The thought consistently uppermost in my mind at the moment is sadness at the tragic loss of Ella Popely, a terrible reminder of how fleeting and fragile life can be. Ella genuinely did light up the room: beautiful, smiley, funny, talented, friendly to everyone and just starting out and what would have been a stellar path into adulthood. I am thankful that got to know her and Lea and to enjoy their company over the past few years. What Lea, Jack and the rest of the family are going through is so hard to imagine and they, and Ella, are constantly in our thoughts and prayers.
After Addington Doonaveeragh Emma and Catokyo went out in the field for a break. They were really lucky for the first 10 days as there was still plenty of grass and we clear, frosty weather. Emma understands about holidays and settled down and relaxed straight away, whereas it took little Catokyo a few days to relax and realise that she wasn't coming in at night. They were still having some hard feed night and morning to help keep some nice muscle on them even though they were not working. I had planned to leave them out for four weeks, but after the stormy weather Emma started to look unhappy so they are now now been back in. They had ten days hacking round the woods and roads, and are now clipped and back to working in the school.
I have kept going with Benny and Culana Z. Culana has missed some work over the summer and needs to catch up a bit, and it has taken a long while to get Benny really fit so I am not keen to let that go. I took them both to a mid-week show at Bury Farm. I hadn't been to Bury Farm for quite a while, but it really isn't too far and is a very nice venue with a lovely warm cafe. Culana Z jumped a good round in the Newcomers, she was a little bit tense, but she was bold and got better as the round progressed. Benny then jumped a super double clear in the 1.20 and just had the first fence down in the jump-off of the 1.30.
A fortnight later we were back at Bury Farm again, but with Emily Moss and Annabella Mai with us as well. The day started very well with Emily and Mai winning the British Novice. Mai then jumped well in the Discovery but was a little bit tired, and the day went downhill from there. Culana jumped another good round in the Newcomers with one green mistake and Benny jumped very well in the 1.20 but really wasn't his normal self in the 1.30. It had been a very long day on the lorry leaving home at 7.30 and not getting home until after 11.00, so the horses had a quiet day on Friday before going back to Bury Farm on Saturday. It was very busy with the Newcomers not starting till after 5.00, but Culana jumped well again, Benny jumped another double clear in the 1.20 and felt much more like his normal bouncy self. Even not waiting for the 1.30 I got home after 11.00 again.
We won't have another show now until the Development Classic at Keysoe in the New Year, hopefully followed by the Premier Show at Bury Farm which should be enough to prepare everyone for three weeks in Oliva Nova in February. We will try to fit in some training with Shane as well as bad habits will have crept in over the winter.
I am enjoying having the time to work the horses on the flat more and do some training exercises with them. There have been some useful videos from Equitop Myoplast on Facebook. My favourite at the moment is Trevor Breen's masterclass using trotting poles 5 feet apart, which gets the horses to make nice big steps and to stretch their heads and necks forward and down. They can progress to having one end slightly raised on alternate poles, this is a very good strengthening exercise for the young horses, and is also useful for the older horses. My favourite for the older horses is a George Morris masterclass using counter canter loops, and I then progress to half circles and three-quarter circles. Counter canter is brilliant for hot horses like Emma as you have to keep lots of leg on to keep them on the right lead, and it gives them something to think about. With Benny it helps his flexibility and also his obedience - he can't just change when he feels like it, he has to wait for me to ask. It is also a good way of checking your own position and straightness, as if you're not sitting properly you can't keep them in counter canter! I find these, and other exercises help give some focus to flatwork sessions. An exercise of Shane's that I use is picking a leaf, or a different coloured bit of rubber in the school and practising hitting the exact same spot every time - brilliant for straightness and accuracy.
I am looking forward to Christmas, although dreading the food shopping - I love cooking for parties, but hate lists which are unfortunately pretty essential for many parts of Christmas. We have already been to a lovely carol service in London in aid of Dementia UK and seen the lights in Regent Street and Oxford Street, and I am about to start wrapping presents, so we are definitely getting in the mood. We have more celebrations to look forward to before Christmas, however, as my little sister Polly is getting married to her lovely fiance Vincent in France this weekend. Sadly, neither of my brothers could make it at quite short notice but we are going in force and taking my step-mother Zandra and her friend David with us.
As always many thanks to Steff Gibbs and Jemma Tester who help keep the show on the road, which really isn't very glamorous at this time of year.