Robbie and I had a fab XC lesson at Burnham Market with Tiny to start the month. Hopefully it’s geared us up for the fast-approaching season. Robbie got better and better as the session went on, jumping some of the bigger intermediate fences. It was great to blow away the cobwebs out in the open over a wide range of different fences and jumping on grass so early in the year – it encouraged both Robbie and I to think and ride forwards!
So, our first event is entered, and I think we’re pretty much on track to go!? However, we’ve been practising our dressage test in the snow this week, so I’m hoping the miserable weather won’t stop play or stick around for too long!! Another small issue is that our lorry is currently off having some repair work done to it in readiness for its MOT – which is the afternoon before my event!! EEEK! Fingers crossed it passes! My liveries have very kindly offered to lend me their trailer if all fails!
It’s been an incredibly sad time at the yard this month as I unfortunately lost my retired eventer, Hutch. He coliced and had dysplasia of the colon and so ended up having to go over to Rossdales Equine Hospital in Newmarket.
After lunging him for 10 mins every hour throughout the night, we cleared the colic, but his colon had still not returned to its normal position. By now Hutch was dehydrated and in need of fluids so we loaded him up at 2am for the two-hour journey to the vets. Although being 27 and his age was against him, Hutch has been such an amazing horse for me and I wanted to give him the best chance I could. We arrived home at 6.30am, just in time for a quick cuppa and ready to start a full day working and teaching again.
In the end, the vets thought there was something more sinister going on in his gut as the last time they drained his stomach, fluid was a pink colour. Although heart breaking for us all, there was nothing they could do for him. Hutch was the first horse I bought myself, my first eventer, he has taught me so much and is so very special to me. He was my game changer and my dream come true. I will always have a soft spot for him that no other horse will ever fill.
I was planning to share a photo of Robbie from our XC lesson with you, but I’ve now changed my mind and instead attaching a picture of Hutchy XC at Burnham instead! A photo to remember all the great years of fun we’ve had with “Mr Royalty of the yard!”
I am pretty sure every month I write ‘what a month’, how busy we have been etc. Well this one was no different…
I am currently knee deep in snow and after battling through the snow drifts, with the help of a snow plough to get home from work, I am quite looking forward to a day of doing absolutely nothing tomorrow… well as much of nothing as horsey-people can do, as I will be venturing out to do the horses!
The month was crammed with ‘horse stuff;’ as we had decided to split our regional tests between two venues this year we had two big things to focus on a couple of weeks apart, so it all seems to have all merged into one. Our dream team of supporters ensured we were in ship shape; Stanley had new dancing shoes, a fab physio session from Equilibrium Veterinary Physiotherapy and of course fuelled by his trusty Fibre-Beet! I had a great sports massage too and some continuous training from Biospheric Performance.
We started the month on a high after going to Merrist Wood to practice our dressage to music. We smiled the whole time dancing to our new Madonna music and it seemed the judge smiled too. We won the class on an amazing 78.46% – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raMHmhz9IT4
No better way to gain some confidence for the Regionals, which was back at the same venue five days later. He was again super and I couldn’t have asked him to do a better test. It was ‘character building’ to finish third, on the same score as the lady in second (a collective lower) when only the top two qualify for the BD Winter Championships! BUT I am just thrilled that my dancing partner survived the uncertainty of the last year and is back all guns blazing – plus he still thinks a mounted prize giving is the best thing in the world!! Fingers Crossed for a wild card!
A week later we popped to an unaffiliated competition to go through our Medium 75 test and we got a PB score 67.7%, despite a couple of blunders where we are still green at this level. On the whole, I felt in control and he was really responsive even without my whip which was a vast improvement.
We tried to polish the blunders in our lesson with Sarah, who bred him, during the following week and then we focused on movements for the Elementary straight test. I had pretty much decided at this point that we would just do the elementary class and not the medium, which we got last minute qualification for, as I simply didn’t feel that I could ride a good enough medium test to be at the regionals yet.
I know that he can do a fabulous elementary test now, but I still felt that we had less chance of qualifying for this straight class than the music one. So rather than obsess over the movements and annoy each other by ‘over schooling’ we had a couple of good gallops out hacking to keep him sweet, he had a day off(!) and then we went off to Wellington.
He did a good test, I was pleased but knew that there were moments that could be so much better. Lots of people told me it was lovely and perhaps in future I should trust them more. I was so shocked to see our score of 71.04% took us into second place and there we stayed so… WINTER CHAMPIONSHIPS HERE WE COME!!
After this my fabulous trainer Sara-Jane Lanning took me to one side and fed me some confidence and told me that I should take him and have a go at the Medium test on Wednesday; we were all aware that we are new to this level so there was no pressure and just go and have fun.
So, on Wednesday we attended the bitterly cold WINTER regionals! Unfortunately, just as I entered the arena the beast from the east arrived! What started as light snow as I entered soon turned into what felt like a blizzard – thank God Dad ran inside and got him some ear covers at the last minute! We made a couple of mistakes in the movements that I had expected, and he was a little spooky which meant our trot got a little tight and kept our score down. However, he also got some really pleasing marks and comments which is really exciting. We finished just outside the top 10 in 11th place amongst some lovely horses. A great benchmark which we can now use to build on and improve.
Three consecutive years we have qualified for the Winter Championships – It is just amazing, and I really am the luckiest person to have such an honest, willing horse and an amazing support team who never stop encouraging us. Bring on April!
(Photo courtesy of Sara Jane Lanning)
So I’m currently inside by the warm fire, after doing the horses in this horrendous snowy blizzard. Thankfully, we have plenty of Fibre-Beet to keep all the horses warm. I’ve never known it so cold. The horses are giddy though, having a few days off. It will be very exciting getting on them when we finally get rid of all this white stuff.
This month we’ve had regionals with the Welsh cob getting sixth at Myerscough College. Rocky Clover and QD Esquire also got placed but no golden tickets this time to the nationals.
Also, this month we have been in Holland viewing stallions for the breeding season and looking at young stock from the stallions. We also visited a fabulous young horse show, which was interesting to watch. They all looked very sharp horses, but then again they were all four-year-olds!
QD Esquire has been doing well this month winning his Elementary and Medium freestyles. My Advanced horse, Aragon, went to Manor Grange for the Advanced Medium Freestyle, we decided to compete HC and I was then gutted as we did really well and did some fabulous canter work received some 8s, so next time I think we will go competitive!
All the best from Sarah at QD Horses
Side saddle is still very much the order of the day this month, with a final check on the fitting of the side saddle after my saddler had made the necessary minor alterations. I’m really pleased with how well it is fitting Tilly now.
I have attended a side saddle rally where we had riding demonstrations of the different riding levels, followed by talks about showing and what the side saddle grades entail. I am now full of enthusiasm to start taking my grades this year.
This month was also a huge treat for Tilly, as she received her Equissage massage that we got for winning the 90cm arena eventing last month. I can truly say that you really do get what you pay for as it was so much more effective on Tilly than her own back massage pad.
As well as having the Equissage pad on her back, we used the hand held one to give her a full body massage. Sally from Equissage did one side, then I did the other side (under her guidance). It was easy to do and watching Tilly’s reactions to everything, we could tell that she was really enjoying it and felt so much softer when I rode her later in the day.
This month there has been a right mixture of weather, from the horses sunbathing in the arena, to riding in the snow.
Katelyn and Balli have been up to lots through the month of February. In the half term they went to a clinic with Nick Gauntlett, where it was great experience for the pair and they were given lots of tips to work on.
Following this, Balli made a temporary short move over to Kirsty Mepham’s yard so the pair could work on the flat work. This they did and we are starting to see the progress now.
Towards the end of the month the snow came and slowed down the training and progress. Spirit has been clipped and spruced up ready to start competing, but unfortunately the weather hasn’t been playing ball and it snowed when we planned to compete so we are still looking forward to her first outing of this season.
February was supposed to be a month of final preparations ready for the start of the event season… However, once again Mother Nature had to put her foot in it and after a weeks of battling on with knee deep mud, very disgruntled horses (having had to stay in more than usual), and the lack of any sort of match practice at all, we did finally manage to head off to the first event of the season in what seems to have been the only weekend where there was actually a glimpse of sunshine! East Midlands Dressage Group once again put on a fantastic event at the beautiful Osberton Estate where the ground (as usual for Osberton) was absolutely spot on.
We did manage to squeeze in a tiny bit of ‘match practice’ the weekend before Osberton. Rosie and Harry headed over for a weekend camp at the fantastic Somerford Park. Rosie was an absolute superstar and took her first ‘away’ training weekend effortlessly in her stride. Having only popped over a few little XC fences before the first XC schooling session I was expecting her to be a little green. Well… she was fab! Jumping everything without question, including some big and technical questions and lines. I was very impressed with her attitude and its very exciting to ride a 5yo who has such a great brain. Of course not forgetting about Harry, who also felt great and had a lovely time popping some of the more technical fences and thoroughly enjoyed being back out to play.
So back to the EMDG event where I had tentatively entered Rosie for her first ever event with the idea of withdrawing if I didn’t feel she was quite ready. Anyway, following the success of the weekend before she behaved like a pro all day. She did a sweet test which was wobbly in places (the centre lines looked more like serpentines) but for her first time in an arena on grass I will take that as a success!
The jumping phases went well and the actual jumps were no issue whatsoever, however no one had mentioned to Rosie about the huge scary commentary van and various banners scattered about the place which were far too scary to go anywhere near! After lots of persuasions we eventually got going and by the end of the XC she was off and finished the course with a very tired brain indeed. So, a very good and educational day for Rosie at her first event and I can’t wait for the next one. After her very mentally tiring experience she was completely zonked on the lorry all afternoon whilst Harry took his turn to come out to play.
Harry came out for a bit of a jolly and had a fabulous time playing pretty ponies in the dressage and skipping around the show jumping before testing that I was awake in the XC with a very naughty moment! He is definitely getting wily in his old age.
After a busy first day we were back on the Sunday for the Open, this time with Vicky’s Inspector Kenko. Kenko was extremely fresh in the dressage warm up as were a few of the other more experienced horses who probably should have known better… but then again they also have the advantage of knowing what’s coming next… yippee cross country!! After a long warm up, Kenko settled to do a really nice test gaining a PB at Novice level of 34 penalties. He followed this up with a smart double clear and I crossed the finish line with a huge grin. He gives such a fabulous feeling and it was great to be back on a cross country course with him. The icing on the cake was to find out that he had been placed 5th in a competitive section (only 2.8 penalties between him and the winner). What a fantastic start for Kenko!!