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.

March Lier Week 2

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Thursday started early with the trot-up starting at 8. Emma and I got there good and early and all four horses were trotted up by 9.00. The international trot-ups for show jumping are a very far cry from the highly organised fashion shows in Eventing and dressage. In show jumping it’s every man for himself, no order at all and mares and stallions all muddled up together. With 100 five and six year olds in the mix this is easily the most stressful part of the week.   

Kvint jumped first and got the week off to a good start with a clear round and 9th place in the 1.30. I then jumped Emma who was flying until I took a little pull in the jump-off whereupon she stopped. Given that she really isn’t a stopper, and that the jumps are relatively easy for her I took the decision not to jump her for the rest of the show. Askeaton jumped next in the six year olds. She was a bit fresh and strong causing herself to have one down.  Because Kvint’s class had 155 in it there sadly wasn’t time to jump the five year olds so Heidi just had a good session on the flat. 

On Friday we started with the five year olds. Heidi was incredibly full of herself and and also rather strong and a little bit cheeky, but not the end of the world! For both the youngsters it was their first time jumping outdoors this year, and they were both jumping with great confidence in lovely big rings, and I had suspected that they would be a little bit stronger, which they were. All they needed was an actual curb chain on Askeaton’s nathe pelham and Heidi’s bit was changed to a Waterford rather than a plain bridoon. Askeaton then jumped a really lovely clear round in the six year olds to finish just out of the money, she went absolutely beautifully. Kvint jumped  a really great clear round to finish 6th. He was 10th out of 80 to go so actually Heidi got to collect his rosette for him and listen to God Save the Queen. Which I’m sure she thought was entirely for her own benefit. This gave me another opportunity to get her into the ring and have a little look around which didn’t do her any harm. I just gave Emma a hand walk and a lovely graze, and had a very quick look at her on the lunge. She immediately looked very unlevel behind so I was pleased with my decision not to jump her.

On Saturday I started with a 1.30 two phase with Kvint, who jumped well, but just had last fence in the first phase. He has jumped beautifully so far this year, and just felt a tiny bit tired after all his exertions. He has really stepped up and has been clear and placed in 8 of the 15 international classes at 1.30 and 1.35 that he has jumped this year. I then had the six year old final with Askeaton. This walked as a big enough 1.30 and a really proper grand prix course. Askeaton was incredible: she jumped the most fabulous clear round and was totally let down by me. She landed out of one distance on the wrong leg, and I was SO slow to get her to change that I managed to get a totally unnecessary time fault. I am over the moon with her, she is beginning to feel really mature in the ring - the bell goes and she just goes to work, and she is so careful and scopey, it’s a privilege to ride such a lovely horse. I then jumped Heidi in the five year olds, she was a little bit cross that I had pretty perfect control, but she jumped a super clear round to finish equal first.

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I had nothing to jump in the morning on Sunday, so Emma and I finished packing the lorry - mainly Emma I would have to admit, before it was time to get Heidi ready for the five year old final. Once again this walked quite big, but I thought it was actually not a bad course for Heidi. She jumped a good round, and although she had coming out of the first double, which was right by the gate into the collecting ring, and going into the last double, where I had her a little bit close, she actually jumped with very good style and certainly isn’t struggling for scope or step over quite decent courses. Watching the video I think that she is beginning to let her self go behind a bit now, and she jumps the fences so easily.

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Emma and I bandaged Heidi and loaded the horses and Emma sped off to catch the ferry while I quickly went to pay my bill. I had a really good run back to Calais, followed by a frustrating drive round the back lanes of Kent as the M20 was closed yet again! I can’t imagine what people think when they arrive across the Channel and find that the main motorway into England seems to be permanently closed. I was home by eleven and Mark and I quickly settled the horses into their stables.

All the horses were exceptionally pleased to be out in the field on Monday morning. It was like a ridiculous rodeo for all four of them, but so lovely to have them out in the sun and able to eat the tiny bit of grass that came through while we were away. Mike Barrott from Cinder Hill Equine Clinic was able to come and look at Emma on Monday afternoon. She seemed to be sore in several areas, so she has had some treatment, two days of box rest and hand-grazing, and now has been back walking under saddle for three days. Once she is back in full work Mike will look at her again to see how we are getting on and possibly to run a few more assessments. Although she isn’t an old horse, only twelve, Emma has had quite a busy competitive career. She started with 4th place in the three year olds at the Royal Dublin Horse Show and has been jumping at 1.40 and above for the past four years, which is constantly jumping towards the limit of her ability. I am in no way giving up on her yet, but I have to realise that the time when she can’t do this comfortably anymore is probably not far away, and I certainly wouldn’t want her to lose her enjoyment for competing or to have to compete at a much lower level. We are incredibly lucky that she is a mare, she is well bred, talented and has the most incredible attitude to life, so we will definitely try to breed from her when the time comes.

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Both the young horses seemed quite weary once they got over the excitement of being home and so they have had a quiet week hacking round the village and the woods, and we will try and find a show for them next weekend. The next big show is Royal Windsor Horse Show where I have only got an entry for Askeaton in the Foxhunter. I think we will then have the South of England and Hickstead, and stick to local shows. Anna’s baby is due on 18th May and so I am keen to be at home for that, and to be around if Anna needs me over the summer. I have been absolutely loving the beautiful Spring weather this week, and it’s lovely to be able to turn the horses out without rugs so they can make lots of Vitamin D and have a really proper roll to scratch out any old coat.

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It was very exciting to come home to a lovely letter from Saracen Horse Feeds renewing my sponsorship for this year. This means a huge amount to me both personally and financially. I really believe that Saracen have the very best feeds. Our horses always look fantastic, they travel well, and people always comment on how shiny they are, additionally Saracen provide a free nutritionist service which is absolutely invaluable, and they are the only company that make an entirely cereal free ration in Releve. I certainly would never feed any other feed. Also many thanks to Just Equine who provide us with fantastic Kentucky Horse Wear boots, rugs, and girths and lovely Dy’on Bridles and Bombers Bits, to Precision Joint Solutions who keep Kvint and Emma feeling strong and sprightly and to Fabbri boots for my very smart boots and MacWet for the best gloves ever, and to Stride Management who keep an eye on everything we do.

Many thanks to Emma Ashcroft who helped me in Lier, she was fantastic, even when I gave her my cold! As always it was great to see old friends and make new friends, and even sit in the sun for a little while on Friday. Also many thanks to David Simpson who is always at the end of the phone for quick advice and encouragement, which makes a huge difference. As always Mark, Steff and Camilla did a brilliant job of keeping everything going at home. It will be nice to be here for the next few months to hopefully enjoy a beautiful summer and look forward to welcoming our little grand child into the world.