Finally, at Bolesworth, I came to the conclusion that really I have been avoiding all this year, Emma’s competitive career should come to an end. Having jumped brilliantly at the first show in Lier in February she then stopped with me the following week, after a little rest and some physio she jumped smaller classes in the March CSI2* in Lier jumping brilliantly for two days and then stopping on the third day, and I didn’t jump her there again. It was noticeable that if the distance came up a little bit short she struggled to shorten, especially on the second and third days of jumping. On returning home from Lier I asked Mike Barrott from Cinder Hill Equine Clinic gave her a full lameness work-up. As Mike hadn’t treated her clinically since she was a four year old I decided he would be able to look at her in a totally objective way. We found that she in addition to her historic soreness in her coffin joints she was also sore in her sacroiliac area and both her hind suspensories were sore. Treatment of her coffin joints and the sacroiliac and appropriate rest and rehab appeared to make a huge difference and alleviate the soreness in her suspensories. With continuing physio, treatment and a very careful work schedule I have had enjoyable and successful shows with her at Pyecombe, Keysoe and Fontainebleau and actually she has won twice as much money this year as she did last year, and she was apparently very happy to still be in work and to be taking part in the parties, albeit at a much lower level. However, since Fontainebleau I noticed that she was a little bit quiet to hack out especially when we were going downhill. She had her back treated again, and had physio and acupuncture, which she particularly likes. At Bolesworth she had to jump proper 1.30 courses and although she jumped well she struggled if we needed to shorten, and so I decided that the competitive part of her life was over. When we got home she was very happy out in the field at night, which she would never normally like, and she is now out in the field with Culana Z, who is also retired, and they seem incredibly happy and relaxed together. All her life she has liked to be the centre of attention in the yard, but maybe she knows herself that she wants a quieter life now.
I bought Emma as an unbroken three year old from Brian Lear, I wasn’t really looking for a horse, and probably not a three year old either, but she has always had an amazing “look at me” presence and I loved her type and the way she hopped over a little fence so neatly. Brian and Peter broke her for me and I hacked her out from there until I felt confident to bring her home. She is a tremendous high-blower and general snorter, and I remember the first day I rode her being quite apprehensive as she came back from being lunged snorting at every step.
Emma progressed nicely through the winter, she is beautifully put together and has always been light on her feet and balanced so she has found everything in life easy. She jumped her first little shows at Pyecombe and Felbridge and then had three months holiday with my parents in Northamptonshire before coming home and doing the four year olds at Hickstead. She actually wasn’t quite sound after Hickstead and we had her x-rayed. I remember Mike Barrott telling me that if I’d had her x-rayed when I bought her I probably wouldn’t have bought her - luckily I didn’t as I wouldn’t have missed having her for the world.
After having another three months in the field, Emma took her five year old year in her stride, jumping out of Newcomers, jumping her first Foxhunters and qualifying for the five year old final at Hickstead.
As a six year old Emma continued to progress. Finishing the year with 5th place in the Six Year Old Championship at CSIYH1* Auvers, and although I had always loved her, I think that was the first time I had a inkling of what she might be.
I was lucky to be training with Shane Breen for the whole of this time and he encouraged me to take Emma to some international shows in her seven year old year. It was a good opportunity for me to step myself up and get experience in jumping bigger courses in bigger rings and to get used to the more open European distances between the fences. We had a reasonable amount of success at home as well in this year, enough to encourage me to go to Spain for the Sunshine Tour in February 2015. This was the huge turning point for me. In the third and fourth week I stepped up to jump the top of the CSI1* jumping well both days in the 1.35 and taking everybody’s courage by the horns and jumping the 1.40 Grand Prix for one fence down.
She jumped a few more 1.40’s during the year and jumped the 1.40 speed class at the AEJC in Hickstead for four faults. However, at Le Mans in July the vet at the trot-up kindly took me to one side and said that although she was sound enough to jump he would recommend that my own vet look at her when we got home. Ed Lyall found her to be a little bit sore in front and injected her coffin joints and like many other horses we were into maintenance time, and although the care she received was excellent, timely and made all the difference, from that time on I knew that her career was time-limited, and began to understand some of the consequences of competing horses at a higher level and towards the top of their ability.
As a nine year old Emma was placed 13 times in 1.35 and 1.40 classes at the Sunshine Tour, our best result being 4th in a 1.40 Grand Prix, and she jumped well for the rest of that year and into her 10 year old year, being placed in Grand Prix’s in Oliva Nova, and Jardy and being consistently placed in 1.35 classes both at home and abroad.
She jumped fabulously well at the Chepstow CSI2* in April and if I was every going to sell her it should have been then, but she has been so precious to me and I didn’t feel ready to let her go. I jumped my first 1.45 class on Emma at Pyecombe in the summer of 2017 and at the Winter CSI2* in Keysoe she won me my first, and so far only, Longines ranking points in the 2* Grand Prix.
Unusually for Emma while I was in Dunkirk in November 2017 she didn’t seem to be eating up. I had been away with the horses for two weeks and wondered if she was finding the haylage too rich. The show very kindly gave me some hay and all seemed well until we got home and she seemed well again at Keysoe. However, something was clearly up, and on 22nd December she colicked in the morning, recovered and then colicked badly again in the afternoon, necessitating a long stay at Sussex Equine Hospital with a nephrosplenic displacement. The care she received there was fabulous, and she was just home for New Year and seemed to come back into work and take up her normal life without incident. However as I was packing up to go to Ghent in March she colicked again and flatly refused to get up off the floor for about nine hours. It turned out that we had a virus on the yard, and colic was her response to the virus, but I was always worried about her from then on, and I do think that such a huge insult to her whole system, and the necessary loss of fitness affected her from then on.
As I have been writing this and looking back over her results for 2018 I can see that although she jumped consistently good rounds at 1.35 and 1.40 she very rarely jumped clear on the third day, and although she has always favoured “safe” going this was more apparent last year. She has always loved the going at Jardy and was absolutely fabulous there - she jumped a fabulous round in the Grand Prix in spite of the fact that I lost a stirrup at the second fence, but when it was a little bit soft the last day in Le Touquet she really struggled to make distances. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I don’t suppose it would have changed a lot.
I always say she has been the best pet I have ever had, and she has. Of course she has been so much more than that and I am so lucky that I have had the most wonderful journey with such a beautiful, generous animal. I have always just loved spending time with her, she has always been so happy to be with people, she is friendly, so easy to handle, loves to be touched, scratched, played with, even clipped. She always drew the line at any attempt at mane pulling, and she would let you know quite firmly what she did and didn’t like. I hope in return we gave her a good and secure life, she lived in the same stable and the same paddock from the age of three to twelve and we tried to attend to her every need and obey her every command. She is quirky to ride and that is the main reason she never got sold, but I loved riding her. She is utterly charming, and has been a favourite with everyone who has had anything to do with her, so I am looking forward to her breeding career and hopefully a line of cheeky little Emma’s. We had a great thing going together, and she took me places I could have never dreamed of and made dreams come true and for that, and so much more - thank you Emma!