It’s been all systems go for Robbie and I this April!
We’ve had a couple of newspaper mentions this month from Witchingham and a photo from Burnham which is quite cool and a nice surprise!
After Burnham Market, we raised the bar up to Novice again at Norton Disney. I’d been poorly all week in the build up to Norton Disney but was determined that we needed the run.
On paper, our results weren’t great but I was actually pretty chuffed with Robbie. We’ve been getting to grips with our new jumping bit competing in some BE100’s to start the season – Robbie can get a bit cocky in the XC phase at Novice level, so I felt it would benefit us both to have some quieter runs. He felt really respectful!
We were held out on course at the saw bench, and our sticky right turn came back to haunt us at the third element of the next fence. I should have taken the longer route, the line I took was impossible for poor Robbie and we just sailed straight past it! In my eyes, he went double clear – in theory, he jumped everything that I pointed him at!
Next up, we headed to Belton. I was so excited as it has been one of my long term goals for the past six years to compete at Belton with the aim of just crossing the finish line. I was and still am, mega happy!
Robbie gave me an amazing ride and finished 17th out of 41 in the Novice! We scored 35 dressage, had the last two fences down in the showjumping and was clear XC.
I was really nervous, my dad had rescheduled an important hospital appointment so we could go and compete and my best friend and former no.1 groom, (who now works in a racing yard in Newmarket) came home specially to groom for me too – she has been there supporting me from the very beginning of our eventing journey.
We’ve both walked the course year after year at Belton and always say it’s a testing track… so it was lovely that she was able to come and share the experience of having one of our horses there competing against some of the top names in eventing! Robbie is so cool!
Robbie is now having a short ‘training holiday’ as I like to call it. A few weekends off from eventing, although we are still working away, preparing for our first CIC*. We have a couple of lessons with Tiny beforehand, one being tomorrow morning, which I’m looking forward to! In the meantime, I’m planning on bringing Alice out to play!
Leaving you with a photo from Belton, taken by friend of mine from Equipix UK Equestrian Photos
Catch up again in May!
We’ve had a quite a busy month, here’s what’s been going on…
We sold one of our beautiful youngsters, Diamond, he’s a stunning three-year-old and he has now gone to his new owner to start his education as a dressage star.
On April 14 we headed to Field House with QD Esquire (Morris) and Pikkert, and companion Rocky came along for the ride. Both horses did pleasing tests; Morris did struggle with his Asthma in the indoor arena which slightly effected his test. He was also a bit giddy in the walk, but still won with over 67%!
Pikkert did the Advanced Freestyle to Music and won with over 68%. We have now qualified for the Regionals as you need two tests with over 65%. Regionals here we come.
The following day we headed up to my vets in Shelf, West Yorkshire to take our mare Cappuccino to be inseminated with the KWPN stallion, Governor, he’s a black beauty with elegance and power and he is by the famous Totilas. The semen was frozen so fingers crossed in 16 days’ time we will have her scanned in foal. Of course we will keep you all updated on her progress.
Our second sale went through this month too with a talented 12-year-old junior rider investing in our yearling, First Felicity, which you all may remember from the ‘Name the Foal’ competition we ran. Fiss is by First Ampere, and we wish the young pair a super future together.
Now, we can only pray for the sunshine and warmer days, I am most concerned for the animals born in such terrible weather! They must wonder where they have landed.
Good luck to everyone out and about competing.
This month Pirie and I have been to the Rider Development Pathway training with The Pony Club at Hadlow College. The day started with a flat training session and then later in the afternoon we had a jumping session and got some good tips from Corinne Bracken.
We found out a few weeks later that unfortunately I hadn’t made the selection but I am aiming for it again next year as it was a really fun and exciting day, and I couldn’t have been happier with Spirit. Overall it was a great day with some fantastic instructors along with some great riders.
I also had a super weekend building some national 1.40m courses for some of the country’s top riders, taking the opportunity to have an ‘up close and personal’ chance to see how they do it.
This month we have been at Brookside Stables a year and we wouldn’t have thought it. We have gained so much having the support of Willard Equestrian. I definitely wouldn’t be progressing at the rate Spirit and I are.
On April 30, we went to Felbridge for the first time and although we didn’t get a double clear I was pleased with the outcome. We are still starting to get back into competing regularly and I’m looking forward to getting out to Pyecombe for the four-day show at the beginning of May where I will be jumping the 1m and the 1.10m in the Fred and Paris arena.
The highs and devastating lows of a life with horses….
To me, my blog is an honest report and reflection on my life with my horses… so I sit here not wanting to write down the words, telling the story of what we’ve experienced over the last few days, as it finally makes the worst nightmare actually real!
6.15am Friday 29th April – T’s phone rings and by the way she reacts I know it’s happening… We’ve been expecting this call, but not for a few weeks – Lulu is about to foal! Hurray! So excited!
We jump in the car and dash over to Izzy’s, which takes 15minutes. We arrive and instantly we can see something is not quite ‘right’. The foal’s feet are showing… wow, nature is totally amazing… but wait, they are facing the wrong way…. thank goodness our vet Melissa Packer is on route already!
Within literally minutes of Mel arriving at the yard, she’d managed to get the foal moving in the right direction… it’s coming out! A quick shout of ‘Steve come and help… when the head appears… Pull with me!’… in seconds ‘she’ was out and Lulu is looking relieved… as were we all to be honest!
A quick check over of Lulu, who was all ok and the focus was on our little filly foal… she’d been born with severely contracted tendons on her front legs (her feet were basically being pulled backwards towards her cannon bones), but other than that she appeared healthy. After much discussion between Mel, ourselves and a consultant vet, we made the decision to put her legs into casts to the elbow (which effectively stretches the tendons) as this would give her the best chance to have a ‘normal’ conformation as quickly as possible.
The procedure went well, and our little red headed filly, by Cevin Z, was taking milk from the bottle, well we had to take milk off Lulu as the filly couldn’t stand up. We knew the odds of her surviving were slim, she was premature, but we had to try and give her every chance. So every hour Izzy took milk off Lulu, and we fed our little red head, keeping her warm under blankets and heat lamps… she’s a little fighter and showing lots of determination.
6.00am Saturday 30th April – Izzy is feeding the filly, and notices she’s not taking as much milk… We try getting her to take the milk… We try getting her warmer with heat pads and rugs…. We call Mel, to get some advice as we feel she’s going downhill… maybe she’s just tired?!
8.00am Saturday 30th April – Our little red headed filly takes her last breath in my arms… totally and utterly devastated… in 24 hours she really made an impression on me… she was a real character and had such spirit just like her mum… I was gutted.
Focus had to move to Lulu… she’d been totally amazing throughout and we wanted to see if we could help an orphaned foal, so we put out our story on social media… the response, expressions of sadness and condolences were overwhelming (thank you each and every one of you that got in touch or left a comment). But no foal was found… so we thought that door had shut.
Monday evening, we received a call from a lovely lady called Sarah who had sadly lost her mare after a bout of colic two weeks after having her foal… Lulu might get her chance to be a mum after all! It was going to be a long night as Sarah had to travel down from North Yorkshire. They arrived at about 11.30pm, with the colt foal, Freddie, calling to everyone on the yard… Sadly, Lulu didn’t take well to Freddie so we had to admit defeat after a couple hours. It turns out Lulu had actually come into season again already, hence the reason she wasn’t going to play ball with matchmaking!
Well that was a bank holiday weekend I don’t want to repeat! The silver lining to this horrid cloud is that we still have our beautiful Lulu, who will hopefully get the chance to be a proper mum next year!
Thank goodness there are highs too… Winner, winner, chicken dinner… and at Belton International Horse Trials too!
We love this event, so it’s always nice to have a horse competing here. The course walked as we expected… big and bold with some technical lines which came up quickly. We had early times on the Friday, which actually proved a blessing (although T and Izzy might disagree with the 3.15am alarm call!) as sadly the weather and ground conditions made a turn for the worst as the day progressed.
Ash held it together throughout his test, despite killer mole hills and a very lumpy bumpy arena for a 28.8. He jumped a fabulous clear round show jumping, although a little spooky at times, and totally stormed the difficult cross country that caused carnage! Leaving us six penalties clear as the leaders in a section filled with professional riders at the top of the sport! We were just delighted – Ash really is so talented, he was such a good boy!
So in conclusion, nature is an aw-inspiring beast… and a total heartbreaker too! We are blessed to have a relationship with the horse all the highs and all the lows make it what it is… totally and utterly unique.
So in my March update I said that I didn’t know if any month could ever top February – then April came along!
As you know from my previous diaries, Stanley and I became Regional Novice Restricted Freestyle Champions at Merrist Wood in February… It was a dream come true! We also finished fifth in a very strong Regional Novice Restricted class. A horse I had been training for just 18 months had won in such strong company. My weedy black pony had come good!
By winning at the Regional Championships we had booked our place for the British Dressage Winter Championships to be held at Hartpury in April. I had ridden there once before in the Petplan Area Festival Finals, but had never been inside the infamous indoor arena! As we had performed so well in the other class at Merrist Wood, we were awarded a wildcard to contest that class at the Winter Championships too. Things were certainly hotting up!
We had lots of lessons and a couple of practise competitions in the time between the Regional Championships and the Winter Championships and felt as prepared as we could be! Our first class, the Freestyle class, was scheduled in for early on the Wednesday morning so we trucked up to Hartpury on the Tuesday afternoon so we could settle Stanley into his accommodation for the week and so that I could do the arena walk that afternoon and the following morning.
As I had bought Stanley directly from his breeder as a newly broken 5-year-old I knew he had never been to such a big show and the atmosphere in the indoor school at Hartpury can be quite electric. It almost feels like you are a gladiator going into battle when you walk through the tunnel! Stanley was really chilled out in both arena walks which filled me with confidence.
Soon it was time for us to contest our first test of the week. I was feeling quite nervous as I knew we were capable of a good test. I shouldn’t have worried as our test went brilliantly. Stanley was so obedient, he was not worried about the atmosphere and produced some stunning work. My final centreline, where the music crescendos, had some of my supporters shedding a tear or two – good tears obviously! I was so proud of how he had performed and was absolutely thrilled to score over 70% at a National Championship! We finished fourth out of 20!
Stanley had a chilled day the next day whilst we waited to contest the straight Novice class we had been lucky enough to receive a wildcard entry for on the Friday.
Friday morning came and I had my usual knot of nerves and excitement in my tummy. I was hoping for another test like Wednesday – calm and obedient. Stanley performed brilliantly again, so on my aids and coped really well with the harder Novice test. I came out of the test really chuffed and hoped we could finish in the top 10 again. You can imagine my utter delight when my score flashed up – 71.09%! We were in the lead! Only a short time to bite my nails whilst the class finished and as the final few scores came through it was confirmed we were NATIONAL WINTER NOVICE RESTRICTED CHAMPIONS!!! We proudly performed our lap of honour in our smart rug provided by the class sponsor and came home on cloud nine!
Stanley has had a well-earned rest in the few weeks since the Championships. I have now started picking him back up and am looking to take him out at Elementary level in the next few weeks.
I am so proud of how far we have come in such a short space of time and cannot thank the team at Speedi-Beet for keeping Stanley in tip top condition.
Until next time…
(Photo by Kevin Sparrow)
A month of change…
Well what a month April proved to be! Right at the start of the month I had to say a very sad farewell to the gorgeous Harry who has moved to Guernsey with new rider Deb. It was such a hard decision to make but I think Harry had reached his jumping limit and is ready to step down and become a real confidence giver. He’s really taking Guernsey by storm at the moment too, winning first place in a cross country competition a few weeks ago and then went showing last weekend and won the coloured in-hand class and was second in the ridden coloured class – wow!
If Deb has half as much fun with Harry as we did then she’ll be living the dream, can’t wait to see what the future holds for these guys.
After three long and tedious weeks of searching for the right horse we managed to find one that fitted our needs perfectly… Seeker!
He is a rising nine-year-old Chestnut gelding, Thoroughbred cross Welsh. He has competed well in BYRDS dressage and has been lightly showjumped and cross country schooled with tremendous potential. I’ve only owned him since Friday so we’re going to be taking our time getting to know each other with plenty of lessons before venturing into the big eventing world!
At the moment we’re borrowing saddles, bridles and rugs left right and centre but I’m sure we’ll be on the go soon. I have two lessons already booked for next week with Ros; flatwork and jumping on Wednesday and cross country schooling on Saturday!
Exciting times ahead! Right, time to get ordering some rugs ready for when he goes out!
April has certainly been a month of improvement for Charlie and I. We’ve had lessons with Gary Parsonage and Becky Moody, two great instructors, which really helped our run up to Northallerton BE80. This was our last practice before our first BE90 at Richmond which I am really looking forward to!
Breckenbrough BE90 was originally our first, but my mum realised a couple of days before that we hadn’t even entered it?! I would have loved to have done it because we have been round many times before, but at least we had done plenty of training by the time Northallerton came around. We weren’t really prepared in time for Breckenbrough anyway because of the weather closing all the cross country courses.
We did really well at Northallerton; an improved 31.3 dressage score, clear cross country with only 3.6 time faults but an unfortunate 8 faults in the showjumping left us with 42.9 points. This left us out of the top 10 (possibly even the top 5) in 12th place. I am really looking forward to our first BE90 at Richmond, I’m not sure what to expect but hopefully it will be a good run considering the weather we have had recently.
At the end of April, we had a schooling session round Thornthorpe Cross Country course where he had his first jump into water then out which I was really pleased about, trotting through running streams, sunken roads and skinnies; he is a cross country machine!
Still fighting to keep Tilly’s feathers looking white this month.
Tilly and I had the honour of being invited to be one of the guinea pig riders for a side saddle instructors and judges’ seminar. It was at Morton Morrell College, in their lovely indoor. A new venue for Tilly and only her second time in an indoor area. This did mean that she had to admire herself in the mirrors for a while to start with.
The morning session was flatwork, where the five riders had to do a little ridden show, then we dismounted for everyone to get a good look at our saddles and their fit. This was then followed by a discussion on what they thought might work better for the horses and riders e.g. fitting of a queen (padding) to the fixed head, different saddle or shims on a saddle etc.
Over lunch we borrowed some stables to keep the horses in. I rather think Tilly liked her American Barn stable, as she had a good view of everything and it was a lot posher than her stable at home!
After lunch, four of us, moved onto jumping. This was all about Equitation jumping, not how big you can jump, so the jumps were about 2ft high. We had to jump a course of five fences, be given feedback on what the judges/instructors thought we could do better, then after taking the advice on board, jump the fences again.
It was a very interesting day, where we all felt we learnt something.
Our next show was back at Pittern Hill, Kineton, where I managed to get my curb chain wrapped around my bit in the Intermediate Equitation and came second. I messed up my approach to the jump in the Riding Club Horse class for poor Tilly, which resulted in third place after we ended up jumping from a standstill. My lovely wool Victorian outfit also made an outing in the Costume Concours class. Poor Tilly had to put up with a lot from me that day, but she did well. Having a groom for side saddle, really would be a huge help!
Pumpkin went to her first show of the year this month. I wanted to get her out somewhere before Royal Windsor Horse Show as she can be slightly fresh at her first show of the year. We went to Tilney St Laurence Riding Club show near Wisbech to compete in the ridden veteran class to try and qualify for the Senior Showing and Dressage second rounds.
The weather forecast was not great but luckily we only got slightly wet towards the end of our class. Pumpkin went really well and the judge commented on how well she moved… But he also said her coat needed a couple more months to come out! We came second and qualified so that is good to get that out of the way for the year and we can start entering regionals.
Unfortunately, as for her coat, it has already moulted and this was actually her summer coat! So the day after the show I had to get the clippers out (I hate clipping!!) to make her look smart for Windsor. It was a good thing I did clip her anyway as the weather has been so hot this last week and she would have been very uncomfortable.
Our first show in May is Royal Windsor and we are competing on the Wednesday. I am sure our class will be huge and I love taking part at such an amazing show. Look out for our next blog to find out how we get on at Windsor!
Well, we made it to May and the sun has finally shown its face, along with the rain, hail and snow! In spite of having all the seasons in one month we have still been pushing on with keeping fit and doing a bit of UA showjumping.
Hopefully you’ve all done more than me competition wise, our first outing to Sapey was unfortunately abandoned thanks to the lovely British weather so we went off to do a bit of jumping at our local show centre. We entered the 70cm and the 80cm hopeful that he should at least be able to manage those!
Well, I was wrong! Haha… We were at fence six in the 70cm, when someone walked a horse past which Prince clearly hadn’t had chance to see yet! He stopped dead from a canter, just to stare at this horse! I couldn’t be annoyed as he was so funny about it!
Unfortunately, this had thrown him off his rhythm and so we unfortunately had the next fence down leaving us with eight penalties and out of the placings.
Class two was our 80cm class, which was much less eventful luckily but we still had an unfortunate two poles at fence six and 11 leaving us out of the placings again. Unfortunate really as he jumped very well and in a beautiful rhythm…when not distracted! So I was a happy mummy!
I hope you all have had a good month and fingers crossed that you get many more opportunities to compete than I have this month!
The highs and lows of horses… Jason has been back at our trainer Hannah’s yard for two weeks now; he seemed very happy to be back and made himself at home straight away. I think both of us were excited to get going again!
After having a period of time out of work Hannah has brought him back into work slowly, she said he was raring to go though. He is looking really well and he has been a very good boy, but all was not as well as it seemed…
Last week we were on a low yet again after Jason had his physio session, he is very weak in his back end and with his age in mind the advice was that we may need to retire him for good. I was absolutely devastated that our dreams could all be over before we’ve even started, and I don’t mind admitting that I welled up and actually cried a little.
I couldn’t bear thinking he was uncomfortable or even in pain, but knowing how happy he is when he has a job meant I was in turmoil and unable to make the decision there and then, so Hannah said she would proceed slowly and with caution. If there is no improvement, then I will have no choice but to act in his best interests and retire him. You can imagine my relief to get an update from Hannah saying that he is much happier now since having physio, phew! So fingers crossed that retirement is a long way off yet…
I am heading back down to Gloucestershire this week for four hours (gulp!) dressage training with Sara Gallop on her Grand Prix schoolmaster. I had a lesson with Sara in March and loved it so much that I have booked an intensive training day. Well, it is a two-and-a-half-hour drive to get there – a long way unless you make a day of it! I have a feeling my thighs will ache!
By the time I’m writing my next update I should be back in the saddle riding Jason… finally!!
I’m writing this blog amongst a mass of past papers and revision notes in the thick of second year university exams! I think it counts as a revision break??!! The end is in sight though, with my last exam of the year just around the corner and a summer of playing ponies ahead!
I have however managed to sneak a couple of events in over the last few weeks and have been riding the two horses I now have at university in between studying. Our last event, Withington, didn’t entirely go to plan as I managed to part company from the young horse, Arthur, I am riding at the moment. It really was a silly fall due to a very baby moment from Arthur, but somehow I managed to land awkwardly and unlike my usual recovery where I jump up and get back on as soon as possible to minimise embarrassment, I quickly realised that my knee was in fact incapable of taking any weight whatsoever!
So after a quick trip to A&E with a suspected ligament injury and orders not to ride or play sport for at least three weeks I arrived home, strapped it up, filled myself with painkillers and got straight back on Arthur… and then Harry! It was fine apart from the complete ineffectiveness of my left leg and the pain of trying to use it!
That evening I headed off to walk the intermediate course at Withington and managed to hobble round. I couldn’t understand why the distances weren’t making any sense until I realised that having to drag one leg along the ground probably isn’t conducive to determining correct striding! Anyway all strapped up by a friend and with a knee brace over my boot I got through the dressage test. We very little bend in the left half pass and a not very good left shoulder-in but still managed to scrape a 35! The showjumping phase went better than expected with just one rolled pole and a good round.
Unfortunately though, I now realise that having two legs going cross country is really quite helpful!! After a couple of run outs at a double of left handed shoulder brushes we ended up in the ditch of a ditch palisade further around the course due to an unexpected but rather lovely leg yield off my right leg right in front of the fence- I had meant to use BOTH legs to expand the stride on the way in but forgetting the complete uselessness of the left one I pushed poor Harry completely off his line and we went in the ditch… great!!
The good news is that the knee, although not 100%, is feeling much better and we had a great run around Chatsworth 1* at the weekend! A good dressage test, although the leg problems coming back in the counter canter when I forgot that it doesn’t work quite as well as usual and we had a break in the canter. The showjumping went well with just one pole down… ‘four-fault-itis’ coming back again! He then absolutely stormed around the XC well inside the time to finish 12th!
I am so pleased we seem to be getting back on track and looking forward to finishing my exams and cracking on for the summer! Hopefully Arthur will also make an appearance in June to begin his eventing career!!