“An incredibly special week, as on Monday together with Monty, Dr David Marlin and Dr Veronica Fowler, I visited the Queen at Windsor Castle. We spent over an hour with Her Majesty (that’s how you’re to address HM at first, then you charge it to Ma’am to rhyme with ‘Arm’) in her sitting room – talking horses naturally!
Our friend Terry Pendry, her wonderful stud groom, was also with us and showed us some of the grounds later. The Corgis were great. Some of them are actually ‘Dorgies’ now (crossed with Dachunds). There’s even one called Monty!
I’ve inherited being a royal supporter through my dad, I suppose. He was always so proud that he served his apprenticeship ‘at the King’s stables’. That was because his father, a private soldier in World War One wrote to the Prince of Wales explaining his son wanted to be a jockey. The Prince of Wales promptly organised with his trainer to find him a job at his stables in Newmarket.
The Rodbaston Show went really well with Monty starting with a nappy mare and a cow phobic horse. Monty was able to show the inadvertent damage that had been done to the mare by lunging and gave the owner a good road forward after the mare went very nicely on the night.
The cow phobic horse went down very well with the audience but even more popular was the cow that came along. The audience were very amused by the cow every time she went ‘Moooooo’- but then, what did they think she was going to say?!
This was the night of my Banksy unveiling (quite literally as it turned out). When Monty first met Banksy quite frankly he didn’t seem too impressed. However, I watched him closely as Rosie showed off all that they have worked on together in just two and a half weeks and I noticed a change come over his face. I can only explain it as a bit like Simon Cowell when he first heard Susan Boyle sing.
We’re not taking Banksy to Myserscough as I think it’s a bit of a long distance at this stage, but we’ll be taking him on the rest of the tour and I think he’ll be a new poster boy for just what can be achieved with a nice young horse if you get your work right. I’m sure we’ll be making a programme for Horse & Country about him before too long! Do come and say hello if you come to one of the demonstrations. See details of the remaining demonstrations at my website by clicking on the link below.”
"The highlight of my week has been giving a dressage display with Wurlizer (aka Wizard, a 9 year old by Weltmeyer x Brentano II) to the children of the Wormwood Scrubs Pony Centre in West London. The centre gives disabled and inner city children the opportunity to learn to ride and care for horses and ponies and I was asked to give the display by London Law firm Pemberton Greenish who support the centre.
Richard, whose daughter Ellie keeps her horse with us, very kindly took us up to London and we arrived at 3pm for the 5pm start.
Kate from Pemberton Greenish who was organising the event met us and showed us around the centre before a final briefing on the evening ahead. She also pounced with make up as she said there would be a lot of photos…she wasn’t wrong!
I met more of her colleagues who were helping her with the event and at about 4.30pm Wizard and I had our first photocall, before warming him up in time for the demo.
Once everyone had arrived (200 people including over 100 children), the senior partner at Pemberton Greenish gave a brief introduction, describing what dressage is and also giving an overview of what Wizard and I have won.
Amy, who works alongside me, took over the microphone and Wizard and I ran through all the movements we know with Amy explaining what we were doing. The audience’s favourite tricks were his one time changes and extended trots which drew ripples of appreciation from the crowd.
We then ran through our PSG music test before the Question and Answer session, and thankfully lots of children were forthcoming with questions for me.
It was then time for the aftershow party, where I signed autographs, handed out the party bags - provided by the law firm to the children - and had photos taken with the children.
Both Amy and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the experience and I am fairly sure I will never have another experience like that again. The audience were so appreciative and thankful and it was very humbling. I would not hesitate to do it again.
"If I am honest, sometimes I don’t want to catch a fish.
I don’t want to catch a fish when I am…
1) …standing chest-deep in a strong current sixty yards from the bank in the River Tweed.
It can require a very spectacular balancing trick to walk, crab-like, towards the bank in a deep, powerful stony-bottomed river while an angry salmon is trying to pull the other way on the end of your line. And balancing in these circumstances isn’t my thing, particularly as I swim like a very small pebble and am genuinely scared of water.
I don’t want to catch a fish when I am…
2) …on a piking expedition just when it is getting dark and I haven’t got a torch.
There will always be that last cast when, on the one hand, you think, ‘there must be a large, snaggle-toothed pike in the water at the foot of these tree roots’, but on the other hand a little suppressed voice is screaming from within: ‘I don’t want to catch a pike. I don’t want to catch a pike. They are big and ferocious and I will have to unhook him… and I can’t see.’
I don’t want to catch a fish when I am…
3) …sheltered under a monumentally large umbrella and I am warm, dry and snug. Meanwhile the rain is cascading down, turning the whole world around me into a cold, soaking malevolent-looking environment. Oooh, and I have a cup of tea warming my fingers.
I don’t want to catch a fish when I am…
4) …micturating behind a hedge.
I don’t want to catch a fish when I am…
5) … looking in my phone’s thesaurus to find a more suitable word for ‘relieving myself’ (see 4) and then drop said phone on to damp grass. This is what has just happened as my float disappeared under the water.
I vow from here on not to write on the bank side as I am now sulking over a sodden telephone.
But I am also looking at the beautiful perch that I have just landed. I place him gently on the grass. This perch is ridiculously colourful, like a cartoon animal. He has amazing blue-black stripes, which shine as if under glass. His red fins contrast with the yellows, purples, greens, blues, blacks, browns, whites and greys of his body. He is perfect. His spiny, dangerous (I am forever having my fingers pricked) dorsal fin stands proud.
If you were a God and you had to invent a world and all that walked swam and flew on, in and around it, you could not invent anything as perfect as this stripy perch. He is truly splendid.
As I put him back in the river, I realise that all thoughts about a wet phone have disappeared and I am slowly rewriting this piece in my head. I realise that, in fact, there are no times whatsoever when I don’t want to catch a fish.
Sorry for wasting your time over the previous five hundred words or so."
"I have definitely been feeling the effects of the long journeys this week but it hasn't stopped me being very busy out and about. Monday was spent catching up and riding all the horses again. They all felt good – the girls have done a good job of working them; they have put on a few pounds though – I think they've been a little spoilt! My emails and admin work was overflowing too so there was plenty to keep me busy.
Tuesday became jumping day ready for The Jays on Wednesday. It only takes me 30-minutes to get to the competition – perfect. I had Bomber to ride – this was his first competition and he was rather over-excited. He needs lots of outings this winter – I now have the time so will be out twice weekly at least. Brian jumped well in the British Novice, just one down and the same in the Discovery. He is incredibly brave and straightforward for a four-year-old, so he's about to go on holiday as I feel he's done enough until getting ready for the season. Tweedy (Silbalto) jumped well – again a fence in each (he was rather fresh - it's uncharacteristic for him to have fences down!) and Imp (Impulsive) was the superstar – he was perfect and jumped two double clears and was third and fourth.
I returned home to show Romeo (Romeo Z) for Rachel Wakefield’s website as sadly he's for sale but only if the right person comes along. He would be ideal for a competitive junior – a serious horse for someone. If anyone is interested in him do contact me. Thursday was XC schooling day, I took Bomber who was much more settled and very brave; Brian (Opposition Express), who was perfect, also came along as did Imp – for a canter and to jump the water – and Amber (Red Amber) ditto. Poor Gemma found a hole while riding Imp and had a little tumble, none the worse for it and so got back on and carried on again. I schooled the horses Friday ready for Little Downham; I had crammed in as much work to prepare for this as possible in five days.
Dave (Mightaswell) has had the vets out twice this week to inject antibiotics into his fetlock to stop the infection which I'm desperately hoping will work. Beanie's (Breeze IV) hock is still big but seems more comfortable, x-rays next week.
Saturday morning we left for Ely with Imp (open novice), Romeo (intermediate novice) and Amber (intermediate). Amber was in need of another week’s work for her dressage but she performed a reasonable test – winter’s work now is to improve this. The other two were very good and scored second best scores in the sections. They all show jumped well too, Romeo had one down sadly, but he just touched it. Amber jumped beautifully – I think there were very few clear rounds. Imp went XC first, jumped really well and in a much more consistent fashion and was relaxed and handled the waters well too and won. Good way to end his season. Romeo was superb and clear inside the time, just beaten into second place. Amber again was brilliant – very exciting for next year, very scopey and classy. The intermediate would be quite testing in places so good reflection that she's now established at this level. She finished seventh – her best intermediate placing.
So a very happy day to finish on. This year has had many highs and many lows, but that’s horses. Looking forward to winter projects, I'm full of enthusiasm for new projects and developments, hopefully a few new horses will join the yard this winter too, you never know what’s around the corner."
“Regular readers of this blog will already know how fortunate I feel I am to be able to work with Dogs for the Disabled. From meeting inspirational clients and seeing Ruby’s skills develop week to week, to being involved in a wide variety of unique experiences and events, such as the charity’s recent 21st birthday celebrations.
This week, Ruby and I were lucky enough to witness at first hand one such up-lifting occasion: 20 Dogs for the Disabled supporters literally throwing themselves out of a moving plane at 12,000 feet to raise much-welcomed funds for the charity.
Each volunteer was sponsored to make the tandem skydive, taking place at Hinton in the Hedges Airfield, where the speed of descent touches 120 mph.
Amongst the merry (but nervous) band of jumpers were one of the charity’s clients, numerous supporters (including Sophie Lowe – pictured below – from West Bar Vets in Banbury) as well as Dogs for the Disabled staff and family members.
As I had previously made a tandem skydive, my husband, Tim, volunteered to take the plunge for our family, so Ruby and I were there in a supportive capacity and were also using the event as a socialising experience.
With volunteers, their families, charity supporters, staff and over a dozen dogs in attendance, there was quite a crowd. Ruby was not phased by this, quickly calming down after her initial excitement, and proceeding to make firm friends with a 12-week-old Border Collie.
Distractions such as the small plane ferrying the skydivers to the start of their descent or the loud tannoy announcements for volunteer’s Familiarisation Training, did not affect Ruby, and she seemed to enjoy all the photo opportunities through the day.
Despite the intervention of rain clouds for a short while, all jumps were successfully completed, and over £5000 will have been raised for the charity.
The charity is always in need of volunteers and business supporters, whether raising funds or donating time and energy. If you read this blog and would like to help, please get in touch using the website below. It is not always a visible role, but is absolutely critical to the work and success of this wonderful charity. Thank you.”
“The last week has seen a big turn in the leaves. All the birch and rowan are turning yellow and red respectively. Though the weather has remained good we have started getting the odd frost in the morning, and the nights seem to be drawing in quicker and quicker. It’s now dark at about 6.30pm in the evening.
Our stalking has been going well and our guests have managed to kill three stags all of over 15 stone in weight. Every evening one can hear the sound of roaring stags echoing around the glen. The “Rut” is now in full swing with each stag attempting to attract and then keep a group of hinds in an area, and their roars aim to ward off unwanted interest from other stags who are attempting to attract some of the hinds away.
Inevitably this ends in a fight between the two stags but normally this ends without any serious injury. One of the things we attempt to do is to shoot the stags with narrow set antlers with few points. This is for two reasons; normally the stags with antlers like this are poor looking beasts, but the main reason is that when they fight with other stags their antlers do not interlock with the other stag’s antlers but penetrate between the antlers into the neck of the other stag, often killing it. Hence the well grown stag with a superior head can be killed by the inferior stag because his antlers are unnaturally deformed.
Peter (my shepherd/farm manger) had a successful couple of days at the Stirling sheep sales. He came back with three tups (rams) and nearly 150 sheep. That will form the core of our new sheep flock. We will now produce lambs, and buy in a few more to build up the flock to about 500 ewes over the next two to three years. We have potentially big local demand for lamb to eat from friends and acquaintances, so I am now looking into how to best supply this local market, and all the legal requirements. I am convinced that selling locally and direct on a small scale is the most profitable and sustainable way to proceed.
I am pleased to announce that I have at long last managed to catch a salmon! It is the first of the season for me, and I caught it on Wednesday evening. We had a small amount of rain on Tuesday evening and the river looked in good condition, plus I’d had a stressful day so I thought I’d go down and have a cast to relax. I was trying a bit of the river I hadn’t fished in a while but it was looking good and sure enough I caught one. Rivers take a bit of getting acquainted with and I am just beginning to get to know my bit of river. It’s very satisfying when ones theory of what fly to use and where to fish proves successful. It was only a small male salmon of about four or five pounds who was well coloured (having been in the river a while and getting his mating colours) but satisfying none the less. I returned him to the river once I’d taken a photo to prove my catch to my sceptical family and gamekeepers.”
“Twice over the past week clients have said to me that when they first came to us with wayward dogs in need of learning some basic obedience, that they were initially quite sceptical about being firmer with them. “He’s so much more affectionate now than he was before,” is a comment that was used.
Now how can that be? Why, when you become more of a disciplinarian with a dog does he suddenly seem to want to be with you more and seeks out your approval? Well, hopefully you can start to answer these questions yourself.
Think it through logically, your relationship with your boss can be quite complex; are they confident knowledgeable, approachable, clear when giving instruction, quick to praise and reward you when you get things right but not frightened to administer swift discipline should you deliberately take it upon yourself to ignore those boundaries that have been carefully explained? Chances are that you would hold this person in fairly high regard; in fact, it’s likely that you would go out of your way to gain their attention and approval.
On the flip side, is your boss something of a playmate, they don’t seem to explain things all that well, don’t seem to mind if you refuse to do what they ask and when on occasions they start to show signs of irritation you don’t really understand why or what for? Repeatedly (in spite of the fact that you have clearly shown that you are frightened of something) they insist that they drag you as close to your source of fear and then talk to you in baby talk. Chances are that you’re not fussed when they offer you their approval or are that bothered if they tell you off. They don’t seem to command much respect from you and if they should resort to really frightening you perhaps think it’s just better to give them a wide berth.
Offering your dog the relationship one might like from the perfect boss will leave them wanting more from you. Tricky to achieve, yes. Achievable, definitely. Easy, not at all, and it will require lots of thought effort and planning. In a nutshell, training your dog involves an intelligent approach, there are lots of different methods and techniques employed by dog trainers throughout the world but make sure you study and thoroughly understand your chosen methods.”
Sharon and Kenny have spent a lot of time in the lorry in Europe
"Well, I’ve had a great couple of weeks in Europe – spent some serious hours behind the wheel though! I left two weeks ago, heading for Lignieres (France) with Kenny (Kenny) and Camilla Shepherd's two horses. The journey was not too bad, although we did end up travelling around Paris at 3pm which was not ideal! So the trip took 12 hours door to door. It was slightly longer due to me forgetting the Health Papers and my poor mother was abruptly woken at 4.30am to meet me with them. We arrived just before dark at the racecourse, rather tired.
The weather was superb all week, glorious sunshine – warm enough for shorts. There were quite a few British riders there – word has got around that it's a good event. I think next year will be very full as the lengths they went to were fantastic. We had all weather surfaces for dressage and show jumping and a watered XC course that couldn't have been better – an enormous amount of effort had obviously gone in as it hadn't rained for two months there. The 2* course was good – there were questions but it was not too hard. Good for a first timer. The CIC 1* was quite strong but educational – good for something that’s done a few intermediates.
I had Kenny in the 2 *. He did a good test and was very settled but only scored a 54, which I was disappointed with. This could've been beacuse it was early on Thursday.! I walked the course and decided it was a little soft for him and my judgment was correct as lots went clear around the track on Saturday – I think I would never have pulled enough places for a good finish and so when I heard I was in at Boekelo I re-routed. My poor mother had lots to sort out for me as did the girls, Becky and Gemma, who were at home on their own for another week. I enjoyed my days off at Lignieres, they have good parties in the evenings and it really was a lovely event. I wished I’d had Beanie (Breeze IV) in the 2* (he is looking brighter, thank goodness) as it would've been perfect for him. Julie Tew very kindly took Mils (Camilla Shepherd) home for me and I stayed Sunday night and was ready to go straight to Boekelo, after a cross country school once they'd finished.
Sarah Cohen was heading straight on as well – riders went backwards and forwards across the Channel. I left at 11.30pm and drove through the night – the traffic is so much better at that time and it only took me 20-minutes and not an hour and a half hour to get around Paris. I did arrive thoroughly exhausted at Boekelo at 10.30am – it's a very long way. Kenny travelled well on his own, I was worried he'd not be good by himself but he was quite happy. I caught up on sleep while I could and by Tuesday I felt rested again. The weather was completely different to France – cold and raining, which took a little adjusting to. There was a party on Tuesday night before it all began. I’d heard about these but never experienced them until now. It has got to be the best party I’ve been to in a while at an event and everybody had a great time; it is the only night we can all let our hair down and some people did so more than others and nearly missed the trot up in the morning!
We walked the course which looked a good 3 *, the ground would cut up a little but the track was nice, nothing too difficult but places where you could have a run out. A good first 3 *.
Ken was drawn quite late so I had a Friday afternoon dressage – he had already worked for a week on his dressage so I tried to keep it varied for him as it can also make them sore to drill them too much. He thought it was all quite exciting and in his test again added more changes, which rather spoilt it and the judges were incredibly harsh on him. The standard was very high, lots of horses that had been at other 3 or 4 * events and not completed, so Kenny being a first timer was in the minority. The hospitality never stopped – we had a great night for sponsors with a band and lots of dancing and then an owners’ afternoon on Friday and I must admit it was superb for all involved. It was fantastic for our support crew to be so well looked after – everybody appreciated it.
The rain fell on Friday night which was a shame as the ground was then on the soft side. The course rode well – again with such a high standard this was reflected in the results. The time was hard to get which made it a good competition. I warmed Kenny up – he felt good but quite tense, although this can be normal. When I started the XC he felt great and jumped very confidently, as we got to about five minutes he still felt good but I had to push him, which is unusual but he jumped the difficult combinations with ease. At seven minutes there was a combination – log roll to corner on four strides with a slight curve – he jumped right at the corner and ran out, which was a real shame. He finished well but wasn't himself on Saturday night and had to be withdrawn from the show jumping. We left on Sunday morning to get him back home – I think it was a week too long. Still he would've learned lots and got used to the crowds and next year he should have a competitive campaign at 3 * level. Exciting! It took us 12 hours to get home and it was my birthday – I could think of better ways of spending it but well worth the trip! I do hope to go back to Boekelo next year."
“I had a fantastic Sunday night at Horse of the Year Show once again. Caught up with Martin Clunes and his lovely wife Philippa and daughter Emily. Martin wants to be taught Join Up for his next programme on horses, so Monty and I will be taking a trip to his place in Dorset in November to help him along. For dinner I sat next to a boy band called Blake which was fun, I so wanted a photo to make all my girlfriends jealous but my so-called friend Julia Topham-Barnes said I was to ‘stop being such a groupie’ and refused to take one – probably just as well.
For many, HOYS marks the end of their horsemanship season but I feel I’m just at the beginning. When Rosie Jones and I went to Ireland to do a day for the BHS we managed to come home with two horses. What was great about it was when they arrived they were even nicer than I remember. We named the bay four-year-old, Banksy and the piebald three-year-old Corky.
I’ve got a nice bit of land on a steep hill I’ve never made any use of and it’s a dream of mine to put some nice youngsters up there as it’s the ideal place for them to develop. So that’s the plan with Corky, we’ll give him time to grow and develop and then make a start with him as a four-year-old. He’s a real sweetheart but looked a bit poor when he arrived. A worm test revealed he has hair worms, which is unusual as they are also a parasite of sheep, cattle and pigs. They develop into adults in the stomach where they feed on blood. Yuck! Needless to say we’re dealing with that and we’ll keep testing until we get the all clear. He was very good for the dentist and I think it will only be a few weeks before we seem some real improvement in his coat and muscle tone.
Banksy, the Irish Draft x TB, had only had a week’s riding when we saw him. He bucked the dealer straight off when he got on him but he got straight back on and then proceeded to show us how he could jump Irish banks! Banksy is Rosie’s project and she has started University in Sussex (she’s doing Anthropology) and Banksy is staying with Hilary Miles there (Hilary now owns Rosie’s former tour ride, Caesar) and Rosie fits in riding between lectures. It was always planned that Rosie would ride Banksy at the demos, I have Pie to ride and there’s Monty on Copy, we thought it would be nice to have a young horse with a young rider to show the ‘bringing along’ process.
Rosie and Banksy only had three weeks to prepare to go in front of the audience at the Rodbaston demo at Stafford this Saturday night. He had a physiotherapist check him all over soon after he was arrived and interestingly he wasn’t too bad around his body at all but he was a bit sore round his poll area which was worked on and we’ll keep an eye on. Once we had the physical go ahead, Rosie started his training in a relaxed but very focused way. Last week while I was at HOYS she entered him in a walk and trot dressage competition at Plumpton College. It might have not been the most accurate of tests (apparently a ‘little wobbley’ in places) but he finished seventh of 11 and the judge couldn’t believe he’d only had a three weeks riding! It’s so satisfying working with these boys (and Rosie) in order to help them reach their full potential. I can’t wait to see how he’s going now.
Tonight around 5pm, Hilary, Rosie and Banksy will be arriving to stay the night before we all go on the Stafford tomorrow. I’m in charge of dinner - oops, better go and shop! We’ll have so much to catch up on, so many ideas, so many dreams - I’ll make sure you stay informed.
The Rodbaston demonstration is now sold out but for details of other demonstrations, including Your Horse Live go to my website below.”
"After getting home from the National Championships it was time to get some new ideas set in motion while Freddie had a few well earned weeks off. I have decided to join the 21st Century and set up a website about our yard to advertise coaching and livery. For someone who is useless on the computer I screamed for help and have found a designer to do the hard work for me..though I think he wishes I had never found him as I am so difficult to please!?! I'm so glad sitting in front of a computer screen is not my full time job...I have never found so many excuses to have a tea-break! The new website will be revealed soon...
Freddie started back into work last week. As he has had a few weeks off he started with a few days of gymnastic stretching simply to loosen him off and get his muscles open and ready to start full work. I have now started to gradually build what I am asking back up, touching on easy lateral work, transitions and encouraging collection. This is all directed towards my next 'training camp' with Carl in early November. I have been given the go ahead to play around with flying changes, pirouettes, piaffe and passage! The fun begins!!!
To help fund my training this winter I have just spent a couple of days teaching in York and I head to Inverness and Aberdeen this weekend. I really enjoy the clinic days, I see such a variety of types and standards from all different disciplines..it really gets my mind working!
As an added bonus I had a lovely surprise yesterday when I received a letter saying I had been nominated for the Pat Smallwood Training Award, which I will collect at the BHS National Coaching Conference in November. This will be a big help to further my own training.