Birthday Dressage Bootcamp @ Pepperwood Park

Cards, cake and a 2 day residential dressage bootcamp, what more could a girl want for her birthday!?

Packed and prepped Bolly and I set off in the lorry to my instructor Grand Prix rider Karen Sherperd’s home Pepperwood Park near Stockbridge, leaving Mummy Groom to follow us the next day and watch the final lesson of the boot-camp.

Bolly is such a pro he settled into a strange stable and just tucked into his hay net like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. There were 6 of us on the boot-camp riding from Prelim to Elementary, and it was fascinating to see all the different types of horses at various stages of training.

I got Bolly ready for his first lesson and we worked on getting the trot bigger and with more gears within it. We also worked on loosening him up, doing serpentines, transitions within the gait, and leg yielding.

He’s such a pro, with lots more buttons that I am used to and this resulted in a few unwanted flying changes! After cooling him down and taking him for some grass in-hand I popped him back in his stable and wrapped up in as many layers as I could find and went to watch the remaining lessons.

At the end of all the sessions we retreated to the house, were showed to our rooms and then reconvened downstairs for a physio session with Christine Hopely. This is where things get painful for me I have hyper mobile hips in one direction which makes them very sore/weak in the opposite position. I need to get some proper physio exercises and build up the strength in that joint so that my hips no longer get fatigued and ache. It was really insightful seeing how your own posture can so dramatically affect your horse’s way of going. Equestrians are notoriously useless at keeping themselves in good condition, preferring to spend time and money on their horses, but with a combined approach of happy horse and rider progress surely would be much quicker and easier? I’m happy to buy into that theory so the next step is putting it into practice.

Warmed up by the Aga and G&T in hand the kitchen was filled with everyone sharing their tales of competing, riding and the funniest things we have seen in a warm up! After a lovely home cooked meal and a few more refills I was ready to ‘hit the hay’ and zonked out in a big fluffy bed with the alarm set for 7am.



Up early to feed Bolly (just a short walk as I could see the stables from my room) and then grab some brekkie of my own we then had the pleasure of watching Karen ride Pro Set (formerly Carl Hester’s ride), and show us on such a successful campaigner just how your body position can impact on the quality of the work your horse can produce. Pro Set’s list of accolades and achievements is ridiculous you name it he’s been there and become Champion of it (his BD record is here). What a gem of a horse!


My second lesson of the camp resulted in us ‘performing’ a test at the end and having it videoed with Karen commenting on it so that I can keep it as a training resource watch it back, learn, and improve. We chose Prelim 17 to do as it is a qualifying test for 2017 the only slight niggle is that with Bolly’s penchant for flying changes the canter across the diagonal returning to trot after X was throwing up some issues. To combat that we returned to trot early and it will be my home work  to extend the trot work past the centre line without changing.

So here’s the final day’s test run through, with commentary from Karen to give us insight on what went well and what needs more work.

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