Recently I have felt like the M1 has become my new best friend, with H&C projects taking me up and down the country on numerous occasions this week. But when my destination is the Para Dressage Winter Championships, or the ‘Dean Dibsdall: Model Farrier' filming shoot - I really can’t complain.
A model farrier
Firstly, I went along to oversee some of the filming on our show about Dean Dibsdall, a farrier and model. I don’t want to give too much away about the it, but you can look forward to Shetlands and Shires, Quad bikes and hairdressers, and more innuendos than you will know what to do with. Filming has been fun, so I am sure you will enjoy the show.
Para dressage winter champs
The weekend was my first experience covering Para dressage for Rudall’s Round-Up, and it certainly won’t be the last. The welcome was warm, the competition was fierce, and the horses were inspiring.
Para trainer Clive Milkins almost bought me to tears when he introduced me to his horses, and I was truly honoured to meet the great Lambrusco III. This magnificent grey has European, World and Paralympic titles to neigh about, and when Clive insisted I have a sit on him, I couldn’t refuse… I literally couldn’t - Clive not only insisted I jump on, he yelled instructions at me to execute flying changes across the school.
Slightly embarrassed and not wanting to get in the way of the professionals, I gingerly popped Lambrusco into a canter – like a true professional, he duly obliged with some well-timed changes, despite his rider. I felt truly privileged to ride such an old pro, but think I did hear him sigh with relief when I dismounted.
Look out for 'Rudall’s Round-up' on March 26, which will also include an Olympic watch from eventer Laura Colletts yard.
"When I discovered that champion jockey AP McCoy and former Grand National winner Carl Llewellyn were at Olympia, I jumped at the chance to grab an interview. I was extremely nervous meeting such great racing legends - but the nerves soon left me when we got going and both were hilarious.
I have to say it was the most fun interview I have ever done and the full interview will be on Rudall's Round-up next month, but it was so funny I just had to give you a little taster."
"We Horse & Country girls were already big fans of top German rider Marcus Ehning - but we like him even more after last night.
Marcus had been placed in the Santa Stakes here at Olympia, but when he rode into the prizegiving his mount had changed somewhat... Marcus's horse Noltes Kuchengirl had been getting a little wound up during the presentation of the prizes, so Marcus rode out and came back in on a 'borrowed' horse - one that was about to appear in the Christmas finale!
We're having a brilliant time at Olympia, and have met a whole host of top riders and personalities. Keep visiting our Live Reports to follow the action."
"The H&C team's first trip to Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) is over, and we are finally recovered from six days of very long hours, running round interviewing, tweeting, writing, filming, uploading and socialising - ‘cough’ - I mean networking…
New editor and new show
HOYS is the first event that I've worked with the new H&C editor, Victoria Spicer, and I must say, six days of working, eating and living with someone you get to know them pretty quickly. Once I was used to Victoria’s unique Scottish charm, we had a great time. If you see the new sparkly H&C team out and about, please do come say hello. We're pretty friendly, honestly.
The pressure was on at shows, as the H&C bosses have given us an exciting new show called ‘Rudall’s Round-up’. This regular programme will put all our behind-the-scenes interviews and gossip from each of the shows we go to - and it starts tonight at 6.30pm. If you have any feedback on the show, or if there's any particular rider you'd love to see on 'Rudall's Round-up', please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
With the new show in mind, we also had a new high-tech camera to play with. Journalists and riders we are, Steven Speilberg we are not. After a slightly wobbly start with some inappropriate close-ups, and despite nearly taking a few audience members out with the tri-pod each time we chased after the latest winning rider to leave the main arena, we soon became pro’s with the camera – well, almost.
Skelly on the telly
The show threw up several highlights but one that truly stands out has to be interviewing Nick Skelton. Having heard that he can be a little media shy, I was a bit nervous during our chat with Nick, but Robert Whitaker soon sorted that out by hurling jokes at us throughout the interview. Nick even insisted Victoria and I tried the new 3D televisions in the somewhat cramped riders' lounge. I never got bored of sneaking in to view the hysterical sight of our number one riders, lying back and watching the jumping all in 3D glasses.
Tweeting in style
As many of you know we were also busy keeping you up-to-date with action at the shows on twitter. Tweeting from HOYS was a particular pleasure, as most of it could be done from the spectacular seats in the Champions bar. It turned out to be a popular place to work from, and we ran into various members of the Bunn family including the delightful Daisy, who I think had found the perfect place to write her blog for us – I wouldn't be surprised if next year Daisy’s office has a similar bar set up at Hickstead.
This year HOYS happened to run over my birthday, so when the working day was over and the last interview was in the bag (usually by about 11pm!) a few bottles of Champagne were opened. Always on hand to help with celebrating were eventer Jay Halim and dressage rider Spencer Wilton. Jay did try to convince us he would make the perfect H&C presenter by testing his technique on the somewhat inebriated residents of the nearby Hilton hotel, who were there for some marketing industry awards party and looked somewhat confused to be interviewed by an overenthusiastic rider. After seeing Jay's interview technique, I am pretty sure my job is safe!
Daisy Bunn working very hard... in the champagne bar
“Hello again from HOYS 2011. As blog writing locations go, this has got to be an all time best. Perched high up in the grandstands of the massive HOYS arena, typing away and watching Bob Ellis’ new feature class, the Five Fence Challenge. Certainly beats my spidery old office at Hickstead!
New class scores well with the crowd
What a class it was… New to HOYS this year, it proved a massive hit with the crowd. Set over a (sizeable in the first place!) course of five fences, it’s basically a puissance top score. Each fence carries points and you are knocked out instantly if you have one down. The fences are made higher and wider after every round, and we’ve just gone in to the final round with fences going up to 1.75m!
The Derby bank in 3D?
The highlight of the show for me so far has to be ensconcing myself in the SKY OB trucks checking out show jumping in 3D for the first time. It is quite extraordinary it has to be said. There are 2D screens in the truck too alongside the 3D ones, and it’s particularly interesting to look at them side by side and see the difference. Crucially 3D suddenly allows people at home to get an impression of the enormity of the fences as suddenly in 3D you can see how wide they are. It’s also much easier to see how big the fences are in relation to the horses - in some cases actually bigger than them - and quite the lift they achieve off the floor to clear them. I am positively bursting with excitement at the prospect of seeing the Derby bank descended in 3D!
I am not particularly scientifically or mathematically minded, it has to be said, but it was very interesting when one of the lovely directors Phil described to me the challenges of working in 3D. Exhilarating sport is captured and produced through precise camera work and creative direction, and in 2D the challenge is to cut from camera to camera whilst maintaining and overall impression of the course as a whole.
When directing in 3D, the trick is not to cut away but to let the action come to the camera and, literally, jump out of the screen. As this is the first time they’ve covered the sport in 3D too they were faced with unexpected challenges such as the timing graphics looking like they were in the middle of the jumps, a problem they don’t experience with the flat pitches and greens of football, rugby and golf! A member of Phil’s team was immediately set the task of pulling the graphics further forward on the z axis. Mind boggling!
Regular readers will recall what a bunch of pranksters the Sky crews are and after I’d marveled at the amazing jumping coverage they insisted on showing me the official SKY 3D promo so I could appreciate its amazingness. All of them knowing what a massive arachnophobe I am, there were hoots of laughter when I nearly fell backwards out of the truck in fright and plunged to an embarrassing death (or broken arm at least) when a MASSIVE 3D spider crawled out of the screen at me. Eurgh.
A special mention for John...
Ooh how exciting, William has just shared the top prize in the Five Fence Challenge with Dutch rider Cindy Van Der Straten. It’s William’s wife Pippa’s birthday today so legendary commentator Nick Brooks-Ward is at presence teasing William over the loud speaker about buying Pip a nice present. The tradestand owners are getting very excited.
I must go, as the Pony Club are about to come in and do their mounted games, and a friend of mine’s little sister is in it, so I promised to cheer my absolute loudest. I can’t end the blog though without a special mention of my brother John. Winning the prize of being the most 44 going on three-year-old member of the family, who really was rather upset that he wasn’t mentioned in yesterday’s blog. Say I, ‘John, I was really thinking about those members of the family who are here in a work capacity, that’s why I didn’t mention you,’ to which he replies with quivering Just-William-Style lower lip, ‘I am working, I’m NETworking!’ “
Nick Skelton and Jenny Rudall watch the jumping in 3D
“Hello, hello. I’m very excited to be back with the next instalment of my blog, and even more excited to be writing it direct from HOYS 2011. It’s always fun going to shows (particularly ones you’re not organising) and catching up with everyone. The amazing band of officials that are responsible for keeping the show on the road at Hickstead are like a travelling wonder team, and the majority of them work at all the major shows. HOYS is no exception, and I’ve already bumped into lots of them: looking incredibly glamorous, incidentally, as gone is the emergency wet weather gear needed for an outdoor show, and out has come all the black tie finery. Ooh la la.
A family affair
The lovely thing about the British international show circuit is that all the organisers know each other very well. As we are all at different times of year, instead of being arch rivals we do enjoy working closely with each other. The HOYS team in particular are a great lot, and gave us brilliant digital media support during our shows – so I am trying to return the favour.
It really is a case of Hickstead on tour, as not only is my sis Chloe here supporting husband Shane Breen, but Eddie my brother has worked for a long time at HOYS running show services. The delectable Emma, otherwise known as Hickstead show jumping secretary extraordinaire, has crossed over and is working in the HOYS showing team. Traitor.
There was a cracking start to the show last night, with my ‘sort of’ brother-in-law winning the seven-year-old final (‘sort of’ because he’s actually my sister’s brother in law, but we’re all like a big, crazy family so he basically got our whole family as in-laws when his brother Shane married Chloe). There’s a certain assumption that professionals get used to the highs and lows of competitive riding - it being their ‘day job’ - but horses are a lifestyle rather than a job really, and every win is still very exciting.
Trevor has just relocated to England to marry the lovely Caroline Black, and his mum Mary, missing her England-bound boys, came over to England especially to watch Trev last night – and then he won. Needless to say, Team Breen were delighted.
Pip leaves William holding the pony
Another highlight of last night was world famous event rider Pippa Funnell winning the EquestrianClearance.com Newcomers Final. Go Pip – beating the show jumpers at their own game no less. Hilariously, Pip admitted that just when she thought winning at HOYS couldn’t get much better, she loved it when she was taken off for a press conference immediately after the presentation and William, her husband and the member of the family more used to winning show jumping red rosettes, was left holding the horse! ‘He does have some uses,’ Pip quipped.
Guy Williams stormed to victory in this evening’s Senior Foxhunter Final on Djakarta, coming at the end of a fantastic summer season for Guy. A Hickstead local, Guy has been coming to us for as long as I can remember, and it’s brilliant to see him at last gaining the international success he so deserves. The Foxhunter final’s past winners reads like a who’s who of British show jumping greats, so Djakarta has proved again that she’s really one to watch.
Show Jumping in 3D
Well that’s all for tonight as I’m off to watch the final class and pop in and see the SKY team in their mobile studio and see first-hand for myself show jumping in 3D – it’s a first for the sport and I’m ridiculously excited. I’ll be back tomorrow to tell all, and will be sending a special ‘Hickstead at HOYS’ newsletter, with a fabulous prize giveaway so make sure you’re signed up."
"In the second instalment of our behind-the-scenes blog, I'm writing from the Dressage Deluxe National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh Park. The team is here to tweet, pap, report on the action and have lots of laughs... while working extremely hard of course!
Early morning exercise
At a competition like this you never know who you might bump into while wandering around the grounds. For our crew this can create quite a dilemma. While out and about getting our bearings, myself and our camera-girl Katie bumped into Carl Hester. Well, obviously we had to grab him for an interview, but with just one radio microphone on them it was up to Katie to sprint back across Stoneleigh Park “at the speed of Usain Bolt” (according to her) to fetch the second one from the press tent. By just 10am she declared herself done for the day.
Carl just kept popping up, but the best bit was when I got to have a chat with his adorable sidekick Snoopy the Daxijack (Dachshund cross Jack Russell). He wasn’t too keen on the microphone at first, but he soon opened up. Take a look through our gallery below to see Snoopy telling me about his day.
When the H&C team escape
As much as we love being confined to the press office while trying to make technology become our friend, it’s also great when we get the chance to escape and take in some of the other entertainment on show. This afternoon we were treated to a freestyle to music lecture with H&C favourites Richard Davison and Charlotte Dujardin and a masterclass by Laura B.
Our favourite bit of interval entertainment, though, was the "Bad Boys" Pas de Deux performed by Charlie Hutton and Henry Boswell. Talk about heart-throbs! We decided that we definitely heart these boys as we watched them performing their routine to music by the likes of Alexandra Burke and Alesha Dixon. We were oh so sad when we didn’t get a chance to flutter our eyelashes at them over a microphone.
Farouche in the flesh
The final of the Shearwater Potential International Dressage Horse Championship was also fascinating as we watched the top young horses be ridden by Daniel Sheriff and judged on their potential to be world class performers. Woodlander Farouche, ridden by Michael Eilberg, took top honours without a shadow of a doubt. It was breathtaking to see this stunning mare in the flesh. No exaggeration – H&C journalist Jess nearly fainted! She’s truly a credit to British breeding (the mare, I mean, not Jess). Michael told us afterwards that she’s going to have a bit of a well-deserved holiday.
Our paparazzi team were out in force again today, shooting the crowds and hounds at the BD Nationals. Check out our gallery below to see if you were snapped. We also took lots of photos of the warm-up arena, as well as the Elementary and Advanced Medium classes, so don’t think you were safe from our lens even if you were on horseback.
We’ve seen some fabulous competition here today and it’s clear that the standard of British dressage is higher than ever, and with horses like Woodlander Farouche rising through the ranks, hopefully Team GBR will have plenty more medals coming their way next year."
Tim Davies wins the 1.40m Open at Hickstead, much to Daisy's delight
"Crikey, it is finally here - the end to the season 2011. Now I would be lying if I didn’t admit that on the odd occasion as a show organizer one daydreamed about never having to set foot on a showground again (it’s normally at about 1am during wet shows) but when the end of a long season finally comes, it’s always with mixed emotions. Happiness is in the form of a holiday to France next week (wooo hooo), but there’s also the inevitable sadness too that all the fun is over for another year. The anti-climax of next week makes leaving the country nigh on essential. And what a season it’s been, and what a fabulous new show we’ve had.
The wrong horse
Now, for today’s blog I actually have to hark back to last night when, sitting having supper with my sister Chloe, I received a text from the lovely Shirley Light – of Brendon Stud fame. Having regaled my readers last night with the story of Truly Darco only costing £50, the text went something like this:
'Dear Dozy Daisy. Shirley here. Um, excuse me, Truly Darco jolly well was not £50 – he went for that but with several noughts on the end! I think you’ll find it was Andrea Skinner’s lovely horse It’s Billy the Kid that was such a bargain!’
Oopsie, and huge apologies to Laura Preston. That will teach me ever to listen to Jess, one of our esteemed showjumping secretaries again (henceforth Dozy Jess!) Funnily enough, I did think it was quite amazing that a progeny of Darco, one of the top sires in the world, had gone for so little. Always one for a wind-up, my sister Chloe, herself also a horse dealer and breeder in Sussex like Shirley, sent her a text saying: “I know we’ve just done quite well on a deal we pulled off together Shirley, but it doesn’t mean you can flood the Sussex market with good cheap horses, you’ll do me out of business!” At least it proves someone reads my blog though I suppose.
Hickstead rumour mill
Although I have had a lovely relaxing week, the ‘other’ office (we split into two offices in the summer) have been at pains to point out that it’s been just as busy as any other show for them this week, as there’s still tones of horses here! Anyway, Dozy Jess should probably be excused for her misinformation due to extreme tiredness, but it is not the only reason she became BF today (Blog Fodder). As you can imagine, in such a close knit environment as this, we thrive on any gossip and Jessica provided ample when she was busted arriving early this morning with Matt (who works on the showground) in her car - who it has to be said was looking rather hot and sweaty. The rumour mill went in to overdrive particularly when he appeared in the office later to try and give her ten pounds she said ‘oh don’t worry Matt, it only took two minutes!’ The boring truth was that she’d found him running home from a mates to get changed and then in to work and had given him a lift – or so they say, anyway!
A grand day for Tim
The competition in the main ring reached a thrilling climax this afternoon as Tim Davies because the first person ever to win our All England Grand Prix – Tim hadn’t been to Hickstead for years, but this year has made a triumphant return with a third in the Templant Events Queen Cup at our July show and grand prix win here. We are now his favourite show!
So it’s goodbye from me for now… but not for a whole year, as I shall be back blogging from HOYS… really a recipe for disaster as I’ll have even more time for going out and having fun, but I’ll be behind the scenes catching up with some of the best in the world and keeping you up to date on all the gossip.
The H&C team invaded the press tent at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials on Sunday – even though there were just two of us!
Sparkly new blog
Blenheim marks the start of our new behind-the-scenes blog. Our users have been asking us what goes on at the competitions we cover while we’re busy Tweeting, interviewing and writing to keep you all up to date with the latest news and results so we thought we’d provide you with an insight to the media side of competing.
A minute to remember
As this is being written, the whole of Blenheim Palace descends into a minute’s silence to mark the ten year anniversary of 9/11. It’s eerily quiet in the media centre – a very rare occurrence – as everyone takes the time to reflect on the dreadful events a decade ago. But after 60 seconds it’s back to the usual hustle and bustle of clicking laptops and the H&C team making too much noise!
H&C Paparazzi Team
Today’s action included the CCI3* showjumping, the CIC3*8/9YO cross-country and the Tri-Zone BE100 Eventer Challenge. Our Tweeting fingers were kept busy and our photography skills sharp, all the while trying to dodge the intermittent downpours. Make sure you check out our gallery to see if we papped you in the Eventer Challenge.
We had the pleasure of talking to some of the competitors taking part in the Eventer Challenge who all said how exciting it was to be competing alongside their horsey heroes at such a prestigious event. We even managed to grab a couple of interviews with riders Charlotte Bacon and Zoe Taylor. Make sure you check out the videos below.
In life we often learn lessons the hard way. And we had a harsh reminder today that technology cannot always be relied upon while interviewing William Fox-Pitt. After a great interview about his first and third placings in the CIC3* we discovered when we got back to the media tent that the sound had not actually worked. Frustrating is an understatement!
All in all we had a great day at Blenheim Palace and send our congratulations to everyone competing.
Results of the BE100 Tri-Zone Eventer Challenge
1st - Ellen Goodwin riding PG Tips
2nd - Charlotte Bacon riding Ballyvaden Ivy - see interview below
3rd - Lynda Cockrill riding Amoreal
4th - Phoebe Cromer riding Its Gotta Be Dun II
5th - Zoe Taylor riding Lyndwey Tune - see interview below
"Good evening! Well, as much as I am the eternal optimist, and as much as I’m normally good at putting a positive spin on things, there is no way of ignoring the fact that the heavens have finally opened! Really quite considerate, in fact, from those in charge, who have sent the rain tonight so that tomorrow is a beautiful day (I can dream). Despite the slightly soggy past half an hour, we’ve had a great day here at Hickstead, on day two of jumping in the main ring at our new show.
Cow girls and engines
Today, however, the excitement started long before the first horse cantered into the ring – well for one member of our team and an unsuspecting rider anyway. Minding her business this morning, pottling down the lane at some ungodly hour on the way to work, my sister Lizzie got flashed by another car coming the opposite way in the lane. Friendly chapster that she is, she assumed she must know the person and waved back happily. It wasn’t until she zoomed around the corner, that suddenly she realised why she’d been flashed – there, just relaxing in the road was a ginormous Jersey cow, enjoying an adventurous escapist walkabout from his field.
A country girl born and bred, Lizzie thought she’d just drive slowly behind it to the corner and sort of guide it back into its field. Not content with following behind Lizzie slowly, clearly assuming she was just some idiotic female driver, the man behind overtook, nearly crashed into poor Mr Cow and sent him galloping straight past the gate and heading at speed towards the motorway! Cows and very fast moving cars are not a good combination so Lizzie called stablefield security immediately and told them to get out on to the road and stop the speeding cow. But speeding cow was indeed super speedy and the security boys shot out of the gate to see him flash past so now there was Lizzie, a few security boys and a rather red-faced man all behind Mr Cow – who was still charging towards the motorway.
Luckily, the rescue came in a lovely Darren Wise-shaped package. Show jumper Darren performed some James Bond style manoeuvring in his horsebox instead of turning in to the showground, thereby blocking the gate and penning Mr Cow in. To cut a long story short, after much more hilarity and cow chasing around our exit field into where Mr Cow was eventually herded, the day was saved and he was returned to his field. Rather too much excitement at that time on a show morning though.
Back to the showground… it didn’t take long for the excitement to start building with a bevy of height and amateur classes up for contesting in the main ring, with a stunning double win from Monica Ballard in both the 1.00m Open and 1.10m Amateur Championship. The vibe of the show really has been so nice, and it’s been great to have some time to watch some young horses strut their stuff, and of course to be reminded quite how high the callibre of amateur competition is in this country. My favourite story of the day though has to be the brilliant success story of Laura Preston, who qualified for the first time today to jump on the hallowed turf of the International Arena – on Truly Darco, a horse that she had bought for just £50! Just goes to show anything is possible. Brilliant.
And then, just when I thought the day could hold no more excitement I find out that one of our sponsors Harry Blake of Equiform Nutrition, is on Big Brother! I think it will take my nieces a month to get over the thrill of knowing someone in that (awful) house, and while I have to admit to not really having ever watched it, I’m keeping everything crossed. I think Harry probably has his work cut out for him being a well spoken, milkshake business owning entrepreneur with a passion for hunting! Watch this space. Good luck Harry.
I’ll be back tomorrow, and will of course by then know who clinched a victory in the first ever All England Grand Prix, so stay posted."