I’m Katie Branley and I’m an amateur dressage rider based in Hertfordshire and a British Dressage Eastern Region team member.
I’ve been riding since I was 5 years old and, having done a bit of everything including competing for South Hertfordshire Pony Club in dressage, show jumping and eventing, by the time I reached 17, I decided to focus on dressage.
We sold Charlie, my previous allrounder, and purchased my current horse, Buntino (above) or Bunny to his friends, as a 4-year-old for me to produce. Bunny is a 15.3hh Warmblood cross and we are now competing at BD Advanced Medium level having enjoyed success through the levels of both British Dressage and Pony Club. Our competitive highlights include attending the BD Area Festival National Championships every year from 2015 to 2019 from Novice up to our present Advanced Medium level. In 2017, Bunny and I won the Pony Club Elite Dressage National Championship, Open Dressage to Music National Championship and Dressage to Music Overall Championship. It must be said though that although Bunny and I enjoy competing together, when all is said and done, I’m just like every other amateur rider, juggling the demands of keeping a horse, keeping him and myself fit, managing my full-time career and all on a limited budget.
To date this year, Bunny and I have enjoyed a consistent season which has included attending the Area Festival National Championships at Advanced Medium level and being selected to represent British Dressage Eastern at the Senior Inter Regionals where we finished 8th at Medium level. Not too shabby, but certainly lots of room for improvement!
The big news for us recently has been our selection to represent British Dressage Eastern Region and England at the British Dressage Senior Home International at Wellington, Hampshire. This has really focussed my attention on bringing Bunny’s fitness levels up and ensuring preparations are as thorough as possible to give us the best shot on the day.
I find with horses that there are so many uncontrollable factors, we may as well concentrate on getting the things we can control, just right.
Fitness is a major consideration for both Bunny and me, and indeed anybody, when moving up the levels of dressage or any other discipline. A couple of weeks ago I treated Bunny to a 10 day stay at Langdale Equine water treadmill, run by Shelley Brooks, for some fitness and strengthening work.
The results have been fantastic and he’s come home looking fitter and stronger in his work. Sadly though it hasn’t affected his unwillingness to walk through puddles when out hacking.
Training at home has mostly focussed on accuracy and repeated test riding to get lost marks as low as possible. Our training has been interspersed with some pole work and hacking to ensure that Bunny is kept interested and in the best possible frame of mind. Other preparations include the usual clipping and washing what seems like hundreds of saddlecloths and rugs! Being a Ballinger Equine Ambassador means I’ve also had the benefit of lots of advice and support from the whole team there and Bunny is incredibly well looked after by the vets.
As always ahead of an event, the packing process seems to take ages and usually involves several lists of all of the things we need to make sure everything can be rounded up and squeezed onto the lorry.
I am lucky in that Bunny seems to thrive at shows with big atmospheres and lots of spectators, but we always do an arena walk at a show so he can have a good look around and get used to the surroundings. He will also be required to trot up at the Home International and we’ll be practicing this lots before we go – I really don’t want him to run away with me.
As everybody who competes at any level knows, shows and competitions take a lot of preparation. It is all part of the experience, but I can’t wait to get to Wellington, meet up with my teammates, share some laughs, some prosecco, a barbecue supper then get into the arena and compete. And of course, it is always a little bit extra special when you’re wearing the national flag on your jacket.