Alice (left) and her sister, Kate: "It was a wonderful day and we are all very proud."
With the weather turning for the better and summer finally arriving, it gave us the opportunity to get really excited about my sister, Kate’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday (27 July).
I went along with both our parents as well as a very long standing family friend, Sheila, who used to change our nappies! There was much hilarity as all of the ‘Opps’ came downstairs dressed up for the photos, especially when Kate commented that we had better get photographic evidence as it would be the last time we were all dressed up until either of us get married!
We left with plenty of time as the ceremony was in the Freemason’s Hall in London and it was one of the days that the Olympic torch was going through the capital city.
On arrival we met up with Katie, one of Kate’s friends who was also graduating, and her family for lunch at a lovely Italian restaurant. It was great for us to finally meet Katie as we had heard a lot about her but not actually met her. It was a very enjoyable meal with good food and lots of pride around the table!
Once we got to the Freemasons' Hall, Kate went off to sign the veterinary register and get her gown so she was ready for the ceremony. It was quite emotional when she came to find us, but we managed to hold it together and went off for the official photos.
The hall is a magnificent and very beautiful building and a lovely venue for such a special moment. It was another emotional moment when they announced Kate as graduating with honours and very scary when the graduates went from being ‘students’ to ‘colleagues’!
Kate is now free to practice as a vet, and will now be known as Kate Oppenheimer BVetMed (Hons) MRCVS, which is also also scary!
It was a wonderful day and we are all very proud, and for once we were all scrubbed up well and able to get some nice photos!
Now we are enjoying the Olympics, after a magnificent opening ceremony on Friday. Good luck to all of the athletes competing, it looking like it’s going to be a fantastic fortnight that will hopefully bring a lot of success for team GB!
As I write this, the children are playing in our new paddling pool out in the garden. The sun has finally come out and we’ve got a life again, after feeling like it’s the middle of winter. They’ve been out there all morning and are starting to look like little prunes! The pool is much bigger than it looked in the shop, and it took me an hour just to pump it up half way. I feel like I’ve done an aerobics class!
The horses have been enjoying the warm weather too and finally getting some sun on their backs. We’re quite high up here – around 1000ft above sea level – so it’s not too warm although the flies can be a pain. I’ve had to put their masks on for the first time this summer.
Both of my boys have been doing really well out competing, although they do have their moments. I took Mr President to Sheepgate Premier League in Lincolnshire last month as a late entry. He was so naughty in the first test took that I almost pulled him out of the rest of the show. He stuck his tongue out at the judge all the way down the centre line and then decided to do a medium gallop, so our one-changes were rather fast!
I was sitting there thinking this is going to be 59% and yet he got 68-something – obviously they were judging a different test to the one I rode!
The next day he was much calmer and we both worked out what we should be doing after our time off. We won two grand prixs and direct qualified for the national championships.
While we at that nationals we are also going to do a demo, as BD has asked my trainer, Richard [Davison], to do some demos there.
I took My Hyde to Sheepgate too and we won the Advanced test, which is great considering he’s only seven.
Hyde also qualified for the advanced medium at the regional championships at Frys two weekends ago. It was a flaming disaster! We got to Beverly, which is 50 minutes away, and the clutch went on the lorry in the middle of town centre. We caused a complete gridlock in the entire town and the police had to be called to try to sort out the traffic.
My friend Helen Lowe managed to pick me up with her lorry, and you should have seen poor Hyde’s face when he got out. He’s never seen traffic like it, or shops! We had an audience by that stage, with kids sucking lollypops watching.
I then abandoned my kids and husband in the lorry and dashed off to the show. They refused to move my start time so I only had three minutes warm up. Bless him, he still scored 65.53 which I was really pleased with and we came fifth.
As for my family in the lorry – the kids spent five hours travelling in the wagon from East Yorkshire and back again, and never got to see mummy ride. Once they got the wagon going, Simon drove it back.
I turns out one of hydraulic pipes had fractured so clutch fluid had been pouring out and there was none left. If the lights had been on green we would have been fine, as we could have stayed in second gear all the way to Frys. Life’s never boring here!
I’m thinking of doing our first prix st george with Hyde this Thursday – although I might bottle it. We’ve done a 102 a few times – and it’s not that different, it just has a few more changes on the diagonal.
The hardest thing will be my tailcoat, as he’s terrified of it because it touches him behind the saddle. I got on him on Saturday and schooled him in it and he was very calm, but it was a still day. So I got on yesterday thinking he’d be fine but the wind was blowing and he was like a rocket.
I’ve been discussing with Simon how we can fold it up so it looks like a normal jacket and then when I get on, we can slowly unravel it as I warm up. I could have a go and if ends up as a car crash we can always retire so no-one sees my score!
I’ve also been busy with a new sideline, as British Dressage have asked me to help them with dressage to music. I design the floor plans and Julie Geraghty of Equivisions does the music. It seems really popular and we’ve been inundated with requests. So I’ve been visiting colleges all over the UK, which is great, but knackering as I’m out at 6am start and not back till 8pm.
I’m looking forward to having some time off next week as we’re going down to the Olympics to watch the cross-country. Dressage is too boring and the kids can’t watch that for eight hours, so I’ve told them they can walk around Greenwhich park instead, and that there might be the odd horse passing through!
With London 2012 just around the corner, we took the final chance we had to attend a big domestic show before the nationals.
It looked like we wouldn’t be able to make it as the foul weather had left Hickstead resembling a bog in both the parking and the arenas, but Dane Rawlins and all of the crew there had been working tirelessly to enable the show to go ahead.
Hickstead was the last premier league of the season and the last chance to get those coveted direct qualifications to the nationals. Unfortunately Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) was not quite up for it on the first day and had an unfortunate moment in the prix st george. She was much more settled on the second day to produce a very green test, but it was a ‘clear round’ which we were very pleased with, and next year when she is stronger and more established she should be a force to be reckoned with!
Del (Headmore Delegate) competed in the inter II and was much more confident, although it was still green and there were a few mistakes. We managed to score 67.89% and finished second, gaining his qualification for the nationals. So he will now be competing at both inter I and II in September. Not bad as he only did his first inter II less than a month ago!
We also took Wiz (Wurlizer), even though he was already qualified, so we could have another run through the test. He came third, in what was a big class, so all in all it was a very good week for us at Hickstead!
More good news is that Jaffa (Wiz’s sister) has been scanned in foal to De Niro for next year. I can’t wait and this will be the first foal I have had on my own so I’m even more excited.
The scary part of the week was my appearance on the radio. I went on BBC Surrey to talk on Tea for Two with Joe Talbot about our chances for the Olympics. It was a fairly long slot (about 20 minutes) but I think that I managed not to make a fool of myself and I was told that I had done a good job, although I don’t think my friends and family would have said otherwise!
I also had a very productive shopping trip with Carol (our head girl) as I had to buy a dress for my sister’s graduation next week. We had a fantastic afternoon where I spent a lot of money on a complete new outfit with all of the accessories. Kate will only graduate once and it’s a picture that we will all keep forever, so I thought I had best make a bit of an effort!
And it’s all over, but what a show. Someone up there was smiling down on us today, as we woke to perfect, cloudless blue skies and gorgeous sunshine. It shined a bit hotter and brighter than usual, it seemed to me, to make up for its pathetic attendance record of late.
Sunday is of course Grand Prix day, and it was one of the most atmospheric Longines King George V Gold Cups that I’ve seen in a long time. An nine horse jump-off brought it to a thrilling finale, and it looked very much like we might have the first female winner ever. Despite some lightning fast rounds from Marie Hecart and the lovely Sussex local, Louise Pavitt, it was not to be however, and Hendrik-Jan Schuttert added his name to the history books. From the look on his face too, he couldn’t have been more delighted.
I was obviously rooting for brother-in-law Shane but a steady paced four faults put him out of contention. As he had the fence down, one of our lunch guests exclaimed loudly “Ahhh, that’s just cost me £20”. An even more disappointed Chloe, Shane’s wife, said simply, “huh, that’s just cost us £20,000!”
As Hickstead’s new unemployed Lady Who Lunches, we had a great day in the Master’s Box. Some of our very favourite sponsors, the lovely Penny and Martin Stoner, had me chuckling away as usual, and Lord Harris (of Carpetright, our brilliant Derby sponsors) was thrilled with Tina Fletcher’s performance on Hello Sailor. The Harrises and the Kirkhams (of our former sponsors DFS) have two horses in the GB Olympic team, and it’s so brilliant to see such loyal owners and supporters of the sport enjoy such success.
Anthony Andrews, husband of Hickstead Patron Georgina, and of course national actor treasure had one of his best days at Hickstead for years – for a rather unusual reason. One of our Dad’s best friend's granddaughters couldn’t believe it at Ascot when her Granny got a wave from someone who was in the Royal carriage sitting next to the Queen. “Of course you don’t know them, you’re Granny” was her charming response! Well she was delighted to meet Anthony today and recite the Scarlet Pimpernel to him, and he was delighted… because he had an 11 year-old fan! “I’m obviously trendy again”, he said.
And finally, everyone has miraculously managed to keep themselves together today and I am seriously lacking blog fodder – in the absence of the usual countless embarrassing things I do on an hourly basis when I’m working. Our lovely friend Henry Cavill, an avid show jumping fan, has caused quite the stir this weekend. Last night, two fans asked for a picture with him and Horse and Country TV’s very own Jenny Rudall. Henry, as usual, graciously agreed and after the picture she whispered to Jenny “I haven’t got a clue who he is, but I just love your Rudall’s Round-Up show”. Clearly a star on the rise Miss Jenny!
Thank you for reading and stay tuned as I’ll be reporting from a few more events towards the end of the year… and enjoy this weather, finally!
This is now getting out of control – give someone else a chance Ireland! Having run out of natty ways to describe the incredible success Shane, Trevor and the Irish in general are having this week, henceforth they shall just be referred to as the Green Breen Machine – and it’s struck again! And it’s family celebrations all round as my cheeky little git of a brother has won nearly £900 this week betting on them! Why oh why oh why didn’t I put some money on? Idiot!
We had a wonderful day in the box today, on one of my favourite days of the year, Ladies' Day (supporting the brilliant charity Variety, the Children's Charity). This whole being ill thing has definite pluses as I managed to convince my sister Chloe to let me borrow her amazing new crazy bird hat, which looks like a black glittery raven diving out of your hair. I totally should have won Best Hat, but of course everyone would have said it was a fix! And actually it was good, but not a patch on my one last year made of Hickstead rosettes.
I digress… the inimitable Barbara Windsor, Babs, the Barbster, was our celebrity judge and she was totally brilliant. One of the funniest lunch guests I’ve sat next to in a long time, and definitely the owner of the best, and most hilarious/dirty laugh I’ve ever heard. The Ladies did us proud today with some incredible creations perched atop beautifully coifed heads, which made choosing the Best Dressed Filly even harder than ever. I love being part of the selection process as you get to have a proper nosey at everyone’s lovely hats, shoes, dresses, gorgeous sparkly jewellery etc. Barbara oohed and ahed and finally chose Philippa Butler, resplendent in a gorgeous 50s-style polka dot concoction. Special mention must go to the lovely Leesha Leeman (joint runner-up Best in Show), who looked amazing, and is one of life’s goodies. The top three placings were very hard to call. It was more stressful (and definitely provoked more wolf whistles) than the Supreme Ridden Championship!
After the excitement of the judging was done, it was time to relax and enjoy the sport, and have a good catch up with my lovely friend Henry Cavill. Fresh back from wowing fans in America with the teaser trailer of his new film, in which he plays Superman, he is a huge showjumping fan. We managed to watch a few rounds of jumping in between the gossiping and catching up. Shane, cool as a cucumber as always, watched the first part of the Sky Sports Speed Classic next to us in the box, giving us a few tips and hatching his own plan. When he left we asked how he was feeling and he said “sure, I’m going to win it!” And sure he did! Fellow Irish team mate, and member of yesterday’s winning Nations’ Cup team, Richie Maloney had posted a pretty impressive and seemingly impossible to beat time, yet Shane just cruised in, cut a few more corners and galloped home. Woo. He just makes it look so blinkin’ easy!
Today’s blog fodder can only be the fabulous Victoria, Press Officer Extraordinaire, and one of the friendliest peeps on the showground… So friendly, in fact, it got her in to a spot of bother today. “Hello gorgeous”, she hollered at her good friend Jay Halim as he walked passed the Press Office door, with a loud wolf whistle for good effect (allegedly). “Hello to you too," replied a slightly bemused (but no doubt terribly flattered) Team GB Chef D’Equipe, Rob Hoekstra, who happened to walk in just at that moment. It is often remarked upon that we have one of the friendliest press officers on the circuit, and now we know her people-handling secret!
Wow, what a day! Another incredible day for Ireland, and in particular for the Brilliant Breen Brothers at Hickstead this week (and that’s not even me just being biased). Sadly I had to watch one of my favourite days of the year from the comfort of my sofa, but I have to say it has given me my first ever opportunity to watch the wonderful coverage provided for us by Sky live for once. And it’s so exciting. It felt like they’d bottled up the showground atmosphere and poured it into my sitting room.
The FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain was today’s feature class, and the last chance to watch Team GB compete on home turf before the games. And what a class! It’s always a bit of a case of divided loyalties when watching Nations Cups competitions as I’m obviously always rooting for England, but want my brother-in-law, Shane, to do well too!
He started off brilliantly with a clear in the first round, going on to have a slightly disappointing eight faults in round two. However, once it was clear that the Brits were sadly out of contention after some unlucky fences down, the entire competition came down to the nail, with the last three horses in the ring deciding the winning team. Germany crumpled under the pressure, as did France, and Ireland stormed to victory after an incredible round by Clem McMahon. Despite being on a youngster, Clem displayed nerves of steel and posted a faultless round. I’m very disappointed to have missed the celebrations in person but felt like I was right there with them with the amazing Sky Sports, and the fact that I can hear the commentary through my window!
Yesterday too was a storming day for Team Breen, with Shane winning the first class of the show in the international arena, and Trevor, his brother, winning the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix with a lightning fast round, chalking up a very rare win for the show jumpers.
However, it hasn’t all been happy Breens…. Last night we hosted a hilarious Eventers vs Jumpers celebrity bucking bronco competition outside the champagne bar, when the horses had been put to bed for the night. Sadly I missed it, but was treated to the most hilarious post-match debrief by Shane when he got home. After some time of intricate explanations as to why he and Trev had only managed to stay on for a miserably short amount of time, and how the Eventing Team girls had clearly been favoured by the operator, he did finally admit that actually “we were just plain (insert appropriate Irish expletive here) rubbish!” The lovely Ellen Whitaker apparently cut a much more graceful figure and put uncle John’s time to shame, with the surprise of the night being a gravity-defyingly good turn by my brother Charlie – with not much horse riding experience to his name of late, and not cutting the most obvious of bucking bronco figures, he outdid all the riders! Shane did say, though, that Charlie’s display brought actual tears of laughter to his eyes. Well done Chas, acting up for the crowds – he is an actor after all!
Time to go, everyone’s just got back to the house, and not only is Irish team smiling, so is the entire support team – including my adorable little nieces decked out in their Irish team kits. They are in fact running round the house screaming “Daddy won, Daddy won!” – good luck getting them to bed tonight Shane!
Despite a wee bit of drizzle this afternoon and slightly less sun than I’d ordered, day one in the International Arena was a classic Hickstead day with some fierce competition in the jumping winter finals and some boootiful showing stars strutting their championship stuff. I have to say, I’m now getting really rather used to this not being allowed to work thing, and just being able to sit and watch the action. It’s been years since I’ve actually managed to sit through an entire class – let alone an entire afternoon of them! My goddaughter Lottie and niece Darcy watching with me, were mesmerized by the “lovely long hair” of the show hunter ponies and wanted to take them all home with them. There were actual tears when I explained we simply wouldn’t be able to fit them all in the car!
The main class of the day, the Outside Event Catering Grades B & C Championship, was won by Paul Crago on Don Cooley’s lovely Valentino IX after a nail-biting jump-off, even pipping the legendary John Whitaker to the post. Funnily enough just earlier this afternoon I had been talking about Paul’s parents, Judy and Brian Crago, with the very famous Australian showjumper Peter Winton, who is a great family friend and has come to stay for a few weeks. Reminiscing as to how he met Dad, Peter reported that he was at one of Brian and Judy’s famous parties after a Nations Cup show some fifty years ago, when he got chatting to Dad. In Peter’s own words he was being “obnoxiously Australian” and the, uh hum, very “forthright” Dad was being very obtuse in return. Peter told Dad to “stop being so English, pompous and stuffy” and apparently a shocked silence descended as people waited to see how Dad would react, as he was not exactly known for his mild temper! Dad sat up, straightened his glasses, looked over his wine and said simply “what are you doing next weekend, why don’t you come to Hickstead, and we can really have a proper chat then!” Brilliant, the rest of course is history, and the two remained best friends for over 50 years.
The ground in the international arena is jumping beautifully despite the less than idea weather, and the Bunn Leisure Arena is in full use as a back up for the national rings to make sure that the ground remains as good as possible all week. Despite some speculation, we are going full steam ahead with the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix tomorrow, with just one or two minor alterations to the course.
Finally, my “blog fodder” (as poor members of the Hickstead team refer to whoever is offered for some daily blog humiliation) today is the wonderful Showjumping Secretary and General Lady In The Know, the lovely Emma. In her own words she was so tired that after a phone call she was making had rung and rung without being picked up she “rather forgot who, where or what I was, let alone who I was actually ringing”. When the poor unassuming competitor at the other end did finally pick up, Emma had a momentary lapse and asked to speak to Eragell Blaze – not in fact the rider but the horse itself. A rather bemused, but very good humoured, competitor explained that although they did pride themselves on a very high tech yard these days, they hadn’t quite stretched to mobiles for all of the horses, and that Emma would have to make do with the humble rider!
I’m back! As some of you may have noticed I was unfortunately unable to write my blog at the last meeting in June, due to ill health. “Ah, peace at last”, I can practically hear people sighing over the web ether! But I’m afraid the silence has been shattered and I am well and truly back. Well, sort of, I am not actually back working yet, but rather spending my first ever show just relaxing and enjoying it and observing from on high (the Master’s Box). Despite having thought that everyone would have desperately missed me, it does indeed seem that they were just delighted with the peace and quiet. Don’t worry, I shall get my own back by going around with a notebook and writing down lots of things that I normally don’t have time to have a nosey at, that we can improve upon next year. Mwa ha ha!
Well, the first day of the show seemed to be a huge success with an incredible win from The Humdinger in the Coloureds – again! An unbeatable horse, who has won here at Hickstead no less than four times.
Despite some pretty dreadful weather last week we are more than delighted to be able to have gone ahead, in a summer where so many shows have had to cancel. It is the understatement of the century to say that we as a family are hugely relived that we were able to make the investment in improving the surface drainage in the main ring. Phew!
As I type, the last traders are being brought on site. It is a mammoth task in wet weather, as everyone has to be brought in separately to ensure that all the heavy trucks make as little damage as possible to the ground before the show even opens to the public. The exhibitors have all been brilliant and demonstrated the patience of saints, and we are very grateful, so thank you. Despite the obvious lack of sport and spectator entertainment that comes with show cancellations, people often forget about the often worse hit victims – mainly the many exhibitors and suppliers. They all too seem to be delighted that we have managed to go ahead, and are looking forward to a prosperous week – so make sure to come along and support them and spend, spend, spend!
As you can imagine, a wet summer makes a season of super late nights stretch even longer and later, to deal with all the associated problems, and our team here at Hickstead have yet again risen above and beyond. We would simply be lost without them all, and there would be no show to enjoy, so to all of them, a hundred thank yous.
I will be writing every day from my new ‘lady of leisure’ job, but that does mean I’ll have lots of time to get some comedy behind the scenes photos so be sure to check my twitter account (@DaisyBunn) and stay tuned to the blog.
And just before I go… so as not to break with the long held tradition of embarrassing at least one of our wonderful team per day on my blog, today’s prize for hilariousness goes to the lovely Kate in our sponsorship department. The signage arrived for our press office today, with the all important press backdrop displaying our sponsors’ logos. “Oh it was such good value”, said Kate, “You won’t believe it, if was only £17 – really good for a 2m x 1m sign.” And good value indeed it was, if we were in the business of holding press conferences for the Borrowers or mice, however a 200mm x 100mm sign isn’t quite what we had in mind! (Happens to the best of us, Catherine once ordered teenie weenie horse box signs by mixing up her mm’s and cm’s during a very busy day – great for coasters, not so great for being able to spot from the motorway!) Ah ha ha ha ha (cue a begging phone call for an express sign to our very nice signage suppliers this morning!)
Alice had a great time at Hartpury where she competed six horses over six days
Phew... our manically busy competition time is over, so now we actually have a chance to relax and look back on the last couple of weeks.
Hartpury was very successful. With six horses there for six days it was quite busy to say the least, but with Amy and Jo helping us we managed to get it all done, and we had some good results along the way!
Wiz (Wurlizer) was up against very strong competition in the CDI with members of the British Olympic team and all of the Canadian Olympic team competing. We also had the worst of the weather to contend with in the grand prix and Mum had to buy me a replacement pair of gloves as we got so drenched!
I was very pleased with Wiz and we just had one irritating mistake which was a shame but still scored 67.2% to finish 10th, which I was thrilled with in that company. He then surpassed all of my expectations in the grand prix special on Sunday to finish 4th, so we were thrilled with him.
Heading in the right direction
Del (Headmore Delegate) was also super; he was 10th in the inter II on the first day despite the class being held in the indoor arena, which he hates. He then improved for the second day to score his best score at inter II (despite having mistakes in both sets of changes) to finish 6th, so he is definitely going the right way!
Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) also showed improvement finishing 4th in the PSG despite having a couple of green mistakes.
In the young horse classes I also had some great results. My two four-year-olds were impeccably behaved at their first championship show. Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief) was fantastic and didn’t get bothered when the class started 15 minutes late, she went in like a pro and did a lovely test to finish 4th while Tank (Headmore Wimoweh) came 8th. This was even more special as his owner had been able to make the trip down to watch him!
We were also pleased with Roxy (Headmore Roxanne) in the 6-year-olds, especially considering that she hadn’t been to a show for three months. She was a bit ring rusty so missed out on a placing, but we were thrilled with how she went.
My sister is a vet... scary!
As well as competing ourselves we were lucky enough to see Charlotte Dujardin and Laura B’s new freestyle routines for the Olympics. Charlotte’s was breathtaking on the Saturday night using very patriotic music to score over 90%. Laura’s was also fab with Lion King music (although I could be heard saying I did it first!) but it really suits them and it’s looking like London could be a very exciting time.
The other very exciting piece of news is that my sister, Kate, passed her finals with honours. She was one of only seven people out of 200 in her year to achieve it, so you can imagine how proud we all are. It was quite embarrassing, though, as mum burst into tears at Hartpury in front of Charlotte, and then set me off! But huge congratulations to Kate, who is now a vet… scary!