A Good Start to the New Year

Originally posted 6th January, 2012.

Looking at the weather forecast for Tuesday made me decide to take all four horses indoor show jumping toRoyal Leisure at Henfield. Some, mostly good natured, reorganising of the lorry partitions was the first prerequisite, and once it was clear that all four would squash in, the tail and sock washing began.

The BBC are always good at predicting filthy weather – it was hideous, torrential rain and gale force winds. Very few people had ventured out so Royal Leisure was very quiet, which enabled me to give Emma a good ride in the warm up before getting Biscuit out. Some of Emma’s best behaviour is at shows. She qualified for and jumped in the 3 year old loose jumping at the Royal Dublin Horseshow and as a result takes outings to normal shows completely in her stride. Although she was spooky with the wind and water running down the side of the school, she settled quickly to her work.  Biscuit however was like a teenager at a rave – she couldn’t believe she was at a party with all her friends; her neighing actually made my head hurt. However, she more than made up for it by being 2nd in both the British Novice and the Discovery. Two day’s hunting had made her very silly at her previous show, but a return to a happy mouth snaffle and some pretty intensive schooling really helped, and she feels as if she is rapidly progressing from big baby to serious jumping machine.

Next came a major shuffle round, much helped by Royal Leisure letting me use some stables for 15 minutes, and then Buddy and Ferro came out for the 1.05/1.10 handicap. They both had to compete in the 1.10 as they have both won more than £300, and were two of only three competitors at this level. Although 1.10 is not big for either of them it is a good idea to play them (and me) in gently at the beginning of the new season. It was Buddy’s first round of jumping since September 6th, but as usual he reminded me why I love him so much, and forgiving me a slightly strange shot at the first he strolled round posting an early win for 2012. Ferro went beautifully, but sadly had the first fence down – in spite of a rather good shot! I can’t remember the last time I came home with a small profit, and it was my first win since Windsor, so hopefully 2012 is going to be more successful than 2011.

I had my first lesson of 2012 with Shane Breen, taking Ferro and Buddy. Both horses jumped really well, I needed to work on sitting more quietly whilst using more leg on Ferro, and getting Buddy into a better rhythm. The horses are very different from one another: Ferro is a classic warmblood, who likes to be ridden quietly forward to a deep spot, and Buddy is part Irish draft and part thoroughbred and likes to stand off slightly further and is quite capable of making some of his own arrangements if I keep a good forward rhythm. Whilst often frustrated by how hopeless I am during my lessons, I do find Shane an inspirational trainer, and he makes me work and concentrate so hard that I forget any worries I might have about the fences, or distances, and I come away with more confidence about tackling courses.

The rest of the team here are: most importantly Mark, my husband, who is not only very supportive at shows, but also helps every morning – emptying my barrow, poo-picking etc. in spite of not really liking horses. My daughters Anna and Sophie now live and work in London, but they are both good riders and it is lovely being able to hack out together when they are home. Completing the four legged team are: Twiglet, a very unhelpful border terrier, who chases the horses, moves anything left on the floor and runs off, but is very good company, and Fat Cat who is a very helpful stray cat who decided to live here two years ago. She keeps the rats, mice and rabbits under control in return for two meals a day and a very smart fleece lined igloo.

Anna, Sophie & I hacking Ferro, Buddy & Emma

Anna, Sophie & I hacking Ferro, Buddy & Emma