Category Archives: Sponsored Riders

September endurance update from Annie Joppe

Well the European Championships has now been and gone and a lesson learned.  Unfortunately, despite all the meticulous preparation, it did not go according to plan.  Fantom refused to eat and drink on the journey, including the overnight stop and arrived at the venue pretty dehydrated.  This was easily corrected and he began to eat and drink well.  He was, however, much quieter than usual which I was actually quite glad about at the time but in hindsight I should have been warned all was not well.

We had a lovely opening ceremony where we all looked very smart in our new Fairfax & Favor boots and the following day the pre-ride vetting went without a hitch with all horses passing with flying colours.  The crew had spent two days looking for and at crew points.  This was made pretty difficult by the heavy traffic and constant road works in Brussels which had to be driven through to access almost every crew point.

The start was at the edge of a large park which gave access to miles and miles of forest.  Fantom didn’t warm up well, being very quiet but, after consulting with the team vet, we started with the rest of the squad near the back of the field.  After about 100 metres we had two main roads to cross before plunging into the deep, dark beech forest.  We only got to about 3 kms when Fantom applied the brakes and it became apparent that our race was over: he had tied up.

Fantom is absolutely fine now and it was a relatively minor episode with no lasting damage but at the time it was pretty devastating.  In retrospect, I feel we should have had regular blood tests leading up to our departure to ensure everything was OK and, perhaps, we should have left home at the last possible minute, even sending the crew on ahead to do the preparation.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

OK, onto the next competition two weeks after returning from Brussels.  This was originally going to be Chiara’s first 2* at Euston Park but, with all the work and preparation needed for Fantom and losing that crucial week training whilst we were away, I decided to consolidate at 1* and to aim for a faster speed at that level.

We had several good training sessions just after I got back.  A long trip to the woods with the short sharp hills to canter up went well giving Chiara a reminder of the stamina that would be required.  Euston Park is pretty flat so we did several sessions in the new stubble fields around here with her pulses improving all the time.  Work and feed tapered the week before although I kept up her Replenish (she is on this all summer as have been Fantom and Dilmun).  Chiara was shod with pads in front for the first time as, although she now has tough little feet thanks to Hardy Hoof, there are some wicked flints at Euston.

Although Chi was a little reluctant to load, she travelled well and regularly took mouthfuls of her special fibre beet tea with carrots and ate loads and loads of hay.  As this was a smaller competition at Euston than the previous ones, the pre-ride vetting was on the morning of the ride and the start time was very civilised.  This meant that we had plenty of time to sort everything out the day before and even take Chi out for a little wander round to get her used to all the flags and markers.

Ride day was great.  It was a relaxed yet competitive atmosphere and the start was perfect with everyone trotting out across the parkland rather than the gallop that I remember from some previous occasions.  However, as the pace built up Chiara got more and more excited and after a while I decided to turn her off course for a few minutes so that the leading pack could go past giving us some space.  After that I had a much better race with Chi being responsive and much more focussed on where she was going.  We still have to work on presentation times but generally her behaviour in the vet gate and vetting was much better.  Eating and drinking could still do with improvement too but at least she seems to be able to drink with the bit in now.

It was a good result, 6th out of 17 starters and a good speed of over 18 kph.  Chi also came 5th in the best condition and finished feeling keen so it all looks good for the future.

My season has now finished but endurance in the UK goes on until the middle of October so perhaps some crewing and helping opportunities will come my way.

Exciting times for Annie Joppe and Fantom!

Fantom is quite the most difficult horse to train.  At home, he seems to have the mentality of a riding school hack where all the motivation is kept for the return journey.  However, this is coupled with almost miraculous transformations into the flying horse.  How to read these extremely exciting moments?  A case in point today was a lunging session over raised poles where, to start off with, he was pretty indifferent then in the blink of an eye he transformed into a snorting, leaping monster.  They do say a good horse has to have attitude, don’t they?

It was Dilmun’s turn for a competition with the Inter-regional championships at Cirencester Park.  Despite Dilmun’s protests, bathing was a must and every conceivable part was washed and the very white parts, whitened.  We duly arrived at Cirencester, erected a good-sized corral for Dilmun with a fair covering of grass and went to check in.  I was gone all of 5 minutes and when I came back there was just the remains of one poo in the corral, the rest being stuck to at least half the side of Dilmun’s fly rug.  Obviously, this seeped through and turned my immaculate white/grey horse into a skewbald: just love this horse!

I would like to say the day of Dilmun’s race dawned fair but it was raining, not hard but in that annoyingly soaking way for most of the race, making the going slippery in places with mud in the woods.  Dilmun is such a professional, knowing his job inside out.  We started at the front because we could and trotted and cantered around the 80 kms presenting in less than two minutes at each vet gate.  We were in the veteran section and duly came 4th after I misread the markers and went off on a jolly of my own, letting two competitors from rival groups come in ahead of me (you’d think I wouldn’t make those mistakes after all these years!).  Despite this, however, our group, the south west, came second and hopefully my mistake didn’t rob us of first place.

Dilmun enjoyed his day I think but that is the last race ride he will do as he no longer has the appetite for the training necessary to compete at that distance.  After a long holiday, he will have a quieter time with shorter rides and ruling the roost at home.

Three days after getting back from Cirencester we were on the road again.  This time off to Euston Park on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders with Fantom for the final selection of the squad for the European Championships in Brussels.  After a super quick trip (7 hours) we arrived at leisure, walked Fantom about a bit and just chilled.

The following day when everyone had arrived we were required to go out together on the 20 kms loop which would be used as part of the weekend’s competitions.  This went smoothly and Fantom behaved well, enjoying the near perfect going.  Following this we had to do one-mile loops at set speeds with short resting periods in between.  Just after this we were told that we had been SELECTED FOR THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Since then I have been sorting and cleaning everything I will need to take with me (and there is a lot!)  I also decided to sort and clean everything in the tack room so busy, busy.  At the assessment, lactic tests were again made and Fantom’s fitness had come on in leaps and bounds (literally) and he was just about ready to rock!  This meant that since then we have had a couple of good training sessions but work has now reduced to more gentle exercise (also safer for both of us!).

In the meantime, I have been studying the information available about the course and the venue.  The venue is actually in Brussels, situated in a park surrounded by roads and the city and the course is apparently through the beautiful Foret de Soignes and surrounding area. This promises forest tracks which I am told are undulating with many twists and turns and the going encompassing areas of deep sand and also hard tracks.  In other words, expect everything!  As I have been planning for this Championship all year (actually planning started the day Fantom qualified last year), I have done my best to condition and prepare him for most eventualities so fingers crossed it all goes according to plan.

We’re now almost ready to go with Fantom being newly shod and me still debating whether to clip him as he has such a fine coat and feels the cold: shivering could be disastrous in the vet gate.  We leave on Sunday with the Championships now in a week’s time – yikes!

Recent success for Ben Haslam Racing

Hello,

I must apologise as I have been particularly useless this month at getting my hooves to the keyboard! I have no excuses really, except that I have been terribly busy training one particular horse, but more on that later!
We got July off to a flyer from a rather suprising source, when the rather mysterious Camanche Grey (left) ran an absolute belter at Hamilton to come home in front in the 5 furlong handicap, recording his third career victory. Not an easy horse to predict, it was his first run on soft ground and he seemed to love it, demolishing the field by 2 and a half lengths. He was given an absolute peach of a ride by Robbie Fitzpatrick, who deserves plenty of credit as he wouldn’t be the easiest ride. He has proceeded to run well this month, finishing 3rd another twice, and is hopefully developing some consistency in his old age for owners Derek Barclay and Paul and Wilma Heseltine. He certainly looks a picture, and hopefully may be able to add to his tally again this year.
We have seen some other nice performances this month which probably went under the radar: Cup Final really pleased us at Market Rasen in the Listed Summer Plate Chase – his jumping stood up to this much sterner test than he had previously faced, taking his fences exceptionally well for a novice, and whilst he just lacked a bit of speed and experience he ran on nicely at the end. There should be a nice race in him down the line over a longer trip. Quiet Moment showed too much speed over 6 in first time blinkers last week and didn’t get home, but she runs on Monday over 5 furlongs and it would be nice to think she could go close for patient owners Ontoawinner and Trojan Horse. Cherry Oak has also had three outings for the same syndicate, along with Daniel Shapiro and David Clifford: still a little weak, she has shown us a really good, game attitude, finishing 3rd and 5th on her last two starts, and she should be a nice prospect for nurseries: you cannot fault a filly who tries!
Finally, the reason I have been so busy recently! I have been closely monitoring the progress of Percy (Prancing Oscar) (left), who has to be one of the best looking horses on the yard, and came to the conclusion that he has been showing enough in his races for me to lend him some of my precious time (I also thought Ben wasn’t doing a good enough job, but don’t tell him that!) I decided upon a suitable race – who doesn’t want to be at Wolverhampton at 9.00 on a Monday night?!) and swiftly set about training him to handle the bends. We went round and round the top field, doing some fairly serious exercise drills, until finally he got the hang of it and I could stand still and watch him from the middle (breathing a little hard, I must admit!). I made sure I accompanied him to the racecourse, and ensured he knew exactly what he was meant to do – and boy did he do it! Given a quite exceptional ride by Oisin Murphy, the pair set off meaning business and led pillar to post to prevail by a neck over the insufficent mile trip. We were over the moon for owners Middleham Park and Spee Fox-Andrews, and there should be loads more to come from this chap. He will get at least two furlongs further on the flat, and even more excitingly I see a few sets of hurdles in his future – and boy I can’t wait to teach him about those! Not the fastest son of Sir Prancealot ever born, it’s true, but definitely one who is going to be around giving his owners fun for a while to come!

Until next time,
Dance

 

BEN HASLAM RACING

Will Furlong on a high after debut at the Event Rider Masters

We’re now over half way through the season and the first event at Poplar Park back in March seems like a lifetime ago!

As I write this we are midway across the English Channel, travelling back to the UK having been competing at Haras de Jardy which is just outside of Paris. I live at home on the South Coast of England which makes competing in Europe really accessible and sometimes easier than going around the M25!

Although I have been to Haras de Jardy several times, I was making my debut in the new Event Rider Masters series which is a very exciting proposition for the sport and the French made us feel very welcome. Livingstone soaked up the atmosphere with a PB at 3* scoring 38 which was good enough for 7th amongst multiple Olympic combinations – including Michael Jung! The SJ time was super tight and I felt like I was rushing him a little, resulting in a couple of poles but the track was very technical so I wasn’t overly disappointed, I just need to get out to do a bit of pure show jumping against the clock!

I was a little apprehensive about the XC as it had just about everything that ‘Henry’ (Livingstone) hated; right handed corners, skinny arrowheads etc… As we weren’t super competitive after the show jumping I took him steady to keep him confident – he felt great and we are now ready to crack on into the Autumn!

It’s been a great first half of the season for Collien P 2. She followed up a great result at Houghton – 4th in the CIC3* Nations Cup – by winning the CCI3*u25 at Bramham and taking the u25 British National Championship! It was our first time at this level so although I was hoping to be competitive, I certainly wasn’t expecting to win… I was a little disappointed with her dressage if I’m perfectly honest. We scored 49 which was by no means disastrous but she got a little tense in the main arena and consequently made a couple of silly mistakes. Cross country was a different story though… ‘Tinks’ was absolutely awesome and came home just 2 seconds over the time (I think 3rd or 4th fastest all day) to move up from 7th to being in the lead with a healthy cushion to the rest of the field. She has a rather abnormal show jumping technique and can get quite flat after having galloped the day before so I knew the penalties in hand would be needed! I wasn’t wrong either, we managed to keep hold of top spot… but only just! A couple of fences down and a time penalty meant that it was a little close for comfort but hey ho we manage to get the job done. We now only (!) need another clear at CCI3* level to get qualified for 4* and hopefully after doing the Guinea Pig test at Badminton we can go back to do the real thing!! I’m still looking for some syndicate members to buy into Tinks so that I can keep the ride on her – so if you know anyone interested please get in touch!

The young horses have been going well and 5yo Akina Z won her qualifier at Rackham to gain her qualification for the Young Horse Championships at Osberton at the end of the year. I’ve been doing a bit more teaching recently to keep the business side of things going as I’m sure you are all probably aware – having horses is not cheap!

 

To keep up to date head over to my Facebook page ‘Will Furlong Eventing’ for more regular updates and posts.

Enjoy the Summer!

Will

We catch up with Will Furlong, after becoming champion at Bramham!

Congratulations on your success at Bramham International Horse Trials! After such a busy weekend becoming the champion of the u25’s CCI3*, what are your plans for the next few days?

Sleep!

I have 6 competitive horses at the moment so will be cracking on with them. We left for Bramham last Tuesday so as we are out competing this weekend, it’s straight back to work with trips to the beach – with the horses! XC schooling and galloping.

 

 

During the cross-country phase, you experienced a ‘sticky’ moment at the water, what were your thoughts at that time?

“Holey Moley”,

We were both locked onto the final element, the Duck, so it was just a question of sitting tight and making it happen. Sometimes it’s not all about looking pretty but being effective. Collien ‘Tinks’ dug deep, found a 5th leg from somewhere and off we went.

 

It must have been a nerve-racking weekend, especially overnight going into the show jumping. Do you have anything special that you wear or do for good luck before you ride?

I’m not a nervous rider but obviously being in the lead at your first CCI3* is a pretty big deal but I had a great support team at Bramham and we managed to keep to our normal routine.  Tinks came out very fresh and flew through the Trot Up which is always a big relief.

I’m quite superstitious and will always touch each top pole on the jumps as I walk the course, once we start warming up I am able to block everything else out.

 

What is Collien P 2’s favourite phase? Is it also your favourite?

 

We both love Cross Country. Being a perfectionist I do really enjoy schooling and working the horses on the flat but nothing beats the adrenaline rush you experience galloping around the most amazing parkland.

 

We know that this is a relatively new relationship. When you first met Collien P 2 about a year ago, was there an instant bond?

I had only had her 2 weeks before we competed at Houghton CCI1* in 2016, so we had very limited time to get to know each other.  In fact, the Cross Country warm up at Houghton was only the second time we’d jumped rustic fences.  She instantly felt brave and bold. She has a fairly unique jumping technic but an amazing brain and always tries her hardest, so rather than change her, I’ve adapted my style slightly to work with her and it seems to be going in the right direction.

 

Has she got any interesting quirks and what is her stable name?

She’s called Tinkabell or Tinks at home as she’s sweet but also very sassy! She’s not overly keen on you putting rugs on but for everything else she’s as good as gold.

 

Is there any particular support that Tinks needs nutritionally?   

She isn’t blessed with great feet so she has Hardy Hoof and of course Replenish during the season.

 

Which Feedmark supplements do you feed to Tinks, and how do they benefit her?

She loves food but as a fit competition horse we give her support with ExtraFlex HA with Rosehips to help with the vergers of competing and the associated fitness that goes with it.

She can also get a little anxious particularly in the dressage if there’s a lot of atmosphere – like at Bramham. So she is routinely on Precision and Focus to provide her with all the necessary proteins, minerals and vitamins without creating too much ‘jollyness’!

 

What are your best moments as a combination, presumably this weekend may be one of those top moments!?

I would say winning the U25 at Bramham is my biggest achievement and certainly our best moment, just ahead of my Individual and Team Gold at the Young Rider Europeans on Livingstone in 2015. I’ve not ridden a 4* horse but after riding around Ian Starks Course at Bramham I feel Tinks could just be the one!

 

Together, you look like the perfect partnership, what does the future hold for you as a combination?

Tinks will have a few weeks enjoying the grass but we’ll start planning her autumn campaign, hopefully to include another CCI3* that would see us 4* qualified for 2018. After doing the Badminton Guinea Pig test this year; it would be really amazing to go back to do the real thing in the near future.

May the Luck Continue!

We have been having the most wonderful time here at Castle Hill Stables, with all the horses running their absolute socks off over the last fortnight. In our last 15 runners, only two have finished out of the top 4, and they have all tried their hearts out, allowing us to reach the ‘hot list’ of trainers all this week.

The Doorman was given a couple of days in the field to relax after his wonderful victory at Carlisle, before proceeding to take off with Alice on his return to the gallops. Clearly in good order, the decision was made to take him to Sedgefield (left) to see if he could double up in the Novice hurdle there five days later. His travel companion, Cup Final, was also trying for back for back wins in Novice Chases, but ended up running a very gallant race to take 2nd over a trip that would be well short of his ideal conditions. However, he learned plenty more about jumping bigger obstacles, and there is definitely more to come in this sphere from him.

Back to the Door, after giving all of us and his wonder jockey Richie McLernon a heart attack at the first when he decided to plough through it (luckily his size meant this was not much of an issue!), he was flawless after that, taking up the running at the second last to cruise to another victory by 2 and a half lengths. He was extremely pleased with himself after this, and delighted that it meant more field time! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and he ran a good 3rd at Hexham last night under a lot of weight to end his winning streak, but was certainly not disgraced. He will have a nice little break now to freshen him up, and a chase campaign may well await him later in the summer – if Alice lets him, he currently seems to be covered in cotton wool!

Call The Cops, Dursey Sound and Hawkhurst have also been picking up prize money over the jumps in the last couple of weeks, and all are progressing nicely and appreciating the better ground.

We then moved back onto the flat at Newcastle, where Rey Loopy (right) was heading back to a nice straight course after looking a little lost last time out around Kempton’s bends – he is, after all, 17hh of lanky three year old legs so we can’t really blame him! He was looking superb in the run up to the race, and his front end had finally caught up with his massive back end, so we were all hopeful of a nice showing from a horse we have always had faith in. A huge, backwards type, his owners have shown great patience with him, and boy did he reward them! Tucked in behind a wall, everyone was hopping around praying for a gap, and when it came a furlong out boy did he fly! Paul Mulrennan cruised up looking supremely confident, and they demolished the field by 3 1/2 eased down lengths. We were over the moon to give the wonderful Daniel Shapiro and David Clifford a first win in their Porima colours, and I think the celebrations could be heard the other side of Newcastle! It was also a first ever win for the Wood family who are in him, so big smiles all round! He has been given a rather hefty 11lb rise, but I would like to think their is still a fair amount of improvement to come from him. He may run at Musselburgh on Friday, but that will be ground dependent.

Once we had all come back down to earth, Daniel and David’s colours were given another airing when worn by Time For Treacle (left, with a very happy Andy!) at Leicester a couple of nights later. She is also owned by John Milner, Marcus Rees and Bob Michealson. Very disappointing on her first outing, when hanging violently left and basically not joining the race even a tiny bit, we weren’t sure what to expect here and she was very much written off by the commentators beforehand, who were very rude about this sweet little filly! Robbie Fitzpatrick, who rides out a lot here, and knows her well, was in the saddle, and he gave her an absolute peach – she jumped well and stayed straight as a die, staying on really well to take 3rd and earning herself an apology from the TV pundits! We were over the moon with her, and on that evidence she should be very capable of picking up a race this year.

Moon Over Rio and Megan Nicholls were up next, and boy did they try their hearts out! Megan gave her a lovely ride, tracking the favourite the whole way round, who was only rated 33lbs higher than our little filly after all… Anyway, our little mare certainly gave him something to think about, mounting a huge challenge in the final furlong to just miss out on the winner’s spot and take 2nd. It was a lovely run from her for the Blue Lion Syndicate, and hopefully we will find her a winnable opportunity soon.

So, as you can see, it’s been pretty good all round here and spirits are high, with a celebratory BBQ in the offering tomorrow night for the hard working staff who have been flat out recently! May the luck continue, and hopefully I will have more good news for you next week!

Until next time,

Dance

Annie and Fantom Meet Her Majesty The Queen!

Well, I was right; plans did change!

After Hardy’s ride in Dorset I was so pleased with Dilmun’s fitness that I was happy to continue his preparation for Windsor.  However, on increasing the canter work both in terms of distance and speed, it became apparent that Dilmun was simply not ‘up for it’.  He has never particularly enjoyed monotonous canter work as he has quite a low boredom threshold and this year he was almost resentful of being asked to canter either round and round the cross country course or up and down the beach.  I feel that, even if we had some gallops in Cornwall, he would not enjoy them after the first session.

In the meantime, Fantom’s canter work had been increased to match Dilmun’s and was going really well.  A comparison of heart rates after the same piece of canter work showed Fantom’s recovery rate to be much quicker and his attitude spoke volumes – spooking at jumps, bunny hops and so on.  It was an easy decision to make a substitution and enter Fantom instead of Dilmun to compete at Windsor.

Poor little Chiara had a minor accident, slipping on some concrete and cutting her hock.  Although nothing serious, this wound has taken a long time to heal being almost on the point of the hock but it is now nearly healed over and work has recommenced.  Her next outing will be a 40 kms local ride where I intend to up the speed a little to prepare her for her first 1* in early July.

Dilmun has not been forgotten; indeed he would never let himself be forgotten!  He did another 40 kms ride locally a week ago to consolidate the fitness he had and with the intention of pushing a little faster.  Because it was a competition, he loved it storming around at a much faster speed and finishing with a pulse of 37 beats per minute and proving that his fitness had much improved.  He too will go to a local ride in about three weeks’ time with a view to doing a longer distance to prepare him for 80 kms races later in the season.

Back to Fantom and, wow what a horse!  We duly went off to Royal Windsor to compete in the CEI 1*.  There was a good International entry and we were really looking forward to it.  As we were required by the squad to complete an 80 kms race prior to selection, this was perfect.  However, it meant riding carefully, not too fast and no risky racing finishes.

I had decided previously to ride at around 18 kph at a fairly even pace in order to put in a good solid performance.  The ride went totally to plan completing at just over 18 kph with the fastest presentation times of the day and, to top it off, we came 3rd!

Now for the really good bit: the following day the first five competitors from each class travelled in convoy to the main Royal Windsor showground where we were escorted into the main arena and our prizes were presented to us by HM the Queen and the King of Bahrain!  Fantom, who accompanied me in hand, had been a little fidgety waiting to go into the arena but as soon as he saw the Queen he stood stock still, ears pricked: I was so proud of him.  It was a very emotional occasion but a moment that I will hold dear all my life.

I have had so much support to get to this from my crew: husband Robert, Jo and Andrew Chisholm and crew for the day, Jenny and Bob.  Also Feedmark, my wonderful sponsor, who provided all the amazing supplements to keep Fantom performing to his very best ability and, of course, I owe it all to the amazing horse Fantom is.

Now, back to Cornwall and to the daily task of preparing for the next competition.  Fantom is at rest for a few weeks and Dilmun and Chiara are coming back into full work.  The ancient Wizard is now on holiday for the summer which he seems happy enough about.

Dance updates us on the world of racing.

The beginning of last week saw a huge flurry of activity here at Castle Hill, with the arrival of the Middleham Open Day. We were also very lucky to be entertained over the weekend by a visit from Lynn and Gary from Trojan Horse, as well as Hazel and John Palmer from the Ontoawinner family, which was a huge amount of fun! Poor old Hazel and John then had to go watch Vaux (Henry) run at Redcar on Monday, the same day as the Open Day, where Henry’s tremendous run of bad luck continued when he was almost bought down by a faller during the race. He did very well to keep his feet, and all credit must go to Graham Lee for keeping him safe, and both did very well to run on to finish mid-division. This lad must be due a mountain of good luck soon!

Back to the Open Day, Racing Welfare should be very proud of the show they put on. The yards were rammed, and our very own bar, selling Middleham Beer, was extremely popular! Us horses all behaved beautifully, and I was naturally the receiver of a lot of visitors and compliments! We were also very proud of all our lads, and were sent many compliments after the event on their insightful chats with the guests. Particular thanks must go to Stuart, Chris and Mr Mole (left, Stuart and Mole), who had quite the crowd around them all day! After the stables closed, the local pony club came in and the lads took part in a hugely competitive competition involving running, riding and gymkhana. Whilst we didn’t win, despite my awesome coaching, Madi, Tabs and Stuart did us proud and the whole event was an enormous amount of fun.

It has also been a grand week for Cup Final, who travelled down to Southwell on Friday for his Chase debut, after listening to plenty of advice from yours truly! In an expert piece of placing from Ben (also known as blind luck…), Cup had the perfect race to start in, having only one runner to go against. I think I need one of those! He jumped brilliantly after taking a bit of a leap at the open ditch, and the faster they went the better he got, before giving us all a heart attack round the home bend when he started to come heavily off the bridle. A 3 miler, the 2 miles was a little sharp for him, but his class won out in the end, and after jumping the last in front, he was well on top coming past the finishing post to give himself the perfect start over the bigger obstacles. Richie McLernon was, as ever, superb, and it was fantastic to get another win on the board for JP McManus. It was also a relief for Sam McCullagh (right, with Cup) to finally lead up his first winner, and June was very pleased with her charge who she rides every day at home!

Our other runners have been mixed, with a bit of frustration occurring on some days this week! The ground was too firm for me at Sedgefield, so I looked after myself and came home safely in a perfectly respectful 4th place. You aren’t in this game as long as I have been without knowing when to push and when not too, believe me!! Giant (Giant Redwood) made a silly novicey error and came down on his first run over hurdles, which was irritating as he is a quite brilliant jumper at home. However, I am sure he will learn from it and engage the landing gear next time! Wibble (Man Of La Mancha) jumped his jockey out the saddle on Sunday at Wetherby, before proceeding to pop over a chase fence – clearly he thinks hurdles are beneath him! George (Epeius) ran a decent race first time back on the grass at Thirsk, with everything happening a bit quickly for him in the early stages back on fast ground over 6 furlongs, but stayed on well to take 5th.

Until next time,

Dance

First competitions of the season.

Well, our first squad assessment with horses has now been and gone.  It was, as usual, a considerable drive away for us which I guess is the penalty for living in such a wonderful and usually quiet part of the World.  This was in Milton Keynes at a riding stables and livery yard where I could stable Fantom overnight.  It was a slightly anxious drive up there as our old Shogun was beginning to tire of pulling our massive Equi-trek and started making rather unpleasant smells.  However we made it without incident and settled Fantom into his stable and went to find our hotel in Milton Keynes.

The following day was the assessment in the indoor school.  As most of the horses weren’t yet in work or had just come back into work, this was mostly in hand with a short ridden assessment just in walk and trot.  Fantom’s behaviour in hand left something to be desired.  Since his 3* qualifier last year he has been a little ‘difficult’ to handle at times: strutting around, galloping here and there in his field and inclined to leap and push when being brought in from the field.  He did, I’m afraid, demonstrate a little of this when being led up and down for the squad management team.  Since then we have been trotting up and down the road in hand, changing the side to lead him from.

Meanwhile Chiara’s final preparations for the first ride of the season were completed and consisted of some pole work in the school to gain her attention and some long slow work around the lanes.  The first ride was local to us, only half an hour away so without getting up too early, we could arrive early at the venue.  This was at the Royal Cornwall Showground, the site of Chiara’s first ever competition last year.  Last year we had problems with keeping her calm for the vetting inside the big livestock shed and her pulses were quite high.  This year, however, she stood quietly for almost the full minute of pulse taking both at the beginning and the end.  She has since then been on Steady Up Advance which seems to have made a difference.

The ride went smoothly with Chiara relaxing into a regular, rhythmic canter on the forest tracks and settling into a fairly reasonable trot where canter wasn’t possible.  All in all, a huge improvement was seen since last year and she finished the day with a grade 1.

Next up was Dilmun.  He has been prepared for his first competition of the season by beach work, lunging, even some detested schooling and trotting over poles.   Yesterday we went up to Dorset to do the Hardy’s ride.  I entered for the 43 kms distance as I felt that was the minimum we needed to do to assess whether Dilmun will be ready in 5 weeks to compete at Royal Windsor.

We were so lucky with the weather, a bright sunny day with a slight breeze.  There was no mud which pleased both of us and, although we had to take care on some stony stretches, the going was generally perfect with seemingly endless stretches of grass to canter over.  Both Dilmun and I loved it and he felt as fresh at the finish as he was at the start.  I am now happy to enter him for Windsor although there is plenty of work to be done before then.

My own fitness at last has taken a turn for the better and my efforts are beginning to pay off.  I am doing plenty of Pilates exercises, paying attention to my legs and core and have started jogging again.

Plans for the next couple of months are still a little fluid with Dilmun planned to go to Windsor for the 1*, Fantom to Euston Park also for a 1* and Chiara’s first FEI competition at King’s Forest.  However, this could all change as this year everything has to revolve around Fantom and his chances of team selection.

The season has started!

It’s been a long time in coming, but the 2017 endurance season has officially started. I can’t tell you how good it felt to finish an 80km ride with Elayla; no matter how many amazing horses I ride, there is no better feeling to riding your own.

 

I think Tilford took us all by surprise this year; the persistent rain meant that the going became very difficult in places and we had to make the speed up where the ground allowed. Despite this we had great fun, and it was the perfect ride to start Layla’s season and to finish with a grade one was the icing on the cake.

 

The first ride of the year can also be a bit nerve-wracking because horses can change over the winter and it’s the first true test of any minor adjustments you have made over the off season. For us the biggest change was Layla’s feeding regime and I’m really pleased to say she has thrived on it, and I can only thank the team’ at Baileys and Feedmark for ensuring she has the best diet for her job. I’m really impressed with the Stamina and Endurance supplement, it is the first time I have fed it to any of my horses and it definitely ‘does what it says on the tin’ – providing slow release energy and proteins for optimum performance, and also aiding the horses’ main systems to ensure they are in the best condition.

 

The recovery of horses post ride, is just as important as their care pre ride and because Tilford was more difficult than I had first thought, I booked Layla in for a last minute massage two days after the ride. This was the perfect way to help her muscles recover, by ensuring she didn’t suffer from any particular muscle tightness. She also enjoyed some time out in the field, which is a great way of keeping her mind going whilst she’s not in work and also to keep her moving.

 

Layla has since come back into work and is looking onwards and upwards to our next competition at Kings Forest in April. Her 2017 season will be tailored towards her condition and performance for the World Endurance Championships for young riders in Verona, Italy in September. This ride will be different to anything we currently have in the UK, due to the nature of the hard, stony tracks and cobbled roads, and so its paramount that I condition the mares’ body to be able to cope with the demands of the going and the concussion that her legs will receive.