So it's goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018. Looking back 2017 has been a very exciting year for us with Anna and Tom's lovely wedding in June. I had a wonderful time with Anna and Sophie helping choose her beautiful dress and shoes, and then a lovely day with the big bridesmaids Sophie, Eliza and Alice choosing their dresses and with Mary-Anne, my sister-in-law, and Polly, my sister choosing the little bridesmaid dresses. All the major organisation was done before I went to Spain in February, and then the final weeks saw it all come together and we were blessed with the most beautiful weather, and a fabulous fun day with family and friends. Both the McCaffertys and the Lewises are big party lovers and enthusiastic dancers and the day and night went by so quickly, leaving us all with many beautiful memories.
On balance I have had a great year with the horses, but losing little Catokyo to Wobblers Syndrome was probably my saddest point in my riding career. She was the most delightful little horse, talented and feisty in the ring, and so kind at home that she let Mark hack her all over Ashdown Forest without ever being anything but charming. Although her type of wobblers was diagnosed as developmental (i.e. she was born with it), her decline at the end was very rapid and very distressing. She was made as comfortable as possible by ourselves and Mike Barratt at Cinder Hill Equine Clinic, but her bone scan and full work up at Sussex Equine Hospital confirmed that there was absolutely nothing further that could be done for her. I hope her short life was a happy one - she was adored by us, and by Alice Palmer before me, and because she was so easy spent a lot of time hacking and in the field, and charmed everyone who had to deal with her.
I had a great spring and summer with Benny, I really got the hang of him in Oliva, being placed in several 1.40's, he flew at Le Mans in the spring, and was placed at the South of England and Pyecombe. However I always felt he was a bit big for me, and I struggled a bit more than usual with my back as a result, so when Kvint arrived to do much the same job as Benny I made the sad, but sensible, decision to sell him, and hopefully he will be out and about in the CSI2* sections at the Global Champions Tour in 2018.
Kvint was bred by Shane's Ukranian friend Kody Pysarenko on his beautiful ranch near Kiev, and arrived at Hickstead in the Spring. He did a couple of shows with Scott Dollemore and came to me in time for the South of England in June. He is the most charming and beautiful horse. He is very tall, which I failed to notice until he had been here three days, but so easy to ride. He had done very few shows when he arrived, but he has been brave and easy and has taken to his life on the road very well. I have jumped a couple of 1.30's with him now and am really looking forward to this year.
The star of the show is always Emma, and our high points were Grand Prix Placings in Oliva and Jardy and earning our first world ranking points in our first CSI2* Grand Prix at Keysoe. She has given me so much fun, so much success and never fails to give 100%. After such a high at Keysoe we were brought swiftly down to earth when she developed severe colic just before Christmas. Dan Carroll from Cinder Hill Equine Hospital was brilliant with her and referred her to Sussex Equine Hospital where she was looked after beautifully and with great patience and care Emma's problems were luckily resolved without surgery. Not only was she looked after beautifully, but the team were also brilliant at keeping us informed. She has been home for week and is back in work, and Dan Carroll was very pleased with her when he examined her today, so fingers crossed she will continue to do well.
So enter Hurricane Heidi and Askeaton. Heidi was bred by Max Routledge out of Tiandra by Typhoon S and has been here since the end of September, and Askeaton is by Golden Hawk out of a Goodtimes mare and arrived in mid-December. Heidi belongs to Mark and Askeaton is owned by Breen Equestrian and myself. Alex Hempleman has made a brilliant job of breaking Askeaton for Shane and I and I am thrilled with her progress so far. Both mares are lovely types with great canters and are both very easy and balanced on the flat. They are both bold and athletic and feel like very promising jumpers. They had their first outing schooling at Felbridge on Tuesday and although they got very tired before we could jump anything very big, they both behaved well and jumped absolutely everything first time.
We had a really lovely Christmas with Tom joining us for the first time who was a great addition to the party, and my sister Polly and her family joining us. We managed to see everybody from our families and Alex joined us for the Watt family lunch. Sophie and Anna were fabulously helpful, riding every day and generally keeping the show on the road.
As always I couldn't do any of this without Mark's fabulous support which ranges from emptying the wheelbarrow to mopping up the tears in a crisis and he made the best father of the bride speech ever!
Steff Gibbs as always is the most fabulous help and support, probably the hardest and fastest worker I have ever met, and now I am lucky enough that Camilla Thomas has joined us which has made my mornings great fun and has helped to get Heidi and Askeaton out and about safely, while Kvint, Emma and Emie have been excellent nannies.
Shane has, as always, contributed enormous support and advice, and tries manfully to keep my riding and temperament on track and I would certainly recommend course walking with Trevor as a confidence building exercise.
We are lucky enough to have Jackie and Elena Watson and the beautiful little Lyra, and Marine Delanoe and lovely Emie here to make up what, I hope, is a super team, and have said a sad goodbye to Sarah Travis who has set up a new yard at Lockskinners.
With Pebbles keeping the rodents at bay and Twiglet supervising we are hopefully looking forward to a happy, healthy and successful 2018, and wish the same to everybody.