I can't fault Jorge for his enthusiasm!

Jorge on his way to Blu Hors CPEDI***

Jorge on his way to Blu Hors CPEDI***

Jorge was selected for Blue Hors CPEDI*** in Denmark at the beginning of March. He travelled really well, thanks to our support team who went with them on the journey. We flew out there and joined them when they arrived. The venue is beautiful. I’ve been lucky enough to visit a couple of times before, once on a tour after the Europeans in 2013, then for the Global Dressage Forum in 2014 where I rode one of the stud’s horses.

The horses had everything they needed, beautiful stables, hot showers, heated indoor arenas. And the people who run the stud are just as lovely and kind. Jorge felt great in training, sometimes it’s hard to know how much to do with them after a long journey and not many days until trot up and competition beginning. He looked great in the trot up, despite the dodgy colour of his coat, he always goes slightly tabby coloured when getting his new coat through, and his summer coat is nearly black so it looks quite funny.

The first day of competition and he was full of it. He’s always been a slightly nervy horse, but this time he went in and stepped up, becoming a little hotter than expected. Normally I ride at home without spurs on all the horses. The main reason being that I make sure they are truly in front of my leg, so that when I have bad days with my legs and they are very painful and or weak, due to my disability, I have something extra I can put on and they respect, rather than relying on them all the time. In competition with Jorge I normally start warming up without spurs and then put them on during the warm up before the test, knowing often I need a little more in the test and due to the added tension my legs have a habit of letting me down in the arena, as it’s nerve related and even the weather can affect them. So keeping my calves warm is also quite important. Anyway, aside from that, because Jorge stepped up in the arena, I had to coax him round a little quieter than expected, and try and get a bit of relaxation. It went ok, not ideal but also not bad, and he won on 73% in the Team test, but not near his best. So the next day for the individual, I changed my warm up slightly and made sure I had time in the arena before the bell rang, to try and get him to breathe before starting! Always a good start! It was much more secure, still areas I felt could be better, but generally much more pleased with the work in the arena. The judges agreed and awarded it with over 75%.

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It was great that we had the most riders in the Grade 5, Team Denmark took a strong contingent, being on home turf, but some great horses coming up for the future, and also Germany were strong. GB won the team competition for which we were very happy!

For the Freestyle I was doing my WEG freestyle which I’ve only done twice in competition, and I was determined to put to bed a couple of trips and spooks he had in it at WEG that prevented a really high mark. The test was going really well until the end where I have two lines of tempi changes, he started putting them in himself, to the point where we had a few 1s. I then had a spare line at the end for any compulsories that needed repeating but I was pleased with them, so I thought I would use it as a training opportunity to nail the changes again and make him realise it’s my job to be director, not him! Unfortunately despite my best efforts, he took over again and showed some great 1 tempis.

I just had to smile, laugh and shake my head. I can’t fault him for his enthusiasm!! So a disappointing mark of 76% in the freestyle, we were 5% off our personal best, but also showing our best work in the arena too. But with it being the first show of the season, we have time to work on that and hopefully direct his enthusiasm positively in future!

Another Ferrari on the team!

I can’t believe how far into 2019 we are, time is flying! We have had a busy time, cracking on with winter training, which normally is a mixture of going back to basics and pushing on to the next level for some of the horses. I can’t say it’s been a quiet winter either, there have been lots of squad training sessions, qualifiers, and we have already had the winter championships at Myerscough. I competed HC as it wasn’t in my original plan for Dime, but she felt ready and it was a good opportunity to do some training inside the white boards too. She felt more confident than last year and we have been working on her stride length and her using her back more, it’s work in progress but we are going in the right direction. She tries really hard but sometimes that comes across in tension.

Jorge has had a fun winter, stepping up and playing with his piaffe, but lots of poles, cantering out hacking, and snacking - his favourite! We did a local show to get him back out and he was fab, I was really able to show more of what we have had in training, with more engagement as one of the things that has got stronger.

JZ

JZ

Five-year-old JZ has had an exciting winter, rather too exciting for my liking! Most young horses go through a ‘teenage phase’ and after being an angel for the first six months, he then started to find his feet. And he has a lot of natural energy with the engine of a Ferrari. All in the process though, and all of my good horses have had this so hopefully he continues to come out the other side and we can go to some parties this year. I’ve not rushed him because he is rather big and I want him to have time to be strong enough.

I would like to say a massive thank you to all over my owners, supporters, sponsors and team for the support over the winter and I look forward to the season really starting!

Rewards and Challenges

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It’s been a rewarding and challenging few months for Sophie following her tremendous and well-deserved success at WEG.

Reward came in the form of the Devoucoux Dressage Award at the Animal Health Trust Awards on October 31st at the Dorchester Hotel in London. Beating Charlotte Dujardin and Charlotte Fry to the dressage award, this is how Sophie was described in the shortlist: ‘Grade V para rider, Sophie Wells is the ultimate sportswoman. Supreme dedication, a 360° approach, a desire to constantly strive for improvement and determination beyond measure. All her hard work paid off at the World Equestrian Games where she took the two individual gold medals on offer with Charlotte Hogg’s C Fatal Attraction – both with World Record scores – and was pivotal to the team securing Paralympic qualification for 2020 and the silver medal. She has represented Great Britain at the last nine consecutive para championships, winning 25 medals in total, 16 of them gold.’

Sophie’s response was as modest as always “Oh my goodness, I literally can’t believe it... at the Animal Health Trust Awards tonight, up for the Dressage award and I didn’t think I had a hope against the amazing Charlotte Dujardin and Charlotte Fry, and I can’t believe I won... what a massive, massive honour. Thank you so much to all my team, you have enabled this to happen. You are amazing and I can’t thank you enough...”

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Challenge was faced at the British Dressage National Convention where Sophie was one of the star presenters ‘Striving for Perfection’. Admitting to feeling out of her comfort zone, Sophie and her demo riders Izzy Palmer and Georgia Wilson (both reserve riders for WEG) nevertheless showed how Para training and riding have to be adaptable while still striving for quality in the performance. Well done ladies!

Probably the best test I’ve ever ridden…

Sophie with one of her Gold medals!

What a wonderful WEG we had… I have to say sitting at home on a dark autumnal evening, with a definite chill in the air, it’s hard to imagine that a very short time ago myself and Jorge were dancing our hearts out at our biggest competition as a partnership to date. We have done two Europeans together, but it’s a big jump to a World Equestrian Games. And a long way away from home, in rural Lincolnshire!

Jorge has a lie in!

Jorge coped with flying really well, to the extent that he took off his own headcollar, so he could reach and steal his flying partner, Pimms’ (Erin Orford’s Dior), haynet! Cheeky boy! It was quite hot and humid when we arrived, but the unusually hot summer we had here went some way in preparing us! After a couple of rest days and gentle exercise, Jorge started to feel in fine form. We had nearly a week before competition for training and acclimatising - and also cheerleading the Dressage and Eventing riders, which was very inspiring. Top class horses, riding and training.

The serious business of training!

We have worked so hard on our own training through the year, and stepping up our game, I knew what we needed to do in the arena, but sometimes that is easier said than done. Our competition started with the Individual test first. Jorge was a little tense going into the arena, which showed after our first halt where we proceeded in canter instead of trot. I think my support team were quietly having kittens on the sidelines when my running score came up as 46%. It left me with a fair amount of work to do, but we relaxed into the test, and although it wasn’t our best work, we did enough for Individual gold - World Champions! It’s been eight years since I’ve been able to say that, four years ago Reece came so close with double individual/freestyle silver… it’s been a lot of hard work since then!

An emotional Sophie after a stunning test!

But there was no time to sit and relax as we had the Team test two days later. Jorge had a little stretch on the day in between and I knew what I needed to change from watching both my video from the test and also the warm up, then speaking to Ange and Nina. Well the Team test I knew I had to pull out something special for the team. We were without a Grade 1 rider for the first time, and that is normally a strong score for the team. I focused on our process and what was important, and Jorge was feeling amazing. A little bit of tension as we went in and around the arena but he quickly came back to me. We went on to produce what I can probably say is the best test I’ve ever ridden, and equal the best he has performed in competition. By no means perfect, but I just knew at the end we had done everything we possibly could have. This led to me being quite emotional, when you have worked so hard for so long for it to all happen at the right time, as you have prepared for, there’s no other feeling like it. The power and harmony, all controlled by thought, when a horse is that much in tune with you, it’s incredible. And what topped it off was that the judges agreed, with another career best score, WEG record and valuable contribution and start that our team needed! 77.233% woohoo!

We had a long wait to see if we had done enough as a team for that precious Team Gold. Unfortunately this time we hadn’t. It is gutting, we are all passionate about the legacy involved in being undefeated, but it had to happen one day. The Dutch deserved the gold and every member of the team scored above 72.9%, which is very good going! But for sure it will make us, as a nation, stronger and fight harder than ever before.

Another Gold!

So the last day came, Freestyle to music. I have worked since April to make a new freestyle for Jorge. I loved his old one but he was into his fifth season using it and he’s grown up so much in that time. I had a vision of what I wanted it to look, sound and feel like and I didn’t stop until I got it. Top freestyle composer Tom Hunt was just amazing with his patience every time I wanted to tweak different parts. He composed it all from scratch and I just love it. I did scare myself slightly on the difficulty of the floorplan in the canter, as it comes up very quickly. But we pulled it off. There were a couple of trips in the left half pass and right pirouette which put my heart in my mouth, and he was a little on edge - I think on reflection he was quite fresh as I had given him the previous day off, but much better that way round! It’s all about getting to know them, they all react differently.

Part of Sophie’s amazing team

We gained another WEG record of 80.755%, just short of my personal best. The only +80% of the competition. Jorge has been an absolute star throughout. I’m so proud of him, I know he is a big scoring horse, I just need to make sure I don’t let him down! But it has been such a team effort to achieve all of these wonderful things. I couldn’t do it without my whole home team, the World Class team, my owners, sponsors and supporters, and of course family and friends. It is a reflection of everyone’s hard work, commitment, loyalty and belief in us that has brought us to this point. So thank you, to each and every one of you. I mean it from the bottom of my heart!

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Dreams Come True at WEG!

Sophie and Jorge in the arena at WEG

Sophie and Jorge are Individual World Champions at WEG 2018 - how fantastic and so well deserved. Here’s what Sophie had to say on Facebook.

“Literally dreams can come true. World Champion again - thank you so much Jorge for being my dancing partner and trusting me when you got nervous. Starting on 46% when we cantered out of our first halt wasn’t ideal, sorry for giving my team heart failure but we pulled it back. Thank you so so much to the whole team here and at home but especially Ange and Lewis. I couldn’t do it without you. Really looking forward to the team test and freestyle later this week, there is definitely more in there. Best of luck to the rest of the team this week. Looking forward to cheerleading tomorrow.”

Photo credit BEF/Jon Stroud Media.