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.

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.