"Our Working Cocker bitch, Teasle, has whelped this week and produced six little crackers; three black and three liver, two dogs and four bitches. Mum and babies so far are all fit and healthy so fingers crossed.
The first week is always worrying as the pups are so tiny it is really easy for the bitch to accidently roll onto one of the pups and suffocate them. Teasle is the sweetest little dog you could ever wish to meet and both her and Tommy, one of our German Shepherds, spend most of their time with me.
Both dogs play a major part in the day to day running of the shooting school; Teasle spends all day in the Clubhouse and rushes out to meet all of our customers. Her 'meet and greet' skills are fantastic - we all say that her job title is Head of Customer Services. Tommy has the opposite job to do. In the unlikely event of anybody coming into the clubhouse with a bad attitude, his job will be to escort them from the premises and he is known as the land shark.
On the day of whelping, Teasle was starting to show all the early signs of labour but she insisted on accompanying me on our daily clay shooting practice. As always, as I finished shooting and put my gun in the sleeve, she rushed out, found a clay and brought it back to the clubhouse with me.Very soon after she waddled down to her whelping quarters and within four hours had delivered six beautiful puppies. Wow! What a girl. I’ll keep you posted as to their progress."
“With the Bank Holiday rapidly approaching, we are already thinking about this weekend's shows. Annie is taking a demo team to the Burghley Game and Country Fair while I will be attending Highclere. This is only twenty five minutes from us so unusually I won’t be staying on site, I’m not totally sure that I will like this as I really quite enjoy ‘camp life’ (staying in the lorry, before you start spreading rumours).
A very early start meant that we could take advantage of the beautiful weather this week and we took some of the youngsters for their first real experience of water. It could not have gone better, within twenty minutes of arriving at the lake all three of them were swimming. Razz, Jig and Taff loved the water, although we had to use all sorts of tricks to get Jig to build up the confidence to swim. There is that really tricky moment when having got the youngster to wade in up to his chest it is necessary to throw the dummy out just that bit further in order to get him to go out of his depth and start swimming. Although a little tentative we managed to rev Jig up enough to believe that now would be a good time to make this move; 'splash' went the dummy about six feet out of reach, Jig charged into the water right up to his chest and came to an immediate halt. “I’m not going out there, dad; I’m not going out of my depth, you threw it, you fetch it,” was almost certainly what he was thinking.
Encouragement got us no further; in fact, the extra pressure was too much and he returned to the bank. Suddenly the penny dropped, while there appeared to be next to no current there was enough flow for the dummy to start drifting towards the weir about thirty yards away. Panic!
By now Jig was busy hunting the margins, and appeared to have lost all interest in the helpless dummy (that’s the floating toy, not me). Suddenly, up piped Mrs Buckley: “You're going to have to get your wellies off and get swimming, Mr. Kirby.” Marvellous, my ‘highly trained gundog’ has cleared off, it’s 6.30am and I’m going to have to go swimming. Annie recognised instantly that I was unhappy with the swimming idea and her quick thinking saved the day. She grabbed some stones from the water's edge and threw them at the dummy, the splashing was more than Jig could cope with and as quick as he had left the water he launched himself in and immediately started to swim out to the dummy. The fascinating bit was that most first time swimmers take a while to get co-ordinated, but not so for Jig - he swam like an Olympic champion, straight to the dummy and straight back making a perfect delivery to hand.
There are several excellent lessons to learn from this outing; firstly, nature and genetics are a wonderful thing. All three of those young dogs started to swim the moment that their feet came away from the bottom. How to do they know how to do that? Just brilliant. Secondly, on a serious note, do be careful when introducing young dogs to water as things may not always turn out as well as you might have hoped for. Lastly, that my right hand man, Head Trainer Annie Buckley is not to be trusted. If it had not been for the fact that I launched a tirade of abuse at her when she suggested that I started swimming, she would have taken great delight in watching me get soaking wet and freezing cold while all the time all we needed to do was throw a few stones into the water. Dreadful woman!”
"Each week, I successfully manage to cram as much in as possible, but I think I've broken records this time! We have been up and down the country a few times.. I'm hoping July will be quieter, June usually is but now we're off to Luhmuhlen this has now changed.
I felt both myself and the horses were in need of some show jumping practice. This is something I would usually do a lot of, but since I've moved to Kent I've not been once so now it's time to start again. Not only is it good for me but the horses do become a little less careful as we gallop around cross country, understandably. If I could take all of them out that would be great but with only six places on the lorry, I have to be strategic. Therefore I choose the least experienced usually.
I left for Norton Heath early Tuesday morning as I know it has a very good clear round. I will venture out more locally soon but while I am after very specific reasons for my outings, I will choose 'safe' places to go. We took Bomber; Becky rode him and did a great job - he's now ready for competitions before he has a small holiday. I jumped Brian in the British Novice, he jumped a double clear and in the Discovery too. In fact Tweedy, Harry and Imp all jumped double clears. Harry came third in the Discovery and 1m05. Imp nearly won the Newcomers but I was 300ths of a second too slow. I was back by 3.30pm and time to ride a new schooling livery, Handsome Harvey, who is very willing. He is here while his owner is doing his exams and for me to school and work on. I enjoy projects like these. We also had a Cranio-Sacral workshop day here courtesy of Mureen Rogers. It was great - they treated six horses and believe me I really notice a difference. Still can't reccommend it enough...
We went back to Lodge Farm for some more xc schooling with Bomber and Tweedy. Bomber is becoming very grown up and jumps straight around all the combinations. He is rather brave at drops so it is good to practise the variety there is to offer, big and small. It also seems to be the 'place to be' on a Wednesday as also schooling there was Sacha Pemble, Tom Crisp and Francis Whittington. A bit of a social at the same time!
I left for lessons with Anna on Thursday afternoon after riding the remainder being left here. I also decided it was too far to go back home again as I had Brigstock Saturday and Sunday. I had six at Brigstock and wanted to have lessons with Jasper and Ken, so Gabriella very kindly lent us her two horse super-duper little Oakley. Poor Sophie had to drive up and down and back up to Suffolk. My lessons went really well. We worked on Jaspers' canter counter which was weak in my last two tests, Ken on a bit more impulsion while trying to keep the softness, Bertie on balance and he went superbly and Amber, my first lesson for six months. She was great, we still have to be careful as she is a little hot on the flat at times still, but can seriously operate and I have high hopes for future tests.
I left for Suffolk where I stayed until Saturday morning. It was lovely to stay there and have an 'easy' day. I went and saw the boys, Bob and Charlie. I sadly had poor Beanie put down in the week as he was never going to be sound and I felt it was too much to ask for him to be in pain even just in the field. Poor Beanie, he was a lovely horse. I have also found Bob a home, this has been a hard week after losing two horses. But Bob is very special and I know he will be better off with a quieter life but I still (as do all the family) find it hard. Charlie's splint looks good so he'll come home in a couple of weeks and will swap with Bomber.
I seem to be given very early times each event now, so getting up incredibly early is now normal! Brigstock is a lovely event; good galloping track with lots of ditches. I always think if you have something go boldly around the Intermediate then you have a brave horse. I had Bambi in the Novice, and I was incredibly disappointed with my dressage mark of 40. She performed a very nice test, but obviously not to the judge's liking. She then jumped a great double clear. I am so pleased with her progress, I'm sure her marks will be back to normal next time.
This seemed to be the trend for Saturday. I was horrified to see Bertie's score - it was ridiculously high, as was Tweedy's. These two horses move very well and when the judge gives them six for their paces and my riding I'm not overly pleased! However, they both jumped double clears and felt ready for the next level, Novice. Sunday's fortunes were much better. Amber was in the CIC 2*. She performed a very nice test with a few small mistakes for 56. We then went xc (in serious heat!) and she was brilliant, I opened her up though after some big jumps where she had to jump 'out' over each one and I think I just didn't appreciate how big her stride still was, as I couldn't turn for the last part of the sheep pen combination. A real shame as she would've been near the time and with 20 penalties we don't get a qualification. She jumped clear sj, a good round, always interesting to see how they jump after the xc. Harry and Romeo each performed good tests in the Intermediate and each had one down sj, Harry the last, Romeo the first. Without these we would've been very highly placed. They both jumped around the xc course superbly and each with four time faults. The hills here are definitely making a difference they both feel much fitter. Harry was fifth and Romeo seventh. Good weekend. Great weather and great to catch up with all my family and owners. We had a big dinner on Saturday night and a glass of Champagne on Sunday to celebrate my Mum's birthday - I won't tell you how old she looks and you'll never guess as she looks very good for her age!"
“It’s hot! I’ll say that again it’s actually HOT in our glen! Well 24 degrees Celsius and that’s hot for us, and still only May. I really hope that this bodes well for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately having good weather in the spring normally means a wet summer but this year I’m hopeful of better things, after the very long and cold winter we had. It is rare to be able to go on the hill with just a shirt on, because there is nearly always a cold breeze, but at the moment one could wear shorts up there!
Lambing is now over, so we have lots of young lambs running around the fields with their mothers. It’s a lovely sight at a lovely time of year, with trees just coming into leaf and everything looking a very bright green. We are about to put all the sheep up onto the hill for the summer season. Over this period there is lots of grass on the hill, and that gives the low ground fields a rest before the autumn. The sheep, also have two benefits to the grouse, firstly they eat down the grass and other non heather plants which allows the heather to thrive, and secondly we treat them with a type of dip that kills ticks. So they act as a kind of “mop” to soak up the ticks (who latch on to the sheep as they pass, but die when they come into contact with the dip) that would other wise harm the grouse and other wildlife on the hill that we can’t treat.
I am hearing cuckoos calling every day now. Sadly it seems to be a sound that is dying out in the British countryside but luckily we still have a fair number. The small birds seem to be thriving too, and I’m seeing lots of newly fledged song thrushes on the lawn. Though we have a huge range of birds on the place we don’t have any sparrows (house or tree), so I was delighted to see that one has turned up this year. The sound of sparrows chirping is one that reminds me of my childhood and English villages in summer. He was calling in vain for any other sparrows, but I only saw him, so I hope a mate for him turns up soon.
Another iconic (sorry I hate that word but can’t think of an alternative!) sound is that of a curlew across a Scottish moor. It’s a beautiful and eerie sound, and this year we seem to have lots of curlews. I haven’t seen any curlew chicks yet but the lapwings have all had their chicks, and there are lots this year. They seem to be doing very well and that’s always a good sign for other bird life and of course the grouse!
I have also just put up a poly tunnel. Having had a disaster with last year growing season because of the terrible summer, I decided to do something about it so we could grow vegetables most of the year. Ruth, who helps with my accounts, is also a keen gardener and she has volunteered to look after it. She has been busily working on it for the last week or two, and we now have a host of vegetables coming up. Living at this altitude (and this far north) we have a very short growing season so I am hoping the tunnel will help.”
“Ruby has a confirmed date to start the next stage of her training – all being well, she will return to the Charity’s Training Centre on 4 June.
Intake days are usually Fridays, so that each dog can meet their Dogs for the Disabled Trainer, have an initial physical check, and then settle into their new surroundings over the weekend. The phased training programme will then start on the following Monday.
So, for Ruby, her last few weeks with us are very much the end of the beginning of her life as an assistance dog, where basic training techniques have been combined with socialising and exposure to as many experiences as possible.
This week, I visited the town centre with Ruby. It was quieter than usual, so I took the chance to walk slowly around one of the department stores, frequently stopping to look at different racks of clothes. The stop-start nature of shopping means that a dog in training needs to be very patient and calm, and Ruby performed this task admirably.
I also took her into a changing room with me to see how she would react while I tried a few clothes on. I was delighted that she quickly settled, sitting down by the mirror and acting as if this was part of her everyday routine!
As well as a few social visits and one trip to Tesco, Ruby also had the chance to be in the garden with my husband, Tim, while he was cutting the grass. It was only after a few minutes that I realised Ruby had invented a new game featuring her favourite blue rubber chew.
Each time Tim stopped to empty the cut grass from the mower, Ruby waited by him, holding the ring in her mouth. Tim would take it from her, roll it across the lawn, and she would head off to retrieve it. Then, when he’d started mowing again, she would walk a pace or two behind him with the ring, patiently waiting for the next cut grass stop!
Fifteen minutes later, the lawn was cut and Ruby was ready for a drink and a lie-down in the shade – closely followed by my husband (though he was not carrying the rubber chew)!”
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"We've just come back from a weekend at Chatsworth where we had another win in the CIC 3* with Jasper. He won by a considerable margin - what a clever boy!
The week is as usual, hectic. I went back Tuesday to Suffolk to drop off the boys, Charlie, Beanie and Bob. They each have their own beautiful field complete with field shelter at my owners' Richard and Sue Cross, who own Bambi. They will have a life of luxury for four weeks until Charlie will be ready to come back and Bob and Beanie are rehomed. I then went to see my best friend who I haven't seen for weeks, had a great evening catching up, hopefully will do it again soon.
One of the reasons to come back was to fix a few things that needed welding on my lorry (Rita) which my father duly did (he makes metal office furniture) so is well equipt for this kind of procedure. This meant I had a few hours to catch up on emails and paperwork; I have still not finished them hours later, so please be patient as I am sometimes rather delayed in replies! Back to Kent and cantered Amber on my return, she's getting much fitter and trimmer, ready for the CIC 2* next weekend. Can't wait.
As I was on early at Chatsworth on Friday, I had decided to stay with my parents as it reduced the journey significantly. This meant Thursday was 'ride as many as possible' day. All went well so not a problem. We left on time too, as scheduled which was a good thing as I can get rather carried away riding sometimes. We had a lovely family dinner with my sister, children etc too and had a civilised start on Friday too.
I schooled Bambi and Ken before making the trip to Chatsworth and it was strange riding in my old arena. I can see why the horses and I were not focused at times, you can see the other horses, the yard, the fields, things in the garden, woods, etc. Too much distraction! Yes sometimes its good for them but I work in my indoor school or the field generally and as we have about 100 sheep in the field now there is plenty of distraction!
It took about three hours to get to Chatsworth, so I still time to school Ken again, and Harry and Jasper. There was an arena set up so I worked them quietly in that. They all felt very relaxed, especially Jasper, we work on no movements, just straightforward stretching and transitions. Works really well for him, he knows all the tricks, so no need to practice.
The ground was perfect, as were the courses. I was very excited about all the horses running, especially Kenny as I felt he was ready for the big challenge. I wanted to use it for a test to see how ready he was for Bramham. Bambi was in the novice and performed a very good test; she needs more counter canter work and rein back but is so relaxed in the arena, very promising. She jumped a double clear, very boldly too, finished eighth in a hot section so I was delighted. I'm sure she will be doing intermediates by the end of the year. I had Harry in the Intermediate Novice. He performed a nearly perfect test but scored a reasonable 32, had one down and jumped a brilliant XC round but I stupidly jumped the wrong 'duck' which was the Advanced one instead. Whoops, we would've been second I think, I don't mind too much except his record looks bad - an unfair reflection on him.
Kenny and Jasper both performed good tests; Kenny will do a seriously smart test, just a little strong still at times. This also comes through in his jumping, we had one down but a good round, XC he was brilliant. All the direct routes and he felt so confident. Chatsworth is a very hilly course so you need to have brakes which we are still working on. Can't wait until Bramham, I also hope it's big as he's feeling very good and I’m wondering where to take him in the autumn.
Jasper was a superstar. He is so calm and relaxed and back to his best, usual self. He jumped a perfect clear round SJ and XC. He was so calm before the start of the XC I just wandered through the box and cantered off. I was never pressing too hard for the time but we were only a few seconds over, I know where we lost time too so this is exciting as I’m not far off being inside the time! As I said he won by a considerable margin too, just showing there are some very good results still yet to come. I have learnt so much these last two years about producing horses, I feel we are back to our strong and brilliant partnership again."
A pat from a good handler is enough to maintain a good relationship
"Friday evening, writing this blog from inside the lorry at Eridge Park in Kent. Everything is great, Eridge Park is stunning and we have just watched a fabulous sunset. I have an internet connection and the television signal is fantastic. Today has been jammed packed, I had an invitation to join our vet as part of a four man Charity Team Clay Shoot. Making sure that all my kennel duties were done and that I arrived at my friends house with all of my shooting gear by 7.45am this morning meant that I had to be highly organised. Anyway it was certainly worth all the rushing around as we had a brilliant day.
I left the clay shoot at about 3.30pm raced home, got changed, jumped in the lorry and we drove to Kent. Well, actually Annie drove to Kent; it’s always a bone of contention as to who should do the driving. The devious tactic that I used this time was to convince Annie that she should drive as I needed to make some phone calls; this worked brilliantly, as once I’d finished on the phone I kept her chatting (about dogs of course) and before she had realised we arrived in Tunbridge Wells. It wasn’t until she turned the engine off that she started to chunter, “Hey, you where supposed to do half of the driving!” I’ve left out the swear words. And be sure about one thing: I will be driving home.
My selfish and devious behaviour was about me testing the boundaries, seeing what I could get away with. It wasn’t a conscious decision or was it? Do and can our dogs make the same decisions? I would love to really know, as conscious decision or not, our dogs definitely push the boundaries. Ensuring that the training that we deliver to our dogs explains very clearly to the dog just what we do and don’t approve of is essential.
Most of the dog owners and handlers that we work with have not quite got the balance between encouragement and development while maintaining a grip on general obedience and boundaries. Just like myself our dogs need to know that there are consequences for their actions. Do something your handler likes and you will be rewarded, break the rules and the consequences are less desirable. It’s a reward based system; with a dog these positive or negative consequences need to be delivered instantly if he is to understand which part of a behaviour you want him to repeat. When I behave badly sometimes the consequences might not be felt for hours, days, weeks or months. There is a lot of psychology goes on in all learning environments between teacher and pupil. I know I keep saying it but make the time to watch good handlers in action, their dogs constantly seek the approval of the handler, they really want to please - just a simple acknowledgement, touch or smile from a good handler to their dog is reward enough to maintain the partnership.
In the meantime I have had to promise to get out of my bunk early tomorrow morning to feed and exercise the dogs, while Annie stays asleep up in hers. There you see, CONSEQUENCES FOR MY ACTIONS, naff, naff, naff!"
The gorgeous and giant Bjorn being schooled at home
"I had a very busy week last week. Having completed Delboy’s qualification on the Wednesday, we went to Addington premier league on Thursday to try and get a few more of Wizard’s points towards his regional qualification. We also took Bjorn (Headmore Bjorndajoke, no I didn’t think of the name!) - our massive five year old by Jan Brink’s awesome stallion Briar - for the experience.
My first class on Friday morning was a five year old class with Bjorn. He behaved beautifully and, although he was a little spooky, he went where he was told when he was told to and just about did everything in the right place. We were very pleased with him but he got marked down for being green.
The next class was a PSG with Wizard and, although it wasn’t his best test, his way of going was correct and we scored 67.76% and finished fourth in a strong class. We then had to do our Inter I test within an hour of the PSG, and this upset Wiz having two tests so close together, so I retired him in the Inter I.
The following day I had a PSG with Wiz to start with. He was still a little tense from the previous day but still scored 67.1% for third. This also qualified us directly for the Nationals as the two combinations that beat us had already achieved their qualification. I then had another five year old class with Bjorn and, again, he was beautifully behaved but still very green. However, we achieved our aim as he had a bit of competition experience and he will definitely be one for the future.
Another piece of baby news... our Rubinstein mare, Ruby, foaled last night, a full sister to last year’s foal, Robin, who was champion colt at the Hanoverian show."
"Catch up time! Well where do i start? Lets get Saumur out of the way first; a huge disappointment - one of those competitions that make you realise why the sports gurus are jumping in and out of the judging think tank attempting to improve the judging system using hip words like 'transparency' and introducing display scoring some years ago, all to no avail I fear.
It was quite impossible to follow the scores in relation to performance and quality; I imagined the commentary if presented along the lines of a premier league football competition would have made for srious TV entertainment.
But I was not alone in my confusion. A ripple of mystified whisperings were going round as scores were announced. The CDIO was no easier to follow with combinations performing two-tempis going into the "C" line pirouettes (not required I may add!) along with a catalogue of errors to boot yet notching up scores exceding 65% - not to mention the competitor who completeley missed the first piaffe and scored over 70%! Thank heaven for Euro Dressage and their down to earth frank sporting commentary which we can all follow. Ah well, do not despair, things have to change if dressage is to receive the media coverage it craves as its public have to be able to follow the commentary warts and all! Onwards and upwards to the next show!
Now back to the real world and we've had several additions since Cascade hfd presented us with a handsome colt. This mare's 2009 colt went to live with his new owners earlier this year way down south and when we returned from Saumur we heard he now stands at 15.2hh is much loved and enjoyed. These emails leave you with a warm feeling inside when you know the little fellas are going do their job and having a good life - it makes breeding all the more worth while.
Bvlgari (by Trento B) gave birth to a very extravagant bay colt by Mooiman hfd and one of the visiting mares in for foaling gave birth to a very elegant black/bay filly by Santana hfd - a welcome relief as the mare had lost the last three foals, so it was wonderful to see him skipping around the field with his mother. Eva hfd presented us with our first KWPN coloured foal, she is exquisite like her father Santana hfd with the same light expressive foreleg action.
As with all good things comes some bad: We got a call from a neighbouring breeder at 11pm on Friday evening. When Brian got to their place, he immediately realised the foal had an abnormal presentation he had 2 front feet but the head was bent back. Sometimes the foal can be pushed back in and the head pulled forward, but this is every breeders night mare and the vet is needed immediately. It almost always ends in tears and you end up fighting to save the mare. This case was no exception; the foal was born dead but thankfully a very exhausted mare looks to be surviving, though she is not yet out of the woods. It makes the sight of our strong healthy foals romping in the spring sunshine all the more valuable. We have one more client's mare left to foal. She's a special mare to us as she already has a stunning three your old Mooiman hfd colt on her CV. Her owner recognising the quality of this foal so repeated the combination.
We always welcome breeders with good mares like 'Perrie' who themselves have successfully competed to advanced level dressage. Rideabillity is an important part of the stallion grading for the KWPN many fantastic stallions have been short listed for the 70 day test following the second stage selections held in Den Bosche each year only to be eliminated unable to score high enough for the rideability marks. We know how hard our stallions have been tested in this area so it is good for us when we know the mare also has proved her self ridebale and trainable. We always put our brood mares under saddle before breeding with them, even the maiden three year olds, and would not use a difficult mare who had a bad work ethic for breeding.
We currently have college students queing for places to complete their 200 hour work experience with us, and the stud open day on the 30th may looming. We also have mares coming and going every day and from 10am a trail of mares and foals backwards and forward to the breeding station; as one is confirmed with a succesful pregnancy scan, they make room for others waiting for a place. All the resident HFD mares are back in foal for 2011 plus we have mares destined for Libia where AI is not allowed, so they must be in foal before export. We also have frozen semen waiting for export papers so we can ship it to France. With scanning over we move onto the walk-in collections for stallion owners - a much underestimated procedure. Once the stallion is phantom trained he can do his job easily as a rule; the expertise then lies with the practitioner who evaluates and packages the semen for transport. An error at this stage can render the semen useless. The same applies with semen freezing - 50 doses of semen is not much use if all the cells are dead when defrosting for insemination.
A new breeder has joined us this week. She is a one stallion owner and wants a hand getting her first crop of offspring on the ground for 2011, so after finding Mel a very smart PROK mare her stallion Rasputin has his mate. While he is with us, he will also have a consignment of semen frozen so he'll be at HFD for a few weeks yet."
"Once again this week has flown by, with Badminton being until Monday evening and competing at Hambelden Friday to Sunday it means that I only have three days at home which I have made into three very full days!
The girls, Becky and Gemma have done a great job looking after the other 15 horses at home while we were away. Some are still not working though, Beanie who still lame after his horrible fall at Allerton and Bob who is going to be rehomed now I’ve finally decided. He needs a month in the field and gradually bringing back into work. He will be a give away so if anyone is interested please contact me. It will have to be the right home and an experienced rider as he is rather bouncy at times but amazing. I'm not sure if he will event again or not but does the most fabulous dressage test (established changes, etc) and always jumps well. He has been with me for years (now 15 1/2) so will be very sad to see him go. Charlie has thrown a splint so he's having a little holiday. It does mean I’ve space for horses in the yard so I am looking for more rides and/ or schooling liveries and if the right one came along I may purchase something too.
We went to Lodge Farm again Wednesday with Imp (as he goes everywhere with me when XC’s involved) and it's paying off as he is becoming much more confident and feels good. Harry I also schooled as he is a little cheeky out schooling sometimes (never at an event) but does have a sense of humour that I don't always find quite as funny! He was nearly perfect though... Becky rode Bomber around the course, gradually asking more questions as we went along. He was superb, Becky has done a great job, I don't have the time as I'm away so much and he's better with one consistent rider so I’ve passed the reins to Becky. He jumped straight over ditches, down drops, into the water, etc. He is going to go out a few times then holiday soon as he needs to grow and mature. Thoroughly impressed with him we left happy.
I rode all the horses on each day as I really feel it helps them for the events working on their various weaknesses prior to the competition. I knew that there were steps at Hambelden so have been practising with mine each day. This is a godsend having them in my 'garden' means I don't have to box up and go somewhere. Likewise with the galloping, the ground is so good at the moment I just work at ours up the hills. I am completely spoilt now!
I left for Hambelden at a very early hour with Imp, Bertie and Brian. They all excelled themselves, very good tests although this is Bertie's weakest phase and still needs more work, only as he is so keen! Brian was brilliant, a 28 and Imp 25. They all jumped carefully in the show jumping for three clears and were all great XC too. Imp was very relaxed and much better to jump clear to win, Bertie was his usual brilliance for sixth and Brian was exceptional to come second, beaten by less than a mark. He is so straightforward, one of the easiest I’ve ever started, and he loves it too. He will be for sale very soon as he is a little too small sadly but must go to a good, competitive home as he will be someone's horse of a lifetime.
I went back the next day with Harry for the NRF. I was hoping to qualify him for Gatcombe but sadly not this time. He performed a very good test, slightly harshly marked (32) and was jumping a beautiful clear until the last treble where he spooked violently and had two parts down, I saw others do the same thing, no idea why. Very disappointed. He jumped clear XC as always but only finished 20th, not good enough for qualifying. These NRF's are often dressage competitions, I would rather see them held at big novice xc courses where there is a real test as quite a few qualify that haven't been around an intermediate and they have a nasty shock when they get to Gatcombe. I think nearly every horse went clear XC at Hambelden in our section so I could never catch up. Maybe the course was too straightforward or they were particularly good.
Sunday was better, although I felt the ground was firm in places so chose steady clear XC rounds. Amber is much more consistent in her dressage and scored 30, Romeo was very fresh and jolly so slightly higher. Amber had an uncharacteristic fence down out of the treble, maybe I was too forward in after the previous day, I did get it right on Romeo who jumped clear. They were both great XC, particularly Amber as it was a very twisty course for a big horse and you have to keep changing speed which she's better at now. Romeo is very bold, for only his third intermediate he feels very grown up. I'm hoping to aim Amber at Aston advanced which will be very exciting, the team is getting better and better..."