I lay in bed listening to the pouring rain on Tuesday night wondering what the ground would be like at Hickstead first thing on Wednesday morning. There was only one way to find out, get up at 4.30, get the horses ready and get going. I had lovely Frankie Walker with me last week for work experience, so she also was here before the birds and off we went to Hickstead. As always the 1.35 in Ring Two was a strong test, and unfortunately nobody could help the weather which meant that for Kvint jumping at that level for the first time early in the morning it was going to be a very big ask, and possibly was going to be more than I want to jump with Emma at this stage of rebuilding our confidence together. I decided that it is better to wish you had jumped the class than to wish you hadn’t and opted to change their entries to the 1.25 later in the day. This meant that I had made Frankie and Camilla get up very early for no particular reason - bad rider.
At about lunch time I jumped Heidi in the five year old qualifier in ring 3. The new ring 3 is absolutely beautiful, it certainly matches any all weather ring you will see anywhere in Europe. The course for the five year olds was a full up 1.15 with a 1.25 jump-off so I was not convinced Heidi would think it was a great idea. However, she was absolutely fantastic, literally springing round to be placed and only just missing qualifying for the main ring.
Having had a long slow morning, we then had a hectic afternoon. The 1.25 started almost exactly at the same time as the 6 year olds so we had Kvint, Emma and Askeaton all up on the showground together. Kvint put in a speedy clear in the 1.25 to be placed, Emma then jumped in the only downpour of the day and was extremely wild to have two fences down. I then jumped lovely Askeaton in the six year olds, which was truly huge, she absolutely tried her heart out, and jumped like a super star, only for me to make a mistake in the jump-off.
On Thursday we didn’t have such an early start and all the horses jumped in Ring Two, which is one of my favourite rings. As before the age classes were big and strong. Heidi jumped brilliantly and bravely again, just to jump into the double a bit quickly, but I was thrilled to bits with her.
Askeaton also jumped brilliantly in the six year olds just touching the second part of the double in the jump-off when I got a bit too keen!
Kvint and Emma then both jumped the 1.30 in Ring Two, they actually both jumped really well, and Emma in particular was much easier to ride in such a lovely big ring. They just made one mistake apiece, but I was really thrilled with all four horses, especially the two youngsters. They have both come on so much this year, and I really felt the benefits of taking them to Lier in the Spring here. With four horses at the show it was very busy and hard work for Steff, Camilla and Frankie and they were fantastic and uncomplaining, especially on Wednesday when we had a 15 hour day! It was great to finally meet Justin from Just Equine, catch up with Jess and Pippa from Stride Management and also catch up with the team from Sederholm Selected who helped out one of my clients with a saddle - they always give such fantastic service and have such a lovely selection of new and second hand saddles.
Mark drove Anna and Rory down from London for Friday and the weekend, so I had a great time getting everything ready for them. This meant spending a lot of a very hot Tuesday evening constructing an enormous changing table and chest of drawers from Ikea. Mark was very noble to finish it off while I was at Hickstead on Wednesday. On Friday Anna, Rory and I went to Hickstead for the afternoon. We had an absolutely lovely afternoon, and Anna was able to show Rory off and catch up with friends. It was lovely to catch up with Connor from Integrum Nutrition. I am thoroughly enjoying getting a bit fitter, and everyone else is enjoying seeing how absolutely hopeless I am at squats.
We had a particularly lovely weekend as Sophie also came down on Saturday. It was so lovely to catch up with the girls, and spend time getting to know little Rory. Sophie was so supportive of Anna and so hopefully she managed to catch up on a little bit of rest while we all were able to watch him and enjoy some very special cuddles with him.
We had a quiet start to the week and more rain made the ground soft enough to ride the horses on Ashdown Forest yesterday and actually do some canter work. The horses managed to escape going in the school today as we had a huge bee swarm on the fence next to the school. Sadly it also prevented them going out in the field today. But luckily the strong wind hasn’t made the post a particularly good place to set up home and most of the bees had moved on by this evening.
We will go to Keysoe on Monday and see how the horses go there, hopefully then preparing for Fontainebleau and then the Royal International at Hickstead.
As always many thanks to Steff, Camilla, Mark and last week Frankie as well. Also many thanks to my sponsors and supporters, Saracen Horse Feeds, MacWet Gloves, Precision Solutions, Just Equine, Integrum Nutrition and Stride Management, and all those who support the horses’ well-being behind the scenes, Cinder Hill Equine Clinic, Casserley & Sons and Caitlin McCaffery.