Izzy Palmer reviews the start of 2017 and her first International

It’s been a busy few months since my last blog as competition season has got under way. At the end of January I took part in my second ever demo, at the para coaches symposium down at Moulton College. It was a great learning opportunity, getting to ride and have feedback from a list 1 judge, especially now that we are riding new tests. I took Touchdown who I haven’t ridden out and about very much so it was good to get him out and practice away from home in a different atmosphere. I also got to see Sophie ride her Rio medal winning freestyle which was amazing as I had never seen it before!

In February I took Noki and Touch to squad training and we also did our first competition of 2017, a qualifier for the KBIS gold semi finals in June. It was the first time riding the new tests in competition with both boys getting good scores with lots to improve on. Sophie also took Touchdown to Bishop Burton regionals in February to compete in the Advanced Medium freestyle gold section which she won with an incredible score qualifying him for the British Dressage Winter Championships.

March was a super busy month!! At the beginning we were invited to the podium squad training to ride the new tests in front of an international judge, which was an incredible opportunity. I took both Noki and Touch, riding a test on each getting very helpful feedback. Whilst we were down in Gloucester, we also had a trip to the BHS coaches convention where Sophie was a guest speaker/rider. She took Touch and I as her ‘guinea pig’, it was an amazing learning experience riding in front of a bigger than expected audience!! I also became young disability sportswoman of the year for 2016 at the Leeds sports awards which was amazing!!!

Then it was onto the Nirvana Spa Brritish Dressage Para Gold Winter Championships, we took Touch to do the freestyle class on the Saturday as I have never ridden a freestyle on him before. I was really pleased with the test, getting 75.5% as I’m still getting used to riding freestyles (only rode one for the first time on Noki last summer!) and focusing on the movements, riding it like any normal test. Then on the Sunday it was championship day, riding the old tests and as a Grade 3 for the last time. Touch was amazing in the arena becoming the Grade 3 Winter Champion and so was noki coming third with a few rider errors!!

Then in the last week of March we headed off to my first 3* international abroad in Deauville, France. I was really excited to have been selected on both Noki and Touch!! We arrived on the Tuesday and had training sessions in the competition arena on the Wednesday and Thursday familiarising ourselves with the new environment and getting used to the different atmosphere. After trot ups were passed on the Thursday, competition began on the Friday with the team test. I was rather nervous and didn’t ride as well in the arena as I wanted to but I was still super pleased with a 2nd for Noki on 69% and a 5th for Touch on 68%. Both boys were great in the arena and really showed me the way.

On the second day with help and reassurance from my mentor and trainer Sophie, I felt much more relaxed and confident going into the arena. Both boys gave me their all with Touch winning the individual and Noki close behind in 3rd. This was totally surreal!! I could not believe it!

I then got through to the freestyle on the Sunday with Noki as he had the highest average score over both days, I couldn’t wait to dance again with the gorgeous golden boy!! I really focused on riding the movements and enjoying it! We got 73% and won the class, which was very surreal again! I really hadn’t expected anything like this to happen at my first international abroad, I still don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet!! And I am so grateful to be riding two such wonderful horses, who give me their all every time they go into the arena. They really are the best dancing partners any girl could wish for! I’m also very fortunate and grateful to have Sophie, as without her none of this would be possible. She has so much knowledge, and shares this with me, helping me develop as a rider, learning from her wonderful boys, I couldn’t ask for more.

Next will be the KBIS gold semi finals which are in the middle of my GCSE exams! For now it’s back to school with lots of revision, not fun! And training which is definitely way more fun!!

Izzy Palmer

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