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!
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!
Australian Saddle fitter Julia McLean shared the below story with us, which we thought you may like to see – you can read more about this story at Nadia David’s blog –
The saddling breakthrough
So, this may well end up reading like an ad for WOW saddles, but after today I thought it would be nice to show the changes in [my horse] Assegai over the past three years. The WOW dressage saddle I bought two years ago has contributed in no small part to these changes, and are worth revisiting.
When I got Assegai, he looked like this, a green broken 3 year old:
As you can see, he’s low on muscle and has obvious deep wither pockets and no topline. He became increasingly aggressive over the first twelve months, a combination of pain caused by an ill-fitting saddle, chronic pain from injuries in the paddock before I got him and a sensitive soul. At least, that’s my reading of the situation.
Age, work and a fair layer of fat have made him look like this:
The WOW saddle, and a beautifully fitting Pessoa jump saddle (couldn’t afford two WOW saddles!) have made a huge difference to Assegai’s topline, contentedness and in some way to his development and training. From the first fitting, Assegai started lifting more through his back, going forward more willingly, just trying more.
It has been frustrating – Assegai has got to be the touchiest horse going – but today was breakthrough day. As Assegai has changed shape, grown bigger and stronger, he’s needed [saddle] re-fit after re-fit, as I posted about earlier. Today, [my saddle fitter] Julia brought her A game.
Two things have made a massive difference. The first was a slight change in panels. The old panels had a gap at the top, the part that forms the channel of the saddle. And this is supposed to allow more room for the musculature to move under the saddle. But for Assegai this appears to have been uncomfortable, as then Julia fitted panels that formed a snugger fit in his wither pockets. Because the pommel articulates, the panels should fit quite closely.
The second change is the purchase of one of the H-girths from the WOW range.
I think this has been the greatest change to date. The girth is made of two narrow padded leather straps connected on the sternum by a connector strap. The idea, from memory, is that the girth sits either side of the pectoral muscle, preventing pinching and discomfort and allowing the horse to use those muscles.
As soon as we started walking, Assegai wanted to stretch out and down, but not drop his back like usual….he went forward into trot without raising his head, happily blowing and staying on the bit. It felt amazing. He even pulled a pretty hot medium trot out of the bag!
So, I actually feel a bit excited. I’ve got an Official dressage comp coming up in a few weeks so I’m really interested to see what he can do. Gotta say, the WOW is probably the best investment I’ve made in my riding. Starting to save up for one for Rose. 🙂 Happy riding!
Air flocking can be useful to help address conformational issues, and can be adjusted in minute amounts. If correctly flocked and fitted, it can create a gaseous, flexible layer in the saddle that removes pressure points, thus reducing the risk of discomfort to the horse – particularly one with existing physiological challenges.
Eventer Francis Whittington’s top ride Sir Percival had lumps on his back before Francis began using a WOW saddle, flocked with adjustable Flair air-flocking. The lumps have since diminished. “I like a saddle that has ease of adaptability, eg you can change the main components and the flocking to fit different horses. Being able to fine tune the saddle, and make subtle changes to the balance while on board, would be impossible in a traditionally flocked saddle, which is why I like Flair air flocking,” he says.
We were so pleased to see Francis Whittington and horse Sir Percival III on the front cover of the most recent edition of Horse & Hound.
The photo was taken at the 2011 Burghley Horse Trials. We hope this year will be as exciting as last year…if you are going, remember the WOW Saddles stand will be in The World of the Horse Marquee at The Lions Bridge.
Interested customers can try a range of saddles on WOW’s mechanical horse on the stand, and if they are interested in purchasing a saddle and arranging for a fitting, can complete a specification sheet that can be exchanged with a WOW retailer for 10% discount on a new saddle.
This is valid on orders placed with a retailer before 30 November 2012.
We have posted a diary extract from Francis Whittington’s blog. Francis is one of our sponsored riders and has just been to Aachen.
I have just got back from a really great trip to Aachen. It has to be the best show in the world, the place is breath taking. To have so many equestrian disciplines competing in one place with facilities second to none, it is such a privilege and honur to be asked to compete there.
Team GB consisted of myself, Laura Collett, Emily Baldwin and William Fox-Pitt or the Power Tower as he was christened by the cross country commentators. We had a great fun week and the team all got on very well, with lots of laughs which always makes the trip better.
Dressage was a hot competition, the Germans were fielding their potential olympic hopefuls, so we knew we had to pull off some good tests to get a good result. I was thrilled with Sir Percival and in the warm up he was feeling amazing. He went into the arena very positive and we got a 9 for our first centre line and halt. Unfortunately he went a bit tense in the arena after that but still pulled off a 49, so in fact we were thrilled that when the tension comes in we can still pull off a 40’s test and we know we can make up the points on the cross country. The rest of the team also put in great performances and Laura Collett managed to pull off her PB with a 30! yes a 30 dressage!! So team GB were lying in 2nd going into the showjumping that evening.
The show jumping proved to be more influential that what it walked, the big arena certainly made the time tight and clear rounds were few and far between. Sir Percival rolled a pole going into a combination and the rest of the team all managed to roll a pole. But as everyone else seemed to have at least a pole or time faults we were still second going into cross country the next morning.
The cross country was big and technical enough and certainly was going to need concentration and riding. Sir Percival gave me an awesome round, and made it feel like a pony club track. He really is an amazing cross country horse, he just goes into cruise mode. That was probably one of the best rounds we have had and he was ready to go around again at the end. We finished just two seconds inside the time and that wasnt pushing for time. All the other team members went clear cross country and we finished in second place overall, just 4 penalties behind the Germans. Not bad for a reserve team!
So happy riders and happy horses and an amazing event. We are supposed to be competing at Brightling this coming weekend, but Gatcombe has just been confirmed as being cancelled so we will wait and see what weather this week brings…
To keep up with all of Francis’ news visit his website by clicking here
“Unfortunately I am not writing the diary I wish I was writing after the cross country, but am still taking the positives from the day. We were having a fantastic ride up until 19b, which was a strong question and the most influential fence on the course. It was a large table to a corner, which was in one of the pictures I put up the other day. I just felt he couldn’t read the question and didnt understand what was being asked and after two refusals retired him. I am still thrilled with how he was going up until that point, and very happy that we are both well and live to see and fight another day. He is an exciting horse for the future and this is just a minor blip in what will be a very exciting career for him.”
Visit Francis’ blog and keep up with all of his diary entries by clicking here
“Today was dressage day for Easy Target. His test was due at 11.50am, so I took him out for an early session with Yogi this morning. He worked beautifully and was very relaxed. After that he went away for a rest and I had some breakfast and waited for my dressage time to arrive.
He felt very relaxed and responsive in the warm up and he went in to perform his best test to date. A couple of mistakes in the changes cost us a few marks, but I am so pleased with the work he gave and really encouraged that a sub 40 test is only around the corner for him. We have a video to upload of his test when we get home and have a better internet connection.
We finished in 9th place after the dressage, so a good position going into the cross country tomorrow. We are not going until late in the afternoon, as the CIC3* go first. I think the course will be influential on the scoreboard. We will see what tomorrow brings…”
There are some great pictures on Francis’ blog. Click here to view them.
“I gave Easy Target a very early school in the arena’s this morning, before the CIC3* dressage started. He worked very well and I am looking forward to doing his test tomorrow just before lunch. I then went to walk the cross country with Harry Meade who is staying with us for the week. It appears to be a nice inviting course, with some good questions. The ground is good a bit on the firm side but we have been told there is more work that will be done. I am looking forward to going around it on Saturday.”
There are some interesting pictures of the fences at Luhmuhlen on Francis’ blog page. View them by clicking here