Shane Breen is just one of the many big names to be seen at Hickstead.
"Wowsers, what a day! I’m sure it’s like this every year, but boy oh boy does the craziness of the beginning of a show take you by surprise.
Ellie the elephant
Thankfully, the weather has held and everyone is in without having turned the ground to liquid mud in the process! The showground looks beautiful and there are some dead snazzy new tradestands. Is it a little bit sad that I’m actually quite excited about having just a tiny cuddle with Ellie the Elephant, the enormous mascot in the Bunn Leisure tradestand? I’m also a tiny bit worried about my bank balance because I’ve just walked past some very sparkly rings in Delanns Jewels next door! I really have to steal myself not to just raid the place every time I go past it!
We’ve got an app for that!
Much hilarity was caused by the Hickstead App today (hoorah, we have broken the 1000 downloads mark!) when our designer very cleverly managed to make updates for the App come through on peoples’ phones as a neigh! The sound of whinnying phones could be heard resounding around the back rings, but we did not anticipate the irate phone call our Press Officer received from a friend who said she would delete the App immediately if it neighed one more time in the middle of her very important business meeting, Oops!
An equestrian celeb fest
The back rings got off to a great start today, with some storming wins from Louise Pavitt in the 1.25m Open and Leesa Long in the Animo Hickstead Amateur Championship Preliminary Round, to name but a few. Walking around the back rings seemed to be like the Who’s Who of equestrianism – there were even some Eventers here: Tina Cook, Wendy Schaeffer, Pippa Funnell, William Whitaker (who I refer to as Favourite Whitaker, he calls me Favourite Bunn, in big families like ours you have to be able to distinguish each other!) and Funnell, Tim Stockdale, Ben Maher, the Breen Brothers, Capt. David O’Brien… the list is endless. I really can’t wait to see the fierce competition build as the week goes on. By the look of the start list it promises to be a corking Derby this year.
Hair for radio
I better go as my to do list to be done by eight tomorrow is still rather long. My pre-seven to do list starts with wash hair and style it into submission to avoid a repeat of today’s rather fetching SKY News interview fuzzy wahoo hair incident. At least tomorrow’s first one is for the radio!
"This week has been a bit of a roller coaster of a ride emotionally. I had a lovely morning on Tuesday out in the sunshine early watching a Gloucester calf being born then out Tuesday night in the moonlight watching a Irish Moile giving birth to a dead calf.
Signs of distress
On Wednesday our Jersey milking cow showed signs of not being well, by Thursday she was down. This means generally that an animal cannot get up from a lying position. The vet came out but could not diagnose any problems that we could treat. I have tremendous respect for vets. They have to do their diagnosis without being able to talk to the patient.
On Friday morning despite our best efforts and TLC, she went downhill rapidly, she was put to sleep late morning and removed from the farm.
It's always frustrating when you lose an animal and can't identify what has happened. Post mortems are possible, are expensive and don't always actually provide a clear result. The circumstances remind me of a cow I used to call my favourite many years ago called Primrose, a black and white Fresian/Holstein cross. She was easy to identify as she looked like she had a hill painted on her side with a tree on top. Funny, what you remember. And you thought farmers had no heart!
I now need to think about finding a replacement for Angel; it will be interesting to see which breed we buy this time."
“We made the most out of having qualified all of the horses that needed to be qualified for the summers by taking Roxy (Headmore Roxanne), a five-year-old mare by Keystone Rhondeo out of the same mare as Del (Headmore Delegate), out to her first ever show on Sunday 19 June. We hadn’t been planning to take her out to a party yet, but she had come on so much in such a short space of time that we thought we might as well!
Roxy had only ever been on a lorry once before (when she had to go and have a tooth out) but she loaded like a pro and travelled beautifully! She was impeccably behaved when we were tacking her up and was absolutely perfect in the warm up even though she had never seen anything like that before! It was like she had been doing it her whole life and it was just another outing!
Not quite on track…
The only time she was slightly less than perfect was when we first went into the competition arena because she had never seen white boards or mirrors so the first circuit was not quite on the track! Once she had seen them, however, she was absolutely fine and she did settle, although it was quite green and wobbly, which was understandable I think! Once she had settled into it and relaxed, she went beautifully and I think she will be very rideable in the arena.
She finished fourth which we were pleased with as it was her first party and we also had many comments about how smart she was, I think she is only going to get better and if she was that well behaved at her first show I think she will end up being very successful!”
“I’m not quite sure whether to whinge about the rain because the weather is so changeable herethat by the time I’ve typed it, it’s sunny again!
A sunny week is promised
Build up is now of course in full swing, and despite getting the odd drenching, the weather doesn’t seem to be setting us back too much. I have been informed by those in the know that from Tuesday the weather is going to behave impeccably and we shall have a beautiful sunny Derby week – I shall want my money back if they’re wrong. If you could all pray like crazy for sun too that would be very much appreciated.
Our new ring personified
The only person (yes, we have taken to referring to our beautiful new ring as a person, so in love with it are we all) who is literally lapping up the rain is the new magic carpet in the main ring. It’s so green and perfectly trimmed that it actually looks like Carpetright have snuck in over night and carpeted the whole four and a half acres.
The definition of a cob
Something that’s always amused me is that out of our ten person show team here there are probably only about two people who aren’t a tiny bit afraid of horses. My esteemed colleague Catherine, a sponsorship and events whizz, would I imagine be very happy if she didn’t ever have to get within three feet of one again! I have just overheard her discussing with someone our prestigious maxi cob classes and it went something like this:
‘Hmm, maxi cobs, which ones are those…’
‘Umm, I think it’s the fat ones, isn’t it. Yeah, it definitely is. It's the fat ones with the buzz haircuts!’
Horses or diva’s?
The weekend’s work has gone well, and we’re nearly ready to head off and try and get at least one decent sleep before the madness of the week ahead, but it hasn’t of course passed without the usual phone calls. I always enjoy peoples’ attempts to try and blag the best stables, lorry passes, car passes etc. and I have to admit that I’ve just heard a first. One poor stallion needs a very big brick stable because the poor dear is allergic to plastic! A horse allergic to plastic, unbelievable! Maybe him and the gelding that is afraid of the dark and demanded artificial lights should hang out!
Oh, and there’s a vole infestation on the bank but more about that in my next blog. Don’t forget to sign up to our eNewsletter for a chance to win some free tickets to the Derby Meeting. Simply go tohttp://www.hickstead.co.uk/general-information/competitions-offers.aspx and enter the promo code BLOG2. Good luck and congratulations to last week’s winner James Peakham from Fordwich. Hope to see you all at the show.”
“The weeks seem to go past faster and faster! We are so busy now as I have several in work which is great. I have a team of lovely horses and it’s a pure pleasure to ride them all. I am sure not everyone has this luxury, but it has taken me several years to get to this point.
A new horse
We have a new horse named Ruebin; he is a lovely chestnut owned by Heather Bright. He is a very good jumper which is no surprise, as he is bred for it. I now have two with jumping breeding, as Dolly has too. She is amazingly brave and jumps straight around a course now and doesn't look at a thing. I don't think I have ever started one so brave! Ruebin seems similar, although he has done a lot more and is six-years-old.
Young horse progress
The young horses are really progressing. Columbo has come on in leaps and bounds. He went to Borde Hill and competed in his first ever event and scored a 28 in dressage and jumped a good double clear in the 90. We were only h/c as there was no open class but he would've won by several marks. I love his attitude; he tries at whatever is asked of him and is lovely to ride, doesn’t get spooked and really enjoys his work. He is high up on the list of favourites, but in truth I say this about all of them and they can't all be number one!
Borde Hill had done a good job of making the ground acceptable. We have had no rain until this week so really there is little we can do to make rock-hard ground okay, except watering and they don't have the budget big events do. I ran Luna on the Monday in the Novice after staying at my aunt and uncle’s as they are relatively near there and had a family night, nearly unheard of in the middle of the season! It was lovely to see everyone as I don't spend enough time with them all.
Luna performed a very good test to score 31 and jumped her usual clear SJ. We went XC well but sadly jumped left at the first of the brushes and so ran past the second for 20 penalties. I was very disappointed as we would've come second but she jumped the straight route from brush to corner at the end so she is coming along very well. When I went to the water, it had been taken out as several horses had fallen in it for apparently no reason. This is not normal, I didn't see the falls so cannot comment but I do know that I feel very strongly about waters as I have had good horses fall because of bad water footings and it has been the undoing of them. When horses jump bravely into bad waters they have no idea why they fell and quite understandably stop at further water fences, if this water was a potential of this then I'm glad it wasn't in. If it was simply straightforward water and people going too quickly and not giving the horses time, then this is a different story. Who knows but I hope the event hasn't a damaged reputation because of this as is a very nice event with a good XC course and it’s important these events keep running.
Off to Bramham
I had a day at home and then we left for Bramham going via Patchetts for lessons with Anna with Amber and Maisie. Amber was not really her normal self and was difficult to ride, sometimes she can be but this was different. Maisie was very good, she finds the test hard when altogether but improves daily and for an older horse this is unusual.
We arrived at Bramham about 7pm when I decided to ride Amber again who went much better and Columbo ready for the Young Event Horse class. We finished very late, a long day! Up early to ride Amber before her test, which had moments of brilliance and some not so brilliant bits. She scored 59 which was disappointing as she could do such an amazing test. Maisie worked really well as did Columbo ready for their big days on Friday.
Sophie came and helped Paula and I. We were very grateful for her help as we were rather busy! I like to ride the horses a few times or whatever is needed at a three day. Sometimes they need hacking or schooling a couple of times in a day, some only once, depends on each individual.
Maisie gets exuberant
My dressage was at 8.40 Friday morning so we were up again early working Maisie before her test. This paid off as she performed a very good test, nearly mistake free except for the changes, which were clean but a bit exuberant! I felt one judge was too hard and marked her down, otherwise we would have scored 54 which was about right. 58 was too high in my opinion. I was delighted with her performance anyway, whatever the mark, she is one for the future.
Columbo was in the five-year-old class, and the atmosphere was amazing and the enormous crowd was more than he had ever seen! He was an angel; his test was very good and had the second best mark, 28/35. He jumped well as this was the biggest thing by far he had done, he sometimes jumps a bit quick across the fence when he is a little green and must've been marked down for this as he had a very disappointing mark! His conformation mark was also very high and I think he finished 15th. He will go to another and hopefully will qualify there - I do think he was one of the nicest horses so hopefully next time will be luckier.
SJ up to height
It is quite good that the XC is after the SJ so that if you want to prepare before Luhmuhlen and not run then you can still practise jumping a good track. The show jumping was up to height as always and the time very tight which meant that as my two are very good jumpers, I would hopefully move up a few places. They had also watered the ring so the ground was very good, as was the XC. Amber had two down which was uncharacteristic, she actually went on to have three run outs XC too as she was fighting with the bridle all the way and I had to approach the combination fences too quickly to not touch her mouth and consequently we couldn't turn very easily. I am convinced there is something annoying her so will be investigating before her next run. Disappointing as I thought we were off.
Maisie jumped superbly in the SJ, she is very careful even though we have to be quite forward as the time was tight. This bodes well for the three days as sometimes the time is very tight and they can lose their jump at speed. The XC course was decent; big and bold, much bigger than she had seen before. The course is so nicely built though, its not trappy and I feel it’s very educational. It gives them a taste of the big stuff without the whole thing at once (i.e a 10.5 minute course). She was faultless, incredibly brave; I had a few time faults as I needed the clear for my qualification and so made sure I didn't take any risks. We finished 12th which I was delighted with, she will aim for Blenheim now which will be very exciting as by then we could be very competitive.
We left Sunday after a small party Saturday night, there aren't many chances to have fun and not ride the next day so is good to make the most of these occasions! It took us six hours to get home as we had to put water in the engine, Rita now has a new radiator!
Things get exciting with Jasper
Things are also getting exciting with Jasper again as he is cantering and schooling and looks good. I adore riding him and miss competing him. I know he won't be here forever but while he is I'd like to compete him if possible. He is already much happier as he hates not working hard, so I'm hoping for an end of July run. Billy and Bomber are having a holiday as the ground is hard and they've both done plenty already this year, Bomber is for sale and I haven't as much time as I'd like to put into him. If anyone is interested please let me know he is a lovely horse, too small for me and I can only keep horses that will progress to top high level.
I went to Rossdales with several horses for routine check ups and to collect Nelson who I’m hoping will come back well from his holiday. He is a lovely horse so fingers crossed. I had lessons with Joao on Columbo, Elsa and Romeo who all jumped very well, especially Columbo as he improves massively with each session. This was proved when he competed in the 100 at Gt Tew where he performed a good test but was so excited to be out he cantered in bits of the test to score 34. He will get low 20s when he's more established so I viewed this as a schooling day when he had the last SJ down after a good round. He was brilliant XC as it was quite a reasonable course for a 100. He improved as he went around, I am delighted with him.
Elsa performed a very good test and scored 32, she jumped clear SJ. The rain suddenly came down and it was like winter, near gales (perhaps slight exaggeration but not far off!) and pouring with rain. She was not keen on that and became very spooky and had 20 penalties which was a shame as she would've been well placed. Her first mistake! I only had the two as I decided Imp is going so well he doesn't need another novice run and the others have run enough on the firm ground. The ground was good up there. We are forecast a day of heavy rain tomorrow so I should soon be able to use our gallop field again which will save me loads of time and that has to be a good thing!”
“I sometimes wonder how I manage to fit it all in, but this week has been another busy week for me with two matches, an Anglers Mail Action Replay feature in the bag plus finding the time to write some features for UK and European magazines and finish the editing for the next part of The Obsessed Angler series, but I have. The week started with a section second at Framfield in Sussex on Brookhouse Lake during the latest round of my club’s championship, it fished hard, it was quite cold and wet and in my weight of just 44lbs I caught my first ever catfish of around 1lbs on a piece of worm. Hopefully it will be my last as they along with Sturgeon are way down on my list of fish I want to catch but saying that I have been approached to film on a lake that holds Cats of up to 60lbs, so I am thinking long and hard before committing to an answer.
The following day I got soaked again down at Monk Lakes in Kent where I was targeting barbel for the Anglers Mail Action Replay cameras, it was as I predicted to the AM a busy and frantic feature with elastic stretching out in all directions and the feature should be out in print within the next few weeks, needless to say, like the recent filming I did at the fishery the fish just kept coming and the tactics and bait worked a treat.
Later that day I heard news from the editor of Sport-Rybolov which is one of the Czechoslovakian angling magazines I write for, that I had made the front cover of their June issue so I am well chuffed about that and with three features already printed in Sport-Rybolov and Noviny magazines I have also been asked to write a Carp feature for their Karpmania magazine which is already on their news desk. Last year I did a feature on the River Rother for MatchFishing magazine and that feature will appear in next month’s edition so if you buy that particular mag keep an eye out for it, it was a good day.
The Obsessed Angler
The next part of my The Obsessed Angler series will be out around the 20 June where I visited Monk Lakes to target the barbel hence the title ‘Stillwater Barbel’ and whilst filming I had a PB Ide, all caught on film plus eight other species, it was a brilliant day and the action on this 50 minute DVD is busy to say the least. I am also pleased to announce that Part 5 Tench is available to view on Onlinefishing.tv with the other four parts on fishingcinema.tv. Next week I plan to film another part solely dedicated to my favourite species Crucian Carp and I can’t wait to get stuck in.
The week ended with a second overall in the Ralph Mankelow Memorial match with 39lbs 12oz with Nick Cannings winning the match with 41lbs 1oz. I had lots of carp but all of small stamp and that bonus fish I needed did just not show on what was another drizzly and wet day. To crown off a busy week I am on the verge of signing up with a new bait sponsor to help promote a new match range that they want to bring out in the next few months, Sticky Baits is the name and they are going places quick and fast.
“We’ve had one of those weeks this week where the phrase ‘it never rains but it pours’ has never been more true, and I’m not talking about the weather (although we did have some much needed rain this week)!
It started on Monday morning when the vet came out to look at our embryo transfer mare that hadn’t yet foaled. She looked in foal but had gone so overdue that we slightly worried. The reason she hadn’t foaled was because it turns out she isn’t in foal after all, she has obviously just wintered very well as even the vet was surprised! We are just thankful that we did ask for both embryos to be implanted because at least we still have one foal, Drama, but that can happen with embryo transfer foals.
Del gives it some welly
We then took Del (Headmore Delegate) to Wellington for their premier league show on Tuesday 7th for the PSG. Mum went to fill the lorry up with fuel in the morning and when she got back we noticed a fuel leak. Thankfully, a number of our liveries offered to let us use their lorries, so we still managed to make it there on time. Del warmed up well but was quite spooky in the test. I knew he would be because Wellington is quite spooky and we only wanted to get him in the ring before the Inter I on Thursday. He still finished fourth with 66.67%, so it wasn’t all bad!
Pigs on the doorstep
Then on Wednesday, to add to our week, a couple of lovely little piggys literally arrived on our doorstep! It turns out that they had escaped from next door and somehow made their way down to us. My sister and I wanted to keep them but Mum said no and it’s probably a good thing because some of the horses really couldn’t cope with them!
We then took Del back to Wellington on Thursday 9 for the Inter I. I asked for a bit more from him in the warm up as I was going for an all or nothing test. He felt amazing as I went into the ring and he wasn’t spooky as he had been in there earlier in the week. The test was going well until the second shoulder in when a load of water fell off the roof of the stands right in front of him, which he understandably spooked at. Unfortunately he then kept spooking in that corner for the rest of the test so once he had gone into the spooky corner nicely I patted him and called it a day, but some of his work had been fantastic!
So it was definitely just one of those weeks, but it’s over now and so hopefully we will be able to get back to normal!”
"I am currently trying to prevent Annabel chasing ducks on a playschool outing to Drayton Manor Park, but that's easy compared to how hectic it is at home!
Broken bones for Simon
Simon has broken his leg, so I'm juggling seven horses, eight puppies, two children and a broken husband! He was riding a three-year-old when a pheasant flew out and hit the horse in the chest. Being young, he reacted fairly strongly and Simon came off and broke his leg. I'm exhausted!
George is born!
Our foal, George, has arrived! He was born on St George's Day and has four white socks and a blaze, which I'm delighted with. He really is great; he has a similar gait to Mr P - he's strong and uphill with a fabulous little crest. He has a lovely nature so we plan to take him to the KWPN grading in September.
Mr P recovers
Mr President is looking well; the swelling in his leg has gone down, but I don't want to bring him back to full fitness too quickly. He's 100% sound, but I don't want to risk bringing him back yet. We'll crack on with him when Simon is sound.
Mr Hyde needs one more point
Mr Hyde has been doing well. He won the six-year-old qualifier at Kingswood EC on 74.8%, so he's qualified for the Hartpury finals and he's been going out at Advanced Medium. He's scored a 65% and a 66%, so I need just one more mark to qualify. He's working PSG at home now, so all good there.
Next on my list are Annabel's fourth birthday and Ben's first. We're going to have a fairies and gnomes party in the garden, but with Simon out of action, all cooking, clearing up and fetching of drinks is down to me! Time to enlist the grandparents...
Tinker has had her puppies and we're currently weaning eight miniature schnauzer puppies. If anyone wants one, let me know!"
It's all about babies this week! Gundog expert Howard Kirby made the video below to share his journey with Ruby, a working Cocker spaniel as she became a mum for the first time. Meet Ruby's puppies and watch their early days in the world and how Howard begins their training from birth.