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.

Le Touquet

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The summer show st Le Touquet is lovely and only an hour from Calais so it’s a very easy journey. I arrived at 5pm on Tuesday and settled the horses in quickly. I then had to park behind the racecourse grandstand, rather a long way from the stables, as there was no electricity on the show ground. Very pretty, and initially very exclusive, but thank goodness for my bike. 

 

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After a long day on the Lorry both horses had a quiet ride and a graze and then it was bedtime for everyone. It’s always fun to see who your neighbours for the weekend are. In this case JP and Caroline Daker and Ben Clark and his team. It was also lovely to see Emma and Jo O'Dwyer who I hadn't seen for a while, and to see Chris Franks being so successful on his good team of horses.

Wednesday was the trot up, so I exercised Kvint and Emma in the morning, they trotted up well and I cycled into Le Touquet to have supper with Fiona, Andrew and Sophie Robson who were on holiday in Le Touquet. We had a really lovely evening and I cycled quietly back.  

First to jump on Thursday was Emma who jumped a lovely round in the 1.35 Speed for a minor placing: off to a good start.  My lovely friend, Louise Alston and I have helped one another at shows a few times and it seems to be a brilliant system. Also the Robsons very sweetly came to watch so it was great to be off to a good start. Louise jumped a good round in the Grand Prix Qualifier and Kvint jumped clear in his speed class, just missing out on a place.   Le Touquet has a brilliant, and very reasonable champagne bar so we had a lovely drink in the evening sun.

 

Doonaveeragh Emma - 1.40 Friday

Doonaveeragh Emma - 1.40 Friday

On Friday Kvint jumped another good round for a minor placing and I was first to go on Emma in the 1.40 Grand Prix Qualifier. Unusually she just didn’t make the distance to the 4th fence quite well enough and had the back bar in an otherwise lovely round. Louise and Doublet jumped a fabulous double clear for a good placing in very competitive class. Louise and I then wandered in to town for a delicious fishy dinner. 

Doonaveeragh 1.40 Friday

Doonaveeragh 1.40 Friday

I just had Kvint to Jump early on Friday. He did a splendid round and really went quite quickly for a big, inexperienced horse.  However, I was completely caught by surprise when he was 8th, necessitating a trip into the prize giving on Emma wearing the collecting ring steward’s suit jacket. I would have looked much neater without it, but rules are rules - even when it’s 32 degrees. Emma was thrilled- she loves a good prize giving! With a plaque, a rosette and clinging onto the huge jacket with only a snaffle in Emma we did a very nervous lap of honour. 

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We then watched Lisa Cubitt win a very exciting Derby and then I decided I’d had more than enough sun and had a very quiet evening. I just had Emma to jump in the small Grand Prix this morning- which was absolutely enormous!  She warmed up well, but perhaps not as flashily as normal and although we had great shots and she made the distances really well she had three fences down so I called it a day. She’s a lovely horse and we’ll save her for another day. She seems fine, but it was very, very hot all show. 

Kvint - 1.30 Speed

Kvint - 1.30 Speed

Having been home for two days, everything is washed and tidied away, and I had a busy day at work yesterday. My sister Polly, her husband, Vincent, their four children and two ponies arrived this afternoon for the week. The ponies have settled into the vegetable garden, the only available space, and a good afternoon of swimming has been had. We're all ready for a mass ride tomorrow! The horses have had a good check over from Caitlin McCaffery, our fantastic chiropractor, today, and are in good order, and Emma has had a blood test to make sure she hasn't any problems that we aren't aware of.  

Both Heidi and Askeaton seem to have benefited from a break after Hickstead and have come back to work very well. They will go to a show at Felbridge at the weekend and Kvint and Emma will go to the National Championships at Stoneleigh on Sunday for the 1.30 Championship.