Birth year: 2015
I was privileged to grow up around horses. My parents had a hunter livery and dealing yard and my mother and I ran a little pony dealing business. I have always loved producing young horses and ponies, and have produced all my horses from unbroken three or four year olds. The journey with the horses brings me as much satisfaction as competing. I evented for 30 years before concentrating on show jumping, and was a successful working pony rider and so my riding education has been broad and correct and the horses get a very thorough education and a variety of work. We are lucky to have beautiful hacking where we live. With a small yard I am lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of time with the horses, working out the best approach for each individual. When training others I like to continue this ethos, working hard to find the best way for each combination to progress. I have been lucky to ride some lovely horses, and was successful in eventing up to CCI3* level and have jumped up to CSI2* 1.45 level since turning to show jumping. While I was eventing I also competed successfully up to Elementary level in dressage.
It was exciting heading to Hickstead with two horses who seem to be improving over the summer season, and especially Billy Arietta who seems to be stepping up to 1.30 with relative ease. The RIHS has it's own special atmosphere, with a 5* nations cup drawing some of the world's greatest riders, and the championships of many showing classes in addition to the national jumping.
However, all this excitement has two little downsides: a week of 4.30 starts, and some serious walking! The number of horseboxes to be parked is bonkers! You learn to appreciate the toll that working on the hard ground takes on the horses' legs! But on the upside, you can definitely eat as many cakes, ice-creams and sweets as you like during RIHS week - 24,000 steps a day is fab for your fitness!
Unfortunately, despite the very early start, I had underestimated the time it would take to get parked on Tuesday, resulting in a cross country run, and a very speedy, and rather inadequate, course walk for Areitta's 1.30 class. She jumped the first half absolutely beautifully, but in my efforts to find a bit of space to the water tray in the jump-off I managed to find half an extra stride with not nearly enough impulsion. Even lovely Arietta couldn't perform the task asked! However, she was very good, and came again and finished the rest of the course clear. Definitely not a moment to be proud of, but it's important to learn from mistakes and move on. I should have walked the distance better, and ridden that turn and distance more smoothly with more conviction. As you go up the levels the course walk becomes more important. Although on paper the 1.30 is only 10 cm bigger than the Foxhunter, it is not a novice horse class, and asks questions requiring more technical expertise.
Next up was BE Khalissy in the Winter Novice Qualifier on the grass in Ring Two. She jumped absolutely beautifully, just to get a little bit quick and have the last fence in the first round. I think if I had known that 11 horses would go through to the main ring I might have been a little bit more "dot the i's and cross the t's" about this, but I thought only two would go through, and that there was no hope of me being fast enough in the jump-off. Actually she's so careful and quick that even with me as pilot she probably could have qualified herself.
Wednesday started with Khalissy in the Foxhunter in Ring Two. She jumped the first part of the course very easily, and appeared to take off perfectly into the combination and then literally fall through it. Very, very unlike her and very disappointing.
Arietta also jumped in Ring Two in the 1.25. She not only found the show ponies utterly terrifying, but also took extreme terror at the fun fair next to ring two. The bell went, and she just galloped off, and had three fences in the first half. She's pretty naive at life, and the atmosphere was a pretty steep learning curve for her.
We had a day at home on Thursday. I gave Khalissy a jump over a small combination, and took Arietta for a hack, and they had a nice couple of hours stretching their limbs in the field. In the afternoon I went to Hickstead to watch the Eventers Challenge. It is always nice to catch up with some old eventing friends, and it was a great competition, won by Gemma Stevens (Tattersall) with a scorching round.
Friday Arietta was in the 1.30 in Ring Three again. She jumped a great first round, and just had two slightly green poles in the jump-off: a dog-leg to a double that she didn't quite understand and the front pole on the turn-back to the water tray.
Khalissy jumped the Newcomers in Ring Four, but definitely wasn't happy through the double or the combination, so we decided to give her a few days off. The horses had a chiropractic treatment from Caitlin McCaffery yesterday, and Khalissy seemed very sore, which may have affected her ability to stretch out in combinations. So we will go gently with her for a few weeks to regain her confidence, and make sure she is comfortable in her jumping. I find chiropractic treatment a very useful health check/therapy for the horses. Caitlin treats them once a month from when they first go into work here. Not only do the horses really benefit, but also Caitlin can take an objective view of anything that has changed during the month.
I just had Arietta for Saturday, another 1.30 in Ring Four. We both felt a bit tired and she had an early fence, but she and I had a very constructive show, jumping some bigger, more technical courses, for just a few unimportant mistakes. It is wonderful to have such a lovely horse with such amazing ability. Especially while Askeaton is having a little time off, it's very good to get my eye back in over bigger courses, and makes less pressure to get Askeaton back. I am a little bit upset that Khalissy was less than her usual self. But hopefully after a few days off, some chiropractic and general tlc and a gentle return to work, she will be back to her super competitive ways.
We got Arietta home as soon as we could, turned her and Khalissy out for the afternoon and rushed back to Hickstead to watch the Queen's Cup. In true Hickstead style it was a fantastic competition, and it was very exciting to see Shane win with the wonderful Haya.
We were back again on Sunday for the King's Cup. What an amazing competition, with the most electrifying jump-off. The top four horses were absolutely beautiful - it's great to see what it really takes to be world class, and the riding is truly something to aspire to.
Ellie, the horses and I are all very tired after a very busy week, with a fair amount of socialising too. We will have a very quiet week this week, and then back to training and jumping next week, moving towards the Hickstead September show to see how far we've all come on.
Congratulations to the team at Hickstead. A fantastic show of world class jumping, showing, shopping and socialising. We have all missed it so much.
Many thanks to Ellie, who has been fantastic, and to Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Premium Equine, NDS Equine, MacWet Gloves and Just Equine, I really couldn't do without you.
We have spent the past two Thursdays at Coombelands. It's so nice to have this lovely show back on the calendar.
The first week I decided to jump Khalissy in the Newcomers, to try and finish getting her clear rounds for next year. Over the years I've had this thought with several horses, but often when they are confident jumping bigger fences they can be a bit casual over a smaller course - Khalissy was keen to point this out over the first fence - but otherwise jumped a lovely round.
Arietta jumped good rounds in both the 1.20 and the 1.30 for a fence in each. She is sometimes a bit spooky to the water tray, but in this case was a bit spooky to the fence after in both rounds.
Cue a very early morning training with Trevor Breen on the following Monday. Ellie and I got up at 4.30 for a 7 o'clock lesson. What a relief to get both horses jumped in the coolest part of what turned out to be a very hot day. Khalissy jumped like a star, and Arietta also improves with every outing. I've generally ridden small and slightly keen horses, who tend to like and need a little bit of pace to give themselves a bit more scope over a fence, so it's taking a huge amount of self-discipline to sit more quietly on Arietta and let her get closer to a fence, rather than launching ourselves at great speed! We have also been keeping the water tray out under a small fence at home to get Arietta more comfortable with it.
We were back to Coombelands on Thursday. Khalissy probably jumped her best round to date to finish 4th in a busy Foxhunter, and Arietta jumped really well in the 1.30 for two poles where I got a bit too enthusiastic. Slowly I am getting my eye back in at this level, and it's all new territory to Arietta. I feel both horses are ready for the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead now. They will have four days of jumping over the week, so a great opportunity to consolidate the season so far.
Askeaton is currently having three months in the field, rather than struggling to keep her happy and sound, I have decided to turn her away completely to give her the best chance of making a complete recovery physically and mentally. I probably should have done this last year, but having sold Heidi I was too impatient. I should probably be old enough to know better! However, Karen & Claudia Rees have lent her a lovely pony friend and she seems incredibly relaxed and happy.
I feel that the way the horses jumped at Coombelands is a real testament to the fantastic surface there. Good surfaces give the horses real confidence and are a vital contribution to their longevity. The second show was incredibly busy, yet the organising team managed to make it all seem so calm and easy, and the feel good factor at Coombelands along with a great course from Ben Townley, really helps make for a very happy outing.
Many thanks to Ellie Collins for fantastic help as always, and to Saracen Horse Feeds, Protexin Premium Equine, Just Equine Ltd, NDS Equine and MacWet Gloves for their ongoing support.
Ellie and I set off to Keysoe on Monday afternoon. We had an easy journey and the excellent organisation at Keysoe made setting up and settling the horses into their stables quick and easy.
Tuesday was a rather long day with Khalissy jumping the Foxhunter late in the afternoon. She jumped well for a couple of poles, but I was pleased with the way she went.
Arietta jumped even later in a very technical and up to height 1.30. She jumped really well, just having two verticals down. She has learnt so much in the last 9 months and she just has a few more things to learn. But l feel we’re definitely getting there.
Wednesday started very early, Khalissy jumped at 7.45, a great clear round to finish 7th in the Foxhunter. Arietta then jumped late in the Newcomers 2nd Round. I thought the course was fair, but clever and I was pleased with her round. She just had the second fence, probably as a result of my being very careful to the first, and the last where I had her too far off the water tray.
Thursday was another very long day with lots of classes, so I jumped Khalissy in the Newcomers for 4th place and Arietta in the Foxhunter. I think Arietta was rather hot and bored, and certainly jumped a very unstellar round!
Another show where Khalissy really shone. She is so consistent now, so easy to ride in the ring, and a real competitor too. She's always doing her best and is a little star. Arietta is progressing all the time, she’s a very big and physically immature 8 year old and she still has lots to learn. Trevor Breen has helped me with her immeasurably, and I think we have loads of fun ahead of us.
A great first show with Ellie Collins: your team is the most important thing, Ellie already loves the horses, and was so intuitively helpful, so I’m very excited for the rest of the summer.
Sadly Askeaton's loss of form continued at Keysoe, so I only jumped her once. Ed Lyall has had a look at her again today, and although she is only very slightly lame, we have decided to give her at least three months off. I hope this will really do the trick, not only physically, but also it will give her a proper break from the competition regime. I have always loved riding her, and whilst I don't want to give up on her, I certainly don't want to compete her unless she feels 100%.
Many thanks to Ellie, and to Mark for looking after Emma and her foal while we were away. As always a big thank you to Saracen Horse Feeds, Just Equine, Protexin Equine, MacWet Gloves and NDS Equine for all their support.
We have a couple of local shows, and some training planned, and then we head to the Royal International at Hickstead.