Stars in Their Eyes…….

Travelling the short journey from Grantham, Lincolnshire to Maidwell, Northamptonshire was quite surreal. As an Event Rider I have grown up admiring Piggy French. I have watched her represent Great Britain at the European Eventing Championships and the World Equestrian Games. I have followed her to Burghley and Badminton Horse Trials and I have hung off her every word during interviews. And here I was about to spend a weekend at her stables receiving tuition on my own event horse.

The opportunity came about because I entered a competition organised by Champion and Toggi. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be selected; when Champion contacted me to say I had won one of three coveted places elated would have been an understatement.

Maidwell Lodge Farm is quite simply impressive. We were greeted by Sian from Champion and shown to our stable, a suite I believe it would have been referred to had it been a hotel. Needless to say the stable was an instant hit with my eventer, Arty.

With Arty settled we were welcomed to the Owners Rooms where I was presented with a gigantic box of Champion and Toggi products. Feeling every bit the celebrity I was fitted with a Titanium Ti22 back protector, a Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap and an Evolution Puissance Riding Hat along with an array of Toggi equestrian and country clothing. The body protector fitted like a glove and the Aberford Ladies Riding Coat was so incredibly warm and with adjustable zips at the back it lends itself perfectly to riding in sub-zero winter temperatures.

Fully kitted out it was time to find out if I had all the gear and a little idea, but not before we were introduced to the lady herself and had an insightful tour of the state-of-the-art facilities. Piggy was hugely welcoming and answered question after question. With her seasoned eventers in the fields having a well deserved holiday her stables were being occupied by youngsters at varying stages of their careers. Piggy spoke in detail about the path she had trodden in her quest to reach the dizzying heights she has scaled.

Our first lesson was show jumping. Arty, who is usually horizontally laidback came out like a newly backed youngster. Allowing him to settle Piggy assured me that ignoring him and keeping him forward was the best thing to do. Once settled, we began jumping. Having been a show jumper before turning to Eventing, Arty can get very strong through his neck and can try to take charge meaning he can run into the bottom of fences and not allow sufficient room to get his shoulders out of the way. To help combat this Piggy suggested a halt and rein back between each fence to instil that he must wait and listen. By the end of our lesson Arty jumped the course sweetly and I felt I had learnt a lot from listening to Piggy’s approach in training horses. During my lesson I wore my Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap which was super comfy and left me confident I had supreme protection.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent watching the two other winners lessons. It was a hugely insightful listening to the different approaches Piggy took depending on the horse’s age, experience and temperament.

As day turned to night we tucked the horses up and left them recharging their batteries ahead of day two.

Sunday started with Arty enjoying a pick of grass; the view was phenomenal……

Our first lesson was dressage. After explaining to Piggy that Arty can occasionally drop behind my leg resulting in tests lacking power and suppleness, Piggy explained the need to make the most of my warm up with lots of transition but also not to over-do it. She suggested if Arty is feeling forward to keep him happy and not to bore him. After riding through the BE100 Championship Test Piggy commented on the need to be really accurate, especially in trot-walk-trot transitions as the judge is likely to harshly penalise in-accuracy. I felt I took a lot away from having the chance to ride through a test without the pressure of a competition environment; to then get feedback before riding the test again was invaluable. Problems were easily ironed out allowing me to focus on how to pick up those all important marks.

The afternoon saw the arena have a transformation with XC style fences replacing the dressage boards.

With protection firmly in the forefront of my mind I wore my Titanium Ti22 back protector which is extremely lightweight and not at all restrictive which gets a big tick in my book.  I also wore my cerise pink Ventair Deluxe Skull Cap which perfectly matches my XC colours.Â

Piggy focused of lines and angles, in particular picking a line and sticking to it explaining you have to be disciplined with your own riding so the horse understands the question. Piggy also set up other commonly seen cross country fences asking us to lengthen and shorten the horses stride depending on the type of question being asked and the accuracy required which is hugely beneficial for safe cross country riding.Â

In organising this weekend Champion and Toggi have advanced my eventing career enormously. The learning journey has been phenomenal and I feel truly inspired as to what I can achieve in the future.

The Champion body protector, skull cap and riding hat I wore is now an essential part of my everyday and competition riding attire. Safety is paramount and I am confident that Champion cannot be surpassed in this department. Comfort and style also exceeded the competition. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Champion.

Annieka Bacon