We Won at Homme House !

Entered this event with no idea how I would feel when faced with Cross Country jumps again. The event was 8 weeks to the day from my freak accident, I am still healing. So I dropped the horses down a level and entered the 90 Open class.

The sun shone all day, the ground was lovely and being our most local event, its near Ledbury, it meant I had masses of support from many understanding, amazing friends, all wishing me good luck throughout the day. Even as I edged into the start box, with less than a minute to spare before the 10 second countdown, a friendly face popped out of the Commentators Box to say good luck, thanks Bea x

Both horses did a good dressage and went clear Show Jumping and Cross country inside the time. Brave boys and they really looked after me too.

As soon as I finished I had some other voluntary work to do. Putley Pony Club give up their time to work at the event and as a treat for helping they have a course walk with one of the riders, Louise Harwood had agreed to do it this year but she was badly injured after a fall at Gatcombe so I offered to take her place.

I was out walking the course with the lovely young riders from Putley Pony Club when I came across my freind Ingrid Peck who was fence judging, she gave me a huge hug, and said “well done on your win” I didn’t even know that I won as I had rushed off to get the course walk organised.

What an amazing day, I had won on Renkum Capitano, the same horse who had fallen in the freak accident.

Fab times from Disaster

So we have turned around the disaster of my fall into one of the best summers ever. We had an amazing last minute holiday in The Gower Peninsular, our first holiday for over 20 years. We stayed at a beautiful 5* self catering cottage called Slade Barn, the dogs were able to come too. We had the most incredible week walking and exploring the stunning Welsh coast, eating delicious food and enjoying fabulous weather.

On our return I didn’t feel quite up to XC riding right away so have registered Captain for British Dressage, in his first week we have won 5 classes and qualified for an Area Festival. Love Capitano as despite his cheeky moments, he tries so hard to please.

So that’s 2 things we would never have done if I hadn’t had a fall, which shows every cloud has a silver lining.

We have also been out show jumping a couple of times and have now entered some Eventing in a few weeks.

Oh and almost forgot we have a new team member meet Hitchhiker, a feral kitten who hitched a ride under a car from a local farm and then fell off, landing on the main road. He’s not feral anymore he’s very friendly now.

To A Collie – My favourite poem

Well here I am – before me on the window seat my collie.

That streak of black and white perfection, sleek both in movement and as now in watchful repose.

Aware of each and every whim of mine and ready to indulge them -while I sit he sits – apparently asleep, but should I move – an ear will lift, an eyelid flicker, a muscle tense.

When walking love that faithful head and lolling tongue, those adoring eyes lifted to my face. Ready always to walk where I would walk and just as willing to turn for home when my feet tire. My collie a wonderful mix of bristling perfection and tickled sloppy ecstacy.

A faithful friend, a fearful adversary.

Whether I wish to play or sit and shed a tear a reflection of my every mood, a obedient soul who knows just when with certainty the right times to be naughty

An ardent lover of those I love and yet just lacking that same awareness of their moves my collie. This give and take machine who gives his all and takes only as much as he is given nevermore, a two-way love affair – An unspoken loyalty between he and I.

A lifelong conversation of looks and love, no one can take from me the absolute elation of a life shared by a collie.

Author Unknown

The Air Ambulance Arrived at My House

With West Wilts getting closer which was to be Captains second Novice run I wanted to practise a few tricky XC lines.

We were out in the field jumping a big step down on a curve to some oil drums stood on end and all was progressing really well.

But suddenly we popped down one of the smaller steps and bang without any warning of a fall, I went face first into some dirt that hadn’t grassed over.

Those of you who have fallen from horses will know you always get a split second warning as you are going down, this didn’t happen it was just bang.

I lay there for a few seconds thought ouch & saw Captain cantering to the gate, thank fully he looked sound and not injured. I tried to get up, my back, legs and arms all felt ok and all working, but whoosh my head said you get up and you are going to pass out.

I was on my own and Ant wasn’t due home until 5 pm, it was currently around lunchtime. I felt for my phone, phew it was still in my pocket of my jodhpurs, thank goodness I swapped it over when I took my coat off a few minutes ago.

I pressed the emergency button “no service” and then tried 999 “no service” I tried again and again “no service” “no service” quite a lot of blood was dripping from my face on to the dirt, a huge splodge of dark red blood landed on my phone.

Dam you first aid trainers you told me phones would always dial the emergency number even with no service!!

Captain was still stood by the gate chatting to Nikki’s horse Biscuit. I tried to get up again, I was almost sick, dam. So next I wriggled a short way further up the bank to try and get a signal, still nothing.

I typed a text, copied and pasted it and sent it to a few people who might be local who could send for help. A couple of the texts looked like they had sent. Suddenly the phone had a weak service signal I pressed 999 and got an answer, next problem was making myself understood, my face was so sore I couldn’t speak properly & I couldn’t remember my postcode, but it didn’t matter as the good signal soon ended and the call cut off and the lady was gone.

I kept trying to recover the call and then I heard someone running. Some feet appeared, I couldn’t lift my head up to see who it was, they spoke and I realised it was our 18 year old niece Lizzy. Her Mum Janet had received one of my texts and as she wasn’t home she texted Lizzy to get down here urgently.

Lizzy was amazing she rang the emergency services and put Captain away, plus she was wearing orange which made waving the Air Ambulance down into the correct place an easier task, they apparently had been sent following my aborted call. Next the Land Ambulance arrived along with a much needed hug from a distraught Hugo my loyal collie who had been sat in the field when I fell, but had ran home when he saw the loose horse. I was checked over and stretchered off to Hospital with Hugo wanting to come too.

An hour later Ant arrived at Hospital, just as I was being cleaned up and checked over. The doctor found some neck pain, I did tell her that was normal, but she still wanted a CT scan done to check and plus to see if my nose or face had anything broken.

9 hours later CT scan done nothing broken and we left the amazing team at Worcester Hospital with stitches expertly put in by a lovely lady from the head, face and neck team, she was also a dentist so checked my teeth were ok too. Stitches going in were painful, I had some above my top lip and on my nose too.

I am recovering well, been a bit stiff & sore and I had an amazing headache for 2 whole days. I looked like I had Botox, maybe I have discovered a cheaper alternative 😂!!

The reason why the fall had no warning was because Captain got his foot caught in his martingale, poor lad, we went down so fast. So I blame myself completely, I should have tightened it up. He had fallen face first too, luckily he is such a sharp horse that he didn’t roll on me, he was up very quickly, he has a tiny cut on his nose and like me, he looked a bit shaken for a day or two.

Thank you to Lizzy, Janet, Gill and Jo for coming to my aid at the time of the accident and to all the visitors and lovely messages wishing me well, plus all the offers of help with the horses, special thanks to Tracy for dashing down to get cold horses in when the heavens opened on Friday, Thanks to everyone who sent flowers and gifts and for the soft food sent round, eating hasn’t been easy but the soft food sent helped loads, It’s 5 days since the accident and I can still only drink from a straw which has made me realise that despite the single use plastic crisis, straws are essential for some, I am washing and reusing mine though. Am having to cut my food up into mini canapé size pieces and it’s amused me that the one bizarre food I could eat was French Fries crips as snapped in half they posted in nicely and then I could suck on them!!

I am still sore but have been back on board Captain today, he was fab. He can be a little nervous to mount and he’s quite a sharp cheeky horse, but despite our recent traumatic day he looked after me today like I was a china doll. He also quickly learnt that “Ud” means “Good” as I am still talking like a ventriloquists dummy!!

Captain and his first Newcomers

We travelled the 3 hours to Pontispool in Somerset last weekend for another Novice with Captain, he was in 6th place after dressage and despite the SJ causing chaos for many he jumped well and we moved up to 5th after one rail in the Show Jumping. However we decided to not run XC, the ground was firm and the course well up to higher end of Novice which he wasn’t quite ready for, plus despite the good results i wasn’t happy with how I rode the Show Jumping.

Driving home I was busy planing a training schedule to improve this phase. I felt I needed to get him more in front of the leg and off my aids, I felt I was protecting him far too much and now I wanted to allow him to think for himself more.

A week of schooling and experimenting and off to Summerhouse we went.

Captain was amazing the improvement was incredible he pinged round his first 1.10 Newcomers track easily double clear for 6th place and the highest placed Newcomer horse. What a fantastic day and what a brilliant little horse he is.

The Amazing Renkum Capitano

Well I can’t quite believe what happened today!

A trip to one of my favourite events Llanymynech on the Welsh Border near Welshpool. Love it up there, the long drive up the A49 and the event setting are both stunning.

My cheeky chappie Captain was doing his first Novice and Ruby the 100.

Ruby was really fab and nipped round for 4th place having done a superb dressage test. She was brilliant XC and SJ really well too. I was annoyed with myself in the SJ as for some reason I chose to give her a huge kick into a little upright and she had it down. Maybe I was over confident as the day before we had jumped double clear in a 1.05 and a Newcomers, in comparison the 100 SJ did look tiny.

Captains Novice track looked huge, I haven’t done a Novice since 2014 and this seemed bigger and a lot more technical than I remembered.

Captain did a super test, he’s so much easier to ride with more to do. Then he popped clear round the SJ, it was his first ever 1.15 track. “Oh no” I thought as I heard the clear round announced ” I can’t use the excuse of, oh he had 4 poles down we best not run XC as he’s not ready!”

He warmed up for XC really well and we set off hoping to get round and not minding a few 20 pens somewhere or other.

He was green at the first water although I asked him to wait, to go slowly, to look and learn and I went the long route at the huge skinny brush box to a step to a large corner. Even chatted to the fence judge explaining he was a baby horse.

Eventually we were approaching the last and to my amazement we were clear, he was one of only 4 double clears and he won his first proper British Eventing point.

On cloud nine and love Captain x

On top of all that excitement Louise Harwood took our talented 5 year old Baloutero in his first 100 and they only stormed round double clear finishing in second place.

Crazily Hectic Week

Such a mad week I will break it down in brief day by day

Tuesday – Up at 6 am to be at Badminton in time to coach Victoria Gregg (aka Plum) for her dressage in the Championship Grassroots Competition. Tracy Haines came along for the morning out. Plum did a good test although frustrating as her lovely big grey got a bit tense losing him those higher marks. we then walked the grassroots courses, it was testing with plenty of skinniest and tough lines. Tuesday afternoon involved going to Hereford to collect Bertie our 5 year old who was in the young Event Horse Class at Badminton the next day.

Wednesday – Back to Badminton, Plum went first SJ and XC and jumped a super double clear, I am very proud to have coached her to this level. Our young event horse went super up with the winners after dressage and bizarrely lost marks on his jumping, he is one of the biggest BS winners in the area for his age so we think maybe he was jumping too big and careful. See photo from the Badminton Horse Trails website gallery below.

Then for the excitement of the Badminton 5* trot up & vet inspection, with Louise Harwood and Allison Haines – Balladeer Miller Man. Miller was immaculately turned out by Amber Skelton all I had to do was add a few of the smaller plaits and also help grab a very excited Miller as he left the excitement of the trot up. As you can see from the photo Louise wasn’t really dressed to be holding onto a giant grey horse who when the crown cheered and clapped decided to entertain them by doing a kite impersonation!

Thursday – Moreton Morrell, we took Captain and Chief, both horses did a good dressage Chief the best on 31, and both had a rail down in the SJ. They both went clear XC with Chief being the star of the day finishing in 8th place and winning a rosette which we didn’t have time to collect. It was Chiefs first 100 so a really good day for him especially as he made it feel very easy. Chief pictured below.

Friday – 4 am start and back to Badminton to help get Miller ready for dressage, I helped Amber wash a giant yellow stain from his hind quarters and put in the impossible 3 tiny plaits again and then I had a struggle with tapping the studs (holes had burned over) which wasn’t easy as Miller was having a massage at the same time we were getting him ready. Amber Skelton had him beautifully turned out, but due to the studs we didn’t quite have him ready on time, 5 mins late. You have heard of Bride Zilla? Well we had Badminton Zilla ! This was our rider arriving to get on and she was a little stressed that her team of 3 couldn’t get one horse ready on time, luckily Adam Kemp her dressage trainer soon calmed her down and she was soon back in the smiles zone. Miller warmed up lovely and calmly for his test. He went into the arena and disaster struck, he had spotted himself on the big TV screen, his head went up like a Llarma making for a rather tense test. Louise did well at times to keep him in the arena.

Saturday XC day – A very exciting day, the course had ridden well with minor problems at some of the midway complexes, it seemed that once you reached the lake then riders could get home, fingers all crossed.

Miller was wound up he didn’t fancy going back near the big screen and I had to help, see photo below of a very anxious Miller head very high with me running along side with a hand on his neck, encouraging him towards the start box, he started and went clear, foot perfect and made it all look very easy indeed. He took a stride out at Huntsmans and looked awesome, very much like another Murphy Himself. Ali and Ian were thrilled. What an amazing achievement for them to have sourced him as a 4 year from Ireland and then watch him develop with Louise Harwood into a Badminton horse, proof that dreams do come true.

Storm Hannah at Bradwall

Expensive Combined Training today. We almost turned around to go home on the way to Bradwall as the lorry twice got hit by falling branches dropping out of the trees due to the high winds. The cross course looked superb, beautifully decorated with spring flowers, but the rain was very heavy all day and we had late XC times at 5 pm., Captain and Ruby both did a super dressage 31 and 26 despite the weather conditions, it was so bad this was the first time I have done dressage in a rain coat, Ruby & Captain also coped brilliantly with the judges windscreen wipers going back and forth!!!

Both horses were in the last ten to SJ and the ground had deteriorated in front of the fences, neither horse has jumped out of ground like this before and consequently lack of experience showed with Ruby having 4 rails although one my fault as the judges for some odd reason rang the bell just as I came into fence 2, thinking there was a problem I went to pull up, then as nothing came over the tannoy, I kicked on and had the rail, cantering past the judges I shouted “can I carry on?” no reply, so I jumped the next a bit wildly and had that too! Captain had 3 rails he seemed to tire as he went on.

So that was decision re the XC made we withdrew and home we went , once we had been towed off by the tractor. I guess the horses might have learnt lots by going XC in the mud but maybe it was best to save that education on a day when they aren’t drawn almost last to go.

Better home safe and sound, lorry and my lovely horses all in one piece.

I hate withdrawing always makes me feel a bit of a whimp, but with two young horses it seemed a sensible decision. Although I did spend the long journey home half wishing I had ran them!!

We have just heard early Sunday morning they cancelled the second day of competition so my decision now seems a very wise one!

Below movies and photos are my horses very muddy SJ boots, Ruby’s lovely dressage test which put her in second place, she would have won if we had pulled off a double clear. Also Captains SJ round.

Renkum Capitano on Springs

Captain did his first BE100 class at Goring Heath nr Reading, a long drive and a long day with an early start of 4 am!

He was an absolute star, he hadn’t been XC since last June and hadn’t done a dressage test since October but flew round a technical but not over big XC track, he found the faster time easy and made nothing of the bigger fences finishing in 8th place on his dressage score of 35. His flying photo is below and you can see Ruby and Captains XC clips here.

Captain is now entered for a Novice, we are getting excited about his future.

Ruby also did her first BE100 her dressage of 31 was better than Captains although she was a little tense, a rail down SJ dropped her down the placings. She felt like she was flying XC but her little legs weren’t quite fast enough and 2 time faults slipped her below Captains placing.

Their next run at Sapey was cancelled following some typical April wet weather. A day off for us and ironically the sun shone all day meaning we were able to get lots of jobs done at home. We wormed the sheep, did 2 hours of fencing repairs and generally enjoyed the birds singing and the spring sounds, typing this a Crow and a Raven have just flown over, making me smile as the huge Raven is making an angry honking sound while the smaller Crow drives him off his territory! I even discovered some pretty yellow Marsh Marigolds growing in the stream when we lost the sheep down there!!

Med Snookes, my tribute and my memories.

My personal tribute and memories of the great Med Snookes, who sadly lost his battle with cancer earlier this week.

As children my sister Anna and I grew up living opposite Med and Vivs house in Welland, we played with his children, Rory and Rebecca. This was not an ordinary house, Med played a guitar and their garden was not like any other garden in the 1970s. It had something called a wildlife pond, this pond contained wonderful things such as newts, frogs and in the spring frog spawn, we were even allowed to hold the baby frogs. However I wasn’t so keen on holding Rory’s strange pets which were some baby grass snakes!

My parents became close friends with Med and Viv. When we all moved houses the Snookes family now lived on the Common, a visit to Med and Vivs meant this became our extended playground, we would receive disapproving looks when we arrived back damp and muddy having been in the pond know as the Marley Hole.

We all went on holiday to a cottage in Hope Cove, when we arrived Med had given himself the task of cooking us all Macaroni Cheese (my eyes were opened I didn’t realise Dads did cooking!) there was some drama over the macaroni cheese, I can’t remember exactly what happened but it eventually was done and tasted good. It was an amazing holiday one of those when us 4 kids were left to our own devices to discover rock pools and caves, we made up adventures of Pirate and Triffid invasions.

Med would always drive really fast down the narrow Cornish lanes, his theory which has always made me chuckle, being the faster you drove the less chance you have of meeting anything, Med was so sharp to brake he never hit anyone. Luckily for us with their car full we would always be in our car behind. My terrified very safety conscious Dad doing his best to keep up, anxiously telling us Med’s theory was not a good one.

Med taught us at Hanley Castle High School in Art, he was an incredible teacher, his lessons were the best in the school, his class room was a treasure trove of art work, he would tell wonderful inspirational stories about past pupils, his enthusiasm inspired so many and not just in the Art that he taught.

When I was 16 and failed maths dismally with a level 5 CSE my Father was gutted as he was good at maths. I was told by the school that I would not be even allowed to retake it, as I spent too much time day dreaming and looking out of the window. Med had a word with my father. He said pay for her to take it yourself, Stella is a force to be reckoned with when she sets her mind to it. With those words in my ears I took extra lessons at lunchtime and knuckled down in class and I passed with a grade 2. I have never forgotten Meds words and they have been applied many times to anything that seems a tough task in my life.

My family now lived at Bakers Farm, which had an old cider mill and ancient orchard. Med liked Cider and it wasn’t long before he had gathered together a few friends and they were bagging up the Perry Pears and Cider Apples. Every year they would make Cider using the old Cider Mill and press, the group would all push the mill around by hand, these were wonderful evenings with Med being the driving force behind them, I remember there being much shouting, laughing and even possibly some swearing!!

My Mum would take down chunky bread and cheese which was consumed with Cider, I often wondered why the cider was bought Cider and not last years crop, of which there was usually plenty left !

My Dad still has an audio tape of one such evening.

Med used to take groups of American students on educational tours around the local area. Included on their route was always a visit to see our working cider press at Bakers Farm, they were always fascinated. Meds great sense of humour was always near the surface, he would made sure the American Students arrived at Bakers Farm in the darkness, thick fog was even better! There is a nice gravel track up to the farm but Med ignored this, instead directing the driver over the rough and undulating Castlemorton Common. It amused Med that the Students would believe they were being driven across some mysterious dark moor!! As the mini bus bumped and swayed its way over the uneven ground in the darkness the lights of Bakers Farm would thankfully appear as they came over the brow of the hill.

Once the students had safely arrived I used to love listening to Med enthusing about the old cider making methods, especially the part when he told them a dead rat would be added to assist the fermenting process. On one occasion a student then asked in a very strong American Accent “So what do you do about Hygiene?” Med loved this and that story became added to his many tales.

One of the American students told me they had been over the Malvern Hills and Med’s knowledge was incredible, she said they had to keep stopping as Med would spot some unusual rock, plant or tree he wanted to tell them about. They had learnt the names of numerous different plants, trees, mosses and lichens just in one afternoon.

In my early twenties I managed to pass a selection weekend and was chosen to go to Chile for 3 months on an Operation Raleigh Expedition. An experience of a lifetime. I had to raise several thousand pounds for charity as part of my work. Immediately Med was there to help, he organised a folk music evening at Castlemorton Parish Hall. The evening sold out and he raised a large chunk of funds towards my charity contribution. All Med asked for in return was for me to bring him back a souvenir. Early on into the expedition I found something interesting, which meant for 3 months I carried a large lump of Patagonia wood from Chile and a piece of rock from Argentina in my ruck sack. Med was delighted with the unusual gifts and the effort it took to bring them home.

Med and Viv were one of the first of Mum and Dads friends who came to see our first house which Anthony and I bought in Morton Green they were so pleased for us. Many years later we started to renovate our next house, Eight Oaks Farm, they came round during the renovation for a tour. When it was finished we invited them round for tea and homemade scones, we were so proud to show it to them and it was an opportunity to ask Med loads questions about the history. His knowledge was just incredible. His last visit here was last year to advise us on our water leak which was not a burst pipe. Med said we have numerous natural springs here due to the bank behind the house almost certainly containing sandstone. The natural spring would have been why a house was built here in the first place, the bricks for our house would have been made from the clay on the common and the beams would have probably have come from the ships being put out of service at Gloucester docks., what a wealth of knowledge.

Med was the most wonderful man, an irreplaceable character he inspired so many with his enthusiasm. He remained one of my fathers closest friends and will be greatly missed by us all.