H&C's web editor Victoria is in Normandy for the World Equestrian Games - read her blog from a soggy Caen...
"A few days before I left for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, I went back to Scotland - my homeland - for a few days. It rained. It often does in Scotland, so I wasn't surprised. It wouldn't be summer in Scotland without a steady downpour - it would alarm the locals.
And I had two weeks in Normandy, France to look forward to, when I could bask in glorious sunshine. I came home from Scotland, unpacked my coats and warm winter layers, and repacked for France. Into my suitcase went my sundress and my sunglasses, while I deliberated between factor 8 and factor 15.
Well, that was a mistake.
It rained heavily all day yesterday. While the H&C TV team got to grips with complex accreditation systems and multiple venues that stretch the length and breadth of Caen, it poured incessantly. Bewildered tourists pulled on plastic ponchos and umbrellas popped up all around the stands, while I thanked my lucky stars I don't have to be on camera as my hair quickly started to resemble that infamous non-swimming rodent.
Even my minibreak in Scotland was starting to look like a week in a tropical paradise compared to this.
As the Grand Prix competition got underway, it got steadily wetter. The arena started to glisten like a lake and I wondered which would be the first horse to start doing front crawl down the centre line. It's rare that you can judge the tempo, impulsion and rhythm of an extended canter purely by listening to the splashing noises made by the horses' feet.
The forecast for this week remained as gloomy and doom-laden as your average tabloid newspaper, and I cursed my stupidity in bringing a sundress when what I actually needed was a full-length waterproof coat topped with a sou'wester, and enough warm layers to restock your average tack shop.
So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I opened my curtains this morning to see - shock horror - a beautiful blue sky and sunshine. Off we set towards the Stadium D'Ornano, umbrella-free and full of spring.
It rained again about two hours later.
In a way, it felt kind of apt - after our brief golden run of being the leading dressage nation, Germany have raised their A game. Even without star horse Totilas, they have produced an extraordinary lead here at WEG, with three riders in the top four so far. No one else has come close. They are ridiculously good.
In just under an hour from now, our shining ray of hope Charlotte Dujardin will ride into the arena on Valegro. They've consistently beaten all these horses and riders over and over again, so hopefully they'll produce the goods again this afternoon and score more than 82% to take the lead and boost British chances of winning a team medal too.
But a surprise result in Aachen, when Valegro scored 76.9% to finish sixth, reminded us that horses - a bit like the weather - don't always do what you expect them to. Hey, sometimes you get boiling hot days in Scotland too.
And Aachen was then, this is now. The sun is back out, and our hopes are high. Charlotte and Valegro, you can do this. We have every belief.
Alice has had mixed marks at the Festival of Dressage which leaves here wondering -is there room to debate dressage judging more...
"So I have had an exciting few weeks that started off as we headed to Hartpury for their Festival of Dressage, which incorporates the young dressage horse championships as well as the Hartpury CDI, as Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) was competing in her first International.
After we had settled the horses into their stables we got Bracks ready for her trot up, which she sailed through, before I got a chance to ride her in the competition arena. She was very keen and quite excited to be at a party, but at least she was enjoying herself.
At the draw in the evening I was early on, which is standard for me, so we had a reasonably early start. Bracks felt a bit tense and had a couple of small mistakes but overall I was pleased with how it went. Unfortunatly we had some massive discrepancies in the marks, one judge awarded us 69% for sixth, while another gave us 61% which had us in last place! This meant that we finished somewhere around the middle and once again reignited the debate about dressage judging, however as yet no answers have been found.
In the afternoon I rode the young horses Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) and Billy (Tantoni Sibellius) before having a lesson on Del (Headmore Delegate) with Charlotte. We had decided we would be better not to compete him at Hartpury to give us a bit more time to consolidate everything after our dodgy ride at Hickstead! We were treated to a lovely meal in the evening by Tank's owner, Joanne Graham, who had made the trip down from Northumberland to watch him.
Saturday held a very early start as Billy had been drawn early in the four-year-old championship. He was a star, finishing sixth despite his early draw. Tank was quite nervous in his test as it was held in the Hartpury indoor arena so unfortunately didn't show himself off to his best so finished just outside the placings. We hadn't finished yet however as Bracks still had her Inter I to do in the afternoon. She felt more settled than in the PSG, just had an unfortunate mistake in the first set of changes which worried her for a couple of movements, but overall I thought the test was better than the PSG. Once again we had some bizarre judging as the judge that had really liked her on the first day marked her lower, but the judge that had her last gave her a better mark in the Inter I, that's why we love dressage! We did make it into the freestyle however, so I was pleased we would get to do that.
Sunday held another fairly busy day which threatened to be rather stressful as I was drawn first in the music (standard) as it clashed with Billy's time, but thankfully the other competitors were very understanding so we could move my time. So we finished off the week with Bracks in the Inter I freestyle. She was fab, we just had a mistake in the three's, but they are on a circle so it's quite difficult. We finished ninth which was her first international rosette, so a good end to the week!
I then had a change the day after we got home as my sister, some of her vet friends and myself went to Thorpe Park for the day. We had a wonderful time and went on all of the big rides as well as the old favourites. There were some funny comments from Kate's friend Alicia at times as she had never been to a theme park before, but I think she enjoyed herself! It was also a nice break after our busy time at Hartpury."
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn is left in awe of the first lady winner of the Longines King George V Gold Cup at Hickstead...
"What an end to a fabulous show. I’m sure I always say that, but today you couldn’t have scripted it better. A big jump-off with the best in the world, and the last in the ring winning it. As the power woman I am (or at least pretend to be), I was delighted to have our first lady winner in the history of the class. We opened the Queen’s and King’s Cup, ladies’ and gents’ classes for more than 100 years, to both sexes about five years ago. The fact that our sport is one of very few in the world where men and women compete on an even playing field is one of the best things about it and something that should be shouted from the rooftops. Although we've seen several male winners of the Queen’s Cup (including two Queen Breens, as of yesterday), history was made today by our King's Cup lady winner - bravo Beezie, arise King Madden!
We've had another glorious day here weather-wise and I now have some humble-pie emails to write, having chastised both Simon Brooks-Ward and Nina Barbour for stealing all the good weather at their Windsor and Bolesworth shows. With the torrential flooding and Armaggedon-style hail storms we enjoyed on Monday morning, I can’t quite believe our luck.
Hickstead favourite Martin Clunes was back with us in his role as President of the British Horse Society and he’s decided his new raison d’etre is to get Clydesdales on the showing schedule for next year. He would certainly be showing his pair, he said, particularly as they're fresh from triumph at his village show – with first and second places no less. Once he'd been plied with Pimm's, he did admit that there may have been only two in it, but we agreed that that was semantics. He was also most cheered to hear that I have finally seen Doc Martin (terrible, I know, but I’m not a huge TV watcher).
Despite Trevor's win in yesterday’s Templant Events Queen’ Elizabeth II Cup, we didn’t even make it out to celebrate last night – we've become so middle aged! During a quiet supper at home (a rarity during the shows, but this year we have baby Wolfe to keep quiet for), I felt very spoilt sitting and soaking up some of the best views on the breeding side of the sport, something I am particularly interested in. The Brothers Breen, Marcus (Ehning), Stevie (Macken), Chloe and I chewed the cud and it was fascinating to hear their takes on their respective breeding programmes and the business in general. We discussed cloning at length and all the boys said it didn’t sit well with them for a host of reasons - despite being fiercely competitive world-beaters, they're just like the rest of us at the end of the day and simply love their horses. It will be interesting to have the same conversation with them in 10 years’ time and see if their opinions have changed.
Marcus and Shane eventually excused themselves to bed (they had a big day ahead, finishing third and fifth in the King’s respectively) and Stevie and I said we’d take Trev to the pub to celebrate. However, we knew how disgustingly busy it would be and that we’d just end up hiding in the garden, with Trev pointing out that our garden is considerably nicer than theirs. As soon as we’d made the decision not to go out, we got stuck in at home and ended up going to bed way later than had we gone out... When. Will. We. Learn?
On that note, I must sign off for now - thank you all for reading over the season. It's been a wonderful year and thanks must go to our invaluable team of staff, officials and volunteers, the riders, owners, grooms and, of course, the great British public, without whom none of this would be possible. So thank you, toodle-loo and adieu… until next time!"
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn gets into the spirit of ladies' day at the Longines Royal International Horse Show...
"Today was Ladies’ Day at Hickstead, one of my favourite days of the year. Forget about the horses, we had some very fine fillies here of an entirely different type. Thank you ladies for trussing up in your wonderful finery and hitting the showground in style. Walking through the main ring with the finalists in (quite wobbly high heeled) step behind me, I felt like I was leading a flock of exotic (rather loud) birds of paradise. There were sequins and feathers and sparkles galore, and they did us proud.
I joined celebrity judge Charlie Dimmock - of gardening and braless fame - and Pat Pearce, the founder of Hickstead Ladies’ Day Official Charity 2014, Dreamflight, for the judging and it really was a tough job. I’m beginning to understand how those poor judges feel tomorrow during the Supreme Ridden Championships. Dreamflight is a wonderful charity that organises holidays of a lifetime for children with serious illness and disabilities, so please do have a look at the amazing work they do.
I am rewarding myself with a large glass of wine (and maybe also a tiny weenie bit of chocolate) because I have actually walked about 86 miles today, in massive heels. When awarding the prizes to my scurry friends today more than one of them remarked that I should be the one getting a rosette for Multi Tasking Skill - walking in my heels on grass while pinning not one but two rosettes on each pair, and furiously wrestling with my completely out of control skirt that was insistent it was going to create its very own Marilyn moment. One learns that one simply does not have enough hands to pin rosettes on, hold trophies, shake hands with winners, and hold down their skirt! Something had to give and yes, as you can see, Hickstead photographer Julian Portch was on hand to capture every embarrassing moment on his camera!
Ladies decorated and scurry pairs congratulated, I retreated for a wonderful afternoon on the balcony watching the Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup, followed by the British Speed Classic. Regular readers amongst you will know that I’m rather fond of a home win, so we were of course ecstatic when the now world famous Trevor Breen and Addy, the One Eyed Wonder Horse won the former (this year’s Equestrian.com Derby winners of course). Guest Alastair Stewart, ITV stalwart, kept us all entertained, with much chuckling (my favourite way to spend an afternoon), and we couldn’t have been more delighted when William Whitaker clinched the British Speed Classic. George Whitaker (Will’s younger brother) is currently training Alastair’s son, budding jumping talent Oscar – keeping it in the family!
Our BBQ last night was a fabulous affair – as of course it would be if you had half of the world's top showjumping elite chillin’ in your back garden. Tonight’s excuse for signing off in a rush is in fact due to the weariness I feel after actually rather a late night... Another massive thank you as always to our team who really do somehow always seem to rise above and beyond the call of duty – with special mention going to Simon who I found buried under a pile of soap suds in our kitchen when we had an emergency cutlery shortage. Sponsorship Manager Simon's motto is, if you’ve got a problem, solve it! A few Pimms down, I immediately insisted I’d help, and after a slightly false start of insisting I could carry 11 plates and nearly emptying them all over the German national team, we’d a very impressive washing up line in place with several Hickstead directors, even more Whitakers, Marcus Ehning, and a bevy of international showjumpers. Love it. Until tomorrow…. X
Ps – I am also signing off so I can rush home with the enormous bag of clothes I have from Lou and Joanne Whitaker’s clothing store We Love Pixie – perk of being best mates with the owners is that they’ve let me take them to try on at home before buying! Like free shopping (we know where you live, they said…)"
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn is blogging from behind the scenes at the Longines Royal International Horse Show... In a cupboard!
"I can hardly believe it’s Friday night already – we spend a whole year desperately excited for the show to come, and then when it does it always seems to zoom by. Another fabulous day here, and despite forecasts - why do we actually ever believe them - we enjoyed a glorious sunny day, with just enough of a breeze to keep the horses cool and calm.
Despite the format of the sport having changed so much over the years, becoming increasingly global, the Furusiyya FEI Nations' Cup still seems to have that slightly magical draw of tradition. Just talking to the triumphant USA team, with a bevy of veteran Olympians among them, they said there’s just nothing quite like the feeling you get when standing with your team mates on the podium, hand on heart, listening to your national anthem. A disappointing day for the Brits - you win some, you lose some - but the sport was terrific.
I was also spoiled by my choice of viewing companions, as one of my best friends Matthew Broome (David Broome’s son) managed to escape running their own busy showground in Wales for the day, and some excellent gossiping was done. We were also lucky enough to be joined by former showjumper Anne Newbury and her sister Mandy Coleman, two daughters of my godfather David (the legendary commentator and Director of Hickstead). We had a lovely afternoon reminiscing about our respective fathers, and made sure to raise a glass or two in their honour. Sadly none of the hilarious stories of Dad and David are fit to reprint!
We’ve had new electric security gates put in recently, and it’s been totally hilarious busting people who clearly have sneakily been using that entrance for years (which I know from the number of little phone calls I’ve had saying “Daise….. you wouldn’t just tell us what the code for the gate is!”) Anyway, David Broome arrived and realised he was locked out. But we were of course happy to let him have the code, and never let it be said that we don’t have the most elite security in the world, as when an eagle-eyed member of the public snuck in behind them David got out of the car, and shooed them off back to the main entrance! I love it, we have the most famous bouncer in the world.
I’ve also had quite a hilarious day of being a general poser, as I had a photocall with Skelly for our wonderful sponsors Charles Owen Helmets. Then I had an even funnier one for Point Two Air Jackets, where I had to pose with a cup (not of the fancy trophy variety, but a branded mug) for a campaign they’re doing… I was aiming for a nice sophisticated shot of me elegantly posing by the main ring – then did a very stupid face like a monkey and that’s the one they chose. It’s fun, apparently! When will I learn? On that note, before I can tell you any more embarrassing stories about myself I shall sign off until tomorrow… Ladies’ Day and clearly one of my best days of the year! I have a hat/fascinator thingy that nearly rivals my famous Hickstead rosette one of a few years back, so keep your eyes peeled!
Ps – The lovely Richard Davison, my mate and British Olympic dressage legend, popped in to say hello and found it too hilarious for words that I actually write my blog in a store cupboard in the Master’s Box! It’s genuinely the only quiet place on the whole showground. He sneakily papped me and sent it to the Horse & Country web team so you can all see for yourselves. Don’t worry, I’ll get him back."
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?