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17Mar 16

Back in my little corner with Claire Daniels

Last week, when I sat down in the corner of the riding area in Bossiney, with Claire Daniels already on her home-bred Euro, a slightly unsettling thought entered my head. As much as I had been looking forward to being here again, Claire was now older than I was, when I first taught her all those many years ago and that made me feel old. I decided to shake that thought as quickly as it had arrived in order to concentrate on Claire and Euro, who was certainly full of it.

His mum, Bailey, gave Claire great fun during the years she evented her. I remember seeing them together for the first time after Claire had just bought her for not much money from David Stevens and thought: he missed the point here, this is a bloody good horse. But then Claire always did have a good eye for a horse, something she has in common with her husband Conker. They have bought many a project together over the years and done well.

As I was enjoying the playful Euro, at the same time trying to help Claire with keeping him straight and focused, I could not help but thinking about Drigan, as we called Bodrigan in daily life.

I bred her out of an Irish Draught type mare and with the national hunt sire Sousa as her dad. As she seemed to have a talent for jumping and certainly not for dressage, whereas her full sister Marie was the opposite,  I had asked Claire to continue her training as I had reached my limit. Drigan was jumping sweetly with a natural feel, but it was time for the fences to go up.

I shall never forget the face of her dad Terry Dangar when he stood watching expectantly for Drigan to hop off the lorry. He liked an elegant horse and this Drigan was not. Terry actually looked disgusted. I decided not to say anything and left her there with the confidence Terry would soon be happy. One week later the phone rang. They could not believe the power of Drigan's jump. The rest is history.

Euro and Claire worked on their trot-canter transition in order to settle down the canter more as he gets a little overexcited which makes him change behind. He'd had quite a bit of time off and needed for the basics to be settled without getting bored. Not an easy task but I have always trusted Claire's endless patience.

Next was Paso, a small grey Dutch horse, a little shy but with a magnificent canter and an equally good jump. An interesting project as he never liked the right leg at all  and Claire had to use every bit of imagination in order to get him to not turn himself into a banana when she would touch him. This had already improved a lot, so we were able to even start the counter canter with him. Funny, as he knew the flying change naturally. Hence the counter canter needed for Claire to be very clean and clear with her aids. He did great and it was time for coffee.

Whether it was the chestnut Charlie, Feathers from Tregembo with whom she competed into Advanced eventing, or all those many others we worked with together, I never got bored watching Claire ride. Devoted, stern but playful and always in a good mood. When many years ago I heard some young chap call her with the nickname 'Smiler' I thought that to be so true.

So, here we are again, gone full circle, the two kids Rio and Tia in school and us back doing what we love so much: me watching and Claire riding. 

Top picture: Bodrigan after a few months with Claire Daniels

Bottom: Euro and Claire 




Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.