We had a lovely afternoon with Sophie and Alex on Good Friday. With both the girls married and living in London we don’t see so much of them, so it’s a treat when we get to have them at home for a long weekend. Sophie and Alex went off for an 80 km bicycle ride on Saturday and I set off with all four horses to Felbridge. Sophie and Alex had a lovely bike ride in the beautiful Easter sunshine and I had a bit of a day to forget. It was the first time I’ve jumped Heidi straight in at Newcomers level and although she was fantastically bold she was a little bit more excited than the occasion warranted and got very quick down one distance, just pulling off one pole behind. Although she is not very big Heidi has a huge stride and a big jump and she is inclined to get a little bit hot and a tiny bit rude. Akeaton jumped a lovely round and just had one fence down for no apparent reason although, watching the video, it was the only fence that was in shadow so maybe she didn’t quite see the front rail. I then got on Emma for the 1.30. She was absolutely wild in the warm-up and I did wonder if I would be able to hold her in the ring, the answer was no! She jumped the first four fences well and then absolutely ran me to the fifth fence and arrived on a bad stride and stopped. She gets furious if she thinks I’ve got it wrong and then tried to run me to the sixth fence as well so I called it a day. Kvint was also very strong causing me to turn a circle on him! Back to the drawing board with both of them. I expect being very competitive in lovely courses indoors in Belgium the walls have been doing some of the braking work for me. It is great that Kvint has got so confident now, but as the fences get bigger he has got to be prepared to take a little bit of advice from the person who actually walked the course! I had April Kitchener helping me at Felbridge for the first time, so perhaps not my most stellar performance as an introduction, but it was great to have found another excellent helper, it makes so much difference to how the day goes.
We spent the rest of the weekend basking in the beautiful Easter sun, and I turned on my rarely seen domestic goddess so that we ate and drank very well too.
Thank goodness we enjoyed the sunshine as by the time we went to Pyecombe the following Friday it was back to thermal vests and down jackets. I decided just to jump on Thursday and Saturday, which was a good decision, making Friday a very civilised day at home. Heidi was in the first class in the Paris arena on Thursday and jumped a good round in the Newcomers. She was very brave about going into the ring and really bold and much more under control and is settling into a better rhythm now.
Askeaton also jumped a very good round in the Foxhunter as did Emma in the 1.20 open. Emma felt very happy and confident and also relatively easy to ride. The slightly isolated nature of the Paris arena seems to suit her well.
I then jumped Kvint in the 1.30. He jumped a really good round and was pretty quick in the jump-off to finish in the money. With a little bit more braking power he was a little bit more mindful of me and so I felt confident to ride him forward which is what he likes. Both Camilla and Steff were able to help me on Friday which made for a very relaxing and easy day for me, and meant that Twiglet could come to the show too, which she absolutely loved.
On Saturday Heidi jumped her first Newcomers double clear - I would still like her a little bit more settled, but we are definitely getting there.
Askeaton then jumped a really lovely double clear in the Foxhunter
and Kvint jumped a great round in a big, and super-competitive 1.30 to finish 6th.
I had Emma all tacked up and ready to go as there weren’t that many in the 1.30, but by the time I got on her Shane had gone into 1st and 2nd doing a turn to the last line that nobody else did and also the course was pretty big in the second half so I decided just to exercise her and let a very good day finish on a good note. I had Mark and Twiglet as my helpers on Saturday, so it was good to finish a little bit early and be home in time to go and have a very, very enjoyable evening with our friends Louisa and James Butcher - one of those evenings where your face hurts from laughing!
I have had lots of wobbles and u-turns about what I am going to do next with Emma. She actually felt fantastic at Pyecombe and in the warm-up was even basculing, which definitely hasn’t been part of her style, so I think, after a long helpful chat with Mike Barrott, I will do a few smaller classes on her at Pyecombe next weekend and have entered her for some 1.25 classes at the Hickstead Derby show and I will see where she takes me for the next few weeks. I have got lots to look forward to with Anna’s baby coming soon, and the young horses are going from strength to strength so Emma and I might as well have some fun together.
I am hoping to take Askeaton to jump the Foxhunter at Windsor on Wednesday, but at the moment the weather forecast is for torrential rain. I am not sure that I think that getting up at 2.30 to jump a six year old in a downpour is really essential, so we will see whether the forecast gets a bit better before I make a final decision on that.
While I was at Pyecombe Karen Ibberson and Vinnie went off to their first event of 2019 at Chilham Castle. Vinnie was rather too perky in the dressage, but then stormed round the show jumping and cross country for a double clear. So all Karen’s very hard work and preparation is paying off and I’m sure Vinnie will be a bit calmer when he gets to Firle next weekend. Elena and Lyra also had a busy weekend at the NSEA county finals at Bury Farm, so all the horses had a very well deserved day off on the Sunday and they have had a quiet week this week. Claudia has been off to the Ukraine and New York working so Riri has also had a quiet week. The grass is starting to come through now and with longer days the horses are all spending more hours in the field which gives them a great chance to relax and stretch.
Mark and I have had a very quiet bank holiday with Sophie and Alex cycling around in the West Country and Tom and Anna making some final preparations for the baby. I have done a little bit of very enjoyable teaching, I have a super new pupil, Kayleigh Grant and her lovely mare Lulu, and I’m looking forward to being part of their progress this summer. We managed to watch a lot of Badminton, definitely a vintage year and many, many congratulations to Piggy French on her magnificent performance to win. We also watched the eagerly awaited finale of Line of Duty - another cliff hanger ending and we still don’t know who “H” is or who the last dirty cop is. Mark joined April and I for a lovely hack this morning. All the horses are great to hack and definitely enjoy a relaxing stroll round the woods. When Mark rides Kvint they take being relaxed to Olympic standards.