At the beginning of January the very lovely Libby Hubbard asked us to her special birthday party in Le Touquet, to which we immediately said yes, and booked one night in the Hotel Westminster. Having returned from Spain it was a brilliant surprise to find that the CSI in Le Touquet was the same weekend - total no brainer - take the horses to the party too! Polly, my youngest sister, and her family live in Normandy, so she also arranged to spend the weekend in Le Touquet, and she and my niece Ellie volunteered for a week as international grooms.
The show very kindly let me take Culana Z, for the amateur classes as well as Doonaveeragh Emma and Luendi for the CSI1*. Shane, Chloe and Jake Saywell were the Breen Team representatives in the CSI3*, with Nattie and Charlie looking after the horses.
I arrived at the showground at about 10.00 in glorious sunshine, and a group of fantastic teenagers from the Le Touquet Poney Club whisked the horses, the tack locker, etc out of the lorry, and helped set up the stables. What a great show - they gave you three free bales of shavings in every stable - not only financially generous, but also kind to the horses, as it meant they were quickly bedded up enough for a nice pee after their long journey, and I was quicker to give them water and some haylage.
Once I had parked the lorry and plugged the lorry into the hook-up - no actual electricity - but at least I had reserved my plug, I made a start on exercising the horses before the trot up.
I rode Emma and Luendi first in the lovely field that was set aside for exercising. A fantastic space with lots of sand to help the going. The airport is almost adjacent to the showground and it is situated right on the estuary so with little planes and helicopters overhead, and boats and windsurfers next door there was plenty for the horses to get used to. Once Luendi and Emma were trotted up I took Culana for a lovely hack to the beach. It was a lovely ride through sandy pine-woods and over the dunes to the most fabulous beach. You can see how close the rings were to the estuary in the photo of Culana below.
By the time I had finished riding Polly, Vincent and the children had arrived from St Lo. The children had had three hours in the car so they had a great run around and Polly and I gratefully sank a glass of rose with lovely Zoe and Lulu Warren.
Emma and Luendi jumped on Thursday, Emma just being a bit argumentative to one upright and Luendi jumping well in decent 1.20. Jake Saywell and Shane were 1st and 2nd in the big class of the day and Louise Pavitt borrowed Culana for the prize-giving which was very exciting for a very naive 6 year old. She trotted up like a missile after so much excitement.
All three horses jumped on Friday. Luendi jumped well in the 1.25, Culana was amazing in the 1.15 and jumped a fantastic clear round. I was a bit perturbed as the guy before me fell off at fence three which didn't give me much time to show Culana round the ring, but she was great, a bit strong from one to two and then settled brilliantly. Richard and Libby Hubbard came and watched Emma jump a great clear round in the afternoon, and Mark arrived just as Polly, Ellie and I were finishing the horses so we had a lovely dinner with Polly, Vincent and the four children, Ellie, Nina, Leonie and Antonin in their apartment.
It was very glamorous waking up in the Westminster Hotel rather than the lorry and having only Luendi and Culana to jump. Once Luendi had jumped Mark and I took her and Emma for a lovely ride on the beach. More friends arrived for Libby's party on Saturday afternoon and were directed to the show by Mark, a lot of pink champagne was imbibed and with the horses safely in bed we set off for a brilliant party in Richard's private airplane hanger at the airport. Certainly a unique location for a party. It was great to see so many friends, and we had delicious food and drink, before dancing the night away, and trying not to be too late to bed with the Grand Prix on Sunday morning. I'm hoping that after some very delicious orange cocktails it was a good thing to sit next to the President of the Show, Phillipe, at dinner, although his wife was a little bit incredulous that someone so ancient was really jumping in the 1* Grand Prix.
Once we had mucked out we managed to join the party goers for breakfast in the covered market on Sunday morning, obviously I was the only one in breeches! Emma jumped a fabulous clear in the Grand Prix, but somehow the rider clocked up two time faults and we finished just out of the money. Never mind, she was fabulous. Culana jumped a really great round in the afternoon and we packed up, said goodbye to Polly and the family and trundled off towards Calais. As I have absolutely no sense of direction it was a little miracle that by getting slightly lost in Le Touquet I managed to avoid the traffic jams caused by a crash and get to Calais before everyone else!
Polly and Eliane were the most fantastic help all weekend, Polly is always a dab hand at the practice fence, and Vincent is the newly discovered king of the video camera! It was very warm, and Eliane was brilliant at making sure the horses always had water, and having lots of helpers meant that the horses got plenty of walking and grazing. It was great to spend a bit of time, although not nearly enough with Polly and to experience the beauty of Le Touquet. There is another show there in the Autumn and I think we'll definitely be on the list for it.
On the Thursday after Le Touquet Steff Gibbs and I made the very early start to jump Doonaveeragh Emma in the B&C Handicap at Royal Windsor Horse Show. Emma jumped a great round, but I was a little bit slow at the beginning of the course to finish one out of the money. It is all fairly quiet now until the South of England show at the beginning of June.