A blog from Armstrong Foulkes’ Resident Equestrienne

The majority of my time outside of work is taken up by horses and I compete regularly in eventing. Whilst I only have the time to compete 2 or 3 as it takes a lot of training and fitness work to make sure a horse is ready to compete, I have several others. These include horses who have since retired or ones that are too young to compete.

Whilst we do on occasion buy horses, we tend to breed our own and are now breeding the second generation of horses. My old eventer Molly (who we bred 14 years ago) now has a 3 year old gelding (boy) and a filly foal (girl).

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I am often asked what eventing entails. The competition is made up of 3 phases which are designed to test the horse and rider in different ways. The scores from each phase are combined to produce an overall total. Eventing is one of the very few sports where professionals and amateurs compete against one another as do men and women as there is no distinction between gender.

The 3 phases are:

Dressage

This is where the horse and rider have to perform a series of predetermined movements to show the horse’s obedience, suppleness, balance and harmony with the rider and judges score each movement from 1 to 10. It can often be difficult to get a very fit horse to perform a relaxed and precise test. I must admit this is my least favourite of the 3 disciplines and yet the one I have to spend most of my time doing.

Show Jumping

This involves one round of jumping over coloured poles that can be knocked down with a maximum time allowed. The aim is to jump a clear round inside the time. There are penalties for knocking a pole down, stopping at a fence or exceeding the time allowed.

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 Cross Country

This is a course over several kilometres across the country of very solidly built fences and includes logs, stone walls, ponds and streams, ditches, drops and banks and fences in combination. As well as big solid fences, there are a number of obstacles which test the accuracy and training of the horse and rider such as narrow or angled fences and corners. Both horse and rider need to be fit as this is a test of endurance as well as testing the courage, speed, athleticism and trust in one another as whilst there have been a lot of measures taken to improve safety, this is still the phase where horse and/or rider are most likely to be injured. This is by far my favourite phase as it involves jumping and going fast which really gets the adrenaline up.

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I am now at the end of the eventing season. The winter will involve less intensive training but will be used as a solid foundation for the season next year starting in March. I will also use the added time winter brings to bring on my young horses who will start competing next year.

Kathryn Watson – October 2015