”

“Garuda had a trio out at the two day show at Keysoe, the first time we had to do two ‘ big’ tests. The inter2 on the Saturday and the Grand Prix on the Sunday. We were greeted with the most stunning weather and as usual the team at Keysoe had put together a great show. Including an international French judge.”

“Garuda won the inter2 convincingly on Saturday with a super 69.98%. Had I not let him tighten up in the right pirouette we would have broken the magical 70%. Super weather the next day for the Grand Prix and another good day of competition. Garuda was quite unimpressed that I upped the anti and wanted more height in the passage and a more on the spot piaffe! He logged this by having a little moment in the piaffe and then carried on as well as then adding two extra one tempis (17 instead of 15!) to ensure that he does have a say in our tests! So expensive mistakes as both were x2 movements leaving us third and 65.65% so all I’m all a good weekend.”

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“The next move is to work on my ground plan for the Grand Prix kur. I must try and keep this easy for Garuda as I’m always trying to think of the maximum I can ask. (I’ve been watching Edward Gal’s test and thinking about movements!) I’ve found my music so now we have to put it all together and try and keep it simple! Garuda and I also had a run through our inter 1 music recently as I’ve not ridden it since the summer nationals, he has developed his trot since then, it was therefore important to make sure of my timings. This will be the last time I ride this test as he will be out of points (more than 15 points at GP and you can’t ride inter1) so it will be a good night for us to say goodbye to this test that I have enjoyed so much.”

“Straight after the winters we will have training on the horizon with Paul (Hayler ) before our premier league season starts at Keysoe. From then on it is pretty much full on for the summer! The other exciting thing will be taking out Garuda’s four year old daughter to the young horse classes! We hope next year it will be his son!”

“In amongst all this my husband is having a hip replacement op. It was supposed to be before Christmas but the usual NHS delays have meant he will be dropped off by me on Thursday morning and I will have to leave him while I go to the nationals. Poor chap all on his own! It’s so typical that timings like this occur! Tomorrow is his birthday so I will have to work hard to make it up to him! Like any partner of someone totally absorbed by the equestrian life he puts up with an awful lot! Thankfully he does actually ride so pretty much understands…. Most of the time!”

“So more soon….. After The Winters! I’m looking forward to catching up with Maggie and David from WOW as they will be at Hartpury for the duration. If any of you are there be sure to say hi!”

Lesley Peyton-Gilbert blogs about Garuda’s first Grand Prix…

An epic blog update from WOW Saddles Sponsored rider Lesley Peyton-Gilbert! Read on to find out how Garuda’s first Grand Prix went and how Wex has qualified for the nationals…

“Well, like everything in the winter it seems a bit like Ground Hog day! Even this blog, I’ve written it once, was pleased with it and then for some bizarre reason my iPad erased it out of my notes file! So even when I’m trying to be an admin genius and usefully using the days where I can no longer fight the elements, it does not go to plan!

So the winter has been a time of stepping up and moving on! Terribly exciting and exhausting as only the winter can be. Saying that with all the terrible news coming in from my birthplace of Cornwall I can only conclude that thus far we have got off lightly with out sea of mud and slightly squelchy outdoor school.

Having done the summer championships with both my chestnut boys I came home determined to get Wex (World Exclusive) ready for the winter regionals at medium and advanced medium so the winter planning had to include a competition schedule to make that possible before the end of November.

Wex is a star and it’s all to easy to forget he is only seven this year! He has struggled with confidence and I think this goes hand in glove with strength to carry and balance himself. He has a fabulous way of going and it’s improving all the time. After a training session I decided to spend a month of riding with no legs (not literally but not using my legs while riding) I learnt this from my friend Lee Pearson and how he wants horses to go is with a click of the tongue, a light tap with the whip and the smallest leg aid. Initially it was weird but really thinking about it and how I use my upper leg and seat. This also had a positive effect in lateral work. So the end result was a quicker lighter way of going especially in the trot and especially on ten metre circles where he could get slow and lumpy.

A test for all this work and improvement was the high profile show at Vale View, where he won the medium winter qualifier and was second in the other medium.

The best result for me was recently at the Addington High profile show. Wex came out so happy and confident and I feel he has finally stopped physically growing. He felt amazing and was confident and responsive throughout both his tests. The advanced medium was particularly fab where he got a fab score (73.18%) and some lovely comments from the judge. For me however it was how happy, confident and willing he was that was so great and I could not have been more happy with how he had worked for me! The other great thing was his owner Charlotte was there to witness her horse’s progress. This makes the process doubly rewarding.

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Wex’s next test was to be the regional championships at Addington in both the medium open and the advanced medium open. Yet more horrible weather, trying to keep up the training schedule was a challenge, I think I’ve been wet to the skin every day for months at least once a day. Usually as I drag poor Garuda out of the stable! (More about him in a mo!) The wind was crazy on the Saturday of our medium regional, driving the lorry was interesting and I was glad it was not too long a journey! Our test was inside in the international arena and thankfully; we had the luxury of working in in the old indoor. Wex was a really good boy, he’s often a little less ‘goey’ indoors and I was happy how he worked but knew it didn’t quite have the power I know he has to win but a good score of 69.38% put us in 3rd (by one mark!) but that was qualification for the nationals so job done!

The advanced medium was also a good test the next day but he was good not ‘wow’ which he needs to be again another 69.13 % score and 6th with 3rd to 7th all on 69% so waiting to see if we get a wild card at the moment!. All in all a good regional with a lovely horse that has a great future so I feel very lucky.

My winter has also been a time of moving Garuda up to Grand Prix. It is a life long dream to train a horse to this level. Its one thing riding to this level, a whole different ball game being responsible for developing a special horse to this level! Any horse that is able to perform the requirements of Grand Prix in a test is a special horse so it’s not just my bias towards the wonderful Woodcroft Garuda K!

Our first test at Grand Prix was at the Bury Farm high profile show in December, a huge entry of 24 starters! How amazing and obviously an indication of how the sport of dressage has come on so definitely an Olympic legacy and a result of the efforts of Carl and Charlotte!

The crazy thing for the Saturday of the Grand Prix was I’d booked a couple of tables at the Towcester vets 10th Anniversary ball in aid of the air ambulance. A chance for my team, friends and family to let their hair down and have some fun together. Unfortunately I’d worked on last years timetable and thought the GP would be in the afternoon, sadly not! So I was first to go in the class at 6 pm as we had to be back and sitting for dinner at 8.30 pm! I definitely had the most glamorously made up groom as Laura had done her hair and make up in the afternoon!

I was really excited about my test I felt the only way to really find out how our development was progressing was go down that centre line. Its one thing doing the movements in isolation putting them together is where it gets tricky! I was pretty happy with our first slightly green experience! I over rode the piaffe / passage transition and lost balance in the second pirouette but overall was thrilled with a 64% and 10th in a strong field with some more experienced combinations. Lots to work on and a lot learnt! Garuda was warmed down, loaded and driven back with alarming efficiency! And Laura and I made it to the ball by 8.35pm! A great evening was therefore had by all!

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My next competitive outing was the Addington High profile show. Another enormous Grand Prix of 26 entries! Running again from 6pm to 10.45 pm! I was on at 9.15 pm. Garuda was a bit bemused by me plaiting him at 6 pm in the evening!
Having done a ‘normal’ GP at Kingswood and got a good 67% I felt happier and wanted a’ clear round’ as I’d been making mistakes in the one tempi changes. My error always, not his, I have to get the balance and the rhythm right then they are really good.

The previous weekend Garuda has been at the British breeders stallion parade and it was a super evening, we closed the show which Garuda loved. The only problem was that the atmosphere in the warm up at Addington slightly reminded him of the razzmatazz of the preceding weekend! So he was a little tense during the warm up.

In the test I was really pleased with his work. We got all the elements, I got the ones right…woohoo! Counted the zig zag and got the pirouettes. I made a slight hash of the pick up from walk to passage other than that I was happy. So 64% again was a disappointment and I felt really deflated. I read the sheets and took the comments on. Its hard to read but you have to be honest and in the cold light of day I can see that I had to address a couple of issues if I’m to break out of the mid 60’s hole I was in. So I called Paul Hayler (my trainer) told him the wheels had fallen off my cart and we went for two days training!

Paul is brilliant, experienced and really gets Garuda and I and where we need to progress. It’s hard work and he is brutally honest, however its what we needed. So I returned from my two days a lot happier and feel like we are back on track. I’ll test this at a two-day show at Keysoe in March before the premier league circuit starts for us in April.

I then want to go to Holland and revisit Roosendaal in the Netherlands as we really enjoyed the show and it would be nice to do our first international GP there. Garuda is also in demand as a sire, I will be riding his daughter in some young horse classes this year as well as preparing to work with his son next year! So more busy times ahead. I’ll try and not do such epic blogs in future but it would be nice if my computer could stop erasing them! I’m also hoping I may have a new interesting sponsor to tell you about too!”

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Lesley Peyton-Gilbert’s blog: Time to plan and train

We catch up with WOW Saddles sponsored rider, Lesley Peyton-Gilbert, after the nationals now she has time to draw breath and look ahead to the coming year…

“I must admit I dislike the drawing in of the nights and dismal weather. Made more frustrating by battling with the elements! I find wind the worst as we are working and starting some very young horses at the moment and it can be a bit on the nerve wracking side when its blowing a gale! Excitement I’d rather do without! Lots of my lovely fellow riders keep posting pictures of their lovely indoor schools too which adds to my depression! On the bright side, when it’s rained, blown a gale and even snowed during my tests my horses don’t even turn a hair so it does pay off sometimes! (every cloud and all that!)”

“I’ve been finishing my qualification for Wex (World Exclusive) for the winter regional championships at medium and advanced medium. There are the new High Profile shows at Vale View and Bury Farm this side of Christmas which give the advanced horses something to aim for and also gives us a head start for summer qualification in the advanced test. I’m planning on Garuda doing his first Grand Prix at the Bury Farm show.”

“Wex went to the Vale View show to do the mediums where he won one and was second in the other. The funny thing was it was an early start and by the time we had done our tests both Laura, my groom and I had finished we were desperate for our bacon buttie… all very nice … until it was announced they were running a prize giving! Sadly I’d taken his plaits out and as there was only five minutes no time to put them in! Hence the Horse & Hound photo of us with no plaits! It is important to take part in the prize giving as the class sponsor was there and we must show our appreciation! Just I’m disappointed I’d taken my plaits out! Especially as there was a beautiful sash and rosettes to show off!”

“Wex is a lovely talented chap who internalises his tension. It’s shown by this breathing, he hyper ventilates and then holds his breath in the canter! He then gets a little behind the aids so I was pretty happy with his performance as he started, especially in the second test, to trust me and work with me in the test.”

“I had him booked to do the advanced medium at Keysoe the following week as I feel he needs to keep going out to help him realise that its not a stress at a show and he can enjoy it! He did well at Keysoe and got a good score in the qualifier, won the class and again grew a little more in confidence. Our final qualification scores were achieved at Bury Farm this last week. Again a more relaxed rideable Wex and a good 71.89% in the medium winning the class and a second in the advanced medium. Still he needs to keep the balance on the hind leg but it is improving! The other major breakthrough and believe me this is major….. he managed to have a wee on the lorry! This has been an issue and I think signifies how much more relaxed he’s becoming!”

“My top ride, Woodcroft Garuda K, is working hard training at home but also we were invited to take part in the list one and two judge training seminar with Stephen Clarke and play our part as guineapigs. It was a very daunting day I can tell you. We were riding movements from the new national inter 2 test. I wasn’t very happy with my performance, I overrode the piaffe / passage at first and then slowly relaxed and improved! Still very much a case of going in the dragons den!! With all the top judges from the country there.”

“We did learn a lot from it and I enjoyed watching fellow riders like Alice (Oppenheimer) with her horse doing the Grand Prix work. Some good tips there too on how to give the judges what they want to see to get the marks! It is about presentation when you are in the ring!”

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“Autumn is the time of seminars and conventions as I’ve said and the Convention/forum at Bury Farm was a fantastic two days. I spent the time with Maggie on the WOW stand where I had the pleasure of meeting lots of people and telling them about the saddles and how they work for me and my horses. This photo shows Maggie and I watching the activities in the arena from our very comfortable view point! Best seats in the house!”

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“Watching the wonderful Valegro was a definite high point and lots of the information was absorbed by me for top tips in the Grand Prix we are about to do.”

“Counting. It’s the key in Grand Prix! The zig zag or counter change of hand is a series of half passes on the centre line with a determined number of steps in each direction with flying changes so in the Grand Prix its the counting of steps of half pass first three then six steps, three times to either side then, three then a final change. Fitting it in can be interesting! Quality of the canter and not trying to make the half passes too steep are the key factors! As well as being able to count! Everything comes down to numbers, 15 one time tempi changes, 8-10 steps of piaffe, 9 two time tempi changes …. 6-8 steps to get around the pirouette … lots of counting!”

“I have some more training with David Trott this week as a top list judge and rider it always helps me and I feel a bit more confident after his input (he knows I struggle to count too) I also enjoy training with Paul Hayler but my lorry has been in for it’s plate and needed a new fuel tank and then various other bits so I’ve been a bit stuck. That’s pretty frustrating but back now and going well! Bluebell is my lorry and I’m very fond of her! We’ve had some good adventures this year! Although if the French get their way with their super new lorry tax we simply won’t be able to afford to go abroad, or I will have to find a new way into Europe avoiding France!”

“So the build up to my first Grand Prix and getting Wex more confident is ongoing. I also examine my management of the horses at this time, feeding and the management issues. Check the worming, teeth, vaccination programmes, I’ve also started using a massage rug on Garuda twice a day on work days and once on ‘easy ‘days. I really feel this is having a positive effect on Garuda and his way of going. He seems really very happy with his new treat! Here he is enjoying the relax massage programme after work…”

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“My groom Laura has a fabulous new horse, a Garuda daughter and she is so amazing ! We will nibble away with her over the winter and then aim to do some young horse four year old classes with her in the spring. Laura also took the young coloured stallion out to his first show and he did a lovely consistent test to earn a good 71% test so very proud of them both. Working my horses and training all shapes and sizes….. people and horses that is! That is maintaining the light at the end of the winter tunnel for me! From the weather warnings it looks like its going to be a long one. Here is Woodcroft Natalia, Garuda’s daughter, winning her performance test at the Trakhener show. Laura my groom is on the Exel talented athlete training programme and this is her new horse to hopefully be her partner and to follow her dad’s hoof prints to Grand Prix!”

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“So as you can see there is a lot to be looking forward to!”