For me June always means Area Festival! The prep this year has been a bit more organised than usual if I’m honest. With Merlin being young I wanted to give him the best possible chance of doing well.

The Wednesday before I had our final prep lesson with my instructor Paul Langford. We went through parts of the test (we have a 50x30m arena so I can’t practice the full thing) like the give and retake in canter. Thank goodness we did – the first time I tried it merlin panicked, bucked and shot off!! Paul is really analytical and super helpful with test accuracy so he really gets me thinking about how I’m going to set up and ride each movement, rather than me just floating about hoping for the best.

Our times were awful to be honest – first one at 7:45am and last one at 7:30pm!! But I was doing the Prelim warm up, Prelim Silver and Novice Bronze so it was to be expected.

The warm up test went well, save for a minor miscommunication where Merlin was convinced I wanted a flying change when cantering across the diagonal rather than him coming back to trot! We came 2nd with 73% and weren’t far off first place. The Prelim Championship class was next. Prelim 19 is one of my favourite ones to ride. Merlin felt great considering the heat and produced a lovely relaxed test for 68% and 2nd place!!

In the Novice he was really pinging in the warm up and felt fantastic. Unfortunately I took my foot off the gas a little in the test and we lost silly marks for not quite getting our medium trots.

Annoying as that’s normally his party piece, but he had been away for over 12 hours so I really couldn’t have asked any more of him. He came narrowly 2nd again, beaten by less than 0.5%. For a youngster he performed beyond all expectations and I was absolutely over the moon with him.

So we’ve qualified for the Area Finals in October which I’m very excited for!

We’re now pushing on with trying to get Winter Regional qualification at Prelim and Novice as well as looking forward to moving up to elementary early next year. He’s feeling stronger every time I ride him and just keeps getting better and better. He literally never fails to put a smile on my face. I’m definitely a very lucky girl!