Next stop was a training show at Addington. I was excited to be going back to Addington after a three year absence, and the concept of the training show, where you get two rounds at your chosen height, is perfect for where my horses are in their progress this season.
I felt Askeaton needed another very easy round, so we had a brutally early start, made easy by having both Frankie & Lauren to help. I’m spoiling myself with help for these first few shows to allow Lauren to find her feet with the pace of show grooming, and to feel a little bit more relaxed about time while the horses are still very fresh.
We arrived in perfect time. Askeaton jumped two lovely easy rounds in the 1m. She feels great so fingers crossed we can keep it that way.
The real value of the training show was revealed in being able to go straight in at 1.10 on Breakdance with no pressure, as these rounds aren’t recorded on their BS records. I have made a few changes to his management as he is a little bit nervous, he now has a small dose of Calming Powder from Premier Performance CZ, which I have consistently found to be the best calmer, and we tried the titanium mask from Just Equine as well. Although I managed to get in his way once in each of his first two rounds, and at the second fence in his third round, I was able to keep starting again and posted an almost foot perfect final round. This was a really big confidence and self-belief boost. It was like a show for him, but like training for me. There was plenty going on in both the warm-up and the ring, and he was definitely more focussed on going from fence to fence without worrying about pole-pickers, photographers and other horses.
BE Khalissy then jumped two cracking rounds in the 1.10. She’s a real expert now, my only job is to read the numbers. I feel I have taught her all I can now and she needs a lovely home where she can teach someone all she knows, and fulfil her desire to go a bit quicker and actually be allowed to win things. She has been the most lovely and rewarding horse to produce.
We had a bit of a wait for Arietta to jump in the 1.20. She worked in really well, no acrobatics or objections to other horses and jumped two lovely rounds. A bit too many brakes this time, but having felt so green last year she really feels super confident in her job now.
It was a long journey home and a very long day for all of us. But it was well worth the trip. Many thanks to the team at Addington, sadly I can’t make either of their three day shows, but definitely have some others in the diary. Many thanks to Lauren and Frankie for all their help and to Mark for getting up early and helping me finish so late. A big sigh of relief from Mark as we flew off to India the next day and he was worried about how the lorry, girls & horses would be retrieved from Addington if I fell off!
As always many thanks to Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Equine, Premier Performance CZ, Just Equine, MacWet Gloves and NDS Equine for their support.
It's always hard trying to look back and be objective about 12 whole months, they flew by, but looking back January 2022 seems a very long time ago.
To sum up as succinctly as possible: by 4th January I had managed to fall off twice, 30 minutes apart! I then invested in an air jacket which made my two Autumn falls less painful. We spent half of February having COVID and isolating before April and I made it the whole way to Spain for four weeks of the Sunshine Tour. Although the sun was notably absent for most of the month of March,and Askeaton was lame for half the tour, we did actually have a great time. It was great to be back and to see the amazing expansion and improvements made there, it has to be the best facility in the world. Khalissy really got going and set the standard for her very successful year, and my lovely Arietta stepped up week by week, finishing with a placing in the final CSI1* 1.35 Grand Prix.
April and May were a bit calmer: Doonaveeragh Emma had her second beautiful colt foal, Alchornes Pure Gold, by Golden Hawk. The horses all continued to jump well and BE Khalissy in particular put in a stellar performance at CSI* Chard to jump four clear rounds and finish with 6th in the small Grand Prix.
We had a wonderful family holiday in France in June, and then very sadly April left to further her career with Gemma Stevens. April was my wing man here for four years, and losing such a very important part of a very small team was tough. Both Khalissy and Arietta continued to jump well, Khalissy consistently placing at 1.20 and Arietta jumping some great rounds at 1.30. Askeaton seemed sore again, and she took a very long summer holiday.
Finally we had a summer where not only did we go to parties, but we also had a party here to celebate my 60th birthday, and Polly, my sister's 50th birthday. It was a great day filled with friends and family.
Ellie Collins joined for the latter part of the summer before leaving to set up her own transport company. I have missed her bubbly company, and her brilliant care of the horses. I'm not good at change and did find so much in a short period of time hard, but we now have Lauren Andrews here who brings good skills and experience to the job.
Wondering if Askeaton was every going to make it back into the ring I bought Billy Breakdance in September. He is a charming horse, and is making really good progress. I failed to notice how tall he was before I got him home, but he is very polite and so hopefully won't get too big and strong for me.
All the horses were back in work by the beginning of November. Khalissy and Arietta came back in great form. I always ask Ed Lyall at Sussex Equine to give them an MOT before they compete and they passed with flying colours.
We had our last show of 2022 at Hascombe on 7th December. It was great fun to have Khalissy back in the ring. She felt like a proper expert, albeit only round the 1m, but certainly lovely to have her back. Breakdance jumped very well in the 1m and I rode him appallingly badly in the Newcomers for a couple of fences. Arietta then jumped a super round in the 1.20. It was nice to end the year feeling that I'm properly getting my teeth into the jumping again.
Askeaton has had some very special treatment with Arthramid, and just before Christmas she was given the go ahead to start jumping again. I had a lesson with Trevor Breen with her after Christmas and she felt fabulous, so fingers crossed that we can keep her sound and have some more fun together.
One of the big events of December for me was the Breen Christmas Auction where Alchornes Pure Gold was one of the horses up for sale. I am absolutely thrilled that he has been bought by Michael Duffy, he will have the very best chance to be the very best he can be, and hopefully will be a good advert for Emma and also pay back the faith that Shane showed by putting him forward for the auction and the Michael showed by buying him. Michael is a great fan of Golden Hawk, and always liked Emma so hopefully Tom will do him proud.
We have had the most magical Christmas with my sister and her children, and Anna and Sophie with their little families. Having a 3 year old and two toddlers at Christmas was wonderful, they were so good and sweet and Father Christmas really came up trumps with the stockings! The reindeer trampled ash all over the carpet, and ate their carrots very messily and Father Christmas drank his Aquavit (45% proof) and ate his mince pie. Hopefully not everyone gave him Aquavit or he'd never find his way home. There was a slight crisis before lunch as I forgot to take the turkey out of the freezer (mainly due to not reading the instructions properly) so we had lamb stew for Christmas lunch and turkey for Boxing Day lunch. Mark's sister Clare had to come back for Boxing Day to get her turkey. Perhaps not my finest domestic goddess performance, but everyone was very good about it.
Like everyone with horses Christmas has been frantically busy and very hard work, luckily Frankie Walker has been helping me out, and Mark has been a total hero while Lauren has been off with the horrible lurgy! I had a last lesson with Trevor before he flew off to Dubai, and will try and keep my bad habits in check till he gets back. I'm very much looking forward to 2023 with four lovely horses to jump. I will definitely be taking the sticky spray and the airbag to Hascombe on the 4th January.
As always many, many thanks and Happy New Year to the team who keep the show on the road. Mark, Lauren, Frankie and Sussex Equine, Cinder Hill Veterinary Clinic, Casserley & Sons and Caitlin McCaffery, and to my fabulous sponsors Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Equine, Just Equine, NDS Equine, and MacWet Gloves.
Mark and I had a lovely few days in Copenhagen at the end of October. We walked miles and miles admiring this incredibly clean, friendly and stylish city, and we were staying in Vesterbro, an easy walk from the centre and right next to the old meat packing area, which houses some the most fantastically cool restaurants, I think we ate some the most delicious food ever. It was also a great opportunity to introduce Mark to Smorgasbrod, Danish open sandwich, one of my favourite things! Also a fascinating visit to Royal Copenhagen China and Georg Jensen - my favourite jewellery shop.
With a nice break behind us it was time for Arietta and Khalissy to get back to work. Both came in looking fantastic and it was great to have Ellie still at home to make sure we got back on board safely. I had a couple of weeks with four to ride, and three of them still walking on the road, so I was very grateful to have some help from Beverley Eaton, the Freelance Groom, so that we could get them all started and keep up with the clipping. They got quite warm with the mild weather.
Lauren Andrews has now joined the team, Lauren is a lovely rider and great with the horses, so hopefully we can build a good partnership going forward - equestrianism may look like an individual sport, but that all important confidence to go out and do your best in the ring comes from knowing you have a good team behind you.
Billy Breakdance has continued to make good progress. Sometimes it's difficult to quantify this, and certainly it doesn't always look perfect on paper, but he continues to get stronger and less naive, and is so much easier in his ride. He has struggled a bit with getting very stressed in the lorry, but with some handy tellings off from Khalissy he seems to be getting the hang of behaving himself with the result that he has more energy for his real job. He has jumped two lovely rounds and Felbridge, and another good round in a meaty Newcomers at Coombelands so hopefully we're on our way.
Billy Arietta has now been to two shows as well, one and Felbridge and one at Coombelands. Both times double clear in the Newcomers. She has come back looking so strong and well, and so I'm keen to consolidate all she learnt last year in smaller classes before we press on in the New Year.
Be Khalissy is also ready to jump a small class so we're all off to Hascombe on Wednesday. It's been really great to have two training sessions with Trevor Breen, I've missed the continuity of his training while the horses have been on holiday and Trevor has been in Vilamoura. The value of a good trainer cannot be over emphasised. Trevor is brilliant at pushing me, teaching me self-discipline in my riding, and is unbelievably good at trying to understand most of my rather muddling anxieties.
Two sessions with Trevor have made me much more confident with Breakdance, made me realise that I have some serious homework to do with Arietta, and Khalissy was absolutely thrilled to be back out jumping again. Whilst I'm not particularly looking forward to the cold weather forecast for Hascombe, I am excited to have a bit of a team of horses back competing again.
Askeaton is taking a little longer than I hoped to get back to full work. After eight weeks in work Ed Lyall wasn't as happy with her as we'd all hoped, so she's had some very special new treatment, two more weeks of walking and is now moving back up into full work again. I've had her since she was four and for the whole of her ridden life. She's super-sensitive and super-special. She has given me some very proud moments, she was a phenomenal six and seven year old, jumping great rounds in some huge seven year old championships, and will always have a very big corner of my heart, I don't think I've ever had a horse that I've fallen off so many times, nor one whose attitude to her own safety makes me more anxious, but I adore her! I hope we will enjoy many more rounds of jumping together, but if not she is also tremendously talented on the flat, and then hopefully will have super-talented babies.
Alchornes Pure Gold, Tom, is one of the foals in the Breen Equestrian Christmas Auction. The preparation of the foals for the Auction has been a whole new learning curve, and it's been brilliant to be part of the Breen Team's amazing input into preparing not only the foals and horses for the Auction, but watching the amazing PR Team, Izzy & Liv from Equisportif swing into action along with Greg le Gear and Badr al Amrin from the Breen Equestrian Stud Team, and the amazing Admin Team of Chloe, Lori and Debbie in the Breen Office. It is certainly a pretty enormous village that is putting this show on the road. Everyone should put the 14th December in their diaries and buy a ticket for what is going to be the most amazing Gala Evening.
Doonaveeragh Emma and Zarnita are home for the winter. They are two absolutely amazing mares, they not only have won a huge amount of money between them, but have also given huge pleasure to their owners, riders and supporters. They come here for the winter for a bit of a spa break, some serious TLC and to teach us exactly how they would like the yard run, we love them and they make us giggle every day. At 8.30 sharp each morning Emma throws her feed bowl into the yard and takes her headcollar off the hook outside the door and Zarnie starts to nicker and scrape- time to go out to the field!
It takes a huge team to keep a geriatric, and increasingly forgetful show jumper on the road, so many thanks to Mark and Lauren, my wonderful sponsors Saracen Horse Feeds, Just Equine, Protexin, MacWet Gloves and NDS Equine, and also to Casserley & Sons, Sussex Equine, Cinder Hill Equine, Chris Warren & Partners and Caitlin McCaffery who keep the horses on the road too.