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AEJC - Hickstead

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October & November, Copenhagen, Felbridge, Coombelands and a little bit more!
October & November, Copenhagen, Felbridge, Coombelands and a little bit more!

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.

Felbridge & Coombelands
Felbridge & Coombelands

We had a fairly quiet week after Hickstead, an opportunity for the inside of the lorry to have a bit of a smarten up after nine months of the horses trying to destroy it.

Askeaton has come back in from the field after a nine week holiday. I gave her a quick lunge so that she could have a bit of a buck without me, and then I climbed on and we went for a short walk down the road. She was very well behaved, if rather surprised to be being made to do anything. She had her shoes back on on Tuesday, and Billy Breakdance also had a set of shoes. Ellie has also given him a beautiful clip, so he is looking very smart now. He is a big, rangy horse, and is going to need a lot of food and work to fill out his frame. Nothing is better than Saracen Horse Feeds Equi-jewel to put on condition and shine, and the results are starting to show. Also as he begins to feel more relaxed he is starting to let down in his frame a bit. He does get quite stressed in the lorry, and about all the things going on at shows, so we just need to keep going on little outings so that he begins to take it all in his stride.

I took Breakdance for a school at Hascombe and then had a very helpful lesson with Roger McCrea at the Billy Stud. Since then we have been to shows at Felbridge, Coombelands, and back to Felbridge. I think we are making steady progress. Because he is big and rangy he needs a lot more strength and energy to hold himself together than a smaller horse. He's jumped some very nice rounds for a few babyish mistakes, and he gets tired quite easily, I think mainly with the stresses of travelling, and all the new things to look at. But this Saturday at Felbridge I really felt the whole round was coming together. I'm having to adjust my riding a bit, and learn a few things myself to make his life easier, so it's very much a work in progress, but he gives me a great feel and is a lovely horse to have around, so definitely well worth the effort. Hopefully he and Arietta will complement one another as they are both big, very scopey, horses.

He has also had his first trip to the water treadmill this week. We are very lucky to have Toad Hall Farm just round the corner, and Evonne and Kat are so experienced, I felt very relaxed to have them introduce Breakdance to the treadmill. It was very valuable for me to watch him move without the impediment of a rider. I was impressed with how good he looked. Askeaton also went on the treadmill - she thoroughly enjoys it, and it is very good, low impact way of increasing her fitness.

BE Khalissy and Billy Arietta come back into work at the end of this week, so life will suddenly become much busier. They have both benefited from a lovely holiday in the mild Autumn weather.

Sadly we say goodbye to Ellie at the end of the coming week as she goes off to do something slightly different. She will be very much missed, she's been fantastic with the horses, and great company and a very good pair of eyes on the ground for me.

As always many thanks to Ellie, Mark and my fantastic sponsors, Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Equine, Just Equine, NDS Equine and MacWet Gloves. All excellent products that I could not do without and which go a long way to making life much easier.

AEJC - Hickstead
AEJC - Hickstead

The AEJC at Hickstead in September is usually my end of the summer show. It's a show with a good feel to it - lots of opportunities to qualify for the main ring - or not in this case this year - and it's always a great time for catching up with friends before we all go our separate ways for the winter. This year I just had Billy Arietta to jump, as BE Khalissy and Askeaton are already on their holidays. As I am a little short of horse-power at the moment I did go and look at some of the horses in the Breen Equestrian Auction on the Monday before the show, one of whom I liked very much, and on the Tuesday I went to the Billy Stud to look at some horses there. I no longer want to ride four year olds, so this makes my search a little more difficult and expensive. I did love one of the mares I tried at Breen Equestrian, but I just loved Billy Breakdance quite a lot more when I tried him. He's very inexperienced for a six year old, but he has a lovely attitude and is a brave and scopey jumper. I agreed a price with William and organised to have him vetted.

I had a good first day at the show with Arietta who jumped a lovely double clear in the 1.20. We then had a fabulous evening at the Breen Equestrian Auction. What a fantastic show they put on right in the garden at Hickstead, with fabulous food and drink and the horses looking wonderful. Hopefully this will be a regular event as it was so good. The two horses I had ridden went for a little bit more than I had to spend, one to America and one staying in the UK, with the new owners looking so thrilled to get her.

On the Thursday I had Arietta in the 1.30. She warmed up really well, and I was lucky that Gemma and Gary Stevens helped me as Ellie was off taking her HGV. Unfortunately, although Arietta jumped the first fence beautifully she never took off at the second fence, leaving me to sail over on my own. I've no idea why she stopped as she is the boldest, most honest horse ever, but these things happen. My air jacket going off scared me half to death, but actually it did prevent me hurting my back and minimalised the whip lash that I would have got falling from such a height at considerable speed. I just jumped her in the Newcomers on Friday, and she jumped a lovely round. Luckily Ellie passed her HGV and so she drove us home - what luxury! Billy Breakdance passed the vet with flying colours on Thursday afternoon, so that was an exciting bit of news.

After my fall William Funnell suggested that I give Arietta a jump with them on Monday to make sure we were both feeling confident, and I had a lesson on Breakdance and collected him as well. Arietta felt her normal keen and clever self, so a great relief all round.

The weather forecast for Wednesday of week 2 was dreadful, so I decided to give myself an extra day to get to know Breakdance, and give Arietta an extra day of not jumping, and we set off to Hickstead again on the Thursday. Weather forecasting is definitely not a precise science - the weather on Wednesday was pretty OK, and the weather on Thursday was beyond belief. Luckily Arietta jumped a lovely round in the 1.20 while it was just raining lightly - sadly no video as Ellie was stopping Breakdance from breakdancing all over the lorry! I worked Breakdance in, and he was super, and was very patient waiting for his turn, but two before my turn the heavenly taps were turned full on - I turned into a bar of soap and Breakdance turned his bottom to the rain. I decided that he had been a pretty good boy and we would be sensible and go home and try to dry out for Friday. We got home to hear that the Queen had died, a very sad day indeed!

On Friday I jumped Arietta in the 1.20 again - it was a pretty strong course in Ring 3, where I had my fall, and she went beautifully, just getting very tired in the jump-off. She's had a very long year, and been such a star, so I decided to start her holiday early and not jump her on Saturday. Breakdance jumped a nice round in the 1m in ring four. He made the fences feel tiny which was very satisfactory and I decided to jump him in the Newcomers on Saturday. When I walked the course I thought it was quite strong, but he actually was a very good boy, he was a bit green and I wasn't really used to him at the beginning, but he settled and jumped the last few fences beautifully. Lots to work on, but exciting to get to grips with it all.

It was nice to go back to Hickstead to watch the Grand Prix and 1.30 Championship on Sunday, and I slipped over to see Emma and Tom, who look so well and happy out at Pookbourne Stud. In fact Mark and I have been to see them again today, and wandered over to see Colin as well, who is growing into a lovely horse. I am so grateful to Shane and Greg le Gear for making it all so easy for me, and looking after them all so beautifully.

We've had a nice quiet week at home. Arietta and Khalissy are now out together in a big field. They have settled really quickly and are the very best of friends. I am so happy that they are so relaxed together and having a proper holiday. Askeaton is coming slowly back into work - she will have about 7/8 weeks walking now, to make sure we give her the very best chance to completely recover from the very slight injury that she has had. She's been a perfect companion for Breakdance who is learning all about hacking, and it's been great for me to have plenty of time to get to know him. Hopefully I will get him to a show at the end of next week, having been schooling first.

I have been really enjoying some of the coaching I have been doing this year, and it was a real thrill to see Karen Rees and Renkum Knopfler go so well in the main ring at Hickstead. I've been helping Karen for a while now, and nobody deserves to have success as much as she does. It's been great seeing Lianne March, and Beth Hancock going really well too.

As always many thanks to Ellie and Mark for all their help, and for the fantastic support I get from my sponsors, Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Equine, Just Equine, MacWet Gloves and NDS Equine.