Show producer Louise Bell finally gets round to sitting her HGV test...
The last two months have been pretty crazy for me and not everything has gone according to 'the plan'!
I had an amazing time at the Espayo National Dressage Championships. Fantastic dressage and fantastic friends there, and what a fab show! Met all sorts of people I know from hunting, showing, jumping and - of course - dressage. The weather was great too and I can't wait for next year.
After meaning to take my HGV test for the past 15 years and never finding the time to do it, I finally did - and I passed! So I am officially a Yorkie Bar Trucker. I am not convinced a tattoo would work for me but I'm more excited that I qualify to have one!
So to finally be able to drive my big truck has been amazing and I got straight to it and drove to Sollihull for a four day Premier Show, to warm up for HOYS. All went well and I thought, if my horses could go as well at Birmingham, I'd be very happy.
But anyone who knows horses knows there are always off days, and they normally arrive when you want them the least. After being great in the collecting ring at HOYS, when jumping under those very white bright lights I found both my horses to be quite wary of all the dressing of the fences - this distracted them and they were not really concentrating on jumping the fences... Which meant rails fell. It was not just my horses - there was only one clear round out of 40 starters, so it was a shame for many of us. But hey ho, that's HOYS - anything can happen!
So it's back to the dressage for now and working towards great things. Bring on next showing season - I will have a couple of new faces to bring out, so I suppose I better start to break one of them in... A homebred I'm most excited about..
Read show producer Louise Bell's first blog for Horse & Country, in which she juggles her time between dressage, showing and Bon Jovi!
June has been a pretty mega month really, with both horses and friends...
Into The Blue kicked it off with winning the Supreme Working Hunter championship - and his HOYS ticket to boot - at the Midland Counties show, where the novices proved that they're all really getting to know their jobs well too. I have had a couple of unlucky classes with W Get Smart in his workers, as he has had two seconds and he really should be winning to get his HOYS ticket. I decided I was trying too hard and also felt I needed to get cracking with moving up a step in the dressage and giving Advanced Medium a go... He has now won two out of two classes, and qualified for the Regionals at Advanced Medium as well as Medium - very exciting news! So back to the working hunters for a bit for fun.
I also had a great time at the Hickstead Dressage Masters, apart from forgetting my test! I pulled it back together to come eighth and enjoyed a great time down there with old and new friends.
Then back I went to Hickstead on the Saturday for the working hunters, and that was a little interesting. My young horse Jack hesitated at the open ditch and managed to somehow fall in it! Both horse and rider were fine and carried on to finish the course in style. Into The Blue jumped a copybook round until I strolled along a little to a style and knocked a rail off. Total jockey error, and such a shame as he deserved to win that really. Better riding needed for the next time.
In between me doing all these fab horse shows, I managed to get to see the amazing Jon Bon Jovi at Villa Park with Maria Eilberg. We had an amazing time.
So we have worked hard and played hard too. I’ve been busy studying for my HGV theory test too, and I also may need to catch up on sleep as I have had basically none for a month. July starts off with Hartpury so the next month I'm sure is equally as busy! Maybe a little rest in August? Would be nice!"
So this month I have had a birthday, hosted my first public event, spent nearly a week at HOYS... and we are only half way through the month!
First up, my charity event with Carl Hester. My job was to interview Carl in front of a few hundred people to help raise money for charity. Sounded easy enough, after all I do it on camera all the time! The reality was a rather posh hotel in London and a cinema room full of people and a very sweaty, nervous me. The nerves were not helped when I looked up to find Olympic medal winner Jane Holderness-Roddam, Martin Clunes and the bass guitarist for Dire Staits - John Issley - all sat comfortably in the audience, while on stage the sweating continued. I was somewhat eased when Carl insisted we had wine on the table and people actually laughed at my opening gambit.
I need not have worried. Carl was funny, witty and his brilliant self, and after an hour and half people were still captivated by his marvellous – and surprisingly honest - stories.
Then it was off to Birmingham for the Horse of the Year Show and four days of running around under strip lighting trying to get enough footage for Rudall’s Round-up: HOYS (on H&C Monday 22 October at 8.30pm), while keeping the website, facebook and twitter up to date with the showing and show jumping classes – so not much then! Victoria Spicer and I were busy but we still had time for a glass of bubbles with friends and a catch up with Scott Brash on his Olympic success. No, I couldn’t resist asking how he is getting on with the ladies; it was just too easy to wind him up. He got his revenge though by making a gesture at the camera that certainly isn't suitable for a pre-watershed show.
I also interviewed several of the showing elite and am finally getting a grip of the ins and outs of the showing world. I can just about tell my M&M’s from my Maxi Cobs, and met a rather lovely ex-racehorse called Roger. Well, Roger was lovely until he snorted all over me, ruining a rather lovely white top. No amount of washing has got the offending black snot out – Roger, now you're a HOYS champion, you owe me a new top. Note to self - showing horses are covered in products that are simply not suited to a TV presenters wardrobe!
Lots coming up over the next few weeks so keep tuning into to H&C (Sky280) for all the backstage gossip from Rudall’s Round-up and I hope you enjoyed the heel kick challenge from the Nationals... Why not have a go and post the videos to our Facebook wall?
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!
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!)
Well the season started really well and then sadly had a dip around my favourite show Royal Windsor, coming home from there with a bag of blue ribbons instead of red! Dont really know why as the horses and ponies went beautifully as ever.
Thankfully we are now back on track with a hatrick of major wins for the fabulous hunter Major Moylaw, most recently being awarded the reserve supreme at the North of England summer show to the prolific Comberton Clancy (look out Jayne and Clancy - I am going to beat you somewhere)!
All three generations of the family are having a good run actually with Dad winning a super hunter championship on Gilly's Boy and Alice claiming the mountain & moorland working hunter pony championship with Tynymor Twm sion Catti (aka Shaun) at the Three Counties Show. Malvern is definitely Alice's lucky showground, getting two Royal International tickets there in March and now a HOYS one. We will be returning there in August for the National Pony Show with high hopes.
Until this year I had not been involved with the pony scene at such a high level since I rode in pony classes myself many moons ago. What a different world it is to the horses! The standard right down the line is absolutely superb and I find myself delighted with consistently being placed highly. That would not do in the hunter ranks - it is all about winning. Alice (age 10) is turning into a really super little rider, gaining high marks for her show, and her ring craft is improving all the time. If you think I sound like a proud mother then you're right, I am. Oscar and Ginger Boy are both having a great seaon and we will keep pulling out good performances in search of more HOYS tickets.
I have seen two exemplary displays of ride judge riding this year from Lizzy Murray and Kelsa Sears. I was lucky to win under both these judges but that is not why I write this. Anyone looking to become a ride judge watch these two ladies - they know exactly how to do it.
The four-year-olds have been frustrating to produce this year with several shows taking the classes off and several local shows being cancelled due to the non existant summer we are having. However, I started the season with four horses and they have all managed to get out and win. I am happy about that but would like to have been able to do a bit more with them really. The modern showground is not ideal for giving experience as we seem to have less and less space.
One of my favourite shows Great Yorkshire is fast appoaching so I am hoping to keep the luck with me.
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.
"This is meant to be our quiet time... Not a bit of it! Since having a few days away from the yard over Christmas, January has been packed with busy days. I have had my most enjoyable season hunting for years and this has added to the yard being busy as there is a days work to catch up on from being out of action for the day. My very special horse King, who is now for sale on HorseQuest, has made this winter lots of fun. The children have hunted like demons and made me very proud - jumping places that I could scarcely believe.
Busy breaking season
The three-year-olds are now four, which brings with it higher expectations. It seems no longer acceptable to not be broken so thankfully I only have one more heavyweight hunter to start next week. He has always been a pleasant character since buying him as a two-year-old, so I hope he will be a quick and easy project. This winter I have broken one 153 show hunter pony, one lightweight hunter (now sold to Lucinda Henson), two middleweight hunters, one heavyweight hunter and two small riding horses (one sold to John King and John Bland, to be produced by Jayne Webber in the Carol Cardo yard). I also have a lovely small hack who is now five (left) - he is coming along nicely now. He had run in Ireland so had not had any flat schooling as such but he is taking to nice new life well and I have high hopes for him as a hack and in Retraining of Racehorses show classes.
I have sold a lot of my established stars of 2011 so 2012 will be an interesting year. I have started to find out a few judges for the early shows, as it is so important to have an accomplished ride judge for young horses. I have a lot of novice horses for this season and their progression is the thing that really gives me huge pleasure. I have two new lovely lightweight hunters who have just started work to prepare for the early shows and I look forward to showing them. I do also welcome back some of the horses sold in 2011 to ride in the ring and to help their new owners achieve on them and enjoy the show circuit. As usual, most of the horses are for sale so I have been using my network to tell people about them and hopefully find owners for them to enjoy!"
"The 2011 show season was probably my best season ever. Winning the hunter championship at both the Longines Royal International Horse Show and the National Hunter Show on Major Moylaw, a stunning chestnut heavyweight belonging to Alan and Isobel Hall, was amazing. I did go to HOYS full of hope that he might win there, but it was not to be.
I was not very well at this year's show, so it was hard to enjoy myself partying as well as riding the way we all like to at HOYS. But my week picked up on the Friday with a championship win in the Mobile Phones 4 Business Ladies Hunter of the Year class. My horse Jonas O'Shannon came to me in May of this year and I bought him thinking he would make a nice ladies horse. He is only five years old so it was a very big achievement for a young horse, and I was delighted with how he took everything in his stride. It was my first title win at HOYS, and trotting down the centre line was as big a thrill as I hoped for.
Since finishing the season at HOYS, the focus at my Oxfordshire yard has changed a lot. We sold a lot of my established show horses this Autumn, and I wish their new owners lots of luck next season.
We are now busy with the breaking of the three-year-olds, and I have a number of exciting show horses for 2012. Having been to Ireland on shopping trips in September and October, it is now time to get cracking as next season will be here all too quickly.
Two of the three year old horses I bought in Ireland are to make riding horses - a small riding horse called Ava, who is by Cult Hero, and a large riding horse called Suzy, by the stallion Sylvano. Both have been really easy to break, and they are now ready to go on to new homes.
Ava was amazingly straightforward. From first putting the saddle on and lying across her on Monday morning, she was trotting with me in our small arena by Friday. By the following Friday she was cantering and riding sweetly round the large menage. Quite incredible - I hope they are all going to be as easy as her!
I have also got a four-year-old riding horse, by the Thoroughbred Millenry - who won the St Ledger - back up following a summer in the field to mature. He is really exciting and has been sold to lovely new owners, so I'm looking forward to bringing him out next season.
Keeping up with the children
Hunting has been particularly pleasant this year, as I have a lovely horse to ride called King. He, like all of them, is for sale but I would love to keep him for the Christmas holidays so I can take him hunting with my two children Harry and Alice. They both have cracking ponies so I need to be well mounted to keep up! The ground has been so dry it is a pleasure to ride on, and not having filthy horses to wash of in the dark is always a bonus."