Top Barn Challenge Summary 2019

If you have seen my Top Barn Challenge 2019 post you will have seen that I took on the challenge of committing to 3 hours of riding/horsemanship a week for 12 weeks.  The 12 weeks ended today and I’m pleased to say that I completed the challenge!  Not only did I rack up the hours but I ticked off some of the mini challenges and I also feel like taking part in this has helped me in so many ways these past few months.


Quite early in the challenge I ticked off the dressage competition mini challenge and the new venue one to boot!  Reaching for the 3 hour time target each week has helped me to commit to making my schooling sessions a bit longer than they used to be.  I’ve discovered the magic of putting the time into a proper warm up which has undoubtedly helped me to achieve more schooling wise.  The proof was in the pudding in our last lesson when my instructor was impressed with how much progress we had made with accepting the contact.


Hacking has probably been the biggest success of the challenge.  I’ve been riding out on my own so much more and not just for little half hour hacks but for proper hour hacks (and occasionally longer!)  I am so much more confident hacking out and have embraced the challenges that bad weather and spooky changes in the environment have thrown our way.  I’ve also finally got around to cantering out for the first time since my hip replacement!


I intended on doing more groundwork than I actually managed during the challenge but I’ve been much better at doing stretches with Pea.  I’ve also played around with getting her to stand and stay as well as follow.  She was pretty well behaved before but she just keeps getting better!

After The Challenge

I’m going to try to keep up the 3 hours a week (although probably won’t keep track) and hopefully I can  I want to keep building Pea’s fitness and my own so the hacking will continue and, all things being well, I will keep my solo hacking confidence!  Obviously our dressage goals still very much stand and I’m hoping to get competing again in April.


Top Barn Challenge 2019

You know me, I’m a sucker for a challenge so from today, for the next 12 weeks, I will be taking part in the Top Barn Challenge.

Top Barn is a centre in the Cotswolds and each year they set this challenge on Facebook for horse people to commit to dedicating a certain number of hours a week to working with their horses.  The idea is to form a supportive community to help each other to stay motivated.

There are four levels which each have a specification of how many hours a week and how many challenges you need to do to complete it. Bronze is 3 hours a week with no compulsory mini challenges, Silver is 5 hours with 2 mini challenges etc.

I will be aiming for the Bronze challenge (3 hours a week of riding or groundwork) but will also try to do some of the mini challenges from the dressage, hacking and groundwork lists (though they are not part of the Bronze challenge).

I’m going to use this post to keep track of how I’m doing towards the challenge.

Week 1

7.1.19 – 40 minutes total to kick off the challenge, made up of riding, stretching and trying to teach Pea to smile and bow!

11.1.19 – I’ve achieved a mini challenge! After not riding for 3 days, I hacked out alone for 30 minutes. I hate hacking out alone so this was a real success for me.

12.1.19 – 35 minutes schooling session before work this morning. The best way to start the day!

13.1.19 – 50 minutes of riding at a dressage competition today. Back at the yard I did 10 minutes of massage and 15 minutes of stretching with Pea. The desire to reach my 3 hours certainly helped me to spend more quality time out of the saddle today.

Week 1 Summary – 3 hours

Week 2

17.1.19 – 40 minutes schooling and 10 minutes of carrot stretches in baltic weather conditions!

18.1.19 – 30 minutes schooling including some uncomfortable canter.

19.1.19 – 60 minutes in the saddle for a lesson with my instructor.  Had a really productive session today, I had no idea how much it was possible to sweat on such a cold day!

20.1.19 – 65 minutes worth of relaxing hacking today, perfect for a Sunday.

Week 2 Summary – 3 hours 25 minutes

Week 3

25.1.19 – 30 minute schooling session working on becoming more connected, followed by 10 minutes in hand.

26.1.19 – 60 minutes of hacking, 30 minutes schooling, 10 minutes in hand followed by 10 minutes of stretching!  This was a major success for me considering before my hip replacement riding for that long was majorly painful and since my hip replacement I have been slowly building up from ten minutes to an hour max!

27.1.19 – 30 minutes of solo hacking

Week 3 Summary – 3 hours


Week 4

28.1.19 – 45 minute schooling session with two of the kids from the yard.  Pea is so much more forward schooling in company and produced a lovely flashy trot AND we did some canter.  Then I walked her off in hand for 10 minutes.

31.1.19 – 40 minutes of schooling (was actually in the saddle for more like an hour but spent a bit too long chatting to my yard owner!)

1.2.19 – 30 minutes plodding round and round the school trying to churn up the snow to make the arena more rideable for Saturday lessons!

3.2.19 – 35 minutes of plodding around the school AGAIN!  The snow had mostly melted in the arena but some of the school was still quite icey so I only did a few flashed of trot but did quite a lot of work on connection in walk and used some poles to get Pea moving!  I finished the session by walking her in hand for 10 minutes and then doing her stretching routine for another 10.

Week 4 Summary – 3 hours

Week 5

4.2.19 – 30 minutes plodding hack on my own into the village and back. I actually found it more therapeutic than worrying which was wonderful!

8.2.19 – 25 minutes of soggy schooling followed by a 10 minute walk cooling off.

9.2.19 – 40 minutes hacking into the village with my boyfriend walking with us. We had a proper paddle in the river to clean off her legs.

10.2.19 – 90 minutes hacking with the kids from the yard on what is known as the ‘cheese ride’ (because it goes past a dairy farm). We had to deal with cows, sheep, tractors and quads along the way but it was good to go somewhere I haven’t been for a while. We also did 5 minutes of stretching.

Week 5 Summary – 3 hours 20 minutes

Week 6

11.2.19 – 40 minutes of plodding around the village and playing in the river.  A solo ride!

15.2.19 – 25 minutes of the best schooling Pea has ever done!  Then 10 minutes of me trudging round in the dark walking her off!

16.2.19 – 40 minutes of plodding around the village.. on my own.. again!

17.2.19 – 70 minutes of bravely venturing around both villages and splashing in the river followed by 5 minutes of stretching.

Week 6 Summary – 3 hours 10 minutes

Week 7

18.2.19 – 40 minutes of schooling followed by 10 minutes of walking off.

20.2.19 – 60 minutes hacking on my own.

21.2.19 – 70 minutes of hacking on my own in the beautiful sunshine!

22.2.19 – 70 minutes of hacking on my own in the beautiful sunshine AGAIN!  I can’t believe how much I have been riding out on my own recently without any lack of confidence or nerves.

Week 7 Summary – 4 hours 10 minutes

Week 8

25.2.19 – 60 minutes of hacking with another girl from the yard and the horse she rides.

1.3.19 – 45 minutes of fairly dodgy schooling followed by a 10 minute cool down hacking down the track and back.

2.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking including a canter!  Throughout this challenge my hacking confidence has improved so much and cantering out (on my own) for the first time since my hip replacement was another big step.

3.3.19 – 65 minutes of hacking around the local villages in some serious wind and rain!

Week 8 Summary – 4 hours

Week 9

4.3.19 – 40 minutes of pretty poor schooling split into two 20 minute sessions with a sit and chat in the middle!

8.3.19 – 45 minutes of schooling followed by 10 minutes of in hand cooling off. Some proper cantering today!

9.3.19 – 30 minutes of plodding into the village – a sneaky hack before work.

10.3.19 – 60 minutes of the most terrifying hack ever! I had got up at 5am to hack before a big day of moving house.  The wind was absolutely ridiculous and I honestly thought I was going to either be blown off Pea or fall off when she spooked.  I thought I was going to die!  In previous times I would have turned around and gone home but this time I pushed on which just shows how much my confident has grown.

Week 9 Summary – 3 hours 5 minutes

Week 10

11.3.19 – 10 minutes of stretching for Pea today – I got so involved in a Pony Club rally at the yard that I bailed on riding and spent my time grooming Pea and getting rid of some of her winter fluff instead.

15.3.19 -40 minutes of a truly awful schooling session where nothing seemed to be going right followed by 10 minutes cooling down.

16.3.19 – 60 minutes in the saddle for my lesson.  Pea was working so much better into the contact in trot so we worked on her canter (which didn’t go so well) and her square halts.

17.3.19 – 40 minutes of hacking followed by 15 minutes in the school to practise our square halts and 10 minutes of cooling down.

Week 10 Summary – 3 hours 5 minutes

Week 11

18.3.19 – 40 minutes of schooling.

22.3.19 – 30 minutes of schooling.  I also had a go at picking out Pea’s feet from one side – no problem!

23.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking in the beautiful spring sunshine!

24.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking through the villages.

Week 11 Summary – 3 hours 10 minutes

Week 12

28.3.19 – 60 minutes of eventful hacking!  The village that we always hack through was being turned into the set of a film so there were lots of people, unusual objects and noisy tools to hack past then we came across a four horse carriage!

30.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking – we went back through the village to see how the film set was progressing and there has been lots of turf added to cover the double yellow lines on the road.

31.3.19 – 60 minutes of hacking around the normal route, past all the road closed signs and through the film set for the last time before they keep us well away next week!

Week 12 Summary – 3 hours

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