"I haven’t been a fan of Griff Rhys Jones for a long while. Enjoyed him in Smith and Jones but since then haven’t quite appreciated his self-absorption and quite obviously cultivated eccentricity. However, live and let live. Until the canoe debate. Presuming Mr. Jones was quoted accurately in the press, his call for militant canoeist action against anglers was quite ridiculous. Can I make three points?
1. There are inconsiderate anglers and there are inconsiderate canoeists. That’s life and that’s our general public. I personally fish a lot on one of the most heavily canoed waters in the country, the River Wye, and I find 90 per cent of the canoeists are charming. 10 per cent are diabolically rude and inconsiderate. I guess that’s the same with angler ratios, too. So neither group can have the higher ground when it comes to model behaviour.
2. Canoeists don’t need to pay for a licence to enjoy their sport. Anglers do. The money that anglers pay goes towards enhancing waters as habitats for fish, plants, amphibians, waterfowl and water mammals. Waters desperately need money to sustain them. Anglers contribute and canoeists don’t.
3. Let’s take the River Wye. There, the major species like chub, barbel and roach spawn on shallow gravels through May and into early June. Anglers observe a closed season until the 16th June so as not to interfere with this process. Canoeists don’t. And it’s on the shallow gravels that most damage is done. Canoes ground, their occupants get out and stamp millions of eggs into oblivion.
Draw your own conclusions."
"The week started with a trip to the vets for Joe (Jorrocks Curtis) – he has not been quite right recently but there’s nothing glaringly obvious wrong, so he is going to spend some time in the field and enjoy a little holiday. I schooled Tweedy (Silbato) who appears to be very happy in his new home. I worked Imp (Impulsive), who is also enjoying his new abode and Beanie (Breeze IV) who was quite fresh!
The next day I schooled Beanie again and Harry (Azeb), both of whom were excellent and are so much more established now. I jumped Brian (Opposition Express) who was quite strong – a good thing as he has his Young Event Horse class soon, and I'm sure he'll be spooky at his first big show. I left for the gallops with Romeo (Romeo Z) and worked on his stamina with longer, slower canters. It’s important to build his stamina, particularly before Gatcombe. I took the dogs too – they are hilarious trying to keep up - I must get someone to video it! I went on to the XC course with Imp, Ken (Kenny) and Tweedy. Tweedy was again good; he is getting better and gaining more confidence each time. Kenny was great – we practised a bounce into the water before the weekend (Aston Advanced). Imp was superb – I can't wait for Aston, he's in the Open Novice on Sunday…
On Wednesday I rode Bomber, my four-year-old before leaving for Towerlands. He has a wonderful canter and I can't wait until he grows! I took Imp Tweedy, Bruno (Ultimate Opposition) and Kenny. Sedge (Coogan Sedge), owned by Jane Bailey, also came, courtesy of Amanda – Jane Bailey’s groom. Tweedy did a great double clear for 6th and Sedge would've also been placed but he is not registered. I also jumped Sedge in the clear round, which we put up several holes. He, like the others, is improving rapidly. Tweedy just had one down in the Newcomers (I’m delighted, as he is only five!) and so did Imp. I also jumped him in the clear round, which was raised, and he jumped very well – two clear rounds. I jumped Bruno in the 1.15 and he went clear. He also did a double clear in the Foxhunter and won the class. Ken also jumped a double clear and finished 6th. So a good day – hopefully we’re all set up for clear rounds at Aston... I collected the lorry, she looks superb – shiny and new and I intend to keep her that way!
The following day I was up early to school Bruno and Kenny before Aston. Both were excellent and I hope for good marks on Friday. I jumped Harry – he is a superstar, I think this is the best he's gone. I left for Hickstead to watch the Grand Prix – the traffic was awful and took forever, I hate the M25! It was a good class though and I had a great day out. Back at home I packed the lorry up for three days at Aston, with Ken and Bruno in the Advanced and Imp in the Open Novice.
On the Friday, I left with the horses at 8am for Aston. We arrived in good time and all the way up, the weather had been very good as it was for most of the day except when I warmed up for each dressage test. I got soaked – twice! I've never seen so many top riders at the same event as here. The organisers had made good efforts with the ground and the advanced XC course was great, not too big but it posed enough questions. Bruno performed a very nice test for 35 – only a few marks off the leader so I was very happy with that. Kenny did his test in the most awful conditions – pouring rain and thunder, so he was a little tense but still quite good for 38. I walked the course, which was perfect for them and I hope the rain stays so keeps the clay soft.
Amber (Red Amber), my mare, had been dropped off for me from the Kyles as I'm going to try another time with her; I adore her but we just have differences of opinions at times! I schooled her and Imp in an arena with mirrors, they are so helpful – both horses were good and I managed to squeeze in an entry on Sunday for Amber for the Novice (although the time was very early).
On Saturday I enjoyed a very leisurely morning as I wasn't on until 11am and we were stabled only two minutes up the road, which was ideal. We arrived at 9.30am and I watched some show jumping – the course looked quite big and it was a small arena; there were not many clears. I jumped Ken and he did a fantastic clear; I am now using a hackamore, which really seems to help as he's quite sensitive in his mouth. We then went XC and he was awesome, a little green at the bounce into water but foot perfect otherwise and finished 8th. Brilliant result! Bruno jumped in the afternoon; he jumped clear in the show jumping (as I'd expect) and went fantastically XC. We've changed his bit to an American gag and I had much more control and could ride more forwards. Hopefully he will continue as well in the bit as I've always slightly struggled with brakes! Bruno got just a few time faults and finished 6th – again, I was delighted as it was a very good result against top competition. Two double clears out of very few too – all in all a very good day at the office!
On Sunday, I was up at 6am as I had an 8am dressage test. I was riding Amber first and hadn't ridden her since March except during the last two days. It was not a bad test but we need to get to know each other again. She jumped superbly – a double clear and finished 10th. Not bad for our first event again. Imp was in the Open Novice – he performed the most perfect test but for some unknown reason we only scored the 3rd best mark in the section, however he jumped a great clear in the show jumping and was faultless XC to finish 2nd. It was very exciting as this was our first proper event. Next time we’ll do an Intermediate for both of them. Well four double clears out of four is fantastic! I’m glad all the hard work paying off. It’s a busy week next week with three days at Knaptoft, which will hopefully be as successful as this weekend!"
"This year, as usual, I hosted the House of Fishing at the CLA Game Fair, this time at Belvoir. Fascinating as ever; however, several of the seminars I chaired were depressing in the extreme.
Take this one. One of the greatest problems that we are facing in the sea is the decline of sand eels. They are an essential food for many types of fish and, of course, for sea birds, too. They are an essential part of the food chain and yet we’re decimating them for the most stupid of reasons. Especially this one.
We all know that appetising smell of cooking bacon. Imagine it now, that real sizzle effect. And look at the bacon in your pan or under the grill. It’s got that super sheen to it that makes it mouth-wateringly succulent. Pure unadulterated bacon. Yum-yum.
Not true. In fact, that scent and that sheen is all down to sand eels. They’re caught, they’re crushed and the oil is coated upon our bacon strip. Do we need our bacon like this? Of course not. Do we need sand eels in the sea? Desperately. Sadly, the greed of our planet is everywhere to see."
Dogs are a source of immense pleasure for owners & handlers
“Had a real treat this weekend, I spent the two days at the CLA Game-Fair held at Belvoir Castle. The best part of all was that I was there not to work but just to enjoy the pleasures of this mass gathering of like minded people. I had a brilliant time and returned relaxed and knowing a little more about myself… I’m obsessed, a geek, a junky, it’s not normal; these are some of the thoughts that rattled around in my head as I drove home.
You see for the first time in some twenty years I was at The Game-Fair with nothing or anyone else to think about and just about everything that the countryside has to offer on display. Over the two day period I spent close to twenty hours on the show ground, eighteen of which were spent watching gundogs.
Owning and working with dogs is a way of life for me. I find them fascinating, and this weekend away has proved to me just how much pleasure I get from being around dogs and the people that share my interest. This got me thinking about the enormous efforts and time people put into their dogs.
One of my friends is an excellent example of how passionate dog people manage to find and make the time to enjoy their dogs: Ray spends the shooting season working and trialing his spaniels. He runs a highly successful business that demands a lot of his time and he spends a large proportion of his life driving up and down the country ensuring that the business continues to flourish. His dogs travel with him wherever he goes and he takes every opportunity to take a break from the driving and spend a short time training his dogs.
This obviously works brilliantly for Ray as his dogs are beautifully trained; they regularly get to work in all sorts of terrain and environments and Ray gets a break from driving whilst giving him a regular ‘Gundog Fix’.
We owe a lot to our dogs, and yes I know that sometimes you might feel the opposite - having had your arm pulled out of its socket on the daily walk, retrieving your dog from your neighbors’ fishpond, rabbit run or chicken coop or returning from work to be greeted by Rover with the stuffing from your new armchair in his mouth – and may be left wondering why you ever wanted a dog. But there are an awful lot of us who could think of nothing worse than to go through life without a dog In our pack.”
"For the Grand Prix Special, Escapado was quite hot in the warm up. Then when I had to go into the arena, the first part of the test was really good, almost the best that he has ever been. But in the walk he was a bit too tense and then I had a big mistake in the piaffe transition, and he jumped out of it.
He was better after that and we didn’t have any mistakes in the canter work, but it was not as good as it could have been.
Three of the judges had me in first above the American, Leslie Morse, and one even had her in third place, but the German judge had her nearly 3% ahead of me, so even though it was very close, I ended up in second.
It was a pity Peanuts got so hot, but on the other hand I am pleased that at 16 years old, he is still happy and in the best shape he has been in since I got him. He was off with an injury for six months but now he is fit and when you look at him in the arena, he looks like an eight year old.
He loves doing the big competitions and getting all the attention. I can understand why he was difficult for Carl to ride in the Freestyle as a ten year old. He has calmed down a bit and now has the right level of tension and excitement to perform at his best.
Of course after the Special I watched Totilas in the Kur. What can I say? He is amazing. We were telling Edward on the way home today that it was lucky he had made a slight mistake in the one time changes, otherwise he would have nothing to improve on!
One of the best things about the competition at Hickstead was all the people who had travelled so far to come and see Totilas and the other top horses. One lady told us she had got up at 4am just to come down and see him. Having watched his Saturday Grand Prix performance online, she said she just had to see him in real life. That kind of excitement is something special. It is a lot of fun when people really care like that.
It was a pity about the rain, but I guess nobody can help that. I think the show was really positive for the UK to have all these top international horses and riders.
So Escapado went home last night and has already been enjoying himself in his field, and now it is time for us to go home too. Thank you for reading my blog."
"Over the last few weeks I have been working at game fairs and country shows such as the East of England, The Royal Show and the Festival of Falconry showing people how easily game can be used as part of an everyday diet.
I have had many people come and speak to me at these shows about how much they enjoyed the game they tasted and about how I have changed their minds about how good game can be.
Last Wednesday and Thursday I did two very different demonstrations at the college.
On the Wednesday, 32 members of our national consumer press attended a cooking demonstration. The demonstrations where a double act with Mark Thatcher the Executive Head Chef of the House of Lords. Mark came up with three recipes that showed off how easy cooking game can be and I showed how to prepare the raw product. The demos went very well and later the journalists had time to ask questions ,so look out for features coming up!
The Thursday brought an event for Sodexo, one of the largest corporate catering companies in the world. Every year Sodexo have a training day / competition at the college using game. I have done these for the last four years, and over this time we have seen the use of game growing in many of Sodexo’s outlets.
The Countryside Alliance works hard with its Game to Eat campaign to promote the eating of game and its use by chefs. Both these events just go to show some of the good work they are doing."
“Ruby has continued to progress well, taking a variety of training exercises and new experiences in her stride this week.
On the training side, I work with Ruby for short periods each day on the full set of basic commands, and am extending the time she remains in the ‘sit-stay’ and ‘down-stay’ positions. I use a combination of visual and verbal signs during the training sessions, which is important as some clients may not be able to use hand signals and so would rely on verbal commands only.
I know that Ruby has grasped the verbal instruction approach as, when talking to my mother on loudspeaker on the telephone, she gave the instruction “Ruby. Down.” and Ruby immediately hit the deck!
In my monthly one-to-one with our Dogs for the Disabled Puppy Co-ordinator, Claire, we agreed that whilst Ruby’s response to the basic commands has been very positive, her heel-work needed a bit more focus.
So Claire, Ruby and I travelled to Banbury’s retail park. Surrounded by the throng of daily shoppers and, amongst a continuous flow of distractions (including the rabbits in the pet store), we calmly walked to and fro with Ruby, working on her walking to heel.
The training approach with positive reinforcement means that I verbally praise Ruby when she’s walking in the correct position, and, if she starts to pull ahead, I stop walking, entice (not pull) her back to my left side through my voice and a small treat, then set off again. With Claire and me taking turns, within 10 minutes Ruby was beginning to ignore the distractions around her.
Later in the week, I visited Banbury town centre and took Ruby with me to the bank, around WH Smith and to Marks & Spencer, where I gave her the experience of taking the lift up one floor, walked around, then took the lift back down to the ground floor. Ruby was very relaxed and the movement of the lift did not appear to concern her at all, with her focus remaining on me. A very good sign as this type of daily activity and calm response needs to be familiar to Ruby for when she is partnered with a client.
At the weekend we attended a Vet’s Open Day to help promote the work of the charity, and there was a crowd of about 50 people. Previously, she had a tendency to launch herself forwards in excitement on meeting new people. The Open Day gave me the chance to work with Ruby on her greeting behaviour, and, by the end, she was anticipating the praise that she would receive for sitting before meeting a new person. So, real progress with Ruby, and the charity also signed-up some much-needed local Temporary Boarders who volunteer to help out by homing dogs for short periods of time.”
“Today I warmed Escapado up for about 45 minutes before my test. Straight from the beginning, he felt really good. I was happy with how he was going when we went in and he did a good test.
I was especially pleased with the canter work and the passage was good. Sometimes he can be tricky with the transitions in and out of the piaffe, but today he was super.
All the judges had me on good marks in the 70s, except for one, who had me on 69%, which was a shame, as it cost me a place.
I was pleased with Peanuts and the audience seemed to approve too as I heard lots of clapping when we finished, which was a great response. The horse knows his job and was really trying hard today.
I was pleased to see a nine for paces today and a nine for the passage. Tomorrow I will ride him in the same way. Obviously sometimes you feel that you can push for more in certain places, but in general I will try to do the same as I did today.
For tomorrow I have chosen to compete in the Special. Parzival, Totilas, Sunrise and Laura B are all in the Kur, so I thought rather than probably coming fifth or sixth in that, I would rather have a shot at winning the Special. Plus, that way, Edward [Gal] can help me warm up and I can help him.
Today I watched Parzival and Totilas. Parzival looked great, but Totilas wasn’t as relaxed today as usual – the beginning was very good but then he made that big mistake in the transition and I thought oooooh please don’t make any more mistakes!”
"What a day! A brief blog this evening, as I’m rushing off to our annual Sponsors’ BBQ… a perfect occasion to finally relax and put all the branding worries of the day behind you! Traditionally too, there’s always one member of the team who slightly overindulges on the Champagne Pommery (one of the very real benefits of working in sponsorship!) and lets slip a few trade secrets and insider scandals! Who will it be tonight I wonder, and I can’t wait for the resulting banter tomorrow (think office xmas party and you’ve got the idea!)
The sound of hearts sinking was clearly audible around our little showground during the early hours of the morning, when the threat of heavy HEAVY rain finally materialised. And stayed. There really is nothing more heartbreaking as an organiser when all the I’s have been dotted and the T’s crossed, and the only thing out of your control, the great British Summertime, does not play ball. At 8am – the time when people are deciding what to do with their day – the sheets of rain falling across the main ring were honestly so thick and relentless that you couldn’t see from one side of the arena to the other.
However we are British of course, and everyone knows that we Brits can’t resist a bit of a challenge, strength in the face of adversity and all that. Better still a challenge involving the weather! So, the Great British Public continued to pour in in their droves, and the day was a fantastic success despite the rain.
Jumping one of Bob Ellis’ Nations Cup rounds in the famous ring here at Hickstead is an enormous challenge at the best of times, and heavy rain does not serve to make it easier! However, the horses continued to fly and the competition was intense. Very early on it was clear who the main contenders would be, but there was a double-edged fight occurring as those at the bottom of the leaderboard continued to battle it out in the fight to avoid relegation.
Unfortunately Team GB’s outlook did not improve, and with a disappointing result we remain languishing in 9th place with the threat of relegation unfortunately now very real. Let’s hope the boys can perform a small miracle in Dublin!
An intense competition, over an incredibly technical and fully built course (we famously don’t shy away from maximum fence heights here at Hickstead!) we had a jump off between Germany and France. France went in to deliver a near faultless round, at impressive speed, but had to settle for four faults after an unlucky rail came down. The tension was palpable as everything came down to the very last rider for Germany – after 100 rounds and 50 riders had been jumped, such an ending was unbelievable. However they did it again, and Sonke (the German chef d’equipe) once more proudly held the golden Prince of Wales aloft as Germany celebrated their second consecutive win.
So, to the weekend… tomorrow we’ve got the infamous Sky Sports Speed Classic (a speed class incorporating the ‘nasties’, the permanent fences, so really anything can happen) and the Old Lodge Queen Elizabeth II. The Old Lodge QEII now serves as the climax to the county show series, and Britain’s most prestigious national final, so the question on everyone’s lips is will Shane Breen be able to pull it off again and be Queen Breen two years in a row?"
“Escapado, or Peanuts as we call him at home, travelled over without any problems. He came over with my groom and arrived fresh on Wednesday evening.
We came separately a day later on the plane, and after we arrived yesterday afternoon and I worked him a little in the evening. I rode him again this morning and he felt good and fresh.
At the moment I am not feeling the pressure of riding him in his old country in front of all the people who knew him when Carl had him, but we will have to see what happens tomorrow when I come into the arena. It might all be different then.
The horse has been really good in his last few sessions and he is in great shape at the moment, so he has every chance to do well.
Here at Hickstead the weather is typically British – it is windy and raining. I have just watched the Special and it was good, but I hope that tomorrow with the bigger competition, the atmosphere will be even better!
This morning I went over to the jumping area and it is really big, but we are used to these big shows; we have a lot of them back home.
Tonight we are allowed to ride in the arena, so I will take Peanuts in there and walk him round for a while. Tomorrow I will warm up for about 40 minutes before the test; that should be enough. We have just passed the vet check, which went smoothly, so I don’t have my time for tomorrow yet.
For now everything is under control, but there are a lot of very good horses in the competition, so we will just have to see how it goes!”