Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn is blogging from behind the scenes at the Longines Royal International Horse Show...
"Another glorious day here at Hickstead. Now that my logistical role is so much lighter, I find myself with all this magical free time in the evenings - which means there is much fun to be had. So I shall have to keep my blog short and sweet(ish) tonight - it’s all relative, as you know I love to chat, so my short and sweet is considerably longer than most.
I am rushing off to a BBQ in the garden at home, and as I’m cooking with brother Charlie, I had better be on time. The latest addition to the Breen Team, sister Chloe and husband Shane’s brand new baby boy Wolfe, is a prolific feeder and as such Chloe doesn’t have much spare time for eating in between Wolfe’s intensive milking schedule! He’s an absolute beauty though, and SO sweet – I would say that I am a biased auntie, but he really is – so chilled and docile. From his two-week-old cheeky smiles this afternoon while watching the jumping, I have a sneaky feeling I know what his future career might be!
As per usual we play host to basically as many riders and officials as we can squeeze in, and I do sometimes have 'pinch myself' moments when you look around the kitchen table! Now while I’m sure most of you have heard of the legendary Marcus Ehning, what a lot of you won’t know that had he not been one of the best showjumpers in the world, he would be a butcher. Marcus comes from a long line of master butchers and he’s so low key we only realised he’d arrived yesterday when we came home to find a ton weight of delicious looking fillet steaks on the table! Quite simply the best present ever, he said he’d upped the order slightly this year, knowing what a mad house it is and how many people usually end up at supper – we’ve enough to feed about 65 people! So (said in husky Marks & Sparks advert voice) tonight isn’t just any ordinary BBQ, it’s a Marcus Ehning-supplied BBQ – only the best!
I had a good walk around today and deliberately left my wallet in the box so it didn’t turn into an accidental shopping trip, and the show looks great. We’ve made a few tweaks and changes to some of the bars and restaurants, and to the layout of the shopping village, to try and incorporate the national arenas more into the “visitor experience” (sorry about the hideous marketing techno babble), and it seems to be working brilliantly. My favourite overheard comment had to be standing behind two ferocious shoppers (ladies I salute you, I’ve never seen quite so many bags, I’d say you’ll be single handily responsible for a sales peak on this day of this show!)… Eyeing up our sponsor’s Alexanders Horseboxes tradestand to go and have a look around some of the amazing wagons on display. They then had an amazing discussion about whether Shane (Breen’s) lorry, parked in between the rings in a separate trade area, was actually part of the display or whether he’d just forgotten to move it from his back garden!
This year was the first in a long time when we didn’t run our Eventing Grand Prix – while we were sad to see it go, the format needed a bit of a shake-up. A reshuffle of our TV coverage among other things was the primary reason we had to drop the class, but we are very much hoping to bring back something new and improved, along the jumping/eventing hybrid next year. The feature class of today was the Bunn Leisure Trophy, an international class, and the superb field put on an excellent show. It was eventually won by former Derby winner William Funnell, a friend of the family, so the cheers were particularly loud from our balcony!
I must fly but just before I go… it was very funny earlier as after a sponsors course walk Skelly (of the Nick variety, reigning Olympic and European Team Gold medal winner) and I were catching up and having a chat – unbeknownst to us we were being filmed for a short “out and about” TV piece which would be commentated over… when the reporter zoomed up to us in a huge rush and said can you give me a 10sec synopsis of what you were just talking about so animatedly about, as we want to show the uniquely close relationships in this sport between the riders, trainers, show organisers, grooms etc. Well luckily Skelly is used to thinking on his feet and came up with something suitably important and impressive sounding, as we couldn’t exactly tell the guy we’d been discussing my new Pub Visit Classification System.
Until tomorrow, Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Day (presented by Longines), the only chance to watch Team GB compete on home turf, and literally the crème de la crème of world showjumping battling it out to lift the famous Edward, Prince of Wales trophy - they’re a competitive lot these showjumpers, and when you throw a bit of national pride in for a team event, things really hot up! Ooh I wonder who will have graced the famous podium by this time tomorrow night?"
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn reports from the opening day of the Longines Royal International Horse Show, and is appalled to find herself the subject of her own 'blog fodder'...
"Hello and welcome one and all to my first blog of the Longines Royal International Horse Show. I can’t write for long as I have the terribly unenviable position of having to hot foot it to our Chefs (D’Equipe) & Officials opening night drinks party – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it's a hard life, but someone’s got to do it!
Today was a nice quiet day - well, I say quiet, I may or may not have been spotted on a “walk around” to, uh-hum, check all of our trade-standers were happy (read: shopping). If you looked up “quintessential British day out” in the Pictionary dictionary, I think you’d be hard pressed to beat the view from our Master’s Box this afternoon, with big fluffy clouds floating across the sky, a lovely cool breeze and a big lazy yellow sun hanging low in the sky. There could have been no more perfect backdrop to see the very best young horses in the country strut their stuff, many of them for the very first time on such a high-profile stage. I have been left with a terribly excited, warm, fuzzy feeling, which has nothing to do with the one or two summer Pimm's I managed to sneak in, and everything to do with the extraordinary quality of the young horses being produced in this country and making their way up through the ranks. I’d put money on the fact that this golden era of British showjumping we’re currently enjoying is here to stay for a while yet, hoorah!
A great, unhorsey friend of mine who lives in Tokyo popped in this afternoon and caused much hysteria when he commented on how cool it was (whilst perusing one of my many lists and meeting notes!) that each team had their own private chef but, he supposed, as world class athletes they must be on quite strict diets! I explained the whole concept of Chef D’Equipe, and reassured him he wasn't the first person to make that mistake, and I’m sure he won’t be the last.
While one of my greatest pleasures in life is offering up my loyal, hard working colleagues as blog fodder, I feel that today it must be me! So infamous has my blog now become that when I made this (tiny, weenie, could have-happened-to-anyone) mistake on email I got back no fewer than ELEVEN replies saying, simply, ah ha, you are your own BLOG FODDER for tomorrow! Last night I received an email from brother Edward, sent to everyone who works on the showground, informing us all that the main gate now had its own extension and direct dial number. I wrote back (oh why does REPLY ALL even exist?) saying I couldn’t believe how high-tech Hickstead has become, that we now have one of those systems where you just call the gate and it opens, but what if someone dialed it by accident and the gate just started randomly opening and closing? He had actually meant was the team at the Main Gate now has their own phone extension, not the gate itself - oops! My natural blondeness shining bright!
It’s actually not quite as dappy as it sounds as Eddie and I had actually had a conversation about how good the “call-and-open” gate systems were security wise, although when I found out how much they cost I did agree that our little £20 zappers were a much better idea! Great mate Nina Barbour, of Bolesworth fame, has the high-tech gates, although she recently admitted to an equally tipsy Geoffrey Billington and I, on the way back from a Robbie Williams concert (now that’s a whole other story), that they were a bit crap when you lived in the middle of nowhere and rarely had enough phone reception to make the all important gate-opening call. But yet, despite my long convoluted excuse, it was an exceptionally dappy comment to make, a blonde five minutes if you will, and I shall wear my blog fodder badge with pride… don’t worry it will be someone else’s turn tomorrow!
So on that note I must fly, before I embarrass myself even more, but stay tuned for all the action from our first international day tomorrow, where the very best in the world battle it out in the famous Hickstead 'magic carpet' International Arena…"
Racing trainer Michael Scudamore - the son of jockey Peter Scudamore and brother of jockey Tom Scudamore - updates on his season so far, and says a sad farewell to one of racing's greats.
"It's been a sad time for everyone here, following the death of my grandparents, Michael and Mary Scudamore. Grandma died on Friday 4 July and we lost my Grandad just a few days later on 7 July, after a long illness.
Grandad was very much the head of the family, neither my Dad, Tom or I would be in the positions we are in if it hadn't been for him. He was an incredible man, both in and out of the saddle. He won a Grand National in 1959 and a Gold Cup in 1957, and he rode in 16 consecutive Nationals, which was a record until very recently. He was forced to retire from riding through injury, he then set up training and I was fortunate to take over from him five years ago. He rode in a time of no body protectors, and cork helmets that would hit the floor long before he did, and he would often tell the story of a 40-runner Novice Chase round Hereford. A very tough man.
I would like to thank people for all their cards, letters and kind words. They will both be hugely missed. I will always remember him giving advice on race riding: “Keep a leg either side and his head off the floor."
The yard goes on and thankfully the horses continue to run well. We have now had nine winners since the beginning of May. Euroquip Boy won on the Flat at Chepstow ridden by good apprentice Noel Garbutt, and Princess Fleur won at her first try over fences. She was given a wonderfully patient ride to come with a late run to win easily under Liam Treadwell. Princess Fleur's victory was very fitting as my grandparents were both members of the Honfleur syndicate that own her, so we had a glass to celebrate that night.
Even in this heat the attentions start to move towards the main season, which starts to get going in September and October. With that in mind, the winter horses' summer breaks have been coming to an end. It's always exciting to get the horses back in. Monbeg Dude and Next Sensation are amongst the first batch to come back in, they have both done really well over the summer and I can't wait to see what they can do this year. We will hopefully have the best team we have ever had this season with the likes of bumper winners Grace Tara, Line D'aois and Streets Of Promise as well as four-year-old Irish point-to-point winner Corner Creek, which are among the ones I am really looking forward to seeing this season.
Many of you will have read the latest doping news to hit the headlines. Morphine has shown up in a few post-race drug tests, the most famous case being The Queen's horse Estimate, who was second in this year's Ascot Gold Cup. It is believed the Morphine has come from contaminated feed, and in all cases so far have come from the same feed suppliers, Dobson and Horrell, who believe that some of their products have been naturally contaminated by poppy seeds. No penalties have been given out yet but it is thought that the horses who tested positive will be disqualified, and in Estimate's case that's £80,000 in prizemoney lost. I feel very sorry for the trainers involved, as they will have fed the product in full belief that it is safe, and lots of people may well have had some sleepless nights worrying they may be next to have a positive test for the same reason. The levels found have seemimgly been very small and have shown up in some horses but not others who have been fed the same product. We wait to hear how the BHA (our governing body) will handle the situation. It does seem a shame that another drug story in racing has hit the headlines."
Our blogger Sarina Stokes won H&C's competition to write a guest blog for a year. Read her first update below, in which she reflects on her road to the Badminton Grassroots Finals, where all didn't go quite to plan...
"As its my first blog since my initial competition entry, which was all about my ambition to compete at the Badminton Grassroots Championships, I thought I should start from the beginning.
Our season started very well, with a second place at Aston and a great run at BE100 at Swalecliffe, which made me think we could actually make it to Badminton without any hiccups. However... Trotting around the warm-up of South of England before my cross-country, just as I gave a nod of horse appreciation to a very well known event rider (I was in awe), my mare Cheeky started hopping. Disaster.
Jumping off, I whipped off her boots and felt her legs. She was lame, but there was no heat or swelling. I was devastated, but also confused. The next day we trotted up and she was sound. Relief all round, so I think she may have trod on a stone, or herself.
Investigating sudden lameness, with no obvious visible cause, involves lots of possible problem areas. We started with the farrier - it's never great to ask a farrier if it could be the shoeing causing problems, but luckily he has broad shoulders and likes cakes! Next the vet, but with a sound horse what is there to say? So next it was tack. Getting your kit right is a difficult one, I am not sure if it's just my mare, but what feels right and fits one day may not be right the following week. One week she likes a drop noseband, the next a flash, and so on. And with three phases to an event I could open up my own tack shop in my shed.
Three bridles and four bits later, she is back in the same bridle and bit that she had to start with. Apparently she was in season - that explains almost EVERYTHING!
So with Cheeky feeling well and everything (hopefully) fitting, we set off on the long drive to Badminton for the Championships. So what was it like to compete on the hallowed ground? Well, it was as amazing as you'd expect. The stewards were just wonderful, so friendly and helpful, and after speaking to a lovely lady organising the dressage I was even asked to be rider representative.
Cheeky took a while to settle in her temporary stable, maybe she was a circus horse in a previous life as she spent sometime rearing up to see into the next box, but she soon became a happy camper after a few hours and when more horses arrived. The effort the organizers had gone to for the event was incredible, we felt as important as the four-star riders. All the competitors really got along with each other and helped each other out, so the atmosphere was tremendous.
The following day was the first day of competition and Cheeky worked in really well and when I rode up the centre line it was with tears in my eyes, and that was of course due to the fact it was a windy day (possibly). This was the first time we had ridden the dressage test in the full size 60x20m arena, so to come away with 28.5pen I thought was not bad, but could have been better.
The next day was the big day, and looking out of our B&B window through the builders' scaffolding outside our window and giving the builders a cheery wave, we left with our foil wrapped sandwiches to go to Badminton Park, feeling amazing. Walking the cross-country course three times helped a great deal and I felt really prepared for the challenge ahead.
In hindsight, I wish I had done the same with the showjumping as I might have seen there were 10 jumps and not nine. Elimination was the only result I hadn't considered. I discovered big girl's tears hurt as much as little girl's, but fortunately my Dad was there to give me a hug (thanks Dad) while my mum said in her calm and loving voice, 'Never mind dear, you were never very good with numbers' (thanks Mum!) Everyone I speak to has a similar story, but at such an event, what a time to do it. The only nice thing about it is that my dad hasn't put his arm around me to comfort me since I was little, so when he walked over to me at the secretary's tent and put his arm around me it made my heart melt. Sometimes good things do come of bad.
I had a very good friend with me and she persuaded me and the officials to let me run HC. So my dream did come true, I got to ride around Badminton, and although it is not recorded, we went clear within the time. I am so pleased with my wonderful mare and I at least I have the DVD to watch again and again and again.
So what’s next? Well, when a dream comes true, I was surprised to find myself feeling a little deflated after coming back from the Championships, I guess because I had made such an error and was still kicking msyself. But it had also focused me... One-star is my next goal, and maybe another shot at the BE90 Grassroots Final. I need to put that ghost to rest."
Showjumper Yazmin is off to France for a competition, and she's been wondering why showjumping isn't as popular here as it is abroad....
"Hello to all my readers,
I am writing this blog from sunny France this week, at the beautiful 4* show in Dinard. It's stunning here, with great weather and a lovely arena. I am extremely excited for this show as it's the first one my stallion Van de Vivaldi is doing since he's been off injured. He is back on track now, this time hopefully for good!
After this weekend I go to La Coruna 5* in Spain and then on to Gijon 5*, where I have been selected for the Nations Cup team for Great Britain. I am feeling very grateful to have been chosen, it's an honour to represent my country and I will try to do everyone proud. I am also very nervous for the Nations Cup but I need to control my nerves and treat it like a normal show.
I have been putting a lot of thought into the publicity side of showjumping recently. I did a bit of a poll about racing, to try to find out why people chose to go for a day at the races. Was it the gambling? The dressing up? Showjumping is so glamorous, you can come to shows in amazing locations, drink champagne, and sometimes bet, but it's not as popular a spectator sport here as it is on the continent. When you go to Europe, the crowds at the shows are just enormous, you can't get a seat. I'd love to know your thoughts - what attracts people to other sports but not ours?
Between competitions, training and a trip to a stud, Alice has clocked up a lot of mileage this month...
I've had a pretty manic time of late. I went to Dressage at Hickstead with Del (Headmore Delegate), but it proved to be a bit of a wasted journey - there was some maintenance work going on in the arena, and Del became too tense and unsettled to produce his best work, but that's how it goes sometimes!
The following day Socs (Tantoni Sir Soccrates) and Wilbur (Headmore Wrubinstar) also had another outing to Sparsholt before the Summer Regionals. Wilbur was fab, producing the best work he ever has in the arena, and he scored 70% in both tests to finish third in huge classes. Socs was also very well behaved in hideous weather conditions of torrential rain to win both a Medium and Advanced Medium. At least getting drenched was worth it!
I then had a rather manic week where it felt like I was on the road all the time. It started when I took Del up for a couple of days training with Charlotte Dujardin. I had a really beneficial lesson on Tuesday before staying at Charlotte's overnight and Del was phenomenal on the Wednesday. I also got to see Valegro before he goes to Aachen in a couple of weeks.
Then Mum and I set off to Yorkshire for the Mount St John Stud open day. We had a horrendous journey up, what should take about 4.5 hours took more than seven so we were slightly on edge when we arrived. When Emma, the stud's owner, asked what we would like to drink I think the answer was 'anything'! Thankfully we arrived just in time for dinner, which was delicious, and had a lovely evening chatting with Charlotte and the representatives from the Dutch studbook KWPN before settling into the very luxurious room that was ours for the weekend.
At the open day, Char took us to see the lovely foals she has bought from Emma, before we got to see a selection of the other foals, broodmares and ridden horses that are being produced at the stud. The standard was phenomenal and it was exciting to see such quality horses from this country.
We then had an equally leisurely afternoon sitting in the pub (drinking soft drinks!) and chatting with some of the other guests, including James Crawford of Elite stallions and Alice Collins (previously of H&C), before going back up to the house for a BBQ. The weather was very kind to us and the food was amazing. We did start to watch the Holland game from the World Cup with all the Dutch guests, but we left before the end - I don't think I could have coped with watching the whole game with them (for those of you who didn't see it it went all the way to penalties before the Dutch managed to win)!"
Showjumper Yazmin reflects on managing performance nerves as she jumps a massive, technical track in Monaco....
I was lucky enough to get to jump at the exquisite Longines Global Champions Tour showjumping event in Monaco recently. It was an incredible five-star show with fantastic weather all weekend.
The first few days I was getting back into it and getting used to the tiny arena. But the horses were jumping amazingly so I was really excited - albeit nervous - for the Grand Prix on Saturday. The evening came by much quicker than I anticipated and I was drawn early to go. The course was extremely big and technical, 1.60m in height and very challenging. It is for the top 30 showjumpers in the world and a few wildcard places for people like myself.
I was fortunate to have Laura Kraut helping me at the show, she is so motivational and positive – it was just what I needed. Every time I felt doubt she would snap me back out of it and into that positive frame of mind. We went through the course together and started warming up, my mare Ashkari felt incredible so I had a good feeling. My time came and just walking into that chute made me feel nauseous!
I was so nervous but I had to concentrate on going clear. I wanted to show people I can do it and so could my horse, and wow, we did! She jumped so well, I could not believe it, I had gone clear with no time pentalites. I can't express how happy I was, I wanted to leap off my horse with joy, I had the biggest smile possible. Thinking about it now makes me happy, I was so proud of Ashkari and myself, and my team.
We had a few hours before the next round, thank goodness. I needed to calm down and re-focus! The second roung started at 9.30pm and it was even more technical than before. Our warm-up didn’t feel right, I was extremely tense which reflected on my mare, I tried to stay focused but it proved a lot harder than in the first round. We had four down in total, I was gutted but overall I was still pleased because I never expected to get that far, especially as I was up against some incredible riders.
Laura told me to turn the negatives into a positive and learn from my mistakes that day, it takes time to learn to deal with the pressure and nerves at that level so hopefully soon I will be doing a double clear. It was an amazing weekend and I hope I can compete there again next year.
I flew home on the Sunday morning just in time to watch the Hickstead Derby. I could not be more pleased for the winner Trevor Breen and last year's winner Philip Miller, who came second. It was a close jump-off but we got to see some great riding. Congratulations to them both!
I am now home for a two-week rest from shows, the horses can have a week in the field each day and a chance to relax. It's really important for the horses to switch off sometimes, and for me it will be nice to see some friends and hang out with my family."
Our blogger Jay 'Tiger' Halim is back with a new blog, reflecting on all the fun and shenanigans from Bolesworth International
So I am writing this blog still full of excitement from my amazing week at Bolesworth Castle International. Nina Barbour, Alan Beaumont and the amazing team there managed to pull off an incredible show. It's a real step forward to where the sport needs to be heading in the UK, and my owners and sponsors wanted for nothing, which is definitely the way to keep money coming into our sport.
The hospitality and entertainment was first class, and we even had a Blue concert! To have a concert at a horse show was another first for me. I suggest people save the date for next year, it's only going to get better.
This was my first time competing at CSI3* level jumping so I went went expectations of learning a lot and trying to hold my own. My expectations were blown away with many good placing, including Goodmans For Fun coming fourth in a World Ranking class and placing in the big Grand Prix.
Goodmans Acobado also picked up some good placings in the medium tour classes. I also took Abrisco for the Eventers' Grand Prix, where he came fourth, and other fun classes such as the Mini Major. In this class I was partnered with Tina and Graham's Fletcher's son Oliver, the surprise being I had to jump wearing a Batman outfit! We managed a very creditable second place, much to Oliver's disgust, as he reminded me that he was the fastest mini..... That would be my fault then!
A last-minute catch ride on Helen Rees's Bart proved a valuable member of my team with a minor placing and a fifth in the small Grand Prix. Having only sat on Bart four days before leaving for the show, I think this was a great achievement.
Another proud moment which had me on tenterhooks was watching my first homebred horse compete at his first show, brilliantly piloted by Laura Collet. Candy King, aka Prince, was in the Burghley Young Event Horse, the final of which his mother won in 2007. Prince did so well and placed fourth, sadly on this occasion his jumping marks let him down but I think the journey and the staying away really took its toll on him. Prince is now half-owned by long time owner Neil O'Hara and will certainly compete under Laura Collet for the foreseeable as we think they are a good match.
My biggest win of all at Bolesworth must have been in the camel race! This was another first for me.
My horses are feeling and jumping better than ever and this was my first show in my new saddles sponsored by Albion. I really like the balance of the saddle on my horses, and have already noticed a difference in their way of going.
Right cubs, best get going..... I have a Hickstead blog to get on with!"
Despite having missed out on a few weeks of training due to falls, dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer is back on form and pulling in some good results…
"Having missed out on a couple of Premier Leagues competitions due to my falls, I was rather paranoid in the lead up to Wellington that I might fall off again! Thankfully all of the horses behaved so we made it this time, third time lucky.
The first day held three tests for me, starting with a Prix St Georges on Bracks (Headmore Boadicia). As we hadn't done any Premier Leagues I wasn't exactly sure at what stage we were at, but she was amazing. Had a couple of unfortunate breaks in the trot work as she was spooked by the photographer, but we still came out with nearly 69% to finish second. Having done one test, she was much more settled and produced a phenomenal Inter I test to win and qualify directly for the Nationals - thrilled doesn't even begin to cover it! I also had a fab ride from Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) to win the national Six-Year-Old class with a huge score of 8.74.
The following day we took Tank back for the International class. He was a little tired from the previous day's efforts but still did enough to qualify for the final.
The third day was the big one, Del (Headmore Delegate) in the Grand Prix. I was very pleased with him, we had just as few ring rusty errors which unfortunately cost us the win as he finished second by five marks, but considering how much he had missed I was pleased. Bracks also had the PSG Freestyle final where she was a bit too keen which led to mistakes which unfortunately relegated us to second as well. She was much more settled on the final day however to win the PSG and gain her qualifying ticket at that level. I may have had to wait to get to my first Premier League, but it was worth the wait.
We also made the eight-hour round trip to Sheepgate, and thought it would be a good idea to take four horses. With seven tests on both days and just Mum and I we had to be very organised. Thankfully we managed it and had some pleasing results. Del was second in the Grand Prix on the first day but unfortunately a misunderstanding on the final centre line on the second day proved costly. Bracks was a bit tight on the first day to finish ninth in the PSG and fourth in the inter I but was more settled on the second day for a third and a fourth.
We also took Socs (Tantoni Sir Soccrates) and Wilbur (Headmore Wrubinstar) for the experience. Socs was super with a win and high placings in the Medium and Advanced Medium qualifier both days, and Wilbur also had some placings in the mediums. It was a fantastic experience for both horses, although hard work for us! I did get a ribbing for being able to remember 14 tests without having to check, but I think it's quite handy!
So, despite having missed out at the beginning of the season, we have got into the swing of it now. Onwards and upwards!"