Showjumper Anna Edwards reflects back on a year of highs and lows, and looks forward to a promising future with her young team of horses...
Well, this year hasn't quite gone to plan - but then how often do life plans go smoothly?!
Having said that, the second half of 2013 has been fabulous for me. I was delighted to qualify both Croklund and Blazer for Horse of the Year Show (HOYS). They are both young, up and coming horses, and to qualify for HOYS is very tough. You have to jump four double clear rounds in first rounds, and then second round classes tend to have huge numbers of competitors. Blazer won his second round out of 95 competitors, while Croklund came second in a class with more than 120 horses in it!
Sadly, just five weeks before HOYS, Blazer studded himself. He wasn't quite ready for the show, as he wasn't match fit. This was a big shame, had he been fit he would have stood a good chance, but the show came round just a few weeks too early for him.
Croklund, however, was outstanding. In 2012, Blazer was the highest placed six-year-old in the Newcomers Masters, finishing fifth. This year, Croklund was also the highest placed six-year-old, coming second, so I was thrilled with this back-to-back success. For their age, my young horses are achieving some outstanding results.
I had been worried that the atmosphere might get to Croklund, because he is a quirky horse to say the least, but he surprised me. He has had limited experience with indoor jumping but he rose to the occasion. The last horse I had with this attitude in the big occasion was my Queen Elizabeth II winner Unique IX, so this bodes well for the future. Croklund just missed out on the win by just 0.38sec, so close!
Having done fewer shows this year I have had more opportunity to help younger riders and start working with some new companies.
NAF is just the best company to work with, and the knowledge within the company is so high. I feel my horses are now all on the correct supplements and they are all feeling fantastic, it's all about the small improvements in many areas, when you add it all together great progress is made.
Prestige Italia have just come forward with a sponsorship package. I have ridden in their saddles for the previous five years and I wouldn't use any other brand. I was using their Paris K when I won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and on my winning FEI Nation's Cup performance, so the brand remains dear to my heart.
Another new company I'm working with is Quinton Health. With my horses in top shape, this is something to make me feel better as well! Quinton re-tunes the nutrient balance of your body, leaving you feeling healthier, more focused and with higher energy levels. I suffer with Addison's disease so my body is even more out of sync than most people's, but since being on the Quinton products I have found a big difference, I have even managed a 10km run with obstacles, I wasn't even stiff the next day.
The last company I have teamed up with is Swiss Horse Hair Jewellery. They have made me a beautiful bracelet and necklace using both Croklund and Blazer's tail, which are stunning.
Another great bit of news is I have an exciting new owner joining the team, so watch this space! I am already planning my 2014 season. You will see me return to Arezzo, Italy, where I had great success with Unique in 2010. Blazer will be a year younger than Unique was so I will only start in the middle Grands Prix, but the plan is to enjoy the show and hope for good strong results on all of my horses. Exciting times ahead!
Sorry I have not written in a while, but it is great to be back blogging again.
Things are looking up for our blogger Anna Edwards, after she lost the ride on her top horse Diaghilev.
As the saying goes, what a difference a day makes! Never has this been more true. When Diaghilev left my yard, I would never have imagined that so many positive things would happen in the period that followed.
In no particular order, my arena has doubled in size, I have passed my HGV, I have a gorgeous new lorry and a lovely new five-year-old horse. Most importantly, I have already achieved my goal for the summer – securing my HOYS qualification with Blazer B in the famous Foxhunter final, having won in a class of 88 competitors! I also came third on Croklund out of 150 competitors in the Newcomers second round, qualifying for Scope Festival. It's truly amazing what you can achieve when you really put your mind to it!
Guy Williams once said to me that I got another good horse after my first superstar Unique was sold, as I pushed Diaghilev to fill Unique's shoes. I feel the story may be true again with Blazer. Purely concentrating my efforts on my own horses for the past month has seen an outstanding improvement. When Blazer won the Foxhunter second round I can honestly say it was one of my greatest moments, achieving one of your goals despite some hard fought circumstances is a wonderful feeling, I was quite emotional as the past month had been such a tough period and there was a definite pressure release.
That day has been a real turning point, it’s fabulous to have my form back and the confidence and self belief is back to it’s optimum. Blazer jumped amazingly in all three rounds of the qualifier - check out the video of him above. The jump-off was very fast and standing at 1.50m it was by far the biggest track he’d faced, but as ever he took it all in his stride, unleashing a turn of speed I never knew he had.
I cannot thank everyone enough for their kind words and support, I do hope I can replay you all by working hard and coming out on top. I have been teaching many more riders and I am so pleased with the progress they are making. Teaching is something I had stayed away from over the last few years but realise that in life the more you give, the more you get.
Anna and Diaghilev finishing 10th in the Longines King George V Cup at Hickstead
"First of all, to each and everyone of you who reads my blog, follows me on Facebook or Twitter, a big thank you. I have been having a tough time with the horses and it is wonderful to know I have so many people supporting me.
The year had started so brilliantly. Competing on the tours in Portugal and Spain were fantastic, but when I arrived home I received a major blow that I wasn't expecting - and that was the removal of my top horse Diaghilev from my yard.
This has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, and I have been so upset by this. My confidence as a whole has really been affected and so has my enthusiasm for the sport.
Without the support of my amazing partner Matt, my always supportive Mum, Dad and family, I really feel I could have hit rock bottom. Confidence is one of the keys to life, and over the last month I have really struggled. Before now I have been unable to write my blog, as I am still struggling to come to terms with everything that has gone on. It just proves in life you never know what is around the corner.
I look to the future and know it is going to be hard to rebuild and produce another horse to the level I had reached with Diaghilev. Blazer B is a very good horse but he does have some very big shoes to fill - especially as he has Unique's (my first international superstar) success to follow as well!
Slowly I am finding my feet again. I am getting to a few shows but it is very difficult to start the whole journey again. Everyone who knows me personally knows the inner drive I have to succeed and know how much I wanted this to be my year. Trouble is, things in life never go directly to plan (this is what I am learning) and my fate lies with another horse to get me to the top of the showjumping rankings.
Hopefully the next few months hold some nice surprises and good results. I have now changed the goal of the year to qualifying Blazer for the famous Foxhunter championship at Horse of the Year Show.
"Hi everyone. I've been off competing on the Atlantic and Mediterranean tours for the past six weeks and, having experienced several international shows during the past few years, I feel I can offer an objective view on the benefits of competing abroad!
Five weeks into my current Tour, and me and my horses were finally adjusting to life on the road. The first four weeks spent in Vilamoura, Portugal on the Atlantic Tour had some good results but I felt that myself and my horses did not enjoy it that much. Having travelled the breadth of Spain to Oliva Nova (South of Valencia) to the Mediterranean Tour, we felt a lot more settled.
So what makes a good show? For me it's several factors.
Good competition. Riders from different countries who are all competitive and want to win.
Ground condition. The going for the horses has a massive influence on results. Personally, I felt at the first show my horses did not particularly like the sand arena and this reflected in their performance. It was very wet and often had puddles. Also, having the lorry park and stabling on hard standing makes a huge difference if the rain decides to come!!
Prizemoney. This does not have to be big but enough to be worth turning up for. We all know it costs a lot to compete horses, let alone when you have to drive half way across Europe!
Atmosphere. Commentators and the crowd play a massive part. I love a good jump-off, when people start whistling at the competitors to go faster!
Longevity. The more years a show has been running, the more years the organisers have had to refine it.
The horses acclimatised perfectly in Spain, and settled into their quieter stables while I settled into my lovely little apartment. Some good results, good going for the horses coupled with sunshine made my life very enjoyable!
Take care and keep following me on Facebook & Twitter!"
Hello and Happy New Year to you all! Hope you are coping in the snow - on day one of the snow I had a shock to the system to find myself alone on the yard with 10 horses to look after! It was a cold hard slog but I got it all done and fortunately the weather hasn't affected me much since...!
Thankfully, I am busy preparing to leave for a showjumping tour in Portugal, and then on to Spain. I leave in less than a month and I am very much looking forward to setting off on the road trip. Many of us show jumpers migrate to a warmer European country for a tour to get the horses up and running ready for the coming season. It gives the horses a chance to get some sun on their backs and compete in big spacious outdoor arenas. To be in with a chance of team selection it is something that a rider needs to consider doing to keep up with the rest of the European riders, it's important to understand the level of competition and elevate yourself accordingly.
All my horses have been well rested over the last few months and now (before all the snow) all the prep work for this year is starting. I will be taking five horses out with me on the Tour, I feel this is a good balance between the time I can dedicate to each horse - there are only so many hours in a day after all.
The world's best will be competing for the generous prizemoney on offer, I feel lucky to have such a quality first horse in Diaghilev. 'Eric' allows me to compete at the very highest level, as he proved time and again last year. If we have a good start to our 2013 campaign then, hopefully, we will be in good stead for Nations' Cup selection.
I will be taking Chakira Van Het Hek as my number two horse. I have not had her very long but she has, in the few shows we have done together, had great results. She will be doing the second classes and will be Diaghilev's pathfinder.
I am also taking Blazer B, Chesterfield and Croklund. They will all compete in their respective age groups. It will be Croklund's first ever trip aboard, I really hope the whole experience will bring him on. My newly turned seven-year-olds have already competed abroad several times - they are two great young horses who have a very bright future ahead.
Last year I did not go on a Tour, I spent most of the year in the UK and just did a few small trips (France & Ireland). I did this as I felt the horses weren't quite ready, however now after a great 2012 I feel that they are, so fingers crossed I have a successful trip.
I am not going to be doing many shows before I go as I will leave them all fresh, I will work on their fitness and just do a few local competitions to get their eyes in.
So next time I blog it will be from a sunny (hopefully) Portugal, not a snow covered Britain.
Take care on the snow and ice and keep those horses toasty."
Anna's horses are getting to enjoy some down time in the field
"An often overlooked part of the horsey calendar is the long (and cold) winter break. It's a time that is far more important to a competitive horse's development than most realise. We all need a holiday at some point to escape the rigours of work/life/people - whatever the case may be. So with this in mind, my horses are in the middle of a holiday and I have one booked for January! I am still working hard with the younger horses but when you have a horse like Diaghilev out competing at the highest level it takes a lot of work to keep them at their physical peak. It's worth bearing in mind that the horses' muscle development and growth occurs at rest, not during activity.
I have just bought myself a beautiful grade A mare. This is the first graded horse I have ever bought! Usually I buy a three- to five-year-old and bring them on, so by eight or nine years old I know them inside out and we have a formidable partnership. This is a big risk for me but after much deliberation I have decided its the best way forward. With the right horse (hopefully) turning up!
Most top riders have at least three top horses, I have always only ever had one at a time. In simplistic terms, if I had just two Diaghilev's last year then currently I would be ranked around 13th/14th in the country. The way in which the British Showjumping system works means you do really have to have more than one good horse to be competitive, otherwise your one good horse ends up doing too much. I have taken a chance on the new horse as she has not competed for three years, she is only 10 and has been caught up in an owners' dispute. I am really hoping for a good second horse to Diaghilev - if she turns out to be better than that then I will be delighted. Watch this space.
With all this excitement going on, I am looking forward to next spring already, when all the horses will be well rested and good to go. Just wish for now the weather would cheer up a bit, our fields are so wet. Don't know how everyone is coping with this?! It sure is a struggle."
What a six months I have had! At the start of the year I had three main aims - to win an International Stairway, win a 3* Grand Prix, and to compete at Horse of the Year Show with the younger horses. I have ticked all three boxes so I am a happy lady!
Back in March I was introduced to a product called the Infinity Pro Power Band, and I have been wearing this band on my wrist ever since. I was drawn to the numerous things that the band is meant to help with, especially better balance and more focus. Could it be the secret to my success this year?! I am not sure but I won't be taking it off to find out!
I can not thank my sponsors NAF (Natural Animal Feeds) enough. This year they have supported myself and my horses. Diaghilev, Blazer B and Chesterfield have all been competing on Super-Flex, and my results speak for themselves. NAF do some other good products too, in fact our dog is now on the canine form.
After HOYS I am now going to give my older horses a winter holiday - and have one myself! I will then concentrate through the winter months on my younger horses. I have two five-year-olds who have done very little due to my commitments with Diaghilev. They will now get my full attention and hopefully by the spring big improvements will be seen. I have just taken over the ride on another five-year-old from Adrian Whiteway. He has been riding him for me as he was extremely tricky to break in. The horse has finally come the other side of this and is now looking fabulous, jumping consistently double clear around Newcomers (1.10m). Without Adrian I don't think the horse would have ever made it to a show. I am very grateful for all his hard work and for the wonderful job he has done with the horse. Next year if I get caught up with the bigger shows you may see Adrian competing some of my horses around the National circuit.
Horse of the Year Show is just around the corner. It is always a show I very much look forward to. I am currently in talks with clothing company Joshua Jones (who made my shirt in the above picture) so I may be spotted at HOYS in some of the latest equestrian fashion. I cannot wait.
What an Olympic Games, especially the Team showjumping gold medal for Great Britain! The team was fabulous and many MANY congratulations to all involved, not just the amazing riders but also all the hard working support teams behind them. Gold was just what showjumping needed, and I am looking forward to more publicity about our sport.
Just watching the Olympics helped me up my game, and above is a video of Diaghilev and myself winning the 3* Grand Prix at Millstreet in Ireland. Enjoy! Eric is in tremendous form and I am currently having my best season yet - it's looking like Rio is a big possibility for us :)
I hope the Olympics have given you inspiration, like it has for me.
Chesterfield finds the prize giving at Hickstead highly entertaining
They say time flies when you are having fun - and I really do not know where the last few months have gone! I have been enjoying a fantastic run of form on all of my horses and in the past three weeks I have won four rugs, an iPod docking station, six bottles of wine, flowers and (aptly) umbrellas - the list goes on!
Hickstead was a great show for me, and I was catapulted back into the public eye with a third place on Diaghilev in the Masters Challenge, which was broadcasted live on Sky Sports. I feel extremely proud that I am back competing at a very high level on another horse that I have produced from the beginning of their career. Hickstead is a fabulous show and what a place to really hit form, the atmosphere in front of the huge crowd is just wonderful.
From Hickstead, I went to France to compete with Blazer B, Diaghilev and Chesterfield. It was Blazer's and Chester's first International show, and it's good to take young horses on trips abroad as travelling is something that they will have to do a lot of if they become top horses. I was very pleased with how well they all travelled, we left in plenty of time and took a few stops on the way so they all stayed relaxed and well. When we arrived in France I think the horses were delighted to arrive to some sun (Blazer B was wickering when he came off the lorry, very cute!)
The sun brought the best out in the horses. Second was my place for the week, Blazer was second in the Six Year Old warm up, Chesterfield was second in the Six Year Old Final, and Diaghilev was second in the World Ranking class! I also picked up seventh in the Grand Prix, a green mistake by Diaghilev at the first fence in the jump-off kept us out of the top three, but it was still a very creditable result.
The atmosphere in France was just fantastic. Showjumping in France is a very popular sport. Every prize giving was given so much importance, sponsors, organisers flocked to the arena to congratulate riders and their horses. My horses love going in for their laps of honour, and I really do think they know that they have done well. This got me thinking - in England, sometimes prize givings are dropped because of large number of entries at the show. I think this is such a shame for the sport when this happens as it almost takes away someone's achievement. I also think it is a shame when, in a big competition, riders just walk out rather than cantering around to show the crowd their appreciation. Take a county show, for example, when the public have payed good money to enter the show and watch and then the rider just takes the rosette with little enthusiasm. We want to get people enjoying watching our sport again and I feel a good prize giving is maybe the place to start.
Please keep up to date with my results and competitions I have coming up by following me on Facebook and Twitter
This weekend was Royal Windsor Horse Show and the Diamond Jubilee Pageant - what a show! The Pageant was fantastic and so interesting to watch. Celebrating Her Majesty the Queen's 60-year reign, it took spectators on a trip round the world, capturing different equestrian cultures and showing the many different ways in which the horse is used throughout the world. My favourites were the Russian Cossacks - they were breathtaking. They gallop - and I mean flat out! - along the arena while doing acrobatics on the side of the horse, and they could also slide down under the horse and back up on the other side while still going at top speed. It really is something you have to see. So much physical strength is involved and the trust that they have with their horse is remarkable. I did watch it and think to myself, well that was unbelievable... but Cossacks are crazy!
I also got to meet a real-life cowboy! He was so lovely and charming. In the arena he was reining and lassoing cattle. He told me that this what he does everyday in the Californian mountains on his ranch. There were also orphans from Kenya who had lost their parents in tribal conflicts or diseases, and the children sang so wonderfully that it brought tears to my eyes. It really was quite a remarkable and I was so touched by the whole experience.
I used the show as an opportunity to step Diaghilev (Eric) up a level. He jumped his first 1.60m Grand Prix, and I was delighted with how he went. We did a fantastic clear in the first round and then in the jump-off we had a very light touch on one of the poles and ended on four faults for ninth position. Before the competition started I was thinking "I just want him to go well today", but after we came so close my competitive edge kicked in and I was more like: "Oh why did that fence have to fall!"
Regardless of the result, Diaghilev really proved he has the talent and the ability to become a top horse, hopefully world class, and the great thing is that this time, this horse is staying with me.