"Despite having had my fun filled birthday weekend a fortnight ago, I celebrated my actual birthday this week. I had some lessons with Erik in the morning before Bury Farm, and Erik also saw Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) for the first time, as she is now strong enough to cope with a lesson. Despite it being freezing cold I had three really good lessons to start off my birthday.
My best friend Amy and I then went to the cinema in the afternoon and saw Seven Psychopaths. It's not a bad film, a bit odd but very funny in places. I then had a lovely meal in the evening with my family and Amy.
Regarding the horses, it was Bury Farm High Profile show this week and we took Wiz (Wurlizer) and Del (Headmore Delegate) for the Grand Prix. The weather was absolutely vile and we had a very stressful time trying to get there. Firstly, the lorry wouldn’t start and we ended up leaving half an hour later than planned. We then had to take a massive detour due to flooding on roads and then got held up in traffic on all three motorways we had to take. It was definitely not boding well for the day.
We arrived with just enough time to tack Del up for his test in the pouring rain and blowing wind and we were very relieved to get into the indoor warm up. It was Del’s first Grand Prix and we were thrilled with him. He was just a bit nervous and had some babyish mistakes in the trot work. We got all of the canter work, which we were very pleased with, as it is not easy to string together, but unfortunately the mistakes kept the mark down at 64.1% to finish eighth.
We also had our yard Christmas party at the weekend. It was the first time we had been organised enough to arrange something, and with 25 of us going we took up most of the pub. It was great to have so many people there including staff and clients past and present, and one of my sponsors, Jenny Hadland. We had an absolutely amazing time with lots of drinking and laughing, it is safe to say we were quite raucous, it was lucky we had most of the pub! I think everyone enjoyed themselves and we will hopefully make it an annual event."
One of only downsides to riding or knowing a horse, is that inevitably there will come a time when you have to say goodbye.
This is the hardest part of being a ‘horse person’ and for many, it is hard as losing member of the family. During the Olympics, I had to say farewell to my eventing partner Ted – due to his poor feet – and it was heartbreaking. I found his headcollar just the other day and became a blubbering wreck.
Recently a close friend of mine – eventer Kate Lukas – also suffered the loss of her top horse Daisy Crazy. However, out of the sadness, Kate and her team have found room for humour, and decided to look to the future by making this video of Daisy’s foal.
It is so lovely to see this cute foal – produced by embryo transfer – make its first steps in the world. The music from Edd Lukas is so fitting and I thought it was too good not to share, and 'Posh' (short for Too Posh To Push) is such a great name.
"I have just had the most amazing weekend. As we welcomed in December - and the cold weather - it means that the festivities are imminent and it’s getting closer to my birthday.
My awesome weekend started on Saturday night with a trip to Wembley Arena to see Michael McIntyre, as far as I am concerned the ultimate funny man. We had an amazing evening and laughed so much that we cried and it hurt, and I think he is hysterical. And for those of you who have seen him, I got a couple of t–shirts with some very well known phrases of his, namely ‘My name is Five Spice, Superior Spice’ and ‘I’m absolutely gazeboed’ - classic! And for those of you who haven’t seen his comedy, I can’t recommend it enough.
My fabulous weekend continued on Sunday as I had another incredible birthday present. My best friend, Amy, organised for me to drive a Ferrari 360 - a different kind of horse power. The Ferrari had 400 bhp - that’s a lot of horses under the bonnet - with a top speed of 183mph. I appreciate that dressage and driving fast don’t go hand in hand, but driving a fast car and being able to rag it round a track is something I’ve always wanted to do.
When we arrived all the drivers had to have a briefing on how to drive safely through the corners and round the track and then be fitted with helmets, before we were allowed on to start. We headed off being driven round the track with one of the professional drivers in an ‘ordinary’ car so we could familiarise ourselves with the course and learned how to take the corners. I then got to jump in the Ferrari, I was hugely excited and just a tad nervous, but once I got on the track it was just awesome. I wimped out of using the flappy paddle gearbox and just drove it on automatic, but it was so much fun. I managed to get up to about 95mph before we ran out of track and not having to drive sensibly made it really good fun. I did manage to stay on the track at all times, and I think the instructor was impressed with my female driver skills.
I also have another exciting piece of news. Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) has won the best British bred four-year-old dressage horse of the year award, so a massive congratulation goes to Mum - for breeding him - and his owner, Joanne Graham Whelan."
"I can't believe it's so close to Christmas already. This year has flown past and the last few weeks have been no exception. With 13 horses in work, I am back to full swing again - but I much prefer this to being quiet.
It doesn't seem like a long day when you have nice horses to ride, even in this recently revolting weather. I much prefer the cold and frost to warm rainy weather, mainly because I don't have an indoor school. Not being able to hack does change things though as I have been riding up to eight or nine a day, the main advantage with this is I can eat as much as I like and seem to work it off, always a bonus at Christmas!
The young horses have all been coming along in leaps and bounds. I have been so lucky that they have all been easy. I took some down to Guildford to have a lesson with Stuart Harvey, a friend and trainer, who helped enormously with their progression. I often try too hard to help the horses rather than working on their weaknesses.
We have a new addition to the yard named 'Poppet'. She is 12.1hh and seven years old. We have purchased her as a Christmas present for my seven-year-old niece, who is so keen on horses and riding. Aimee comes and helps to wash the horses before shows and puts up fences when I'm jumping, she’s not keen on tack cleaning yet (who is?) but we'll get there, hopefully!
Things are not all so rosy - it was a very sad week to hear Kenneth Clawson, a friend and trainer, has died. He really did help me when I first became a member of the British team and I owe a huge amount to him - as many of us do - for supporting, helping and giving me the confidence to ride alongside the best. I definitely lacked in self-belief, which I still do now at times, but Kenneth helped significantly with this. To have someone believe in you makes a massive difference, and I'll always be very grateful to him.
I have also been doing a lot of teaching - something I'm really enjoying - and it’s great to see my pupils improving and developing. I have lots of clinics booked in for the New Year, which should be fun. Hopefully the weather will be okay and the snow will stay away.
This will be the last time before Christmas and New Year that I blog for H&C, so I hope everyone has a wonderful time and gets everything they wish for. Thirteen is my lucky number, believe it or not, so let's hope 2013 will be my year.
Fresh on the grey heels of lovely Neptunes Collonges, Kauto Star is set to be the next horse to switch jumping over massive birch fences to entering the arena at A.
A few weeks ago, Neptunes Collonges made his dressage debut, scoring nearly 80% in an intro test, just six months after winning the John Smith's Grand National at Aintree.
But instead of being delighted to see Kauto track left down a similar path, some people feel he'd be better off going hunting or eventing, so that he can continue to jump and gallop with the same panache that made him a racing superstar.
Others wanted him to live out his days at Ditcheat, chilling out in a paddock.
But for me, dressage is exactly the right choice for him - providing he likes it.
At 12, almost 13, he's far too young to live out his days doing nothing in the field.
Conversely, not all racehorses want to keep galloping and jumping forever. My first ex-racer, Hotdiggity, had won over hurdles and raced over fences, so when I got him to ride and get fit one summer (he was eight, I was 15), I presumed he'd make an eventer, provided I could get him to do a semi-decent dressage test.
Four months after I first sat on him, he was winning at Elementary level. He never went back to racing, and while he did a fair bit of showjumping and the odd cross-country over the years, it wasn't the right fit for him. He got wound up when things went wrong at a fence, and we weren't the bravest combination.
He'd done a tendon while racing, and the permanent thickness of his foreleg made me jump him with the handbrake on. In the dressage arena, I had no such concerns.
I lost him last year, at the age of 23, when he had a heart attack in the field. He'd done more in those 15 years than I'd ever thought we could achieve, because dressage suited him. It showcased his athleticism, and it challenged his mind - I had to do more difficult tests because simple Prelims left him too much time to misbehave. And having ridden him as he floated across the school in medium trot, all power and presence, I can say with utter conviction that he enjoyed it.
What that experience taught me is that you can't make a horse do a job it doesn't want to. Find the right fit for the both of you, or you'll permanently be trying to fit that square equine peg into a round hole. What seems the natural next step isn't necessarily the right one.
Had Kauto retired at seven, or eight, or even nine, I'd have been delighted to see him go eventing. But he's nearly 13 years old. It's not old, by any means, but he's been racing since the age of three and maybe it's time for him to enjoy a gentler pace of life.
Some horses are bored rigid by schooling, but others seem to quite enjoy it. Laura Collett - Kauto's new rider - tweeted a photo of him during his first schooling session, and he didn't look to me that he was miserable and wishing he was off for a gallop. He looked light and obedient, ears alert, listening to his rider.
He'll still get to do plenty of hacking, and I'm sure he'll get to do the odd bit of fast work to keep him fit. It won't all be 20m circles from now on.
I was there when Kauto won his fifth King George at Kempton. Everyone threw hats, gloves and racecards in the air as he crossed the finish line, making history in the process. It was the most special, unforgettable day.
I was there when he did his final race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. And I have to admit I was nervous for him as he set off, just a few weeks after a crashing jumping fall while schooling. This was a horse who owed us nothing, who had proved his supermacy time and time again. When Ruby Walsh pulled up Kauto midway through the Gold Cup, they returned to a heroes welcome, and I was glad. Nothing can last forever, and I didn't want to see a glittering career end in a fall.
Maybe Kauto won't take to dressage, and maybe he would be a better fit at eventing. But the day he sets off for his first cross-country, I'd have those same butterflies once again, worrying whether he'd come home safe and sound.
I want him to grow old, like the legendary Red Rum, like the unforgettable Desert Orchid. He deserves it. But I want him to have an active second career before that.
Hundreds of racehorses come out of training every year, and the more that can be retrained, the better. Some find success as showjumpers, eventers, dressage horses or show horses. Some go on to polo or horseball, others become hacks.
But plenty have no such options, and are left in the field, passed from pillar to post, or worse...
Press interest in this story has been huge, so if it inspires more people to take an interest in what happens to racehorses after they retire, and if it introduces some new people to the sport of dressage, then brilliant.
Amusingly, there's even been speculation (outside of equestrianism) about whether we'll see Kauto win gold at the next Olympics. Of course he won't. He's a Thoroughbred in a sport long dominated by warmbloods. It takes years to develop the strength and training required to even compete at Grand Prix level, let alone achieving Olympic selection.
He won't be at Rio, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is that he can enjoy an active retirement, fit for a king, and that the public get to follow and enjoy a genuine superstar for many years to come."
Jay is delighted to have his beloved Athene H back, known as Dutch.
Hope you have all been keeping well and warm. I am sorry it's been a while, but I have been crazy busy with shows and our new property development.
Our new yard is coming on well. Even though it is still a building site, every time we go and visit something has changed. My new outdoor arena is finished and the windows and stable partitions start going in soon. Now we just have to hope and pray that the weather stays dry, so that nothing interrupts our very tight schedule.
My cold weather wear is now well and truly out from the back of the wardrobe and we have got nearly all of our young horses in the barn for winter. Harry (Candy Windsor), my favourite foal from this year, has been really poorly and at times looked like we was going to lose him. Fortunately, he is looking much better so we have decided to change his name to Candy Soldier, which seems far more fitting for this brave little chap.
A surprise trip to New York for my 30th was annoyingly scuppered by Hurricane Sandy. Spencer had arranged a Wednesday to Monday trip which involved a Broadway show and a surprise appearance from my bestie and her fiancé. Sadly we ended up having a weekend at home with Spencer feeling unwell. Even though we never made it away, it did highlight that I have the best boyfriend ever – fact.
An old face returned to stall Halim this month in the form of my old friend Dutch (Athene H), owned by Chantelle Souness. Dutch did a few months jumping with me at the beginning of the year and then went back to his mum's for her to enjoy. However, Chantelle has a had a bit of a career change recently and very kindly decided that he wasn't being used enough and he could come back to me. Exciting!
A crazy kick start to the indoor jumping season involved eight horses staying at the Hand for four days. On two of these days I ended riding 10 horses! Each day started at 9:00am and I think that three out of the four days we finished jumping past midnight. As keen and hungry as I am for success, this nearly finished me off, mentally and physically – especially now I have hit my thirties!. All the horses jumped well, and we gained a few more tickets for the Blue Chip showjumping championships.
The following week I took four horses to Addington for the premier show, which was not as successful, but still well worth the trip. Bob Ellis's courses were fantastic and both my horses and I learnt a lot.
Alice recently enjoyed an evening of fine wine and stinky cheese on a night out in London
With the end of 2012 fast approaching I had my final equine pathway training with Del (Headmore Delegate). As it was the last session the year all of the different experts were there to check on our progress.
My first session was with the physiotherapist Andy Thomas, who showed us some exercises that we could do easily at home with a Swiss ball and a pair of socks! Part of me thinks that it was only so everyone watching could have a laugh at us attempting to balance!
But Andy was impressed that I did manage to do some stretches, even if it’s because I don’t have any choice after my hip injuries this year.
I then had a fantastic ridden session with Ferdi (Eilberg). Del went really well and I was pleased that we were able to confidentially get all of the grand prix movements away from home, as we’ve got Bury Farm coming up. Ferdi was very pleased with his progress and we got a glowing report back, so we are now really looking forward to our grand prix debut in a couple of weeks!
Del then had his check up from the vet, farrier and physio, who were all really pleased with him. So all in all, it was a very good day for both of us!
Wiz (Wurlizer) will also be going to Bury Farm as we are only on the wait list for Olympia. I wasn’t expecting to make it into the final five as the standard of the other combinations on the list was exceptional, and I was honoured to be among them. So we'll go to Bury Farm for a party instead!
Away from the horses I had a very enjoyable evening out in London with Samina, one of our liveries. She’s a GP in London and every year they organise a party where doctors get together and have a bit of fun. Gina, another of our liveries, also came along and we had a fantastic evening.
It was held in La Fromagerie at Marylebone, which is an amazing shop with an insane collection of wines, cheeses and various other fromage-related items. The cheese room was just spectacular and we got to try some as part of the canapés.
The champagne and wine was also very good, and it wasn’t long before I was happily mingling with the doctors that were there. My job was also a good conversation starter, as everyone has now seen the ‘dancing horses’ at the olympics!
After the party we went on to Home House (a very posh venue) where yet more alcohol was consumed! It was really interesting to chat to people who I wouldn’t normally meet and it was also lovely to get dressed up and have a bit of fun.
We eventually got back to Samina’s house just after two in the morning, but I still managed to get up in the morning and get all of my horses worked.
"Since being clipped Mr P has turned into a complete lunatic!"
Clyde [Mr Hyde] is still going really well. Julie Geraughty, who I run the dressage to music clinics with, put together some music for a Prix St George (PSG) test at Bishop Burton. I thought we’d just have a little play, but we ended up scoring 71.25, which was a bit of a shock! The nearest score to us was 66-something, so we won it well. I was thrilled.
We also did our first ‘proper’ PSG a few weeks ago at the High Profile show at Vale View in Leicestershire. We scored 64.6 and came 10th out of 24, so we certainly didn’t disgrace ourselves. But what I was most pleased with was that Clyde really tried, and he let me ride him.
We’ve finally clipped Rimmer [Mr P], and ever since he’s been a complete lunatic. We always clip him as late as possible as he hates it, but he was a shaggy monster and we’ve got a competition coming up. I told him he can’t go out in public looking like that, so we pined him down and clipped him.
I think he thinks he’s off to Olympia as the only time we ever clipped him properly was for that show, but it’s just a little tootle out to do the grand prix at Field House in Uttoxeter.
I’m also going to start doing some stuff with our five-year-old Freddie. I’m taking him to his first unaffiliated prelim on Sunday (9 December), or we might do a novice. I just pray he stays straight going down the centre line!
The other five-year-old in the family, has no intention of ever doing a dressage test. My daughter Annabel is not remotely interested in horses and during the week I take her to ballet, swimming and tennis lessons. But she is very good about coming to shows at the weekend and never moans. Mind you, the Nintendo DS helps!
She just did her first ballet exam and got 84 per cent, so her teachers were really pleased with her. But I reckon Wimbledon is calling – or at least it better be – as I drive her all the way to Derby every week for tennis coaching. There are no decent coaches around here, and the club she goes to is really nice with a great coach.
Annabel is so excited about Christmas and has been going on about putting the Christmas decorations up for weeks. I said that as soon as December was here I’d get them out. So I’ve spent all day putting them, with my two-year-old son Ben ‘helping’ me.
We’ll be at home for Christmas, with just the four of us, which I’m really looking forward to. And we’ve got a couple of pantos lined up for the kids, which they love.
The horses will get Christmas and Boxing day off, but then it’s business as usual as we will be building up for the summer regionals in the new year. I’ll be aiming to qualify in the advanced medium and PSG, and if I do that then I’ll have look at qualifying for the PSG to music. That's the fun bit!
I might do the Addington high profile show, but I haven’t decide if I’m definitely going yet, or which horse to take. The prospect of Addintgon car park in the middle of January doesn’t really appeal when I could be sat by a warm fire instead. It’s not got any qualifier classes so part of me thinks, what’s the point? It all depends how enthusiastic I’m feeling in the new year.
In the meantime I’m keeping up my lessons with Richard [Davison] to keep me and the horses ticking over. In my last lesson we went from medium to grand prix in 45 minutes. Suddenly we were doing two time changes! Poor Clyde had a bit of a shock, but he slept well that night.