"My how 2012 has flown! As I write my final blog of the year (she weeps!) for the fantastic H&C, I can hardly believe that another Olympia is nearly over, and another year gone. More terrifying still is the speed at which January turns into June and the 2012 Hickstead season will be upon us before I know it.
The best Olympia in years
It’s been a great week here in London, and one of the best Olympias that I can remember – not that the flurry of British wins has made me biased of course! Okay, well, to be honest, it has of course, but it’s hard not to get excited when Team GB performs so superbly, at such a high profile event, and when it really matters. There has been a lot of interesting debate in the press recently about the best way to proceed with the future of British showjumping. ‘PR’, ‘raising rider profiles’, ‘increased coverage’ and ‘commercial investment’ are phrases particularly hot on peoples’ tongues, and while I wholeheartedly agree I also understand just quite how difficult these things can be to come by. However, never has the task seemed easier, or so well supported when the riders fulfill their part of the deal so well, notching up a slew of wins jumping against the very best in the world: here at Olympia this week are no fewer than four previous World Champions and the current European Champion to name but a few.
The highlight of week had to be Ben Maher’s win in yesterday’s World Cup Qualifier, on Triple X III, usually his second horse, but one that has stepped up to the mark to replace his injured Robin Hood this year. An increasingly popular new feature at shows it to interview the riders on horseback, immediately before the presentation, and the crowd absolutely love it. It’s an excellent way of helping spectators engage further with the personalities of the sport (both human and equine: Ben said that Triple X was full of himself and knew how good looking he was, and when the very pretty interviewer asked Ben whether he knew that about himself I thought he was going to fall off sideways with embarrassment!)
Joking aside, showjumping press conferences are very rarely broadcast, something which is commonplace in more mainstream sports such as rugby and football, and it gives the public an excellent inside track in to the tactics riders use, their views on a particular course etc. Sitting here typing away in the press office, I have just heard three of our top riders being interviewed for a variety of print and broadcast media, and they all sounded like seasoned old media pro’s. The riders are playing the game, and it will only help our cause. Keep it up guys!
Some big news of the week has been the disappointment that John Whitaker’s star ride Peppermill is unlikely to be fit for next year’s Olympics, but for once all is not doom and gloom as a lot of riders, including John himself with Argento, are hopeful that they have more than one good Olympic prospect in their string. There’s something in the air, and it really does seem to be a very exciting time for British showjumping.
After such a great week, there is a real buzz around Team GB and a few nice shiny Olympic medals to add to this year’s bronze in the European Championships seems more achievable than ever.
Happy Christmas everyone, and rock on 2012. I can’t wait!"
"When I discovered that champion jockey AP McCoy and former Grand National winner Carl Llewellyn were at Olympia, I jumped at the chance to grab an interview. I was extremely nervous meeting such great racing legends - but the nerves soon left me when we got going and both were hilarious.
I have to say it was the most fun interview I have ever done and the full interview will be on Rudall's Round-up next month, but it was so funny I just had to give you a little taster."
"We Horse & Country girls were already big fans of top German rider Marcus Ehning - but we like him even more after last night.
Marcus had been placed in the Santa Stakes here at Olympia, but when he rode into the prizegiving his mount had changed somewhat... Marcus's horse Noltes Kuchengirl had been getting a little wound up during the presentation of the prizes, so Marcus rode out and came back in on a 'borrowed' horse - one that was about to appear in the Christmas finale!
We're having a brilliant time at Olympia, and have met a whole host of top riders and personalities. Keep visiting our Live Reports to follow the action."
"Christmas, Christmas, oh how I love Christmas. Yes, the festive season is once again upon us, and one of the very best excuses of the year to eat, drink and be merry.
Olympia means Christmas
To most people it is the groundhog day like playing of bad Christmas tunes on the radio and the unfortunate prevalence of colleagues’ dodgy festive jumpers that heralds the approach of Christmas Day. But for me it is the convergence of the entire equestrian community on a small corner of London town - the Olympia Horse Show - that means it's Christmas time, and it is one of my favourite shows of the year. Some of my best memories of being little are tearing around with the incorrigible Robert Whitaker and Matthew Broome in the Olympia Christmas Finale. Try as I might I am yet to convince Simon Brooks-Ward that I should still be allowed in it!
The show got off to a storming start on Wednesday with a stunning win from dressage’s wonder girl Laura B on Mistral Hojris, and with the brits clinching the top four places two nights in a row. Becoming the first British rider to win the the Olympia World Cup Qualifier since its inception, Laura remained as understated as ever about her win, saying simply that she ‘didn’t want people to think Alf and I were old news.’ That’s certainly one way to show everyone, well done Laura!
Ben Maher provided the first big jumping win of the show in last night’s Christmas Speed Stakes on the lovely mare Milena, and admitted that even he got star struck riding in front of so many celebs! The Duchess of Cornwall, a huge horsie fan, was in attendance, as were half of the cast of Made in Chelsea, and I rather think their tiny xmas outfits proved a little bit more of a distraction to Ben than HRH’s demure ensemble.Tonight is puissance night, with Ben going in as strong favourite on last year’s winner. A class that’s always guaranteed to provide thrills and spills a plenty I wonder what eye watering height they’ll get to tonight.I must go as I have an enormous family and need to start my Christmas shopping – thanks goodness for Olympia’s trade stands!"
"The last time I wrote was just before the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury. Well, the Hennessy didn't go exactly how I had hoped it would for me, but if I wasn't to win it, there was no one more deserving of a big race success than Mattie Batchelor on Carruthers. There will not have been one person in the weighing room that wasn't delighted to see Mattie ride that winner. He is one of the nicest and funniest men you could ever meet - for as long as I can remember every time I ride a winner I get a text message from Mattie saying well done. A true friend.
Two of the best
As some of you may have read, this week I have lost the rides on all of trainer Paul Webber's horses. This has been a massive blow to me, as he trains the two best horses I had to ride this season - Sarando and Time For Rupert. I had some really great days riding them both and many others for the stable, and I would like to wish those horses - especially Time For Rupert - all the success for the rest of the season.
So in the aftermath of that blow, it does now mean I have two free mornings a week to get in and ride out for other trainers, so I will be knuckling down and working hard to make some good connections and hopefully get on some nice horses for the rest of the season. Fingers crossed for a good one.
On the sidelines
It's not all bad though, at least I'm not injured. My thoughts go out to Robert "Choc" Thornton and Keith Mercer, who both broke their arms over the weekend, while Richie Kiloran, Jamie Moore and Johnny Farrelly have all broken their collarbone. The list of jockeys on the sideline at the moment is pretty long, and I wish them all a speedy recovery."
"If all you have ever wanted for Christmas was a pony, then you and I have a lot in common.
Every Christmas I would have the same exchange with my parents:
Them: "What would you like for Christmas?"
Me: "A pony".
Them: "You can't have a pony I’m afraid"
Me: "So why on earth do you keep asking me what I want?"
Things haven't changed and I still would like to find a pony under the tree on Christmas morning - although now I would like it 16.3hh and able to event, and I want to put tinsel on the browband at Christmas. And it seems many of the H&C fans have had the same idea, if the pictures that have been sent in are anything to go by.
Check out the gallery below and see if you can spot your festive friend.
I hope everyone is staying warm and happy this Christmas and hope to see lots of you at Olympia. Keep up to date with all the action from Olympia on our Live Reports page - and make sure you tune in to H&C TV to watch all our great programmes this December."
"Hey guys, hope you're all well and ready for your next catch-up from Jay's world! Since my first blog I have kept myself busy, moving baby horses from field to field and pulling in some that are going to be stabled for the winter. As a result, my yard looks like we have a large collection of overgrown Shetland ponies. I have been blessed with a good batch this year and have managed not to get sparrowed up the side of the indoor school. Or should I not speak too soon?
An unforgettable French lady
After my small tribute to the great Hickstead in my last blog, I am now going to have to do one for one of my horses. French Folly was a nine-year-old owned by Peter and Alison Jenkinson. We purchased her aged four as a project horse, and at five she was winning Foxhunter classes and was placed in the Burghley Young Event Horse Five-Year-Old. At six she jumped double clear in her first Intermediate event, and was put on the Equine pathway programme for 2012. As a seven-year-old Frenchie jumped double clear in her first CIC**, was 14th in her first Advanced, and was one of five horse to be selected to go to the World Eventing Championships at Le Lion D'anger, though sadly she picked up a virus and was unable to go.
At the beginning of her eighth year she picked up a small injury and we thought it best to give her some time out, so Frenchie was put into foal to the stallion Royaldik. This year she produced us a beautiful bright bay colt that we christened Kia Royal. 'Dickie' had been weaned for six weeks and Fenchie was due to come back to my yard to start work, but tragically a freak accident in the field resulted in a broken leg, and she had to be put down. We had many great times with our project mare, and Dickie has a lot to live up to.
A new occupation?
A day spent with 12 other men on a stag do would not be my idea of fun, but I have to confess that I had a fantastic day at Chris King's recent pre-wedding celebrations. First activity of the day was go karting, which was so much fun. After giggling like a schoolgirl for the first couple of laps, I turned into a real tiger and wanted everybody's blood. I got fiercely competitive and only wanted to overtake, not be overtaken. It was really interesting to see who wanted to win the most and that some people were happy for a clear round, but for me it was all or nothing, it was all to gain and nothing to lose!
The next activity was wine tasting followed by a very nice dinner, and then on to the traditional stag thing of a strip club! Again not my normal night out, but in the spirit of the experience I just went with it. I am not sure how much detailed I should get into on here but I will say that the last kitten I had sitting on my lap was a Bengal! Wanting to spice up the night even more, I decided to take on the big pole in the middle of the room. The dancers showed me some moves and I took to it like, well, a stripper to a pole! Could this be my new winter income? Well, I think I should leave this to the curvaceous girls of Bristol. Ending the night with a little less body hair than he had started with, Chris nonetheless had a great day. Lesson of the day, what happens on the stag...stays on the stag!!
Next week Spencer and I are back and forth to Olympia Horse Show, and we can't wait. We don't get much time away from the yard, and we both love going to London. The show is a great event, both for top class competition and for catching up with my friends and my sponsors NAF, Hickstead Horse Feeds, Parlanti and Prestige - plus it really gets you into the Christmas spirit! There is a high class field for the dressage but I will be rooting for my girl Laura Bechtolsheimer. Go Laura! The showjumping also has a cast of amazing riders and horses, and I will be watching from the edge of my seat. I will also be able to give you all the inside information from the parties, and will be keeping an eye on H&C's own Victoria and Jenny - watch out girls (and mine's a vodka)!"
"Well, what can I say! This month has been crazy busy, so much has gone on here at Headmore - despite us having no competitions, since all of the horses are already qualified for the winter regionals.
Weekend from hell
The month didn’t get off to a very good start with the weekend from hell! On the Saturday I was riding and somehow, I’m not quite sure how, I injured my neck eben though the horse I was riding was being an absolute saint at the time. I was told not to ride for a while until it was all settled, but it wasn’t too problematic since Gayle was able to keep the horses ticking over until I could ride again... Until she had areally nasty accident of her own on the Sunday evening, when the level-headed horse she was riding was spooked by a firework and panicked, leaving Gayle with a fractured pelvis. It never rains but it pours, as they say. Thankfully I managed to get back riding after a few days, and all the horses are going fantastically.
We have also said goodbye this month to two lovely three-year-olds bred here at Headmore. The first to go was Whybanquo, a Headmore grandchild bred by Mum’s best friend Anne Clark, who is out of Headmore Leanora and by the stallion Woiwode. He was bought by Charlotte Dujardin to replace Fernandez, her international Grand Prix horse, so they are a very exciting combination to watch out for. We also said an emotional farewell to another Woiwode gelding, this time out of our Rubinstein/Donnerhall mare. Wimoweh (Tank) has gone to a wonderful home up North where he will be much loved, nothing less than this young horse deserves. We wish Tank and his new owner, Joanne Graham Whelan, the best of luck.
Hats off to new rule
Now November is over, the new British Dressage rules have come into force. This means that we now have to wear crash hats up to Advanced level and in Young Horse classes, as opposed to having the choice of wearing a beagler (a strapless hat). I was expecting this rule to be introduced sooner or later. I am pleased to say I put off buying a new beagler! I am indifferent about this rule as I always ride in a crash hat at home anyway and used to compete the young or sharp horses in a crash hat by choice, and there are now some really smart crash hats available. I have just received my new Antares hat to compete in, so I will belooking as well dressed as ever in the ring next year. I have also received all of my new Albion bridles and headcollars to go with Del’s new saddle. They are very smart, and have a little touch of bling while still remaining classy.
Wheelchair driving error
On a lighter note - Gayle’s injury means she struggles to get around, so she opts to use a wheelchair if there is a lot of walking involved. I am clearly an amateur wheelchair driver though, as when we were out shopping I managed to ground the wheelchair while coming out of a shop and get rather stuck. Gayle and I had thought we’d be fine without a ramp... Oops! It’s times like that when you have to laugh or you would cry, and at least we have been keeping ourselves amused!"
"The 2011 show season was probably my best season ever. Winning the hunter championship at both the Longines Royal International Horse Show and the National Hunter Show on Major Moylaw, a stunning chestnut heavyweight belonging to Alan and Isobel Hall, was amazing. I did go to HOYS full of hope that he might win there, but it was not to be.
I was not very well at this year's show, so it was hard to enjoy myself partying as well as riding the way we all like to at HOYS. But my week picked up on the Friday with a championship win in the Mobile Phones 4 Business Ladies Hunter of the Year class. My horse Jonas O'Shannon came to me in May of this year and I bought him thinking he would make a nice ladies horse. He is only five years old so it was a very big achievement for a young horse, and I was delighted with how he took everything in his stride. It was my first title win at HOYS, and trotting down the centre line was as big a thrill as I hoped for.
Since finishing the season at HOYS, the focus at my Oxfordshire yard has changed a lot. We sold a lot of my established show horses this Autumn, and I wish their new owners lots of luck next season.
We are now busy with the breaking of the three-year-olds, and I have a number of exciting show horses for 2012. Having been to Ireland on shopping trips in September and October, it is now time to get cracking as next season will be here all too quickly.
Two of the three year old horses I bought in Ireland are to make riding horses - a small riding horse called Ava, who is by Cult Hero, and a large riding horse called Suzy, by the stallion Sylvano. Both have been really easy to break, and they are now ready to go on to new homes.
Ava was amazingly straightforward. From first putting the saddle on and lying across her on Monday morning, she was trotting with me in our small arena by Friday. By the following Friday she was cantering and riding sweetly round the large menage. Quite incredible - I hope they are all going to be as easy as her!
I have also got a four-year-old riding horse, by the Thoroughbred Millenry - who won the St Ledger - back up following a summer in the field to mature. He is really exciting and has been sold to lovely new owners, so I'm looking forward to bringing him out next season.
Keeping up with the children
Hunting has been particularly pleasant this year, as I have a lovely horse to ride called King. He, like all of them, is for sale but I would love to keep him for the Christmas holidays so I can take him hunting with my two children Harry and Alice. They both have cracking ponies so I need to be well mounted to keep up! The ground has been so dry it is a pleasure to ride on, and not having filthy horses to wash of in the dark is always a bonus."
“Normally when working at an event for H&C, we are running from one field to another, chasing after riders, dodging rain or pondering on the most suitable footwear for the unpredictable British weather.
Street where the riches of ages are stowed
This week was to be different: a trip to London, specifically the trendy Portobello Road’s Electric Cinema, for the press launch of our new series Getting to Greenwich. A double whammy of excitement – chatting to some top riders, and hanging out on one of my favourite shopping haunts, where you will still fit in even if you're wearing tweed - the excitement was all too much.
On arrival, cameragirl Katie and I had to film the opening links to RRU – that’s Rudall’s Round-Up (like you didn’t know!) I am not sure I will never get used to talking to the camera with so many people watching, and doing it on the middle of a London street is certainly tricky. At least when I'm hanging out in fields all day, only the cows can ‘tut’ at you for holding up traffic.
Once Piggy French and Carl Hester had arrived and the pleasantries between the great and the good from the equestrian industry were over, it was time for the big show. We all took our seats, with Lizzie Greenwood Hughes – Director and Executive Producer of the series – sitting deliberately out of punching reach from Piggy French, just in case she wasn’t happy with the finished programme.
Piggy steals the show
Fortunately Lizzie’s fears were unfounded. The episode was well received and gave a brilliant insight into one of the country's most treasured riders, on her quest for Olympic glory in 2012. Episode one followed Piggy as she gave us a tour round her yard and a glimpse into her life, riding 10 horse a day, and the dedication needed to get to the top.
Viewing done, the mic was flung back on ready for me to pounce on Carl Hester (it's a hard life), before he headed over to Wembley for the Spanish Riding School premiere. Carl as always is a consummate professional when it comes to being on camera, and makes my life so easy – the cameraman (girl - sorry, Katie) says go and Carl just keeps speaking – result.
A cosy chat with Piggy on the sofa followed and I have to remind myself to finish up, as I could chat to her all day. She truly is as lovely as she seems on camera and an incredible rider – no, I’m not jealous at all.
Big names in getting to Greenwich
I am very much looking forward to the rest of the series. The other riders to feature include para-equestrians Sophie Wells and Debbie Criddle, show jumpers Guy Williams and Peter Charles, dressage riders Charlotte Dujardin and Laura Bechtolsheimer, and eventer William Fox-Pitt. I am sure everyone can find a rider they love out of that lot.
So work done and I must say a special thank you to H&C's web Editor Victoria Spicer – as she managed to steer me past the shops on the way back to the station. My credit card will be eternally grateful."
PS If you haven't yet seen our sneak preview of tonight's show, click here to watch.