Ann Maisel write up (leading up to a week before the event)at Valeview Equestrian Melton Mowbray.

3 years ago Ben Franklin started training two unlikely dressage divas; a chunky cob mare and a middle aged curvy rider who should know better.

Having spent more hours than is healthy battling the mare’s strong will and the rider’s perception of dressage being solely for sparkly warmbloods, the pair ventured down the centre line looking vaguely competent, presentable and a credit to Ben’s training.

Success was achieved and in 2021 tentative steps were taken onto the BD Affiliated circuit where the pair shocked the more delicately built with their range of moves (most of which were part of the test!)

In July they ventured to a BD Area Festival, with the cob immaculately clean and adorned with the compulsory sparkly browband, to strut their very best dressage moves. Despite being the lone cob in a sea of fine limbed sparkly creatures, but with Ben’s words ringing in their ears that “any horse can do dressage,” they completed an accurate test but were really glad when it was over as nerves kicked in for the rider and the warm up was more of a marathon due to her perfectionist tendencies.

Of more appeal was the prospect of competing against others of similar curviness (both human and equine) so having qualified for the BD CHAPS National Championships this became the autumn focus. Ben went into overdrive finding his best bootcamp mindset to drive every improvement possible from both the rider and the cob, both of whom were honestly giving it 110%!

With 6 weeks to go the class was entered. BD and CHAPS memberships and passport overstamping were done. Accommodation was booked for the cob, rider, support crew and the dog, and the competition warm up plan was given some thought.

With 1 week to go a test run competition was attended where the rider had a brain fog moment and half way through a change of rein completely forgot which letter she was meant to aim at! Not to be outdone, the cob then shared with the judge her impressive range of canter related moves which included a wrong leg lead, a flying change and a buck transition! Let’s hope that as the saying goes, bad dress rehearsal, good performance on the day!

With 5 days to go an evening was spent with the human decorating her lounge walls with post-it notes of dressage markers and then running around the lounge practicing the dressage test, luckily the blinds were drawn throughout so no neighbours were scared!

With 4 days to go, the cob had a very smart haircut, the tack was cleaned and then a friend messaged to say that the event was being live streamed by Horse and Country+ TV which caused a mild case of hysteria!

A final training session with Ben started with the cob floating along and feeling nicely ready for the competition, then we moved into some canter work and she added in some bucks to show how reactive to the aids she was feeling thanks to her new clip and a feeding upgrade which now included performance balancer. Luckily those sharing the menage just laughed and kept out of her way!

So with just a day to go lots has been cleaned and packed, and once the cob has been bathed in the morning we’ll be ready to go. Super friend Kayleigh is coming along to help, groom and generally support the team, and Ben will soon see if all of his hard work and efforts to convert, persuade and train the curvy partnership have been worthwhile and if his claim that any horse can do dressage really is true?

So today was D-day. It poured with rain, we got soaked but we did it. It wasn’t perfect, but there were lots of super bits which I’m really proud of. Flurry’s walk and trot sections were lovely and a credit to all the hard work that we’ve put in, her canters are a work in progress. She didn’t have tantrums at being in an indoor international dressage arena with judges seated at smart tables dictating their scores, she ignored the floral decorations, the photographer, the film crew and those watching in the gallery. She danced her little cob socks off and I’m really proud 😀 We came 11th, have a bling plaque and lots of great memories.

Huge thanks to amazing trainer Ben for his support, guidance, humor and patience and to lovely friend Kayleigh who came along to groom, support, dog sit and look after me. I couldn’t have done it without you both 😀