Equo caught up with south-east brand ambassador Jessica Leroy just before Christmas at Olympia (see video) and now we're finding out what she's been up to over the festive period in her latest Equo blog.

I never thought I’d get to a point in my life where I’m really enjoying keeping my feet on the ground and getting the same buzz from nailing a medium trot or some great lateral work as I would clearing a 1.20m oxer…

In our last blog we’d just had our first lesson with Luke Baber-Davis and also our first trip to Cobham Manor for some dressage. Fast forward a month or so and we’ve been practicing, doing our homework and we’re ready and rearing to go for our second lesson with Luke.

What a difference a month of hard work can make. Last time we were working on getting Smokey to bend through the body and to be softer whilst playing with a more advanced outline. This time we were able to build on that again by continuing to work on a more advanced outline but also working on collections and lengthening, as well as incorporating lateral work.

One thing that I love about Eden Equestrian is that their school is HUGE! When you’re used to a 20x40m arena, being asked to leg yield from the centre line in a huge school suddenly seems a really long distance.

Luke as always gave me some great pointers. When we were working on collections and getting Smokey to really engage from behind it was a case of half halts on the outside rein and a series of small ‘tap,tap,tap’ with the inside leg then letting him go again into a working trot. This was easy enough to grasp in trot, but go up a gear into canter and it all got quite complicated… apparently dressage is really hard!

Something else that I really need to work on are my half halts. The other key point to take away from the lesson was a masterclass in lengthening. Lengthening Smokey is a challenge and has been a bit of a stumbling block for us, I need to think that I’m riding a speedboat! Again, doing a whole side of lengthened trot in a huge school makes life a whole lot easier, it meant we had time to rev the engine up and really harness a lot of power, resulting in some great strides and a huge grin on my face.

Our next lesson with Luke at Eden is on 9 January, not that I’m counting down the days already…

Following Luke’s lesson it was back to Cobham Manor for more ‘Stressage’. After our debut there last month and some good results I thought I would challenge the boys and myself and move away from our Prelim comfort zone and enter both Novice tests – Novice 23 and Novice 38 (both long arena). Times between tests were very tight so the day passed in a bit of a whirlwind. Mum and I had to be totally in sync to be able to get both horses ready and it meant a lot of getting on and off and on and off (I guess I felt how it would be to be a professional rider for the day… oh if only).

Being the ex-racer that he is and in gale force winds, Hektikos had his rocket pants on. I didn’t dare give any wellie into the medium trots and canters because I thought to myself if I did the judge would end with half a tonne of ginger fluffy horse on her lap! We did manage to slow the second test down somewhat and got some great transitions, I think it’s safe to say his tests certainly weren’t lacking in energy.

Smokey on the other hand was impeccably behaved, we had some great warm up work and were really able to put a lot of what we’ve been working on into practice. His first test was also perhaps on the speedy side but a lot more balanced than previous tests and his second test felt brilliant! We really got some great turns and some medium trot work, but more importantly we got some good walk. Smokey has a tendency to do what we call the “Smokey Shuffle” and I’m glad to say that there was not one stride of shuffle in either of his tests – I think it’s the first time we’ve got sevens for our freewalks.

I was pleased with the boys, but I was not expecting to do the double on them and come first and second in both classes! Smokey won both of the Novice classes (over 70% in Novice 38) and the super speedy Hektikos came a very respectable second.

There’s still a huge amount to work on, we have more Luke lessons coming up and I’m very excited to say that my favourite competition venue in the south-east – Littleton Manor Equestrian Centre – is now on Equo and we are already planning our Arena Eventing debut there at the end of January (amongst many other Equo outings…)!

I hope that you all had a merry Christmas and a very happy new year and we look forward to keeping you updated throughout 2016.

Jess x

jessica xmas

To find out what else Jessica has been up to be sure to check out her other Equo blogs