"I've had a brilliant week as was my birthday on Monday. I won't say how old I am, but at this age I'm the right side of 35 so birthdays are still reasonably pleasurable, but soon won't be I'm sure!
I spent the day in style at Patchetts with Jasper, Kenny and Red doing dressage. As Jasper had not been out for a while I thought he may need a quiet competition. We arrived slightly late as the M25 was not kind to us and didn't have long to warm up, hence my low score in the first novice with Red, but after a good warm up for the second class we scored 67%, much more respectable. He is coming on in leaps and bounds now. Jasper and Kenny were both excellent. The tests were indoors so slightly easier than doing the tests outdoors but were still very spooky with mirrors, etc. I rode Jasper in a double bridle as he can sometimes be quite strong, so I can't set him up properly for the movements at times in a snaffle. I use these tests purely for training so would sacrifice movements to get better future tests, this however was not necessary as they both behaved very well - although Kenny is still not keen on halting! Jasper scored 70% in the first class and Ken 69% in both and Jasper 73% in the second class. We still got beaten though into second and third! I had a couple of drinks down our local pub but nothing too exciting as I was absolutely shattered!
Working on me
We had one day at home and then left for Stuart Harvey's on Wednesday with five horses for lessons. I took all the horses who were going to Oasby, Red, Jasper, Kenny, Bert and Harry (who is still on the waiting list for Le Lion). Stuart helped me with the same trend I have on all of them: potentially not enough leg on at times. We jumped a grid and courses, working on me more than the horses which is great. I have plenty of things to work on now.
I had a rare treat on Thursday evening when my best friends came and took me out for my birthday celebration. This night was considerably heavier than monday, I knew why I'd nearly stopped drinking on Friday! No more for a while!
We went to Oasby on Saturday lunchtime as I decided to work all the horses there before competing on Sunday. The weather was horrible, cold and raining. But by all accounts the ground was quite firm on Saturday so the rain made it very good on Sunday. I've not been to Oasby for years; the courses were good, the novice had a few questions and the intermediate would be a good first timer. The ground was pretty perfect so great for my boys off to Pau.
A clean record for Bertie
We started at 8am so I had to be there at 7; it was still dark and the grass had a frost on it - I must admit I won't miss this! This was my last event in England, the weather (once the sun came out) was very kind to us but made it rather shadowy and spooky in places. Bert and Imp both did good tests, Bert needs more strength in general to improve his canter but is so much more relaxed now. Imp found the ground quite firm with the frost and scored his first test over 30 for as long as I can remember! They jumped well in the SJ, but I had one down on Bertie, but Imp went clear. Bertie went first xc, he was as usual perfect to ride. I don't wear a watch specifically as I would like to go at the pace he needs to run at rather than chasing places. He had one time fault and finished seventh. I am delighted with him, he hasn't had an xc penalty ever and plan to keep his record clean next year!
Imp however is not so reliable! We set off well xc, he is so much better and more confident and I think he lulls me into a false sense of security. He jumped so boldly over the brush before the water I thought he would jump straight in, but alas he stopped and catapulted me out of the saddle but luckily not into the freezing water! My air jacket went off and the cushioning from the fall is superb. How anyone cannot wear one does make me wonder why not as they do save collar bones, bruising and for me my lower back as I used to get quite sore from falls and not just a little stiff. Once inflated though it does take a long time to go down so I left it with the jump judge and carried on to finish. I will get there with him - we'll work on one fence on the course, drag hunting and water schooling.
Fully fit Jasper and Ken
Jasper and Kenny are at full fitness now so were nearly excellent in their tests. The commentator was very excited just at the times I didn't need him to be, but we still got 28 with Jasper and 34 with Kenny. Red is constantly improving but a little strong this time so I wasn't as accurate as I would have liked to have been! They all jumped clear in the show jumping, Jasper loved it and Kenny jumped very well. I have his bit with two reins now, so far he prefers it.
I rode Jasper first xc, and he started perfectly, no problems there anymore I am certain! He was fabulous, I ran him reasonably quickly but as his aim is Pau so this was for practice and not to go too fast. He won the section though, his fourth win in a row - I so hope Pau is our fifth! Kenny was great, I thought I was going fast enough but apparently not and had a few time faults to come ninth. These tracks are quite small for him though, he's not a horse who needs easy runs, he needs challenges! Red was the last of my rides, he was superb, I rode him in a Pelham to gain more control which worked perfectly until the end where he took off with me and I was rather out of control! I think this was simply because the fences weren't big enough! He only had two time faults, he is quick! He finished third, really pleased and look forward to next year with him as he is one for the future.
A good season
We left Oasby having had a very good season so far. Many of my friends are now finished, but I'm of course not. I had hoped to get to Lion but this seems incredibly unlikely sadly, he would've had a good chance I'm certain. I shall have to do well at Pau to make up for this disappointment! I cannot wait and nor can Jasper!!"
"Another week, packed full as usual! Some of the horses were doing their last event so I made a real hard push to get the last one right - it's always good to end on a high!
Ely ely worth it
We came back from Osberton via Little Downham as the weather reports were pretty good from that part of the country! When I woke up on Monday morning to rain I nearly had a sense of humour failure as did Sophie who thought I must be barking mad to load and go to Ely, but thought I’d see how it was as mostly the ground can take some serious rain... Well I wasn't disappointed as the ground was very good; amazing how it can cope with the extreme wet. Thank goodness we looked, unlike many who didn't even turn up, they missed out.
I had Amber and Harry in the OI, they both did good tests, 30 and 31. So pleased with Amber we seem to have nearly cracked the dressage. Maybe the changes will upset her again next year, but we'll try and be very careful introducing them again. She jumped a beautiful clear showjumping round which was well up to height and with lots of parallels. Harry had the first down for some unknown reason and then jumped the best round he's ever jumped. He was superb and felt incredibly classy; he really is exciting for the future.
An uncharacteristic blip
I set off XC with Amber and she jumped the first four fences very well, as did she the fence before the water but proceeded to run straight past the fence in the water which is most unlike her. She only ever runs out if I’ve made a mistake and thought that I hadn't or she hadn't. When I walked the course I was worried that they wouldn't focus on the fence as there were so many around it, a pre novice and advanced fence and I think this is what made the difference. I also didn't make the 4 strides easily and as I’ve jumped this fence several times was very surprised. There were a few mistakes at that fence and I’m convinced that is the problem. So I chatted with Bob who builds the course and he too agreed so I think maybe this will be changed next year or I shall ride the fence as I did with Harry.
Amber went on superbly, I circled and was given another 20 penalties later in the course which I didn't dispute as wasn't then competitive, but sadly has blotted her very good record this year. Harry was brilliant all the way around the course which I think is strong enough for an intermediate. I put five strides in from the rails to the fence in the water to make sure he had seen it and this was fine. He jumped effortlessly around the course, it is hard to believe he's only seven. We finished ninth in a hot section so was very pleased - the jump down cost me sixth place though! I left happy they'd had a good run, potentially their last. Harry is still top of the wait list for Lion so we shall see...
Lodge Farm jolly
I took a few to Lodge Farm on Wednesday. I thought Amber needed a jolly and I don't like to finish on a slightly bad note. Kenny went for a little school after Blenheim, Imp to practise for Pulborough and Bomber and Brian ditto. It was remarkable how the ground had held up to the rain; there were quite a few puddles around that the youngsters weren't overly keen on, but quickly got used to them. Imp especially felt like he enjoyed himself.
Pulborough pays off
Off to Pulborough and another early start. Left at 6am on Saturday with Bomber and Kenny, and Jasper and Bambi to school. Bomber was excellent, a little distracted in the dressage but pretty good. He was very good in the show jumping and was clear, much better than last time. He was superb XC, much more grown up and again was clear. We weren't competitive as they didn't have an open intro section but he would've been 5th. A good way to end his season. He will now holiday and hopefully grow! He is such a lovely horse and jumper it would be brilliant if he did become tall enough for me to keep.
No rest for the wicked
We again left at some unsociable hour on Sunday with Bambi, Bertie, Imp and Brian. Bambi was just doing the dressage and jumping as I felt her fitness wasn't quite as I’d like to run XC. She did a good test, 31 and was a little exuberant in the showjumping and had one down but jumped well. Bertie performed a very nice test but is definitely better in the bigger arena as I have more room to help his balance. He scored 35, also had one down, was superb as usual XC, clear and stylish.
Imp was his usual brilliant self in the dressage, scored 21. He also had a fence down! Set off XC superbly, we jumped all the difficult fences really well and felt confident and happy. I perhaps softened too much for the second to last fence which were angled houses and the cheeky monkey ran out! He is hilarious, far too intelligent! I am still delighted though as he is a different horse XC, I am confident we'll keep progressing.
Brian was excellent all day, 28 dressage, still one down! But perfect xc and we finished second. He too now goes on holiday to grow! He is still for sale but I’m happy to keep him as he is so lovely to have around.
The countdown is on to Pau and the end of the season, but as long as the weather stays like this weekend and not last weekend I could keep going forever!"
“We have had the most exceptional week of rain that I can remember having for a very long time. I left on Tuesday lunchtime forOsberton after working all the horses that were to be left behind. On the lorry we had Bertie doing the six-year-old championship, Amber doing the 2*, Harry doing the seven-year-old championship and Chataigne Filice (Red) doing the 1*.
Unregulated warm ups
I was looking forward to this week as I have some lovely young horses and I thought they could be quite competitive. When we arrived the weather was dry and quite cold, this was soon about to change! Wednesday lunchtime the heavens opened and we had torrential rain for about five hours and I'm not quite sure why but competitors were allowed to work their horses in the final dressage warm up area during the rain. The result was there were very few places to work and the worst being the final warm up area just before your test. I appreciate they were lacking space but with so many entries I think next year they may need to think about regulating warm up areas.
Error of course
Luckily Thursday was a glorious day, the sun shone and the weather was quite warm and it all started to dry out - including my clothes from the previous day! Amber was the first to do her dressage; she started her test beautifully but I made an uncharacteristic error and forgot my halt and rein back - the first time I have forgotten my test at a three day - this broke the rhythm of the test slightly, and we ended up scoring 52.8, but I knew it should've been more of a 46/47 which would of put me more in contention. Bertie performed his six-year-old test in the afternoon; he is a little green still at this level and this was his first test in sitting trot and in a long arena. He couldn't have tried harder, he has such a good attitude; he scored some really good marks, just losing marks for his lack of strength and self carriage in some of the movements. He scored a very respectable 51.2.
Weather warning for Red
There was another weather warning for Friday, it was dull until eleven and then horrendous wind and rain. Red was on at 9 o’clock in the morning so conditions still weren't too bad. He warmed up really well and tried hard in his test he just needs to relax more and a winter of dressage to train and perfect things. He scored 57.7 but I was pleased with him as I know he is one for the future. Harry had the worst of the conditions, by now the dressage arena was very muddy and deep. The flags around the outside were flapping and making a lot of noise, but this didn't seem to faze him too much. He was slightly tense in the test but generally did a very nice test with a couple of small mistakes. I was pleased with him, he scored a 49.9 and I thought for a young horse he coped incredibly well with the conditions, I was aiming for a 45 but this really wasn't possible in view of the weather.
Rain, rain, rain
It rained and it rained! I thought that it might be cancelled but it seemed to carry on. I think anywhere else would have been cancelled but Osberton has sandy soil. Saturday did dry out a bit. The courses were fairly saturated and on Friday night’s walk, I decided I would like to run but I would make my final decision when I could see how it was riding in the morning. Both courses I thought were straight forward and good first timers but reasonably long. The only fence that looked like it might cause some trouble was a coffin but this was probably the most difficult fence on the course.
The sun was shining Saturday, the ground was still very wet, but I ran Red who was brilliant but a little strong. The fences were quite small for him so he didn't back off. I will try a different bit next time! He must be a very fast horse as I didn't feel I ever had to push him and I was very careful through the woods as they were bottomless and he only came back with 2.4 time faults. I show jumped Bertie but warmed up in what only can be described as a ploughed field so I tried not to jump too many fences and save him for the ring. He jumped a brilliant clear and moved up quite a few places.
Disappointing ground management
I went out to inspect the 2* course and was very disappointed that they hadn't moved the string over, where possible, to fresh ground. It was very heavy ground for at least three to four minutes of the course and I decided it was too bigger risk to run my potential champions. I believe I made the right decision; the horses were coming back tired even though they had taken a minute off the course. I was bitterly disappointed though because not only did it cost a lot to get there, I also needed Amber's 2* qualification. My mind was soon taken off Osberton though as we watched the WEG XC in Ruth Edge's lorry. It looked very big and long but it has to be said the British horses and riders were in a class of their own. I can't help hoping that one of my up and coming horses will develop into a team horse.
Waterpoofs for trot up
We woke up on Sunday morning to some more torrential rain! We had heard on the forecast it was going to be bad but I couldn't believe how bad it was. I have never had to wear full waterproofs to trot up in until now! I walked the 1* show jumping and thought the ground had held up quite well but I was proved wrong; it was absolutely revolting and I had to hunt Red round. He jumped an amazing clear round which unbelievably pulled me up 42 places to 22nd. I really felt for the amateur riders trying to get their qualifications. For many, the week resulted in not getting their qualification with too many fences down. I had already made the decision I wasn't running Bertie but luckily we riders voted that we should cancel the event and get a full refund, which was some consolation. We waited for a tow to get out the lorry park which was absolutely destroyed. I must admit we were happy to see the back of Osberton and make our way to collect two four-year-olds owned by Joanna Wiggins that I am having for a month to access. Let's hope for everybody's sake the rain ceases soon! And a massive congratulations to team GB for their great success again.”
“The build up to Pau is going to be quite busy and intense. I’ve a lot to cram into the few weeks! I am on a serious health kick and have nearly cut out all alcohol and am cycling like crazy around the forest again and running around my XC courses. I plan to be the fittest I’ve ever been. I'm also doing a good job of avoiding the dreaded cold that everybody seems to have and am determined to keep it away.
Lessons with Anna
I went to Bury Farm to have some incredibly valuable lessons with Anna Ross Davies on Monday. We worked on various different things with the horses. Bertie has to learn to stay in a better self carriage and I have to let him make mistakes so I can correct them and therefore he can learn the correct way quicker. His transitions improved and he did some lovely work. Amber was basically the same; we also worked on the preparations for movements in the test at Osberton, correcting her when she was too strong/ keen. Harry’s lesson was perfect really - he tries so hard, Anna calls him the school prefect! Red had his first lesson with Anna; he responded very well, as he can draw back and shorten the neck, we were constantly trying to stretch him and allow him to. He became more confident as the lesson went on. We have lots to work on before Osberton but he responded so well I am sure his test will be pretty good!
The ground has continued to be brilliant out in the fields so I have been cantering them all for Osberton. Jasper has been cantering well and Kenny also started again the end of this week, ready for Pau. Jasper is surprisingly fit; trotting around the hills really must get their lungs going as they are in good health now! He can do three times around the field quite happily; I am aiming for five ideally by the end of October so this should be achievable. At last the splint looks and feels hard and settled so time to crack on which is very exciting, life without Jasper working hard is just not the same.
A swim for Jasper
I had a midweek trip back to Newmarket to see my family and friends so took some horses with me. I swam Jasper to aid his fitness, it does make him blow hard as he is a very fast swimmer, but it doesn't take him long to recover, unlike galloping. However, it's good to keep it up as you never know when you may not be able to gallop - horses always manage to injure themselves at the most inconvenient times! We collected a mare from Newmarket for Gabriella, which is going to point to point again after a while off. They are collecting pointers at the moment so it will be fun to follow them over the winter!
My little pony!
I have also ridden my first pony for years! Tashe Atkinsen has a lovely bay eventing pony which needs jumping, so I gladly offered. He is quite scopey and brave so it’s good fun; nice to be able to just enjoy riding for fun, rather than permanently having goals. This is to be a job for a while so it will also be satisfying to see improvement in him.
An outing to the South of England
We went to the South of England event this weekend, a relatively local one now for me. The ground was superb and was nice to jump in the main arena which had some atmosphere and was a reasonable size. I had Bertie in the novice, he never fails to please! He was so improved from his lesson and the weeks work and performed a very relaxed test to score 30. He then jumped his usual double clear and finished fourth. I am so pleased with him, he is incredibly brave, and never questions me which is fantastic. A good placing too as the section was very competitive.
Red was in the open novice, as was Harry. I decided Harry needed a XC run as he has Osberton 2* next week and hasn't run since Breda, so I wanted to make sure he was as ready as he could be. He was a little fresh in his test, (he is very fit now and a little cheeky!) scoring 30. Red was much more relaxed and the outline was altogether softer and scored 33. A vast improvement from his Purstons' mark. He then went on to jump a lovely show jumping round but just touched the last, but his xc was again faultless. He will be very reliable and quick, a perfect combination for a very good event horse. He finished seventh and Harry jumped double clear and finished fifth. I had three time faults which cost me second, but the aim was the bigger picture of next week. All these horses are destined for far better things than a good novice placing.
We went back the next day with Amber, who was just to do dressage as she too is at Osberton. She performed her best test for a while and scored 26.4, joint lead! I hadn't been planning to jump her at all, so hadn't since Breda which showed when we had a fence down. She was slightly too keen and had the front bar of a parallel which is most unlike her. I withdrew her, even though the ground was good, she has already run around that track and didn't need to again. I made the most of returning though by filling the lorry with ones to work. It was well worthwhile, I schooled Kenny and Jasper in the 2* arena which had the flowers up still. It was so good to school them quietly in the arena without pressure; all horses need this especially my two red heads that have a tendency to get excited! I also took Nelson to school. He has grown so much that I have taken him very carefully, he won't be ready this year to event, and I’m in no hurry as he is a lovely horse. He has super paces and a very good brain; he really wants to please, so should be exciting to start next year. I rode Bomber too; he needs as much exposure as possible to the outside world! He is improving all the time but can get distracted if there is a lot going on, hopefully soon he will be bored by it all!
A good weekend again, all set for next week hopefully! My team of horses are really coming along, and it’s great to be having a good season; I’ll be doing my best to keep the good results coming!”
“Kenny will be at a 4* soon though as he got his qualification at Blenheim. This is what I have been after for the last year with him. It seems crazy to think he is ready for a 4* but if he didn’t get the result he needed at Blenheim he would have to do another 2* as that had nearly run out! Luckily, the extra miles don’t need to go on his legs now. I was disappointed leaving Blenheim realising that I still can’t get into Badminton as he didn’t finish in the top 25 per cent, but shouldn’t be as it was the qualification we were after and this was achieved. I am hoping to take him to Pau 4* this year, he has only ever done five three day events and has been run carefully, so he shouldn’t be over run. Very exciting, I now have two 4* horses!
Kenny gets used to the crowd
Kenny is getting used to the big atmospheres too now; he was so much more settled. He worked really well before his dressage and I thought we would do a brilliant test, which he is well capable of. Interestingly he became over-round in the arena, something I’ve never had before with him and although the test was nice they naturally marked me down for each movement so we ended up on a 59. Still better than previous tests, so he’s improving. The XC course was lovely. I’ve not been to Blenheim for seven years, since Jasper went in 2003 so I was very excited to be there and ride around the course again. I was surprised how long the course was - just under 11 minutes, which was apparently longer than Burghley!
The hills are still hard work at Blenheim, not as much Bramham but similar in how tiring the course can be. Kenny has so much Thoroughbred in him and I needed it. The course wasn’t massively technical but there were plenty of places to run out or have an annoying 20 penalties, but I knew speed would be very influential. We set off at a good pace, my aim to go as fast as possible but without faults! He has an amazing gallop and it is effortless for him and he made the course feel very straightforward. There were no ‘moments’ anywhere; he is also incredibly scopey, so he’s pure pleasure to ride around the course. We had five time faults, which I felt I got at the end of the course as I so wanted a clear and took one slightly longer route. We moved up from 58th to 27th! I always felt his XC will be his strong point, hence why I really feel he will be a brilliant Burghley horse.
Plenty to work on for Pau
He show jumped well, although the track was not suited to him; there were constant turns back on ourselves like a jump off. When we entered the arena, the crowd were also clapping loudly, and, as he hasn’t show jumped at the big events often, he became quite strong and fought to some of the fences at the end of the course to have two down and some time faults which dropped us to 33rd. I was slightly disappointed but I know this is our weak phase and we have the winter to work on it with plenty of time before Pau.
As I’d been away for the last two weeks I had some catching up to do! I also had to take some horses for routine checks at Rossdales and combined this with a visit to Rachel Uptons’ XC course, my old local schooling course. This place is really improving and is a great place for young horses with plenty of types of fences. I schooled the horses competing this week; all were good and I felt it was a very valuable experience for them.
Preparation for Osberton
With our ground being so good at home I can also keep cantering them here rather than taking them to the gallops, which saves me hours. The horses preparing for Osbertonare cantered every four days and Jasper is starting to as well in preparation for Pau. I have also been jumping them outdoors and dressaging as we have an arena in the park. I am so fortunate to have all these facilities; coming from a yard with few I am constantly very grateful and haven’t got used to them yet!
We were off to Purston Manor with Red, Imp and Bertie on Thursday. They had given me reasonably early times so we left at 5am to make sure we missed the traffic and had time to walk the courses. I really like Purston as the ground is always good and the courses are fair and educational. Imp as always performed a brilliant test for a 28, Red and Bert are working progress. Red needs to stretch and take the rein forward and Bertie is a little tense in the arena; he’s not quite up to counter canter and medium trot one after the other yet, although he can do both very well separately! Imp jumped clear in the show jumping but had an annoying stop XC; he was very competent otherwise though, so I was still reasonably pleased. Red jumped a beautiful double clear, he is a lovely horse and I am very lucky to have him – he’s one for the future. Bertie is just brilliant. He was a little keen in the show jumping and had a fence down going downhill, but the XC was faultless. He hasn’t run for a while and I wondered if he maybe spooky, most definitely not! He flew around; he reminds me so much of young Jasper which is very exciting. These two finished just out of the placings, and it was a good day.
Bomber (nearly) wins first event
I had another good day at Munstead on Sunday with Bomber and Brian. When you take a horse to its first event it’s always interesting to see how they get on. Becky has done a wonderful job with Bomber in producing him, as he wasn’t always able to take my ‘pressure’ which he now is. Even so, I only ride him three times a week to keep him relaxed. Every horse is different and needs producing in different ways. He performed a very grown up test for 29.5 in the Open Intro section. He then jumped a good clear round SJ and too XC. He was not sure about leaving the others, but once we got to fence seven he was off. He is a lovely horse, a good jumper and quick too. We finished second, just by 0.2 so he nearly won his first event! The superstar has one more at Pulborough and then a holiday.
Brian too performed a good test for a 30, he will be seriously smart on the flat soon. He warmed up very well for the SJ, but was very cheeky in the arena and ran out at the second jump which felt like slow motion! He had never done that so I was more than a little surprised! I think he is feeling very well and decided to have a little fun! He jumped clear otherwise but we got several time faults. I took him at a pace that suited him XC as I knew we wouldn’t be placed (I was convinced we’d win today originally!) and he was lovely, just two time faults and felt very brave. I was still pleased; if you’ve ever seen Brian you will understand why I couldn’t be anything but - he is adorable! A good week generally though, a few things to work on but the horses feel in good form.”
Tankers Town (Jasper) has benefitted from dressage training
"Apologies for the lack of contact the last two weeks but my computer has officially died and my phone has been temperamental, so writing my blog has been rather challenging! As I now have nearly three weeks to write about, it maybe a little more condensed...
Anna adds marks
I've had more lessons with Anna [Ross Davies] again which is really helping the marks. We've been working on small flexions and bends to help prepare for the lateral movements and improve suppleness. I put this into practise at Oldencraig where I had a particularly good day winning the elementaries on Harry and Jasper, who was superb in his first trip out after Luhmuhlen, and a medium on Jasper. Ken also won the advanced medium, he tried incredibly hard as the test was complicated; he really is settling and improving.
My tests were also good at Highclere - the hard work is paying off! I ran Imp in the 100 as the XC course is so nice and he just needs easy runs. He did a 20 dressage and a lovely, relaxed double clear. His next run is a novice again. Amber has been slightly upset by the introduction of changes so her tests are slightly tense, she jumped clear SJ but I decided not to run her as she was at Breda the next week. Harry was his usual amazing self with a 28 dressage, one down and fast clear xc round to win his intermediate. I knew this would be the last chance I may have to win and qualify for Gatcombe intermediate championships next year. As he did so well in the novice, I plan to do the same next year!
Jasper aces the dressage but is withdrawn from WEG
Jasper was in the advanced, he did a beautiful test, a 25! I was in the lead but didn't run as he has a splint I'm looking after so we can get to Pau. I am now no longer on the reserve list for WEG as he won't be fit enough sadly. Was just not meant to be.
Kenny was a superstar also in the advanced. He performed a lovely test and got a much better mark, 32. He then jumped clear in the show jumping! We changed the bit to a curb gag which he seems to really like, he has fences down because he comes against the hand and with this bit in he seems not to so far... He was brilliant XC too and finished sixth, our best result so far... And great preparation for Blenheim!
A new addition
I have a new horse named Red or to give him his proper name, Chataigne Filice. He is a seven year old chestnut gelding Irish Sport Horse x Selle Francais. Very nice, just needs producing, has lots of talent and some very nice owners Vivian and Bob Jupp. I'm delighted he's come my way...
Firle cross country
I took Red, Brian, Bomber, Phoenix and Bertie to Firle for some XC schooling. I was seriously impressed with the changes they've made to the course and the ground was superb. They open the course for schooling after the event for three days so is all flagged etc. It was superb, they all went really well. I could take them around a smaller course then the next one up and so on.
Phoenix looking for a new home
We have decided to sell Phoenix though as although he is a fabulous horse he is perhaps a little on the large side, I must admit I prefer smaller horses now sadly. Please contact me if interested, he is stunning to look at, he will be a lovely horse in the future.
Breda beckons - carriages carnage
We left for Breda at 5am with Jasper, Amber and Harry. The aim was to get my qualifications and hopefully some prizes! Jasper was never really going to run unless he did a fabulous test again, but the carriages made sure that didn't happen! It was my first time there, fabulous place, great for experience for the younger horses. There were big arenas and flags everywhere. Also carriages, four horse, two horse and single. The world championships for the Paralympics were also on at the same time so the event was even bigger and better than usual. My horses were terrified of the carriages though and the drivers seemed unaware of the grief they caused us all! By day four they were beginning to calm down but sadly too late for Amber and Jaspers' tests!
Harry however performed a lovely test and didn’t get the mark I was expecting, a 56! It was fault free and got 5′s and 6′s. Never mind, I was still very pleased. The show jumping was in a very big arena full of atmosphere. The 2* was big but the 3* wasn’t which surprised me. It was a brilliant experience for them with the large crowds and still the carriages there were going past! Harry jumped clear; he was rather strong but jumped really well, as did Amber who also jumped clear. I didn’t jump Jasper as his splint is still slightly sore.
Harry moved up a massive amount from his clear round and Amber too, about 20 places! This had me in a good position with Harry for the XC, I had decided to take him at the pace he needed to give him a good, confident run and qualify as this was the aim. He jumped superbly as usual; the course was not technical but reasonably big. The ground was superb and very flat, something I’m not used to anymore. He jumped clear, we had just four time faults and finished ninth which was a good result. He is now qualified for a 2* so will either be Osberton or Le Lion D’Angers seven-year-olds. Amber also jumped clear, I took her around a couple of long routes to make sure she got her 3* qualification as this was also the reason we were here. I was full of praise for the courses and place - it's just the carriages need addressing, as they were too close too often. Breda itself was a beautiful town, I will return next year if Kenny isn’t at Burghley."
Sharosn says Bambi looks amazing after her holiday
“The weeks are getting shorter and shorter as the end of season approaches, and the weather will get worse soon as the summer ends and winter begins. I have fully made the most of the summer this year without a doubt. I went to V Festival for the weekend, which I have to say was incredible. There were no events I would really like to go to so I thought I would go with my friends to see some bands. We stayed in a lovely Winnebago (had to be done) and had a great time. Probably the last time I’ll do this so we did it in style and the weather was kind too!
Romeo goes on holiday
But enough of the weekend off (which is a rarity in itself) and back to real life. I went to Newmarket to stay with my parents for Tuesday night as we were out with David and Sue Howard for a celebratory meal after Gatcombe. I took a few horses with me for their checkups at Rossdales. I swapped over Bambi and Romeo; she has just finished her holiday now the ground is softer and sadly Romeo will have the rest of the season off with a very small injury. He will be back next year - I am over cautious with him as he is such a lovely young horse.
Bambi looks amazing after her holiday, really filled out and has certainly blossomed! We left Wednesday to go back to Tunbridge Wells after a good trip back. I just wish I had more time to catch up with everybody.
Thank goodness for soft ground
The rain has finally come and the ground is finally softer. I can now canter in our field again which is superb as not only does it have a great hill but also I can work on stamina and endurance as well as hill work and speed. It also means I don't have to go elsewhere to gallop which obviously saves me a huge amount of time. It also means the novices can canter and trot around to get fit too. Hopefully it will keep raining! We are also jumping in the field again which is great for the young horses. I’ve been jumping Phoenix outside to help with his spookiness, he is already much more confident. Next week they will all practise jumping outside.
A visit from the dentist
We have also had Rob the dentist from Bell Equine in checking all their teeth which is so important every six months; a few needed work but generally they were good. I can't stress enough the importance of having them checked.
I had to withdraw from Burghley this week as Jasper (Tankers Town) is not as fit as I’d like him to be. I gave him a month off after Luhmuhlen as I genuinely expected to be selected for WEG, so I have now lost too much time in preparation for Burghley. I had hoped we would make it but I will now go to Pau knowing this is the better option... Next year I hope!”
“At last, we have had some rain which is starting to make a difference to the ground. The grass is beginning to grow and the sting is out of the ground (a bit) but definitely heading in the right direction. I am very spoilt now with my indoor schools and on Tuesday I was incredibly grateful for cover as it poured for half the day! I must admit I do hate riding in the rain now, whereas the previous years I coped fine with wet days. I think I’m beginning to get a little bit precious!
I rode the horses here that had been left behind from Gatcombe. I school them on the Monday, partly because I’m usually quite tired on a Monday and partly because they are always a little fresh after I’ve been away as I use these days for days off, lunging, etc. The really hard work is generally when I’m here. I jumped them Tuesday in the brilliant dry indoor school. I rode the young horses, Bomber, who is improving each time, as Phoenix and Nelson are too. Brian jumped well (he is just ticking over having a slight holiday until he's sold - I’m amazed he's not gone yet), Imp was unbelievably good, I’m so impressed how much he enjoys it rather than feeling slightly stressed about it. I'm still taking it slowly though as I believe this year is about building his foundations rather than pushing him. We jumped Katie’s horse, Tiggy too as they both are on work experience. He is rather nice and I was suitably impressed.
Is Phoenix ready for an event?
I was leaving for Hartpury at 2.30pm so we went to Lodge Farm quickly with four to practise some XC as the rain had taken a little of the sting out the ground. Nelson was good, still green but getting less so. There were horses everywhere galloping around and he was perfectly behaved! Bomber was also good, he is nearly ready for an event and Tiggy also came to practise water and drops as he can be a little exuberant into/off them. There are lots of good drops to practise down here so this was perfect. I schooled Phoenix for the first time, he was quite spooky to start but quickly settled and I was delighted with him by the end. Hopefully we shall enter him somewhere soon.
Amazing facilities at Hartpury
So we left for Hartpury at around 3pm, by the time I had schooled Kenny and Amber. I hadn't been there for years, I think 10 years! I had the two, Ken and Amber in the CIC 3*. I decided I wasn't running Jasper until Highclere so as Amber was qualified, I substituted her in his place. We arrived slightly early so we could work the horses with plenty of time before the dressage as it was going to be a rather hot competition with it being a few countries final selection trial!
The only areas to school were in the indoor schools which are a good size but absolutely full of people practising before their tests. There were approximately 100 and something in the 1*, 40 in the 2*, and 150 in the two 3* sections so the schools were rather busy! This didn't help me settle the horses but they did get used to it. It wasn't as though you could go in there early and work on your own, as the dressage started at 8am each morning so they were never empty!
The facilities however are amazing. The big indoor school is something else. Luckily we had 'familiarisation' so they can get slightly used to it. Amber was in the top section, which was for a car so all the best combinations were in this. Anna Ross Davies arrived to help me warm up again which was brilliant. I really believe it can be the difference between a good test and a very good test. Just simple tweaks and corrections make a massive difference. She performed a good test as she is so green at that level and her changes are not established yet but achieved a 59. I was happy with this as the marks would also have been harder to earn - so many good tests had gone before. Kenny was outside in the other section and performed a very calm test. He has improved so much the last few weeks. His changes weren't brilliant as they were on a half 20 metre circle from counter canter and he likes to change so I kept it a little underpowered, but generally it was good. He scored 51, which is a personal best for him so far! I was disappointed to see tests not as good as his and score better marks than him, but this is often the case unfortunately.
A triple course walk
The show jumping didn't start until 2.30pm the next day so I had plenty of time to walk the XC course again for the 3 *. I had so much time I walked it three times, which is unheard of for a CIC! The first few made it look quite straight forward which disappointed me as the fences were on the smaller side. The time was reasonably tight (I did manage to get the odd time fault however) and I think generally there were too many clears. It does make it more of a competition when the show jumping causes significant trouble! Amber had the first down for some bizarre reason, it was quite small and I think she wasn't concentrating, then jumped superbly. Kenny jumped a great round until the treble and had three down, which was disappointing so I'll keep working on this phase.
Amber: a star in the making
The XC again didn't start until later. We were so lucky to have had serious rain on Friday night. It made it soft Saturday, but perfect Sunday and actually if it had been a day later the ground would've been hard again. On walking the course, I could see there were a few fences likely to cause problems, mainly the two corners up a rise and slightly offset on a long three strides and then a few other combinations like the water - which was a straight forward double into it but was very dark and shadowy. I thought the course was a good first time 3*, hence I ran Amber. She was superb, she was foot perfect everywhere except the corners where I should've had more power up the rise as she jumped so big over the first that I landed too steeply and got there on three and a half and she didn't run out - she just couldn't make it. I was still delighted as this was the biggest test so far and she breezed it. Kenny went very well, he jumped well into the water that had caused a few nasty falls and the corners too; he finished well but sadly out of the money and much needed FEI points. It was a successful trip though; a good run for Kenny XC and much better test and Amber is proving to be all I’d hoped. I think she will be a serious horse for next year.”
“Things are so busy at the moment I’ve even not had time to do my diary for the last two weeks! So I am trying to catch up again which I’m sure I will have done by the end of the week.
Phoenix jumps at Pyecombe
Last Monday seems an awfully long time ago now. I went to Pyecombe for my first time to hire the arena for the young horses. It's a great place - it has a very good arena and great set of show jumps. I took Nelson who is just lovely; he jumped very impressively around the jumps, over all the spooky fillers and water trays. I jumped Phoenix too, the first time I had taken him out. He was good, not too spooky and jumped all the bright fillers too. Good first outing. I jumped Fly and Imp too for more 'match practise' which was beneficial. I've decided to jump Imp in a pelham as he sometimes can come a little head high into the fences and I find a pelham can help to stop this.
Filming new videos with H&C
We had a totally different day on Tuesday when Horse & Country came to see us at Bedgebury. This was the first time they had seen my new yard and were seriously impressed, as is everybody as it does have to be one of the most beautiful locations possible. There are no bad mood days here - it really couldn't be possible! We were shooting two How To's that will be on the H&C website very soon! We hope to create many more and fingers crossed we get the sponsorship to enable this. We had fun filming - well I did! (Ed's note: so did we!) It did take me a while to get back into it as I haven't recorded anything for what felt like ages and needed the practice again! They were very patient with me though, I hope that the footage that was taken came out well. I really enjoy this work and hope that I keep improving sufficiently to keep it up! The horses were excellent models and behaved impeccably. It did take an enormous amount of time to film and I was surprised how exhausted my brain felt that evening!
Lessons learned at Aston Le Wells
We left for Aston Le Walls on Thursday afternoon as the majority of my competition was on Friday. I had an early dressage time with Ken and got there early Friday morning to work him and settle him. This worked well as he performed a very good test with only small mistakes for 34 and stood in seventh place. A vast improvement from Barbury! Amber was in the advanced (her first) and performed a fairly good test. Her changes are not yet established so we lost marks for those and her canter can be slightly crooked at times, but she gave a very good picture and was settled. She scored a 38. Imp was in the open novice, my first since our fall! I had taken him XC schooling before as I was worried he'd be little green again and he did need it. I wonder if he needed more of this perhaps in his early years as his confidence goes so quickly. However at Aston he performed his usual fantastic test for 24 but had the last show jump down sadly for otherwise a faultless round. We set off XC well, he was much better in his pelham as I can control his random strong moments better! He jumped brilliantly around the course as there were plenty of opportunities to be spooky. He finished seventh as I didn't go particularly fast as the ground is firm enough even though there had been some areas watered and it aggravated.
They watered the show jumping that morning and although it took the sting out the ground it made the going quite slippery and the ground was still quite hard. It was also quite a small arena and the poles were very light. Kenny and Amber are usually very careful jumpers. Kenny had three down which is unheard of, likewise with Amber's two fences. There were lots of fences down; I believe the ground was the biggest contributing factor. As I was now out of the running for a good placing, I took them both steadily around the cross country. Which had been watered considerably more than the show jumping and the ground was a lot better. Kenny jumped his usual brilliant clear and Amber was superb for her first advanced so I was disappointed when I found the distance very short in the last water, incurring 20 penalties. But I now know she rides very boldly into water and to ride forward rather than wait. We happily returned home with horses that are gaining experience all the time.
Lessons with Stuart Harvey
As I was going to Hickstead for two days of jumping, I decided to stop in at Stuart Harvey's on the way for some lessons. The last lesson I had was with him at the end of March, so long overdue! They all jumped really well; we worked on making Imp and Brian having a bigger canter. With Harry working on the perfect take off for spreads and with Kenny working on the softness in the hand all the way to the fence. All of this greatly improved all their jumps.
Jumping at Hickstead
We then set of for Hickstead. When we arrived we were surprised at how much bigger this one was than the last. It was brilliant for the horses to get used to such an atmosphere. I'd found it incredibly helpful to have had the lessons the day before and then be able to put it into practice. Brian had the best result on the first day coming fourth in the 1m out of 85. Harry just had the planks down in front in the 1.10m (as he did behind the second day!) but jumped well. Kenny jumped superbly in the foxhunter, jumping clear apart from thinking the massive water jump was the smallest jump into water he'd seen. Then in the 1.25m, just touched the front bar of the last treble in the jump off to have four faults - he jumped a very classy round.
The next day Brian jumped very well in the 1m and 1.05m, Imp too in the 1.10m, which I was particularly pleased with as it was very spooky. I had decided to ride Kenny in the eventer's grand prix, you never know if it’s the right horse until you're riding in it. This year the fences looked even bigger than usual, especially the bullfinch which was actually higher than my head! When after the first six had gone and only one got home, we realised it was quite a tough competition! I was drawn quite late with Kenny, which had given me plenty of chance to watch the others. He jumped the showjumps well but had two down because I was going quicker than normal and had a stronger bit in ready for the cross country that followed. The first cross country jump was a big open water tray which he misread and jumped straight into, he then jumped the next hedge well but didn't want to canter into the water for the stream crossing and we jumped the arrowhead coming out very uncomfortably so I decided we would call it a day, as he is far too good a horse to upset in a fun competition. One day I will find the right horse for it! We left Hickstead full of praise for the way they look after their rings. I haven’t ridden on ground like that for months and it was a real pleasure to do so. I'll be back next year for sure.
As Gemma had left, I was looking for a new member of staff. Helen Lambert had come to join us for the morning for an interview, after which I offered her the job. We went to the gallops again and jumped the young horses before I left for Brighton for a rare weekend off."
Sharon was not overjoyed about negative forum comments
"This week, or at least the beginning of it has been dominated by WEG talk. I was told by Yogi that I am one of four joint 1st reserves for WEG, I’ve got to be honest I was pretty devastated, particularly as my horse has probably the best form of any this year. I as many are slightly unsure of the reasons why younger/ more inexperienced horses were chosen above all of the reserves but really hope they will go on to succeed in Kentucky.
When you spend the season aiming for these championships and selection it is rather a blow to not succeed, however I am a very positive person and will look forward to either Burghley or Pau whichever it maybe...
Thank you for all the support and kind messages people have sent my team and the comments left on the forums. The trial leg-up mount at Badminton this year had sparked a couple of negative comments and I quote one person 'we don't want Tankers Town in the team, did you see how she started at Badminton, very scary'. For those that follow us would know this is the ONLY time I’ve ever done it and actually he trots calmly through and is as relaxed as any. So no scary starts. Just for the record it's also a very calculated leg up due to timing etc so I was rather bemused for it to be called scary! I do understand that people have their opinion but believe some comments written about the riders and their horses are quite unnecessary. Anyway enough moaning, it is unlike me to moan but it really upsets me and the other team members for that matter!
A trip home
The week has been a busy one as I went up to Newmarket for an important meeting with the bank manager so took a few horses along for the ride. The horses enjoy being back as do I as my Mum is the best cook and rather spoils us which is lovely! I also catch up with my best friends; I always make sure I see them as we are very close. With only a few horses it gives me time to really work on the areas needing longer sessions, so I spent longer than usual working on Kenny’s' submission. This is coming, so hopefully by Blenheim his results will reflect this. I collected Bomber too, after 6 weeks off he is now ready to do a bit more again, aiming for a competition in September... I managed to squeeze in a XC session at Lodge Farm, I took Fly who was excellent, jumping out of a better rhythm now, Brian who was very good, such a good jumper (also for sale as is Fly, Brian is on the horses for sale section and can see a video). I also took Nelson who learns incredibly quickly. He was straight over all the fences and ditches, into the water, off the steps etc. Delighted with him, he will be very good I’m certain.
Tackling hard ground at Brightling
The XC school was due to Brightling Horse Trials at the weekend, I’ve not been for years as was in the middle of July and was often needing rain. I was impressed with the effort they had made as the rain sadly had not touched the ground. I ran Brian who performed his usual good test, an annoying 1 down as jumped a very good round and was superb XC but hesitated (for about a second!) at a very spooky ditch under the trees. I was very pleased with him. Fly excelled himself again and scored 26 in is dressage, one down and clear inside the time XC to win. His owners have sadly said is time to sell him so if anyone is looking for a good eventer/hunter please contact me...
Saving the best
I swapped Harry into the 2* but only performed dressage as he is off to Gatcombe Novice Championships and wasn't risking anything to jeopardise this. He did a very nice test to score 49 which I was happy with. Bertie was in the novice; again I didn't plan to run him XC as I feel this horse is for the future. Parts of his test were brilliant and a little keen in others! The good bits though are very good; soon it will all be very good! He was very cheeky in the show jumping and spooked so violently at the planks that we kind of ran out, much to my surprise. I could only find it amusing though as he was simply having a bit of a laugh and I love him for his cheekiness and character I believe this makes him good. I have sadly ruined his near perfect record though! Had to happen sometime I suppose... I left early on Sunday so had time to ride when we got back (is only 25 minutes away) then combined exercise with socialising when we cycled to the pub! Not a bad way to spend a Sunday...."