Ups & Downs

First job on Monday was another chocolate cloud cake! Followed by preparing for Buddy’s vetting. This is always a tense time as I rarely have the horses  X-rayed when I buy them and you never know what surprises there might be. He had the most thorough vetting I have ever experienced, which he found incredibly exciting – especially the flexion tests. I found the most exciting bit the X-ray machine, apparently the same type as is used in field hospitals in Afghanistan, which took X-rays which were instantly displayed and stored on the screen, and then any bits of interest were magnified just by pressing a finger on them. The result was that Buddy was almost perfect and passed with flying colours. It was lovely to be able to celebrate a good sale with a great evening with friends and delicious cloud cake.

Wednesday was another training day for Biscuit and Ferro. Shane had actually gone to Belgium unexpectedly, but as Michael Quirke was giving Trevor Breen some training he gave me a lesson as well. Biscuit came from Trevor and his father in Ireland, so it was quite amusing that Trevor completely failed to recognise her. Biscuit was jumping round nicely, when she decided to take a stride out coming to a triple bar. My thoughts ran as follows: “Not sure we’re going to get away with this”.. then she hit the back rail with her forelegs, “no, we’re not”…her knees hit the ground, “going to come off now”… her head disappeared, “I am impressed with this somersaulting”…. then, luckily, we were both standing up again and poor Biscuit was looking rather bemused and neighing! Michael legged me straight back up, we checked Biscuit was completely sound, had another little jump round, she was a bit cautious, had a breather and then another jump round and she was marvellous. So I then took her back to the lorry, cleaned her up and put her away and got onto Ferro. A little bit of adrenalin had drained away by now and my right elbow and middle finger were quite sore, but luckily Ferro jumped beautifully and as the Elite show at Bury Farm was our main plan, we just jumped for confidence and left it there.

I felt that one of the reasons for our fall was that I had not got Biscuit’s flat work well enough established and so once she had had a few quiet days to get over her fall, I have concentrated on trying to make her more accepting of the bit, and on gradually improving her canter, so that I can make necessary alterations in a round of jumping. There was no show to prepare for at the weekend, so it was a good opportunity to work all the horses on the flat, and do some gymnastic jumping them. Buddy went to his new home on Sunday morning, so I was keen to make sure all the buttons were really in the right places for Charlotte.

The plan had been to take Emma and Biscuit for a lesson with Shane on Wednesday, but on Tuesday Biscuit had a slightly swollen hock, as she wasn’t lame I thought she would still be OK to jump, but when I got her in on Tuesday afternoon she had one eye shut. A visit to the vet revealed two scratches on her cornea, she must have put her head in a bush with her eyes open, so she really had managaed to get out of a serious jumping session. As a result Emma and I were seriously taken to task. I find Emma quite strong and rather hot, with the result that I am inclined to have too little canter on my corners and she then panics and rushes at the fence. Armed with a pelham I feel happier to have more canter and eventually we settled into a stronger rhythm, I used my legs more effectively and she jumped fabulously. The first fence Shane built for me was a tripple bar into a double. I was pleased we would be thrashing that demon – even if the thought made me a little nervous! We then gave Ferro a quick jump: Shane quickly picking up that I had fallen back into an old habit of letting Ferro drift right just in front of a fence. This is not helped by an even holder habit of letting myself look to the left over a fence which causes the horse to drift right. Straightness is of paramount importance, especially as the fences go up. Horses must jump equally off both back legs, and if you are not straight this makes the spreads wider and the distances between fences longer. Suffice to say I was looking to the right a lot when warming up at Bury Farm.

Thursday was certainly a busy, and very cold day. I had agreed to hunt a lovely connemara pony for a friend and had to ride my three and pack up for Bury Farm. Luckily the meet was put back to 12.00 because of the frost. Pistol Pete was obviously the most seasoned of Irish hunters, and this was one of my favourite meets in the beautiful Horsted Valley.  He is the most beautiful 15hh connemara, fantastically comfortable and knew absolutely everything about hunting. Sadly I only had time to have him out for a couple of hours, but they were most enjoyable. Once home I finished riding, packed up the lorry and got Ferro ship-shape for Bury Farm.

Four o’clock on Friday morning came round very quickly and was very cold. The lorry started like a dream, but the ramp would not come down. I woke up poor Mark and eventually, having slightly bent one hinge, we got it all thawed and off we went. Having arrived, we eventually found Ferro a stable next to the Breen horses. This was great for me as Derek McCoppin and David Simpson who work for Shane very kindly helped me, and I helped them with swapping horses, practice jumps, etc. I just jumped a 1.15 and a Foxhunter on Friday in case Ferro was spooky in the very smart indoor school. She was very grown up and jumped beautifully, being just out of the places in the 1.15 and rolling two poles in the Fox. I helped David and Derek for the rest of the day until the lights on the whole complex failed repeatedly, at which point I went to find my B&B. Underfloor heating = bliss in this case. After a very comfortable night and no breakfast (6.30 was deemed out of the question!) I was back at Bury Farm. Ferro jumped brilliantly in the Fox, just having the last fence in the jump-off due an over enthusiastic jockey, and then jumped the most stunning double clear in the 1.30. I could not be more thrilled with her, it was a very grown up show, with big courses, which rode beautifully and very fierce competition. My stepmother, Zandra, had come to watch, so it was lovely that she had seen Ferro go so well. I packed up quickly, nice and easy with just one horse, and was home by 6.00 pm. In time to finish the horses, watch the end of the Calcutta Cup and have a wonderful hot bath.

Both Anna and Sophie were at home, so we had a really lovely evening, a curry and a few glasses of wine. It was snowing as we drove home, so I went to bed secure in the knowledge that Sunday would be a very peaceful day.

Snowy Garden

Snowy Garden