“Firstly, apologies for not keeping you updated. Due to competing flat out (sometimes 3 times a week) this year my spare time has been minimal. Added to that I managed to drop my smartphone while exiting the lorry one day so I haven’t been able to do emails on the go! Well, what a year! It has been the busiest and most challenging competition year I have ever experienced. I have been out to as many competitions as I can physically do in my mission for Ronald to become the ROR Elite Dressage Champion. We’ve covered Devon, Cornwall, Somerset, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Wales in our travels. We’ve amassed a huge number of points and learnt a lot about dressage, bad drivers and each other. It seems so long ago now but only a year ago we did our first Elementary test. This year we’ve done Regionals at Novice (Winter), Elementary Music (Winter) and Elementary (Summer). Ronald has zoomed up through the grades and we’ve also competed at Area Festival Medium and Advanced Medium. His progress has been phenomenal. I have asked a lot of my little ex-racehorse and he just keeps answering. I was asked in an interview last year what my ambitions were for my horse – I answered that I’d like him to be competitive at Elementary level. I can’t believe I am writing this to tell you we competed in our first Advanced test just over a week ago. It has been my lifelong ambition to compete in Top Hat and Tails and now we’ve done it! I would never have believed that Ronald was the horse to take me there – I was over the moon with 65% on our first Advanced outing. Short term plans are another Area Festival, although he came fourth in Medium Open at the last one the score was low so we’ll give it another go. Then it will be the ROR Dressage Championships with Ronald at Elementary and Herbie at Intro and Prelim. It’s going to be a difficult weekend taking two horses up on my own and leaving 2 year old son Hugo with Grandparents as Daddy will be busy at Opening Meet – my husband is Joint Master of the Eggesford Hunt. Then we’ll have a go at a Prix St Georges test. Ronald owes me nothing and everything now is just for fun. I’m also aiming him at the ROR Hunter Challenge at Cheltenham Racecourse in November – I bet there aren’t many Advanced dressage horses that hunt! We may need to do some cross country schooling soon as over the summer he’s turned into a bit of a spooky dressage diva. The year definitely isn’t over yet, we still have some points to accumulate but unfortunately a puncture wound to his hoof left Ronald out of work for a month. Due to this we now can’t overtake the leader in the Elite Dressage Championship – it’s a bit more difficult to win points at this level but we’ll keep fighting to the end. He’s an Elite Champion to me for what he’s achieved. As I understand it, there is only one other ex-racehorse competing at a higher level.I’ll leave you with a photo of our first Advanced outing, the lighting wasn’t great as it was 6pm when I rode. Here’s to the rest of 2014, it’s been pretty amazing so far!” Rowan Van Houben
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