After the excitement of the South of England I took Emma, Biscuit and Homer to Royal Leisure on Tuesday – just so Emma and Biscuit don’t expect all shows to be that exciting, and to give Homer a bit more experience before Hickstead. I then jumped Homer at Felbridge on Saturday before taking all four horses to jump on grass at Vicarage Farm on Sunday.
Emma went from strength to strength, winning the Newcomers at Royal Leisure and being placed at Vicarage. Homer was a very good boy, jumping his first Newcomers at Vicarage Farm – he was a bit surprised by three jumps in a row in the combination, but just takes everything in his stride. Biscuit just tapped one pole but otherwise was her usual genuine self. Having watched my videos of Ferro I had decided that I always look a bit busy and so decided to ride her more quietly and look more professional. The result was that she stopped at the first fence in the Foxhunter – back to busy riding and she jumped a lovely round in the 1.30!
The horses all had a day off on Monday while I went to the office, and Tuesday was the big wash & brush up before the first of several 5.00 am starts on Wednesday. First up was Ferro in the Foxhunter qualifier for the main ring. She was a superstar racing round to miss qualification by two places. Sadly this also resulted in a rather racy approach to the 1.25 and two poles down. Next was Emma in the Novice Stakes (Newcomers) and a lovely double clear and a low placing and then Biscuit who just rolled a pole in the jump-off. Last round of the day was Homer who jumped beautifully round for one pole in the jump-off. There were also 16 Old Lodge horses competing on Wednesday – I think I just about managed to keep tabs on who did what.
Every day at Hickstead requires a pretty quick turn-around in the evening – horses fed, lorry reorganised, tack cleaned, numnahs and boots washed, and supper cooked, before bed and another 5.00 am start. Thursday started with Emma & Biscuit in the Novice Stakes, and another double clear and a prize for Emma. Biscuit went very well, but was terrified of the noise the ropes on the flag poles made in the wind and shot off sideways in front of the last fence. Next Ferro jumped in the 1.25 – another lovely round, but breathed on a pole in the jump-off. Homer was also a very good boy and just rolled a pole in the jump-off.
Emma got to spend the day in bed on Friday while the others returned to jump on the now rather soggy ground. Ferro jumped first in the 1.25 and actually jumped her best round, but she felt a little bit tired and over a course with lots of turns on rather holding ground just knocked one pole. Biscuit was still very worried about the noise of the flags, so I bought her some ear muffs which worked like magic, and Homer was a good boy again.
The only one for Saturday was Biscuit for the 1.15 Derby. I was a little worried about how she would take to the open water and the big dry ditch as her only cross country practice was in October when she still had absolutely no steering. I wasn’t too concerned about the bank as she has leapt up lots of banks without being asked when we are out hacking. I needn’t have worried at all, she was a complete star, taking out a stride to the water and making her only mistake as a result of being a bit on her head at the next fence. In retrospect I could have ridden the water more quietly, but had she not been so bold I might have ended up sitting in it, and I’ve seen what a permanent effect that blue pain has on people’s breeches! For a horse that jumped her first British Novice in mid-October she really is amazing – she will be wearing her hat from now on as it did help her concentrate.
Having finished riding by 10.00 I took her home, cleaned out the lorry and cleaned myself and was back in time for the end of the Derby Trophy and the Speed Derby. Mark and I were back again to watch the Derby. What fabulous competitions both Derbies are, and what a brilliant show – probably my favourite of the year.