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!!

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.

Eventing 2019 Has Began

Super excited to start the season with a 3rd place in the 90 at Aston Le Walls. Ruby Tuesday did a good dressage test, little bit tense and a clear SJ. I have always wanted to win my first event of a season, haven’t done that yet, and so we set off XC really positively. Ruby was flying, she was so quick through the water and the other tricky fences, she felt amazing reminding me of Icon my old Advanced horse.

A couple of fences from him I checked my stop watch and realised I was way ahead of the set time. I slowed Ruby up and gave her a pat, “steady up a bit lady” I whispered to her.

We cantered slowly towards the last and I had another quick glance at my watch, sugar, we had over done it and were now dropping behind the time. I kicked on and we flew the last but we were slow with 2 seconds over time. This gave us 0.8 of a time fault and dropped us from 1st to 3rd. I was delighted with Ruby she was awesome but I was kicking myself for my error. Lesson learnt and I will be sharper next time.

Meanwhile Captain has been out show jumping and XC schooling in preparation for his first event, he finished 3rd in the 1 metre class at Hartpury. He’s on springs and feels very ready to start Eventing soon. Very exciting to have some lovely ones to event this year.

The baby of the yard, 5 year old Chief is back in work and has been to his first show of 2019 today at Allens Hill. He won the 80 and also went DC in the 90. He now measures just under 17 hh and I wonder if I should maybe sell him as he is a big horse for me to manage. When he jumps so well and is such a kind and gentle giant it seems daft not to keep him.

Renkum Capitano Starts His 2019 With a Win

Thrilled to bits with my cheeky chap Capitano, he has had all winter off. He has been turned out in the 25 acres with his brother Chief. They have had so much fun together and also been in trouble, on one occasion almost getting into our neighbours chicken pens!!

So his 2019 debut outing was to the prestigious Hartpury Arena, he hadn’t been anywhere schooling other than at home so we planned on just nice schooling round.

Once he had done a super clear in the first round I couldn’t help myself and pushed him on a little bit on a few corners and he responded brilliantly, he was on springs. He finished with the fastest clear round to win the class.

My other pocket rocket Ruby Tuesday then went in the next class and finished in 3rd place. I was so pleased with them both, we came home with almost £50 prize money, clever ponies.

We will be beginning with Eventing season soon and have all our fingers crossed for a really good year.

Still Winning

Had a fab weekend at a Hartpury BS show. Ruby came 2nd in the 90 with some hot competition in the class, she even won money £20.

For the next class I had asked for special permission from the judge to jump first, as I had to take my lovely Dad for an important appointment. We jumped first and amazingly Ruby jumped a fab clear, it was pretty nerve wracking going first as it was a big class and all the other riders like to watch the first horse jump, everyone wants to see how the course rides.

Home pretty quickly and off to Redditch for Dad’s appointment. Then a few hours later, sat in the car in the middle of Redditch and, with the wonders of the internet, I get a photo from a friend telling me Ruby had only gone and won the class, another £35 won and she is now lying in the top 25 Show Jumping horses in the West Midlands Bronze League. What a little star she is.

Hartpury was a 2 day show and we went back the next day, a rail down in the 90 meant no prizes this time, but a double clear in the metre gave us a 5 more points towards our Bronze League placing.

Her winning jumping round can be seen here.

Winner X 3

It’s my birthday weekend, and although I would rather go jumping, there was a dressage competition being held at the lovely Hartpury Arena. With snow forecast an indoor event just down the road was slightly more appealing, even though it meant getting up at 5.30 am to clean and plait the horses.

The day turned out to be an exceptionally good one. The competition was a higher level than normal with 5* rider Franky Reid-Warilow having 3 of her Novice horses both in the Prelim and the Novice. She arrived in an enormous and very beautiful lorry, and had some stunning horses to ride, we were all in awe.

I have my 5 year old Baloutero home for the winter, we bought him last May, we based with Louise Harwood for the Autumn where he has proven himself as an outstanding show jumper, winning £200 in just a few outings and qualifying for the Blue Chip Championships and also jumping his first Newcomers with just one rail lowered.

Other news is that Mitty Hardy Eventing has sold Miranda for me , she was the kindest and most gentle horse to look after and she had been a bit of a winning machine both in Dressage and Eventing. I had hoped she might make me an advanced horse, she had a huge careful jump and gave me some super rides XC.

The days dressage at Hartpury turned into a perfect day, Baloutero was a bit green in the dressage but we won the class, coming equal first on 70% to the 5* rider Franky.

Then Tracy, who I coach, finished in the ribbons just behind myself and Franky. What an amazing day for her, by far her best dressage test to date, and only beaten by 4* and 5* riders.

Edentrillick Ruby Tuesday then was a little darling, best foot forward and did two super tests to win both the Novice and the Elementary.

We arrived home to find my friend Nikki who I also coach, had returned from Allens Hill and won both her classes too, she’s tougher than us and did outdoors dressage in the rain!!

A pretty fab day.

Happy New Year

Looking forward to leaving some of the sadder memories of the last 2 years behind and moving forwards into 2019.

I am so lucky to have recently found a perfect new horse in Ruby bred by William Green in Ireland, she’s an absolute delight both to ride and look after. We have already won several dressage competitions together, she’s such a fun, full of life horse she also absolutely loves her jumping. Can’t wait to take her Eventing and hopefully we will have many years of fun with her, as at last I have found a horse that I can start dreaming about doing a three day event on.

We have a new yard cat currently named The White Cat. He’s a partly feral city cat rescued by a friend of mine, he has spent a month shut inside the barn glaring at me, growling and hissing from his hiding place. He was supposed to be sleeping in the house at night but after a few scratches and even a bite, when moving him, I gave that up and left him alone. Suddenly today after a month, he mewed at me and came over purring and being lovely! Cats are very weird !