The horses all had a quiet week after Hickstead, and Heidi started her winter holiday. Camilla had a very beautiful wedding at Hever Castle on Sunday and Steff was a bridesmaid, so I had a very quiet day on Monday with Camilla on honeymoon and Steff enjoying a luxurious lie-in at Hever. On Tuesday Riri and Heidi had their shoes off and went on holiday to a beautiful field up on Ashdown Forest, where they can eat, sleep, play and grow in the Autumn sunshine. Both of them have done enough for four year olds, and we’re looking forward to having them back in work in November, ready for the slightly bigger job of being five year olds. I wish we all found our holidays as relaxing as Heidi does!
At 4.30 on Wednesday morning I left for Jardy, near Versailles with Doonaveeragh Emma, Kvint and Twiglet. Jardy is a really lovely show at the Haras de Jardy, which is the former National Stud of France. Emma jumped really well there last year and I was excited to be going again. I was the first person to arrive and quickly got the horses settled in their beautiful stables in a new wooden barn.
On Thursday morning I gave both horses a lovely hack along the miles of bridle paths in the forests surrounding the stud before trotting them up, and then I took Twiglet for a lovely long walk.
On Friday Emma jumped a great clear in the 1.35 for a decent placing and Kvint was a little bit fresh, resulting in just clipping the last part of the combination. Mark joined me on Friday evening, having met Simon and Bridget Fraser in Calais for a very successful trip to buy all the drink for Sophie and Alex’s wedding. He arrived just in time for the welcome drinks party at Jardy. Kir Peche is an unusual, and delicious drink and so we had a very enjoyable evening, and had a lovely catch up with Susanne Macken.
Emma started Friday with a great and speedy clear to be placed in the 1.40 and qualify for the Grand Prix, followed by Kvint who jumped really well in the 1.30 to finish just out of the placings.
So we were all set for Grand Prix day. I think it’s the first time I have had two Grand Prix at the same show. The course for the CSI1* Grand Prix was strong enough, it was technical and certainly set off at a proper 1.35 with a few 1.40 fences towards the end. Kvint was a little bit weary and jumped very well, just having two poles near the end, but he will have grown up and learnt a lot for the experience.
Kvint CSI1* Grand Prix. This is a particularly good photo as we’ve got Mark doing his videoing in the background and also Paul McAteer casting a critical eye over the proceedings!
I then had a little wait before Emma jumped in the CSI2* Grand Prix. I was 8th to go, so I didn’t get to watch many go. The first fence was just a 1.40 vertical, but off a difficult turn, followed by a proper 1.45 oxer. She put in a very big jump over the oxer and then for some reason turned sharp left instead of right and I very nearly fell off and lost my stirrup which I never got back. However, despite being convinced I would fall off at any moment, we battled on, Emma jumping magnificently and me not falling off. She just had a pole coming out of the double, which I am sure she wouldn’t if I had had both stirrups, and unfortunately got a bit quick coming out of the combination in the last line and got 5 and a half strides to the last fence and had to stop. I got my stirrup back and just jumped the first fence again. She jumped so well, so it was very irritating and a lost opportunity. But I was so pleased with both horses they both jumped really well, and have such a lovely attitude to everything. As always we enjoyed making some new friends and getting to know Faye Adams and her team and Jodie McAteer Hall and Mandy hall better.
I got home in the early hours of Monday, all ready for a bit week of “wedmin” with Sophie and Alex. Bridget and Simon, Alex’s parents, gave a lovely party in London on Monday evening, it was lovely to meet more of Alex’s family, and very kindly Sophie’s godparents, and my brothers and sister-in-law Caroline, and niece, Lilac were invited too. Sophie had her first wedding dress fitting on Wednesday, and the dress still looks beautiful, and then we had a food tasting on Thursday and a meeting about flowers on Friday. Sophie posted her invitations on Friday, so we really are in the count down to the big day now!
Our other big day this month is that Mark is 60 today! I tried to organise a surprise party, but this is a very busy time for 60th birthday parties, so I settled for two surprise dinner parties. The downside of organising a surprise party is that you can’t write it in the family diary which resulted in a little bit of haziness on my part about who was actually coming on which night. But we have had two lovely evenings, with lovely close friends, and Mark has received some really great presents, and he was surprised!
I am off to Bonheiden tomorrow morning with Emma and Kvint for the CSI2* and Askeaton is joining us for the CSIYH1*, to do the five year olds - very exciting. My lovely friend Becky Forte is coming with me to help and I’m really looking forward to it. This will be the last show for this season and after that Askeaton will join Heidi and Riri on holiday, and Emma and Kvint will go in the field at home for a few weeks. Just to check that the horses were on top form I had a quick lesson with David Simpson on Friday and although I definitely needed a little tune up, they all seem in good order. The saying that when everything is going well is the time when you most need a lesson is definitely true, as I did need a little confidence boost with Emma. David has been incredibly helpful with Emma in the last few months and hopefully we can put in some improved performances going forward.
As always I couldn’t do any of this without a fantastic team behind me. Steff and Camilla do so much at home to keep the horses happy and healthy and Mark helps me every day, with Izzy Pennington helping at the weekends. Saracen Feeds ensure that all our horses look and feel magnificent, and we have invaluable help from Just Equine, MacWet Gloves, Horse Pilot, Bombers Bits and Stride Management.