"Its like Boxing Day on our yard; our Towerlands National Carriage Driving Championships and Horse of the Year Show are over, and all we have left to look forward to is cold turkey and wondering how much you can get for the presents you didn't want on eBay.
Once a quick Mediterranean holiday is over its kind of getting your mind set and organised for the season ahead, although we are still only at the end of October, there is only five or six months ahead to get your ducks in a row and prepare for next year. This year's baby horses now need to become next year's novices, and that is quite a leap. The novice horses have either proved themselves, or need to make a space, we have one or two like that and I need to make a pretty serious decision as to whether to be patient or cash in!
All the dinner and dances and AGMs come at once, with the inevitable clashes; I am torn between the British Driving Society, the Hackney Horse Society and the Donkey Breed Society, such choices! All need an after dinner speech, a vote at an AGM, or an entertaining raffle puller and cup presenter. Plans made now for next season seem to go the best, as I know these best laid plans don't always go the right way, but at least its a plan and something to work towards.
As far as home is concerned, Monty the young Hackney stallion has come on a treat and enjoyed a couple of non competitive outings, where excitement didn't get hold of him too much. We are reinventing the tandem, and we are going to look at a horse today to replace Dreamer, so watch this space. With a pair of young Hackneys on the horizon, which we will hopefully get together for a new client in Middle England, we are being kept busy with breaking, schooling and teaching, so long as my patience holds and I don't swear too much.
All the horses look great, and Baileys have done a wonderful job, they look as good now in winter coat as they did in June of this year. Chalky the donkey has found a wonderful way of rolling under our perimeter fence to help himself to the Colonel's garden, so a little trip to the garden centre to buy replacements I think.
Well with luck, by the time I blog next we will be into schooling, and putting ourselves back into hard work again, so get ready for the winter regime and how not to waste a moment of dry weather."
“I was supposed to be at Lion d'angers this week with Harry but no space appeared so Harry will now have a month off and I will find an early 2* for him to do instead. So this meant I had a free week, but in my normal style I managed to fill each day to the max! I had two days at home where I was riding the young horses, Buddy and Flash who are really progressing. Buddy is much more relaxed now for having a rider on and Flash has been jumping a little course of fences. Red, Bambi, Kenny and Jasper are also in work but the rest are having a much deserved holiday after a long hard season. I too have cut my work down to have a couple of rested weeks before Pau.
Amber gets scoped
I took Bomber, Brian and Nelson up to Suffolk to have a holiday at Sue Cross's for a couple of months. I am very grateful to have a lovely big field with a shelter for them. I also took Amber to Rossdales to be scoped whilst galloping at Newmarket. This was because I'd felt she'd made a noise whilst galloping and as she is due to do a 3* next year I wanted to make sure her wind was okay. This was fascinating they took some amazing pictures of her larynx opening and closing whilst at work. The good news is that her larynx work perfectly and there is no need for any operations. I would recommend this for anybody who has any concern about they're horse's wind as it is a simple and easy procedure to do. While up in Suffolk I made the most of going to Rachel Upton's XC course to practise the water with Imp and Barrat Watson. He has helped me with a difficult water jumper previously. But of course he behaved perfectly, the good news is, he is obviously improving. As I only had a few horses up in Suffolk I had time to go and see a physio, something I haven’t done for a long time. And also went swimming back in the old pool I used to use, I'm definitely fitter than I was as I found it easy to swim the distance I was used to. I picked Romeo up from his holidays; he looks very well and should be ready to event again next year. I also picked up a five-year-old, grey, gelding from Charlie Nathan to try/ school. He is a very nice horse.
Jasper’s feeling well
Went to Norton Heath on Saturday to do some Affiliated Dressage with Red who was in the Novice and Elementary, he scored 65% in both. Some parts of the test are lovely where he relaxes and some bits still needs some training, corners, accuracy on circles and general submission. But he is improving with every test. Jasper and Kenny were in both Medium classes. The first test was outside, Jasper was obviously feeling very well and spooked at the puddles, boards and signs. He was well behaved other than this and came third. Kenny's trot work was lovely but slightly strong in the canter to finish just behind Jasper. This was the same with the second test indoors; again Kenny's trot work was brilliant scoring some 7's and 8's but tension spoiled the canter slightly. When I get the canter he really will do a superb test.
As we've had so much rain this week I took Kenny and Jasper to Mike Robert's gallops on Sunday. These gallops have a nice long pull up a hill and about 7 furlongs. Before Blenheim I took Kenny three lots of three times around the bottom circular and up the hill and he was quite tired. This time they did it easily and could have done a 4th time but as its getting close to Pau I decided to minimise risk and not go again. I have also been cycling around the woods as much as possible. I too am getting fitter but I'm sure I'm fighting a cold and I desperately hoping it won't come out before Pau.
Could you be my new head girl?
The week has also been spent interviewing and trying to find myself a new head person as Sophie leaves in two weeks; ideally I'd like to find someone before she goes but it has to be the right person. If you have the right experience and are interested, I'd love to hear from you. Please email me via my website.
There are now only seven days till Pau so the countdown is on. I have a well planned week ahead!”
"When I first started keepering many years ago, I used to put down straw rides where I wanted my pheasants to be, and, with a canvas post office delivery bag over my shoulder, I would handfeed wheat onto the straw, while whistling as I walked. The idea was that the birds would take longer to find their breakfast fill their crops and walk off. The whistling was done so the pheasants would get used to you coming, so much so that you could whistle them in from all over the farm. The whistling was started from a very early age, every time I went into the release pen I would whistle and not just any tune, always the same tune. Oh, how things have changed; these days even handfeeding has become mechanised. I use an electric spinner on the back of my Kawasaki mule to broadcast a five feet trail of corn behind as I drive along, this is usually done at dusk or even after dark in the depths of winter. Because it’s dark, all the birds are at roost in the trees thus causing very little disturbance so when the birds come down out of trees in morning their breakfast (corn) is there waiting for them. It’s funny I still find myself whistling as I feed on the rearing field and the release pens, I guess old habits die hard!
At the beginning of this season I increased my population of chickens and bantams to help out with the brooding of grey partridge eggs in conjunction with our introducing greys back into the wild. I have over 50 chickens now and with their presence comes the fact that they are like a magnet to foxes as they are very easy pickings. I have an electric fence around their run for night times, but during the day there are free range and very difficult to protect as foxes hunt during day light hours too. My partner Sue said she had a friend from work who was looking for some grazing for some alpacas and they said that they would keep the fox’s away! Ha ha, Mr Sceptical me said, "Okay, I've got nothing to lose and they would keep the grass down in the paddock". That was back in April and to date we have not lost a single chicken, I have since found out that some of the hill farmers in Wales also run alpacas with their sheep to protect the young lambs in the Spring.
Last minute shoot preparations
Only a few days to go now before my first day, so what that means to me and most keepers on their first day is nine months of work all boiling down to the first day's shooting. Will the birds be there on the day? Will the beaters get it right? Will the guns be on fine form and shoot lots of high and testing birds? Well, we will see!"
“I honestly thought that the winter was going to drag on a bit, no chance! In fact, it’s the opposite. We continue to be fantastically busy and the time just flies by, you know how it is, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. All work and no play makes Howard very dull, miserable, depressed and cantankerous, at least that’s what my work mates say.
Number one groupies
Mullenscotes'number one groupies Craig and Nat Cannon came down this weekend and, along with head trainer Annie and her husband, we went into town for dinner on Saturday night. We had a brilliant time and it was really nice to make time and see work colleagues in a social environment.
At the end of the evening, Anthea and I got up to go home but the others wanted Anthea to go ‘clubbing’ with the girls and for me to go with the chaps to the bar where lots of lightly dressed women show off their gymnastic skills. The boys had a different name for this, which used one word from a garden bird that’s blue and the last word was bar - I thought I would build a bit of a word quiz into my blog to keep you on your toes. To be honest, Anthea was all up for this but I’ve only just recovered from the excitement of going to London so I declined as I thought this would be too much. It’s the first time I’ve been out socialising for ages so I need to bring myself back to the boil gently.
Cold game training
Sunday was brilliant; we held a cold game training day at Mullenscote. We had a great time and a lot of discussion, debate and dog training got done.
To add to my fantastic week of socialising and dog training, another trip down to Dorset allowed us to spend day training with Dave Rayner. These days are run to allow dog handlers who are or do run their dogs in field trials an opportunity to train in near field trial conditions. These days are priceless; David and shoot owner Michael Appleby manage to blend a relaxed and informal day with all the discipline that is required in order that a shooting day is run professionally and safely. The ingredients for these days are difficult to find. Firstly you need the wicked, sometimes merciless sense of humour that both David and Mike bring to the day. They have become a bit of a double act, mixed accurately with the vast experience and knowledge that they bring with them in order to maintain the safety and discipline.
Discipline is essential
Discipline is a word and subject that provokes much discussion and often controversy in all walks of life and dog training is no exception. For many of us, basic training and discipline in our dogs is relatively easy to achieve in an indoor training class or the back garden, but take the same apparently well trained dog into an environment that has more distractions and the dog’s self control disappears.
This for most people is a major hurdle and stumbling block requiring many of the same principles that David and Michael use on a dog training day. These skills are just like the ones you will need for training your dog, they are skills that for some people seem to be natural and come to them easily, for others they need to be learned. How much and how to ‘apply discipline’ is again always going to be a controversial subject and is one that comes with experience and the acquisition of knowledge. More often than not where it is recommended that a teacher requires more self discipline from a pupil and is encouraged to be firmer with them, but if the application, timing and administration of that discipline is in accurate and actually causes more problems between the teacher and pupil.
The advice is simple, watch teachers that get good results from their pupils, study the art and science of teaching, learn to emulate what they do. The tricky bit is the fine detail; without this you will not get the same results, work hard and don’t expect instant fixes, if it was easy everyone could do it.”
“Bury Hill Fishery is now a few days into its predator season and as usual the Old Lake’s zander and pike stocks have been providing customers with some fantastic sport with quite a few big doubles having already been caught. Although Winter is the best time to fish for the zander, unlike pike they don’t like the conditions to be too cold with fairly mild, wet and windy conditions best for prolonged sporting action. This year the fishery went over to a single barbless hook policy banning the use of treble hooks for dead bait fishing, which has caused a bit of a storm to some in the predator world. However with that said, the fishery’s decision to ban treble hooks and bring in the single barbless hook patterns has been done with fish safety in mind and at the end of the day that is the number one priority of any fishery.
Predator action aplenty on new hooks policy
There are three hook patterns that are available to use with single hooks and all of them can be purchased in the onsite tackle shop that I manage for the fishery. All of the hook patterns are made up with strong swivels and 30lbs traces so they are of good quality and plenty strong enough to withhold the power of a big zander or pike. In fact the new hook patterns of single hook, single hook with a hair rig and double single hook pattern, do offer much better bait presentation and those that have had success with the hooks have been very complimentary on the hook rule change. In my opinion the single hook pattern with a hair rig set up is the way to go for the sometimes shy biting zander.
Filming for the zander
Over the past few weeks I have been busy filming some fishing tasters for the fishery website with a view to helping and promoting the fishing at the lakes. I have completed is a fishing taster for the PREDATORS which I have done in two parts. Part one is the intro plus tips on the best dead baits to use and how and of course what tackle and instruments are needed before you line up on the bank side to fish for pike and zander. I also demonstrate how to bait up the hair rig method and show on camera the new hook patterns in sizes 4, 6 and 8 which are the only sizes that can be used. Part two is the main catching action shots where I land some nice fish and show the ease of unhooking and placing back into the water stress free. I also run through my rod, reel, and terminal tackle set up which I know is a top way of catching and getting good runs.
By clicking on these links you can take a look at both of the fishing tasters, I hope you enjoy them.
Next time I will blog how my match panned out for the John Hollands Memorial match at Buckland Reserve and Fishery near Cliff in Kent where I was visiting the lake for the first time and representing the KDAA for whom I am patron to.
“After all the Flyball excitement of the last few weeks, the pace slowed a little bit. This meant we could train for our next Heelwork to Music show.
This was going to be my first time in the heelwork class. Loki competes in this class anyway, but she thought that while we were still eligible for the Starters class, she might as well let me have a go.
Hu-mum had chosen a piece of music called Mexican Hat Dance. It’s a bouncy piece and she thought it suited my personality.
We did some intense training which I enjoyed lots as training means food! Yummy!
I also went to see my friend Holly. She’s famous because she’s in Your Dog Magazine every month. She sticks needles in me. It was okay though as I got food as a bribe.
Loki and I worked really hard – getting suitably paid for our labours, and then it was Sunday and we were off to Stoneleigh show ground for the Heelwork to Music show.
I had to work before Loki. As always, we both tried our best and hu-mum was very pleased with us and gave us lots of food after we’d worked.
We had some friends in the class with us and they worked well too.
Loki came first, my friend Jazz came second and I came fourth, so a good day for us and the club we go to.
The following weekend we went to an agility show. It was at Cirencester Park which is a beautiful venue. I had a fantastic day and came second in the agility class and fourth in the jumping class. Loki came 12th in his agility class. Hu-mum was pleased with us – but we didn’t get any extra supper!
Our next event was another Flyball tournament and we had a brilliant day. Loki and I raced on the same team for the first time in ages and we came first.
The following weekend we had a Heelwork to Music show on the Saturday and our last outdoor Flyball show on the Sunday. As both days were in the Midlands, hu-mum decided to stay in a hotel so she didn’t have to drive a long way twice. It was a lovely hotel and they loved us dogs.
Loki came fourth at the Heelwork to Music show and for the first time I didn’t get a place. There were some good dogs there, hu-mum was still pleased with me as I did try very hard!
At the Flyball show Loki and I were on the same team again. We came third, but the racing was very close and exciting.
We have two Heelwork to Music shows and one Flyball show left this year. Hu-mum is hoping that I will be able to do my new Freestyle routine at the end of November.
Hu-mum found out that I have a hamstring injury that I will tell you about next time!”
The blog is written by Sally Vergette, a professional guide and owner of Ride Andes.
“What a weekend! We managed to get so much done. The farrier shod the last of the horses. There was a bit of a delay as he could not get enough clenches – apparently there was a hold up in customs and we could not buy any clenches anywhere. This has happened before - last year I was frantic as there were no imported horseshoes. The local shoes here are really heavy and the metal does not last; the shoes split really quickly, so they’re no good for the rides! In addition, a couple of horses have weak hoof walls, so we have to make special shoes by taking them to the forge in the village and the blacksmith adds a bar across the back – our homemade version of an eggbutt shoe.
Local remedies beat modern medicine
The vet also made a visit - I wanted her to check the progress of Cantinera who sustained a tendon injury a month ago and I always have questions, this time about added vitamins & minerals. At this time of the year there is a dramatic change in the weather – it is cloudier and the wind picks up which means much cooler temperatures so I wanted to ask what booster products to give the horses to help them with the sudden variation. Even with the colder, more humid conditions the horses coats hardly change, they don’t seem to get any ‘woollier’– I don’t know if it’s because the days do not shorten (we are on the Equator line so all year 12 hours daylight, 12 hours darkness) or why it is, but they do not grow a thicker coat. They seem to loose condition and most years I have been able to buy some vitamin and mineral mixes that have really helped.
My horses are a lively bunch, I love to see them charge around after each other and play, inevitably they bite each other and most weeks when they are playing or chasing each other in the field, one of the horses ends up with a bite mark. We’re very lucky because Aloe Vera grows here and I really like using it to treat scrapes and scratches, I have several plants in pots by the tack room. There are also some other fantastic plant remedies that the ‘chagras’ (local horsemen) have shown me, including ‘Matica’ leaves – a great compress for knocks that have caused inflamed areas and ‘Dragon’s Blood’ which is a tree sap, fantastic for drying out a wound. There is also a great plant for curing colic, which thankfully I’ve used very little and very early on when I was starting the rides here and didn’t realise that digestion at altitude was so much slower than at sea level and I was not leaving the horses enough time to digest after the morning feed before we set off on a ride.
Hannah, who is out here helping me for a few months, schooled on a few of the horses. I had found one horse on the last ride had become very wooden on one side, so she worked him and I rode another horse that has a tendency to be stiff backed, I wanted to help him with flexing exercises. I’m always on the look out for volunteers and aim to have them here for three month periods, schooling the horses and helping on the rides.
Added to this work, I went to a friend’s farm to get some oats I had bought rolled and also see about wormers. He has a lot of brood mares and I need to worm the horses this week but one of the mares may be in foal so I wanted to find out what wormer I should use for her.
I also drove a couple of hours north, up to Otavalo, where the first part of our ‘Colonial Haciendas’ ride take places. I needed to find a new trail for next week’s ride, an alternative to one of the day’s routes as the road is being widened and for a while it will be impossible to use our normal route. The local people are so friendly and helpful so I soon had that sorted and then had time to visit the famous market in Otavalo. The crafts there are beautiful, and really colourful and I can never resist bartering for a few things, yesterday it was a scarf and also a bag plus a new brightly patterned tablecloth for the picnics on the rides. I also bought passion fruit, bananas and avocados that are all so fresh and absolutely delicious. The mango season is not far off, I cannot wait!”
“Halloween and many of its modern traditions come from the Old English era. There is plenty to enjoy (or avoid!) from trick-or-treating, dressing up and partying, carving pumpkins, taking a ghost tour or lighting a bonfire. Instead, I expect to find myself curled up somewhere warm, but admittedly, I’ll probably give in and watch a scary movie.
So I might not be passionate about this particular festival, but I will try to get into the spirit of things, and cosying up with some Demijohn’s rich Redcurrant Gin Liqueur seems like a fine start.
I wouldn’t actually seek out an alternative to vampire’s blood (would anyone?) but the deep red liqueur produced in a Cheshire kitchen by Rosie Sedgwick (an ex-hospital pharmacist for good measure), does bare a resemblance.
The Redcurrant Gin Liqueur makes a warming aperitif, even over crushed ice. The fruit has a tartness that is likeable and startlingly moreish because it is actually quite a refresher in a glass. The cute glass bottle can be personalised, which is also good fun.
With three shops in York, Glasgow and Edinburgh, Demijohn offers other liqueurs (like Gooseberry Gin Liqueur, also handmade by Rosie) and spirits (including Sloe Gin). Plus oils and vinegars, and all are from small British artisan producers.
Keep the vampires away
Alternatively, for anyone seeking to keep the vampires away, I have come across an easy, succulent (and safe!) recipe for “Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic” (just let me know if you would like the link from Rioja Wines).
Such a recipe would be a hit with Navajas Crianza Blanco 2005 from the heart of Rioja. The white wine has rich tones. It has a nose of autumnal apple with a crack of exotic fruits and nuts. In the mouth the vanilla comes through from the oak aging and again there is apple and also some pear. Overall, the wine is well balanced by a mature fruitiness and a refreshing acidity.
So I will prefer my vampires either on my screen or in my glass, but feel free to let me know your own trippy tipples to celebrate Halloween.”
Alice is one step away from being able to drive her lorry
“As all of my main competitions have finished, I have had more time to concentrate on the things I needed to do. For example, I have just started with a personal trainer in the gym twice a week. James has the unenviable task of whipping me into shape before next year when I will hopefully be taking Wizard (Wurlizer) out at Grand Prix.
However, my main task has been to pass my lorry test so the past couple of weeks have been devoted to this. Last week I had two more lessons in my 17 tonne lorry as I hadn’t driven it for a couple of months and I had to get out of car mode! Thankfully, I hadn’t forgotten how to drive it and it didn’t take long before I was cruising around again. I then had the test on Thursday 7th October and I had the same examiner as my first test, Simon. My instructor said to me that I was more than capable of passing as long as I drove to the best of my ability. Unfortunately for me, I managed to wind myself up to the extent that I had loads of silly mistakes, and I knew I had failed before the test had even finished. But the examiner was lovely and told me that I could drive it but I had got so wound up and made mistakes that he had to fail me - he said to get back as soon as possible for another test though. You can imagine how disappointed I was and very annoyed with myself, especially as it meant I had to go through it all again!
A lucky break
I then had some more bad news as there were no tests available for about a month, so I would have to wait around again. Luckily for me, however, Bypass driver training, where I learnt, are very efficient and managed to get me a cancellation on 16th October. This suited me perfectly and I only had a few days notice so I couldn’t wind myself up too much! I went into this test with the attitude of what will be will be and it didn’t matter what happened because the worst outcome was that I would fail! This meant that I managed to keep myself fairly relaxed; well, relaxed enough so that I didn’t want to cry and be sick!
And so to drive...
I had a different examiner this time but the examiner I had had the previous two times was also at the test centre and he wished me luck and told me to stay calm and I would be fine. I almost enjoyed the drive this time and I was fairly confident I hadn’t done anything really silly, although I still did have a few small mistakes. Thankfully, I passed this time and, as I’m sure you can imagine, I was very, very relieved.
...or maybe not
My joy was short lived, however, as we have since found out that I can’t yet legally drive our lorry as I am under 21 so I need to do the CPC (certificate of professional competence) first. Now I have to do another theory test and another practical test, although, mercifully, there is no more driving involved, just another visit to the test centre! Nevertheless, I have done the hardest part now so the rest should be much easier."
"It has been a while since my last blog as the summer teaching schedule and moving house has kept me extremely busy. I have also been travelling around the country doing the BHS Where to Train inspections. These inspections are for yards to be put forward for approval status to become BHS Where to Train Centres, which enables them to train career students. I spend a half day watching teaching and training on the yard - I find it very interesting and always pick up new teaching ideas.
BHS Exams: Changes afoot
My BHS role still extends further than the Where to Train inspections and as always I have been examining different BHS exams. This year the one that stood out was the BHS Senior Coaching and Equitation Exam where the standard was very high and there were several successful candidates. Alongside these there are the Stage 3 and 4 exams where I still find it hard when I have to tell some candidates they are not allowed to continue onto the jumping phase, which is the case under the BHS rules if they are not up to standard on the flat. I hope candidates do realise that it is for the safety and welfare of horse and rider and although it is disappointing at the time, they will hopefully find their feedback sheet useful. Exams are becoming modulated very soon so watch this space!
Inner city riding and rocket scientists
In August I was invited to take a trip to a fabulous facility called Docklands Equestrian Centre and was shown round by Lynne Brooke. It is an amazing example of an inner city riding school and if you are ever in the area it is well worth a look. I love to see yards like this thriving in the city.
As I mentioned in my previous blog I am no longer Chairman of the BHS;my role has been taken over by rocket scientist Dr Phil Wadey whose passion is riding. He is younger than me and far brighter, so I feel the society is in safe hands!
Coach of the year
As well as a quick holiday in Cornwall with absolutely NO horses I have been over to Ireland to judge the qualifier for BHS coach of the year. They were all a very enthusiastic bunch and the winner Kate Murphy will represent Ireland in the final later this year so watch out for that.
Finally like so many over the last month I got my fair share of being soaked; in particular examining the Intermediate Teaching exam at RAC Bovington. It was the worst weather I have ever seen but candidates and examiners kept their spirits up. I have never been so wet and cold in my life. So if you’re planning an exam over the winter, remember to plan ahead for the wet weather and good luck."