From dissertation to dressage


As the 2024 event season gets under way, Jess Rimmer finds herself balancing books and bridles as it coincides with exam season

Jo Rimmer training Jess and Mattie at the yard in Fontmell Parva
All images: Courtenay Hitchcock

I thought I’d kick off this month’s report with an insider look at life juggling eventing with university. April saw both our first events of the season and the submission of my dissertation – so I don’t really have brain space to think about anything else!

Jess Rimmer with Mattie at Fontmell Parva
Mattie gets a rub down after his workout

It’s a common misconception in the horse world that it is necessary to make a choice between pursuing a career in horses and continuing with education. People seem to think it is one or the other – but I didn’t see why I couldn’t do both!
It has definitely been a juggle, though, and when I look back over the past three years I sometimes wonder how on earth we made it work!
My weeks have generally involved being at uni in Bristol from Monday to Wednesday, then whizzing home to ride for the rest of the week. The pandemic meant a lot of my course was delivered online, which meant I’ve been able to keep up with my degree from home, fitting lectures in wherever possible around the horses’ routines.

Mattie (The Real McKay) missed the first events of the season with an untimely foot bruise, but he is now back on track

May sees the start of exams, which inconveniently clash with some of the first internationals of the season. Obviously I was never going to miss those – which is how I’ve ended up sitting exams from a hotel next to Houghton Hall, from the judge’s box at Bicton International and sitting in the back of a taxi in France!
With careful time management, anything is possible. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you want to go to uni but are worried about missing out on the horses, just go for it! And if anyone reading this is wondering how on earth they can make it work, I am always happy to chat.

Jess on Sir Henry Hall in his dressage test at Moreton
Mattie and Elsa catch up with each other in the stalls

The season begins
OK, back to the horses! My season started a little later than usual this year, following a head injury over the winter. But with plenty of patience and support, I am now fully recovered and finally able to get the ball rolling! Our first event was a local one at Moreton, where we had Newt, Elsa and Henry.
Newt and Elsa were introduced last month, but we didn’t meet Henry (Sir Henry Hall). He is a complicated horse with bucketloads of talent – but he is the ultimate worrywart. He would love to bury his head in the sand at everything scary – which is frankly most things, from his point of view!
However, he always seems to perform under pressure. It’s as if he knows when it counts. At Moreton he jumped brilliantly, as did Elsa and Newt.

Super-groom mum Jo doing Henry’s studs at Moreton

We then went to Cirencester Park with the same trio, where they all performed superbly, setting us up nicely for the season ahead. Mattie (The Real McKay) sadly missed his first runs with an untimely foot bruise, but he is back on track, pictured in a training session at home, under mum’s watchful eye. His season will hopefully start at Tweseldown next month – which happens to be the day before my first exam. And so the juggling act continues!
Looking ahead to May … you guessed it: lots of eventing, interspersed with exams – see you on the other side!

Newt jumping clear in the showjumping at Moreton

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