Sharon is hoping for a good result at Badminton 2010
"This week has flown by; the week before a big competition always does seem to... Jasper is in great form after his run, had the final vet check (just to make sure) so we'll be heading off full of excitement and anticipation for the week ahead!
I've had a very busy week as usual.... I certainly feel that I've achieved as much as possible! The ground has been really good still all week so we've been jumping them outside and XC schooling.
Makes such a difference to me having these facilities on site. I've also been cantering all the horses and they are getting much fitter. I feel I've done enough with Jasper but as its a new area I've nothing to gauge it against as is all new territory, he looks amazing though and feels great so fingers crossed.
We've also had Max Gorden staying/ helping us for a few days. He got on well and we're always grateful of the extra help. Bedgebury is a great place to come for a few days training as we have so many places to work them plus the XC course etc... If anyone is interested for a few days training please let me know via email or leave a comment on this blog.
I went with three horses to Golden Cross for some affiliated dressage on Wednesday - Tweedy, Amber and Harry. Someone had changed the novice 24 without informing me and I then had to go h/c as I hadn't a clue what the test was! Tweedy performed a lovely novice test and came second. Amber also performed a good test but was a little strong, ditto for the elementary. Harry however was superb and won both elementarys with 68% and 70%. Very promising for the future...
In between riding I went to Ingatestone to help launch the new Ariat Devon Pro quantum boot. They upgrade their boots and technology regularly and so this was a launch of the new improved boot. I am incredibly lucky to be sponsored by them, I'm sure you're all very jealous! I will also be doing various signings for sponsors at Badminton so see some of you there...
I went to Bury farm for some lessons with Anna on Friday with Jasper, who we worked in the field. We perfected the warm up and then ran through the test once which he performed very well. Just a case of keeping us both very relaxed, he's capable of a serious test so I'll try my hardest to make that happen. I also had lessons with Bertie and Bambi, mainly working on transitions to canter, also their straightness and self carriage. Anna could see lots of improvement in Bertie so I must be on the right track...
For some reason now I'm in Kent I seem to have very early start times and this weekend was no exception! We left at 6am with Bambi for her first novice. Bambi did a good accurate test for 35 and a double clear, with good time for 7th. We were delighted for her first one, there were a few good questions and she was brilliant, just a little strong at the end. I worked Ken, Amber, Brian and Jasper. The organisers very kindly let me use the arenas with Jasper which is so beneficial. We could then work through the areas needed... Last time I used the arenas there I came 5th at Badminton, would be pleased if that was the result this year!
We went back the next day with the babies, we had a fantastic day as my parents came to watch as did Jane Bailey (Brian’s co owner), Pene Parker who owns Charmed my advanced horse from last year, and David and Sue Howard popped in who co own Harry. The weather was also kind, looked as though we were in for rain but it held off. They had done a superb job with the ground, spiked and levelled so it had some spring in it. Tweedy was awesome, a 27 dressage and double clear and won!
Bert was a little tense in his dressage as I should've given him longer to warm up but still finished 4th with a good double clear. Brian did his first ever BE100, a good test 32, two down in the show jumping, one due to spooking at the number one and the second was greenness. He was superb XC, very brave and bold and grown up especially as it's only his second event. He is such a good jumper; he'll eventually be on the market so watch out for when as he will be a serious junior horse.... I got a late entry for Imp in the open 100 as I decided he needs going back to basics, which paid off as he went very well XC and came fifth, he will stay at that level until I feel he's happy.
After such a good few weekends of results there was a need for a celebration which was duly done at our local pub - can't be all work and no play!!
[Editor's note: Sharon has just posted a 48.2 in Friday's dressage at Badminton and is lying in ninth place!]
Howard and his dogs will be demonstrating around the country
“Along with our wonderful team of dogs, Annie and I visited one of our local junior schools this week. We delivered four demos - one to each year group consisting of approximately one hundred children. Portway Junior School really does appear to giving their pupils a fantastic education. The pupils were polite, intelligent, attentive, great fun and a real pleasure to spend some time with. It’s so easy to work with children when you have dogs as a teaching resource.
The dogs were just brilliant; they needed to be, we took a couple of our Dummy Launchers with us (as I set them up one young man commented ‘Wow, they’ve got some rocket launchers!’. No problems keeping this guy focussed, boys like that stuff) and unexpectedly when I fired one of the launchers it rocketed a dummy clear over the sports field. At this point, as it flew towards the neighbouring housing estate leaving a vapour trail I was thinking, ‘Whoops when this lands in someone’s greenhouse there will be litigation.’ Phew! It landed five yards short of the houses in some rough ground.
Next problem: how on earth are we going to get a dog out to that? Up steps Annie and Dan, the pair pulled off a retrieve that would win the Retriever Championships, the children who had no experience of gundogs recognised this monumental feat of gundog work and erupted into loud cheering and clapping.
What a day, the children learned lots about gundogs, shooting and dog training and we went home with our pride intact. Imagine the walk of shame if I had needed to walk across to collect the retrieve, well done Mrs. Buckley.
Hats off to the staff at Portway Junior School, Andover, thank you for being brave enough to allow your pupils to experience the countryside and make informed choices for themselves. I have always believed that common sense will prevail and that the UK will once again learn to live in the real world.
Another busy weekend ahead, the Shooting School is booked to be busy on Saturday morning, then we throw ourselves into the lorry to do some demos at the Grand Opening of A Scats Superstore in the afternoon then straight to the Broadlands Country Fair for two days of demos. There’s no peace for the wicked, so I must have been really bad somewhere along the way.”
“On the 10th November last year, I wrote article on Alaska’s wild food (see November’s blogs in my archive). In it, I told you all about the sustainability of Alaskan sea foods.
Since then, the guys at Alaska Seafoods have been working with us to educate the chefs of tomorrow. They have sponsored a fundraising dinner where Alaskan wild salmon was used to produce a fantastic fish course and helped raise funds for our Culinary Arts Competition Team, allowing us to take students competing all over the UK and aboard as well as supplying us with booklets and Alaska Sea Food products for the students to use. They also worked with me and fellow lecturer Norman Fu by putting together a competition to see how much students had learnt about Alaskan sea foods.
For this we developed a competition where students had to use Alaska Wild Salmon or Alaska Wild Pacific Cod in recipes that would show off these products. All 90 second year students where asked to submit recipes; these were then judged and 15 were chosen to go through to the cook off final, but all these 15 students had already won a great prize as their recipes and photos of their dishes where to be included in a book showing Alaska Seafood’s work with Westminster Kingsway College, its students and promoting some of Alaska’s fantastic products.
The students produced an incredible array of variety and ingenuity in their dishes - really showing off just how good Alaska Wild Salmon and Alaska Wild Pacific Cod can be. Nine salmon, five cod and one combined salmon and cod recipe where produced by the students and it was up to the team from Alaska Seafoods, chef/lecturer Norman Fu, food photographer Steve Lee and myself to judge the competitors.
After 1.5 hours of cooking, each student produced two portions of their dishes - one for photography, the other for the judges. The judging was hard, but in the end three dishes were chosen.
Third was Ana Flavia Leite e Aguiar with her coconut, chili and lime crusted wild Pacific cod Served with wild rice, okra and red peppers.
Second was Kimberley Schmassmann with her pan fried wild Pacific cod on a puy lentils and chorizo cassole with sundried tomato butter and crispy leeks.
First place was Daniel Smith, with his sous vide wild Alaskan salmon with soft boiled quails’ eggs, dill mayonnaise, pea mousse and baby leek. Each student won £25, £50 and £200.
The judges liked all of the finalists for different reasons; the coconut, lime and chili crust added a new refreshing flavor that worked well with the fish, the lentils and chorizo visually looked stunning and ate even better and finally the sous vide salmon showed a new fashionable way of cooking that kept the fish moist and succulent. All the dishes worked well and the students did a fantastic job of matching the garnishes, sauces and dressings to enhance the flavor, colour and cut of each fish.
But Alaska Wild Salmon and Alaska Wild Cod are fantastic products in their own right. The story of their providence and sustainability is inspiring and chefs need to know about it; this is why all 15 of the entries that made it to the final plus five other dishes from myself and fellow lecturer Norman Fu are being put into a book. After the competition, I took all of the recipes and spent three days recreating the dishes at Steve Lee’s photography studio. Steve is a well known and acclaimed food photographer that over the years has worked with many celebrity chefs and supermarkets. Once recreated, the final shots could be taken for each dish and these would grace each recipe in the book. All the shots had to be a perfect representation of the dishes produced in the competition but styled for the camera.
Norman and I both learnt a lot about the world of food photography over these few days. The way the food is plated and its position on the plate is very different from what we are both used to. The reason being that when you take a photo you are looking at a 2D perspective of the item and therefore it must be positioned a certain way to play to the light and the camera but when we plate food normally we are looking at a 3D perspective in which we see much more of the plate and the items on it. The photography done, everyone was happy and the book is in the process of being put together and developed so watch this space for more details.”
"With the winter championships out of the way, my attention turned to the outdoor shows and my first premier league, at Keysoe. We left at 6am on Friday morning with two horses and all the equipment for an overnight stay, which I am very pleased to say I had organised the night before!
My first test was a PSG on Wizard (Wurlizer). Despite having had a disappointing winter championships with him, my confidence was quite high as I knew how well he was going, and we had been guinea pigs at a judges seminar earlier in the week and had received very encouraging comments from two of the international judges. I had also been sent a large supply of nupafeed, so I knew that he wouldn’t be too excited and over the top about competing!
I was pleased with his test as his first outdoor test of the season, and thrilled with a score of 69.74%, especially as I felt there was still more to come. We finished third in a very strong class, and the two combinations that beat us both competed in the inter II the following day.
I then had Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) competing in the six year old classes. I was quite pleased with her first test as the test doesn’t suit her and the simple changes were presentable, even though she would much rather just do flying changes! I was disappointed with a low score but that’s dressage! We then did the international test which was by far the hardest test she had ever done and, with her being very in season the day before, I wasn’t sure what would happen in the half passes and flying changes. However, I needn’t have worried as she did everything beautifully and finished third with a score of 7.74, and qualifiying for the final.
On the Saturday, Wizard started with an Inter I. I was pleased with his way of going but the test was riddled with mistakes, I think due to the fact that I had only really been concentrating on the PSG work for the young riders. This kept our mark down but still not bad considering the mistakes. We then did the young rider team test, and I was first in. The test was mistake free but he felt a bit tired and, as a result, his walk got too slow which proved to be very expensive. We scored 68.03% and finished second, but the winner was only two marks in front, so I was a bit cross with myself, but very pleased with him. So, a good weekend for both horses!"
"13th April came and went, but Cascade HFD only made us wait two days before she presented us with a very leggy chestnut colt (Santana HFD x Drossan). She wore the foaling alarm which reacts to positional change. She didn't sweat or wax up which is unusual for her, but she was more active than usual after her evening feed, so we watched her closely.
In the early hours of the morning, she went into labour. Cascade HFD would normally sweat enough to heat a sauna during foaling but not this time. Finally, at foal number nine she takes it in her stride with not so much as a damp brow and a text book foaling - all we had to do was give a little encouragement during each contraction and be there with the terimycin and towels.
Cascade HFD usually has quite big foals dispelling any ideas breeders may have when including stallion and mare size statistics to their wish list. She stands at 15.3hh, but she has a five-year-old by 16.2hh Mooiman HFD which currently stands at 17.1hh. This mare's first foal barely grew to 16hh, the dark bay colt Forteaus HFD (Negro x Drossan), now nine and competed with much success currently placing at advanced medium level and rising.
To add more flies to the ointment regarding the importance of size, Ilana HFD had foal number seven, Zoiman HFD (Mooiman HFD x Wellington), who matured as a four-year-old at 15.3hh. His full brother born the following year, Amazonman, was already hitting 16.3hh when approaching his fourth year, so Mother Nature will have her say no matter how hard we try to breed to design. The leading stud books of the world are some way to breeding good, sound, trainable sport horses and with their strategy occasionally comes a world class sport horse which we see in the licensed stallions and graded mares earning FEI ranking points for the stud books they registered with.
Once you find a complementary line to your mare regarding quality regardless of colour, sex or size, the wow factor stays within that combination. It is absolutely usual to have full brothers and sisters born year after year that are completely different types, with no comparisons of quality, type, model or temperament, so with this goes good advice to beware of the 'Full brother or sister to a world champion gold medal woopi di do dah': they may be as alike their famous relative as the frog and the prince in the fairy tale are. If you breed an incredible foal, the only way you will know if you have a genetic match for the elusive quality gene is by sticking with that line for another covering and another season and so on. The worst thing breeders can do in this situation is play Russian roulette with nature by simply changing breeding strategy simply because they fancy a change. A good foal will always sell for the right price in my experience, but a bad foal is very difficult to rehome and will be destined for a tough time.
Ilana HFD had her foal on the 19th April, presenting us with a a bay colt foal (Oliver HFD x Wellington). He's a very well muscled, strong, powerful little chap. Ilana HFD herself produces offspring with the consistent quality mark using the Flemmingh/Mooiman HFD blood line. This years foal by Oliver HFD is produced to produce a jumping foal with the same attributes.
We are foaling later than we like to this year - just four foals on the ground and two more of our own to come still, so covering on the foaling heats should bring us back a lttle for 2010. Alifra HFD scanned in foal already to Mooiman HFD and Beauty the new PROK mare also scanned in foal on first insemination (also to Mooiman HFD) and we await Samantha HFD's scan result next week. We will cover Cascade HFD tomorrow (24th April) with Mooiman HFD.
Every day we are busy with walk in collections and a beautiful, powerful Welsh Section D stallion joined us at the weekend to refine his phantom training. He had hit and miss success at home so we will see if we can improve his performance by assesing his technique and trying a few different AVs.
On a very differant note, my Blue Merle Border Terrier Holden Fold Jessica goes to her boyfriend tomorrow while I am teaching. She is two this year and I so love to have a litter of puppies every now and then. She will need a second service on Monday, which means she will miss a trip to France as we set off to do the CDI Grand Prix in Saumur with Mooiman HFD that day.
The stud is filling up with mares coming to stud and I will focus on how these mares are getting on and any new additions we have on my next blog. We had a mare arrive at the weekend who has bred four foals, but not yet a live one. No pressure!"
“Ruby’s busy week began on a train and finished in the Charity’s kennels – here is a brief summary of these events and the bits in-between.
At the start of the week, Ruby and I accompanied my husband to the train station, including a walk down onto the platform to wait for the train to arrive. Ruby was completely at ease amongst all the commuters, and remained calm when the train arrived. Her ears pricked up at the sound of the shrill whistle as the doors closed shut, but she it did not unsettle her at all, which was excellent.
The next day, I took Ruby to town for a walk through the shopping centre, into a few shops and to the bank. I was really delighted with how well Ruby responded to me as we walked around. She ignored all distractions and did not try to scavenge when she passed food items from the market stalls that were discarded on the pavements.
A couple of days later, we all went to watch a rugby 7’s competition at a nearby club. Having walked around the outside of the pitch from a distance to enable Ruby to experience the levels of activity and noise, we then settled down on a picnic rug in the shade and watched a couple of matches. At first, Ruby was definitely interested in the hustle and bustle of the games and was keen to get closer when the oval ball came bouncing by. But, within ten minutes or so, she was content to stretch out and fall asleep – a case of the experience being more important than the result!
And yesterday, at the end of a busy week which also included plenty of walks and play, Ruby went to stay at the Dogs for the Disabled’s kennels. She will be there for a week, to familiarise her with the environment, and to enable the training and kennels teams to ensure that she will settle in these new surroundings. She is accompanied by Veto, a Cocker Spaniel of similar age, and my next blog will give you an insight into the activities that take place through this week of familiarisation and ensure she is right on track.
To finish, I wanted to thank you for all the comments from Ruby’s last blog entry. Now that Ruby has celebrated her first birthday, some of you were asking if this means that Ruby would soon be commencing her training. Sadly for us, Ruby’s start date is not far off, but we do have her for a few more weeks yet. Dogs for the Disabled aim to take each of their pups in for training at around 14 months old. Experience has shown the Charity that these extra couple of months give their dogs a little extra time to mature which ultimately means that they find learning their role as an assistance dog easier to adapt to from puppy socialisation.”
"Two days in sun-kissed Monmouthshire in Wales! You might think that sun-kissed and Wales wouldn’t normally go together in the same sentence, but it really is true.
The showground is located on the outskirts of Monmouth with just the best view you could wish for; we looked out across the most stunning Mountain side. The sunshine helped to bring out the crowds which gave the whole showground a really buoyant atmosphere. We were flat out in our training clinic - normally we have two trainers/advisers on duty at the clinics, but on this occasion it was just me. ‘Big Dave’ came to Monmouth to assist and he was a huge help. David has been helping us for about four years now and he really knows his stuff; having somebody who is so good with the dogs, people, is good fun and a qualified electrician is really great. The downside is that he Snores like a bloomin' trooper and in a small lorry it felt as though the Icelandic Volcano was erupting inside the living. David’s wife must either be deaf or ‘love him loads.’ I did not manage to muster that much patience and at one point threatened to hit him with a cricket bat if he did not stop.
The dogs were great; we took two young Spaniels with us, Bob and Jig. Once we had established that they were not to go outside of our arena they were both foot perfect, it still fascinates me how these youngsters cope with the transition from our rural training field to a busy show arena with all of the new sights, sounds and smells that bring.
Quite often we get asked to be part of live radio interviews that are broadcast from the showground. By prior arrangement two very nice ‘radio ladies’ arrived at the arena and after a brief chat I started to listen to one of them introduce me as a dog trainer whom had recently been part of a demonstration at Crufts where I had demonstrated my skills as Doggie Dancer dressed as a Cowboy. Right up to this point post Crufts I had managed to deal with all the mickey taking that had been directed at me by my so called friends about the doggie dancing that I had done, but to have it broadcast across Wales that I had done this dressed as a Cowboy left me cold! The radio presenter had been fed this rubbish by the show organiser who thought it would be funny. To everyone in Wales who heard this broadcast, Doggie Dancing…..I can live with….. dressed as a Cowboy…………NO WAY!"
Jasper's preparations for Badminton are looking good
"Weeks/weekends like this don't happen too often! Had a great week, a great event too. The weather has been fantastic so we've been able to get the jumps and the dressage arena outside in the fields which has proved invaluable. The first few days they were a little excited to be there rather than the school but relaxed quickly and by Thursday were working well.
We've also been able to canter the horses in the big field which works them hard up a decent hill. Jasper's been cantering well and often. Not long till Badminton now... I've also been cycling around the forest as much as possible to make sure we're both in the same shape! Dogs still getting thinner.
Belton has always been lucky for me and this year was no exception. There was much debate about the ground, it is always a little rough but I thought it was soft enough to be good, last year was hard, too hard but this was much better. I also thought that I would much rather run on that ground than the bog/ holding ground we've been having so was a little surprised how many withdrew on Sunday. Friday went well, Amber was brilliant and did a 29 dressage, fast double clear and won. Delighted!
Harry did a nice test, couple of mistakes but generally good, a little harshly marked I thought. Romeo did a great test and was close to the lead. Saturday was also good. Harry was unlucky and had two down but jumped well, I made a stupid mistake XC and ran out at a corner (was too quiet) which he turned around and jumped the second time. Romeo was brilliant and was double clear, I thought he was fast - we had eight time faults but I'm sure he was faster. Never mind, he finished 10th in the seven and eight year old intermediate class.
Ken and Jasper both did a slightly hot test but that arena is fairly electric. They jumped well. Jasper was awesome and jumped out of his skin for a double clear; felt fantastic and was also incredibly quick! He won. Great warm up for Badminton! Ken had two down, I still need to get the softness around turns, he jumped the XC like it was nothing and finished fourth in the advanced. Chuffed to bits, he's ready for Bramham...
It makes such a difference to me when the ground is good, I'm competitive when it's like that, long may it continue!"
Mention ‘frozen semen’ to a lot of people, and you will see them pull a face. Not a good face either. They will probably look at you wide-eyed, with a startled and worried expression and say “Why on Earth would you want to use frozen semen?” Well, why would you? A great deal of stigma has surrounded the use of frozen semen for a number of years, and you will probably have heard a number of horror stories (or had some experiences) which make you believe that frozen semen should be avoided at all costs… perhaps it’s time to rethink: You might be surprised by the benefits.
Frozen semen stocks can be built up while a stallion takes a break from competition or even while the stallion competes by “walking in” at a freezing centre while he continues with his normal training. With popular stallions, balancing their competition and stud careers can be difficult, and sometimes a stallion is simply not able to produce enough sperm to keep up with demand on certain days. This means you can often be presented with two unfortunate situations:
a) the stallion is “overbooked” or unavailable (due to competition commitments) and the stud says they are unable to send you any semen. This results in a wasted cycle, and having to start again (and bearing the costs of doing so)
b) the stallion is “overbooked”, but the stud decide to split the ejaculate into a larger number of doses which consist of a below-optimal number of sperm cells. This reduces the chance of getting your pregnant, and may lead to another cycle of insemination, shipping costs etc.
With frozen semen, these situations can be completely avoided, as the frozen semen is in storage ready to be sent out whenever it is needed..
Chilled semen has a limited travelling time, and therefore a limited travelling distance. This means that your choice of stallions, when using chilled semen, is limited to those within the UK & Europe (and if using natural cover is even more limited). In most cases it’s simply not viable to even attempt to ship chilled semen from other countries such as the USA or Australia.
On the other hand, frozen semen can be shipped in from all over the world with relative ease. This gives you a truly worldwide choice of sires!
Part of the difficulty in an artificial insemination programme is getting the timing right. Monitoring a mare daily so that you can call the stud to order semen the day before your vet thinks the mare mightovulate… some vets are better at it than others, and some mares are more predictable than others. But it begs the question – why do all this only to be at the mercy of the Royal Mail or other delivery courier who might lose the semen, or deliver it late? Surely it would be better to have the semen sat there waiting for the mare to be ready… rather than the other way around?
Frozen semen can be in storage with a vet or AI centre long before it is needed, reducing the amount of stress as ovulation approaches, and removing the possibility of lost or late semen.
Anyone can send out chilled semen. Literally anyone. No qualifications are needed, and people often begin sending out chilled semen without any training or experience whatsoever. The result? Sub-optimal, poorly prepared and poorly handled doses of chilled semen get sent out. Mares don’t get pregnant. Mare owners waste money. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it is a genuine concern.
On the other hand, the vast majority of freezing centres in the UK (and around the world) are staffed by highly trained, skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced technicians. It also requires significant investment in infrastructure and equipment. Semen can then be handled in the most correct manner from collection, through the processing and freezing stages, and be stored in an appropriate way. You can be sure that frozen semen from these centres will be of the best possible quality.
One of the most exciting benefits of frozen semen is that because it can be stored indefinitely, that it makes deceased stallions available to breed from. If you’ve missed the boat on breeding from a certain stallion, or a popular stallion has sadly departed before his time, then frozen semen allows you to breed from him after he is gone.
So with all these benefits, why on Earth has frozen semen got such a bad reputation?
Although equine semen has been frozen commercially for over 25 years, it’s only in the last few years that our understanding of how freezing actually works at a molecular level has improved sufficiently to make real progress in cryopreservation techniques. Recent research has provided us with new chemicals to protect sperm cells during the freezing process, and set protocols for thawing to ensure maximum survival of the sperm cells. The relative immaturity of the technology through the 1990s has unfortunately had an impact on the pregnancy rates achieved with semen frozen in that decade. However, due to the improvements in freezing technology, pregnancy rates are now fast approaching those seen using chilled semen. This too has been assisted by improvements in insemination protocols…
The lifespan of frozen sperm cells, once thawed and inside the mare, is less than that of fresh or chilled semen. We don’t really know how much shorter the fertile lifespan of the sperm is, but the aim is to inseminate within 12 hours prior to, or 6 hours after, ovulation.
For years, this meant that vets would regularly have to scan the mares late into the night every few hours to pinpoint ovulation. This can become rather expensive if your mare is not within a set-price AI package. So some people attempt to breed using frozen semen without scanning, or keeping veterinary intervention to a minimum. This method tends to remove the accuracy, and leads to poor pregnancy rates. Because of this, frozen semen has gained a reputation for being expensive and/or as having poor conception rates.
In 2003 Dr Sandro Barbacini produced a paper on a new method of inseminating mares using a timed insemination protocol. In this method, the mare was inseminated twice at set intervals after administration of hCG/Chorulon (a drug used to induce ovulation). This avoided the need for scanning repeatedly, and produced pregnancy rates that were similar or better than using traditional methods.
Recent research has also shown that deep uterine insemination (a technique that can only performed by veterinarians due to the requirement for rectal palpation) does not improve pregnancy rates for frozen semen, and so insemination can be performed in the normal way (into the uterine body) by vets or AI technicians, and still achieve the highest possible pregnancy rates..
Post-thaw motility does not necessarily correlate with fertility, and so when that was used as the sole indicator of potential fertility of frozen-thawed semen a high number of semen with limited fertility was released for public use. After relying solely on post-thaw motility for a number of years, we now have a huge range of laboratory tests that can be performed to help indicate how well sperm cells have survived the freeze-thaw process. Although these tests cannot guarantee fertility, or give you a predicted conception rate, they allow us to prevent frozen semen that does not survive the thaw process very well from entering the public domain. Together with accurate record keeping as to how well frozen semen from particular stallions is performing allow us to prevent poor quality frozen semen from being released to mare owners.
With a huge range of benefits, and rapidly improving methods of cryopreserving semen in a way which maintains its potential fertility, attitudes towards frozen semen are changing. If you are thinking of using frozen semen, but are put off by people’s negative attitudes then just take time to think about the huge number of benefits of using frozen semen. It might just be the right choice for you!
Jo and Rafa winning at the winter semi-finals at Rowallan
"The washing machine has worked on overtime since our trip to the British Dressage National Winter Championships at Hartpury. Seven days away with two horses takes a bit of preparation but equally so does the unpacking, catch-up and washing when you return...but what a fantastic week we had!
As seems to be usual for me, the run up to the Championships was not straightforward. The week before we left we had yet another batch of snow. On the Tuesday six inches fell. By Friday we were able to get the lorry out and hired the Scottish National Equestrian Centre (SNEC) for a couple of hours so that I could take Freddie and Rafa there to ride. By Saturday I was able to ride in my own school, but it was in gale force winds and so we left for Hartpury on Tuesday feeling rather underprepared.
We borrowed a lorry for the trip so that Mum and I could have an actual 'living' to live in...our lorry doesn't have the living kitted out, just a nice big space. However having a bit more comfort did mean that I had to unpack all the show equipment that stays permanently in my lorry and re-pack it into the other one adding in all the feed, haylage etc etc that was needed for the week. It seemed to take forever!
We hoped to leave at 6am but at 5.30 Freddie went back to bed, lay down and stretched out and said he was not going to budge! Eventually at 6.20 he got up and was bundled into the lorry. The journey was good and we made it down in 8hrs. It did feel like we had arrived in another world though; we left high winds, rain and the cold and arrived to sun, grass in the fields and blossom on the trees!
The boys settled into their new stables well, with front row seats for watching everyone that was arriving, it kept their interest for the whole show. Hartpury really spoils you with their stabling, we were in permanent boxes that had rubber matting floors and were a good size.
Rafa did the arena walk in the main arena in the afternoon. He had never seen anything like Hartpury before and so I wanted to give him the best chance by letting him see it the day before. It was really busy in the arena... sometimes because you can't do anything other than walk it actually upsets the horse more because they become more coiled up with excitement. You just have to keep an eye and try to give those horses a wide berth and hope it isn't yours that is causing the upset! Freddie just had a gentle stretch that night as the main arena had closed after the arena walk.
I worked Freddie early on the Wednesday morning as Rafa was going to take up most of the day with his two classes. He was competing in the Novice Open and the Novice Freestyle. I was really pleased with him, he really tried to do his best. In the Novice Open he made one mistake; when I asked for my first transition to canter, he just glazed over and didn't hear me. It was coming into the corner where all the trade stands were and he just wasn't listenting to my aid. I did my best pony clubber impression and eventually we did make it into canter but it meant we got 4's from the three judges. We still managed to get 66.9% and finished 8th, so considering the mistake I was pleased with the placing. Later in the afternoon he competed in the Novice Freestyle. This time he stayed with me throughout and even though I had to help him along at times because he was tired he gave as much as he could. I was thrilled with his score of 75.19% and his second placing - he was thrilled with all the feed vouchers that he had won. Rafa's show was now over and the plan for him was just to hack and do light stetching for the rest of his stay and that he simply enjoy his holiday!
Day two and it was Freddie's turn in the Elementary Freestyle. He came out with guns blazing and for the first time I thought this could go either way!?! I had never felt him so on the knife edge at a competition before but at the same time it was amazing to feel! For the indoor Championship classes you warm-up in the indoor arena by the stables then 20 minutes before your test you go down to a smaller indoor that sits beside the main arena to do your final preparation for the test. The test went very well, though we possibly had slightly too much fuel injection in the medium canters! He gained 77.57%, with one judge giving him just over 80% for his test! He won a lovely crystal bowl, a sash and a rug but for Freddie the highlight was that he was in a prizegiving... he just loves being the centre of attention. That night we had dinner with a friend who lives locally; we had a good gossip and bottle No.1 of champagne was consumed!
Day three, Friday and it was a day off from competition. Freddie was worked and Rafa did some light stretching. It was a beautiful day and Mum and I sat on the bank watching the PetPlan Championship riders competing in the afternoon. We were joined by a friend from Scotland who brought along a bottle of Champagne...No.2...a perfect way to enjoy an afternoon! We went to the evening performance that night to watch the PSG Freestyle, with hopes that Freddie will be in it himself next year!?
Day 4, Saturday and the Medium Freestyle. Freddie was first to go and scored 73.7%, a good score but would it be good enough?! It was a long wait for the final result -nerves were frayed by the end as the class was strong and so every mark was a potential threat. Bue we won, so another prizegiving, sash but this time he got four lovely Bucas rugs as his prize. Another sunny evening and another bottle of Champagne...or perhaps two! This time they were shared with some fellow Scottish competitors in the lorry park.
Day 5, Sunday and the Medium Open. I really felt the pressure was on...it seemed unbelievable to think that a third Championship title could be possible especially as the class had many top combinations in it. This of all the classes was the one I wanted to do well in. Freddie was not on till mid-afternoon so I took him out for a walk and gave him a light stretch first thing. Carl had said he would come to warm us up for this test so I felt more confident knowing that.
Just before I was to tack Freddie up for the class a television crew arrived to have a chat about our Hartpury experience and the next class. Freddie was hilarious, he stood throwing his rug around and playing the fool behind me then decided that I was in the way and started nudging and pulling at my shoulder... he wanted to make sure I didn't steal his limelight! It was now time for the test, Freddie and I went up to the indoor arena and started working in. No sign of Carl and I have to admit I started to wobble. Freddie felt tired and a bit grumpy and for once I could hear all the comments the other trainers were giving to their own pupils... all I could hear was 'lovely', 'wow' and 'super'. Then Carl walked in, I relaxed, started to focus and ride again. Straight away I could feel a difference in Freddie, he started coming back to me and by the time we got to the entrance of the main arena I could almost hear him say 'go on then, one more time!' I came out almost not knowing how we had gone, all I knew was we had got through it. Carl came over, smiled and said that he was happy with both of us and that that was to be his last test at Medium! The score almost didn't matter as I knew neither of us had any more to give, the fact it was 72.07% was a huge bonus and then that he won was just unbelievable! His final prizegiving and yet again he stood like a rock and behaved beautifully. A third sash, a gorgeous Albion double bridle as a prize and huge smiles all round. Another bottle of Champagne courtesy of our dinner host from Thursday night but it remained un-opened until we got home, whereupon we arrived to two more bottles given by friends!
We decided to stay on Sunday night rather than leave and travel overnight. I got up at 3am to feed and we were loaded up to go just after 4am. We left, drove all of 500m to find that the entrance gate was padlocked shut!! We were not popular but at least another lorry was waiting to go too! We only had a half hour delay in leaving and were making good time up the road when we heard a huge bang...a blowout. 90mins later we were fixed and back on our way, then an hour later...ANOTHER bang and a second blowout. UNBELIEVABLE!?! An hour later we were sorted again and made it home in ten hours.
Freddie has had a week in the field and Rafa had a few days off and then it was kick on to Elementary! May is going to be busy with training for Freddie and getting Hugo ready for his Young Horse qualifiers so I wanted to try and get Rafa's summer qualifications this month. He still had one novice test to win and I wanted to try and qualify him for Elementary. On Wednesday he started learning walk pirouettes and simple changes, on Sunday he did his first Elementary at SNEC and won! It was Elementary 58 and not an easy test to do as your introduction but I think he was so shocked that he followed exactly what I said with very few return comments from him. He won his novice class too so we now have that qualification and we will go to Rowallan this weekend and try and complete the elementary qualification...then he can have a holiday!
I just want to say a huge thankyou to everyone that supported Freddie, Rafa and I at the Championships and to those who sent congratulations. Also to TopSpec and Forestfarmacy for their help towards the care of the horses...to Mum for her help and for putting up with me and Lady Hope, who even though she could not be there was a nervous owner on the end of the telephone waiting for results. Finally, thankyou to BD, NAF, Blue Chip, Baileys, Equissage, Bucas and Albion for their work, sponsorship, encouragement and for making the British Dressage Winter Championships 2010 a really memorable week for me."