Written by Arabella Clegg
1. How has the year been for you?
“It’s had its ups and downs but we are back to it. My top horse Archie (Don Caledonia) had an unfortunate incident when out hacking he stood on a stone that put him off games for a little while. However, this week we were back out competing in a Prix St George and finished second to Charlotte (Dujardin), we then went on to do his first Inter 1, which we won! My young horses have been exciting, I’ve got a five year old Bunny (Platinum Born This Way) who finished third in the Hickstead international young horse championships and also came second in the novice gold regionals. I’m also looking forward to what my four year old (Freeman) has to offer come next season having had a few little shows this year.
2. What has been the highlight of the year?
“It has to be getting back out at the international small tour competitions. It’s been almost two years since I was last competing regularly at the level. My top mare Cara (Camarilla-Calimero) represented Great Britain and competed in the CDI shows. It was a great feeling to be getting back in my tailcoat”.
3. Favourite event of the calendar year?
“It would usually be the winter championships, but unfortunately we’ve missed them this year. For years it has always been Olympia, you just can’t beat it in England. The international shows have to be Fritzens in the stunning Austrian Alps, and Aachen in Germany as it's just such an iconic and incredible show”.
4. How have you coped with the challenges you have faced this year?
“The miss haps haven’t been your conventional issues. From stepping on a stone and an issue with a sensitive wolf tooth being removed, to foot abscesses. I’ve had to work on timing and the management of them, which we have come out the other side of. The other challenge has been not having my own lorry, having sold mine to fund a new one. I've had to beg and borrow for the rest of the year. We got by thanks to my amazing friends and the very generous James at Empire".
5. How do you maintain your horses’ health?
I use the Haygain steamer every day with all the horses but most importantly when we have been away from the yard I take the portable hay bags and steamer with me so that the horses keep up their regular management for their diet. Therefore, we know the horses are healthy and able to give their best performances when it counts”.
6. How do you as a rider keep yourself fit?
“I do work out DVDs at home. I also go to the gym for classes; spin, HIIT and pilates. I have noticed such a vast change in my core having gone to pilates. For example, when I go for lessons with Carl (Hester) when he tells me to collect the horse using my seat and weight aids, I know exactly what to do to get the best result. I can drop my rib cage, engage the core or relax my shoulders and have specific and independent control of my body".
7. What are your main aims for next year?
“Firstly, to keep the horses sound. I'd like to campaign Archie and Cara at Small Tour level at the Premier League shows and hopefully get abroad to compete in a CDI at some point too. Bolesworth, Liverpool Horse Show and HOYS are great showcases for upcoming international horses and I love what the organisers are doing to promote dressage and put on a fabulous fun show for the spectators. The young horses will do the young horse classes if they are ready and I will get them out for experience to complement their training and development but I won't push them to do shows for the sake of it. Their long term progression to Grand Prix is more important".
8. What got you in to Dressage?
“Growing up in Hong Kong I used to do everything, pony club dressage, show jumping and cross country. I always wanted to get to the top in equestrian sport and I couldn’t see myself achieving it over huge jumps. I regularly used to lead after the dressage phase and then would more often than not be on the floor on the cross country. I was always attracted to the power, beauty and elegance of the dressage horses, that bond you get with a horse and the feeling of dancing together is magical”.
9. What's the best piece of advice you have been given?
"I can't really think of a particularly serious one! But once Carl told me to ask my husband to buy me one huge diamond earring, so I could wear it in my right ear to weigh down my head so I didn't tip it over to the left"!
10. When was your last holiday/downtime?
“It’s rare. Although we did get away earlier in the year for a week. We stayed with friends at their gorgeous house near Beaune, in Burgundy. We did lots of wine tasting, walking round the vineyards, strolling through markets and generally exploring the area.
11. Describe a typical day on your yard.
“We feed early and then I usually do admin over breakfast time. I like to ride all my horses before lunch. I will usually teach in the afternoon. Then I will do some fitness work. My evenings are spent with my puppy Logi and husband Tim. I try to catch up friends too! But admin and fitness work does often take priority".
12. What would be top of your Christmas list?
“Some new shiny competition boots. I’ve had my current ones for about ten years. I’ve also seen some lovely Euro-star fleeces that look so snuggly.
I may have an early Christmas present coming in the next six weeks, in the shape of a new Empire horse box”.
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Becky James BSc MSc explains how we know that horses love steamed hay!