After the ponies had a good winter holiday out in the fields they came in looking rather fat and feral and they were ready to start preparing for the 2023 season which was also my final season in ponies, so an important one! At the same time as working hard with the ponies I was also working hard at school to prepare for my GCSE exams which began at the start of May!

Our season started at Lincoln Horse Trials after Oasby was abandoned due to all the rain, little did we know that that was going to be a common theme this spring! Oli did a brilliant double clear in the pony trial to finish in the top 10, it felt good to put a competitive score on the board to begin the season up against the other pony riders. Chance had a good spin round the 100 as our final run at that level before stepping up to Novice. It was a good feeling to come away from our first event of the year with both ponies feeling very well and to know our hard work during the winter had paid off; they were both looking good and performing well thanks to their Dengie diets!

Maisie and Oli

Our next event was Lark Hill with Chance where we stepped up to Novice. It was a very strong novice track and we were in a section with a lot of big names, but Chance and I gave it a good go! We started off with a solid test to score 30.5, definitely room for improvement but it was a pleasing test for our first go at this level together. Chance jumped her socks off round a big showjumping track just to have an unlucky pole down. We finished with a brilliant clear cross-country just picking up a few time penalties where I took my time to set her up and make sure we got a confident round under our belts.

Our next event was Cirencester Pony Trial with Chance. Due to even more rain which meant more events where cancelled Chance was feeling rather keen and happy to be out again. Due to a lack of runs the excitement of being at a party crept in leading to not our best test! However she definitely redeemed herself by jumping a brilliant double clear just picking up 1.2 time penalties to climb from 30th after dressage to 8th after the jumping phases, she is such a good jumping pony and she makes the fences feel easy!

Sadly after Cirencester my pony journey came to an end. Chance had picked up a small knock and it was important to us that we gave her the time she needed to rest and recover, which meant missing some key events. It was so gutting, especially after our result at Cirencester. She has now returned home to her owners to recover and when she is ready she will return to eventing with a new jockey as I am no longer in ponies. I miss her very much, but look forward to watching her with her new rider next year.

Oli had enjoyed a quieter time while I focused on Chance as we made the decision with his owners that he would step down from eventing. He was turning 20 this year and he’d done so much for me this past year we didn’t want to push him if he was starting to feel his age. He owes us nothing and the ponies health and well being is our top priority. He was still in work and we were working towards what was going to be our last competition together at Royal Windsor Horse Show, where we had been selected to compete for England in the Pony Club Home International Dressage Competition. It was a huge honour to be selected and it was really exciting to be able to compete at such a prestigious venue.

Oli performed a beautiful test to not only help the England team to win, but also to secure the Individual Win of the Intermediate section. I was so pleased with Oli and it was a very special end to our time together. He is now enjoying a quieter life back with his owners, he’s definitely earnt it!

Maisie training with Pippa Funnell

Although it was sad to finish my time on ponies sooner than planned, it meant I had more time to focus on my exams. My exams finished mid June and since then I’ve had lots of fun and been enjoying my summer holidays. I had an amazing trip with dad to Achen in Germany, it was an incredible experience and definitely a show I would like to compete at it in the future, the atmosphere in the main arena was electric! I’ve also started riding and producing our two homebred 5- year-olds, Lunar and Lupin; its been lovely starting their education. They are both beautiful horses and it makes me very excited for the future. Most recently Lunar and I were very lucky to be able to spend two weeks under the watchful eye of Pippa Funnell. She is my biggest inspiration and I’ve watched her for as long as I can remember, so to be able to spend some time working and training with her was a complete dream come true! Me and Lunar learnt so much and it was a really good experience for us both. Since coming home we have taken Lunar to her first ever dressage competition, she behaved beautifully and came away with 68% and a win!

Maisie and Lunar

Her half sister Lupin has been making really good progress at home and going out for lessons and is feeling ready for her first competition in a few weeks time. I hope that they will be ready for an event in the autumn, which will be exciting, but we are in no rush, the main focus is to produce them slowly and correctly with the future in mind! Both Lunar and Lupin are fed on Dengie Hi-Fi Molasses Free with a performance balancer to ensure they get everything they need. They both have lovely shiny coats and are looking and feeling very well on their Dengie Diets!

I look forward to catching up again soon! Maisie x

February was a quiet month for us having just got back from holiday, so we used it to really concentrate on our basics in preparation and readiness for the show season.

In March we went to Bicton to have a jump; Lambo was a little wild being back at a show, but came 3rd in his first class. He then had a couple of fences down in his second class having worn himself out with his energetic outbursts in the collecting ring. Afterwards we went to Chard for three days, where Lambo was much more settled jumping double clear every day. He picked up a lower placing on the Saturday and saved the win for the last day on the Sunday!

At the end of the month we had Pony Magazine’s Big Day Out at Hartpury, where we did a show jumping demo. Lambo loves a crowd so he loved performing there.

Sammy Backstrom and Lambo at Pony Magazine's Big Day Out

On Thursday we are off to Wales & West for four days jumping. Lambo will have a little break after that as I’m due to visit my mum in France for a week. Then we have our first second round at Wales on the 19th May.

Sadly we waved goodbye to Scrappy this past month. I had made the difficult decision to sell her as I didn’t feel she was getting the time she deserved and she was being wasted not getting out to shows. She’s gone to a lovely girl I used to train in Fleet and they are both so happy together, it’s lovely to see.

We had a great time at Chard last month, I ran a little late in the morning on the Saturday as I didn’t expect them to start at 8am, so a 5am start and hitting traffic meant I arrived as Scrappy’s class was starting. I popped both horses in a stable and quickly got her ready. Scrappy jumped a good round but unfortunately there was a fence we missed in the scary corner. Onto Lambos class and he came out like a wild 4-year-old, thankfully I know the guys at Chard well and convinced Sarah on the collecting ring to walk him round while I walked the course. Of course Lambo behaved like an angel for her and then returned to crazy dragon pony when I got on. We cleared the collecting ring quite well with his antics, but it was an improvement as there was no spinning just a lot of bucking, fly bucking and rearing. I have no idea how but he jumped a clear in the Blue Chip qualifier and with only 6 clears we guaranteed a space in the final, so we really went for it in the jump off, unfortunately he still wasn’t really listening so we had a couple down but I learnt a valuable lesson that he does need my help!

Lambo came back out to jump the Foxhunter a changed horse and jumped a lovely double clear coming 4th. The Sunday was an early start for Scrappy but in her normal bit we were back on form and jumped a double clear coming 2nd! I took Lambo out and he didn’t feel 100% behind after his antics the day before, so I decided it was best to leave him for Arena UK and get him treated in the meantime.

We were all set for Arena UK, Lambo was on top form then on the Monday of that week someone had left the main gate open going from the lunge arena in to the big outdoor arena. I didn’t know and was happily lunging when the gate suddenly swung open, Lambo obviously panicked and spun round at such speed he fell over. Thankfully we have Carole who does the rehab on the yard, but even after treating him we decided not to go to Arena UK as he could do more damage to his glutes and be off for longer. On the Wednesday I also came down with a lurgy but didn’t think too much off it. Then on Monday I had my Covid vaccine planned and went ahead with this even though I wasn’t 100%. We had a ball in London on Wednesday evening and getting the train in I started to not feel great. I carried on but by 10pm I had to call it a night. I was then very ill all night and had no idea how I was going to make it home on the Thursday. Thankfully we did and I have been stuck in bed ever since.

After speaking to the doctor it turns out I must have had a viral infection at the time of my Covid vaccine, and then the vaccine had mutated it into something much worse, so again I missed my planned weekend with the horses and didn’t make it to the Geoff demo.


Back in November I held a clinic where I helped clients work on their confidence when jumping to improve the relationships between horse and rider. Everyone had a great time and loved their Dengie goodie bags 😍😀 We also worked on gaining suppleness, how to prepare and ride a course, in particular dog legs, as well as discussing management of their horses and ponies and how to get the best from them.

With the weather also turning I decided to give the horses a holiday and come back into work over Christmas for shows in the New Year.

happy horse and rider

Last time I blogged I had just returned from a fun week at Burghley, the end of the season was approaching and there were only a few more events left to go in the calendar.

Petal had already started her end of season holiday when we got back from Blair at the end of August as we felt she would benefit from a nice long holiday. Oli also enjoyed a quiet few weeks after Blair before building up to do his final two events of the season. So whilst Petal and Oli enjoyed some down-time I spent time getting to know my new ride, Chance and aiming to get some BE100 runs in before the end of the season.

I have really enjoyed getting to know Chance and at our first three events together we did three double clears and had three top 10 finishes! Our dressage scores also improved with each event and there is still much more to come from her. She’s a very exciting pony and I can’t wait for next season together.

Oli enjoyed a good fitness run at Bovington BE100. He lead after the dressage on a score of 19.5!! I was absolutely delighted with his mark as we have worked really hard on our flatwork recently.  Unfortunately he didn’t jump his best showjumping round and had an uncharacteristic two fences down, but then he finished with a great clear XC in very wet conditions and a place in the top ten. Although I was a bit disappointed not to have finished on our dressage score and got the win, the main aim had been to have a nice easy run before Norton Disney Pony Trial the following week.

I took both Oli and Chance to Norton Disney, Chance was doing the 100 and Oli was in the Pony Trial.  Chance did another super double clear and gained another top ten finish, which was a great way to finish our season. Oli did a nice test with a few small mistakes on my behalf for 30.1, he then jumped a super round showjumping, just having the final fence down, but it was a big improvement on the previous weekend and I was delighted with how amazing he jumped and how good he felt. He then finished with a great clear XC round, it was a tough track, but he made it feel easy! To top it of we finished in the top ten, a great way to finish the season!

The ponies are currently enjoying a nice holiday out in the field to relax and refresh ahead of next season. They will be out for 4 – 6 weeks and will come back into work between the end of November and middle of December. Whilst they have been out in the fields I have been busy “spring cleaning” the stables with a fresh coat of paint, and doing mock exams! When they start work again they will do a few weeks of hacking and road work before getting back in the school to work hard and get better and stronger for next season, which I can’t wait for!

Horses on holiday

I have been so happy with how the ponies have performed this season on their Dengie Diets, they are always looking in great condition and feeling fit and healthy too. All three ponies are quite different in their dietary requirements but the Dengie range of feeds has something for each of them to suit all their different needs and energy requirements.  I can’t thank Dengie enough for their continued support, I know that the ponies diets are in very good hands!

The start of the season saw a bit of a change with both Bracken and Smartie going to new homes. It was really sad to say goodbye to them, but lovely to see them having fun with their new riders.

Through the spring and summer I have gained more experience eventing at Novice level and doing Pony Trials on Petal and Oli.  They have both been superstars and have tried so hard for me. A definite highlight has to be a double clear at Bicton Pony Trial on Petal back in the spring and two top 10 finishes on them both at Moreton in the Open Novice in July. These results then meant we were invited to go up to Blair Castle International in Scotland as part of the England Team for the Home Pony International at the end of August! We had the best time from start to finish, it was amazing to be able to ride at such a prestigious event and in such an atmospheric main arena, I loved it! Oli did a smart test to leave him in the top 15/100 after dressage, an unfortunate rail show jumping, but then a super clear XC inside the time meant we finished 9th individually out of 100 starters! Petal did a rather wild test, she thought entertaining the crowd was more important than behaving herself, so this left us quite far down after dressage, however two super jumping rounds, just rubbing a pole show jumping, but a quick clear inside the time XC moved her up to finish in the top 25! Although she was naughty in the dressage, I can’t fault her performance in the jumping phases, she made it feel so easy and gave me a great time!

Petal and Maisie Randle

Another highlight of the summer was going to the Pony Club Championships to compete in the Intermediate Team Dressage competition with Oli.  Our team did really well and came 2nd over all. I was placed 2nd individually in my section which meant Oli and I went through to the ride-off where the top 2 in each of the 4 sections rode through the test again with 3 judges. We were first to go in the ride-off and Oli was an absolute superstar, he did another fantastic test to score 72%! I was so pleased with him but felt fairly sure our score would be beaten as there were some very good horses and riders to follow us. Amazingly our score stayed at the top and we were the Intermediate Dressage Champions! It was a great feeling to stand on top of the podium at the prize giving, but the highlight was being interviewed by Horse & Hound!!

Oli and Maisie Randle

The week after Blair the ponies enjoyed a quiet time while we went up to Burghley Horse Trials for the week.  I had a great time watching all the top riders and it made me even more motivated and determined to get there one day! It was also lovely to catch up with the Dengie Team on their stand.

Since being back from Blair and Burghley I have gone back to school, however we have welcomed a very exciting new member to our team….Chance! She is a very exciting mare for me to event next year for my last year in ponies, she’s incredibly talented and I love her so much already, fingers crossed for a good season next year! Chance had done quite a lot of travelling before coming to our yard, so we thought she would benefit from being fed on the Dengie Healthy Tummy and although we haven’t had her long, her shape and condition is already improving since being on a Dengie diet!

Petal has started her winter holiday already as after a busy season she will benefit from a longer holiday.  Oli is back in work after his short break after Blair and is now gearing up ready for his last few events of the season. I am aiming to  get a few runs in before the end of the season on Chance to get some of the MERS that I need to do the Pony Trials next season, then both Oli and Chance will join Petal for a winter break!

During the Eventing season both Petal and Oil have been fed on Dengie Alfa-A Original with a performance balancer.  They have both looked and felt amazing throughout the season and certainly had plenty of energy to tackle the hills at Blair! When the weather was really hot and dry I also gave them a bowl of soaked Dengie Grass Pellets during the day which helped to replace the grass that they weren’t getting from the fields and also helped to keep them hydrated.

I want to say a huge thank you to Dengie for all their support this season, and for keeping the ponies in tip-top shape so that they can perform at their best and feel amazing, which they definitely do!

We had a fairly quite start to June as my ankle took its time to heal! It was very frustrating to miss out on the next 2nd round at Wellington in June. We ventured out to Badgeworth arena at the end of June to jump a couple of classes. Lambos attention span isn’t great when he has had a break and true to form, we had a little mistake in each both classes for a four faultisis day! We then went to Chard the weekend after for their 3-day show. We jumped the 1.05m Speed Class coming 4th and then also jumped the Newcomers for one pole down, but he had improved quite a bit from the weekend before just in time for the 1.05m/1.10m Grand Prix on the Sunday. We arrived a little late on the Sunday and had a very rushed first round, but managed to scrape a clear round! We then decided to go all out for the win as there was a rug up for grabs and I have been dying to win a rug for ages! Lambo was super and completely on form and won the class!

Sammy and Lambo at Chard Equestrian

He has also shown what a handy pony he can be this month letting me take the rubbish out on our way out for a hack and even offering to lead Scrappy in from the walker!!

I gave Lambo the weekend off after his win as I believe he had earned it before heading to the PONY Mag Big Day. I had no idea how Lambo was going to react performing in front of such a large crowd, but he handled it like a total pro. I was very glad to have some extra Alfa-Beet with me as the temperatures have been crazy of late, so I was safe in the knowledge he was well hydrated. Because of the high temperatures forecast for the Sunday I made the decision to tackle the 4-hour drive back over night. I’m fortunate to have a fan in my lorry, but I just wanted to be safe and secure in the knowledge it wasn’t too hot to travel him, or risk getting stuck in traffic where everyone is heading to the beach!

We have Chard planned again for the end of the month, and I might just make it there with Scrappy too! She had a mystery illness where she had strange lumps come up all over her, we seemed to get that under control then she got a big leg, thankfully we scanned it and there was no damage so she had just banged herself in the stable! She is now back in work and we will see if we can have her ready for Chard at the end of the month, however it might just be one weekend too soon.

We went out to Chard at the start of May with Lambo and Connie, both jumped good rounds; Lambo picked up a place in the Newcomers and Connie just missed out in the Open. Ready for Wales we headed off with these two for the Newcomers and Fox Second rounds. The Newcomers track was very strong, it had to be with 160 in the class!! Connie had a couple of poles down and I debated whether to jump Lambo as he had never seen a track like that, but I decided it was worth it for his experience, so we had a jump round for 3 poles down and I was actually really happy with him. He jumped his first open water in the ring and made it look easy.

Sam and Connie at Wales

However, on day 2 Lambo was up first of my two and in the collecting ring he decided another horse was a little too close and spun round to go the other way. I stayed on board, but in the turn all my weight went into the left ankle and I heard a crack with instant pain (never a good thing). Long story short I ruptured a ligament in my ankle, so that was the end of the show for me.

Sam and Lambo at Wales

We haven’t done any shows since then, but we are planning an outing next weekend, so all being well hopefully I would have just missed out on a month of shows. Its not ideal as it does mean I miss Wellington this weekend, but unfortunately these things happen.

In other news, Connie left to go to her new home after Wales and is busy settling in with them now. Scrappy is finally coming right after one heals we seem to be getting another problem at the moment. Babe is progressing well and will be up for sale in the coming weeks.

We started March at Chard with Lambo and Scrappy. Scrappy jumped a super double clear in her first class and would have won, but there wasn’t enough competitors in the class to award prizes! In the second class the mist really set in and I don’t think she could see a fence until the last minute and got a shock, so it resulted in a circle for us. Lambo had his first show in 6 months and came out as fresh as was expected! He jumped a lovely double clear just having a silly spook at the photographer on the way round.

Then Connie and I set off for PONY magazine’s Big Day Out at Arena UK where we gave a jumping demonstration to around 700 people! I was very proud of Connie as she has never done anything like that before and behaved like a total pro! When we arrived home, our new fence and been delivered which was very exciting!

Sam Backstrom with her new showjump

After this I finally got struck down by Covid-19 and the horses missed the next show planned, although I was glad to get it before the Blue Chip Championships this week. However Connie and Scrappy had other ideas! Scrappy managed to be silly in the field and get a sore back, but she is back in work and should be ok to jump again this coming weekend. Connie managed to injure herself in the stable and after a vet visit it was decided the best thing to do would be to miss the Championships this week. I was devastated, but these things do happen and that’s horses for you. They don’t know what shows are coming up and how much it means to us! With just Lambo in the running for the show I’ve decided to give it a miss and rather concentrate on the ones here at home.


Horse lying down in stable

So my revised plan for April is a local show this weekend coming and the weekend after, as well as a visit to Chard mid-week before heading to the international at Wales and West with Connie and Scrappy at the end of the month. Babe is coming on really well, going on her first hack this month and I am planning on starting her jump training soon! The outdoor school is finally getting a surface and the first truck of 18 loads has arrived!

The team have had a quiet February as I was away for the first week celebrating my birthday. We still made it out to a few shows with Scrappy contending the Blue chip Diamond Qualifier at the Grange and although she had a fence in the jump-off finishing as a fast four faults and coming 7th she qualified for the final in April! Connie went out for two days at Bicton arena and although jumping super she managed to have a couple of fences both days.

Lambo is back in full work and enjoyed his first show back last week, just spooking at a photographer half-way round meant we turned a circle, other than that he jumped a super round all be it a little too keen! Scrappy also went to this show winning the 90cm open and just having a little confusion about where she was going in the discovery jump-off meant a circle here too!

Babe is taking a little bit of a break at this point as we are unsure if she is pregnant! The vet visited last week and could hear some suspicious noises so we have had bloods done and should have a definitive answer any day now.

Hacking in country lanes

We have been doing plenty of hacking and using the Devon hills to our advantage! We also did some Spring cleaning trying to get ahead of ourselves and wishing Spring was already here, below is a picture of Lambo trying to help!

Horse spring cleaning

It was great to see Dengie Performance Horse Nutritionist, Claire Akers at the end of February and also great to see the horses are all maintaining a good weight. We have quite a lot planned for March starting with Hartpury this weekend, then we are going up to Arena UK to perform in the PONY mag Big Day out demo which we are all really excited about! Then we will finish up the shows this month with another visit to Chard.

It’s not long until the Blue Chip Championships and I am looking forward to contesting the 3 finals with Connie. I am unsure if I will contend the final with Scrappy as the schedule doesn’t really work in our favour. But I do plan to take all three up to compete over the 3 days.

We all had a great New Year here in our new Devon home. The first show of the year was with Connie at Chard on the 5th January where she jumped a lovely double clear in the Foxhunter, although she was jumping about 30cm bigger than every fence!  I was glad to be in my sticky bum breeches that day!

Connie then went back the week after to jump another double clear in the Blue Chip B&C Qualifier, coming 5th and qualifying for another final, we now have 3 to contend in April!

At the end of January we took both Connie and Scrappy to 4 days of jumping at Olney. Connie jumped a super double clear coming 4th on the first day, then just the last fence on the second day. On the 3rd day Connie woke up with a rash, which put an end to her jumping at the show. Scrappy was the star of the show making the most of her time in the ring jumping double clear 3 out of 4 days, winning her first class, coming 2nd on day 2, winning again on day 3 and just touching a pole on day 4! She was over the moon to be back out at a stay away show and made the most of it!!

Lambo is now back in full work and I’m planning on taking him to a show towards the end of this month with him. We had a new addition to the team, Babe who is an unbroken 5 year old, now 6 that I have taken on to produce and sell. She is doing great and turning out to be one of the sweetest horses I have ever started.

In other good news, Connie seems more settled in her new home and is back tucking into her Dengie dinners and gaining weight! On the weigh tape she has gained 20kg! It will be interesting to see how much she has actually gained when Claire visits next week!