On 1st July I signed my first sponsored rider - 20 year old university student Maddie O'Carroll and her 19 year old Connemara X roan pony The Silver Brumby (AKA Rooney) - and what an extraordinary few days it has been.
The last week has been full on. After a good practice training session with her trainer Annie Hunter Blair at the end of last month, Maddie and Rooney were set to compete. The thing is Rooney does very little work on grass - in fact he has only competed on grass on a handful of occasions since Maddie first took on the ride at the end of 2015 - those being the Area 13 qualifying competition and National Championships in July and August. This will be her third year heading to Cholmondeley Castle to compete at the Pony Club Championships in August.
Once again, as the times were posted on the organiser's website, Maddie and Rooney were selected to be first on. That meant a 5.30am start to get her boy plaited and prepared, travel to the venue - the beautiful Hackwood Park in Basingstoke - warm and be ready to go at 8.30. With family support from mum Nikki and sister Olivia, the day went as well as the team could have expected. A brilliant win, scoring 73.06% in stiff competition. The second placed combination were almost 1% behind and were second to ride, so it was a long wait until all the tests were marked, checked and posted, but it became clear that Maddie had qualified to go to Cheshire.
For me, the early start was so worth it. For Maddie, it just meant that as she had finished early she was available to swap her riding hat for her teaching tog, picking up the mantel of warming up her co-competitors who were taking part in the same competition. And there was success here too, with the intermediate and novice teams also qualifying for the Championships.
There are now six weeks to go before the pair travel to Cheshire to repeat their success. As part of their preparation, Maddie and Rooney will train most days and fit in at least one more British Dressage competition, this time the British Dressage Summer Regionals at Bery Farm, to push themselves as far as they can without over working. In addition to competing Maddie will spend much of the rest of her summer teaching.
Maddie is a great ambassador for Anna Rainbow Photography and I wish her every success with her summer plans before she returns to her Equine Business studies at Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.