Sad News about Sweep

So sad that lovely Sweep my bearded collie X border collie, at 14 years old we sadly and suddenly lost to cancer 2 months ago. She was probably the most gentle happiest, smiliest and kindest dog you could ever wish for. She was well known locally for taking our 2 cats for a walk on the common while we were frantically looking for them all, they would be mouching through the gorse bushes together. She always came when called though and would arrive cheerfully bouncing in through the front gate, with the two cats running behind her. She happily tolerated both Tangle and Hugo as puppies, they would hang off her ears by their teeth, pull her tail and maul her about and I never once saw her growl or reprimand them. Bless her. Photos of Sweep and friends including two that always make me smile as she decided if her muddy feet weren’t touching the sofa then it didn’t actually count as her being on the sofa!!

Feeling Lucky

To live where we do, to be able to ride out of the front gate onto 1,000s of acres of open Common land, to be able to hack for an hour and not meet one single person.

Beautiful Autumn misty morning too.

Favourite Weather

I love this wild and windy weather we are having it’s so much nicer than the unbearable heat of this last summer. Thirty years ago I had the incredible opportunity to spend 3 months in Southern Chile working as a venturer with Raleigh International on charity projects,. My group of 12 venturers worked mainly in a temperate rainforest, which means it’s not warm and there’s lots of rain. We lived in tiny 2 man Chilean Ex Army tents, the tents leaked so badly we used to cut holes in the floor to let the water out!!! These days the experience still makes me really appreciate getting soaked through and being able to get into dry clothes and a warm house, and being able to have hot soup in 3 minutes, instead of having to try and light a fire first out of sodden wood gathered from the forest floor. A few photos from Chile below, including myself washing my hair!!! . One photos is of a lad called James who is about to rescue one of our boats which was heading in the direction of the rapids, backwards! The 3 months was an adventure of a lifetime and our story was told in a 3 part BBC Radio 4 programme.

Although I love this weather which is why I chose to go to Chile all those years ago, riding young horses in wet, windy weather don’t go together too well. Riding them Friday last in high wind and torrential rain was interesting and I failed to get a proper tune out of them. So last minute decision we loaded them on to the lorry early Friday evening and took them showjumping to Hartpury University.

Good decision, both Chief and Ruby jumped two double clears a piece coming home with rosettes for good placings including Chief 2nd in the 90 he even brought home some prize money.

Back late in the dark and it didn’t seem many minutes (it was 6 hours) before my alarm went off at 5.30 am and we were loading them up again to go to Solihull Eventing.

The horses were tired and sooo much easier to ride, they both pulled out good dressage tests and both went double clear. Chief went like a dream, my issue with his brakes had gone and he finished in 3rd and Ruby won. Between them they won £100 in prize money. What a fab end to the Eventing season.

I feel I should introduce Ruby. We had an awful experience last year, when Ant bought me an older horse for my 50th birthday present, after 7 days we returned the horse to the dealer as unsuitable. It’s been a compete nightmare as the case is still ongoing.

Consequently it has taken us 12 months to pluck up courage to buy a replacement which is the lovely Ruby who has been here for 3 weeks. Ruby is lovely and has restored my confidence in buying from a professional yard, hopefully we will have lots of fun with her. She’s a pocket rocket, light on her feet, moves well and a real fun character too. Photo is Ruby jumping the fence after the water, she’s wearing her lovely new Payrolls UK saddle cloth.

Confidence Crisis !!

Nothing quite as nerve wracking for a coach when someone brings their lovely horse to you for a few brush up lessons for the first time, and they announce they have less than 3 weeks to a big qualifier. Especially when that person is a friend, a very talented rider and also a highly renowned coach themselves! Plus the final they want to qualify for is at Badminton Horse Trials!

How much do you dare change, if anything. Overdo it and you might confuse the established partnership, don’t change enough and those few extra marks they need to qualify won’t happen. Stress levels are rising for both you and the rider as the day gets closer and you start to wake up at 1 am wondering how to improve that canter transition further and if it’s even possible within the given time scale! By 2 am I am still overthinking it and even life in general seems impossible and I wonder even why people are coming to me for help, they must be crazy!!

This has been my dilemma for the last couple of weeks, luckily in the light of day it turns out everything I was worrying about is actually possible and the talented, very hardworking rider pulled it off and won her qualifier yesterday at Dauntsey.

So relieved that I didn’t over cook the coaching and I am thrilled to say I have coached my 5th rider to qualify for the final of the Mitsubishi Motors Cup at Badminton Horse Trials.

Very exciting and huge thanks to all the riders over the years who have put their trust in me to help them achieve their Grassroots Championships goal.

Past clients who qualified in previous years were

Sarah Dixon Smith – Mr Muddle – 2006 (final held at Aston)

Camilla Esling – Just Jake – 2011

Jen Clements – Mowgli – 2013

Annabel McCourt – Vainquer II – 2015 (WD from champs)

Victoria Gregg – Langston Governor – 2018

Well done to them all, so many amazing memories, all I need to do now is convince a few more clients that they can do it too!

Photo is Camilla Esling and Just Jake 2011

Feeling Feeble

Aston Le Walls unaffiliated was interesting. Nikki despite being poorly very kindly stepped in to groom as Ant was busy having a winning streak with his chickens at the Autumn Show.

Chief pulled out another sub 30 dressage of 26, he was slightly above his station this week but I managed to keep a tap on his enthusiasm to make it look OK. A clear SJ followed, all good so far and in-line for a top 3 placing. 🏆

We set out XC thinking of trying to get near the time ….. after fences 1 and 2 it became clear to me that at a decent XC canter I was like a fairy sat on top of a Rhinoceros 🦏 and had no say whatsoever in what Chief was doing.

So I quickly invented a plan B anchoring his enthusiasm into a very restricted more controllable SJ canter and prayed our way round, but I still lacked control and now had him so anchored he lacked power and he took me around fence 4 before the water for 20 penalties, by fence 10 my arms were like jelly and he was quite cross with me.

I have never been so glad to see the last fence in my life, the change of bit definitely didn’t work at all, my arms felt like they had been controlling a stampede of buffalos and Plan C of taking up Chicken Showing was looking far more appealing!

Many thanks to Nikki for giving up her valuable time and for being supergroom particularly after XC.

Zed, Chief & Burghley 4*

The lovely 2 year old Renkum Electric Zed (head photo below) has just come in for some baby horse training. He will have a few days lunging and long reining, I will also will introduce him to a rug and a saddle and I will also check he hasn’t forgotten that he ties up without pulling back, I will also ensure he’s still good to brush and have all his feet picked up. He will then be turned back into the 30 acre field until the spring. They are checked daily by my wonderful Dad and otherwise left alone to be horses. The field is so under-grazed, large and sheltered that they do well out there all year just eating grass, playing and sleeping.

Renkum Chief is back in work and just done a super clear at his first event of the Autumn Season, photo below of him flying the second fence. He is still my favourite, he completely missed his footing at the step out of the water yet he still managed to regain his balance and jump the second step and the corner jump that followed. He’s an awesome horse to ride.

I am grooming for Louise Harwood who has two rides at Burghley this weekend. Mr Potts is doing his 14th 4* and Balladeer Miller Man is making his 4* debut. Very excited and I will be putting behind the scenes photos on Instagram and hopefully twitter, if the signal is good enough.

Castlemorton Feels Like Africa!

 

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We haven’t had any proper wet rain for ages and ages, our fields and Castlemorton Common are like African grasslands, I almost expect a herd of  Antelope to appear from behind the crisp brown grasslands!

The sheep are desperate for shade, almost all the natural streams are dry and the ground is baked harder than the road.

My lovely big youngster Renkum Chief is still on holiday and will stay there until it rains.

Captain has been busy winning Novice dressage at Marlbrook and also SJ. He won the metre unaffiliated at Allens Hill last week and then won the British Novice at Moores Farm and also came 2nd in the 1m Discovery class. He won over £60 in less than a week!!  He loves to jump XC but due to wet ground and now hard ground he has sadly has only had 3 runs unaffiliated Eventing this year, he did go double clear at every one, he’s worth looking after, he is also now having a holiday waiting for rain. I still find him quite small to ride, he’s 15.3 and I am 5’8″ and I can’t decide if to sell him and get something more my size, but he’s so much fun, arghhh decisions decisions.

Miranda (in slide show below) has just come back form a 6 week holiday, last week she came 2nd at Marlbrook Dressage (see video here)and then this weekend she was an impressive 3rd in an Eventer Challenge at Tumpy Green (love that name!).  Tumpy Green is a busy, friendly Equestrian centre with an impressive selection of all weather arenas, including a woodchip XC loop, which was included in Miranda’s Eventer class. We had to do a course of 8 Show Jumps on an arena, followed by 4 timed XC jumps and then a course of XC jumps on the woodchip loop. Great fun and very educational as there were lots of bright fillers in the SJ while the XC included water, a bank, a ditch and some skinnies. Miranda also competed in the 80 where she would have been placed had I not jumped the entire 90 XC course instead of the 80, should have gone to spec savers!!  Lol !!! See her first round at 70 here.

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Keeping Coaching Up To Date

The British Horse Society have just issued us all with these lovely new certificates. The BHS qualifiactions are regarded as the best in the world. They are the only Equestrian coaching qualification in the UK where you are examined in every aspect of horse care and also the only coaching qualification where the coaches own riding ability is also examined.

I took my BHS coaching exams in 2006. It was an expensive and time consuming task, each exam is usually half a day in length, apart from the First Aid where the initial course is 2 days.

To be able to Coach with a BHS Accredited qualification you need to pass 9 practical exams, they are pretty scary as you are closely observed by examiners through every aspect of horse care and management, human emergency first aid and also actual coaching too.

We have to pass three horse care and management exams these include everything from lunging a horse, tacking it up, getting it fit, feeding, travelling, knowing the horses bone and muscle structure…,the list goes on and on.

We also take three riding exams where our riding is assessed on the flat, show jumping and cross country, all on different horses whom we haven’t ridden before.

Plus we have to pass the following

Riding & road safety test.

First aid for equine coaches

Safeguarding and Child Protection

Finally we sit the actual coaching exam, where we are examined while we coach riders in a lead rein lesson, a lunge lesson, dressage lesson and a jumping lesson, plus we have to give a lecture on an equine management topic with only a short time to prepare as the topic is given to us on the day of the exam.

We also have to keep our first aid up to date attending a practical course every 2 years.

Once we are fully qualified our coaching skills need to be updated regularly by attending professional development courses.

 

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Feeling Fabulous at Eland

Took my two Renkum horses to Eland Lodge to do a 90 one day event. It was a long way to go for an unaffiliated but so worth it. I walked the XC and thought crikey this is tough. Captain has done lots of 90 tracks yet this was the toughest he had seen. Never mind him Chief has only done one 90 and I thought this was very challenging for him indeed.

Both boys jumped clear SJ and then both went clear XC, Chief made it feel unbelievably easy and Captain found some incredible springs as you can see in the photos below.

Their XC rounds gave me such a fabulous feeling having bought them as unbacked 3 year olds and here they were taking me round a decent and testing XC course and making it feel really easy. Happy days.

Videos of them going XC can be found by clicking on their names Chief and Captain

 

Dandelions and Buttercups.

The weather has suddenly dried up really fast, leaving us no time to harrow and roll the paddocks to calm down the rough poached ground, the remnants of one of the wettest spring seasons that I can recall.

All the free water means the weeds have had a party and I am at war hand spraying the docks and thistles. Hand spraying is better for the paddocks as it leaves all the herbage and plants to thrive, better for the horses and all the wildlife, particularly the insects which in turn of course will feed the birds. Clearly the Dandleions and Buttercups have loved the weather as the fields are awash with their bright yellow flowers. Buttercups in abunandance are sadly poinsonous to horses so we have had to reluctantly ask someone to come in and spray the worst field off. The cheerful Dandelions are happily harmless so we can continue to enjoy watching them turn from yellow lion heads to delicate clocks that are whisked away with the first breeze.

My lovely Chief jumped clear round Solihull, his first 90 XC last weekend, once again he felt awesome XC. Miranda jumped clear round her first 80/90 Show Jumping and is now on a summer holiday as she still needs to grow.

Captain is being aimed at some dressage shows shortly with a view to start Eventing in a few weeks, he had 5 events in a row cancel this spring due to the wet ground.

Here are some watery based photos as after a dry spell, it is raining, maybe we can harrow the fields after all !!

Photos are

Tangle, he gets wetter than other dogs but his light coat means he drys faster!

My Joseph’s Coat rose which has blooms that turn from oranage to yellow to pink, an old English rose I bought online in 2017 from David Austin Roses.

Chief cantering boldly through the water at Solihull.

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