“Firstly a massive congratulations to Sharon Hunt for her impressive win in Luhmuhlen, Germany – a tremendous achievement for horse and rider. I am sure there will be plenty more to come.
On the flip side, it is a shame that our England footballers have struggled to show the same level of focussed determination. That said, and whatever you may think about the World Cup, it is refreshing to have witnessed the supposed ‘minnows’ of the tournament consistently beating the footballing ‘giants’ such as France, Spain, Germany and Italy. This to me demonstrates a power that transcends physical talent alone, and thank God! The sporting world would be a highly dull place if the winners could be predicted by ability and experience alone. As sport psychology starts to break down the mysteries of this illusive ‘X-factor’, what interests me the most is how to help people recreate their best performances – every time they go out and compete. With this in mind, I was recently given the opportunity to put one or two key principles into practice with the UK Polocrosse Team.
From an individual equestrian sport to a team equestrian sport, I headed up to Doncaster to work with the senior and junior polocrosse squads as they started to plan ahead towards the Polocrosse World Cup to be held for the first time on UK soil next year. A fast, dynamic team-sport, Polocrosse offers its players very different psychological challenges to that of eventers, dressage riders and show jumpers.
In fact, I am often asked how working with equestrians compares to working with athletes or teams from other sports. In short, the principles tend to be the same but with a different emphasis. For example, we may not consider the role of leadership to be as important in an individual sport as it is in team sports like polocrosse, but actually I see a huge amount of leadership behaviour contributing to the success of riders. Our new Badminton winner for 2010, Paul Tapner, has emphasised the value he places on building and maintaining the “team environment” upon which the people who surround him are motivated, confident and feel valued within their role. Take time today to watch somebody who is doing something because they are told to do it (the ‘agnostics’ as I like to call them) and compare their behaviour with someone who is doing something because they want to do it. Teams and leaders who recognise and address this ‘human element’ tend to be the ones who go on to perform beyond expectation (as has been seen to great effect in business as well as sport).
So how was this going to help UK Polocrosse in their quest to become the best team in the world? For a start, I was likely to be introducing myself to a group of individuals with varying degrees of ‘belief’ about the importance of psychology. This is understandable because, until recently, sport psychology has only really been applied to the upper echelons of sport. Nonetheless, I was less interested in trying to ‘prove’ anything to them and more interested in simply uniting them in their appreciation of what it’s like to compete at the highest level. In other words, how does pressure impact on performance and how do we prepare ourselves for this beforehand. From there we were able to recognise and observe common patterns and behaviours that led to either defeat or victory, thereby starting to install elements of control both as individuals and as a team. The day developed from there and I was delighted to see such enthusiastic consideration of new routines on-and-off the pitch, communication styles, responsibilities and even victory celebrations (of which I am sure there will be many!)
The day finished on a high with plenty to take away and digest. Importantly, there was a rejuvenated excitement for what the future may hold! Thank you very much to the team for inviting me and I can’t wait to take it further as the World Cup draws closer!
To keep updated with information on equestrian psychology and for future events, please visit my site (link below) or join me on Facebook (Charlie Unwin – Equestrian Psychologist).”
“Just got off the phone to a client that has become a good friend of mine. Of course, we were talking about dogs, but we did briefly discuss the weather and the fact that we are both single blokes with a string of failed relationships littered behind us (and we’re both heterosexual before the gossip starts). The funny part is that although we passed the time of day, the purpose of the call was to talk about gundogs, neither of us were remotely interested in what the other said about their personal ups and downs and to be quite honest if either of us had said that ‘I have just met the most delightful Himalayan mountain dragon and I’m off to live in outer Mongolia with him’, the automated response would have been, ‘that’s great, how are the dogs’. It’s a bloke thing.
Following a parting of the ways with his girlfriend, Christian found himself dogless. Not just dogless, GUNDOG LESS! Disaster! It’s one thing to loose your girlfriend but your dog as well - that’s nearly enough to bring a man down. No problem, we managed to find Christian the most delightful part-trained cocker that you could ever wish to meet. Pip is her name and in Christian’s words, “Howard, I just love her.” A match made in heaven. Well, just like any relationship it has and will continue to need patience, understanding and plenty of training. Maybe it’s because I try to train my girlfriends that it keeps going wrong.
Christian and Pip are no exception to the rule; during the first couple of weeks that the pair were together there was of course a few misunderstandings. Pip started to ignore the whistle, took to barking when she was left on her own (I do that but instead of barking I text everyone, attention seeking!), but worst of all Pip took a dislike to a dog that came into her new home and gave it a less than friendly nip.
The great news is that all of these teething troubles are now either cured or have gone away, even better Christian has a new dog, friend, shooting companion and is having a fantastic time as he continues to improve Pip’s working skills. The pair has already been placed in a Gundog Scurry and, providing things continue as they are, it will not be their last.
Taking on a part-trained dog has loads of benefits but is unlikely to be without a few technical hitches, all dog training has technical hitches so that shouldn’t be a problem or anything to worry about. We have a Gundog Training day here on Sunday so it looks like the heat will be the technical hitch that we have to overcome!”
“This is Ruby’s first week at Dogs for the Disabled’s training centre in Banbury. I’m Clare Mehmet and I’ll be Ruby’s trainer for approximately the next 16 weeks of her training and I’ll be bringing you updates of her progress. My role is to give a dog-in-training the skills they need to be partnered to a child or adult with physical disabilities. I train up to five dogs at a time (although not all at once!) and help them learn tasks such as opening doors, picking up dropped items and emptying the washing machine. Once Ruby has completed her training with me, she’ll then go to a Dogs for the Disabled instructor, she or he will be responsible for deciding who, ultimately, Ruby is partnered with.
I had met Ruby several times before when she’d been in to us for her kennel break and when she’d visited the centre with Julie and Tim. As you will have realised by following Ruby’s blog, all our puppy socialisers put in a huge amount of love, care and attention to ensure that our young dogs are well socialised and relaxed young dogs and we can’t thank Julie, Tim and all our other socialisers enough for the help that they give us.
For our socialisers, saying goodbye to their young dog can be pretty tough, it can also be a little unsettling for our dogs too, so in these first few days and weeks my priority for Ruby and I is to really establish a bond between us as quickly as possible. So we’ve spent lots of time doing fun things which I’m sure Ruby will like, such as lots of playtime, going on free-runs and generally letting Ruby know that she gets to do all the things she likes doing best when I’m around.
Our centre here in Banbury consists of kennels, a training hall, a large field for playtime, offices and lots of paths and roads making it an ideal place to practice lead walks before we progress into town. Although Ruby’s done a lot of lead walks with Julie in different surroundings, the centre provides a really safe environment to see how she reacts to different stimuli and gives me more knowledge about what she’ll need from me when we start working in the town or other busy areas. Ruby has reacted well though and I’m confident that we’ll be able to start short walks away from the centre very soon.
At this very early stage any training sessions are fairly short, Ruby is after all still a young dog and she’s had a lot of changes in the last couple of weeks so we want every session to be fun and positive for her. We use clicker training and other reward based methods of training at Dogs for the Disabled so Ruby quickly learns that every time she does something right then she gets a click and a small treat taken out of her daily food rations. One of her earliest tasks is to learn a retrieve, so this week she’s been learning how to pick up a simple dumbbell toy and pass it to me. I was really pleased to see that Ruby really enjoyed doing these first bits of task work and picked up the idea very quickly.”
"Oh, what a day! They say that your body has a natural defence system that eradicates traumatic experiences from your memory and this must be what happens year on year, because boy had we forgotten what the first day of the season is like! But we’d also forgotten the fun, and the madness, and the excitement when the sun shines and everything looks beautiful and all of the year’s hard work finally comes to fruition… an excellent first day all in all.
First off was Hickstead-favourite William Funnell starting as he means to go on with a victory in the first class of the season, the Camardo Coffee 1.35m Open Championship. He said simply: "If I just win the first class of the show, and the last class of the show, I’ll be happy if I don’t jump even another clear round!" However, he couldn’t help himself and did in fact win the big class of this afternoon too, the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard… Lets hope his winning streak lasts until Sunday evening – I have every faith!
Clearly overcome with all the excitement was our jumping secretary and there was a classic now you see her, now you don’t moment when she literally just keeled over on the spot in the middle of a class. In this incidence I do actually believe protestations of a bad knee, and too much heat, and there were rather loud hoots of laughing ringing around the showground when I tried to console her by reminding her that the very same thing had happened to me at last year’s sponsors’ barbecue… Unfortunately this comment was heard by someone, who quickly reminded me (and the rest of the office) about the one too many glasses of Champagne Pommery I’d inhaled beforehand!!
We have changed television broadcasters at this meeting for the first time in 50 years and the main reason the sponsorship department is still here this late is because we have been puzzling over the new camera angles to ensure our branding gets the best possible exposure! The coverage promises to be exceptional, as they have nearly double the amount of cameras that we have had in previous years. In the OB truck today, the boys were showing off their new slow-mo camera, and you could honestly see the hairs up a horse’s nose, the detail was so amazing! However as a result of their snazzy technology, and one particular half a million pound camera (we refer to it as the ‘uppy downy thing’, and are frequently chastised… “for half a million quid Daisy, you can blinkin well call it by its proper name!” the Director has been heard to mutter!) we really have to think about it!
We had the launch today for Alan Smith’s brilliant new book, Hickstead: A Golden Celebration, which was very exciting and very touching when Alan spoke and said how proud he was of the book, considering it a great testament to a long and successful career, and a fitting tribute to my late Dad. Alan began his career in equestrian journalism in the same year that Dad started Hickstead, and the two were the greatest of friends. The books are flying off the shelves and there’s a furious competition to see who can sell the most – there’s a pretty good prize at the end of the season for the winner so watch this space!
I must be off now but also worth mentioning were Geoff Osborne’s brilliant back to back wins in the British Private Driving Derby and the Supreme Trade Turnout Championship. Oh… and Catherine and I nearly missing a presentation because we were ‘visiting our sponsors on their trade stands’ (read: SHOPPING!) Oops, she’s going to kill me for telling everyone that, but at least we provided the entire showground with a giggle when the tv cameras caught us hot footing it back to the presentation gate at speed from the other end of the showground! Oops!"
“I recently took a nice chap called Keith fishing for a one to one lesson on our Milton Lake as he wanted to catch some tench and crucians. I took him to my favourite peg 20 on the lake and showed him how to prepare the bait, as we were going to fish with soft expander pellets on the hook. Armed with a few red maggots, some pellet micro feed to get the fish interested in the first place, I showed Keith how to tackle up his 13ft rod with a small light waggler set up and size 16’s hook. I then spent ten minutes demonstrating one of the most important parts of setting up, plumbing the depth accurately. Keith was a good pupil and I knew we were going to have a real good lesson and catch a fair few number of fish as the evening went along. I always fish for the first half hour, as I can then demonstrate where to put the float in the swim and how much to feed and how often plus it helps to show how to kick off the peg and get the fish to feed confidently.
As per normal, the crucians were in a finicky mood lifting the float up and down without taking the bait properly. I stressed to Keith that this was normal crucian activity and after a while they would settle down and start to feed with confidence after they had got their heads down on the micro feed. Every now and then a tench would take the bait and a terrific bend in the rod would be seen until it succumbed to the landing net. Now it was Keith’s turn to have a go and in the next three hours, with me by his side, I witnessed an angler having the best fish catching action of his life. Keith was beaming as fish after fish graced his path including a personal best crucian of over 2lbs. I estimated that Keith had well over 60lbs in a four hour session, good going by any novice’s standards. I got as much pleasure out of the lesson as my pupil did and one of the most satisfying aspects I can pass on to anyone apart from how to catch fish and fish safety is how to have passion and enjoyment out of your sport. What a great evening’s lesson that was.
The lakes at Bury Hill are fishing really well now that the spawning is out of the way for another season. Last Sunday on the Old Lake, Fairfields AC held their latest club match along the Long Bank with a nice 74lbs of mostly bream taking top honours. Feeder tactics and hair rigged 8mm halibut pellets accounted for the winning bag. Temple Lake our specimen member’s only lake has produced some stunning fish this past few weeks and Dean Jones had a cracking 37lbs plus Mirror Carp in the early hours of last Sunday morning, what a great catch.
In my last blog, I mentioned that I had set up a Bury Hill midweek open match diary and these are the dates. If you are interested to book in please call me on the shop number 01306 883621. Draws are at 8.30am with fish times of 10am to 3pm ticket costs are £20 all in.
14 July - Old Lake Long Bank
28 July - Old Lake Front Bank
4 August - Milton Lake
18 August - Old Lake Front Bank
1 September - Old Lake Long Bank
8 September - Old Lake Front Bank
15 September - Old Lake Long Bank
Last Sunday I was in match practice on the Royal Military Canal, near Hythe in Kent. Apart from a big eel, it was tough going but I am full of confidence that the team I fish for NDP10 will have a good start to the first round of the Kent Angling League, which runs all through the months, except December, finishing in March 2011. Individually it’s a good league for me and team wise we won three rounds last season and looking to improve on that this term.
With some good weather forecast these next few days why not pop down to Bury Hill and have a go, with bream galore on the Old Lake, hard fighting carp of all sizes up to 14lbs on Bonds Lake plus stacks of tench and crucians plus big roach on Milton Lake, life just cannot get any better.
“Last week in the Scottish Highlands I asked how I could get to fish the nearby lochs and was told that I needed to buy a ticket at the village shop.
The next day I climbed a mountain (“strolled up a hill”, according to some of the fitter members of our party) so didn’t manage to get to the shop until it was too late.
That evening was frustrating, as it is not in my nature to fish on a water for which I don’t have the correct ticketing and permits (stop sniggering at the back). But the following day I located the shop and bought my ticket from the owner, a very gentle lady who wished me luck. When I asked if she knew which flies and tactics might be successful she spent a while hunting for the pieces of paper that would tell me before concluding that they must all have been handed out over the years to fishermen. She apologised profusely.
I explained that it didn’t matter as I would fathom it out on the lochside. She nodded in agreement saying that she was sure I was equal to the task. In reality, I knew I would probably wait for the evening and send a sedge fly on to the surface, tweaking it occasionally. Coaxing loch trout off the top is spectacular fun.
And that is what I did.
My head swathed in a midge net, I tempted half a dozen small fish from the apparently rarely visited loch. All was going to a familiar pattern until, lifting into a fish, I realised that I was into something very different from the six inch long brown trout I had been catching.
I wound my loose line back onto the reel with my left hand whilst steering the fish with my rod and the taught line trapped between thumb and forefinger of my right hand.
When all the excess line was on the reel I was astonished as the unseen fish sped through the water, deeper and deeper, peeling a good twenty yards of line off the reel which made it sing with the most splendid ratchety noise.
After nearly ten minutes and three more powerful runs, I put the net under a wonderful wild brown trout that I guess weighed around three pounds. He had the sleek but powerful look of a cannibal who had got bigger by eating all who got in his way.
I wetted my hands and unhooked him, a tad miffed that my camera was in the car a long way away over some boggy, difficult terrain. He wouldn’t make good eating, I reasoned, and slowly lowered him back into the water, feeling his powerful body flex as he shot off.
What a memorable fish, far bigger than any I have caught from a small mountain loch before.
I sat down in the gorse and marvelled at the world, I sneezed and looked across the water. The inside of my midge netting headdress was now covered with…well… sneezy stuff. I couldn’t see in front of me.
I was happy though. I laughed out loud.
On my return to our cottage, the lady from the shop was sitting outside in her car. She had found out where I was staying, driven to the original writer of the missing fly information letter’s house, photocopied it and brought it for me to have.
What a simple act of kindness. Delighted by her thoughtfulness, I told her about my success.
Goodness only knew how big the next fish would be now that I had the correct fly information, she concluded, winking.
I liked her, and I like how the world looks from there.”
"Oh how I would love to regale you with tales of high artistic and intellectual merit concerning the goings on in a show office, but unfortunately it is more one of hysterics, dappy comments and arachnaphobia – particularly bad this week - I think it must be made worse by show related stress, but there was nearly a particularly nasty accident that would have seen the entire sponsorship department wiped out when I spotted an ENORMOUS spider and Catherine had to be saved from plunging to her death over the balcony in our office out of fright!
So, the countdown has officially begun… you know when you’re in the office at 7am on a Sunday morning OUT OF CHOICE (!) because there is just so much to do, that it’s show time!
Rather sadly, as if eating, sleeping, breathing the place isn’t enough for me, I’ve also been devouring my copy of the book and, again rather sadly, it seems that we can talk of nothing else! My absolute favourite quote so far has been one about Hickstead legend and four-time Derby winner Eddie Macken. Demonstrating the steely determination and dogged one-mindedness needed to make it to the top of the sport, Alan Smith writes about Eddie’s equine-obsession which was apparent practically from the minute he was born:
‘Eddie’s only interest was in riding horses. Given a cowboy suit for Christmas he galloped a farm pony up and down the main street firing his toy pistols – though when he tried the same thing with his local hunt he was, understandably, sent home.’
I can just imagine this little nutter zooming up and down terrorising the local well-to-do hunterati, brilliant! Something obviously worked though…
It's not just the book though that has been providing us with amusing quotes, as as the show looms closer, the familiar slightly hysterical mood in the office has produced some corkers. In fact our show jumping secretary has just declared herself ‘as uninspired as a dead duck’ and Catherine, my esteemed colleague in sponsorship has just declared that she is going to ‘fight the bullet’, I didn’t quite have the heart to correct her and wish her well on her matrix-trilogy inspired conversation! So as not to give too much away and get the lady in question in trouble, my absolute favourite of the day however has been her mutterings about our new muck removal charge, lamenting the fact that it is not so easy to have her ex-boyfriend removed from her life, as as far as she is concerned he should qualify for the same service!
On a (vaguely) more serious note, the last bit of carpet is being laid as i type, the finishing touches being put to the snazzy new hospitality areas, and the last (very late, naughty Irish!) entries are being processed. The sun-dances have been done and the first lorry has rumbled in, and we are ready and set to go on our 50th year. Bring. It. On."
“Summer is well and truly with us now. It has been quite warm and very dry. We have hardly had any rain for about two months and the river and burns are as low as I can remember. And though the hydro scheme is not working I am not complaining about having a bit of proper summer weather for a change. The previous two summers have been terrible with lots of rain and cold weather.
It was because of the poor summers that I eventually decided to buy a poly tunnel, and that is proving to be a really good decision despite the good weather. Ruth does my garden for me and has been in charge of the poly tunnel. She lives in the next door glen with her partner, who is a game keeper there. Anyway Ruth is, like me, from the south. Oxfordshire to be specific, and though we both love being in Scotland we do tend to commiserate over some things that are better in the south, for example the weather, and pubs. There are very few traditional type pubs in Scotland, the sort you would find in most villages in the south of England. She misses the quaintness, and I miss the good beer, and we both miss the good food!
Ruth does a number of different jobs but one of them involves helping in my garden and she’s very good at it. She has got a ton of stuff coming up in the poly tunnel, and it is a joy on a warm summer evening to go into the poly tunnel and pick various different salad leaves to make a fresh salad. I particularly like rocket. In recent evenings, we like to think we are in the South of France by making a salad Nicoise for dinner to have with a cold glass of Provencal Rose. And that makes us realise how much we have missed the nice summer weather over the long winter.
The hill is at last starting to green up, and the heather plants are again starting to colour up and grow, but the heather won’t bloom until late July at the earliest. In contrast the grouse have gone very quiet, looking after their young broods. This is the time of year that we keep our fingers crossed that we have a good breeding season, and no long periods of cold wet weather that can really effect the chick survival rates. We try to stay off the hill as much as possible to give all the nesting birds as much peace and quiet as possible. If we do go up, we never take the dogs, until after 15 July or so, at which time the chicks can all hopefully fly quite well. I have been up in the Land Rover with my binoculars to look for broods of grouse. It involves parking up at a vantage point and quietly observing the moor through the binoculars. I saw about 20 broods of grouse, which I was pleased with but with the heather being so tall I couldn’t count the exact number of chicks in each brood. I am cautiously optimistic that they have done okay this year.”
"This weekend, the England football team has drawn disappointingly level with their opponents (again) and fans are left frustrated, anxious and yet excited about the next World Cup match. Whether the team can clean up their pitch remains to be seen. But win, lose or continue to draw, viewers will be watching with a glass of something liquid in hand; a nice cup of tea, a cold beer or a fresh wine, each topped up at half time.
This time of year there is more than just football kicking off: the Ascot races have just finished, Wimbledon serves today and there’s only a furlong until Newmarket. People across the land still choose to experience the true energy of live English and international sporting events. Proud of our national skill and prowess on grass (and turf), whether it be a pitch, course or court, what do we celebrate our heroes’ achievements with but a civilised glass of Champagne?
Sadly not everyone can be lucky holders of Wimbledon tickets or Newmarket hats (including me!), but even as the summer season of sports opens across the land like the spreading of a picnic blanket, shoppers can buy the official Champagne supplier to both of these events: Champagne Lanson celebrates its 250th birthday as a jolly good sport – including in a supermarket aisle near you.
More than 18,000 bottles of Lanson Black Label NV were popped open at the last Wimbledon Championships as visitors sipped the crisp and zesty delight. Come rain or shine this year, the bubbly will be centre court once more. We enjoyed some bubbling-away Black Label NV to reward dad on Father’s Day and for someone who doesn’t necessarily opt for Champagne, Dad found it a bit of a “chill-out,” having put our little monkey to bed. At the close of a busy weekend, with some simple tapas and encouraging banter (in the direction of the screen), the Lanson was a welcome addition to our end-of-weekend sofa.
I’ve always enjoyed my days at the races (I’m a safe bet, me!) and the 2010 season at Newmarket will be in the pink with Lanson Rosé NV. Back a winner at home with this flavourful and easy on the eye Champagne and its berry and forest fruit aromas.
So let’s cheer on our nation’s talents with spirit and encouragement, toasting with family and friends and sharing in the thrill of the competition. Raise a glass and celebrate… And maybe it will be a heated summer after all, especially with these events coming up:
Wimbledon Tennis Championships:
21st June – 4th July 2010
Lanson July Festival: 7-9th July 2010
Lanson Ladies Day: Thursday 8th July 2010
Tony is rearing grey partridge chicks under broody hens this year
"The time is 10.20pm and I have just got in and sat down to write my first blog for you. June may have the longest day, but to me every day at this time of the year is long; I love it and wouldn’t change it for anything.
Gamekeepers everywhere are now flat out; if you are rearing birds from day olds then you would be busy doing day-to-day running of the rearing fields plus all the other duties we have at this time of year. Release pen repair and yearly maintenance should have been done by now, but because this is a new job, the pens I have inherited are in a bad state of repair so I still have one to do, thank god the poults don’t come in until late this year!
I will be rearing grey partridge chicks under broody hens this year for the first time, with the hope that the few wild pairs we have will foster them. The idea is that I take the hens, chicks and the coop out to where I know there are a wild pair and with a little luck they will be fostered, this way the young poults are more likely to establish a home territory, will keep you posted on their progress through the year.
It might seem funny to contact beaters and picker ups at this time of year, but if you are on new ground or you have some new people starting at the beginning of the season, it’s a good idea to show them round and get them involved so at least they get a feel for where they will being going when the first day comes around. Having a good team around you is very important on shoot days for a successful outcome, so look after your beaters and picker ups and they will look after you.
Our three young dogs, Daisy (a liver cocker), Ruby and Jet (black Labradors) are in need of daily training if they are to be ready for this season. My partner Sue gives them some tuition most evenings; Daisy is working very well and hopefully will be ready for some real work this coming season, Ruby and Jet have been trained to follow blood trails and they to are coming on really well. I have been called out on a couple of occasions to attend RTAs where there has been a deer involved; we are hoping that Ruby will be able to pick up as well as she loves the dummy work, it would be great to have a dual purpose dog."