The Piggy French Weekend from a winner’s perspective! 

Well it all came as a bit of a surprise for me, Martin, my partner had entered the facebook competition on my behalf so when he called me to tell me that we had won a weekend training with Piggy French at her yard in Maidwell and £1000 worth of Champion and Toggi gear, I was super excited but also a little shocked! I then google mapped Maidwell and the nerves kicked in, it was going to be a long journey, Jason has never travelled that far and I don’t have my own transport. Luckily Martins lovely parents Jane and Paul agreed we could use there lorry – Thank You!! So after a few sleepless weeks our road trip begins!

Due to the six hour journey from Cornwall to Northampton, Piggy kindly let us stay the Friday evening. On arrival Jason was pleased to get off the lorry, I took him for a grass pick, then decided to take him for a hack on the amazing bridleways around Piggy’s yard. We even managed to watch a hot air balloon take off.

Jason then got settled in to his massive stable for the night, only being 15hh he looked tiny, he had better not get used to the luxurious lifestyle!

Finally, day one of our exciting weekend I couldn’t wait to meet the champion team, Piggy and the other lucky prize winners, Annieka and Christie.

At 10am we were warmly welcomed by the Champion Team and there was a huge box for each of the winners, having not entered I had no idea what I had won but had been asked for a few sizes. We were then given our boxes and was asked to try everything on…..Wow……Christmas had come early!!

There was so much stuff….

  • Champion Evolution Puissance hat
  • Champion Ventair Deluxe Hat
  • Ti22 body protector – this was very flexible and comfortable, it didn’t effect my riding and you don’t even notice you are wearing it.
  • A white and beige pair of Gatcombe Breeches.
  • Catton Winter Cream (Long sleeve technical top).
  • A gorgeous royal blue Ardsley Cobalt (padded Gilet), this has elastic down the sides so doesn’t restrict when riding.
  • Aberford Riding Coat – I love the longer length of this coat, it keeps the rain from dripping down straight on to your jodphurs.
  • Cartwright Long leather riding boots, these were very soft and comfortable.
  • Toggi Socks
  • A white toggi/champion saddlepad for Jason.

Luckily everything fitted and the hats and body protectors were professionally fitted to us by Julia and Grenville from Champion and we put on some of our new riding gear ready for the afternoon show jumping lesson.

Piggy then arrived and introduced herself to us, she was absolutely lovely and so welcoming. She took us on a tour of her yard and talked us through the day to day running of a competition yard, the horses routines and we asked any questions we had. Piggy mainly had youngsters in getting them ready for next season, whilst her big horses had been turned away for a rest. It was good to see all the horses relaxed and happy in the stables and to hear her talk about all her horses as individuals, whilst they came over for a stroke. We talked about training and fitness and how much horses should do, but it all depended on the individual horse and their needs. Piggy has a 60 x 40m arena with the most amazing views, a horse walker, a large stable block with hot shower facilities and heat lamps to dry them, and the quarantine stables where our horses stayed.

After lunch, it was showjumping time! We all had a 45 minute private lesson with Piggy, it was great to watch Annieka and Christies lessons and pick up some tips. Showjumping has become our weakness over the last eventing year as I’ve had to concentrate more on our cross country and dressage. I was last to go, Jason felt a bit tired today compared to his usual self, I think the drive and the stabling had taken most of his energy! We started off warming up over a jump, working on getting him straight whilst keeping the revs up, we then moved on to a course. Jason felt a bit more forward over the course and I worked on riding good lines. Jason is a bit of an overgrown pony, so will quite happily motorbike around if you let him. I was pleased with the way he jumped but I will practice more over the winter months working on being accurate through my lines, especially off the corners and getting straight.


Day 2 

Dressage morning. Jason was a bit more awake today, he had recovered from the long journey. Dressage is something I’ve grown to enjoy always having something to work on and improve. I wanted to show Piggy how he goes and what she suggests to help improve my marks. So we warmed up and Piggy loved his consistency through the contact and outline. In the warm up he highlighted a few issues we needed to work on, in the canter transition he kept doing a small jump up in to it and the trot needed to be kept active. We worked on both of these by doing lots of short and quick transitions between gaits. We then ran through the dressage test which she filmed and critiqued, then we talked about my test and how I could improve it.

Some of the tips I was given:

  • Do the trot transitions on the straight, on the bend he may mistake it as a canter aid. (I had to do 3-5 steps of walk over A)
  • From  free walk to medium walk gradually pick up the reins, doing this I found he naturally lifted his out line as soon as I started creeping up the rein, rather than quickly taking up the reins where he then hollowed and jogged.
  • If he is not responding to my leg do a quick kick with both legs to get him listening.
  • Use the corners better as it gives you more room to prepare for the next movement.
  • If you learn the test well, you can ride it and not have to think about it.

We then did the test again taking in to consideration the tips Piggy had given us, there was much improvement. I felt that I didn’t rush the second test giving me time to prepare and ride all the transitions well.

My best comment of the day was “when he goes well, he goes fantastic!” Yay…my hard work is paying off!!

It was great watching Annieka and Christies lessons after.

We had another great lunch provided by the Champion team, I was feeling rather full, forgetting my lesson was striaght after lunch – bad idea!!

Next up was the cross country style arena lesson, as I jump smaller than Annieka and Christie I had a lesson on my own. Piggy had set up a coffin style jump with a water tray, two corners on a dog leg turn, 2 angled doubles and a wider styled jump. We warmed up over a single jump starting lower then bringing it up. We then moved on to the angled doubles this caused us quite a problem, I’m so used to Jason locking on and taking me over the jump when he didn’t understand the angled double he ran out, but it highlighted that my legs and hands weren’t quite working together to give him the confidence. Once I managed to get my legs, seat and hands all coordinated I could feel Jason pick up and feel more confident in what I was asking of him. This was a great exercise and I am going to work on it over the winter period getting the jumps narrower to make my riding more accurate.

This is the angled double, I had to pick a line and ride it.

We then moved on to the corners, the wider styled jump and the coffin, incorporating the angled double as part of the course. Again we worked on riding accurate lines, especially on the dog leg turn between the two corners, when I got it right Jason kept the forward momentum and took me in to the jumps with confidence.

After the arena jumps, we went and had a play in the water jump in the field, this is Jasons favourite….he is a proper Cornish water boy!

I would like to thank Champion and Toggi for organising a once in a life time opportunity, the fantastic prizes and the hospitality. Piggy for the fantastic teaching and allowing us to come up for the weekend, letting us have a glimpse in to the busy competition life you lead and Martin for not only entering me in this competition but also being driver, photographer and helping me out all weekend.


Vicky Mather