CSI2*/CSIYH1* Keysoe

Hurricane Heidi 5 year old final

Hurricane Heidi 5 year old final

I always have a good time at the 2* at Keysoe. It is a great venue for a summer show, with a lovely big arena with a veranda running alongside, making for great viewing and a party atmosphere. Keysoe makes improvements every year, especially to the stabling, which is now almost all permanent boxes, and this year having fantastic new showers.

On the Thursday before the show Heidi decided that her holiday was over, in spite of having acres of grass, and her own special pony companion she looked as if she was going to jump out and come home at any minute, so I brought her home. Keysoe very kindly let me enter her on Friday, so I rode her on Friday, jumped her on Saturday, and she was ready for the show.

I had a fairly good journey up to Keysoe, which is always further than I think, and arrived in good time, and got the horses into their lovely permanent stables, which were quite nice and cool in the very hot weather. I then started riding so I would be ready for the trot-up. I had a lovely wander round the cross-country course on Emma, by which time Emma Horniblow had arrived to help me, so we got all the horses trotted up before I rode the others. Heidi bronked so badly when I tried to ride her round the field that I ended up riding her in the lunging pen where I felt I would have a softer landing.

Emma and I had an early start on Tuesday with Heidi 2nd to go in the 5 year olds at 8 o’clock. I thought the course was really fair for five year olds, and she jumped a lovely clear to finish equal first.

I then jumped Askeaton in the 6 year olds, which was also a very fair course, but quite a good height, and she also jumped clear to finish equal first.

So a very good start to the show, with Doonaveeragh Emma and Kvint next up in the 1.30 speed. Emma warmed up really well and then surprised me by stopping dead at the first fence, before jumping a very good round. However, I think that she is now worried that jumping is going to hurt and so I jumped her in the 1.25’s for the rest of the show. Kvint also warmed up well before getting his tongue over the bit on the way to the first fence. I managed to flip it back under the bit and he jumped round very well, but I was a little bit worried about turning him tightly and then stupidly took one out to the last fence which he had down.

On Wednesday we had an early start again with Heidi, who jumped beautifully again to be one of only three clear rounds to finish equal first.

Followed by Askeaton who also jumped clear for equal first. She was particularly marvellous and generous as I managed to have one seriously terrible shot to an upright on her which she managed to hop over, and forgive me.

I then jumped Doonaveeragh Emma in the 1.25 jump-off class. She obviously thought this was a fabulous idea and jumped a lovely clear round and then pretty speedy clear in the jump-off to finish 4th. Kvint jumped a good round in the 1.35, this time with the bridle properly adjusted, but just had a pole in both doubles which was unlike him.

Although we had another early start on Thursday at least Heidi wasn’t first to go in the 5 year old final. She was so weary, poor little thing, that she whacked out the first practice fence, but she is such a little trooper that she always fires herself up in the ring. She jumped a fabulous clear in the first round and just brushed off the second fence in the jump-off to finish 6th and best British Bred. What an amazing little horse she is, and how clever she was to know that she had had enough holiday for the moment. She is now going to take mini-breaks between shows for the rest of the summer until they can all go out in September.

Askeaton then jumped in the six year old final. She jumped a great first round, but unfortunately she jumped so big coming out of the last double that I found it difficult to get her back to give her enough space for the last fence when she was tired and she just knocked off the top rail in front. I was absolutely thrilled with both young horses. They have been so lovely to produce and are both so brave and careful and seem so eager to do everything I ask.

Askeaton Six Year Old Final

Askeaton Six Year Old Final

Askeaton

Askeaton

Hurricane Heidi

Hurricane Heidi

Emma and I then started packing up and watched the Grand Prix before it was Doonaveeragh Emma’s turn to jump in the 1.25 speed class. Being last to go I had plenty of opportunity to watch and Nicole Lockhead Anderson did an amazing round to be 11 seconds in the lead before I jumped, but she was the only person to successfully negotiate the inside turn at fence two, so I decided I would be as neat and tidy and quick as possible on Emma and use her natural neatness and speed, and I was really very pleasantly surprised to finish second, just pipping Flo Norris into 3rd. Another very jolly prize-giving and lap of honour for Emma.

Kvint jumped in the 1.35 two phase and jumped a really lovely round until fence 8 where he seemed to fall out of the sky and crash the back bar of the oxer, which was most unlike him, and so I had Mike Barrott from Cinder Hill out to check him on Friday afternoon, and we discovered that he is a little bit sore, so we will make sure he is properly comfortable before we set off for Fontainebleau next week. He did find the heat quite hard work as well, he is a much bigger, colder horse than the mares, who are all small, light and a little bit busy.

Kvint 1.35

Kvint 1.35

This Keysoe was definitely my best international show for results. It just shows that even when you don’t think things are going very well if you just keep on working hard and doing your thing the absolutely best you can eventually you will have your day. A proper win still eludes me, but I’m not giving up hope yet. There is no doubt that having professional grooms this year has made all the difference. Will Thompson was a huge help to me at Lier in February, and Emma Horniblow helped me in Lier in March, and both shows were very successful. Sadly Will has since given up grooming, but I was incredibly lucky that Emma so kindly flew straight from a dressage show in Austria to help me at Keysoe. She knows me and all the horses well now, and was excellent company too. It was hard work with four horses in very warm weather, but we were lucky to have lovely cool stables and a water tap right outside Heidi’s stable as the horses drank absolutely masses of water.

Doonaveeragh Emma 1.25 Jump-off

Doonaveeragh Emma 1.25 Jump-off

I had a good journey back and it was lovely to get the horses back into their stables and get to bed well before midnight. The horses were so pleased to go out in the field on Friday morning, and they have had a very leisurely weekend. It was great to have Izzy back to work for the last two Saturdays after her A’levels which have hopefully gone very well.

Very sadly our stable cat Pebbles had to be put down a few weeks ago and we have all missed her dreadfully, but luckily Louise and David Simpson’s cat has recently had kittens and I collected Salt & Pepper, two little black and white girls, on Saturday afternoon.

Pepper

Pepper

Salt & Pepper

Salt & Pepper

Salt

Salt

These are two lovely little bundles of fun, and tremendous time-wasters. It’s going to be quite a challenge keeping them in until they know where home is well enough to be safe to let out as they are the most fantastic climbers already. They are fairly feisty so hopefully in a few months time the pests of Alchornes won’t know what’s hit them.

Tomorrow is a Granny day, as I’m spending it with Anna and Rory, but then I am gearing up to go to Fontainebleau next week with Kvint and Doonaveeragh Emma for the CSI1* and Askeaton for the CSIYH1*, which will be my first trip away for some time, Mark, Twiglet and Izzy are coming with us, so hopefully it will be a jolly trip and hopefully a little bit of success too.

On a serous note I am completely overwhelmed by how many people have read my blog “Not Just a Groom”, and I have also written a blog for Stable Mind CIC, “Stable-Mind - Let’s Talk” to help their fantastic charity highlight the need to talk about Mental Health Issues in our Sport. It’s so important that we all try to look out for one another and keep the lines of communication open. It’s quite ironic that “It’s good to talk”; the strap-line of a very old BT advert, originally uttered by Buzby, a yellow cartoon bird, and later by Maureen Lipman, Bob Hoskins and others, should morph into a mantra for the 21st Century. Keep talking folks - it is definitely the healthy way forward.

As always many, many thanks to Steff & Camilla, without whom everything would grind to a total halt and to Izzy, April and Mark, and to my sponsors and supporters Saracen Horse Feeds, Just Equine, Precision Equine Solutions, MacWet Gloves, Stride Management and Integrum Nutrition. Also many thanks to Casserley & Sons, Cinder Hill Equine Clinic and Caitlin McCaffery who keep the horses feeling their best.

Hello Rory

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On 29th May after a long and rather nervous wait Rory Torben McCafferty made his way into the world. He is the most beautiful baby and so, so sweet. Anna and Tom are both doing so well with him and hopefully getting a little bit of sleep.

Mark and I rushed up to meet Rory and seen Anna and Tom on the Wednesday evening, only managing to get to the Chelsea and Westminster after visiting hours, but luckily Sophie was able to get there in good time and organise it so the nurses kindly let us all sit in the corridor so we could all have a turn holding him. The whole new little family were home on Thursday afternoon so I went up to London on Friday and Saturday to make sure everyone was doing fine and to give Anna a hand so she could have a good sleep in the afternoon. I had another lovely afternoon with them all last Tuesday, and in between they have had lots of visits from friends and family. Everyone tells you how wonderful it is to have grandchildren, and they are certainly right. I love all babies, but Rory certainly is super special.

Having had an extremely emotional couple of weeks and a very late night on Wednesday I set off with all the horses to Coombelands on Thursday morning. I don’t think I was the best version of myself warming up Heidi and managed to have a seriously bad shot to an oxer in the warm-up which unfortunately gave her a bit of a fright and made her a bit over-careful, this meant we didn’t go into the ring at our most confident, which I expect contributed to her shying at some poles by the side of the ring and shooting past the first fence before jumping very nicely round. The judges kindly let me have another round, and she jumped much more confidently, so definitely a very good decision.

Heidi Newcomers

Heidi Newcomers

I then jumped Askeaton in the Foxhunter, and she jumped a really lovely round, she feels so confident and both she and Kvint really benefited from having some training with David Simpson on the Monday. Doonaveeragh Emma and Kvint both jumped good rounds in the 1.30 to round off a long, but very worthwhile day. It was great to be back at Coombelands, not only is the going excellent and the warm-up the best you will find anywhere, but the views are just breathtaking. Hats off to the Harwood family for letting us all continue to use their wonderful facility after the tragic loss of Gaye.

Because I noticed so much different in Askeaton and Kvint after training with David, I took Heidi and Emma for a lesson before the South of England Show. Both jumped really well, and David certainly helped me a lot with Heidi.

Then on Thursday I headed off very early to the South of England Show. Initially I took Heidi on her own for the Newcomers where she jumped a great round for just one mistake in the jump-off. There were then two classes before the Foxhunter, so I went home, did a little bit of work, and then took the other horses back for the afternoon. Askeaton jumped a really lovely clear in the Foxhunter and the two older horses had a fence apiece in the 1.35 which I hoped would set them up well for the main ring on Saturday.

The weather forecast for Friday was dreadful, but I decided to take the young horses in the hope that they would jump before the ground got too soggy. Heidi appeared to be oblivious to the rather slippery ground and jumped another very good round. Poor Askeaton jumped in the worst of the downpour and I pulled her up after eight fences as although she was jumping well, she was obviously not too confident in the mud. I had always intended not to jump Emma and Kvint on Friday if they went well on Thursday.

On Saturday both Kvint and Emma jumped in the 1.40 Accumulator in the main ring. This is a good introduction to a 1.40 as it starts fairly small and only builds to a proper 1.40 toward the end of the course. Emma was very fresh and enthusiastic and had two verticals that she didn’t really need to knock before absolutely soaring over the joker, which was pretty massive at about 1.55. Kvint jumped beautifully, but he definitely thought the joker was a joke, and was a little bit hesitant going to it, resulting in me giving him more of a kick than I would have wanted, and him just knocking it in front. He was a very brave boy though, and jumped well, so he will have really come on for the experience.

Heidi and Askeaton then jumped really well in the Newcomers and Foxhunter respectively, Heidi managing to come 6th in the Newcomers. A triumph that she found massively exciting. The South of England did a really great job of providing excellent going on Saturday after such a downpour on Friday and overnight into Saturday.

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We finished Saturday by going to a lovely party at Fiona and Andrew Coveney’s and so luckily had a very quiet day on Sunday.

So far I have had a week of catching up with myself. The horses had a quiet hack on Monday and then worked on the flat on Tuesday, before having their regular check-up with Caitlin McCaffery the chiropractor. Caitlin looks at the horses regularly and I find this an excellent way to flag up any new areas of discomfort that may herald an approaching problem, and also to keep an eye on little areas of weakness that we already know about.

We have also had another exciting new arrival as Karen has managed to find a lovely new horse - welcome MIH Comet, a very beautiful dun boy.

Having had a long dry spell in May, the weather over the past two days has more than made up for it. The whole school flooded today for the first time in 24 years and the garden, was literally under water. Steff and I were splashing about getting absolutely soaked in about 2 minutes flat.

We also had Mike Barrott from Cinder Hill to check Emma over today, and make a plan for her going forward. We are suddenly heading towards July and then the show plan starts to build up again. It’s peculiar how time telescopes, the summer jumping season always seems a long time coming and then it’s over in a flash. We have the Hickstead Derby Show next week, the Keysoe CSI2* 10 days after that, before heading to the Royal International and the Bolesworth Young Horse Championships - that’s the plan anyway. Lots can definitely change between now and mid-August.

I have started trying to up my strength and fitness with help from Connor Clennan at Integrum Nutrition. I had forgotten that I actually like running (just not too far or fast) and am enjoying doing more stretching and trying to build my upper body and core strength - I’m getting there slowly but with a lot of determination.

As always many thanks to Mark, Steff, Camilla and April and to my wonderful supporters, Saracen Horse Feeds, MacWet Gloves, Just Equine, Precision Joint Solutions and Integrum Nutrition.