Life’s A Gas! writes Samantha Finnemore

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SamanthaFinnemoreDespite graduating from Nottingham Trent with first class honors in Equine Psychology and Sport Science, my day job is just about as far away from horses as you can get!  I work for Flogas, an LPG supplier (the second biggest company behind the well-known Calor gas) and spend my days organising the transfer of domestic LPG bulk tanks from one supplier to the other.  This sounds a lot less complicated that it seems, as there is a lot of leg work behind the process!  Although my working hours are long, being stuck in an office all day does make you relish the time you do get in the great outdoors! It also means a lot of my riding needs to be done early in the morning or at night, which has been made easier by the clocks changing buying me a few extra hours of light at night.  This is fantastic for building up strength and fitness out hacking, as well as the horses being able to stay out for a few extra hours a day.  
After a rather stilted start to the event season, lots of hard work, dedication and support from friends and family have got Misty and me back on track.  We started the year with a strong double-clear at Aston le Walls BE90, finishing with a couple of time faults on our dressage penalties of 32.5 in 14th position which I was really happy with – most importantly she pulled me all the way around the cross country with no hesitation!  Over the next few weeks she wasn’t 100%, so we took a little break from competition and I spent a lot of time building up her strength and suppleness, as well as having a lot of lessons from Jess Butler, her previous owner and producer, reminding me about some key training basics it is easy to forget when you are aiming for improvement.  This brought me back to earth, and helped to focus my training on straightness and activity – not only do I have Jess to thank for bringing Misty and me together, but also for always knowing the right things to say and being my fall back cushion when things aren’t going to plan!  I have also invested in an ArcEquine unit, which so far seems to be a fantastic bit of kit – and I would highly rate the investment.  
Our first competition back took us to Brooksby for the combined training.  This is a fantastic venue with regular, well run competitions and always has a really friendly atmosphere (all advertised on their Facebook group).  Misty absolutely blew us away with her progress completing a foot perfect jumping round to finish on our dressage score of 75.5% (24.5 penalties) to take 1st place, setting us up perfectly for a BE90 the next weekend.  
Norton Disney is a new event for me, and it is one I will return to being a very well run competition with ample warming up space, and a friendly atmosphere.  After what I thought was quite a tense dressage test, I was delighted to see we had scored our best mark yet of 76% (24 penalties) and after rattling a pole in the showjumping, we stormed around the cross country taking all of the combinations in our stride to finish on 28 penalties in 4th place!  I was over-the-moon, and the £33 prize money was a nice treat, and paid for dinner with my other half (and lucky mascot!) in the evening.  Our preparations for Badminton are definitely starting to come together, and things are looking very good – just a few more trips to the gallops needed to survive the 7-minute cross country course!
Berry is still doing exceptionally well.  I am working on her canter which is coming on in leaps and bounds – quite literally!  We have found using a pole to help her pick up canter on the correct lead has been helpful, and she is getting stronger by the day.  Her jumping is much braver, and we have worked our way to completing 70cm courses with the fillers pulled completely in, with ease.   She has even braved a trip to Aylesford for some cross country schooling, and despite a couple of wobbly moments at the start, she really got into it and was taking the water, steps, ditches, skinnies and even a 90cm log pile in her stride!  I am so proud of her, and we might even be braving a BE80(T) event in the future with how well she is taking to everything.  This mare has such a future ahead of her with such a trainable attitude.
 See you next month for my Badminton write up!
Sammy x

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