I have had a lovely few weeks at home, getting to grips with Heidi, giving Kvint and Emma a few easy days and lots of time in the field. I have been thrilled to bits with Heidi's progress. She has been a little star to hack out and is so easy to work in the school, and has made a very good start with her jumping.
Since taking the video above she has jumped a few fillers, a little double and some scary planks - not blinking an eye at anything. She has now hacked the whole way round the village, taking on cars, vans and bicycles. I think she is nearly ready for a little training visit somewhere with a view to going to a training show once she is four.
Bearing in mind that Kvint and Emma would have their next international show indoors we spent two days at the Oxford Area show at Addington. Kvint was very green indoors the first day, but willing and careful as always, and jumped very well in a strong 1.25 the second day. Emma jumped two 1.30's well with a minor placing on the second day.
When it's all going well is the time to have some training to prevent it all going wrong. I just took Emma for a lesson with Shane before we set off to Le Mans. As always there was some useful tidying up of the rider, keeping my hands up and following Emma, rather than pulling with my dreadful left hand!
We took the day boat from Portsmouth to Caen - what luxury! I had a horrible cold, but with a cabin to myself and six hours to kill I had a very restful, and unusual day reading my book. We arrived in Le Mans in the late afternoon and I got the horses sorted out very quickly in their lovely permanent stables.
Having arrived on Wednesday meant that the horses could have a lovely quiet hack on Thursday morning and were well rested and loosened up for the trot-up on Thursday. My lovely friend Louise Alston, was the only other Brit at Le Mans, so provided we jumped different classes we were assured of being best Brit in every class even if we fell off! Emma got off to a good start on Friday morning with 7th place in the 1.30 speed class in the 2*. Kvint jumped a clear round in the 1.20 in the 1*.
On Saturday my sister Polly, and my lovely niece Eliane came to watch and help. They were an invaluable help as somehow Emma's class ran early and Kvint's ran late so that poor Kvint had to go first in his class, but jumped well for just one fence down. Emma was jumping the 1.35 small grand prix and really should have jumped clear. She had a really unlucky pole going into the combination, but still jumped well. On Sunday we jumped the 1.40 speed, which was huge, one pole to Emma and one to me, I think. She was a little bit surprised to jump two doubles in a row and I then let her jump far too big into the third double. Kvint jumped a lovely clear in the 1.25 to finish a lovely show. Le Mans is really the most beautiful showground with one of the biggest indoor schools in Europe, permanent restaurants, shops and stables.
We then followed Louise back to Jemma Kirk's lovely yard at Le Pins near Deauville where we were lucky enough to spend a few days. This was just lovely. Louise and her husband Michael were so kind and helpful, Polly came and met us for lunch and took me to the supermarket, and not only did the horses get to go out in the field, but I also had a lovely time hacking round the beautiful countryside of Le Pins. One of the great things about driving huge distance at this time of the year is how beautiful all the trees are. I also had such lovely weather the whole time I was in France.
On Thursday morning I left Le Pins rather reluctantly and trundled up to Dunkerque. Luckily a very friendly man on a moped directed me to the showground and I was there in very good time to get the horses bedded down and trotted up and give them both a ride. Emma was super sharp and flatly refused to go in the indoor warm up, so I had to hop off and lead her round, before hopping back on and convincing her that it was all safe!
Dunkerque was overrun with British riders - not much chance of being best Brit with such competition as Guy Williams, Steven Franks and Rosie Moss in every class! However, Emma made a good start with 7th in the 1.30 speed in the 2* and Kvint jumped another clear round in the 1*.
On day two Emma jumped really well in the 1.40, just being caught out by an upright by the gate and having a miscommunication at the last fence. Kvint had one fence down and with Shane's advice I decided not to jump either Grand Prix on Sunday. Kvint jumped a super clear to finish the show, and Emma just had an early fence in the Accumulator before jumping the joker beautifully.
Dunkerque was a very different show to Le Mans. It is much more old fashioned, with a quite small school and a very small site. But the organisers were so helpful, and you have never seen a show with such a huge and enthusiastic audience. With an hysterical Ride and Drive on Friday night and a Puissance on Saturday the place was absolutely packed. At both shows the atmosphere, especially on Sunday, was electric. It's such a pity that the sport doesn't have such a following in England.
It was a short drive back to Calais, and I was so lucky to get on a boat, as sailings had been cancelled for most of the weekend. We had rather exhalted company on the boat, with Carl Hester and Louise Bell's dressage horses returning from the CDI in Le Mans, Nick Gauntlett returning from Le Lion d'Angers, Adam Botham and Nicola Barry coming back from Lier and Dan Desart and myself on the way back from Dunkerque. I was home by 9.30 and everyone was in bed by 10.30. The end of a great trip!
Monday morning was back to normal. Steph and Mark had kept everything beautifully organised while I was away. The horses had two days in the field. I have had a good catch up at work and we had a lovely dinner with Anna & Tom and Sophie & Alex in London. Heidi has been as good as gold to get back on and I have had some lovely teaching to do during the week.
The next plan is to go to Rouen and Keysoe at the end of November and then see how the horses feel. Maybe we'll have a two month break while it's a bit cold for sleeping in the lorry, but who knows!