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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Bicton Horse trials

It feels now as if we are getting stuck into the season.  All of the horses that competed at Bicton have had a previous run and are feeling back into the swing of it.

We took four horses for the Friday classes, three for the Novice, and Duke of Axbridge for the Intermediate.

As always, the show jumping was up to height, and very technical, but jumping in the surfaced arena guaranteed the horses the best footing to give it their best.  The cross country course was bold and strong, and with the steep undulations, would need some sensible and balanced riding.  It was definitely going to be an educational day for the Novice horses!


We kicked off the day with Kelsons Limited Edition.  He was on first of the day in the dressage arena.  He performed a really pleasing test that we all thought showed good improvement from his last event.  Whether the judges were just warming up, or wiping the sleep out of their eyes, he received a pretty average mark for his efforts.  This was a definite case where you have to be philosophical about your marks and not get to disheartened, I’m sure we are on the right track with him in this sphere.

He show jumped really well, just having a careless 4 faults when he thought he knew a little better than me what he was doing.  Instead of arguing with him, I felt it was better he make his own mistake, and after hitting that one fence, WOW, he didn’t want to touch another.  Lesson well learned!

He tackled the cross country like a pro!  The only thing I could fault this horse for, is that he is sometimes over eager, but what a great fault to have.  Its a pleasure to ride such a positive forward thinking genuine horse!!!


Midnight Ash improved in the dressage from Portman posting a good score for him.  He struggled a bit with the hard ground in the dressage arena but rode an accurate test.

He again show jumped really well showing what a straight and consistent horse he is to ride in this phase.

Every time he goes cross country its hard for me to believe that its only his second season.  He is so balanced in his gallop, he’s exceptionally adjustable and happy to go on a forward or collected stride to a fence.  It’s like he was already pre programmed to do the job.  He expressed true class, just cantering around the course as if we were schooling.  I’m very excited to jump some bigger tracks on him, he gives me such a good feel!


The Night Traveller was my final ride in the Novice class.  He performed a very accurate and rhythmical test, once again gaining a super sub 30 score.  He’s only a small horse, but he is showing more and more presence with each test he does.

Without trying to curse this horse, I’ve never had a rail down in the show jumping on him, and once again, he delivered another clinical clear round.

With the same plan in mind as at his last run, we set off on the cross country nice and steady.  Taking all the fences in his stride I thought we were on for another good round.  It was going great until he came down the steep hill to a set of steps and then to a narrow triple brush.  He showed his inexperience, and ran a little on to his fore hand down the slope and didn’t quite lock on well enough to the triple brush, and glanced off to the left.  I circled and immediately popped the fence and away we went.  Not letting this rock us, I continued in a steady rhythm, having a lovely ride home.  It would be easy to get very disappointed, but I think this was a genuine lack of concentration on the horses part which I think he will learn from.  We are all competitive, but we must remember that these are inexperienced horses that are still learning.  We will take this mistake on board and train hard so to try and avoid it happening again!


It was a tough Intermediate class that the Duke of Axbridge was contesting in.  He performed a good accurate test with only one little mistake, where he went walk to canter instead of trot near the end of the test.  I could forgive him this considering he had done several walk to canters throughout the test, and this mistake was only through enthusiasm.

The show jumping had so many changes of direction, and turn backs, it was hard to remember where you were going, let alone ride!  With this technical and up to height track it was no surprize that there wasn’t many clears.  Fence one was a bright white, spooky oxer which claimed several victims before riders really got going.  The Duke of Axbridge jumped extremely accurately, to be one of only three faultless rounds.  This left us in a good position going into the cross country.

The cross country course asked many questions, from tricky turns to skinny fences to a big and bold double of corners, finished with a decent rail with a maximum drop into the final water.  It was going to take a bit of jumping!

Duke felt great as he left the start box.  He felt very positive, on the aids, and listening to me attentively.  He took all of the questions laid ahead of him in in his stride.  He showed all of his experience and flew around course having me smiling all of the way around.

Duke was handsomely rewarded with a 3rd rosette for his efforts.


It was a busy, but successful day.  Thanks to all of the team, everything ran smoothly, even when running times were very close.  I’ve a huge thanks to the professionalism of all involved from the 4am start to 8pm home time.  Thanks to the team of spectators that came to support, it makes the day ever the more enjoyable.


The following day, I was let loose on my own with Spypark Ferro XS to contest the BE100.  I’m fortunate that his owner, Sarah Boon, is not afraid to help out!  She baby sat me throughout the day and made sure we were everywhere we were supposed to be, on time.

The weather was not as kind and it drizzled with rain all afternoon making it all a little less pleasant.  The ground was getting a bit greasy on top, so our stud selection was crucial in keeping enough grip.

Spypark Ferro did a super test, showing improved suppleness and connection.  He had a small moment of distraction as a horse decided to neigh loudly next to his arena during his walk movements, but putting that aside, I couldn’t of asked more of him at this time.  He was awarded an amazing 22.3 score for this, so the pressure was on!

Bicton has a beautiful set of very colourful fences, great for spectators, but daunting for a young horse.  Spypark entered the arena with ALOT of presence, I wonder how much better the dressage mark would have been if he’d trotted around like that in his test!  As soon as we jumped the first fence, he knew exactly what was expected of him, and he jumped around giving everything a foot to spare.  Onwards and forwards to the cross country!

As I received my last bit banter with Keith, the cross country starter, for the weekend, we set off!  Spypark Ferro was very enthusiastic for the first third of the course, I’m sure he thought it was his final preparation run before Badminton!  He then settled and gave me a super ride.  He is a 17.1hh young horse, and he coped really well with the undulations of the course that Bicton had to offer.  He was aware of his balance going down the hills, always trying to balance himself, which I think shows great awareness.  This will come in handy as he progresses up the grades and the difficulty of the fences require a composed and thoughtful horse.  I can’t help but always think of the future!

He bagged a super double clear, finishing on his dressage score which earned Team Bragg its first WIN of the season!!

So proud of him, and really pleased for Sarah.

This was a great way to round of our competition weekend at Bicton.  A huge thanks to the team at Bicton Arena, they are always so welcoming, and from a riders perspective, exceptionally thoughtful and helpful.  Well done guys for another fantastic show!!

Please visit the HORSES profiles that competed for their latest video clips!!

Dressage Training Day with Shaun Mandy

Shaun kindly visited our yard at Poplars Equestrian to cast a watchful eye over a couple of horses during their daily schooling sessions.

Shaun has many years of experience training horses and recently spent 18 months in Denmark, based with one of the worlds foremost dressage trainers, Hasse Hoffmann.

We chose two novice horses for Shaun to give us advice with:

Spypark Ferro XS and The Night Traveller.

These are two very different horses, Spypark Ferro being a 17.2hh warmblood and The Night Traveller a 16hh Irish Sports Horse.  We thought we would stretch Shaun’s coaching repertoire, and see what methods we could use to bring the best out in both horses.

We worked with Spypark Ferro first.  Shaun began by asking me for a bit of history about the horse and my thoughts of the positives and negatives I was experiencing in my training with him.  Then we commenced with the work!  Beginning by warming up on a circle, Shaun had me doing easy transitions from walk to trot, but all the time gently pushing the horse from my inside leg slightly laterally.  This created more bend and suppleness and gave me more connection through to the outside rein.  This enabled me to produce a softer and more effective half halt which allowed me to do transitions within the pace, generating more elasticity and engagement.  The result gave us a better rhythm with more ground coverage.

Shaun asked me to do some leg yield in both trot and canter to help us again with suppleness, but also balance, especially when the canter leg yield took us into counter canter.  I felt this enabled Spypark Ferro to remain soft and over his back, and to remain ‘swinging’ through his back when I increased the power into his work.

We finished as we started, on a circle where I continued to gently push from my inside leg, but this time we allowed the horse to stretch down as much as he wished.


Next was the turn of The Night Traveller.  He is slightly more experienced and establish in his work, so we were able move through the warm up a little quicker.  We began in exactly the same way.  Shaun kept encouraging me to soften my inside rein so as not to restrict the horse while asking for more bend and suppleness.

We then progressed with the lateral work and looked at ‘shoulder in’.  Once we had establish a rhythmical, and balanced shoulder in Shaun asked me to do some transitions from the trot through to walk and then return to the trot.  All the time I was to keep the positioning of the shoulder in and maintain the horses balance around my inside leg and into my outside rein.  I could feel my seat becoming more influential in balancing the horse and I felt him becoming softer in the movement underneath me.

I asked Shaun if he could look at my ‘walk to canter’ and ‘canter to walk’ transitions to see if he could help me ‘polish them up’ for my competitions.  Shaun had me canter a small circle around him in an active, collected canter.  He then asked me to push the horses quarters to the inside of the circle in a travers positioning.  While positioned like this I collected the canter a little more, and then asked for a transition through to walk.  Shaun again emphasized that I was to soften my inside rein so as not to restrict the horse.  This encouraged more engagement in the downwards transition and kept the horse soft and relaxed through his body.  I felt this improved the quality of the walk away from the transition.  When I practiced a couple of ‘canter to walk’ transitions as if in a test situation, it was noticeable that the horse stayed in better ‘self carriage’.

To finish off, Shaun and I discussed the sessions, and had a brief recap on the key points that he thought would benefit me and the horses most.


All in all, both horses seemed to enjoy their training sessions, showing improved quality to their paces.  I felt Shaun communicated really well with me, and was very attentive to the horses, as to how much to increase the difficulty of the work, and when to give them a break.

I would like to thank Shaun for his time and input, and I will definitely be incorporating many of his ideas into my daily riding.


If you would be interested in receiving coaching from Shaun please contact him by;

tel.            07780 654703

email.       [email protected]

website.   www.shaunmandy.com

Shaun has superb facilities at his base, with a large outdoor arena, and a 20×40 indoor arena.

He is available for clinics throughout the UK with adequate numbers

Portman Horse Trials

What a beautiful day to enjoy the new location of Portman horse trials.  With glorious sunshine, super ground conditions and an inviting new cross country course, it would have been hard not to have an enjoyable day!

Team Bragg had four horses competing, three in the Novice sections and one in the Intermediate Novice.

Midnight Ash  showed pleasing improvement in the dressage before jumping a classy show jumping round, just having an unlucky back rail of an oxer in the middle of the treble.

I cruised around the cross country giving Ash a smooth jumping round.  He is showing great confidence and talent in this phase, especially considering this is only his second season eventing since finishing his racing career.  A couple more novice runs and I think a step up to Intermediate is on the cards.

Kelsons Limited Edition also contested in the Novice class.  At only 6 years old he still makes a few green mistakes but has great composure in all three phases for his age.  He posted a competitive dressage score, and a little like Ash, he jumped a super show jump round with only one lapse of concentration resulting in one rail down.  It is taking time for him to learn to contain his huge stride and scopey jump but he is showing masses of potential to jump the bigger courses in the future.

Kelsons Ltd Edition was very keen on the cross country, this is his second competition of the season and I think he must of very much enjoyed his first run as he was eager to get stuck into the course that portman had to offer.  There were a few distances in the related lines that were on the shorter side which was a good question for a young eager horse encouraging him to remain concentrated.  He ate up the ground on the great going to cruise around inside the time.  Apart from a slight awkward moment where I’m not sure whether he noticed there was an open ditch to be jumped between two hanging logs and nearly popped a back leg in it as he cantered over the ground line in front of it, he gave me a great ride.

The Night Traveller had another solid performance in his Novice section.  He was a little excited with this being his second competition, and maybe could have been a bit more relaxed in his dressage, but he performed accurately and posted another sub 30, and very competitive score.  He gave me a super ride around the show jumping for another clear round.

With future events in the back of minds our plan was to start on the cross country nice and steady to build his confidence and work on the quality of his cross country rounds preparing for the bigger shows to come.  He gave me an amazing ride but with this plan he incurred 2 time penalties.  On a usual day this would have been insignificant but with the attendance of all the top riders in the country being at Portman this unfortunately pushed him from 2nd to 7th.  Although a little disappointed, everything went to plan and I was over the moon with his performance.

Duke Of Axbridge was having his first run of the season in the Intermediate Novice section.  He performed a nice dressage test showing some lovely canter work.  He just an unfortunate jog in the walk section which slightly marred his score but overall, for his first test this year I was very pleased.

He show jumped well but was a bit exuberant over a couple of fences costing us 8 faults.  I gave him a smooth and steady ride around the cross country where he took everything in his stride.  This was a great event to set him up for the forth coming season where he competes in his next competition in an Intermediate at Bicton.

Please visit the HORSES link in the menu to watch these horses latest videos from Portman horse trials.