After a very long day at Sands Farm the girls were due for a day in the field, and I spent the day in Newmarket at Tattersalls. Tattersalls are the leading bloodstock auctioneers in Europe, which means that a very large proportion of horses racing in Europe will have passed through the sales ring at Tattersalls at least once. A day at the Autumn Yearling Sales at Tattersalls in October or November is truly fascinating and exciting (and free – so long as you keep your hands down) day out. At the premier sales these untried, but beautifully bred horses change hands for 100′s of 1,000′s of guineas and it is a really spellbinding spectacle. My father, grandfather, brother and Anna and Sophie have all worked for Tattersalls for varying amounts of time, and I relish any time I get to spend there,as well as the opportunity to catch up with friends and relations.
As it was a busy week, and the horses had jumped on Sunday I didn’t feel that there was an opportunity for a lesson this week, so all four had a good shape-up on the flat, Biscuit and Emma both tend to forget a little bit of their basic education in the excitement of going to a show
Sadly Thursday was dominated by the memorial service of John Robson, a great family friend of Mark’s. John certainly had a life well lived. A Cambridge undergraduate, he was awarded an MC in World War II, and was a consumate countryman. Following a successful career in industry, he became a successful farmer, and during his life hunted jackel, otter, hare and fox among other quarry. Being huntsman or master of many packs, his hunting career culminated as president of the Old Surrey & Burstow. When John gave up farming, Andrew Coveney, our great friend who worked on the farm, gave me six old ewes, as a house warming present (perhaps not the most traditional house warming gift – but much appreciated all the same), and John lent us a ram every spring. Wendy predeceased John by a few weeks, and so this was another opportunity for us to appreciate a beautiful service arranged by their very talented sons John and Mark, and their families.
Having asked friends to supper on Monday and knowing I was going to have a long day show jumping on Sunday, I cooked a beautiful pudding, Nigella’s Chocolate Cloud Cake, on Saturday, so imagine how thrilled I was at 5am on Sunday morning to find the cleanest cake tin ever lying on the kitchen floor, and a very happy Ruby stretched out on the sofa. It is so long since we had a labrador, and I had been warned! Luckily the day did improve from there. Crofton is a fantastic show centre near Portsmouth, which is a 2 hour drive from here. Not only is the indoor school bright and spooky, with interesting fillers, and a busy gallery, but also the working in is huge – there is even a separate area for flat work and you can come to both practice fences on either rein. Being such a lovely venue Crofton also attracts quite a lot of professional riders which gives a better idea of how your performance is measuring up in the real world! Emma and Biscuit could not have risen to the challenge of a rather grown up venue better. They were 3rd and 4th in the Discovery, Emma was the clear in the 1.05 and Biscuit just had the 2nd fence down. Time for a sandwich and a quick shuffle round on the lorry and it was Ferro’s turn. In the past she has been very spooky, especially indoors, so I was thrilled that she felt really “here’s one I made earlier” and jumped beautifully in the 1.15 and Foxhunter, just tapping a fence in each. A very satisfying day and a long drive home – a 13 hour round trip.
The girls had a day off yesterday, which was just as well with another cloud cake to be made and Buddy to be vetted. Buddy is going to be the next goodbye – or perhaps farewell. Sadly a necessary aspect of trying to finance competing is selling horses, and although I have met few horses with temperaments as lovely as Buddy, this, with his bold, careful jump, and his lovely attitude makes him an ideal schoolmaster for a young rider. He had been tried last Saturday by Charlotte, who rode him beautifully, and he passed the vet with flying colours yesterday. He will stay here until the weekend, so I get to ride him for the rest of the week and make sure he is spot-on when Charlotte collects him.
On the back of our good day at Crofton I have bravely entered Ferro for the Elite Show at Bury Farm at the beginning of February. I am trying not to think about how much I will not enjoy sleeping in a lorry which has no living in February – and am quietly excited. When we took Ferro and Buddy to France last summer she was very unsettled about staying away, and clearly she needs a bit more practice. I am pretty sure her bed will be more comfortable than mine!