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WITH JESS THOMPSON - TOP DRESSAGE RIDER AND FREDDIE PARKER'S BRAND AMBASSADOR

Our current December mood is to be snuggled in bed and this young man's bed head look is bang on trend! We've all been bedding down at assouline dressage and the staff are having a great laugh trying to catch the best picture of a sleeping (beauty) equine! This was the picture that amused us the most this month! 
 
 
Winter has certainly arrived and even the dog has got her rug on!! San Diego V thought she looked very peculiar (smallest horse he has ever seen!)
 
 
San Diego V came out for a try at his new winter level of Prix St Georges, which is so exciting! I have worked with this horse from the very bottom and knowing we have grown together and to be competing in our first Prix St George class is such a huge accomplishment for him (And me!). We had some baby errors but I always try and prioritise a positive experience for the horses, especially when competing at a new level, that he felt comfortable and confident regardless of small errors. There was so many positive moments, which I think as riders we are far too quick to dismiss and focus on the moments we feel were negative, but his positives through the test far outweighed the 'blips' and the judges comments also reflect this! I am chomping at the bit to ride his next one, fingers crossed! 
 
The picture of the two horse and riders are me riding the flamboyant Fenwood (On the left) and Megan Assouline riding her pony Jamaj. We had a family outing mid month for more competing and with Fenwood after his adjustments, then a long and lovely holiday which allowed him to come out physically and mentally stronger. Both tests felt as though his maturity and confidence have grown (which was my hope after his down time) now it's time to grow up and so to come home with two red rosettes and a few 9's was certainly a good beginning! 
 
 
If anyone remembers last months judging picture, our yard cat sooty tried his hand at judging my muck heap stacking skills. This month instead, whilst looking extremely handsome, a 10/10 was his professional opinion! 
 
Oh and it's not a bad view! 
 
Hope you're all wrapped up warm and keeping cosy, let's be hoping for a white December and Happy Christmas to you all! 
 
Love 
Jess
x
 
I'm still riding the success of the National Championships we saw my client Susanna Wade getting righteous publicity with a little mention for me as top coach, friend and support in Horse & Hound. We have since been to a squad selection trials (End of October) so that our little threesome (the musketeers!) may be in squad contention for 2017. Fingers crossed we made a good impression! 
 
Mr Fenwood shows off his top and toes in the first of our adjustments this month. First off, a trim for the big handsome man and second off some new age shoes! 
 
 
 
Fenwood had a great season with me at Novice and Elementary level scoring often up and above of 70% on a regular basis and he has had a much deserved break (He is only 6 after all!!!). Now we are back in the arena, oiling the engine and cracking on! Time to have a competition schedule in the making for this talented horse for the next season, planning ahead is a crucial part of trying to juggle life here at Assouline dressage. 
 
 
Fenwood enjoys a snooze after a session this month!
 
I had to share this photo with you all, it's our lovely yard cat who after being fed a few regular meals at my doorstep has taken to camping out in the indoor and observing my rides, a great companion! He is my judge, perhaps I will get him a score sheet and get practising!!! The horses have had to get used to his little head popping out every so often #desensitization. 
 

Mid month fashion!!! Our great grooms sporting their seasonal outfits, stay away winter!!! Time for clipping, closed windows and indoor arena lights, not one of my favourite yearly adjustments, but at least we're all still smiling! 
 

 
The obligatory social photo of the month below, we had a great time at Natasha Bakers Rio celebration party (Pictured is Sophie Christiansen, myself and Charlotte Solange). I am also proud to say that FIreball; pictured in last months blog, has gone on to live with Natasha as her next competition ride, great things and the best of luck to the new combination. 
 
 
Till next time, 
Love 
Jess
x
 
SEPTEMBER
My heart is fit to burst with the successes I have been part of this month! Firstly, the Paralympic dressage team. As some of you may know, I have been a pupil and head girl to Michel Assouline now for five years (The Paralympic dressage coach) and by heck have Team GB done a great job of it this year! I am honoured to call some of them friends and so unbelievably proud of Sophie Christiansens ride 'Athene' with whom I have a very special bond with from our own year of competing prior to her Paralympic career! 
 
The team is so inspiring and it's so nice to see my mentor Michel have such great success after putting his heart and soul into the job. It's really incredible stuff and the whole dressage world should stand and applaud  these tremendous athletes, horses and their support teams. 
 
Closer to home we also had huge celebrations due our very own Grade 1a rider Susanna Wade and her D'artagnan sweeping the board at the KBIS Para National Championships at Stoneleigh, not only claiming the Grade 1a title but securing the highest para score of the day, a huge 75.65%! 
 
 
 
Me sporting my Freddie Parker tee and D'artagnan sporting his prettiest face at the nationals ready for warm up
 
 
Me, D'artagnan and Susanna ready for the prize giving! 
 
 
I have ridden D'artagnan now for 14 months for Susanna and worked as her coach with her closely for 3 years at our Assouline base, with highs and lows (As we all have when it comes to horses!) throughout this period! It seemed however that the planets aligned for us this month and the three musketeers worked in perfect harmony for a sash, rug and rosette! What a huge achievement for Susanna, D'artagnan and myself! 
 
Finally, my own rides have been replenished with the arrival of two extremely charming 5year olds who we put through their paces at a local show. Both performed flawlessly gaining scores of 75+%, red rosettes and a bag of carrots each!!! First timers acting like old pro's! 

 

5year old new addition AD Tosca strutting his stuff! 

Second new addition 5 year old AD Fireball chilling after a very productive test! 

Till next time 
Jess
x

August

With the summer heat in full force here in Essex, we slapped on the factor 30 and trucked off to Keysoe The college with San Diego V to take part in the Advanced Medium Regional Finals. We had a great day and really pushed ourselves out of my usual comfort zone. My trainer Michel Assouline came along for some much appreciated help and support and we pulled a 6th place out of the bag with some amazing moments, including a walk pirouette for an 8 and an impromptu one time flying change! (Whoops!!!) He is really enjoying the level and growing stronger all the time, one day horse and rider will be in sync and it will all click (Don't we hope!).

 

Me and my friendly competition Toby Hewlett

It's so vital to have a trainer that is happy to accompany you, praise and offer positive feedback and reflection on riding performance and the whole day (Not just the outcome of the test) preparation, planning, time management and all the other components that make competing fun and hopefully stress free. I'm very lucky I have that in Michel and find that my horses also really excel from the support I receive.

For the first time in a long time I can say I've had an easy month with that being the only horsey outing and the weather being so beautiful, it's been 'horsey down time' and 'rider tan time'! Fenwood has had a 3 week break and getting strong after his busy summer and San Diego had a mini vacation after his regionals whilst I went on my summer holiday to Portugal.

 

Big booty Fenwood in his field

We are making the most of the fields here at Assouline dressage and letting horses be horses, with lots of hacking and turning out. It's so important that both horse and rider have rest and recovery, amateur or professional. So don't feel guilty about an extra glass of sangria on your summer holidays!! (To be fair, I didn't!).

Sangria time!

We kick off September with the para nationals for Susanna Wade and some local competing for winter qualifying points once we all work off our grass bellies!...so until next time!..."

 

August

Hosting a British Dressage in-hand clinic kicked off a rather hectic month for me, attending Assouline Dressage. We had 40 people come to watch our fabulous horses display everything from international vet trot ups, long reining, piaffe and passage in hand, it was such fun to be part of and San Diego and I were used as guinea pigs! So, I was quite embarrassed when we both were very confused about in-hand piaffe, but to be fair, we were the 'beginners' section!! Me and him were both in agreement that we did a cracking job in the end and everyone has to start somewhere!The basic aids are so vital with in-hand work and we learnt that not being greedy was the key to understanding, I was encouraged to praise him as soon as I received a forward reaction in the first stages and once confident he soon offered the half step which elated me, so so proud! 
 
 
San Diego is looking forward to his regional finals at Advanced Medium at the beginning of August and in good preparation we attended a test riding day at Keysoe EC, ran by Eastern BD and under the watchful eye of judge Mark Ruddock we steered around the 98 and did some amazing canter work, the pilot was a little deluded about the size of her walk pirouettes but Mark soon set me straight! The trot was the main point of focus and a sharp reminder that impulsion and activity are key to engagement we soon made huge improvements, its so interesting to receive and outside opinion from a fresh pair of eyes and to be given fresh 'tools' and techniques to improve the quality of the training. Lots and lots of learning! 
 
 
The end of the month saw me prepping my Whites and best competition attire...
 
 
 
Myself, Fenwood and his lovely (doting!) owners Angela and Steve trucked off down to Hickstead to ride in the Novice, Elementary regionals and also the international 6 year old final (flying changes and half pass... ahhh!). We had some unplanned movements on day one in the Novice that Fenwood wanted to show off in his excitement and comments included 'the most entertaining test of the day!'. Day two, and 3 arena walks later, produced a much calmer test with all 4 hooves staying where they should and horse and rider not trying to depart from one another, I was seeing improvements! By the third test we were well and truly in our stride and produced some quality work, tackling flying changes, half pass and walk pirouettes, a huge achievement for a 6 year old horse, especially one with Fenwood's sense of humour! 
 
 
 
Unfortunately the atmosphere (and a huge LED screen!) did prove to be a little overwhelming and we weren't in the rosettes, however it was a great weeks experience for us all that made Fenwood grow up, learn boundaries and grow in his confidence and by the end of the week, he was so happy to show off and listen to his pilot which showed huge improvements. We received so many comments of admiration from spectators and judges about his future ability, which is thrilling for myself and his owners and now we will just continue to get him relaxed in competition atmospheres and getting him used to being away from home. It is all planning and preparation for a very successful future for this horse! Thank you to his owners, the supporting staff at Assouline dressage and my fabulous sponsor Freddie Parker for their help and for believing in me :-) Jess

Fabulous Fenwood = Happy Owner And Rider!

 

WITH JESS THOMPSON, FREDDIE PARKER'S BRAND AMBASSADOR

As I mentioned in 'April fools' last month, Fenwood ventured to his first competition in May and what a fabulous time we had!!! We took him to brook farm training centre (Essex) expecting a nice calm local competition to induct him into the British Dressage scene, upon arrival we realised it was not as expected and was very busy (brilliant to see for our sport!) but possibly off putting for a first timer! However both myself and his owners (Angela and Steve Shelton) were astounded by Fenwood's attitude, it was as if he had read a manual in his bed the night before on competition etiquette! What a smart horse!! 
When competing inexperienced horses I think that the whole experience is important not purely just the behaviour when executing the test, so I think of a check list in my mind. Starting with loading on to the lorry, travelling sensibly and calmly, standing on the lorry and eating and so on and so forth. This gives you and the horse manageable goals to achieve and you can track the progress of young horses when attending competitions. Fenwood ticked all the right boxes and showed huge trust in me to show him the way throughout the whole experience (With the help of a few carrots!) however we did come up against one challenge that proved to petrify him and that was the White signs (Even though we have these at home!) so our test had a few more halts in it than it was meant too! Whoops!!! They were lovely halts though! 

He gained confidence as we went through the test and I am hoping that the positive praise and reassurance he received will make the next ring experience (the jays 2nd June) a little less daunting for him and so looking forward to strutting our stuff again!!

Posing after the test!
 
 
Time for a quick kiss before we leave
 
 
Taking it all in!
 
We have also  been very busy competing and my employers Mette and Michael Assouline have qualified their current horses for the regionals in minimal outings, winning virtually every test they entered!!! So we have been a happy (if very busy) team this month look forward to attending regionals and showing off the lovely selection of horses we have! I will hopefully be attending regionals on San Diego at elementary level and a new ride to me 'star' (stable name) at advanced medium ... She is beautiful! 
 
Here's a cheeky shot of her posing 
 
 
She is an exciting prospect for me so I am so excited to see what we can do together In the upcoming competitions! Watch this space guys!!! 

Till next time!"

Jess
x
 
APRIL FOOLS AND STAGE FRIGHT
 

Luckily, the most fooled i got was thinking it might not rain throughout April.. But alas, it did! Needless to say this did not dampen our spirits or delay our early starts and the British weather must have recognised this as sunshine prevailed!!! (Hooray!!!)

 

Not a bad view in the sunshine!

The best of it, thankfully for me showed its face whilst at the British Dressage Winter National Championships with San Diego V. We stayed for three days (mini holiday!) to compete in the novice and elementary open. He has had no previous experience at championship level and has only competed (so far very successfully) a handful of times at local venues. Unfortunately we didn’t bring home any rosettes, however, this was a huge achievement for this horse to firstly have qualified and to have, perhaps despite his instinct, kept his attention on me and let me pilot him. We definitely had some stage fright and nerves, especially in the test arena but most importantly for me from a development perspective that every time he came out of the stable he was a little more settled and attentive. Which is a win for me!

A very tired San Diego V having some competition prep! 

 

Handsome chap!

More nerves were shown with ‘Fenwood’ on his first outing, this little (...not so little!!) homebred horse ( 5 years, Forrest Gump) now owned by Angela Shelton is soon to begin his competition career, he has been very proud of himself this month as he got his British Dressage membership number through the post. So in preparation for our first competition our very generous vets let us travel just a mere 5 miles down the road to use their arena to familiarise him with a different environment. These kinds of outings are really important to build confidence and trust with the young horses and a great opportunity for them to show you their best impersonation of the Spanish riding school horses!!! Fenwood clearly idolises them! After a little excitement he settled and nerves turned to calm, I am so excited to take him to another venue and then onto compete this summer in some young horse classes … we will however be donning our smartest neck strap for the first few occasions!

Fenwood posing at a different venue.

Finally to talk about our ‘Livery activity’: we have had the honour of taking on three new liveries on our normally very private yard this month, it is lovely to interact with new people and of course have some fresh new faces looking over the stable doors early every morning, so keep an eye out for our new representatives!! 

looking forward to spring without too much springing! - JESS THOMPSON, RISING DRESSAGE STAR AND FREDDIE PARKER'S BRAND AMBASSADOR…

Despite the howling winds which February has brought with it, San Diego went for his test run at Patchetts EC as planned scoring 70+% with a few nervous moments, perhaps due to the nail biting temperature, but all in all very good behaviour and showing great trust in me to do the steering correctly! He is now looking to his novice and elementary regionals with a taste of the arena which is always an advantage. 

The year's big goal for me aside from competing (hopefully successfully!!) is working towards and completing my UKCC (Sports Coach UK) . Gaining this has been something we have been discussing on the yard for many months now and I have now begun the application process. It's a really good time of year to be applying for courses and extra curricular events because as soon as the summer competition season begins anything but making the horses shine and organising the lorry seem to be a distant dream!! 
 
Throughout the winter I have been very lucky to be supervised by Michel and Mette Assouline to improve my coaching techniques, they are always giving my advice and support on bettering my training and coaching of the liveries on the yard. My star pupils this month are our long term clients Angela Shelton and her 5 year old gelding 'Fenwood'. This horse is very close to my heart as not only is he a homebred but he was broken in by me and has a very 'unique' character, he thinks he's human! 
 
Angela has been a great supporter of my riding and is a dear friend, she previously gave me the ride on her recently sold horse 'Pavarotti' and we made it to Prix St George, competing successfully in the Hickstead masters as well  as Petplan winter PSG Reserve Champions 2014!
 
Her newest challenge, Fenwood, is by our very own Grand Prix Westphalian stallion Forrest Gump and will make his debut this year with me in the 5 year old classes. We will most likely have a few 'airs above the ground' moments when doing arena familiarisation; scary monsters are hidden everywhere. So he will keep me on my toes and probably provide us all with a few laughs, I hope I can do him justice! So here's looking forward to spring without too much springing!"
 
 

Marvellous March - with Jess Thompson, Freddie Parker's brand ambassador

 

"Well, we had a great start to March here at Assouline dressage with San Diego V (solis) showing his inner dressage diva at patchetts EC for the south east winter regionals. He was debuting my new luxurious 'Freddie Parker' le mieux saddlecloth and they brought us luck as he triumphed in the novice open class winning with 71.44%. Not only did he overcome his doubts of being in a new arena (outside!) but he also stayed in an unfamiliar day stable for the first time and was completely relaxed! To say I was proud is an understatement! So still In complete elation with one national qualification under our belt we returned to compete in the elementary open two days later in a huge class of over 35 horses! We scored 71.87% and gained a second qualification to the winter national championships with a 3rd placing! ( top 4 qualifies) I am so full of pride at how far this little horse has come in his training and behaviour in such a short time and see really great things ahead for us, he is a complete character, so loveable and unique! We went to the regionals with solis hoping for no more than relaxation and enjoyment for horse, owners and rider and came away with two qualifications to compete at the winter nationals!!! A brilliant weekend! I always think it is important to set goals with the younger or quirky horses that aren't always just to win the class as sometimes this leads to over pressuring the horse. It's best to set a goal that relates to the horse as an individual for example with solis I aimed for a 'clear round' as he can get worried about flowers, boards etc. and sometimes we take small 5metre loop detours! It's a good way to feel like you are making small wins and appreciate them on the competition day. I was also lucky enough to be taken to Herning stallion parade in Denmark at the beginning of the month and will most definitely be going again, what an amazing experience and the horses are incredible (so is the shopping!!.. Woops!) I came home full of ambition and inspiration and raring to crack on with the competition season so winter nationals here I come!!!"

Jess Thompson, rising dressage star and Freddie Parker's brand ambassador…

THE FIRST FROSTS AND FRISKY HORSES!!

"Well first things first happy new year everyone, I trust everyone had a great Christmas break and are having just as much fun as I have been getting back into the swing of early mornings!

Come sunshine, dark, wind or rain the horses on our yard are far too smart at knowing when it is 7am and they should be having their first feed so January always seems to feel as though you are wandering around in the dark for most of your day trying to keep them happy and stay on your own two feet avoiding the frost.

The first week back after a mini break are always interesting with some of the younger horses trying their luck at being frisky, and even some of the older horses testing you, it's nice being kept on your toes and even nicer to have a purpose built lungeing arena so they can have their 'horsey time' with my feet planted firmly on the ground.

January for me is a great month as I am a bit of an organisational obsessional, I love notes and lists and updating our diary so after the holiday break we always take time to sit down as a team and discuss our competition diary and aspirations for the upcoming year. Let me tell you now, it is shaping up to be a very busy year!

Plans in the immediate future for me are local shows as the lovely San Diego (pictured) is all set to compete at the winter regionals in March. This little horse has a lot of character and keeps us all entertained daily with his human like attitude, he needs a few outings before the regionals as he is still in early days with his competition life so he still sometimes thinks there are monsters hiding in the arena to get him! We were very lucky earlier this month to have a 4* international judge at our lovely yard in Essex teaching a 2 day clinic and wow It was incredible. I am privileged to have two trainers alway on hand to me (my bosses) but it is always insightful to have a new perspective to blow out those wintery cobwebs. It was an amazing way to start my new year!"

Photo credit: Steve Littler Photography

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