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2. April Kitchener

Groom,

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Wales & West
Wales & West

We had two days at Wales & West Showground last week, intending to do the Newcomers 2nd Round there with all three horses.

I had a great journey to Wales, arrived in good time and installed the horses in their stables. The temporary stables at Wales & West are about the same age as me, so a little bit of maintenance (a new bolt on the door) was required to keep Arietta in, but this was soon accomplished, and I set off to my lovely B&B, the Lych Gate in Caldicote.

We had an early start on Thursday morning with three in the Foxhunter in the main ring. Arietta was first up, and she jumped beautifully until I had a mad moment and decided to take a stride out, resulting in a shuffle and a pole down. However, she jumped the rest of the round well, and I was very pleased that she jumped the water very confidently.

BE Khalissy was next and I was very pleased with her, it was a strong Foxhunter and she was just a little green jumping into the first double, and had to work a bit coming out, resulting in four faults. She jumped better and better as the round progressed, so I was very pleased with her.

Askeaton was last of the three, she felt rather fresh and a little bit ridiculous, and clonked out two poles. She feels ready to go back to jumping a few bigger classes now. Not the greatest day on paper, but actually and educational and constructive day, and it was sunny which was a bonus.

By Friday the sun had been replaced with pouring rain. When I walked the course for the Newcomers 2nd round I thought it was a strong 1.25/1.30 from fence two and I decided that for both Arietta and Khalissy it would be too much for them at this stage. With 164 entries I suspected this might be the case, and I think a large number of withdrawals and at least 30 eliminations and retirements endorsed this decision. I think Askeaton could have easily jumped it - but we are still getting our confidence back, and I would rather wish I had jumped it than wish I had not! Luckily the secretariat were very accommodating and all three were swapped to the Foxhunter in the 2nd ring. They all jumped really nice rounds, Khalissy having the first fence and then jumping beautifully, Arietta just tapping one in the jump-off, and Askeaton jumping a lovely round to finish 8th.

It was great to be back at Wales & West after a gap of 6 years. The surfaces and courses are always educational, and although it's sad to see that the big grass ring is now an all-weather, it's probably more popular with riders. It might be nice to have a little more space in the warm-ups, but on the second day they added a grass warm-up which was lovely for warming up and opening the horses up.

It doesn't seem that we've been back very long before we're packing up to go to Chard, but I am hoping the horses are well prepared as we head into the busiest part of the season.

Sadly April is leaving us after three very successful years as she no longer wants to be a Show Groom. We will be so sad to see her go, we have loved having her here, the horses absolutely love her, and she has been brilliant at everything, so I am looking for a very special person to step into her shoes.

As always many thanks to April, the horses are always happy and look stunning, Friday was particularly hard work with the pouring rain, and three horses in a class of only 60. Thank you always to my brilliant sponsors, Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Equine, Just Equine Ltd, MacWet Gloves and NDS Equine.

Felbridge
Felbridge

It seems as though we are constantly at a show at the moment, but whilst you can train and train, the best way to get truly competent in the ring is to get in the ring! All three horses are now qualified for the Newcomers Second Rounds, so I am going to have a proper crack at these for the first time for 11 years, starting at Wales & West on 20th May. To this end we need to up our game and all four of us need to get sharper in the ring!

Felbridge manages to up its game every time we visit. The new arena has lovely modern fences and we had two days of courses built by Ben Townley, who is a fantastic course builder. There's a new seating area round the new ring now, and some super swanky plans coming too.

On Saturday I had three horses in a Foxhunter with only 35 entries (April & Mark were truly fantastic helpers, but actually it was a demented idea - all mine!) Arietta was first to go, so I had plenty of time to warm her up, and the collecting ring was quiet. She jumped a really lovely clear, I rode disappointingly to the last - but she was a star! I then didn't really have enough time to get Khalissy going well on the flat before jumping her, and saw a wickedly long one to the first fence, which made for a rather wild round and two down. Askeaton jumped last, and went beautifully, albeit for one down, which is most unlike her.

As there were less entries on Sunday, I moved Khalissy to the Newcomers, she jumped a really lovely clear round, so I felt the day was off to a great start! Not entirely right! Askeaton jumped early in the Foxhunter, a lovely round again for one down - making the point that she's not actually a machine. I had plenty of time to warm up Arietta, who, given that this was her third show in 5 days, was incredibly fresh. She jumped the first fence well, was incensed that I tried to fit in the correct number of strides to the second, and saw it at the last minute, spooked massively and stopped! She then actually jumped round well, but was a little bit strong accounting for one more rail. I was a little bit disappointed, as it's a bit two step forwards, three steps back with her at the moment. But she's lovely, and big and green, and probably fitter than she's ever been in her life, and I just have to work harder to get the keys to her properly.

We had a nice quiet Bank Holiday Monday, and the horses have been to the treadmill at Toad Hall Farm today, so hopefully we've all eased out any tired muscles and are ready to get working again.

Hascombe
Hascombe

I can’t remember how long it’s been since I went to a show at Hascombe Farm, formerly Royal Leisure. Over the past few years team at Hascombe, now led by Amelia Harrison, have done a brilliant job of establishing Hascombe as a top class and very modern training and rehabilitation facility, and now they are adding shows to their portfolio.

I had all three horses in the Foxhunter, so it was logistically a very busy class for April. Askeaton jumped first for a lovely easy clear. She is feeling fantastic, so hopefully this will continue. BE Khalissy was very soon after Askeaton and also jumped a good clear. She’s beginning to feel quite consistent and easy at this level; and last, but definitely not least, Billy Arietta jumped a lovely clear and after our session with Trevor, felt much more confident and rideable.

They all finished a little bit out of the placings, but we’ve a lot of jumping to do over the next few months, and rideability and confidence are my top my top priorities at this stage. The speed with which the whole experience fled by made me quite out of breath! But certainly a very satisfying day at the office, and very much aided by April whose step count must have been enormous by the end of the class.

The horses had a lovely morning in the field yesterday and flatwork today in preparation for a weekend of jumping at Felbridge.