It's Still Raining

While I was having my lesson in the rain on Monday, I also had a sit on Homer, a six year old gelding by Harlequin du Carel. Harlequin is a very successful Selle Francais stallion who stands at Michael Quirke’s Ballymureen Stud in Ireland, and is the sire of Dorada who has won so many international classes, as well as many other show jumpers and eventers.  So far Homer’s life has been all about hunting with Shane’s father, John Breen. Despite not having done much flat work he was very amenable about giving it a try, and not only gave me a really good feel when I jumped him, but also was prepared to jump a massive fence with a minimal amount of advice from me! He passed the vet on Friday and is now happily settled in here and proving a quick learner on the flat. I am resisting the temptation to jump him until we have got quite a lot further with the flat work.

I spent Friday in my old office at the Institute of Psychiatry doing the final statistics for my article on The Effects of Reward on Attention in Children with ADHD and ASD, which is the project that Charlotte Tye, Grainne McLoughlin and myself spent 2010/2011 working on. Although my head was spinning by the time we finished, 10.30 until 4.45 doing statistics does make your head spin, it seems that we have got a really good result, and one that reinforces Grainne and Charlotte’s previous findings. This will be even more worthwhile when I actually manage to be disciplined enough to write the article.

As it was our 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday, and Anna was home from London, it was a great opportunity to have a quiet weekend: supper in the pub with a group of friends and a proper Sunday lunch for a change. Although lunch was preceeded by Anna and Mark taking it in turns at putting up the jumps in the pouring rain as I prepared the horses for their next show at Crofton Manor. I have now got Biscuit in a Myler snaffle which is fixed by the cheek pieces and on the reins, so that instead of acting on the corners of the mouth (where she has extra fleshy bits and gets sore) it acts on the bars, making her more comfortable and less anxious.

Monday brought the very disappointing news that Badminton was cancelled due to waterlogging and a continuing forecast of rain. This was very sad news for many people: the organisers, trade stands, olympic hopefuls, William Fox-Pitt who now has to wait until next Badminton to try and complete his Rolex Grand Slam, and not least my sister-in-law Clare and the wonderful Sidnificant, who were 100% ready for another 4* double clear. With horses prepared to the minute for a 3 day event, it is very difficult to keep them ticking over, and for people like Clare, who are unsponsored and run their yards single handed, diverting to an overseas event is not really practical.

Thursday evening found us at the Greyhound racing in Hove at a fundraising evening for Riding for the Disabled. Not only was it a really enjoyable evening, but I also presented the trophy for the first race. The winning dog had come all the way from Birmingham and his owners from Bridlington for the race – we’re not the only ones who are prepared to go a long way to compete.The last time I went to Crofton it wasn’t that busy so I was a bit surprised to arrive at 10.45 and find that the British Novice was still going. Very many hours later Biscuit had jumped two really fabulous double clears in the 1.05 and Newcomers, Emma a double clear in the 1.05 and a little run out when I couldn’t turn her in the Newcomers, and Ferro two good rounds, although she wasn’t amused when she arrived at a 1.40 upright in the jump-off of the 1.30 on a rather strange shot. Luckily I managed not to fall off and she finished the round well. I got off Ferro at 8.30 and finally got into the house at 11.00, having left home at 7.30 – a very long day for everybody.

Having had a bit of a mixed day at Crofton I took the three mares to Pyecombe on Saturday. There is always a really good level of competition at Pyecombe and not only was the going perfect, but also the school is lovely and big. Having has steering issues with Emma at Crofton I had put her back in the Myler pelham that had seemed successful earlier in the year. Her steering was certainly not an issue and she jumped an impressive, if rather feisty, double clear in the Newcomers. I can’t wait until the weather improves as she is so much easier when she can stay out at night. Biscuit was the superstar of the show, not only jumping a lovely, calm and even double clear in the Newcomers, but also contesting her first Foxhunter. She just rolled a pole when she jumped into the combination too boldly. What amazing progress this lovely horse has made. She jumped her first British Novice in October, but her generous, bold and enthusiastic disposition has made her such a joy to work with. Ferro then jumped a very accomplished double clear in the Foxhunter and made a couple of mistakes in the 1.30. This prompted me to think she is maybe feeling a bit over bitted. I was finding her difficult to shorten between fences at the end of last year, but now I think this is resolved and she needs to feel a bit freer, so she is back in the Dr Bristol snaffle and seemed very happy when we had a little practice.

I spent Sunday afternoon watching the Eventers Challenge at Golden Cross Equestrian Centre. Ian Bareham at Golden Cross hosts this great event every year, where invited show jumpers and eventers compete over a combined course of show jumps and cross country fences. The dreadful weather had sadly forced the competition indoors, but it was still an exciting competition, with plenty of spectators, where the show jumpers, in the form of Elliot Reeves, triumphed for the third year running. Emily Baldwin was second for the eventers on the 4* ride Drivetime and Katherine Faudrey third. I think Kath falls into both camps as does the lovely My Masquerade who is an old advanced eventer who has previously contested the Hickstead Speed Derby. Elliot’s achievement in winning is put into perspective by the class of those he beat. It was also a chance to visit Liston Equestrian’s new shop, which is upstairs at Golden Cross. It is lovely to be able to see all the fantastic Dy’on and Passier tack, Cavalor supplements and Back on Track numnahs and boots on display. The new website is also live now at

The sun is actually out this morning which hopefully bodes well for being able to drive on and off Windsor Great Park from Wednesday onwards. Sophie moves house today, so it’s all hands on deck this morning and then a lovely lunch with the girls. Perfect to set me up for a busy week.

Homer learning some new tricks

Homer learning some new tricks