Our blogger Jay Halim keeps getting soaked through, and hopes to find a new investor to help secure the ride on his top horse...
I hope you are all wintering well! It's that time of the year again, that we all want to get thorugh as quickly and as dry as possible. I am definately missing the luxury of having a indoor school! It's a little tiresome changing coats multiple times a day in an attempt to stay dry, and trying to keep my very fit horses concentrating so I don't get fired off! The lack of an indoor is amplified when I go to ride the young dressage horses in a lovely indoor school for the Bechtolsheimer family. No matter how smug I feel on those mornings, I am soon beaten down by the elements when I'm back at my own yard.
I am very much looking forward to the prospect of a new year. My team of horses seem - touch wood - to be in great shape and are feeling good. I have four four-year-olds, which have been backed and turned away, and a few three-year-olds to think about backing soon. It's an exciting time for me to see if I can now produce a nice end product. All of the homebreds seem to be lovely models and have good moment and a great jump. Last year's four-year-old Candy King is looking to show he has potential to be a top event horse. He was piloted by Laura Collet in the Burghley Young Event Horse final and will go on and compete in some British Eventing competitions this year. What the other homebreds will be I am not yet sure but I am hoping I can give them a good start regardless of which discipline will be there eventual forte.
Thanks to the powers of Facebook I am looking to have a very nice team of staff to join my super groom Stacey. We had an overwhelming amount of interested of people wanting to come and work, which was great. This, plus the prospect of some more sponsorship, could well lead to a bigger and better Team Tiger.
Trying to plan shows at this time of year is proving difficult, as there doesn't seem to be much on for my top horses nationally so I am trying to plan some internationals abroad. Lots of riders from this country head out to Spain and Portugal for four or six weeks, which is a good kick start to the year and a great chance to clock up some world ranking points. Sadly I don't think I could be away from my responsibilities at home for that long at the moment. It's now crucial for me to gain world ranking points as it will help to get into the bigger and better internationals. This is why so many of our top riders are going abroad more and more. Last year the UK did host more internationals than before, which is a great step forward for British showjumping, but I am not sure that this is enough to keep up with the rest of Europe.
So my first big challenge for 2015 is to try and find some investors to help keep one of my existing horses on my yard. Abrisco has been with me for little over a year now and has picked up some amazing results during this time, including finishing second in the Grade C final at the Horse of the Year Show, winning at CSI international 2* and 3* shows, placing at a CSI4* and winning numerous national qualifiers. He even jumped clear in his first 1.50m class, which is impressive as he has spent his early life being produced as an event horse. He has plenty of talent and I would really like him to stay in my team of horses.
This year I would like him to continue gaining milage and would like to compete him in shows such as Bolesworth, Hickstead and the Global Champions Tour in London. Not only is he a talented prospect for me he is a horse that I really love, so if anyone out there has some spare pennies please let me know!
Have you ever watched a slow-motion video of a horse jumping? This footage shows eventer Tracy Garside and her gelding Dunauger jumping the famously huge Cottesmore Leap at Burghley.
The footage is being analysed by the Royal Veterinary College's structure and motion laboratory, which is investigating how animals move and how they interact with their physical environment. See how this horse tackles this huge cross-country jump, and find out more about the RVC's research here.
A new campaign is calling for more women to get involved with sport, but horse riders already know the benefits of just doing it...
"Along with the new year comes the usual advice and features on how to be a better you in 2015.
Magazine cover lines scream at us be a thinner, fitter, more fabulous version of ourselves. Such demands can sometimes be motivating, but more often than not they simply set us up for failure.
What if we’re already the ‘best’ be we can be, but that still isn’t good enough?
So it was refreshing to receive news of a campaign aiming to get more women and girls active – whatever their age, shape or ability. ‘This Girl Can’ shakes up preconceptions about girly-girls with tag lines such as ‘sweating like a pig, feeling like a fox’ and ‘I kick balls, deal with it’.
The accompanying video shows women of all sizes, shaking their (sometimes ample) booty. There are wobbly thighs, sweaty cleavages, mascara smudged sweaty faces and cellulite. And lots and lots of women having fun. Frankly I had to sit on my hand to stop myself punching the air in jubilation and shouting 'hell yeah'!
Because contrary to popular belief you don’t need to be a size 12 or less to enjoy moving your body. All you need is the right frame of mind.
But no matter how many women and girls watch this video, most will turn off the computer and turn on the TV. Starting a new exercise regime is always daunting – especially if you don’t conform to a standard size.
According to research by Sport England who developed the campaign, two million fewer 14-40-year-old women regularly play sport than men. They hope ‘This Girl Can’ will change the way women perceive themselves and exercise.
There is one sport that attracts more women than men – and that is riding. According to the British Equestrian Trade Association women make up over 73 percent of the equestrian community.
We already know the joys of moving our bodies, getting out in fresh air and hanging out with like-minded female friends. Horses are a reason to get out of bed in the morning, no matter how much your head hurts.
Whether you are into high-adrenaline equestrian pursuits such as eventing, or you love a gentle plod around the countryside, riding gives you a glow from the inside out.
Because horses aren’t just good for the body, they’re also good for the soul. They don’t judge how we look – which is handy, as it’s hard to look your best when you’ve covered in mud or rosy red in the face after a long gallop.
Whether your jods are feeling a bit tight post Christmas, or you’ve already failed your new year’s resolution to not eat chocolate before 10am they really don’t care. As long as they get food, shelter, love and the occasional carrot, you’ve got a friend for life.
If you’re thinking of getting back in the saddle, but coming up with all the reasons not to – don’t. Watch this video and then watch it again. Be inspired, and take action.
Don’t wait till you lose that half a stone, don’t think you’re not up to the job. Because you are. The truly wonderful thing about equestrian sport is anyone – and I mean anyone – can give it a go. Age, ability and arse-size is no barrier.
Horses don’t see you for what you’re not, just what you are. And that should be sweaty, muddy and proud. This (horsey) girl can."
Steph Croxford plays tribute to the horse that changed her life, Mr President...
"We’re still in shock after receiving news from our vet that Mr P (aka Rimmer) has a heart murmur.
The news came completely out of the blue as he was only having a routine check along with his yearly vaccinations – and he was last examined in September when everything was fine.
I thought the vet was listening a bit too long this time, and then she said he had a heart murmur so loud she could hear it on the opposite side of his chest.
She graded it as a five out of six and said we had to stop riding him. To which I replied, 'But he looks amazing!'. We clipped him last week and he’s been dragging Simon around the moor and me around the arena because he’s so full of energy.
He’d been feeling so well, I’d even been planning to do the Grand Prix at Myerscough to let him have a blast to music. It was only a few days ago we were working on our pirouettes, two-time changes and piaffe and he went so well, it was like he was saying: 'I remember this! This is what we do!'
We could have an ECG to find out exactly how severe the problem is, but as my husband Simon said, he's nearly 22 and has had an amazing career, so what would we achieve by doing this? We both looked at each other and said this is it – it’s time for him to retire.
It’s the right thing to do, but I never thought in a million years it would be his heart that would be the reason.
The farrier happened to be here at the same time, so we took his back shoes off. It was a defining moment as he’s had a full set of shoes for 18 years. I couldn’t face taking them all off, so we’ve left his fronts on for now.
I feel like I've had the rug pulled from under my feet.
Rimmer has gone from being ridden four days a week to nothing, but we’ve got no choice. We’ve had to completely re-assess where we are with the horses. Now Rimmer is the nanny for the babies and Clooney has comes down for more work. So it’s a bit of a shock for him, too!
Rimmer is a total mud monster and having whale of a time, although last night he said, ‘I’m ready to come in now. And we had to say, ‘Oh no you’re not’.
But he’s got a lovely field shelter with a thick bed and George for company and more than three acres to play in.
We’ve said to him, go up there and knock yourself out, if you want to go nuts, its fine! If he’s a complete lunatic and hoons around and gives himself a heart attack, then so be it – we can’t do any more for him.
I know it sounds awful, but now I know he’s got fragile heart, I hope I go in the stable one day and he’s gone, so we don’t have to make the decision ourselves one day. That said, he could go another five years, and he deserves to have some wind down time.
It’s our responsibility to look after him just as well as we did when he was working. He owes us nothing and we owe him everything. We’ve had an incredible journey together. I wouldn’t even be in dressage if it wasn’t for him, I’d still be hacking round the moors!
Only the other day I was going through photos and found pictures of me jumping Rimmer around a cross-country course. I can’t believe I used to jump him! He was just a happy hacker and I never dreamt I’d be doing the World Cup circuit or be on Nations Cup teams.
We’ve learnt together and have come so far. He is so genuine and honest, it was like having Grand Prix horse reincarnated. I just put my legs on and he already knew what to do.
The highlight was at Olympia in 2006 when he made his breakthrough, and then we came third in the Grand Prix at the Nationals. But there have been so many other highs in our career, such as winning in Biarritz and Saumur, and being long listed for the Beijing Olympics - until an injury ended that dream.
There are so many times where we were so close yet so far, but for an amateur and a cart horse you can’t ask for much more.
We used to go into the warm-up with all those amazing horses and you could see people looking at him, thinking ‘who's that pit pony’, because he’s only diddy. But then they saw him move!
He thought he was God’s gift, of course, even though he didn’t have the looks of Valegro! I still remember at Windsor when I was pregnant and Richard Davison, my trainer, rode him for the first time to music.
I’ve never seen Richard look so white in his life – he was holding on by the skin of his teeth! Rimmer just said: ‘I know my job and get out of my face’ and it took a huge amount of trust to do that.
I was always a passenger and never the rider with Rimmer, and he looked after me. I would make mistake and he’d go, ‘I’ll sort it!’
You could put a doll on him and whisper in ear and he would just do it. The credit has always been with him and not me. He’s so honest and sensible and there was no malice in him at all. He was a Grand Prix horse that anyone could get on and ride. He was the bargain horse who became worth his weight in gold."
There are four new additions in the Croxford household, but Mr P still thinks it's all about him...
Well the big news – literally – is that Maisie our miniature Schnauzer has just had puppies. She was the size of a small house, so we thought there would be eight in there, but she had four huge ones instead. One of them was 10 ounces and they normally weigh four or five!
It’s going to be an even madder Christmas than usual. We are staying at home and going to try and have a nice quiet, family Christmas, but with four horses, two dogs and now four puppies to deal with – not to mention our own two children – it will hardly be relaxing. The two youngsters will have a couple of weeks off and we’ll just keep Mr Hyde and Mr P ticking over.
Mr P still refuses to retire quietly. We’re letting Sue Carson have a pootle on him, as she’s got nothing to ride at the moment. She rides him once or twice a week is really learning from him. He’s still a cantankerous old fart, but is a great schoolmaster.
She wants to take him out for a play and do an Inter II locally at some point, but it’s finding the time to do it. Clyde (Mr Hyde) is taking time off for now, so we’ve got less time, and we’re working on our youngster Clooney as well, which means poor old Rimmer is further down the line. It’s as it should be, but he doesn’t agree and is going ME ME ME!
I’ve been taking Clooney out on various trips to get him used to different venues. If I’m doing a dressage to music clinic I take him along and ride him after. And we’ve taken him to a few unaffiliated shows. I don't think its fair to be competing, so we pay the entry and ride the test during the break. It’s not judged, it’s just to gain experience and to see what he’s like with cars and flowerpots.
We can’t qualify for anything till Medium level, so there’s no point joining British Dressage till then. We might aim him at the six-year-old championships, not to win or qualify for the final, but it’s just another way of getting experience.
We’re working on half pass and simple changes now at home and working towards Medium, so give him another six to eight months and there is no reason why he can’t go out and be competitive at Elementary.
But our main focus now is on Clyde. It’s so hard trying fit it all in. We took him to Vale View recently to do the Grand Prix and it was the day after Halloween so he thought monsters were all around area and was a complete numpty! Every time we reached ‘A’ he shot sideways and catapulted onto the centre line! It was a complete car crash, but we came fourth with 65.6 percent, so must have done something right.
I decided we need to improve our warm up strategy, so get him more relaxed for the big classes. I thought he’d be fine going straight into the Grand Prix at Vale View as we’ve been so many times before, but clearly not.
I've realised we can do an Inter I as we’ve not got 12 points. So when we went to Berry Farm High Profile we used that as a warm up before doing the Grand Prix and he worked much better. He got 68.99 in the Inter I and came sixth and then scored 69.63 in the Grand Prix and came third. It was only our third proper go at that level, and we were only beaten by two international horses.
He was still wild in the warm-up though, so I just had to relax him and him ride as if we were doing Elementary, so he would stop anticipating me.
When we went in I said to him, ‘If you are going to join me at any point it would be useful!’ But he switched on and really concentrated. We even beat Rubins Nite! I was just praying I would stay alive, so to finish in front of Hayley Watson-Greaves was unbelievable.
We weren’t on till 8.45 at night and then we had a four-hour journey home. So once we’d finished I just wanted to get the kids back home and in bed. So I took his plaits out and washed him off, but then was told we had to do the prize giving. I’ve never done plaits so quick in my life and we galloped in with the horse half tacked up and wet!
We can compete internationally now, which is great as it’s like taking your horse on holiday! Well, that’s how we view it, anyway. We’re not going to conquer Europe, so it’s a case of deciding where dowe fancy going on holiday next year.
There are a couple in Normandy we could do, and Biarritz is nice, but it’s a long trip. Mid summer there are two in the South of France, 10 days apart. I think I could be persuaded to be spend two weeks there. We could go and have bit of fun with the whole family. It’s suddenly opened up a door for us, so we’ll get our FEI passports after Christmas.
Mustard doing well in the muddiest pony competition
Scurry driver Chris Orchard is on the mend after a shoulder operation, and her team of (grey) ponies are making their own entertainment in the meantime...
"Way back in January, while recovering from my broken hip following the accident at HOYS 2013, a fellow carriage driver said to me 'Get back in the driving seat Chris, you don't limp when you're in the carriage'. I was totally inspired to get back on the box seat without delay, which I did, as soon as possible. After an enjoyable and reasonably successful 2014 season, I qualified both pairs of ponies for the final at HOYS. But it was while at HOYS I realised that, in fact, you actually can limp while driving a carriage!
In the amplified conditions in the HOYS arena, where any small issue becomes a major problem, I realised that the reason I hadn't scooped as many top placings as I would usually expect during the season was due to the muscles in the offending leg not being strong enough yet to cope with the amount of pressure required to balance me correctly for the turns, affecting my accuracy on the steering. As a result, HOYS was fun, and it had been quite an achievement to have even got there, but apart from a couple of placings in the heats, I was not going to be truly in the frame this year.
So I am now concentrating on strengthening that leg and have also had surgery on my right shoulder to repair a damaged muscle, so it's physio overload for me till the spring! But I am looking forward to being fully back on track for 2015.
Meanwhile the Orchard Scurry Ponies are all 'chillaxing' in the field, looking very hairy and very muddy! In fact, I think they've been having a competition of their own - who can be gt the muddiest. And the winner is..... definitely Go from 'Touch & Go', also known as Mustard.
UK team captain Debbie Harris is blogging for us in the run up to the Polocross World Cup. Read her latest update as she reports on her trip to Australia...
"What a busy couple of months it's been! In November I travelled to Western Australia to attend an international umpires' school. This school was to prepare nations for the World Cup and to discuss rule interpretations across the world, so it was really interesting. I also managed to play at two tournaments over there, and which was a great experience to play Australian Polocrosse horses and play amongst Western Australian clubs.
I also spent three weeks working with horse trainer Gerald O'Brien who is a horse trainer; Gerald works with many of the top Polocrosse horses in Australia. It was a great opportunity to improve my horsemanship skills, not only for the world cup but on a personal level too. I even managed to have a Skype chat with the team back home, and it was great to have a catch up with them and find out what they were all getting up to in my absence!
Back at home I attended a world cup preparations meeting with the team. I also attended the United Kingdom Polocrosse Association (UKPA) AGM and end of season ball and awards evening. I won best No 3 and my horse won Best horse of the year! I was blown away to have won this special prize. Paso is an Argentinian polo pony retrained into Polocrosse. I have owned her for four years now and, being the only palomino to have played at top level, she sure stands out a bit!
This winter I will be concentrating on training my home-bred youngster, Mr Bo Jangles. His mother was an Australian Stock Horse who was imported and played in the UK for many years. He is showing great potential but has a very cheeky character. I will be using some theories and methods I have learnt from various trainers I have worked with over the years, and I hope to play him at his first tournament in 2015.
Each week our coach Jason Webb sets us exercises and fitness programmes to complete. Some are definitely easier than others! We then post our progress and any photos of different sports we are doing to keep fit to our team Facebook page. I play football through the winter months and have recently bought a mountain bike and enjoy exploring the countryside.
Next time I catch up with you will be after our first World Cup Squad training of 2015! I hope you all get plenty of time off from work to spend with your horses over the Christmas period. Have a great Christmas and New Year."
It seems Sharon Hunt will be a lot drier this winter - read her blog to find out why…
"So we are now in the depths of winter and the warmth of summer seems a good while ago now. I am so grateful for my indoor school at my new yard, as I am now able to ride and coach in any weather, rather than being weather dependant!
I have a pony rider who is based with me, Eloise Carter, and she has just been selected for the 'A' squad (one of only 11 riders) for the British Eventing pony team this year, so very exciting that all her hard work has really begun to pay off. She has two top quality ponies so she has every chance of making the team this year.
On a different note, my amazing Loughnatousa Fabio (aka Superman) has been named as one of the horses on the Equine Pathway too, so his journey has just begun for future big things. I can't stress how much I think of this horse, I thought Tankers Town was my horse of a lifetime but I'm hoping this one will be even more successful. Winning a four-star event will be fairly hard to better, but maybe Superman will win two! Here's hoping.
Since it’s winter, it’s time to get down to some dressage practise. My trainer, Emile Faurie, is just incredible and he has brought my riding and training to a totally new level. My horses all go very well on the flat now and I love schooling them. Jumping is still my preference but my love for dressage has definitely grown with Emile’s help.
To get some winter showjumping in I have been out jumping at Addington. It's a bit of a trek but worth the trip. The indoor warm-up, big arena and good tracks really appeal to me. I would rather travel a long way to a good venue, rather than a more local, smaller indoor. The horses jumped very well, HSB Harriet came fourth in both the Foxhunter and Grade C. She is only six, so a very exciting prospect. She is not far off jumping 1m40s now, so next season I should be able to jump some bigger tracks and aim at some higher profile jumping shows too.
I am busy building two teams, both showjumpers and eventers, hopefully I will have a strong team of both, but new top end horses would always be welcomed!
I hope you all have a superb Christmas and a very happy new year and may all your wishes for 2015 come true."
There has been plenty of discussion about retrained racehorse Kauto Star following his Olympia performance...
"Horses are good levellers, aren't they? Even the best horses have off days, and everyone of us who has ever competed on a regular basis will have at least one moment when things just did not go to plan, leaving us somewhere between mildly embarrassed and downright mortified.
I have a whole catalogue of such incidents, most of which I cringe to recall. That Handy Pony class debacle. The time I ended up sitting in the middle of fence three in a showjumping round. The occasion my horse wouldn't go near the mirrors in an indoor arena and I couldn't even complete my dressage test.
But that's part of owning horses, and of being a rider, isn't it? None of us are infallible.
On Tuesday night, Kauto Star took part in a dressage display at Olympia. He came in quite sweetly, trotted and cantered round on each rein, and then... Well, things started going wrong. The steeplechasing great did not want to go forwards. He looked sluggish and awkward, and Laura had to use rather a lot of leg to get him to move at all. She's a four-star event rider, she's better than the vast majority of riders in the world, but for those few brief moments, her riding didn't look good.
"I think he wants to stop and stare at the audience," said Yogi Briesner, who was commentating on the demonstration. Maybe that's true. Maybe Kauto had done a bit too much work in the warm-up. Maybe he didn't like being out of his bed so late at night - his demo had moved from 6pm to 10.30pm. Who knows.
But from this demo - which slid from fine to poor in the space of a few moments - people are surmising all sorts. Kauto 'hates' dressage. He's miserable. He's being forced to do something he doesn't want to. He's not being trained well enough. He should have never left his racing yard. He’d rather do something else instead.
It wasn't a good demo, that's true. But Laura has had Kauto for a couple of years and done dozens of displays and parades with him, and there's never been one like this.
The internet can be a wonderful thing in the horse world. It can spread awareness when a much-loved pony has been stolen, it can help raise funds for starving or neglected equines, it can pinpoint moments of cruelty or wrong-doing.
But equally, the internet can be a rather harsh place. If we rode with dozens of cameras constantly following us, taking thousands of pictures, would there ever be a photograph that was less than flattering? Where our riding looked weak, our position wrong, our horse uncomfortable?
Few of us will ever ride on such a public stage as Olympia. But if we did, and it turned into one of those cringing moments where it didn't go at all to plan – would we cope with becoming the focus of endless debate and criticism? I've seen a number of the world's top riders go from winning medals one moment to having their riding or reactions ripped to shreds online the next.
Olympia wasn't the shining example of retraining racehorses that we hoped it would be. But Kauto looks healthy, he can go nicely (as every other demonstration has proved), he’s being kept fit and active with some schooling – he’s yet to compete and there are no immediate plans for him to do so - while also getting to jump a few fences and hack round the countryside.
All that shouldn’t be discounted because of one bad showing."
H&C's editor Victoria explains why we must all get behind Charlotte Dujardin in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards...
"Back in 2012, during filming of our hit series 'Carl and Charlotte: Dressage Superstars', we asked Charlotte Dujardin if she was nervous about the impending London 2012 Olympics. She simply grinned, and shrugged. 'It's just another centre line, isn't it?'
And that, to me, is what makes Charlotte remarkable. Faced with the biggest challenge of all, riding at her first ever Olympics at the age of just 27, dealing with an enormous amount of pressure and the crushing weight of expectation, she just smiled and treated it like any other competition.
Something changed that day, when Charlotte helped Great Britain clinch our first ever Olympic gold medal in dressage. People outside the horse world began talking about the sport, watching the performances, discussing the 'dancing horses'. Caring about our riders, their horses, our gold medals.
Laura Tomlinson (then Bechtolsheimer) started the new era for British Dressage; Carl Hester was instrumental in the sea change, but it was Charlotte who took it all stratospheric. Charlotte and Valegro - the girl who rose from work rider to mega star, and the quirky bargain horse who became a world beater.
As a pair they broke records and smashed stereotypes. Her name may sound upmarket but really she's a down to earth girl from Enfield. She has good-natured squabbles with mentor Carl Hester, teasing him mercilessly, calling him 'Grandad'. She laughs a lot. When it comes to voting, the 'Personality' part of the BBC awards often seems less influential compared to the performance aspect, but Charlotte satisfies both elements - buckets of character combined with a truly remarkable sporting record.
But does the wider world still see that? In the three years since that historic moment in Greenwich, when everyone was talking about the Dancing Horses, Charlotte has gone on to win European and World gold medals and hold her position as the world number one. In the horse world, they are as famous a combination as Posh and Becks, but beyond that? How many people have seen the list of nominees and wondered why a dressage rider is on there? How many have ruled out her chances already?
And that's why we must get behind Charlotte, just as we got behind Zara eight years ago (and I refuse to believe that it was only because of Zara's Royal connection). The horse world may be small, but we're passionate. We care about our riders and their horses. We don't have allegiances to teams, we may have a few favourite pairings but in general we just care about good performances, great partnerships, the simple magic of watching horses compete at the highest levels.
So for everyone who has ever complained that there isn't enough horse sport on terrestrial TV, who has ever got annoyed when eventers are referred to as showjumpers, who feels horse sport doesn't get the recognition it deserves, then vote for Charlotte. It's that simple. She's the best in the world, she's done more for the profile of her sport than we could ever have imagined, and she deserves every bit of our support.
So when Sunday comes, and Charlotte is there with all the nominees, I hope the public sees what we see. The giggly young lady from Enfield, her wondrous talent, and the phenomenal success she has shared with Valegro.
Hold your head up high this weekend Charlotte, and know the horse world is willing you on to victory. And as for the walk down to that BBC stage, in front of all those people? Well, just treat it like any other centre line."