Birth year: 2013
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.
April has worked for me for almost three years, starting part-time, and now working full-time. Having started her career in racing April is an excellent rider and her grooming skills and attention to detail are second to none. April's quietness and confidence with the horses, and endless patience and sense of humour with me make her a fantastic show groom, making me relaxed and confident to get on with my job.
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.
On 11th May we took Askeaton and Billy Arietta to Hascombe for the Foxhunter. I decided it was easier just to take two when the number of horses entered is under 50. This coincided with the first rainy day for at least a month, and we got soaking wet! Askeaton was jumping absolutely beautifully until I turned her up to an upright in the jump-off and just didn't see a forward stride, at which point she very unusually took great offence. She finished the course beautifully. Arietta also jumped very well, but in the worst of the weather, and just had a pole going into a double, but it was so wet you could hardly keep your eyes open against the rain.
In retrospect I wondered if perhaps she was feeling a bit sore from being in season, this is after all the time when it's easiest to get mares in foal, so they probably do feel a bit "girly" from time to time. We will now run both her an Arietta on some Naf Oestress and see if that evens them out a little bit.
On Friday 13th, defying superstition, we took BE Khalissy and Askeaton to Felbridge for the Foxhunter. The weather couldn't have been more different, we had a blazingly hot, sunny day. Both horses jumped really well with Khalissy finishing 5th Askeaton 6th. Of course we never mind being beaten by Hurricane Heidi, who finished 3rd!
Both Hascombe and Felbridge are putting on such lovely shows, it's great to have them so close to home, loads of working in space, and lovely modern, education courses.
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.