Our first event of the season was Tweseldown and, despite numerous ponderings from my mother about why we were not in Barocca in Portugal - which is our normal start to the season - it turned out to be a great weekend. We had five horses to compete over two days and they were all fantastic. My new ride Arctic Soul put in a great performance with a 26 in the dressage and a double clear for a win; hopefully the first of many.
The other two novices followed suit, Tropique was verging on explosion in his test and ran very slowly across country. Chico Bella did her usual floating around the dressage arena (I love her) and jumped a flawless double clear with just a steady run cross-country to pick up third place.
The following day was BE100 and I had two lovely young ones, Chequila and Quicklook. They were both exceptionally well behaved with good tests and double clears to finish first and second. So five double clears, sunny days and lots of rosettes – fingers crossed I'm on a roll!
The following day was my birthday so I was allowed a day off and went home to spend some time with my family. We had a day trip in to London where I managed to find yet more shoes that really wanted to come and live with me! After defending my need for them we spent the evening at Jamie Oliver's restaurant enjoying great food and a few cocktails – a very enjoyable day off from being an athlete.
It turned out to be more of a birthday week as I went hunting with friends one day and then off to Cheltenham for Gold Cup day with my boyfriend James, as it was his birthday too. It was amazing to be part of it all and we even managed to win a bit of money. The title race was exciting, just a bit sad to see Kauto Star pulled up but glad that he is okay.
Next stop was Lincoln the following weekend. First on was Billy on Air at her first event of the season. She was a little excited in her dressage but jumped a lovely double clear to finish just outside the placings. Arctic Soul put in another great performance I am getting a partnership with him now and he felt amazing cross-country. I am looking forward to both of them stepping up to Intermediate next time out.
A good weekend but we were all glad to be trucking home and heading for showers and comfy beds.
Loraine Homer and Sir Rubens get the season off to a great start
What a week I've had! Friday started off a bit foggy, which was worrying as I had a photoshoot for my sponsor Aloeride, but thankfully it turned out to be a lovely sunny day. We had lots of laughs with Han, the owner of Aloeride, PR Ashley Rossiter and photographer David Miller. We did several sets of images with different horses, including the fabulous Major Moylaw who took centre stage. The three new four-year-old boys all took their turn too, for conformation, schooling and casual at home shots. They all seemed to love the camera which hopefully bodes well for their career as a top show horse. I was also really proud of how the horses looked, their coats all gleaming in the sunshine.
Saturday was spent in the sunshine again, at the NPS Area 13 show at Onley, where my daughter Alice and the unstoppable Shaun (Tynymor Twm Sion Catti to give him his full title) took the junior working hunter pony championship. Sunday was another outing, this time to the BSPS Area 9a Hereford Marches show at Malvern. Alice had a great day, picking up two Royal International tickets - she won the first ridden on Birtley Rainbow Quest (below) and the nursery stakes on the fabulous Shauny, my how we love him. A couple of bottles of fizz just had to be drunk to celebrate a really super day.
Monday was back to the grindstone preparing for my first show of the year. We have a new lorry packed with Alice's clothes. Would there be a small space for mine and Dad's?! A frenzy of riding, bathing, tack cleaning and loading got us all finished in good time and prepared for the next day.
On Tuesday we set off to the Addington Spring Festival, which went well. Sir Rubens, a very exciting prospect purchased from his breeder last autumn, won the four-year-old class. He behaved impeccably and I was delighted with him, a real star in the making. My Dad [David Tatlow] then won the lightweight novice with Marjorie Glasgow's chestnut gelding Gilly's Boy, who then went on to be novice champion at his first show ever.
Wednesday we were back at Addington with Gilly's Boy, this time to be ridden side-saddle by me. He duly won his class, taking the Royal International ticket. He is going to be one to watch I hope this season.
I did not hang around as there was a lunch invitation at the back of my mind with some friends at Daylesford. A quick change and off to meet Anne Leaver, Jackie Berry and Hayley Hankey for a sunny lunch. Not much horse chat actually just a quick acknowledgement of the success and onto the rose wine! Fantastic food and company, what a way to round off a brilliant few days.
I have been very busy since my last blog, not just with the horses but socially as well. The highlight of the latter was my nephew Lewis' first birthday. I think next year's present could be a pony!
I most definitely (in my eyes) have the best job in the world. For me, life doesn't get much better than training my wonderful horses in the glorious sun shine. When the sun is out everything just feels so much better. I love seeing the horses relaxing out in the fields with the sun on their backs.
I only have one horse left from the 'Unique' days, and that is the very talented Diaghilev (Eric). He is owned by Terry and Judith Payne, and I have ridden him for the past four years so he is very much thought of as part of the family. Eric's pet hate is the sweeping brush! He can be quite grumpy in the stable but the more shows he is doing the less grumpy he gets, proving just how much he loves competing. We all think a lot of Eric and he most definitely has the ability to jump on Nation Cup teams for Britain, so this his main aim over the next 18 months.
Blazer B (Braveheart or 'Mr B') is the biggest horse in my yard. He is just six years old but stands at 17.2hh, and he still has a lot of physical maturing to do. He is a real character, he likes to move all his hay to under his drinker and dunk it before eating. A very intelligent horse! Performance wise he doesn't disappoint, at his last training show he won the 1.20m and he is happily competing at 1.30m.
I have six more horses on the yard and I'll introduce them in my blog over the next few months.
Upcoming events for myself are the Blue Chip Championships help at Hartpury Equine, and I will compete Diaghilev there in the Grand Prix on Friday 13 April - the H&C team will be filming there that day too. Then I will take a lorry (or two lorries!) to the Welsh Masters held at David Broome's show ground 19-22 April. I was unable to attend this show last year so I am looking forward to it more than usual.
I also want to wish event rider Jason Hobbs, a very good friend of mine, a speedy recovery. Jason broke his leg at the very last fence at Gatcombe, while leading the Open Intermediate section. Such a big disappointment, and I hope Jason will be back competing again very soon.
I hear the weather is meant to turn, here's hoping that they have it wrong... Good luck to everyone out competing over Easter.
Hey guys. I hope you are all well, and I have to say things have all been ticking along quite nicely for me. Finally we may have found a new groom, so fingers crossed it all works out.
Don’t you find at this time of year you feel the need to have a spring clean and a good sort out? Well mine started with getting my car cleaned! Firstly I had to muck her out, which took a good 10 minutes, I then took her down to the local car valet and £30 later she came out looking like new! What’s going to get cleaned or thrown out next, I wonder?
So the boys have had an easy few weeks since Patchetts, so I popped them down to Hartpury for an outing. Jen Goodman’s Who Boy won the 1.25m and VIP was second in the 1.35m. This was the first time I had jumped them there, I also used this show as a pre Bluechip Championship run, which is held at Hartpury College. Boyce has qualified for the Winter B/C and 1.25m and VIP is jumping an Open class and the Winter Grand Prix on the 12/13 April.
A few days later I went off to Hand Premier show. The three boys jumped great, and I had some good results. Boyce was fourth in the Winter Grade C qualifier and won a 1.30 class by nearly 4sec - the class had 87 starters in it! VIP jumped really well in the 1.40m classes and finished the week off with a steady double clear in the Grand Prix to finish seventh. We are going for consistency at this level so not worrying too much about fast jump offs.
My very small team of horses is now looking even smaller as Athene H is to go back to his owner at the end of the month. Dutch has been going really well and we have built a good partnership but his owner is cutting back on costs, so he has to go back too. I now have a couple of spaces for some new rides...
As you may have noticed, the team from H&C have made some changes and I think the new look website is ‘looking good’. This does remind me that my website is long overdue a revamp, so watch this space. While I am on the subject of looking good, have you seen the new member of the H&C team - Dean Dibsdall? I cannot wait to see what he has to offer in the upcoming show 'Dean Dibsdall: Model Farrier', but I can tell you guys that I think my farrier is hotter!
"I have been preparing thoroughly for the imminent event season, including another dressage outing at Keysoe with Amber, Harry and Maisie. What I hadn't prepared for was a spectacular dismount.
Harry was a little wild to ride – the first test was indoors so that was fine, but when warming up outdoors for the Medium he deposited me in a very unceremonious fashion! I have never seen a warm-up ring clear as quickly as he galloped around! Thankfully there wasn’t anyone in the arenas at that moment or I could have been very unpopular. He was still fresh in the test, but won it with 65%. I had to smile as I’d signed a disclaimer for any potential accidents on the ccross-country course; little did they know I’d had an incident in the dressage arena.
Maisie did the last Novice and the first Elementary. It was a bit of a break for her, mentally, from a lot of the more advanced movements we’ve been practicing at home and I used the opportunity to just remind her to relax in the dressage and to keep the movements simple. She scored the same as Amber in the Novice, and a 67.2% in the Elementary to win the class.
Danny also went away on his holidays this week. When they’re still young and not yet mature, it’s important to give them little breaks quite often, to allow them the opportunity to develop physically and it gives them a chance to mentally recharge from all they are learning.
Apart from riding I have also had a pre-season meeting with Charlie Unwin, my sports psychologist. This really is just to help me keep making my plans, aims and goals as I can sometimes get wrapped up in just doing rather than planning. I have a different type of season this year as I have so few horses to compete; a deliberate plan, I have quality not quantity now and it means I have space, and time, for another horse or two if they should come along.
Finally, I rounded off the week with a few girls who came to the yard for a gift experience day. They arrived in the morning and were able to watch me ride a couple of the horses in the arena, while I talked about what I was doing, and why. We then took advantage of the good weather to have lunch and talk about what my life as an eventer is like and about the highs and lows of my career, and they loved the mementos they took home. The experience days make a great day if you have a few friends who are interested in eventing and want to see what it’s like ‘behind the scenes’ , so if you are looking for a unique gift, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently I have felt like the M1 has become my new best friend, with H&C projects taking me up and down the country on numerous occasions this week. But when my destination is the Para Dressage Winter Championships, or the ‘Dean Dibsdall: Model Farrier' filming shoot - I really can’t complain.
A model farrier
Firstly, I went along to oversee some of the filming on our show about Dean Dibsdall, a farrier and model. I don’t want to give too much away about the it, but you can look forward to Shetlands and Shires, Quad bikes and hairdressers, and more innuendos than you will know what to do with. Filming has been fun, so I am sure you will enjoy the show.
Para dressage winter champs
The weekend was my first experience covering Para dressage for Rudall’s Round-Up, and it certainly won’t be the last. The welcome was warm, the competition was fierce, and the horses were inspiring.
Para trainer Clive Milkins almost bought me to tears when he introduced me to his horses, and I was truly honoured to meet the great Lambrusco III. This magnificent grey has European, World and Paralympic titles to neigh about, and when Clive insisted I have a sit on him, I couldn’t refuse… I literally couldn’t - Clive not only insisted I jump on, he yelled instructions at me to execute flying changes across the school.
Slightly embarrassed and not wanting to get in the way of the professionals, I gingerly popped Lambrusco into a canter – like a true professional, he duly obliged with some well-timed changes, despite his rider. I felt truly privileged to ride such an old pro, but think I did hear him sigh with relief when I dismounted.
Look out for 'Rudall’s Round-up' on March 26, which will also include an Olympic watch from eventer Laura Colletts yard.
All in all, 2011 was a difficult year for me, but there is one day that stands out as a particular low. It was the day I found out my racehorse had dropped down dead of a heart attack.
He wasn’t killed in action, or cut down in his prime. He’d done his four years on the track, he’d spent another decade or so doing dressage and Pony Club with me, and by the age of 23 he was enjoying an easy retirement out in the fields at my mother’s home in Scotland when he died.
It was quick, mercifully, but no less distressing for my mum. She heard him whinny, that familiar, deep throaty neigh of his, and rushed out to see him as he seemingly lost control of his limbs and went crashing through the fence. And that was it.
The death of an equine is the most distressing, but inevitable, part of horse ownership. Whatever the circumstances, it is always unpleasant, but rarely does equine death happen so publicly as it does in racing.
Every day, around the country, hundreds of horses die. They die during competition, they die in their stables, they die in their fields, just as my old boy did. But these horses are not in the public eye, they are not in our headlines or on our TV screens.
I write this following the news that five horses have died at the Cheltenham Festival.
There can be nothing worse for a stable lad or lass than seeing their equine charge killed on the track, to arrive at a racecourse full of hope and excitement, and to leave with an empty horsebox.
Racegoers do care about the horses that give their all on the racetrack. If a horse falls, and the screens go up, a subdued mood will come over the racecourse. And if that horse then gets to its feet and walks away, it will get the biggest cheer of the day.
Jumps racing is a risky sport. But when accidents happen on the track, officials will look at the stats and try to work out if there are areas of change needed, or if they were just pure and simple unavoidable accidents.
Racing does have its risks, and its governing body will always have to seek improvements to safeguard the horses who take part. But all equine activities have some degree of risk, from sports like polo, point-to-pointing and eventing, to jumping, dressage or just day to day hacking. Where do you draw the line? If the general public calls for a ban on racing, will eventing or polo be the next sports to come under scrutiny?
I would like to express my sympathy to the owners, grooms and connections of those five brave horses we’ve lost this week. And I very much hope the rest of the week goes without further incident.
But we have had some phenomenal racing at the Festival. Quevega and Big Buck’s making it four in a row, Hunt Ball’s fairytale result, Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig’s breathtaking wins marking them as stars of the future, to name just a few. Those achievements do deserve to be in the headlines, not just the fatalities.
We should never forget the horses that don’t come home. But nor should we overlook the ones that come home as heroes.
Carriage Driving's Gary Docking wonders where all the good grooms have gone?
Another day, another duck shoot - or so they say! All my show horses have returned home and are looking well, clipping and dodging the showers have been the name of the game, and at long last we are all semi-naked and ready for work! It's always so very interesting to have the horses back from their respective owners with great expectations for the coming season, some lacking discipline, some returning like the day they went...
Our great white hope is Striker, the current British Driving Society Supreme National Champion. He lives with us all the time so is very interested to see who and what has made the cut for the 2012 season, he seems too look them over with a mixture of distain and old school charm as they clatter off the delivering lorries.
Is it me or is there a severe lack of real grooms? Young people seem to be in education for years and years and then come out the other end qualified to teach or be a equine nutritionalist or an equine behaviour specialist! What is that? And why? If we are not careful we will have a generation of educated idiots and not a soul who can plait properly or sweep the yard. Grooming professionally is a rewarding and talented job so why has it been so dumbed down and made to sound un-career worthy and below the salt! I would give my right arm for a REAL groom, dare I say old fashioned, that knew bandaging, how bad the colic needs to be before calling me, the vet or the owner, and an interest in my yard and the horses on it.
Everybody at this time of year has the best possible horse for the forthcoming season. The way it goes, its colour and movement are much bragged about and listened to in every market and sale yard. Whether we see all of these animals reach their potential is another matter, but the anticipation is worth the gossip and makes everyone go home and try that little bit harder. Schedules are piling in, I have a fair few judging commitments this year so this gamekeeper is putting on his poaching clothes and thoroughly looking forward to it.
To tweed or not to tweed, that is the question. And if you look at the racegoers at Cheltenham, it would seem the majority goes with the former option. The crowd is a veritable sea of tweed - it's like the world's biggest mountain and moorland showing championship, where most of the competitors forgot to bring their ponies.
Tweed fever is here, and it's going nowhere. It's like some unofficial memo went round the horse world declaring tweed to be the fashion du jour. But that's okay. It's smart, it's practical, it's usually warm (tweed miniskirts aside). And if a racecourse should ever happen to be taken under siege, the tweed could act as one giant means of camouflage, protecting its wearers from harm. Perhaps.
I am no fashion expert - fashion disaster, yes, but expert, certainly not - but I do have two rules for going racing in winter. One, dress for warmth and comfort first and style second, and two, don't wear stilletto heels. I broke my own rules yesterday and wore boots with the smallest of kitten heels, and kept sinking into the grass. The going at Cheltenham is certainly good, good to soft - I verified that by taking home two souvenirs of my day's racing in the form of two clods of turf stuck to my heels.
But there is something about the word 'racing' that brings out the Royal Ascot in some racegoers. Note to newcomers - elaborate hats and flimsy dresses are designed for wearing for drinking Pimms on warm sunny days, watching gleaming Flat racehorses. The theme at Cheltenham is a little more 'rustic', shall we say. It can't be fun standing trackside all day with the wind whistling down Cleeve Hill while you shiver away in a little dress and massive high heels.
Having said that, an electric blue minidress and matching fascinator will help you to stand out against all that tweed, as long as you don't mind a bit of hypothermia in the process.
Winter coats and warm layers are the way forward, and sensible footwear if you're going to be standing among the crowds all day (not so much of a problem if you're in hospitality). If you're looking for fashion inspiration, check out Zara Phillips' Cheltenham outfits - the former World Champion eventer always seems to get it right.
Anyway, for me the Festival is more about horses than high heels and hats, and tomorrow we've got another thriller ahead of us with Big Buck's aiming to win his fourth World Hurdle. And it's not long to wait until Friday and the Gold Cup clash between Long Run and Kauto Star.
Tomorrow I'll be watching Big Buck's and co from the comfort of my sofa, probably wearing decidedly unfashionable jodhpurs, just as I did today. But on Friday I'll be back in the thick of it at Prestbury Park, watching from the rails, so I've got 36 hours to choose some winners and select a comfortable-but-stylish outfit to wear.