“We have been trying to organise ourselves to get qualified for the winter regionals fairly early on in the qualifying season so we can spend the majority of the winter training, so we had a trip to Sparsholt on Sunday 21 August in the hope of being very efficient in our aim!
Show jumper turned dressage supremo
First thing in the morning, I took Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) to do a couple of prelims with Gayle, who is actually a show jumper by trade. As I can’t ride at the lower levels, we have managed to persuade Gayle to don a stock and drop her stirrups a few holes and take out the younger horses. Unfortunately, this meant a much earlier start for me as the prelims are always early, and I could be heard commenting that I hadn’t had to get up that early to compete for years.
It was only Roxy’s second outing so we weren’t expecting much, but she warmed up beautifully. I just had to remind Gayle that she was riding a dressage horse a couple of times. In the first test Roxy was very spooky as she hasn’t seen many different arenas, and this led to a lot of mistakes and very funny shaped circles, but Gayle did a fantastic job of riding even though Roxy thought that the markers and judges’ box were going to eat her. However, they still managed to finish fifth so it wasn’t too dreadful. In the second test, Roxy was much more settled and there were just a few minor spooks, and they finished second by one mark, a dramatic improvement on the first test. All Roxy needs now is a few more miles on the clock and the wins will start coming.
Push button pony and jockey errors
We then took Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) back to Sparsholt in the afternoon to do a medium and an advanced medium. She warmed up quite well for the test and I was fairly confident going into the medium. She was simply awesome, she was so rideable and just exactly where I wanted her that I could just sit and steer, she made it easy for me. There were still a few places where there could have been improvements but I was using the test as a schooling round before the nationals and overall I was very pleased. We scored 68.38% to finish a close second.
We then did the advanced medium and she was simply phenomenal. She gave me the nicest ride I have ever had around advanced medium 98 and when we came out of the ring I gave her a massive hug and kiss and told everyone how amazing she is and how much I love her. Bracks is what I would call a good mare, she would jump over the moon for me if I asked her to and she always gives her all when I am working her, she is just so delightful. There was one fairly massive mistake in the test, but it was completely jockey error. We still scored 70.79% to finish second by one mark, but if I hadn’t been a moron at the end of the test we would have won. Overall, it was a very worthwhile day at Sparsholt and Bracks is now qualified for the advanced medium winter regional, we are definitely getting there!
Go team GBR
Finally, what another amazing achievement for dressage in Britain: team gold, two individual silvers and an individual bronze. It really has been an amazing year for British Dressage, and long may it continue. Huge congrats to everyone involved with Team GB.”
Well, the last three weeks have been a long, strange trip. Draft horse shows are held mostly at fairs around the country therefore our show season is short compared to other disciplines. On July 31st we set off for our second show of the year and little did we know what was in store for us!
A late night prowler
We started at the Ohio State Fair and the weather was good for hauling horses but the trip was long, about twelve hours. We had one of our interns with us, Alex and that lightened our work load. After arriving in Ohio, we visited with old friends that we normally don’t see, sold two horses, and dealt with a midnight prowler - another exhibitor who crossed the aisle chains to “look at the horses” in the dark of the night - suspicious? I think so. Fortunately Alex was awake and on duty so he was able to shepherd him along and out back under the chains from which he had crept. At the end of the day, the stallion showed fine and was second and our mare stood fifth in a nice large class. We were a bit disappointed coming off two grand champion wins but life is interesting, you can’t win them all and so on we go.
We came home to Connecticut for four days; long enough to clean the trailer and get some business done before we loaded horses again and set out on a twenty hour drive to Wisconsin. It was not without a bit of unease that we headed west because a few days before we arrived; there was what the news reported as a “riot”. Apparently a group of young people gathered in what can only be called a “mob” and attacked. At around closing time at the fair, witnesses told the press that dozens to hundreds of African American youths attacked white folks as they left the fair, punching and kicking people and shaking and pounding on their cars. In the end, 31 people were arrested and eleven people were injured, seven of which were police officers.
Arriving at the fair in the middle of the night, we were met by a very kind staff who helped us unload our very tired horses. By the time dawn arrived, everyone was settled in and the very nice folks who were to be our neighbors for the week Lori and Larry Stewart of Lola Percherons had arrived.
Clapping for a win
On show day we were delighted to see that almost all the seats in the arena were full which is very rare for a halter show. It made us smile when we heard the happy gasps as our stallion entered the ring, snorting and proud at a trot. Even I have to say he was “on” and looked pretty impressive in the way only a stallion can. Spectators were encouraged to “clap for your favorites” and they did. We ended up with the Grand Champion Stallion and so many wonderful compliments about him that again, we couldn’t help but smile.
Lorelei also put on a show, trotting and looking over the big crowd as if she were the Queen of the entire affair. In the end she was awarded a first place ribbon in her three-year-old class. When we asked the judge about her later he said that she had awesome hocks and legs, was super fit and in great condition, and there was really nothing he didn’t like about her.
Tragedy in Indianapolis
We left Wisconsin for Indianapolis and the National Percheron Horse Show, where we met our friend Heidi Trautman who owns the stallion we have been showing. We got our horses all settled in and got Heidi and Onnalee and the filly all settled in and the trailers parked offsite when the sky turned a threatening shade of black. A bad storm was headed our way and we were happy to take cover in the barn, sit down and relax and visit. It seemed like only minutes when we heard sirens and saw police on golf carts go whizzing by. Onnalee thought that we might be hearing storm sirens, common in the Midwest to warn of impending bad weather.
As it turned out, a stage had collapsed killing five people and wounding many others. These folks had been there to see a Sugarland concert and apparently a “straight wind” came roaring up and collapsed the stage and the metal scaffolding.
The fair was closed the next day to everyone but those charged with caring for the livestock to help facilitate the investigation into the tragedy and there was talk that the horse show might be cancelled in its entirety. It was eerie to be sitting at the fairgrounds with everything silent and midways that are normally packed with people, quiet and deserted. In the end, the fair re-opened on show day.
The show must go on
Following on from the tragedy of the stage collapse, we had a great show at the National. The stallion stood second in his class. Lorelei had some tough competition in the three-year-old class, as there were 23 entries. When the judge pointed the final finger, she stood fifth and he mentioned to us in the ring that he really liked her a lot. The little filly, attending her first show also had some deep competition in a filly foal class of about 20. At the end of that class, she stood second as well. Probably the nicest thing about that class was that the man standing behind us in third place, a perennial winner in Percherons and well respected, caught my eye and winked. “Congratulations and, real nice job presenting your horses today”.
Saying good bye to an old friend
Despite a successful run at the shows, we did have a bit of bad news about six hours out from home. Our beloved dog, who was eight, and staying with Tim’s Mom and Dad while we were gone, had become critically ill. The vet called and told us that he could not be saved. I sobbed in the truck not only for the fact that we were losing a family member but because I couldn’t be there at the end with our old friend. As we got closer to home, and we were talking about Elliot, a double rainbow appeared in the middle of the road ahead….Elliot had sent a sign that he was fine and had crossed over which made us feel a bit better.
As I said at the beginning, it’s been a long, strange trip! We are home for a few weeks now, resting and recharging. Please be sure to keep up with us on Facebook or on our website www.northpointfarm.com"
“This is our first summer in the Highlands and we are thoroughly enjoying ourselves. With a move to weekly bookings for the holiday months, full chalets, happy guests and long evenings, we now have lots more time on our hands to relish the great outdoors.
It seems Aviemore becomes even crazier in the summer with a real buzz around town and the odd shindig to look forward to at the weekends.
The Insider Festival 2011
The talk of the town has been the Insider Festival held just a few miles outside of Aviemore. What a weekend it was! Sunny days filled with fine local foods, afternoon teas and cakes, entertainers, pipers and folk music running in to debauchery filled nights of cocktails, cider and rock music. Who thought it was a good idea to throw an Absinth bar into the mix? The estate was decorated in a multitude of colours and after a few beers in the darkness if felt more like Neverland - every woodland path was beautifully decorated enchanting you to follow it to yet another bar, stage or event. Finally once the sun was well and truly up and the last of the fantastic bands have strummed their final chord it was time to work out how to get home. Unlike most of the guest we weren’t camping on the site. We had work to do the next day, however productivity was limited that weekend.
Wedding drainage issues
Of course the big event for us personally was Simon asking me to marry him. As you can imagine I am still reeling with excitement and every catch up with an old friend or chance meeting with an acquaintance is the perfect excuse to order another wee glass of champagne. Having considered various wedding venues we finally decided to hold it at our very own Pine Bank Chalets, in tipis in the garden. This however is not quite as straightforward as we first thought. Our first task was to get a utility survey done of the garden to ensure that when the tipis are secured the guys don’t accidentally burst our drains and leak raw sewage all over our garden two days before our big day. Oh, the glamour involved in wedding planning.
A ramp, a river and a raft
The last few weeks we have been eagerly watching the construction of a rather large ramp across the road from PBC in anticipation of the Aviemore Big Splash this weekend. Since 1974 the Big Splash has brought out the bravest, the weirdest and the craziest to challenge each other at this unusual extreme sport. The 14 foot ramp of course provides an ideal platform to bring together all of the local outdoor sports. This sees people hurtling themselves into the River Spey on anything from skis, mountain bikes, kayaks and even the odd wheel-barrow. This coupled with more great food and live music, it is set to be another great weekend.
Not to mention thunder in the Glens, the Harley Davison rally that descends on us the weekend after. To think we moved to the Highlands to get away from the craziness of London!
I hope you have all noticed our progress around the grounds and we have had some great feedback on our refurbs! Please do make sure you follow our progress on Facebook and our website www.pinebankchalets.co.uk. Enjoy the rest of the summer.
Jose's demos go down a treat at the New Forest Show
“This month when the CLA Game fair came to an end, my wife Charlotte and I travelled down to the New Forest where both of us would be working in the Countryside arena.
A new venue
This is a new show to me and I was a last minute booking as the organisers had been let down by their usual chef from a local hotel due to a mass influx of business. Because of this, I was a bit wary as to what to expect in the way of equipment and the type of demonstration they wanted. The brief was prep and cooking of game and they would supply a selection of game for me to use. I prepped a few bits to take with me and once I was there found a great kitchen set up with everything I needed.
The first demonstration was breaking down a haunch of venison into it primal cuts and showing the first and second class cuts from the joints, followed by a tasting of venison steaks cut from the topside. Each demonstration followed the same sort of layout there after with Pat, a local housewife, doing home cookery in between my demos. By the end of the first day, all was going well and the organisers came to see me saying that this was the first time they had had butchery demos and it was going down a storm.
Ron, the manager of the Countryside arena, mentioned that he had a roe buck in his farm shop chiller at a place called the ‘Owl Barn’. I asked if he could bring it in so that I could show the crowds how to skin and break down a whole carcass. The next day the roe buck was brought in and a large crowd watched and enjoyed as I set to work. This is a great show in a beautiful part of the country and with some really lovely people. There is everything here from the massive equestrian presence to the country sports, food and local produce. I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow H&C blogger Howard Kirby for the first time and had a natter about my dog and its ability to go deaf on me every now and then. Howard and his guys put on a great dog display that was entertaining and very informative at the same time which I really enjoyed, you can tell that his dogs love what they do and love to please their master. All in all a great show and one I hope to be at next year.”
“Last weekend, we took Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) to The College EC, Keysoe for her final regional final at Advanced Medium. We had a very civilized time in the afternoon so it meant that we didn’t have to rush to get ourselves organised and up there in time.
We had had a bit of a scare with her in the week as she had had a bit of a sore back and she had also managed to slice her nose open! Luckily, Jenny Hadland, one of my sponsors, had been out to sort her back out and after a few stitches her nose was fine as well, so we were all good to go.
Mum got her ready in the morning as I had a few to ride before we went. She looked beautiful after her bath in the peach flavoured Clean Round shampoo, and we arrived with plenty of time despite getting a little caught in traffic on the way.
Out at a party
She warmed up fairly well, she was quite hot as we were out at a party but as I took her into the ring she felt super! Unfortunately, we were the last combination to go before the break, which held a prize giving, so there were a lot of people watching and quite a buzz in the arena, which meant that any noises from outside were amplified. Thankfully, I had given her some Nupafeed before the test so she coped well, especially considering she hadn’t been in a situation like that before. We just had a few mistakes where she is still very green at the level and she was in a new situation for her, but all in all both Mum and I were very pleased with how she went and how she had coped with the arena, as she really did have a lot to cope with, but that is the luck of the draw and you have to cope with what you have on the day when you deal with horses, you can only control the controllables after all!
We were so pleased with how she had gone that we said that we didn’t mind what mark she got as we were thrilled! Luckily, it wasn’t dire at 64.9% and eleventh which we felt for a green test with loads of mistakes wasn’t bad at all! I think if we had done a clean test we would have qualified for the Nationals, not bad for a seven-year-old!
A trip on the weighbridge
We then had a visit from Dengie, one of my sponsors, on Tuesday and it was a very enjoyable day. Andrea, the rep for my area, brought her portable weigh bridge with her so we could weigh all of the horses, which was not only very helpful and in interesting but good fun as well. Wiz (Wurlizer) was the heaviest at 657kg, which wasn’t surprising as he is the biggest and the oldest and most established, and both Andrea and Lisa from Dengie were pleased with the condition of the horses, giving them a condition score of three, so overall everyone was very pleased with the day’s work!
I would also like to mention, as a breeder myself, what an amazing achievement for Woodlander Farouche and Michael Eilberg winning the five-year-old World Championship for young horses. Many congratulations to everyone involved and it certainly looks like British Dressage is on the way up... Hopefully it won’t be long before British bred horses make it onto the senior teams!”
“Last week I competed in my club's three day festival at Monk Lakes in Kent with the first day being held on Bridges Lakes.
We were allocated probably the worst pegs on the lake and a draw further up the lake was needed for a good weight and with a draw of peg three, I was at the wrong end to win the day. When all the wind started to blow across from right to left as the match progressed, the bites became very finicky with small skimmers playing havoc with presentation. I was nicking the odd fish here and there with the occasional bream of 2lbs being a bonus and one tench of a 1lb plus but with just fewer than 30lbs; I came fourth on the day with 32lbs good enough for second spot. The easy winner was Andy Goldthorpe with 86lbs.
A confident day two
Day two saw us on Lake Two, where I drew permanent peg 49 again up against some much better pegs but I do well on the lake and with some recent big ton weights already on this lake I was confident I could make some headway. Feeding my margin lines and then left to settle down I caught the odd carp on my six metre line out in front of me for the first two hours and when it was time to move in on my margin lines all hell broke loose as it was barbel time. With the odd lumpy carp in the mix I had a busy last two hours putting 70lbs in the net for a final total of 129lbs for second place, no match for Andy who again won on the day with 168lbs of big carp. This put me third overall just one point from second but had the luxury of a four point cushion from those below and with a top four pay out to aim for, a good enough result on day three should secure some winnings.
A close finish
Lake Three was the lake for the final day, a moody lake with a good draw essential for a big weight or two. I drew peg 106; not good as again I was on the wrong end of the lake and I counted seven much better pegs to contend with. It was a very slow day for me and with an hour to go I had thoughts that I was going to blow my four point cushion and miss out on the frame. I had just 28 carp in the net and was not confident that I had made my target from the peg of 100lbs which I felt was needed to frame. The draw had put paid to me trying to fish for second so it was a case of damage limitations and my weight of 95lbs was bettered by weights of 97lbs, 99lbs, 128lbs, 157lbs and 162lbs giving me sixth place on the day but thankfully good enough to hold onto third overall by one point.
It was an enjoyable three days and the local B&B called ‘The Granary’ where I stayed made for a pleasant break all round. Roll on my next festival next month where I am off to Decoy Lakes in Peterborough for a few days of more fishing, can’t wait.
“The Glorious Twelfth has signified the start of 2011/2012 shooting season and to those of you lucky enough to be enjoying the excitement of the grouse moor, I am just so jealous! Trying to push my jealousy and coveting aside, I need to stay focussed as there is now only a few weeks to go before the partridge season begins.
Putting the dogs through their paces
We have managed to organise some dog training days in Devon and, along with a handful of fellow dog trainers, we are really looking forward to getting together and putting our dogs through their paces. It’s one thing to be pleased with training success at home but a whole different game once you get out there on the real thing. The company of other dogs, fellow handlers and all the entourage that accompanies a day’s shooting or trialling bring a whole raft of challenges that are only experienced on a full shoot day. A well trained dog is more often than not oblivious to other dogs around it but for some the first time they hunt a beat alongside another it will distract them.
Dogs that are steady at home will often get really hot with other dogs around so will need that extra work on the real thing.
Both the litter of Cocker and Labrador pups are now settled in their new homes so it’s much more peaceful here without the little devils but I do miss all the fun, games and trouble that they cause.
Stockmen and demos
Three days at Hatfield show this weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. Such great fun but hard work, we are doing two demos besides running a clinic. As always we are reliant on our dogs, Monty and Jake. Annie have all been on the road with Team Mullenscote for the first time this year and they have been fantastic. The Sprocker Jake has been a real crowd pleaser; it’s hard to put into words why but his attentive, focussed but energetic approach to his work mean that he has a flair about him that just draws your eye.
One of the highlights at Hatfield is the Stockmans Tent. Every evening, stockmen, traders and demonstrators gather in it for far too much alcohol and a sing along. I guess it’s kind of like a rave for country people. Believe me its brilliant, or perhaps I don’t get out enough?”
“It's been a while since my last blog, I hadn't realised how long but we have been really busy and time seems to be flying by.
New ponies doing well
The last few weeks have been mostly taken up with the young horses. We have got a couple of new young ones (very nice ones so quite exciting) so a lot of time has been going in to them to try and get them ready to go out in public. Initially, we do a lot of work at home introducing narrow fences, jumping fillers and blocks and jumping fences on an angle to give them a bit of an idea of what is to come. I find that spending a bit of time doing this gives them a good basic education and then they are ready to go cross country schooling. I like to go schooling at Littleton Manor, as they have a great range of jumps and it gives the babies lots to look at but there are some smaller fences to get them confident as well.
How many times you have to go schooling before they are ready for an event is very dependent on each individual horse and we will be making a couple more visits before any entries go in but I am looking forward to getting my new ponies to their first event.
With two local events recently (Brightling and Iping) it was a good time to start a couple of lovely young horses that I have in to sell, A Copper Beech and Red Curran. They did their first BE100 at Brightling and were brilliant. The weather was atrocious but both boys behaved beautifully and plugged on through the driving rain to finish with good placings. The following week was Iping and thank goodness the weather was better and the boys were both placed again, so I was very pleased. It is really rewarding when you put in so much work and it all comes together when you get to the event. They are both headed to West Wilts this next week so hopefully the good progress will continue.
A fabulous Gatcombe.
As a bit of a contrast, we have just come back from a fabulous weekend at Gatcombe Park where I had Kings Gem (Gem) in the British Open Championships. This is one of my favourite events and has previously been a successful venue for me so is always a highlight in the calendar. This year turned out to be great as well with a very good eighth place in some very good company. Gem jumped a superb double clear and was amazing cross country. I really felt we were back on track after our tumble at Badminton and now feel ready for Burghley (fingers crossed!). Not only did she jump brilliantly but she was also very good in her dressage which is a very exciting breakthrough as it is no secret that this is the phase we find hardest. I was really pleased with her test and it was nice to be only a few marks behind the leaders after dressage. That was her last run before Burghley so Elodie has now put her back in her cotton wool casing and we are counting down the days.
We have got a manic couple of weeks coming up with three events this week (West Wilts, Aston le Walls and Chilham Castle) then off to France for a week to a new event for me, Haras du Pin, with Billy on Air, Wolfgang Penelope and Dinky Inky.
Lots to look forward to and lots to do, so until next time have a look at my training videos and keep practicing on those ponies.”
"Last Sunday I competed in the second round of the Kent Angling League, on the River Rother in Sussex between Iden Lock to Newbridge and I make it no secret that the Rother is my favourite river with plenty of team points and section wins knocked up over the past few seasons.
Banter by the water
Last Sunday I had a feature appear in MatchFishing magazine which clearly indicated how I approach my matches on the river; plus on my http://www.youtube.com/user/RussEvans1 angling channel I also have some film footage showing again how I fish the river with rigs, baits an approach openly discussed in front of the camera. The river as I found out earlier in the month is gin clear and fishing very hard so I knew it was going to take a good effort to put a few pounds on the scales and when I drew the first peg F9 at Newbridge I knew I had a good chance of winning the match. A few of the opposing lads had seen the article and passed comment -banter style- but I knew they were trying to put me under pressure with their mind games as I was in a good peg. I am too long in the tooth to fall their games and being confident on a venue makes all the difference and I casually smiled at all of their remarks. With 54 anglers taking part it was worth winning and I set up all my tackle and prepared my bait with even more confidence as I was very keen to back up my feature with a good performance.
With the water clear I did not ball in at the start as I normally do but cupped out four big balls of my black groundbait mix with loads of chopped worm. I fed my eel line but felt it was not the right conditions, never the less I had to feed it as I might need to give the line a go. A few minutes into the match I was catching some small beak but then my first small skimmer came some 15 minutes in and I knew that was a good sign. During the match I could see a few whips going up and down so I knew some of my section rivals were after the bleak, but as I caught more and more skimmers, bigger as the match went on I knew providing no one had found some big slabs I was going to go close. Confident that I was going to win the section anyway from any peg I got my head down and worked my socks off for the win and by the time the scales had come to my peg just 7lbs 4oz was winning the section. I knew I had reached my target weight for the Rother which is double figures and when the scales stopped on 11lbs 15oz, it was another section win under the belt.
Word had spread around that the river had fished hard as I knew it would and my weight was the only double figure weight recorded with 7lbs 4oz the nearest. A cracking win for my team and a very enjoyable and satisfying round win for me.