Anna and Diaghilev finishing 10th in the Longines King George V Cup at Hickstead
"First of all, to each and everyone of you who reads my blog, follows me on Facebook or Twitter, a big thank you. I have been having a tough time with the horses and it is wonderful to know I have so many people supporting me.
The year had started so brilliantly. Competing on the tours in Portugal and Spain were fantastic, but when I arrived home I received a major blow that I wasn't expecting - and that was the removal of my top horse Diaghilev from my yard.
This has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through, and I have been so upset by this. My confidence as a whole has really been affected and so has my enthusiasm for the sport.
Without the support of my amazing partner Matt, my always supportive Mum, Dad and family, I really feel I could have hit rock bottom. Confidence is one of the keys to life, and over the last month I have really struggled. Before now I have been unable to write my blog, as I am still struggling to come to terms with everything that has gone on. It just proves in life you never know what is around the corner.
I look to the future and know it is going to be hard to rebuild and produce another horse to the level I had reached with Diaghilev. Blazer B is a very good horse but he does have some very big shoes to fill - especially as he has Unique's (my first international superstar) success to follow as well!
Slowly I am finding my feet again. I am getting to a few shows but it is very difficult to start the whole journey again. Everyone who knows me personally knows the inner drive I have to succeed and know how much I wanted this to be my year. Trouble is, things in life never go directly to plan (this is what I am learning) and my fate lies with another horse to get me to the top of the showjumping rankings.
Hopefully the next few months hold some nice surprises and good results. I have now changed the goal of the year to qualifying Blazer for the famous Foxhunter championship at Horse of the Year Show.
"Hi everyone. I've been off competing on the Atlantic and Mediterranean tours for the past six weeks and, having experienced several international shows during the past few years, I feel I can offer an objective view on the benefits of competing abroad!
Five weeks into my current Tour, and me and my horses were finally adjusting to life on the road. The first four weeks spent in Vilamoura, Portugal on the Atlantic Tour had some good results but I felt that myself and my horses did not enjoy it that much. Having travelled the breadth of Spain to Oliva Nova (South of Valencia) to the Mediterranean Tour, we felt a lot more settled.
So what makes a good show? For me it's several factors.
Good competition. Riders from different countries who are all competitive and want to win.
Ground condition. The going for the horses has a massive influence on results. Personally, I felt at the first show my horses did not particularly like the sand arena and this reflected in their performance. It was very wet and often had puddles. Also, having the lorry park and stabling on hard standing makes a huge difference if the rain decides to come!!
Prizemoney. This does not have to be big but enough to be worth turning up for. We all know it costs a lot to compete horses, let alone when you have to drive half way across Europe!
Atmosphere. Commentators and the crowd play a massive part. I love a good jump-off, when people start whistling at the competitors to go faster!
Longevity. The more years a show has been running, the more years the organisers have had to refine it.
The horses acclimatised perfectly in Spain, and settled into their quieter stables while I settled into my lovely little apartment. Some good results, good going for the horses coupled with sunshine made my life very enjoyable!
Take care and keep following me on Facebook & Twitter!"
"Hope you are all wintering well and you haven't given up the ghost on our great British weather! Things have been crazy here as usual! Since my last blog lots has happened...
A successful trip to Patchetts Development Show proved to be a worthwhile trip, Athene H (Dutch) qualified for the winter small Grand Prix and the Blue Chip B/C finals. To top it off, he gained qualification for the Winter Novice Final which is held at the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead. He felt just amazing, the B/C class was his first time at this level and he just made it feel so easy. The New Priory Stud's Harlequin Joe also had a third in the opening day's 1.30m, plus he won the Blue Chip B/C and qualified for the Winter B/C final, which is also at the Royal International! This was the first time I have ever qualified a horse for Hickstead so to gain two tickets in three days was very exciting.
My trip to Patchetts also included another first time experience for me - a visit to Toby Carvery. I was amazed, I have never seen people eat so much in my whole life... A huge buffet of every kind of meat and veg you could imagine. When queuing for this feast. I saw some very large people putting rather a lot of food on there plate, while thinking to myself that I could not believe how greedy people were and the food on there plate was enough to feed a whole family, I realised I actually had said it out loud! Thankfully they didn't hear, though the lady next to me then thought it was then appropriate to show me her very small portion of food and agreed with my statement.
Christmas came early for me this year with the arrival of a new horse that Spencer and I purchased. Derby is a five-year-old bay stallion by the great sire Verdi. His mother line is Voltaire/Tangelo and he has a fantastic temperament. He had been competing in low level BSJA and was actually seventh in last years BYEH final. Derby had very quickly settled into our yard and has already had some good placings, including qualifying for the Blue Chip championships at Hartpury. He has already attracted a lot of attention from the few shows he has been to, but will be kept to run alongside Disco, my other five-year-old.
The guys on my yard have all been working hard getting ready for our big move. It's amazing how much stuff you gather over the years, so I think the move is coming at the right time. We have been trying to keep our numbers of horses down until we leave but typically we have resulted in bringing all the young horses in from the fields as they keep getting foot abscesses. Hence we are full and at bursting point.
As quickly as he came back, Dutch (Athene H) has sadly gone back home again, his owner has recently built a new yard at home and has employed a groom, so wanted him back, fortunately only 15 minutes away from our new property so hopefully I will still get to compete him.
Well guys, that's a quick round up of Jay's world. Next time I will fill you all in with details of our big move, which is just around the corner!"
Jay is delighted to have his beloved Athene H back, known as Dutch.
Hope you have all been keeping well and warm. I am sorry it's been a while, but I have been crazy busy with shows and our new property development.
Our new yard is coming on well. Even though it is still a building site, every time we go and visit something has changed. My new outdoor arena is finished and the windows and stable partitions start going in soon. Now we just have to hope and pray that the weather stays dry, so that nothing interrupts our very tight schedule.
My cold weather wear is now well and truly out from the back of the wardrobe and we have got nearly all of our young horses in the barn for winter. Harry (Candy Windsor), my favourite foal from this year, has been really poorly and at times looked like we was going to lose him. Fortunately, he is looking much better so we have decided to change his name to Candy Soldier, which seems far more fitting for this brave little chap.
A surprise trip to New York for my 30th was annoyingly scuppered by Hurricane Sandy. Spencer had arranged a Wednesday to Monday trip which involved a Broadway show and a surprise appearance from my bestie and her fiancé. Sadly we ended up having a weekend at home with Spencer feeling unwell. Even though we never made it away, it did highlight that I have the best boyfriend ever – fact.
An old face returned to stall Halim this month in the form of my old friend Dutch (Athene H), owned by Chantelle Souness. Dutch did a few months jumping with me at the beginning of the year and then went back to his mum's for her to enjoy. However, Chantelle has a had a bit of a career change recently and very kindly decided that he wasn't being used enough and he could come back to me. Exciting!
A crazy kick start to the indoor jumping season involved eight horses staying at the Hand for four days. On two of these days I ended riding 10 horses! Each day started at 9:00am and I think that three out of the four days we finished jumping past midnight. As keen and hungry as I am for success, this nearly finished me off, mentally and physically – especially now I have hit my thirties!. All the horses jumped well, and we gained a few more tickets for the Blue Chip showjumping championships.
The following week I took four horses to Addington for the premier show, which was not as successful, but still well worth the trip. Bob Ellis's courses were fantastic and both my horses and I learnt a lot.
Anna's horses are getting to enjoy some down time in the field
"An often overlooked part of the horsey calendar is the long (and cold) winter break. It's a time that is far more important to a competitive horse's development than most realise. We all need a holiday at some point to escape the rigours of work/life/people - whatever the case may be. So with this in mind, my horses are in the middle of a holiday and I have one booked for January! I am still working hard with the younger horses but when you have a horse like Diaghilev out competing at the highest level it takes a lot of work to keep them at their physical peak. It's worth bearing in mind that the horses' muscle development and growth occurs at rest, not during activity.
I have just bought myself a beautiful grade A mare. This is the first graded horse I have ever bought! Usually I buy a three- to five-year-old and bring them on, so by eight or nine years old I know them inside out and we have a formidable partnership. This is a big risk for me but after much deliberation I have decided its the best way forward. With the right horse (hopefully) turning up!
Most top riders have at least three top horses, I have always only ever had one at a time. In simplistic terms, if I had just two Diaghilev's last year then currently I would be ranked around 13th/14th in the country. The way in which the British Showjumping system works means you do really have to have more than one good horse to be competitive, otherwise your one good horse ends up doing too much. I have taken a chance on the new horse as she has not competed for three years, she is only 10 and has been caught up in an owners' dispute. I am really hoping for a good second horse to Diaghilev - if she turns out to be better than that then I will be delighted. Watch this space.
With all this excitement going on, I am looking forward to next spring already, when all the horses will be well rested and good to go. Just wish for now the weather would cheer up a bit, our fields are so wet. Don't know how everyone is coping with this?! It sure is a struggle."
So in my last blog I was thrilled with my boys’ first event, and since then the boys have excelled themselves again. This time Master Eli and Andreas did the Novice at Moreton Morrell College. Eli was a little fresh in his dressage this time, but managed to jump another double clear to finish just outside the top ten - his eight time faults cost him a win but being only five-years-old that can wait for another day!
Alfie kept a 100% success rate by winning his section. Both boys gave me fantastic rides so yet again I was a very proud dad! The only shocking thing to happen was after Eli's cross-country, a random stranger approached me, telling me that I had been 'randomly selected'. At this point I thought I had been singled out for a special prize, sadly it wasn't, it was a dope testing for my horse. This came as a bit of a shock and bad timing as I had to get ready for Alfie's dressage. Karen - my groom on this day - has done five Olympic Games and pretty much every event in the world and had never had a dope test done on any of her horses in national competition.
As well as my eventing I have been going out to some dressage competitions. Last Wednesday I took three horses to Hunters Dressage in Cirencester. I rode Broadlands Rossini in two Advanced Mediums, Andreas in two Elementary classes and Dr Jekyll in two Novice classes. I managed to win five out of the six classes and only lost the sixth due to a sat nav issue, so ended up second. Not bad for a day’s work, but I was very glad to see my bed at the end of the day.
I have recently started riding some jumping horses for the New Priory Stud. In a few outings I have already notch up a win and some placings on their lovely young horses. They have some very exciting babies and I am looking forward to my relationship with the team from the stud. Check out their website.
The work on our new place has taken place and is changing every time we go there. Sadly they are still only at the stage of clearing and breaking up concrete but the change already is unreal. The new yard will be beautiful and have fantastic facilities. It will be great to be able to produce our own horses from foaling down to top competition horses.
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?
What a six months I have had! At the start of the year I had three main aims - to win an International Stairway, win a 3* Grand Prix, and to compete at Horse of the Year Show with the younger horses. I have ticked all three boxes so I am a happy lady!
Back in March I was introduced to a product called the Infinity Pro Power Band, and I have been wearing this band on my wrist ever since. I was drawn to the numerous things that the band is meant to help with, especially better balance and more focus. Could it be the secret to my success this year?! I am not sure but I won't be taking it off to find out!
I can not thank my sponsors NAF (Natural Animal Feeds) enough. This year they have supported myself and my horses. Diaghilev, Blazer B and Chesterfield have all been competing on Super-Flex, and my results speak for themselves. NAF do some other good products too, in fact our dog is now on the canine form.
After HOYS I am now going to give my older horses a winter holiday - and have one myself! I will then concentrate through the winter months on my younger horses. I have two five-year-olds who have done very little due to my commitments with Diaghilev. They will now get my full attention and hopefully by the spring big improvements will be seen. I have just taken over the ride on another five-year-old from Adrian Whiteway. He has been riding him for me as he was extremely tricky to break in. The horse has finally come the other side of this and is now looking fabulous, jumping consistently double clear around Newcomers (1.10m). Without Adrian I don't think the horse would have ever made it to a show. I am very grateful for all his hard work and for the wonderful job he has done with the horse. Next year if I get caught up with the bigger shows you may see Adrian competing some of my horses around the National circuit.
Horse of the Year Show is just around the corner. It is always a show I very much look forward to. I am currently in talks with clothing company Joshua Jones (who made my shirt in the above picture) so I may be spotted at HOYS in some of the latest equestrian fashion. I cannot wait.