Hickstead's own Daisy Bunn finds herself watching the showjumping with a host of baby showjumpers-in-the-making...
What a classic first day of the 2013 season, with a Breen home win (always popular), and none other than a World Equestrian Games silver medalist winning at Hickstead, namely Abdullah Al Sharbatly.
A family day, I very much enjoyed watching the action in the company of two mini Breens and a mini Macken (see pic!) Clearly stars of the future themselves - though won't it will be funny if they get really into judo or something and can’t stand horses - my two little nieces seem to be Shane’s fiercest critics. When asked if they were coming to watch the prizegiving Lorna said ‘well okay, but silly Daddy didn’t win!’ To be fair to him he did come second, but as he’d always say ‘a miss is as good as a mile’! When Shane didn’t look up and see her waving, Darcy said, “don’t worry, he’ll be coming around again” so used is she to him being at the front of the line!
The rain stayed away, although I did actually order rather more sunshine, so will be having words, and the tradestands seemed delighted that yet again the great British public had turned out to support them. I have to be in early tomorrow for a meeting, so thought I’d get a head start on tomorrow’s crowds and pop around the shops then (strictly in the interest of saying hello to all of our lovely traders of course, and if I did just happen to see something…)
Much mirth in the office today as the relentless early morning/late night combo begins to have its usual (somewhat hilarious) effect on the team. Our long-suffering (and wonderful) showing secretary Amanda is blog fodder today I’m afraid, after having a bit of a ‘moment’ this morning. Having arrived at 6.30am, she stepped out of her car and literally straight into something that someone’s dog had charmingly left behind. To say she was not impressed would be the understatement of the century.
Not a massive fan of emails and the like, and usually a lady of few digital words, when a poor unsuspecting member of the public emailed to ask if dogs were allowed, Amanda suddenly found her email flow. Amanda told the enquirer in no uncertain terms that yes dogs were allowed, but were to be kept on leads at all times, and that it was essential that you cleaned up after them. She then proceeded to regale the poor lady with the story of this morning’s unfortunate incident in great detail (the phrase unpicked up poo was typed furiously!) Luckily the lady in question was very understanding and promised to make sure hers behaved impeccably on their visit – poor woman was probably terrified!
That’s all for now, but I’ll be back tomorrow with someone else to embarrass, and to report on any shock resulting from tomorrow’s Derby Trial, the qualifier for Sunday’s famous Derby. Let’s hope all the favourites get through as I’ve already placed my bets!"
Horse and Country have arrived at the Hickstead Derby Meeting 2013 and our resident reporter Jenny Rudall will be here all week to keep you up to date with the latest news and behind the scenes gossip. Follow our blog for updates on all the action as well as interviews and top tips from riders.
It's all systems go at Hickstead as the 2013 season gets underway. Read Daisy Bunn's blog for all the backstage gossip on the show preparations...
Thank goodness for the Derby falling in June is all I can say, as we really do eke every second out of these lovely long days as we prepare for the first hoof on our famous magic green carpet tomorrow, and the first car in the car park, when we can officially declare the 2013 season open, hoorah! As you can imagine cranking up the showground so she is ready to receive her adoring fans is no simple affair, and we always find that it’s not until everything is in place and ready to go, that the work actually begins and you really notice all the extra things that need doing!
The team has worked like Trojans as always in the lead up to the shows, but this year has been even busier than usual, with the minor affair of building a brand new state-of-the-art arena to get done too! I was very excited to see the first horse to jump in our new Ring 4 this morning, and it really felt as if I was watching the beginning of a new chapter in the rich history of our famous showground.
Using my God-daughter as the perfect excuse to stop and have an ice cream (is it wrong that having seven ice cream trucks in our back garden always has been, and remains, one of my favourite aspects of the shows!), I sat happily and evesdropped on people’s reaction to the new arena. The common consensus seemed to be a big thumbs up all round, and apparently the surface was jumping like a dream. My favourite, somewhat breathless with excitement, reviewer had to be a young pony rider, and clearly a girl after my own heart who said “Mum, I love Hickstead the best out of every other show everywhere, and now with this new arena… !"
Something that always strikes me about the first day of the season is that, while competition in the international arena hasn’t yet begun, quite how lucky we are to enjoy such support from our loyal legion of national competitors. While it might be ‘just national classes’ today for some, for many of the grass-root participants in the sport today represents their first ever day jumping at Hickstead, which for many is the pinnacle of their equestrian career. It is this in my opinion that lends Hickstead the unique atmosphere for which it is famous, and its well earned moniker as the home of British showjumping."
Carriage driver Chris Orchard discovers that driving aprons come in handy after all...
So, with the first two HOYS qualifiers over, I unfortunately haven't managed to secure a place yet, but with eight more shows to go I remain very optimistic.
Carriagehouse insurance Touch & Go and Rough & Tumble went very well at a lovely sunny Surrey County Show, but we just didn't have the luck on the day.
Note to self; next year I will not be a 'good girl' and send all my show entries off as soon as the schedules are out, with the intension of making life easier for the overworked show secretaries. I have found out, to my cost, that you end up getting penalised for this exemplary behaviour as the shows run their classes in catalogue order, which means I go first almost every time. Not really in the spirit of the game from my perspective!
This certainly didn’t help my concentration levels at Surrey, having been subject to the dulcet tones of course builder, Tim Price, 'asking' me – in his inimitable way – to enter the arena with Touch & Go before I had finished walking the course. Bless him! (PS you can’t call yourself competitive if you don’t have a raft of excuses at your fingertips!)
On to Suffolk and again good luck eluded me. Having been drawn first again I was ready for it this time, and went into the area and set a blazing time, throwing down the gauntlet for all to chase. I held the lead till the last competitor, Sarah Cooke with Beau & Arrow, went in and beat me into second spot by less the a second. No excuses for this one, she was simply faster!
So after some fantastic shopping, face stuffing in the biggest food hall on the county show circuit, a great evening entertainment and a brilliant – if a little chilly – Suffolk show, we made our way home.
At this point I need to share with you all that I have been very scathing in the past of our rule about wearing a driving apron for scurrying. I have been known to complain that it is out of date and not in context with our fast and furious sport. I take it all back! Why...?
After the championship class and lap of honour, waving and smiling at the crowds in the grandstands and the immaculately dressed ladies in the member’s hospitality area of the beautifully groomed Suffolk Show main arena, I went off to get changed. Only to discover, to my horror, that my jods had split from front to back in the most embarrassing place!
Thank goodness for the modesty provided by that much-disliked driving apron, that is now the best friend I ever had, and which will never again be the subject of any ridicule from me!
Although if would have made me £250 (for a new pair of Jods) on You’ve Been Framed if I’d not been wearing the apron and had a video camera handy!"
Dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer took part in a charity demo to raise money for two causes close to her heart...
We held a charity lecture demonstration at Mill Meadow Farm, one of the yards I teach at, in aid of Motor Neurone Disease and Breast Cancer charities. We had done one last year in aid of their own bridleways charity, but this year we decided to aim the demo at the two very worthwhile charities as Mum has survived breast cancer in the past and a lovely friend and dressage judge has recently been diagnosed with the very rare condition, Motor Neurone Disease.
I started off with a bit of a demonstration on Headmore Wimoweh (Tank) owned by Joanne Graham Whelan. Joanne very kindly let us use Tank as she has a friend who suffers from MND so it was lovely that she could also be involved even though she lives so far away! Tank was amazing with the crowd of people and, despite being only five, showed wisdom beyond his years as he just got in there and showed off, he did us proud!
Following this we had a couple of brave guinea pigs who were prepared for me to teach them in front of everyone. Firstly Renaye Hawes, from Mill Meadow, brought in her horse that is competing at Elementary and then we had Sarah Colborn who very kindly stood in at the last minute with her horse who is competing at medium. Both horses were brilliantly behaved and both Renaye and Sarah rode beautifully in front of the crowd. It also gave the crowd a chance to see how we progress the horses up through the grades. We were also treated to a talk from Clare Howard, a human physio who specialises in horse riders, who gave us an insight into Renaye and her riding before giving a demo in the break whilst tea, coffee and cakes were served.
Following the break we had a talk from Liz McGoun from Jenny Hadland and Company who sponsor me and do the physio on my horses before I bought Headmore Delegate (Del) out for the final demonstration. I rode him round all of the movements we have to show in the Grand Prix test before riding through my Inter I music test as I haven’t yet been organised enough to sort out his Grand Prix music! Del is a real show off and thoroughly enjoyed himself, lapping up all of the attention and the applause.
To finish the occasion there was a raffle with some amazing prizes that were very generously donated by various companies and people. I would particularly like to thank my sponsors Dengie Horse Feeds, Clean Round Shampoo and Nupafeed Superior Supplements for their generous donations to help us raise money for these very worthwhile causes! I also purchased some raffle tickets and was thrilled when I won a prize. My sister picked a Reggae Reggae sauce set with some awesome dipping pots, winner!
We raised a total of £1442.99 which I am thrilled with and I would like to thank everyone who made it possible, all of the ‘Mill Meadow girls’ as they are known, Sarah for standing in at late notice, Clare and Liz for their time and everyone who donated prizes for the raffle. I just turned up with a couple of horses! A very successful day!
Finally, I am almost organised with qualifications now, Tantoni Sir Socrates (Socs) now just needs one more point at medium following his 75.56% win at Merrist Wood this week!"
In Daisy Bunn's latest blog post, she reflects on the sad loss of Mary Breen, and looks forward to the start of the Derby meeting...
I am in fact writing today’s blog from Ireland, as very sadly the wonderful, remarkable Mary Breen died late on Friday night, after an brave battle with cancer. Single handedly responsible for producing showjumping’s dynamic duo, the Breen Brothers (okay well John Breen did have some part in it, but she certainly did the hard part!), Mary was a (hugely glamorous) familiar face on the Irish and international showjumping circuit, and latterly on the UK’s, as she continued to follow the boys’ careers with avid interest and the most enthusiastic pride.
Everyone at Hickstead will miss her hugely, and we shall always think of her and smile. The only solace for her family and those of us left behind who loved her so, is that finally Dad will have a suitably glamorous partner to watch his beloved Derby with on Sunday! He did in fact refer to her ‘as the most delicious blonde in Ireland’ (Dad was renowned of course for his subtlety!)
Having spent the last few days celebrating Mary’s life at her home in Cashel, Co.Tipperary, and hearing everybody’s reminiscences, it struck me again just quite how dependent our sport is on the support teams behind the greats. They do inevitably begin with a mother with boundless energy, the patience of a saint, and a predilection for endless late nights tack cleaning and ferrying ponies and children up and down the country!
There could have been no greater testament to Mary’s unstinting devotion to her boys’ careers, and the high esteem in which she was held in the showjumping fraternity, than the enormous turnout at yesterday’s funeral mass. A passer by with a beady eye would have spotted countless showjumping greats among the mourners, with more than one past Hickstead Derby winner, the odd Olympic medal winner and several Grand National-winning jockeys.
Both Trevor and Shane credited Mary with fostering their love of the sport from a young age, even more remarkable when you think, as her treasured daughter Rowena pointed out yesterday, that Mary herself was terrified of horses. I have very fond memories myself of days hunting with the Scarteen, charged up and ready to go on one of Mary’s famous ‘frys’ (the very best full Irish anywhere to be found) and doused with holy water by Mary to keep us safe. Famous in our family for being rather fond of ‘getting off and testing the ground’, I remember Mary on one occasion actually coming back round to me and dousing me for a second time, uttering with a worried look on her face ‘well, you need all the help you can get!’
Despite the sadness of the last few days, Mary’s was a life that needed to be celebrated and she would be the last person who would want everyone sitting around feeling sad. So with this in mind, we all fly home tonight and the boys will turn their attention to the business of this week, and our British Jumping Derby Meeting that starts tomorrow. With record entries, and the debut of our fabulous new Ring 4, it promises to be an action-filled week, with both Trevor and Shane going into this weekend’s Derby as favourites. And with Mary smiling down on them, who knows just what they could achieve."
Sharon Hunt has been in the spotlight recently after deciding to downscale her eventing operation...
The weeks are going past so quickly and so much seems to happen, it's hard to remember all that goes on. The horses are all really coming on well and the youngsters are improving so quickly they are beginning to feel like established grown-ups. I may not have been competing at top level as much as I'd like recently but the pleasure I get from producing horses is so great that I am happy to be patient for now.
I was recently asked in an interview about my change of direction. It is true that I am working towards my coaching qualifications and have a couple of showjumpers - but my passion is still eventing, I just don't have so many horses as I have had previously.
The article has led to a few asking me if I am not eventing anymore, this certainly isn't the case. As you can see from my video I have a whole team of fantastic youngsters to ride particularly Veyga and Loughnatousa Fabio, who are eight and seven-year-olds. I also have a new ride that has flown all the way from Australia; 'Blazing Scot' so there is plenty of eventing to be done and lots to look forward to."
Del wins the Grand Prix and qualifies for the Nationals
Dressage rider Alice Oppenheimer has been out and about completing her qualifications for the British Dressage National Championships.
"As we welcomed in June and some improved weather (finally!), it is also the last month for us to complete our summer qualifications and, although we have been getting there, there were still quite a few left to complete.
We took Tank (Headmore Wimoweh), owned by Joanne Graham Whelan, and Mischief (Tantoni White Mischief), owned by Becky Hulme, up to Sheepgate in Lincolnshire as they had lots of Young Horse qualifiers in one place.
The journey up was a bit disgusting as we had to sit on the M25 for a bit, but once we got there I rode both horses and we settled them into their stables before the classes the following day. Mischief started off by doing the Hickstead National Young Horse qualifier and, although she went a bit into herself, she still finished 2nd by only 0.02% and qualified for the final. One more down!
It was then Tank’s turn in the Hickstead International Young Horse qualifier, which is by far the hardest test he has done. He was super and won - another qualification netted. They then both contested the Potential International Dressage Horse class where, despite being tired, Tank finished 2nd and qualified for the Nationals, and Mischief finished 4th, just missing out. Overall a very worthwhile trip.
The following week was Wellington Premier League and, with it being our closest Premier League, we were very busy. It started off well as Tank won the Hickstead National Young Horse qualifier by quite a spectacular margin, with the Spanish judge simply writing ‘nice horse’ on his sheet!
Bracks (Headmore Boadicia) then contested the Inter I and overall I was very pleased with the test, there were just a couple of big, green errors that kept her score at 66%.
The second day was not so successful. Bracks was a bit hormonal in the PRix St Georges, so we had loads of silly mistakes. There was some lovely work as well but the mistakes proved costly. It was then Mischief’s turn in the Potential International Young Horse class, and she was very keen. Unfortunately the judge didn’t like her, but that is dressage. She also contested the Hickstead International Young Dressage Horse class and I was pleased with how she coped with the difficult test, but once again the judges didn’t like her, it just wasn’t my day.
Our final day at Wellington held the Grand Prix with Del (Headmore Delegate). After our good result at Addington, I was hoping to be able to build on that. Once again Erik Theilgaard, my trainer, was there to help me warm up. We were very pleased with the test and as he is getting stronger he is getting more expression. There were a few little mistakes but we still scored 69.65% to win and qualify for the Nationals, so we were over the moon and there was some champagne consumed in celebration! Once we can iron out the little blips we will be able to make the magic 70%.
We also took Robin (Headmore Dirubinio) to Sparsholt to try and get his Moloh young horse qualification and complete his qualifying for the year. He got a bit lit up in the warm up when horses started to come in from the field so he was a bit tense in the test. Luckily his class pulled him through so he was still able to qualify in 2nd place, even if I had had a bit of a hairy ride!
So now I have more horses fully qualified than not, so we are definitely making progress."
Hickstead Director Daisy Bunn will once again be blogging for us throughout the show season. Read on for her updates about a golden era for British showjumping, and some very sulky donkeys...
"And thus it begins again - another season, another blog series… Ah, just think of all the column inches I have ahead of me in which to embarrass myself and other unwitting members of our wonderful team. Be afraid, ladies and gents, be very afraid!
Despite the fact that there seems to have been some delay on our ‘permanent sunshine’ order for the month, we have been experiencing some glorious weather in our little corner of Sussex, and the showground is looking lush and green in preparation for next week’s Derby meeting.
Since I last wrote, British Showjumping has been experiencing somewhat of a golden (sorry I had to!) phase. I was lucky enough to be ringside on that momentous day in Greenwich when our Team won gold, and again this last weekend at the London Global Champions Tour, where I witnessed an amazing British one-two, when Ben Maher and Nick Skelton proved they are still on glittering form.
I cannot remember a time that felt so exciting for the sport, and after the Olympic successes of last year, it is particularly cheering to see that the horse power has been kept in this country and our boys are still very much at the top. The London GCT seemed to be a huge success, particularly seeing as it was its first year, and a new international show, televised live on the BBC, is such a great thing for the sport. The more the merrier, we say, and it can only help in further raising the profile of the sport in this country. It feels like a very exciting time, so long may in continue.
It’s excitement all round really, and I cannot wait for the season to kick off. We have record entries in the Derby proper, and have even had to close entries for all national classes on the first two days of the show, so inundated with entries are we. What a happy problem to have! Obviously we are delighted with the level of entries, but on a more juvenile note, we were particularly pleased last week when the actual physical level of paper entries hid our vertically challenged (but wonderful) showjumping secretary Pip!
We’ve had a little game of musical department chairs over the winter, and I am delighted to say that we have managed to poach the unflappable Emma to join Simon and I in the sponsorship department (or 'the dark side', as our office is so charmingly known in the summer – although we secretly love that it makes us sound so scary and cool!) Crucially though, this move has struck fear into the hearts of many a rider as Emma has been their dependable jumping secretary for so long (and in my opinion was far too nice to all of them, especially concerning late entries!) and they’re terrified of what they’ll do without her looking after them all. Bottoms up though Pip, you can look forward to a summer of constant (wine shaped) bribing, as I don’t imagine they’ll behave any better now and get everything in on time!
Another great excitement at the showground has been the magic transformation of our little sloping Ring 4 into a modern, all weather (resplendent with Derby obstacles and water features) mega arena! You really won’t believe your eyes. Our fantastic sponsors Andrews Bowen made us an offer that was simply too good to refuse, and they are currently putting the last minute touches to the installation of the London 2012 surface from Greenwich into our new and improved Ring 4 that dreams are made of. Although times are tight for everyone, it’s always so nice to be able to make such significant improvements to the showground, and the new arena will allow us to both diversify and protect ourselves from the threat of British weather for years to come!
We have a record number of foreign internationals entered for the Derby meeting next week, with some 13 countries represented, and over 170 international horses competing. All of the Hickstead favourites are back, and the winner’s tannoy is sure to feature plenty of Breens, Whitakers, Billingtons, Funnells, Williams and Fletchers we predict. We couldn’t believe our luck in the Spring, when after Sue Smith had enjoyed such a momentous Grand National win, and the lovely Clare Balding interviewed Harvey live (and in front of literally hundreds of millions of viewers, woo hoo!) about his Hickstead glory days. It was very nice to see Hickstead featured in so many national papers the next day, as countless journalists regaled with the famous V-sign story. To mark a very special year, Harvey and Sue will present the Derby trophy to next weekend’s winner.
It’s also been a very special year on a personal note for some of our riders, with brand new baby Breens and Whitakers making their debut into the world, and a mini Skelton on the way. Watch out the poor Mini Challenge collecting ring steward in precisely five years time is all I can say, who will be tasked with keeping all the little monkeys under control! In fact there’s a lovely symmetry to it (and a horrible reminder of how old I’m getting) as the first mini challenge was started purely to keep myself and (now new dads) Matt Broome, Rob Whitaker and (father-to-be) Dan Skelton under control!
Finally, and somewhat predictably, it is in fact me who said the dappiest thing in the office today when talking about our traditional evening of light entertainment on the Saturday night of the Derby. Hilariously, we have gone for donkey chariot racing this year (the mind boggles), and my sister Lizzie really was quite adamant that I referred to the whizzy little things as sulky donkeys. “I mean I know Eeyore didn’t exactly give the species the best rep,” said I, “but I’m sure some of them are really sweet. I really don’t think we should keep going on about them being sulky, it might put people off coming – we’re trying to make it fun.” “No, you fooooolll”, said she, joining the hooting laughter ringing around the office, ‘they’re not sulky donkeys, it’s actually called donkey sulky racing.” Apparently everyone apart from me knows that in fact the chariots are actually called sulky carts – oops!"