Things have been busy as usual at my end, but have been made even more so with a terrible timewaster - in the form of a tan Jack Russell puppy called Lola. She IS indeed a showgirl and it's hard to do anything with her around to distract us!
The news from my showjumper Who Boy is still not great, a trip down to Newmarket with a massive vets bill did not reveal the whole problem, and we are yet to know if he will ever jump again.
After my disastrous round at the Blue Chip Grand Prix, my top horse VIP and I have hit some great form. I do owe some of this to trainer Corrine Bracken, who has been brilliant at kicking me back into touch. I haven't really had any help for some years with my jumping and it was definately a good step forward.
A two-day show at The Hand was a great start, dropping down a class or two and having a gallop round was just what the doctor ordered! I have not properly ridden VIP competitively until now, and needed to put my foot down and stop bubble-wrapping him! After having two second placings and a fifth out of four classes, I headed to Wales and the West and jumped the 1.40m Grand Prix, where we finished fourth. This was a great result and I am really looking forward to June, where I will be doing a few more shows with him.
Last week I took my two novice horses out for the first time this year - Master Eli, a five-year-old, and Andreas, who is a green six-year-old. I was so pleased with them, Eli won the Discovery (see the video above) and Andreas was third, so it was a great start for them.
Team GBR has been making the rest of the world take note! The showjumpers have been showing good form, Nick Skelton seems to be in the midst of a purple patch, and Ben Maher has also been winning on Tripple X. The dressage team, Carl, Charlotte and Laura, have had amazing results and really could make dressage history this summer. The eventers are also showing good form and there is nobody I would like to see win a medal more then William Fox-Pitt. It will be really interesting to see all of the riders' tactics in the run-up to the Olympic Games. Go Team GBR!
Headmore Wimoweh is an old hand at competing - after two outings!
A lot has gone on over the past few weeks, despite having only been to one competition. We took a collection of young horses to Crofton Manor for the Shearwater Young Dressage Horse qualifiers in the hope we would get a few more qualified for Hartpury. Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief), who is owned by Georgina Pole-Carew, did her first show and was impeccably behaved in the four-year-olds to just miss out on qualifying. Tank (Headmore Wimoweh), who is owned by Joanne Graham-Whelan, was far more confident at Crofton as it was his second outing and he finished a confident second to get his ticket to Hartpury.
We also took Doris (Headmore Daydreamer) for the Six-year-olds. It was quite an ask for her, as she has only been doing a few prelims up till then, but she coped very well to finish third and also qualify, so not a bad days work!
Various other exciting things have occurred. I had my cast taken off my hand, not a moment too soon as far as I was concerned, although the doctor advised to stay away from the horses for another three weeks. Not likely, as I had been riding for four of the five weeks it had been broken!
I had a lovely evening out with my sister and one of our liveries at Windsor for the Diamond Jubilee pageant of the horse. It was a fantastic evening celebrating a tremendous milestone for the Queen, and it was very exciting. We were lucky enough to see the Queen arrive at Windsor before we had a delicious meal in one the pavilions. The performance itself was entitled 60 years in 90 minutes, and included numerous equine displays from various countries that the Queen has visited during her reign. It was interesting to see how other cultures train their horses it was immensely enjoyable to watch. There were many famous faces there and it seemed a perfect way to commemorate her Majesty’s incredible achievement.
We have also had our first foal. Jaffa (Windermere), who is Wizard’s full sister, had an absolutely stunning chestnut colt by Belissimo M. He is absolutely gorgeous with a white face and four white legs, markings that I have always wanted, and being related to both Bracks and Wizard means that he is ultra, mega cuddly! We have named him Braithwaite, or Boris for short.
This week, filming for our fortnightly show 'Rudall’s Round-up' has taken me into the centre of London to film horses. Yes, I did say the centre of London, and yes, I did say horses.
The idea was to find out more about the Olympic legacy and how inner city riding schools can benefit their surrounding areas. The first port of call was Deen City Farm near Wimbledon, an immaculate little riding centre with neatly turned-out ponies in lovely, roomy stables. The arena there is now benefiting from sparkly new lights so lessons can go on after dark, and they also have some cross-country jumps set up in a little paddock. We met Kathryn, who learned to ride at Deen City and now works at the yard as an apprentice.
The second yard was the biggest proof of the amazing benefit there is to having access to horses in London. The Ebony Horse Club is a little gem right in the heart of Brixton; bringing a huge amount of joy to children in the local and surrounding areas.
The Olympic Legacy from Sport England and funding from the BEF and the Hoof project have gone a long way into making Ebony Horse Club's founder Ros Spearings' dream a reality. She had hoped to give children in Brixton access to riding lessons, and 16 years later the Club has seven ponies, a beautiful stable block and a lovely arena right in the midst of one of the most deprived areas in the country.
Children come to the Club as part of school lessons, or after-school subsidised lessons and classwork. The yard is a haven for them and an escape from their normal lives. When Ros asked one boy of 11 what riding meant to him, he replied: "Riding helps empty your head of all the bad stuff like the shootings."
H&C's web editor Victoria Spicer and I watched a classroom lesson where the teacher was helping a group of pupils learn the points of the saddle and bridle. Every child was attentive, interacting and immaculately behaved, and it was brilliant to watch.
I urge people to get involved to help keep this centre running well after the Olympic pot of gold has run out. You can donate hats, jodhpurs, kit for the ponies as well as money, and it will all be put to extremely good use. Visit http://www.ebonyhorseclub.org.uk/to find out more.
With a new initiative being launched by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) to encourage more people back into the saddle - www.hoofride.co.uk- hopefully more and more people will be encouraged to pick up the reins and become involved in riding. The Olympics may not be leaving a lasting equestrian legacy in the form of permanent buildings or fences, but if the Games can encourage people to take up our sport, then it's done something incredible. As the Ebony Horse Club proves, horses really can change lives.
This weekend was Royal Windsor Horse Show and the Diamond Jubilee Pageant - what a show! The Pageant was fantastic and so interesting to watch. Celebrating Her Majesty the Queen's 60-year reign, it took spectators on a trip round the world, capturing different equestrian cultures and showing the many different ways in which the horse is used throughout the world. My favourites were the Russian Cossacks - they were breathtaking. They gallop - and I mean flat out! - along the arena while doing acrobatics on the side of the horse, and they could also slide down under the horse and back up on the other side while still going at top speed. It really is something you have to see. So much physical strength is involved and the trust that they have with their horse is remarkable. I did watch it and think to myself, well that was unbelievable... but Cossacks are crazy!
I also got to meet a real-life cowboy! He was so lovely and charming. In the arena he was reining and lassoing cattle. He told me that this what he does everyday in the Californian mountains on his ranch. There were also orphans from Kenya who had lost their parents in tribal conflicts or diseases, and the children sang so wonderfully that it brought tears to my eyes. It really was quite a remarkable and I was so touched by the whole experience.
I used the show as an opportunity to step Diaghilev (Eric) up a level. He jumped his first 1.60m Grand Prix, and I was delighted with how he went. We did a fantastic clear in the first round and then in the jump-off we had a very light touch on one of the poles and ended on four faults for ninth position. Before the competition started I was thinking "I just want him to go well today", but after we came so close my competitive edge kicked in and I was more like: "Oh why did that fence have to fall!"
Regardless of the result, Diaghilev really proved he has the talent and the ability to become a top horse, hopefully world class, and the great thing is that this time, this horse is staying with me.
Falling off horses is unfortunately part and parcel of working in the equine industry. I seem to have had my fair share of mishap recently, something my non-horsey friends find a constant source of amusement.
None more so than my friend Jo, who after hearing about my second fall of the week - thank you Murphy - sent me this clip of a jockey 'staying on'. I can almost picture her scribing the email and chuckling away to herself, mocking my recent flying lessons.
This is a very impressive bit of riding and after studying it time and time again I think it is time to show my horse Murphy. If I can train him to pick his head up as I am hurtling towards the ground, I may stand a chance of putting this into practice.
We have just got back from a fantastic week in Jardy, France, where I had Chico Bella in the CCI** and Dinky Inky in the CCI*. It is always nice to compete abroad, but especially when the weather is like it is at home at the moment with pretty much constant rain. France was much drier, and most days there was lovely hot sunshine to keep us all happy. Only on the last night did we see signs of the English rain resulting in a lot of soggy stables and gear!
It was a lovely event on a permanent site so with great facilities. It was our first visit as it clashes with Badminton but it is definitely somewhere I would go again. The courses were interesting with enough questions to make it a good competition and the ground was great, typically French and sandy. Both of my lovely horses performed amazingly producing good dressage tests and jumping double clears with no time faults. Chico Bella finished third in the CCI**, which was the best of the Brits and meant we got a interview on French television. Dinky Inky was seventh in the CCI*. I was so thrilled with both girls, they were both pure class in a competitive field.
The social side was good as well as there was a good crowd there and it was my groom Elodie's birthday whilst we were out there, so that added a bit of frivolity to the trip!
We came back to more rain and more events being cancelled. It is frustrating as you spend so much time preparing the horses and aiming towards events that it makes it difficult to remain motivated when your goals are no longer there. It is also hard as we have horses aiming for spring three days who will not be able to go if they miss many more runs, so it leaves everything up in the air.
Although frustrating for us it must be a total nightmare for organisers and also for Olympic hopefuls and selectors. The fact that Badminton, the most important event of the year was cancelled, is unbelievable and now that Chatsworth is off, it will leave everyone in a bit of a panic. Not to mention all of the poor foreign competitors who have come over to England to compete, run at Badminton and qualify for the Olympics – what a nightmare for everyone.
We will just have to wait for the rain to ease up but until then I will be going showjumping, building cross-country courses in the school and making the most of having some time to get the young horses out and about. Also there is a distinct possibility that Team Tattersall will be perfecting their sun dance...
I have had a very turbulent few weeks, with some very good moments but also some of the worst so far in my career. It has taken me this long to write about it; I have been very much affected by losing one of my best horses and hope that I will never have this situation again.
In April, I headed to Weston Park with Maisie and Harry entered in the open intermediate and Bertie in the intermediate. The day didn’t start well as Frankie - my helper for the weekend - had the lorry partition fall on her hand and cut her finger quite badly, so she had to go to hospital. Thankfully, Becca had decided to come and watch and so ended up grooming all day.
It was miles up to the dressage and Harry was completely wild as you go past the cross-country. He did a good test to get 29, as did Maisie who also got 29 and Bertie was his usual diligent self and scored a good mark.
The showjumping was quite soft and was a big track so needed some good riding. Bertie jumped superbly and just had one down, which meant I was in a good position as so many had, had fences down. Going in to the cross-country, Bertie warmed up really well. Sometimes he could be strong, but he wasn’t that day and I decided to try to let him go a bit quicker. He jumped the course so well, it felt very easy.
I was able to take all the shortcuts as he was so rideable, so it was a huge shock when I found us both on the ground. He took off as he should and we weren’t going too fast, I had slowed down sufficiently for a corner into the dark (it was under trees). He had never hit any cross-country fence, but he hit this so hard he fell and I knew as soon as he couldn’t get up it was very serious. After what seemed like forever, he stood up, but it was clear something was very wrong.
I can’t write much more about it as I am absolutely devastated but the team there were amazing as was Ellen Singer, the vet who looked after him so well. They had a mobile X-Ray machine on site, thankfully, which showed him to have a bone broken completely in two which was right by his elbow. I think too much of my horses to put them through pain as he would never be able to do anything again and was a true competition horse, so I decided it was kinder to have him put to sleep.
I have lost the second best horse in my team. He was the loveliest horse I have ever owned and sadly irreplaceable. I had such high hopes for him and I am so sorry for David and Sue Howard who owned him with me. My events have all been cancelled so far as this rain is relentless, but it has probably done me good to have a little break. It was definitely the worst thing to happen so far in my career.
In my job I am unbelievably lucky to meet many people who inspire and amaze me. Watching Mark Todd win Badminton or interviewing Tina Fletcher after her double clear in the Hickstead Derby are moments that have left me in awe of what a person can achieve.
None can compare however, to walking alongside Claire Lomas. After a fall at Osberton Horse Trails in 2007, event rider Claire was left paralysed from the chest down. With pure grit and determination, she has fought back and is now walking the entire course of the London marathon in a robotic suit.
I met Claire six days into her walk, and the epic nature of what she was trying to achieve really struck me. Every step is a test that takes unbelievable concentration. One wrong movement and she just comes to a grinding halt. Her husband Dan – whom she met after her accident – is supporting her all the way in case she falls backwards.
Before her accident, Claire had just completed Burghley but she said starting the London Marathon, with all the crowds and support was better than being in that famous arena. When I join her, several miles into her 26.2 mile trek, the crowds are nowhere to be seen, but still Claire plugs on, despite the worst April weather seen for 100 years. The cheers may have lessened but the support is still there as celebrities, including Tim Henman, Claire Balding, Matthew Pinsent and Lucinda Green, give up their time to walk with Claire.
While I was with the team, Francis Whittington was also on hand to lend support. After a crushing fall a Belton a few days earlier, he reflected on how easily it is to be injured in this sport.
The support for Claire has been formidable and as I write this she is nearing the last few miles of her walk and the amount raised for Spinal Research is over £60K. Support the walk by going to www.justgiving.com/Claire-Lomas or text ‘LEGS 60 £(amount)’ to 70070
With the winters over, we had a rather speedy turnaround to get the lorry packed ready to take Wiz (Wurlizer) and Del (Headmore Delegate) to Saumur CDI. Luckily for us (as we wouldn’t have been ready) we weren’t able to leave on Monday night due to the weather, so we had an extra few hours before we had to leave!
We arrived after a very straightforward journey, settled the boys in, and set up Natalie’s (who had offered to come and give us a hand) tent. We were hoping for lovely weather in Central France, so you can imagine our displeasure when we had a very wet and windy night, particularly Natalie in her tent!
Both boys passed the trot up, although some of the British competitors made it rather exciting as there were some horses that made a bid for freedom every now and then, but nonetheless every Brit was accepted. The weather had settled for my first class, the Under 25 Inter II on Wiz, and he had been quite nervous since arriving, so I just wanted to give him an easy ride round. We didn’t have any major mistakes; he was just a bit tense. Nonetheless we were still awarded nearly 64% (despite the judge at C really marking me down) and finished fifth and best of the Brits, so not a bad start to the week!
The following day was the Under 25 Grand Prix and Wiz was more settled so Erik helped me to get him much more powerful in the warm up. I knew going into the ring that it would either be amazing or he would blow up, and unfortunately it was the latter, but the rest of the work was much better. He then spent the rest of the week hacking and cantering around the showground, which we both thoroughly enjoyed!
Del started his competition after Wiz had finished. Our first test was the Prix St Georges and I just wanted him to have an easy ride round as he hadn’t done a test since the Nationals last September. We had a couple of little mistakes and I kept it underpowered, but he still finished fifthth and best of the Brits again, with over 67%, so we were thrilled with that result. The following day was Del’s Inter I and we awoke to a rather unpleasant day. Luckily Del was in the main arena so it meant that we could warm up in the indoor school, but by the time we got to do our test, it was chucking it down and the arena was like a quagmire. Our trot work was super and got really good marks, but he really struggled in the going in the canter work and kept missing the changes as he struggled to jump up out of the surface, which was very expensive. However he still scored nearly 67% and still finished 10th, so qualified for the freestyle despite the mistakes.
The freestyle was held in a different arena to the Inter I, so we decided to run Del although a few withdrew which meant that I had to go in first. Del was super and finished eightth with over 68%, so overall we were really pleased with him considering he hadn’t competed for months - and not forgetting my broken hand! Getting home was a bit of a mission, however, as most ferries weren’t letting horses on in the wind, so we had to stable at Calais to get the best chance, but we got home in the end. Overall we had a wonderful time with good results and laughed all the way through the week, despite the weather!