What should have been and what is

The sun is out and we are catching up on all the jobs in the garden and on the farm. All the fields have been chain harrowed and rolled, ditches have been cleaned out, grass seed has been planted, vegetable garden is growing, flower seeds are germinating and this years orphan lambs are thriving while I am needing more sleep due to the late and early feeds.

But sadly it’s 2020 and we are in the middle of the worst world pandemic of a generation, the whole world is in Lockdown and everyday people all over planet earth are dying in their thousands from COVID 19 an evil virus that attacks the lungs.

Once a day at 5 pm we come inside to listen to the Government telling us we must wash our hands, social distance and stay in our homes as they are following the best scientific advice in order to flatten the death curve. They make promises that there will be more PPE for the NHS and more testing for the virus and then the press ask silly questions that no one can possibly know to answer to, such as when and what will be the lockdown exit strategy be? It all seems empty words as this week our Prime Minister is in intensive care, most of his cabinet seem to have had the virus, no other country has its leaders in intensive care! A month ago knowing the virus was here amongst us they allowed Crufts to run, they allowed The Cheltenham Festival to go ahead, hundreds of thousands of people mixing together from all over Europe spreading the deathly virus.

As the pandemic desolated Italy, we watched helpless each morning as UK journalist and TV presenter Piers Morgan desperately begged the Government to stop all UK large social gatherings, cancel pop concerts, football matches, Crufts and Cheltenham and lock the UK down before we inevitably became the next Italy. Piers made so much sense but no one listened until more days had passed and it was too late. Instead the science advice was followed and everything was shut down as the phrase unfortunately says, after the horse had bolted, while COVID 19 started its grim human party.

Here is today’s tweet from Piers it’s all very sad.

Its ironic as if there there had been an outbreak of the Strangles virus or equine flu among our horses the racing authorities wouldn’t have risked the horses and Cheltenham wouldn’t have been allowed run!

So we are here in lockdown praying for the NHS, for all those fighting the virus, praying no one close to us gets caught by it, and hoping life can one day return to some sort of normal order.

Today we should have been at the British Dressage Championships, the event sponsor NAF kindly sent us all this roll of honour, it’s brightened my day to receive this. Renkum Capitano has been turned out for a holiday. The only horse I am working gently is lovely Desmond, he’s the more steady and safer of my horses.

A few weeks ago I got up at 5.30 am and took Desmond to Chase End, it was our last proper long ride before the exercise restrictions came into place which limit us to an hour a day. It was the most wonderful and magical ride, Desmond was such a star even letting me film on my phone while I rode one handed, you can join us on our ride here.

Three Days of Tears and Triumphs

On the 17th February I had the devastating news that my friend Beccy had lost her short battle with cancer. Beccy was a young and talented rider, I have had the privilege to coach her for around 20 years. Beccy adored her horses, her dogs and her friends and family, she was unbelievably strong during her illness . A truly wonderful young lady, Someone wrote “We will miss you, You were Beautiful Beccy both inside and out” . Her funeral was sad, lots of tears, it one of the most appropriate & well thought out send offs that I have ever been to. Beccy was just 27 years old.

With deep breaths we set off the next day to compete in our first ever British Dressage Regional Final. Renkum Capitano seemed to know his best behaviour was required more than normal and he trotted and cantered his little socks off to pull out a score of 72%. He temporally took the lead, but a Portuguese rider soon knocked us into 2nd place. We then had a nail biting couple of hours with the excitement escalating as rider after rider tried to improve on our score. Unbelievably we remained in 2nd place. This meant my first ever podium prize giving and a qualification for my first Dressage British National Championships !

The next day we were entered at Oasby Eventing in Lincolnshire, during the week I had decided to withdraw from the event. I decided it was a long way to go with only one horse as my other horse Chief had been placed on the waitlist. But when I checked Saturday night to see if they had acted on my withdrawal email it seemed they hadn’t so we decided to go. We set off Sunday morning not sure if we had a run or not and 3 hours later we were doing our dressage. Meanwhile back at the lorry Hugo my loyal border collie was busy having a toilet accident filling my best Ariat Boots with liquid diarrhoea.

Apparently it’s lucky to accidentally stand in Poo before you go Cross County and even luckier to fill your boots with it!! Leading after dressage on a 26 Captain only went and did a double clear and won the class. I still can’t quite believe how the weekend progressed from such deep sadness to a success that brought back my smile.

I couldn’t help wondering if maybe Beccy was looking down on us sending a helping hand of luck, she rode Capitano once for me and is the only other person to have ridden him apart from me, this made Capitanos weekend of success very much extra special.

In The Press

We have had a few good articles printed about the horses. In one article about tack fitting and safety the very photogenic Renkum Capitano got his photo from the young horse championships on a whole page of Your Horse Magazine. A complete surprise as we weren’t expecting that at all. More recently we had a journalist and photographer also from Your Horse Magazine visit the yard to take photos for an article about bonding with your horse. This was in the December 2019 issue. We had loads of fun being models and the horses loved all the extra attention. Even the yard cat the famous Hedgerow The Cat got in the photos!

Meanwhile on the competition front Captain had a mention and his photo in Horse and Hound for his successful winning Autumn Eventing Campaign. Both Renkum Chief and Renkum Capitano are in the top ten of the British ShowJumping National Bronze league. This is following a really good winter season show jumping with lots of money won and more importantly both boys have qualified for the Blue Chip BS Winter Champs at Hartpury. Very exciting.

I have been working very hard on my dressage this winter as I so badly want to get not good scores but great scores. Only time will tell if the work has paid off, its a phase I always struggle with. I find that is a positive thing as finding dressage hard makes me a better coach to help others as I apply my own learning, penny dropping lightbulb moments to my coaching skills!

5 year old Desmond and 4 year old Renkum Electric Zed are both adorable gentle & kind horses and both love their work, I can’t ask more that that from young horses. They have both started doing little show outings and are a pleasure to take out.

Eventing Season Has a very Soggy Finish

We had another fab win at Monmouth on Captain, can’t believe he won 3 events this year. Then sadly our last two events of 2019 were cancelled due to the wet weather. We re routed to go Show Jumping and managed to qualify Chief for the prestigious Blue Chip Championships which are held next April at Hartpury http://www.bluechipchamps.co.uk/. Thrilled to bits with him as an Eventer competing for a qualifying spot amongst the Show Jumpers he really raised his game and did some amazing turns to qualify.

We are busy Show Jumping the two older boys Captain and Chief, Captain won some good money jumping last weekend. The photo is Captain in the water jump at Moreton Morrell Novice Eventing one of our last runs of the Eventing Season.

I have also started a couple of the babies. Desmond my stunning 4 year Piebald (brother to Dippy) has wobbled his way through a couple of dressage tests, nothing amazing to declare regarding prizes apart from a 4th at Hartpury, he’s still pretty green, but he’s behaved impeccably for a baby and takes a stunning photo !! Last weekend he had a go at a 70 cm one day event on an arena and despite 3 poles down in the SJ he went straight up the steps, over all the skinnies, in the water and over the ditch and so finished in 3rd place. This was held at Tumpy Green a venue that has become a favourite of mine for educating the young horse. Tumpy has recently extended its facilities to include a 4th impressive all weather arena and a vastly improved XC track which includes a lovely new water complex, all of this with their very accommodating entries secretary, the entire team at Tumpy are the most welcoming on the circuit.

You can watch Desmond’s day out at Tumpy here

Just starting his education is the very lovely Renkum Electric Zed, pictured ridden and stood still below, he’s by far the nicest youngster I have ever sat on. He has just started to pop a few teeny fences at home and is almost ready for a dressage outing somewhere.

Gatcombe Park

We had the best day at Gatcombe Park, Captain was on such good form after another win at Sapey a couple of weeks ago.

We had a spook at the water for 20 penalties but he went carefully in the second time. There was a big log to jump on the way in which was quite a lot to expect at only his second Novice.

He went round ears pricked the whole way round, it was a dream come true to compete at Gatcombe once more. Thanks to Nikki for her help and moral support and for the fab videos.

Hartpury Petplan Area Dressage Festival & The Divine Equestrian Midway Champs

No idea what I was thinking when I entered 4 days of dressage at Hartpury.

But with 2 championships being held on our doorstep at Hartpury and Captain had qualified for both the Midway Champs and the British Dressage Area Festival, it seemed sensible to go and get some dressage Championship practise in.

It was a long hot 4 days, but Captain was an absolute star. The midway champs involved riding 2 tests in each class over 2 days and the scores were then added up to decide the Champion. Captain came 8th in the Elementary that was pretty exciting . Then for the Novice which had such a huge entry of over 50 horses, it had to be split so to decide the Championship we had to do an extra test, the top 5 riders from the 2 sections had to do a ride off test. We rode in reverse order the best going last, building to an exciting finale. I was in 4th place, the commentary revved it up as we went into the arena to perform out test “Next to go here is Stella Bunn on Renkum Capitano lying in an impressive 4th place” hearing that set my nerves jangling. I made one massive error of test! The other riders were also effected by the atmosphere and some horses were fading in the bank holiday record breaking heat. Unbelievably Captain moved up to 3rd place. We had to do a Champions mounted prize giving and won £80. Amazing, Captain really is just the best boy ever.

Sunday we were back for the British Dressage Pet Plan Area Festival, just one test to ride this time, Captain went beautifully and went into 3rd place. We then had an agonising 4 hour wait for the rest of the riders to go, but no one moved us off our 3rd spot and so we were treated to another Championship mounted prize giving, plus he’s qualified for the finals later this year.

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