“August is one of the best times of year to be in the Scottish Highlands. The weather is normally fairly good, the evenings are still long, and the heather is in full bloom making the hills look almost fluorescent purple. It’s the time of year of Highland Games, and grouse shooting. It is also a time of year that we have lots of friends to stay who are either heading further north or on their way back south.
A Californian visitor
This year my sister, from California, has been staying with her family, as well as my mother, and a whole raft of friends, relations, and our children’s friends. The first guests arrived on the 4th August, and we have had a steady flow with our last guest due to leave on the 6th September. In that time, my wife tells me, we would have had over 40 people staying! For us, it is a great time of year and we love sharing it with friends and family.
There are lots of things to do on the estate, including salmon and trout fishing, rabbit shooting, grouse shooting, walking, picnics, barbeques and most importantly for visitors relaxing without the mobile phone ringing! It is so quiet that everyone comments on how well they sleep, unless of course, I forget to shut the chickens up the night before. In that case, the cockerel has a habit of standing under the window crowing at 5.30am!
Tossing the caber
Our local Highland Games is hosted each year at Cortachy Castle, a large baronial pile owned for hundreds of years by the same family. It attracts people, mainly locals from all the Angus Glens, to its variety of fruit and vegetable and baking competitions, running races for all ages, dog show, and obligatory caber tossing competition. This year we had a number of young children staying, who decided they wanted to go into the dog show and proceeded to groom every dog in the house, no matter what shape or size, to enter into the show. My daughter Daisy, after entering three different classes eventually won first prize, as “The Dog the Judges Most Wanted to take Home”.
The grouse season begins
The other big event this time of year is the grouse shooting. It is not only a wonderful day out in the hills but a good source of income for the estate. I have had two let driven days so far, and on both we have managed to get 50 brace (i.e. 100 birds). In fact, grouse numbers all over Angus are good this year and it is lovely to see the moors so alive with the sound and sight of grouse coveys. These driven days are a big event to lay on with nine guns, 24 beaters, flankers and pickers up, plus others watching, etc. There can often be over 40 people up on the moor. We rely on our neighbouring estates to help us, just as we help them on their days. They often send over keepers to help the day, and with each estate having their own tweed, it is possible at a glance to see which estates are helping, even if you don’t recognise the keeper. This week we have got our first partridge day on Friday followed by a driven grouse day on Saturday so fingers crossed that the weather remains kind.”
“Hello again friends! Have you ever looked at the feet of a draught horse? The front feet are usually as big as dinner plates with long toes and low heels. The back feet look like they have wings on the outside; we call these “flares”. If you have a chance to look at a draught foot someday, please do because I am betting that if you have never seen one before, you will not understand how and why we shoe this way.
Heavy shoes for heavy horses
According to our farrier, most light horses wear shoes ranging in size from one to three. Our draught mares wear size ten to eleven! Along with being large, draught horse shoes are also very heavy. A light horse needs to have its leg extend and for that reason, the shoes are light. A draught horse is expected to pick its feet up towards its elbow so the shoes are heavy.
Would you shoe a weanling?
Probably one of the most ridiculous things about showing draught horses is the insane need to put shoes on weanlings. Yes, you read that correctly, shoes on weanlings! What purpose shoeing a three, four or five-month-old horse could possibly have I am not sure, but we made a conscious decision at North Point not to shoe our babies this year. We are in the minority because until and unless the national association comes out and makes it clear that shoes on babies, or even yearlings will not be tolerated, people will continue to shoe because they don’t want to fail to place at a show. I shudder to think what would happen should PETA or another animal rights group get a hold of this information as I am sure they would have plenty to say about it and truthfully, I would be hard pressed, in this instance to disagree. I have yet to see light horse folks throw shoes on a three-month-old foal just weaned from its mother, so I am not sure how draught horse folks felt that it was ever a good idea.
Only the best for North Point horses
One of our veterinarians, one of the leading equine lameness experts in this part of the country and himself a former Clydesdale breeder, has said that scotch shoes are the most horrible thing to ever happen to a horse. He believes that they cause a host of lameness and joint problems and says if he had his way, draught horses would be shod with more moderate toes and higher heels. Since we tend to agree with him and want only the best for our horses, this year we have trimmed back the toes and brought our heels up and it hasn’t seemed to hurt us in the show ring. Of course, until and unless we all sign up for this philosophy, shoeing to extreme will continue.
Our mares are shod every spring with “plates”. These plates are like super-size regular shoes. The horses wear their plates for a few months in order to grow out their toes. In late spring, the horses get their scotch bottom shoes, essentially big heavy draught shoes ranging in size from 8 to 11. These shoes sit on top of a pad or pads, made of leather.
There is also a product called “equilox” which is commonly used on draught horses to fill in cracks, chips and in some cases, if the horse does not have the requisite show and super-sized foot, to make a foot larger, or “build a foot”. Many people use this product in conjunction with shoeing to make a nice presentation in the show ring.
No grazing while scotches are on
Since it is now August, the horses have had the “scotches” on for some time and their lives are different from their light horse counterparts in that we dare not let them out in to the fields to graze. A horse left at liberty in the field might get to raising heck and running, catching a shoe and ripping it off. This is especially common if they catch a “flare”. Draught horses never canter in the show ring partly because of the shoes, as they could rip one off in the ring as well! Not only will it rip the shoe off, it can also really damage the hoof. There have been a few occasions when we have had to send the boys in to the pasture to look for a lost shoe when we have let a horse out for a few hours, since one shoe can cost upwards of $75!
I often wonder if the mares miss being outside in the pastures, eating grass or if they are content in the cool barn, away from the horse flies who hover like helicopters ready to land and bite. The horse flies and green flies have been especially bad this year, either because of the heat or because it has been so dry is a mystery.
Because the horse are in training and being shown, they are driven every day and even then we have had to be careful this year as the ground is rock hard from too little rain. Tim’s cart mare broke the toe off one of her feet on the ground and had to be scratched from a show.
Regular old horses
Come November, when show season is over, everyone will have their shoes pulled and be turned out again in the fields to be just regular old horses. They will get trimmed every six weeks or so until spring when the plates will go back on.
Why do draughts get shod to such an extreme? I suppose the answer is because they always have. Like in so many other areas of the horse industry, what wins in the show ring dictates what is in fashion. What are your thoughts?
Until next time, please keep up with us on our website www.northpointfarm.com or on Twitter!”
“I have had so much going on since my last blog. I have had very little time to sit down and write the next one, but with a few days off to catch up on myself, here goes. My last two matches have been very active with 111lbs of carp, barbel, chub and bream from an average peg on lake two at Monks where I finished fourth overall last Wednesday, but the match before that was much better when I finished second with 154lbs 4oz of carp on my very first visit to Hawkhurst Fishery in Kent.
A good old soaking
At Hawkhurst I decided to fish with 6mm RS Elite soft expander pellets and they worked a real treat, as I kept the fish coming most of the day. However, it was in the last hour where I pulled out of a couple of good carp at the net which cost me the match as I was only 4lbs off the winner. All the same, I enjoyed every minute of the match despite it raining quite hard for about three hours soaking all my gear in the process, but that’s fishing as they say. All of my fish came on the short pole and not once did I need to use the fifth section of my pole all match. I fished just two lines, right out in front of me using a carp top two plus one section and my other line was to my left using just the carp top two. Of course, I had some good number 16’s elastic set up in both set slightly loose to cushion the blow of hooking any real lumps. I guess the smallest fish I had was 8ozs but they were far and few between but I did have a few around the 5lbs mark which always bumps up the fish. I counted 83 fish in my nets at the end and with 154lbs 4oz they averaged out to be a decent stamp.
Hungry perch get in the way
Before those two matches, I had the MatchFishing feature to do on the Rother at Newbridge and it tuned out to be a good feature with the target weight reached to score a match win or frame plus of course a good section result. The only disappointment was the lack off eels, which I was targeting on my close in line, but I have a good reason why. With no other anglers around me and therefore no other feed going into the river, my feed was going to attract everything that swam anywhere near me so when I introduced my eely soup mix, every perch around was straight on top chomping away on my worm and maggot mix. Every time I went over to try and catch an eel, I was greeted with a perch from an ounce up to 10 ounces. Although frustrating, I was adding to my target weight all the time and with some nice skimmers over the pound mark I had a good double figure weight at the end. With all that said, at 12.35pm I did manage to snare one eel so I was relieved to catch at least one of the species for the camera. In hindsight it would have been much better if the feature had been done actually during a match as I know I would have had much more success with the eels as they were blowing in my peg but were no match to grab my bait with the hungry perch present.
No time for Bury Hill matches
With my attentions elsewhere, I have not had any chances to fish the open matches at Bury Hill where I work five days a week. But looking at the results, the matches have been very close but it has been obvious with the much cooler weather and rain that the bream and skimmer plus tench have started to shoal up in certain areas of the lake so if you have not managed to draw sock then it can lead to a very frustrating match watching someone on the next peg bag up.
The next time I will be wetting a line at Bury Hill will be on the Old Lake open match on the 15th September which will be the last chance to grab some practice before the two day festival the week after.
"We were away again last week, this time at Sheepgate for the BYRDS [British Young Riders Dressage Scheme] under 25 championships. It’s quite a long way for us, but we made it in good time this year, it only took four and a half hours despite some lengthy road works and a road closure! Not a very good start!
Bracks holds her nerve
Wednesday was the first day of competition. Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) had the novice championship semi-final. There were no major mistakes in the test but she was a bit tense and not quite as soft as she could have been. Nevertheless, she scored 71.4% and finished third, qualifying her for the final on Thursday.
Weather sets in
We awoke on Thursday to a blowing gale and driving rain. This proved quite problematic as the lorry park and temporary stables are all in a field, so you can imagine the trouble this caused. Virtually every lorry had to be towed out; the staff at Sheepgate were fantastic. It also meant that the arenas were rather damp but, thankfully, Bracks didn’t mind the water too much! I had also given her some of my trusty Nupafeed, and it made a massive difference. She was much more relaxed and we were very pleased with her novice championship test. Unfortunately, the judges weren’t quite so enthused by it and only awarded us 63.94%, which we were disappointed with. However, it was still good enough to finish eigth and the winner was only on 67%, so they obviously weren’t marking very high! We then had our elementary semi-final and, once again, she was just a little tense as the Nupafeed was wearing off and there were a few costly mistakes. However, we did what we had to do and finished seventh to qualify for the final. However, we were only three marks behind second place so without the mistakes we would have been much higher.
A new saddle for Del
Friday was Bracks’ elementary final and she was a little on edge in the wind and the rain, making her a little tight, thus keeping our score down. However, it was still good enough to finish ninth, meaning that she got placed in everything she did, so overall we were pleased with her. Delboy (Headmore Delegate) also started competing on Friday. He started with an advanced medium and it was a clean test, but I kept it a little underpowered as he had two tests. He scored 70% and won. He then had the medium championship and the test was lovely, full of power and mistake free. We scored a massive 74.12% and won the class by about 6%! We also won a saddle, which was phenomenal, especially as Del needs a new saddle!
Ending on a high note
We were very relieved to get to the end of the week as the mud made everything very difficult; it was like a military operation to get on whilst still looking clean! Del did another advanced medium in the morning, again it was underpowered as he had two tests. He again scored 70% and won. His final test was the advanced medium championship and I rode a safe test as he is still green at advanced medium and the test was very difficult. We scored 69.74% and this was good enough for the win, although a couple came very close! We won a lot in this class as well, including a pair of clippers!
All in all, it was a very worthwhile trip and it made the long journey and the wallowing around in the mud more than worthwhile!"
In her video blog this week, Rachel shares her experiences of promoting her friend's alpacas at Landgoedfair, Neds. Meet the alpacas and watch how children interact with them. Plus some exciting carriage driving on a difficult and wet course.
Sharosn says Bambi looks amazing after her holiday
“The weeks are getting shorter and shorter as the end of season approaches, and the weather will get worse soon as the summer ends and winter begins. I have fully made the most of the summer this year without a doubt. I went to V Festival for the weekend, which I have to say was incredible. There were no events I would really like to go to so I thought I would go with my friends to see some bands. We stayed in a lovely Winnebago (had to be done) and had a great time. Probably the last time I’ll do this so we did it in style and the weather was kind too!
Romeo goes on holiday
But enough of the weekend off (which is a rarity in itself) and back to real life. I went to Newmarket to stay with my parents for Tuesday night as we were out with David and Sue Howard for a celebratory meal after Gatcombe. I took a few horses with me for their checkups at Rossdales. I swapped over Bambi and Romeo; she has just finished her holiday now the ground is softer and sadly Romeo will have the rest of the season off with a very small injury. He will be back next year - I am over cautious with him as he is such a lovely young horse.
Bambi looks amazing after her holiday, really filled out and has certainly blossomed! We left Wednesday to go back to Tunbridge Wells after a good trip back. I just wish I had more time to catch up with everybody.
Thank goodness for soft ground
The rain has finally come and the ground is finally softer. I can now canter in our field again which is superb as not only does it have a great hill but also I can work on stamina and endurance as well as hill work and speed. It also means I don't have to go elsewhere to gallop which obviously saves me a huge amount of time. It also means the novices can canter and trot around to get fit too. Hopefully it will keep raining! We are also jumping in the field again which is great for the young horses. I’ve been jumping Phoenix outside to help with his spookiness, he is already much more confident. Next week they will all practise jumping outside.
A visit from the dentist
We have also had Rob the dentist from Bell Equine in checking all their teeth which is so important every six months; a few needed work but generally they were good. I can't stress enough the importance of having them checked.
I had to withdraw from Burghley this week as Jasper (Tankers Town) is not as fit as I’d like him to be. I gave him a month off after Luhmuhlen as I genuinely expected to be selected for WEG, so I have now lost too much time in preparation for Burghley. I had hoped we would make it but I will now go to Pau knowing this is the better option... Next year I hope!”
“A prime-time foodie series has crowned another Celebrity Masterchef and the show’s highlight for me was the finalists’ mighty culinary tasks at the prestigious Château de la Marquetterie; the grand home of Champagne Taittinger in France.
As official Champagne partner for the BAFTAs (where this year I myself had the pleasure of meeting Vitalie, the great-granddaughter of Taittinger), this for me is the Celebration Champagne. We chose Taittinger to toast our son at his christening and more recently a bride and groom - congratulations to the new Mr and Mrs Beaumont!
Keeping it in the family
Keeping it in their own family, Taittinger is one of the few Champagne houses still owned and managed by the family whose name appears on the label. A sparkler of golden straw-like beauty, it truly is for those memorable moments. The NV Reserve is soft to sip, chic to hold and just oozes refinement.
On TV, Vitalie Taittinger drank her family’s fine wines matched to exquisite courses of scallops, lamb and then a pear pudding. The magnificence of the evening looked like a dream-come-true, and I can vouch that Vitalie really is as lovely in real life.
Still in France, but something a little different. This particular area is known for its sparkling wines made under the Blanquette de Limoux and Cremant de Limoux appellations. But I want to suggest a still white wine from AOC Limoux, a relatively new appellation (created in 2003) in the Pyrenean foothills.
The Chardonnay vines here are some of the oldest in the south of France, producing a sought-after style of wine.
A darling Chardonnay
If Chardonnay is your darling then you will fall in love with Aimery Siuer D'Arques Limoux 2008. Made from 100 per cent Chardonnay and aged in oak for ten months, this is a good-looking, luminous wine. The neat nose aromas of country hedgerows with white stone fruits and a gentle minerality is balanced by loaded fruit flavours in the mouth.
Whatever you’re watching on the box, France has a lot of fine bottle to offer.”
It wasn't to be for Alice and her HGV test this time
"I had a very hectic week last week, but for a different reason than normal! I was attempting to learn to drive a lorry at Bypass driver training, which is based not far from me. I started on Sunday 8th and drove for three hours every morning until my test last Saturday - more about that later.
I was driving a 17 ton lorry, so it was quite large, but it was unladen so it only weighed seven tonnes, but that’s still quite heavy when you’re used to driving a VW golf around!
Every morning I was up and driving, normally by 7:30, for three hours. The first couple of days were very scary, not just for me but for my poor instuctor, as I had a tendency to put them in the hedge, but apparently this is very common as people tend to switch to ‘car mode’. Once I had got the hang of it I actually really started to enjoy my truck driving but the easiest part of truck driving is definitely the motorway driving... no curbs or sharp corners!
The truck also had a split range gearbox, it had eight gears but a high/low range, so there were the first four gears before you have to press a button to go up to the top four gears, and that took some getting used to. The number of times I tried to change from third to seventh rather than third to fifth because I couldn’t get the hang of changing down to change up, but I got the hang of that eventually as well.
The hardest part of the week was trying to get all of my riding done around my driving as it usually takes me all day every day to finish it all, but I did manage, albeit feeling very tired in the evenings!
My test was on Saturday, and I was very nervous, give me ten million dressage tests any day! I thought it wouldn’t be as bad as the car test, but I think it was worse. It may have been the pressure though, as I really needed to pass: We have a very busy time coming up so there is no time for me to take another test in the near future.
One stupid mistake
However, that didn’t happen as I has one really stupid mistake that as soon as I had done it I knew I had failed, but the examiner said that I could drive the lorry, apart from that stupid mistake, I was so cross with myself. Then again, the National first time pass rate for the lorry test is only about 44%, so I’m definitely not the only one!
I also had another very nerve wracking experience this week, my radio debut. I had an interview on two of our local stations, Kestrel and BBC Surrey, but I survived and didn’t stutter or do anything to make myself sound like an idiot - my Mum even said I came across very well and did a good job!"
"This instalment of musings comes hot on the heels of the Brightwells auctions this weekend. The only dressage and showjumping horse auctions in the UK, Brightwells would seem to have the market dominated, but this time round there were very varied prices, both high and very low.
Friday saw the foal show, and the chance for British breeders to showcase what this country is capable of producing in the sporthorse market. Bidding began at a snail's pace and four out of the first five foals made less than £3000 and left the ring unsold. Historically foals have not sold well at Brightwells, so it is a credit to those breeders who are willing to support the event and enter their foals. It would be a real shame to lose this auction and would encourage even more potential purchasers over to the continent for foal shopping.
Top lot spot was shared by two horses on the Friday who both went for £10000; a rather lovely Diamant de Semilly x Indoctro filly foal and a flashy black dressage broodmare by Don Primero x Sandro Hit. A Diarado x Argentinus filly foal went through the ring for £7200 but was not sold; it strikes me that this lot had an unrealistically high reserve price. It was a smart filly, but really such a high reserve does not help the auction or the potential sellers, who no doubt often see auctions as a way of picking up a bargain.
Setting such a high reserve is detrimental to all concerned, and perhaps now, in these straightened financial times, breeders need to take a longer look at the stock they have on the ground minus the rose tinted specs, and bear in mind that a foal is a huge gamble for any potential purchaser. They are cute and bouncy, granted. But these foals have to get through the next three years – no cheap feat – and prove themselves trainable under saddle before they can start to command five figure sums, surely.
To zoom out a bit: Most foals went for between £2000 and £4000; one stunning Ampere x Obelisk filly was sold for just £2000, but seeing as the breeder was H&C blogger Angela Crane of Holden Fold Stud, I’m sure we will hear all about her thoughts on that in her next entry... A Santana (Sandro Hit) x Drossan colt foal sold for £950; he looked a little unlevel in the arena, and it later emerged that he had stood on a stone on his way up from the stables. A lovely Cornet Obolensky x Abdullah colt foal, bred by Greenacres Stud, went under the hammer for £6100, second highest sold foal price of the evening.
On Saturday night the older horses, selected from the UK and Eurpoe, were auctioned. Top lot was a very naturally talented jumping mare by Lux Z x Narcos II, who effortlessly pinged over the oxer time and time again and was knocked down for £70000. It is no surprise that the jumpers on the whole made more money than the dressage horses; the August auction takes place in the midst of the Young Horse Showjumping Championships at Addington, so the venue is choc full of showjumping competitors.
Top dressage lot sold in the ring was wild card entry Donna Maja, a four year old black Don Frederico x Weltruhm mare at £24000, though the top bid was £36000 for an ungraded five year old stallion by Dimaggio x Florestan, but it did not make the reserve. Though the horse was smart, as a five year old he didn’t show the level of training you would expect to see at his age, and underscores my earlier comments about unrealistic reserves. In contrast, the three year old Woodlander Stud graded stallion Santana by Sir Donnerhall x Alabaster looked secure in his work, and went under the hammer for £18000, despite earlier rumours that his reserve was £25000.
It is certainly a buyers market at the moment, what a shame that nobody has any money to spend.
Auctions are by nature unpredicatable, but this time some results were downright confusing. British breeding needs to remain focused on the goal of improving the quality and depth of sporthorse (showjumpers and dressage horses) breeding in this country and establishing a base from which UK breeders can build an international reputation. As it stands, the UK is streets behind the continent. We have dozens of studbooks for sporthorses, all pulling in different directions. Who will step forward and set up a UK studbook much like the KWPN where common breed goals can be established and recognised worldwide? Go on. Dare you."
"Here again, sat on the lorry step writing my blog while watching the dogs relax in our arena. This weeks venue is Hatfield Show in Hertfordshire. I had the privilege of being asked to be part of the show opening ceremony which was opened by the current Miss Hertfordshire - my job just gets better each week. Thank goodness Miss Hertfordshire loved dogs; Apollo wanted to lick her legs, the dirty boy. Not really, being a dog meant he could get away with doing what every man around the arena would go home and dream about.
Converting the urbanites
Hatfield really is a town meets the country show, the majority of visitors being urbanites. We've had some lovely feedback following our demonstrations, gundogs are brilliant ambassadors for country sports and in my experience have been the vehicle to carry a lot of people across from 'the dark side' and get involved with everything country.
Poo relay race
We ran a day titled 'Dogs in the Community' last week for local youngsters. We were fortunate enough to persuade our local Dog Warden, guide dogs, Canine Partners, The Dogs Trust and a police dog unit to come and help us. Without fail, each one of these fantastic organisations gave each of the groups of youngsters a fun and educational presentation. We interspersed the presentations with dog related arena activities. Following on from a Responsible Dog Ownership presentation the youngsters competed in a Scoop the Poop relay race which was the invented by the genius Annie Buckley. Annie is still on 'sick leave' and has far too much time on her hands, but this race truly was genius.
Youngsters raced out with a poo bag to collect a dog poo, race back and deposit the poo in the bin. The children loved it! Annie had constructed and painted fifty dog poos in her kitchen. Now that's dedication to duty, but it's also good to know that her university degree in 3-d Design has proved to be useful and that once again Britain really has got talent. Well done Annie."